Dear Penny: Should I Marry My Boyfriend If His Bad Choices Are Ruining Me? – Tampa Bay Times | Vette Leader

Released 25th March

Dear Penny,

My boyfriend and I have been together for about two and a half years and have been living together for a little over half of that time. We’ve talked about getting married, but we’re not engaged. We have no immediate plans.

My biggest concerns about getting married are financial. We earn about the same amount of money and currently share most expenses such as rent and utilities. I have two specific requests.

My friend has a lot of overdue student loan debt. He worked with an attorney to arrange for the payment of the private student loans (which I believe were in collections at the time he raised them) and I helped him with the process of rehabilitation of its federal student loan debt.

I hope this isn’t a big deal and I have no reason to believe we haven’t taken steps to address all of his overdue debts. We recently pulled our credit reports and went through them. There were no surprises or unidentified tradelines/balances etc.

That being said, I sometimes get the feeling that he doesn’t take administrative things like opening emails and addressing important things very seriously, so I worry that there might be future (but hopefully minor) issues. I should also note that I’m probably doing most of this administrative stuff for him at this point. While I’d prefer not to do it, it’s more likely to at least get done.

Secondly, I’m worried about his health in the long term. He’s a bit older than me and has had some health issues in the past. He seems to be fine now. He assures me that if there was anything to worry about, he would tell me, but I worry that things could change for him at a relatively young age.

I’ve heard horror stories about married couples who have lost everything after dealing with devastating medical bills or having to pay for assisted living or whatever. Is there a way to protect myself and things like my retirement savings from such a scenario while still married? Or is that impossible?

I love my boyfriend and can see myself spending my future with him, but I wish he would take things a little more seriously when it comes to his financial and physical health. I don’t want to go into financial ruin because he doesn’t.

PS I’ve begged him to be more conscientious about this, but he’s the most stubborn person I’ve ever met, so I don’t expect big changes in that regard.


Robin Hartill [ The Penny Hoarder ]
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Dear C,

Read the transcript of your letter again. Pay special attention to the words, “He’s the most stubborn person I’ve ever met, so I don’t expect big changes.” Because really, those are the only words that count.

Love is not the only ingredient that goes into a successful partnership. A good relationship requires two people who can take on adult responsibilities. But it sounds like you’re the only adult in the room.

I’m not overly concerned about your boyfriend’s student loan debt or the fact that he’s late on his payments. What’s worrying is that it seems like you’ve added his guilt to your problem. If it wasn’t for you, would he have done anything to get those loans out of default? I have my doubts if he even refuses to open his own mail.

Your friend’s medical problems are more troubling. Of course, our health is never guaranteed. Even a vegan teetotaler who runs marathons could develop medical complications at a young age. Significant medical bills can put a spouse’s savings at risk.

An expensive option is to take out long-term care insurance. Other strategies, like a Medicaid-compliant annuity, could help protect your savings if one day he needed care.

But I think the bigger picture is that you want to be with someone who is making a reasonable effort to stay sane. You also don’t want to lie up at night wondering if a bill went into collection because your spouse never bothered to open it. You want to be a spouse, not a parent.

All in all, even the most stubborn people are capable of change. But real change doesn’t happen when people are comfortable. Your friend will most likely grow up knowing they have something to lose – by which I mean you.

Think carefully about what it would take to quell your fear of this relationship and tell your friend what you need. Would it comfort you to pay bills together every month so that you both have some responsibility? Is there an unhealthy habit you want your boyfriend to break?

You don’t want to micromanage every decision your friend makes. But it’s reasonable to have deal breakers. Your friend can choose not to change. But the price of his stubbornness is not being allowed to marry you.

• • •

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to Ask

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