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Discrepancy in earnings

  • 10-05-2022 9:17pm
    Registered Users Posts: 48 TracyFlick

    Hi, I'm feeling a little anxiety in a new relationship, wouldn't mind getting some advice. I'm 34F, my new boyfriend is 39M. I'm on a reasonably good salary and have just bought a house. He was studying for the last few years and has now decided not to pursue the area that he studied for, so is currently unemployed. Long story, won't get into it, but it opens up other doors also, but it's not straightforward. I'm sure he'll find a job soon and it will be fine.

    However, I'm already finding myself feeling a bit worried about being the main breadwinner going forward. Let me start by saying I think the reason I'm anxious is because I really care about him and can see a future together, so naturally being a woman in my mid 30s, my mind starts racing ahead a bit. I'm worried that his detour of study puts him about 10-15 years behind other people in their careers, and that I'll always be on edge about needing to be the one making more money. Frankly, as a woman with a ticking clock, I wouldn't have made the choices he has made, as I couldn't afford such a detour in my professional life if I want to settle down, get a mortgage and have a family. I'd like to say how you feel about someone is enough, but at my age I struggle not to also look at something like this analytically.

    He is a really great person- kind, caring, funny and very smart. We get on so well. I know these are not easy things to find. Even as I write, I think my anxiety is also coming from a general fear of something going wrong, after a long time single before meeting him. Has anyone else had this kind of generalised anxiety at the start of a relationship? How do you seamlessly transition from the fun beginnings of a relationship, to a more serious one, where you can kind of bring up this stuff a little more? I just mean, right now I think we're both trying to show the best versions of ourselves, rather than talk about fears and insecurities.

    At what point is it ok to start talking to someone you're seeing about these kinds of fears? We've been together about 6 months.



  • Registered Users Posts: 5,896 ✭✭✭YellowLead

    What were things like before the last few years for him? I’d be concerned if he was permanently unemployed - but if he was working away up until taking a break for study then it’s likely he’ll slot back in to the workforce.

    I think if you’ve been honest with him from the start about wanting to settle down and have kids etc that it won’t be a big surprise at 6 months to have an initial chat about where you both see yourselves in a couple of years time (not as a couple but individually)

    If he is a good guy and has a history of working and everything else is perfect then it’s less of a worry he will become dependent on you. Definitely worth finding out what his goals are.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,629 ✭✭✭Alkers

    Are you living together?

    Is your house suitable for two people and possibly a child / children?

    At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter who makes what proportion of the income in a relationship once there's enough money coming in to fund your lifestyle.

    You've not implied that you guys are struggling to make ends meet or anything, so is it just the different earning power currently that has you nervous?

    How early days in the relationship is it?

    How much is his earnings situation likely to change in say one years time?

    In the long term, it will be far better for everyone if he manages to find a reasonably paying job in a field he likes rather than a brilliantly paying job in a field he hates and work is a chore

  • Registered Users Posts: 110 ✭✭therapist3

    Has anyone else had this kind of generalised anxiety at the start of a relationship?

    Absolutely, yes, typically this is how the guy feels

    The relentless pressure pushed on women to excel at all things has taken away the split in responsibilities and the onus on the guy to be the prime earner and career achiever

    The problem with this is that the ticking clock can't be swapped so more and more women are finding themselves with more and more responsibilities and anxiety instead of less

    How do you seamlessly transition from the fun beginnings of a relationship, to a more serious one, where you can kind of bring up this stuff a little more? I just mean, right now I think we're both trying to show the best versions of ourselves, rather than talk about fears and insecurities.

    At what point is it ok to start talking to someone you're seeing about these kinds of fears? We've been together about 6 months.

    6 months is around about the right time. Have you told each other you love the other yet ? Sometime after that softly bring up in conversation what makes you happy

    There is no easy way just don't be confrontational, talk positively and about things you hope to achieve

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  • Registered Users Posts: 22,455 ✭✭✭✭ted1

    If you stay together and decide to have kids. And his earnings don’t take off , then he can be a house husband and look after the kids etc while you go back to work.

  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 15,407 Mod ✭✭✭✭woodchuck

    OP I'd be concerned too. Does he have a pattern of repeatedly trying to change careers, doing courses that go nowhere, extended periods of unemployment etc? If he hasn't settle down in his career by now, I'd be wondering if he's serious about settling down in other aspects of his life too (e g. getting married, having kids etc).

    You're together 6 months and it sounds like you don't want to waste time, so I'd definitely have a serious talk about your future together. Careers are obviously a part of that.

