Hello everybody, welcome to episode 174 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's question is about how to help a partner who's struggling financially.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com
Sure happy to have you all here today, folks and I hope that all of you who celebrate Christmas had a wonderful one. I think my blood-egg nog levels are at least .08 still but I’ll do my best for ya today. We’ve got a good question here for ya. Our asker has found herself in a challenging spot where finances and romance meet. It can be a hard line to walk especially depending on how much money there is in question as well as the nature and length of the relationship. Nothing easy about the spot our asker is in today, so let’s hear more details from her and do what we can to help. Here it is
QUESTION: “My boyfriend/domestic partner has a business that was affected by Covid and he is going to be filing for bankruptcy and will soon have no car, money, or career. I don't know if I should let him go through this and figure things out and be there for him emotionally or if I should help him financially.
I have an emergency fund but if I help him get back on his feet and take on all the bills and finance a car for him to use, etc, it will deplete my emergency fund. Even though this is an emergency, I'm hesitant to offer financial assistance in full.
It took me a long time to save what I have and even though Covid sealed the deal, his business was declining for a while due to some bad business decisions so I am reluctant to offer it, but I do know if roles were reversed, he would help me financially.”
Opening Up the Conversation with A Partner Who's Struggling Financially
What a good question this is! Thanks so much for sending this one in – definitely a tricky spot to be in. I’ve got a couple of ideas as to how you can approach this on the surface, but I also sort of feel like there’s going to be some bigger questions lying underneath this that you may or not be realizing. So let me just jump on in.
First things first, this thing needs to be opened more. I don’t know how much you two have talked about this, but since you haven’t brought up your boyfriend’s feelings in your question, I can only assume there’s more talking to do.
Hearing his thoughts and preferences will probably have a major impact on what you decide to do.
So before you start unraveling yourself, let’s first get clear about where he’s at so we can take that into consideration.
Men Live by The 3 P's
What has he asked you to do, at this point? Has he even asked you to help him financially or does he have a plan in place for himself that he wants to stick to?
Look, men live by what are referred to as the 3 Ps; things that are so hardwired in us that they dictate far more of our actions than we care to realize. They stand for protect, procreate and provide (or protect, profess and provide).
Maybe you feel like you know what’s best for him even if he doesn’t, and that might be true. But in a time like this when his ability to provide is seriously put into question, his levels of vulnerability and sensitivity are likely to have spiked internally.
Because of that, I highly recommend you don’t just waltz in and take complete charge of the situation without at least temporarily letting him try whatever he wants to try. One key part of giving advice that we should all know is that people are much less responsive to it when it pertains to an area of life that they pride themselves in being very knowledgeable about.
So for men, the 3 Ps can be tough waters to tread in unless they’ve made it clear that they would like help.
Yes you have to look out for the financial and emotional health of both of you, but give him a fair shot to try want he wants to try first if he does indeed want to try something without your help.
Be Open About How You Feel
And mind you, you can and should do that while also communicating your feelings to him as you have to me. They can be done at the same time.
Be open about your feelings – including about how you feel he could’ve made better business decisions even prior to the pandemic – yet also tell him that you’re open to hearing how he wants to handle this right now, because his past decisions won’t necessarily be the same as his future ones.
Tell him about how you’ve saved your money up and want to make sure that the right decisions are made to maintain it, something that will be good for both of you. Your concerns are entirely, 100% legitimate, and as long as he puts his ego aside, he should objectively understand your hesitation.
Getting all of this out on the table will open up this discussion in a new way between the two of you, which is a more important discussion than the one between the two of us.
Maybe there’s a hybrid option out there. You can take on a portion of the bills or maybe just pay a certain amount for a certain period of time. Or maybe you giving him money is contingent on him looking for a job rather than trying to start a new business right away without some of his own money put away.
These are all ideas that will be flushed out between the two of you through a healthy, open dialogue.
Your Relationship Going Forward
So that’s the more external segment of my answer. And it’s all very important, don’t get me wrong.
But I want to spend the rest of the time addressing a separate thought. It’s a thought that you didn’t bring up but I can’t help put to wonder about and bring to your attention.
Forgive me if it feels off-base at all or if you’d rather I spend time elaborating on some of the stuff I’ve already mentioned, but if you do indeed want my advice, I think it’s important to address the following.
I can’t help but to think about what this moment says about your relationship going forward. For me, this is more a personal feeling I’ve always had, but I feel as though if a couple is committing to one another long term, then they’re sharing everything, which would include pooling finances.
Of course, I also understand the desire to look out for oneself first and foremost and always have an exit strategy. As a matter of fact that’s an idea I entertain more and more with age. But for your and your man, I see this dilemma as an underlying crossroads regarding how much you really trust in him, how much you believe in him, and if you pardon the pun, how much you want to invest in him.
Yes, he should absolutely be held accountable to poor financial decisions that he’s made, and if his business sense is indeed quite bad, I’d hope he realizes that and opts not take too much from your funds or anyone else’s to fuel more risky decisions.
But I think you have a lot to think about in terms of those levels of trust and belief, and if his money skills are indeed that bad, whether or not that’s a burden you’re willing to put up with for the rest of your life. There’s no wrong answer to that question really, but it’s a question you have to ask yourself.
Summary: How to Help A Partner Who's Struggling Financially
If you two are going to take the next step into marriage or maybe even kids some day, is this the type of concern you’ll be willing to keep around, or is it something that’s been brushed under the rug until now when it’s come up and you realize maybe you don’t trust him financially. Do you believe he can make better decisions going forward, decisions that would provide stability for you, and your family as a whole should you decide to start one? Do you believe he’s open enough to take responsibility or take help when he needs it, or will his pride forever get in the way?
I hate to add more to your plate, but these are questions you should’ve asked yourself all along. And maybe you have, I’m not insinuating that you haven’t. But the thing is, they are more urgent to ask now alongside this financial problem, because depending on how this plays out, it has the potential to have serious implications in the future.
That wraps us up everyone. To the asker with a partner who's struggling financially, I hope this episode helped you out a little bit. And for all you other listeners out there, take this as a reminder that beneath a lot of the conundrums we get wrapped up in are often bigger questions that are reflected through them.
So again, while I hate to give you more to think about during stressful times, at least taking a second to look underneath and see if there are underlying problems or opportunities could give you more answers than you think and prevent future dilemmas that would arise otherwise.
Also for the record, I believe Diania over at Optimal Finance Daily will be answering this question from the finance perspective, so be sure to subscribe to that show to hear her perspective as well as her narration of many really wonderful finance articles.
Ok, thanks for stopping in and listening to the end, guys. All done for now. I’ll be back with more again soon in 175 and I hope you all stop by for that. Until then.
And if you guys want my advice on how to plan your meals in a way that’s healthy and affordable, don’t even bother asking cause I’m way ahead of you. We’re so happy to partner with Hello Fresh. Go to HelloFresh.com/10ola and use code 10ola for 10 free meals, including free shipping!