I’m Too Broke For My Relationship And My Well-Off Boyfriend

I’m not yet a year into a wonderful relationship and my wallet can’t keep up. I admire my boyfriend’s professional success and enjoy going on special dates together, but the cost of dating someone who makes more money than I do is becoming too much. I’m afraid our relationship is becoming too expensive and we’ll end up breaking up because of it.

My boyfriend has been working longer than I have.

My guy is a few years older than me, giving him a bit of a head start in the working world. He’s been working full time for a few years and in addition to having a steady income has a great deal in savings. Of course, it makes sense that he would have more money than me, but I can’t help but compare our financial success.

I’m living somewhere between a student’s and teacher’s salary.

After graduating college, I spent a year working as a teaching assistant and am now waiting on a grad school acceptance letter. I’ve got a few part-time gigs going, but not having a full-time job makes it hard to spend or even think of money the same way my boyfriend does. To him, a $30 meal is a well-earned treat. To me, that could be a full day’s income.

I can hardly afford rent.

We live together, which has been wonderful—and much cheaper for me than living alone. Even so, there are some months when I can just barely scrape together enough money for rent, utilities, and groceries. I hold my breath when the end of the month rolls around and pray my boyfriend doesn’t notice.

I appreciate chivalrous gestures but can’t always reciprocate.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer that the guy should pay for the first date and don’t mind my boyfriend treating me every now and then. The problem is that the longer we’ve dated, the more I want to carry my weight, but I can’t afford the same meals or types of gifts he buys me. And speaking of…

I’m embarrassed by his lavish gifts.

I know it makes him happy to spoil me with nice jewelry and flowers (and who am I to deny gold hoops?), but recently I’ve been more embarrassed than pleased by his gifts. I know he doesn’t expect anything in return, but isn’t that just common courtesy? I can’t buy him a fancy watch or tie to reciprocate—not, at least, if I want to eat.

We’re planning a big trip.

International relationships aren’t cheap, especially when they involve a trans-Atlantic flight. We’re planning a trip home to visit my family this summer and even after purchasing plane tickets, hotel and AirBnb costs have me biting my nails and pinching pennies. We got in a small argument when I insisted we could use my family’s car instead of renting one for the trip and while I see his side (not wanting to be a burden on my family), I’m of the mind that if we can cut costs, we should.

I don’t like owing him.

I know you shouldn’t keep score in a healthy relationship, but I feel uncomfortable allowing my guy to cover my costs, even temporarily. I do my best to keep from owning him even if he insists he doesn’t mind helping me out. This is why it’s easier to opt out of nice dinners or other costly activities.

I want to show him I can be independent.

Likely because my boyfriend is six years older than I am, I feel a self-imposed pressure to prove to him that I’m more mature than my age suggests. I like to think I am, even if my bank balance is always in the red. I can’t stand the idea of being the needy girlfriend who relies on her parents or boyfriend for everyday expenses, so I have to be as frugal as possible with the money I do have.

For the moment he’s understanding, but I’m scared that will change.

What if one day he wakes up and decides he wants to be with someone more financially stable than myself? What if he gets sick of my “I just can’t afford that”s or my ordering salads and water when we go out for dinner? I know I should give him credit and remember that no decent human being would dump another for not having enough money, but stranger things have certainly happened.

I’m too proud to have a serious conversation about this.

Perhaps the biggest problem of all is that I’m too proud to voice my concerns directly, preferring instead to address each financial problem as it arises (“No, I swear the salads here are delicious!”). I know one day I’ll make much more money than I currently do, and who knows? Maybe one day I’ll make more than my guy does. Until that day, I’ll stay full on free bread baskets, stick with water, and skip dessert.

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