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Love Letters

She grew up rich ... he didn’t

Q. I think I’ve stumbled upon a problem in my once-perfect relationship, and I could really use some advice.

My boyfriend and I are in our late 20s and have been together for three years. We have the time of our lives when we are together, and I care about him very much. However, it’s recently become apparent how very different our upbringings were, and I’m worried this is going to cause problems down the line should we choose to get married.

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I come from money. Not tens of millions, but millions. My father is a hardworking man from a modest background and had great success in his career. I have never wanted for a thing in my life: clothes, traveling, housing, cars, etc. I have always had access to the best of everything. I did attend college and now have a decent-paying career that I enjoy very much. My father instilled a great work ethic in me. I plan on working and advancing in my career for a long time. (I am not looking for a man to take care of me financially, I fully intend on contributing to my lifestyle.)

My boyfriend comes from a nice family. His childhood was much different than mine. There was always food on the table and a decent roof over his head, but paying for the basic bills was an issue. His father was always in and out of work, which I view as irresponsible and passive. I think the man of the house should do everything in his power to provide his family with a decent life. He didn’t have that “money safety net” that I had my entire life (and to be honest, still do). He paid for everything, and also contributed to his parents’ bills since he was about 15 years old. He put himself through college, and now has a well-paying job (he makes double my salary). He is very smart and works very hard, two qualities which I obviously find attractive.

At the risk of sounding like a giant snob, I’ve spent my entire life around the richest of rich people. I don’t understand what it’s like to struggle financially. I am a bit concerned that I tie the identity of “the rich kid” to my self-worth. It can also be crippling to grow up as the child of privilege and have giant expectations placed upon you.

Am I naive to think that this is going to work? We are so fundamentally different in our views on money and lifestyle. HELP!

Should you choose this letter, I hope it doesn’t turn into a political discussion, or people commenting that I am a spoiled, privileged brat. It’s just the way I grew up and I understand that it is my family’s money, not mine. I really am interested in the thoughts that more experienced long-term couples have to offer, since I know money is one of the top reasons for divorce.

A. I am a bit concerned that I tie the identity of “the rich kid” to my self-worth.

That’s all you, my friend. You have to deal with that issue. I can’t help you with that.

I can tell you that you seem to adore your boyfriend. You have trouble empathizing with his upbringing, but you admire his work ethic. He represents what you want in a man — someone who takes care of himself, provides for his family, and embraces responsibility.

Money issues can cause divorce when people spend differently, when they lie to each other about bills, and when their lives become limited because of financial stress and debt. As far as I can tell, you guys don’t have those problems. Your big issue is that you’re a rich person and he’s not. Again, that’s on you. You say that it “can also be crippling to grow up as the child of privilege and have giant expectations placed upon you.” I’m not sure what you mean by that. Are you placing these expectations on yourself?

My advice is to talk to your boyfriend about how you’d manage money as a couple. Is he comfortable taking money from your family? Would you be comfortable supporting his? What are your thoughts about money and kids? And how do you want to live when you’re older? Your backgrounds are different, but your present-day philosophies about money might be quite similar.

The now is what’s important. The rest of it is just in your head.

READERS RESPOND:

What strikes me about your letter is that you did not actually say how your views on money differ from those of your boyfriend’s. He believes in hard work, makes a good living, and seems to have more in common with your father’s viewpoint than you do. The other thing that strikes me is that you claim that you don’t want to be taken care of, but you also say that you will contribute to your lifestyle. Um, yeah, so you’re pretty much saying that you have always been taken care of and while you will contribute, you still want to be taken care of. Is that right? If so, wow.

You’ve been together for three years and you’re just NOW wondering about this? Sheesh. And you claim to be a smart lady.

I have no idea what the actual problem is here. He makes double your salary. He’s the rich one.

You are a spoiled, privileged brat.

His father was in and out of jobs and you view this as irresponsible?!?!? He managed to keep his family together and raise a fine son who contributed to the family since age 15. I’d say the dad was plenty responsible.

How do you think you’d react if your boyfriend/husband lost his job and was unemployed for a while? It sounds like you have unrealistic expectations of how a man’s life might go, based on your father’s success and luck.

Wow, talk about looking for a problem. If you ever get over this “problem” perhaps you will recognize that his feet are rather unattractive — perfectly functional, but unattractive. Then you can worry that this gene will be passed down to your children since you are an open-toed shoe model and what if your children might be disqualified from this line of work. Recognize this is all about you and figure out why you are looking for problems that do not exist.

SERIOUSLY? You wrote “He paid for everything, and also contributed to his parents’ bills since he was about 15 years old. He put himself through college, and now has a well-paying job (he makes double my salary).” So how is your BF “poor”? He’s well off. *HE* did exactly what your father did. What the hell is the problem here?

This column and reader comments are edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/love
letters.
Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein
@globe.com
. She chats online Wednesday at 1 p.m.

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