    Post edited by woodchuck on

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,948 ✭✭✭witchgirl26

    OP I think you might be getting yourself a little worked up over this without a massive need. My other half changed his career about 6 years ago. We were in our early 30's. It definitely didn't set him back 10-15 years at all because he was able to utilise all the previous working experience plus the change to show that he was not just a good worker but adaptable & willing to learn more. While he might not be at exactly the same level he would have been if that had been his initial career, he isn't that far behind. And I think you're doing yourself a disservice by say that you wouldn't have the same choices. I know I would have if I was unhappy in my career & would still do it despite having a mortgage & a child.

    Anyway - I think maybe having a conversation at this point in & considering ages about where you both feel the relationship is going and your ultimate goals is a good thing and gets you both to a stage where you can see if you're on the same page.

    I wouldn't agree that if he hasn't settled down in his career by now it indicates that he might not be serious about settling down in other aspects. I think it honestly shows a level of self awareness of not blindly following a career that you no longer enjoy or are interested in because it's a career path.

  • Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 5,333 Mod ✭✭✭✭HildaOgdenx

    +1 to this. It's a conversation that needs to happen, imo.

    I worked with a couple at one time, both high fliers. I believe he has recently completely changed career path, involving some years of full time study. It will ultimately be a less lucrative role than ones he has held in the past. They have fairly small children. I presume it was something they sat down and discussed together, before he made that change.

    So, very valid to have reservations, imo, and very important to talk things out.

  • Registered Users Posts: 81 ✭✭spontindeed

    Good guys are hard to find nowadays and raising the financial dependency issue may not be the best thing to do at such an early stage of a relationship. He may leave you if he feels pressured into doing a Course he hasn't fully decided upon yet.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 17,063 ✭✭✭✭Donald Trump

    If he is 39 and has neither a financial foundation built, nor a direction, run to the hills.

    Or spend the next 5 or so years subsidising him until you realise you can't take any more

  • Registered Users Posts: 81 ✭✭spontindeed

    Lots of good guys don't have college degrees or certs and many 30-somethings and increasingly 40-somethings are still living with their parents because of the housing affordability crisis. That is the reality. 

  • Registered Users Posts: 17,063 ✭✭✭✭Donald Trump

    Loads of wasters too. That's the reality. It has nothing to do with degrees or certs. The only relevance for study here is that the OP mentioned he wasn't working because of study.

    It's up to the OP if she wants to subsidize a waster. Only she can have an idea what he is.

    I know of someone who foolishly got married to a fella like that and it follows through to the rest of his life too. No effort to do anything unless it is handed to him on a plate. She is stuck with him now though!

    If the fella just never had an opportunity to go to college or whatever and decided to improve his prospects in his 30's then fair enough. If he bummed around though in his 20's and then bummed into study to bum around some more, I'd run run run and keep running. Unless you are happy to be a parent to him for the next 30 years

  • Registered Users Posts: 939 ✭✭✭bitofabind

    And you're allowed to want what you want and hold standards for the kind of life you aspire to. The OP clearly has a good head on her shoulders and some important life plans. She's set up her life accordingly. These things typically require shared goals and aspirations as a couple, otherwise resentment builds as one perceives themselves to carry the greater weight of making these things happen. He might have a plan, he might have a well-thought-out approach towards this career change and diversion from the study path - the problem is they haven't had that conversation yet.

    OP - another thing I picked up on is you were long-time single before him. That's great and builds a great level of independence and self-sufficiency, but I can tell you from first hand experience that, combined with your age, a scarcity mindset can set in. You can start thinking it has to be this guy, otherwise you'll miss the boat. You can sit and say nothing about things that worry you because it took you so long to meet this person, and "there's not many good men out there". 1. That's a lie, there actually are a fair amount of them knocking around and 2. It's better to be single than to compromise on your values and your life goals. I spent far too long with a guy that was terrible with money and had different standards to me because I was 32 and it seemed like a last chance saloon. It wasn't, we broke up, I was single and heart-broken for a few years, I met my person at 35.

    I really love the advice above, I think it hits the nail on the head in terms of what needs to happen next. "Know your truth, speak your truth, and make your agreements"

  • Registered Users Posts: 81 ✭✭spontindeed

    A person needs to be able to find their own way into a new line of work and this takes time. There are a lot of things to consider such as where the job market will be in five years time and also the entry requirements to a course. It depends on what part of the Country you are in and whether there are enough good guys in that part of the Country.

  • Registered Users Posts: 22,455 ✭✭✭✭ted1

    so you think that Any couple with a stay at home parent should separate?

  • Registered Users Posts: 17,063 ✭✭✭✭Donald Trump

    Anything else ya'd like to put the words into my mouth so you can then refute something I never said? What's the point of that?

    "So you think you should marry a junkie with Aids and have kids with them?"

    I like the way ye have elevated this waster to a "stay at home parent". I think there are a few people projecting their own situations onto this story.

