I’ve been engaged to a man for seven years, but we haven’t been able to afford to get married. I attend college part time while raising my daughter and working. He treats me well and works hard, but he’s unmotivated and undereducated. He doesn’t even have a high school diploma and can only get low-paying work with bad hours. Three months ago, he was fired from a nursing home for stealing drinks from the soda machine, and he hasn’t looked for a job since. He said he couldn’t when we had a rainy period; now he says it’s too hot. When I suggested he get up early to beat the heat, he got angry. Our relationship has never been about money, but I’m not seeing much light at the end of the tunnel. Why do I stay? Because I love him, and I’m scared I wouldn’t be able to make it on my own as a single mother.
A boyfriend who actually “works hard” would be working hard to stop sponging off you — maybe getting his GED so he could get more than a dead-end, minimum-wage job. That’s kinda tough to do when the answers to “Where’d you go to school and what did you study?” are “Meadowood Elementary” and “Babar the Elephant.”
Still, school isn’t everything. A woman I know, Tig Notaro, flunked eighth grade twice, got moved up to ninth grade and flunked that, too. When her classmates started to be kids she’d babysat for, she dropped out. Like your boyfriend, she could’ve resigned herself to employment in the paper hat/fry vat sector, but she worked briefly promoting bands, then gave her all to doing stand-up. She went on to have her own Comedy Central special, be a featured character (“Officer Tig”) on “The Sarah Silverman Program,” and tour internationally as a headlining comedian. She eventually got her GED, “just to get it,” but found it most useful as cat food (she reports that her cat ate the left side of it the day she brought it home). Link to Tig’s weekly podcast here.
So, the problem isn’t that school isn’t your guy’s thing, but that motivation isn’t. You, on the other hand, are attending college and working and caring for two children — the little girl you gave birth to and the grown man perfecting his napping skills on your couch. You say your relationship has never been about money. Actually, it’s very much about money, on account of how little of it he’s been bringing home. And then, when it’s job-hunting time, he bleats, “It’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s too wet.” Excuse me, but is he a man or Goldilocks?
It’s nice to see the good in people. It’s nicer for you if the good you see is actually there. Otherwise, you just delay admitting the obvious: There isn’t much light at the end of the tunnel. Additionally, you’re paying the rent on the tunnel. You say you fear being on your own as a single mother, but you’re already on your own. Without your boyfriend, you’d be a single mother with one less mouth to feed. You can have a very different kind of guy in your life — one who makes you better and happier because you’re with him. If you suspect you aren’t worthy, try something: Act like you’re worthy. Like you deserve a man who brings something to the relationship (and not just a couple Mello Yellos he swiped from the soda machine at the old folks home).
Not into thankings
Something a guy said the first time we had sex isn’t sitting well with me. He said “Thank you.” Those aren’t the worst two words in the English language, but hearing them after sex made me feel bad. Sort of used. We made tentative plans for another date, but I’m wondering if I’ll even hear from him again. What does it mean when a guy uses this sort of courteous closure after sex?
TAfter he thanked you, did he ask very politely how much a second hour would be? A lot of women get ticked at hearing “thank you” after sex, feeling they’re being seen as service providers. That’s because you thank somebody who does something FOR you, not when you’ve done something mutual together. The thing is, getting naked with somebody for the first time doesn’t enhance anybody’s ability to articulate thoughts. Maybe this guy was at a loss for words, and suddenly, it came back to him, his mother saying, “What do you say when the nice lady gives you a cookie?” Instead of sitting around dissecting the possibilities, do what you always should when you’re hoping to see some date again: Forget about him until the phone rings and he’s on the other end asking if you give discounts for repeat customers.
Read Amy Alkon’s book: “I See Rude People: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society” (McGraw-Hill, $16.95).