Is Your Man A Moocher? How To Save Cash (And Your Relationship)

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Is this your relationship? Your boyfriend treats you like the Bank of London, always borrowing money and never fully paying it back. Perhaps he's a struggling artist, working part-time at a local coffee shop so he has free time to work on his craft. Perhaps he even lives with you. 

He tells you he loves you and you eat it up like candy. But he also treats you like his personal ATM, "borrowing" $20 here, $50 there, paying you back in installments (if at all). Sometimes you feel like you need to hire a bookkeeper just to stay on top of all of the transactions and learn how to save money so he can spend.

What happened? When did he turn into a moocher? 

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It felt so exhilarating two years ago when you met him at a cool art gallery, his relentless gaze upon you. No man had ever poured his attention on you like that. You were beyond flattered and intoxicated by his passion and intensity. 

Four weeks later, your address becomes his new address. Now all of sudden, he's feeling less like the love of your life and more like a financial leech. He's a moocher. They type of guy who never seems able to get it together. And now he's living in your house, living off your money, and you're feeling stuck and angry.  

Though you're both in your 30s, your career keeps advancing (his is floundering and he seems fine with that). You keep making more money (he keeps borrowing it). Now, you're starting to question what you really want in a man and in a long-term relationship. You know you don't want to be an "informal banker": someone who loans money with no interest. And his ever-growing sense of entitlement is a major turn-off.

What about your needs? When do you get a chance to sit back and let him pick up the dinner tab? When does he go food shopping? When does he plan a weekend get-away and pay for everything?

And yet, money issues aside, there are so many wonderful things about him and there seems to be so few good guys left out there in the dating world. But his romantic, artistic ways just don't seem enough anymore; you have expectations and needs, and at this rate, they will never get satisfied.

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So, what's the answer? Does he stay or does he go? Here's how to figure out the answer: 

  1. Take a big step back and gain perspective.
  2. Make a list of what’s important to you, without editing it. Just start writing.
  3. Give yourself permission to feel what you feel without judgments.
  4. In your mind, fast forward your life 6 years (or even 6 months) and imagine this situation with him is still in play. How has it evolved (or not) in the future? Does the future ahead with him leave you feeling excited or angry? 

In assessing your situation this way, you're able to make a list of non-negotiables and a list of relationship quirks you're willing to work around. After all, everyone is flawed, but good relationships are based upon each person’s flaws fitting well with the other person’s and vice versa.

Your responsibility is to tell the difference between a low-wage earner who is otherwise great and meets your desired criteria (like being a great caretaker, very attentive to your needs, nurturer, would make a great stay-at-home dad), and a guy who is oblivious, narcissistic, entitled moocher who is living life at the expense of your needs.

If you choose the nurturer, have a hard and honest conversation with yourself, agreeing to let go of the fantasy that he will finally be someone different who make oodles of money. If you pick an artist, you have to let him be an artist. 

If, however, you realize you have a mooching narcissist on your hands, you might decide to keep him around until someone better comes along, just be very clear of your internal motives and (once again) let go of trying to change him; he can’t and won’t. 

Sometimes as women, we have difficulty giving ourselves permission to have needs without shame, to have expectations without judgment, without apology. The good news is: we can shift those behaviors. Everything in life comes down to making a choice.

I say vote for yourself. Putting your needs first does not mean you are selfish. Be clear about treating yourself with respect and demanding it from others. How people treat you is your choice, not theirs.

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Pegi Burdick is an expert in teaching women how to separate their emotions from their money. Her motto is, "You need to live it to teach it."