    It's up to the OP whether she is ok with carrying a passenger around on her back for potentially the rest of her life. Her choice. Although if she was, she wouldn't be posting here. And no, it's not about money - it's about attitude. Give me someone on 30k a year that is a hard worker rather than a waster who was afforded every opportunity but coasts along on 40k a year to keep them in beer money while they sponge off their parents. If you both want to coast along, that's fine. If you have one with ambition and drive and another who is completely the opposite, it's not going to work

  • Registered Users Posts: 48 TracyFlick

    OP here, thanks for all the responses. There’s quite a variety of opinion, and thank you for not saying I’m shallow etc!

    It’s not about money per se, it’s about being nervous that he’s still kind of floating around between career areas at the exact point in my life where I’m starting to want stability. He worked really hard to get this qualification so it’s not like he’s a lazy bum, as some people have pointed out. He worked consistently before this detour a few years ago, just in roles he didn’t love. I think he has a good chance of getting a secure job pretty soon, just probably on a fair bit less money than me, for the next couple of years at least.

    It is like I keep finding things to get anxious about in this relationship though, and that is more to do with me than him. I hate the ticking clock and how it makes you view things. I hate that men seem oblivious to this pressure compared to women.

    Still interested in people’s views, and how you broach a topic like this, when you’re at the stage where you don’t need them for anything yet, but starting to think about the future.

  • Registered Users Posts: 17,063 ✭✭✭✭Donald Trump

    You're the only one who knows him OP. The rest of us are just guessing. Just be careful not to make excuses for him. It is an easy trap to fall into.

  • Registered Users Posts: 939 ✭✭✭bitofabind

    That clarifies a few things OP. This is a guy that has a work ethic, has built that muscle and taken a bit of a detour as you say to find something that's a better match for his values and interests. Fair enough. In that case, he's thinking bigger picture and working towards a more fulfilling career in the long-run, it's just come at the cost of less money and a bit of instability in the short term.

    As for having that conversation - there's no magic trick or turn of phrase here. You just have to bite the bullet. I hadn't a clue what I wanted when I met my partner, I'm not traditional and didn't think I'd follow the common rule of law at all, but the security of the relationship got me to a place of "yes I do want those things" about a year in. So I had that conversation of "where do we think this is going, and have you thought about what you'd like our future to look like?" Simple question, got a few simple answers. His order of priority was a bit different from mine, so we discussed timelines, where we'd like to be by X date, where we can compromise and got to a general agreement.

    I don't think 6 months is too early to have that conversation. You're not asking him to knock you up tomorrow. You're sussing out whether he's got the same general ambitions, and reminding him you don't have forever so are setting your sights on the next few years. What does he think?

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  • Registered Users Posts: 180 ✭✭xeresod

    You want kids etc, would you be happy being the breadwinner and him the house husband?

    Would he be happy in that scenario?

    Even if he gets a job soon like you think, as you've said he'll be on lower money for some time yet, and as your clock is ticking that's the timeframe when you'll to have kids so if neither of you are happy to invert the "traditional" role you'll be in for a lot of hardship and I think you'll feel a lot of resentment if you have to pause your career.

  • Registered Users Posts: 48 TracyFlick

    The thing is though, even if I was going out with someone on the same money as me, or more, I never saw myself giving up work for any length of time if I had kids, with the way mortgages and bills etc work out these days. I know childcare is eye watering, but I never really saw myself taking a 3 year break or anything. So in that sense, as someone else said, does it really matter how income is divided in a household between who earns what?

    I think I just need to speak to him. I’m not even 100% sure I want kids, I don’t know how everyone doesn’t find it insanely stressful these days with the cost of houses. Every time I see a couple under 35 with kids on the street, I think, where do you live!

    He has savings that are not insignificant and a fair idea of what he wants to do. Overall I think I need to figure out why I feel anxiety to this degree, and bring it up with him soonish.

  • Administrators Posts: 12,862 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭Big Bag of Chips

    The fact that you earn significantly more than him at the moment is irrelevant. If your relationship progresses that is likely to swap and change over the years. When I started going out with my husband he lived at home, earned significantly more than me, and therefore had significantly more in savings than I did just out of college, first job, renting in Dublin.

    He had enough in savings for a house deposit, and we bought a house together pretty quickly - thanks to his savings. Over the course of our relationship, he has been the higher earner, I have been the higher earner. He has left well paid (stressful) work for lower paid (less stressful) work. I left a well paid job to be a stay at home mam for years. He was a stay at home dad for a while. He has been off work due to illness. I have worked part time. And we've always managed.

