Dating with money trouble

Dear Positive Way, I sometimes think that my boyfriend loves cars more than me.  We’re both 19 but I just turned and he’s almost 20.  I graduated from high school last year and did okay.  I’m working at the local restaurant and make pretty good money on tips but I don’t want to do that all my life.  We’re renting a trailer for just $200 a month from a friend but it’s a dump no matter how hard I work on it.  The real problem is that me and Joe are fighting about money all the time and are behind in our bills.  All he wants to do is to spend money on his truck and drink beer with the guys.  He doesn’t work much, is in debt and I’ve caught him taking tip money from my college savings jar.  I yell at him to get a job but he just leaves.  I really love him a lot and we both enjoy sex but I hate the fighting.  I really want to take classes at the local junior college and get into healthcare.  The hospital and nursing home are always looking for patient care aids and my grades were good enough to even do nursing.  Joe wants kids right away and tells me not to worry about the money.  What can I do?  Signed, stuck, female age 19.

Dear stuck, it sounds like you are the adult in this relationship.  I can understand why you feel stuck and want a change.  This is not about saving money on cars.  You see a future ahead of you that is better than today and Joe, it seems, can’t see beyond the next beer and doodad for his truck.  Money troubles are a significant cause of divorce.  Here are some things for you to think about:

  1. First of all keep being an adult and making adult decisions about your future.  The healthcare field is rich with opportunity for rewarding and high paying jobs.  You need to work things out so you can start taking classes at the junior college as soon as possible.  Try getting a job (full or part-time) at the hospital or nursing home.  The experience is great and your employer may even help pay for training.
  2. Another adult decision for you to consider is to either stop having sex or get really good birth control today.  It sounds like Joe wants to get even more control over you by having you “barefoot and pregnant.”  He may really love kids but he’s not thinking responsibly about being either a husband or a parent.
  3. Consider moving out of the trailer and putting your money toward school.  Save money for tuition however you can.  Ask your parents if you can rent your old room for a couple of years while you work and get your associates degree in a medical field.  Don’t ask them for a handout and they should respect your ambition, diligence and responsibility.  Joe will have to find a place of his own and you can see if he will start growing up and learning responsibility on his own.
  4. Change your relationship with Joe to one of just dating and make him pay for the dates.  No money, no date.  Right now he is treating you like you’re his parents supporting him.  Believe me that will not be comfortable to you for very much longer.  Stop parenting and supporting him in his bad habits.
  5. Joe’s love for cars may not be a bad thing.  Encourage him to get a job in the automotive field.  Repair shops are always looking for good mechanics.  If he gets a basic job in shop he will then have the money to further his education and get certified.  As he works and gets a bit older he has the opportunity to mature and find himself.

The best thing you can do for yourself today is to invest in your future career.  Take control of your relationship with Joe and give him a chance to grow up.  Do not get pregnant and do not let things stay the same or you could be stuck in poverty and unhappiness for a long time.

You have brains and ambition so use them.  The human brain continues to develop into our late 20’s and we have the opportunity to grow and mature as people even beyond then.  You will be a different person in many ways in a few years.  You are smart to continue your education and growth now.  That will solve your money problems.  Read the other love and money pages to learn how to do even better financially.

Please remember that you are in control of your life.  None of this information should be considered a substitute for professional counseling, medical, financial or legal advice.