Dear Carolyn • What is a fair way for me to engage with my boyfriend's vastly different financial situation? I am from a family that is comfortable financially, and I have zero debt. I make reasonable money for an above-entry-level job and live within those means.My boyfriend moved here six months ago for two reasons to stop being a ski bum, and to be with me. When he moved here, he was underemployed and working food service. I paid more than my share of our expenses, but grew resentful when it seemed like he was making decent money but was always tight-fisted. About three months in, he said he wanted to live together. The main motivation seemed to be financial, which I found offensive. However, I have come to realize that in addition to significant student loans, he has almost $8,000 in medical and credit card debt. I revisited the idea of living together. We spend basically every night together anyway, it almost seems silly to be paying rent in two places. He has also managed to get a full-time, salaried position with benefits, and is still working food service on weekends. Still, I feel slightly torn. I love this man who moved here to be with me, but at the same time, the idea of building a future with someone with such massive financial liabilities is daunting. Is it simply too soon to do something so radical for someone I've only been dating six months?
Dear L. • Moving in as a sensible money decision is a terrible emotional decision. There is inertia in sharing an address; as I've said before, moving in is fun and exciting but moving out is depressing, painful and hard. When moving out is hard, people stay together who would otherwise break up. When people stay together for reasons other than being happy together, regrets ensue. It'll never be easier to say "no" than it is now, while "yes," if it's the right answer, will stay on the table. Meanwhile, for a new couple, one of the biggest challenges is to keep your bearings amid the excitement of attraction and future promise. Don't throw things out of balance by trying to take on his debts as your responsibility.
Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.