    If you think you're looking for faults and feeling anxious about this, maybe despite him being a nice fella you're just not convinced. That's fine. 6 months in you'd have a good idea whether this is the relationship for you. If you're unsure - for whatever reason - then maybe this isn't the relationship for you. But maybe you're panicking with the whole "clock ticking" scenario and trying to fit a square peg into a round hole because now you feel you should be settling down.

    Talk to him. It's a conversation that needs to be had one way or another. Tell him your anxiety. The relationship will either end, or will progress. If it ends, it was eventually going to end anyway. If it progresses then you know you make a good team and have a good support between you both. Regardless of who earns what.

  • Registered Users Posts: 81 ✭✭spontindeed

    You say your biological clock is ticking then you mention you don't need him for anything yet. 

    Men are looking for long-term stability in a partnership, they’re going to take their time to find it and men are leading the way.

    Look on it this way: degrees/certs take ridiculously long to complete in this Country because the Government previously decided to opt in to harmonized EU standards on Education. Your partner has done four years of his life at college already so you can understand why it would be a huge dilemma for him to have to contemplate doing another four years at college: a total of eight years of his life at college - long time to say the least! He is understandably wary about it now (and to be fair who can blame him). Exams, long study hours, and whether he has to set aside his interests, his passions and hobbies. 

    I am aware of courses from a UK Educational Academy that are 100% distance learning (not blended learning) so this may be a much better incentive to him because unlike in Ireland, this Academy gives the option of choosing assignments over exams (something you'd never get the option to choose in Ireland). I'm unsure what academic area of field he is considering. If you want to PM me, I'll give you the name of the Distance Learning Academy. Maybe this could be one way of broaching the topic as you mention.        

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,896 ✭✭✭YellowLead

    An important thing to determine is if he wants kids or not? I assume you’ve had this conversation. If he does want kids and soon, then presumably he has thought about what he will need financially to contribute to a household. Perhaps that is why he is making an effort to further his career.

    If he has the same goals as you, and is being smart about it, then I wording worry about the current difference in income. You need to know that if you decide to be at home with the kids for a year or two that he will be able to carry the mortgage etc. and contribute to wards childcare etc when you go back. This is a normal thing to want to find out.

    But essentially it comes down to if he sees himself having kids and is able to contribute financially to allow for that to happen, and you love him and believe in him.

    six months is too fast to decide if he will be your life partner/baby daddy, but you need to know if it’s a realistic possibility.

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,813 ✭✭✭spaceHopper

    I'm not trying to be cruel by saying this but from the sound of this, this is a you problem and not him problem, if he landed a great job tomorrow you would find something else to worry about. Maybe you should talk to your GP about getting some help with your anxiety.

  • Registered Users Posts: 556 ✭✭✭foxsake

    i cant agree with this.

    if he isn't "there" or "there abouts" at 40 then what has he being doing - wouldn't write him off but it does raise awkward questions.

    no house/no career or job path - at 40 he has half a lifetime to sort this.

    He could be a great guy but he also doens't seem driven in anyway.

    I'm 44 and all my peers without fail (even the flakey lazy heavy drinker/drug ones) have had a house the past 10years and know in some general sense what they are doing for money

  • Registered Users Posts: 81 ✭✭spontindeed

    The past 10 years have been exceptionally difficult for 30-somethings and 40-somethings owing to the aftermath of the economic crash and the loss of income during the past 10 years. The job market changed and became much more competitive due to unemployment, globalization, migration etc. Many 30-somethings and 40-somethings have faced big set backs.

    The OP's partner sounds like he couldn't get into the course he originally wanted so he had to settle for a similar course which would subsequently be used to get into the preferred course of his original choice. This is called recognition of prior learning and sometimes it's the only way to get into a preferred course if you didn't get enough points. It often gives you an exemption of modules in foundation first year. That's understandable because we don't have enough University Schools in Ireland for professional careers like Pharmacy, Dentistry, etc. That's not his fault.

    There seems to be a myth that there's a lot of guys knocking around out there: anyone who believes this is in for a big disappointment! The casual dating culture as well as more guys choosing to stay single are some reasons why a lot of men no longer put much effort into looking for ladies as they used to.I think guys learned there’s more to life than chasing that. Ladies wrongly assume that it will be easy to find a guy before finding out the hard way that guys are more selective who they partner with. Men like to ease into a more serious relationship and hang out for a while and over time to see how things progress in an organic way.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 984 ✭✭✭Still stihl waters 3

    You're "biological clock is ticking " yet you've left it until this late in life to start worrying about having children, you could say both of ye have left it late regards the paths ye have followed but only you seem to be worried about it, maybe he's on the path he wants to be on with the decisions he has made and you've bet on the wrong horse regards careers, relationships etc etc where you've built a career but start talking about your biological clock but go on to say you're not sure if you want kids, he might not be all the problem here if even he is aware of any problem