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Ask Lynn-She’s Sick Of His Freeloading


After months of unemployment, one woman is fed up with her guy’s freeloading attitude and lazy job-hunting skills. Lynn offers advice on how to salvage their relationship — or give it the pink slip.

By Lynn Harris

ear Lynn,
My boyfriend and I have been together since last January, but his recent state of affairs has me worried. He has been jobless since March, but I am working. He is always at my house, so I tend to feed him, pay his bus fare… I have increasingly become tired and frustrated with this. I told him that he
I no longer want him to even hug me.
needs to get a job, but he says he has applied and nobody is hiring. I feel very angry when we are together because I end up paying the bills for both of us. I no longer want him to even hug me; the whole issue has got me thinking that if I had not immediately gotten into a relationship with him, I would have noted these aspects and perhaps not rushed things. What do I honestly do? I love him, but I hate this situation. Funnily enough, he says most of the time that he spends in my house is a way for us to spend time together without spending money. When he says this, I am thinking, “Get out and do something with yourself — and by the way, I am spending money to feed you!” In addition, his parents give him some support. He is choosy about the kind of jobs he applies for; I feel that he is not doing enough by applying everywhere. Should I walk away, encourage him differently… or what?
— Jinxed Joan

Dear Jinxed Joan,
Here’s the economic reality: sadly, it may well be true that no one is hiring. Or wasn’t hiring the last time your boyfriend made the rounds. People (brace yourself) spend months, even years, out of work — even while doing their best to take any job, even those they’re overqualified for. And by the way, he is entitled to be choosy, up to a point; after all, a heinous or toxic job can be as soul-killing, in its own way, as long-term unemployment.

That said, here’s the relationship reality: people lose their jobs; couples — though it’s never easy — manage to successfully weather money woes and many other storms (hence the vows we make for “richer OR poorer,” “in sickness AND health,” and so on). But from the tone of your letter, it’s not the fact that your boyfriend’s unemployed that making you nuts — it’s his inertia; his passivity; his lack of wanting to take responsibility, and frankly, it’s his lame self-justification about it that’s upsetting you. (“My freeloading is ‘we time’ together, honey!”) None of the above qualities, I might add, will help him ace a job interview. Others in the same situation don’t share his lack of enthusiasm. These days, because people can and do spend a long time looking for another job, many of those people do their best to use that time well: by taking classes, networking, polishing their resumes, avoiding boredom by exploring new hobbies they “never had time for” before. Your partner, it seems, is not one of those people.

And partner is a key word here. There are times in any long-term relationship where one partner likely far out-earns the other or is in a more powerful, stable position for whatever reason (in fact, some couples rely entirely on a single income and their relationships are happy and stable). You see, times of stress like what you’re describing are precisely when one partner is pretty much called on to be the other’s rock until the storm passes. (Note that I said “rock,” though, not “open wallet.”) There has to be some kind of give and take here, some kind of mutual partnership, some sense of balance — at least some acknowledgment
There has to be some kind of give and take here.
from the less-stable partner that these are special circumstances, that they won’t last forever, and your support is definitely appreciated — you know what I mean? And making a statement like: “Since I can’t pay my way right now, let me do the household chores, grocery shopping, and look, I baked you a pie!” sure would go a long way in making you feel better about the power imbalance, wouldn’t it? But it sounds like your partner hasn’t done that. This is the reason, Joan, why you don’t want to hug your boyfriend right now; he’s acting like a squatter, not a lover.

To be fair, there is the chance that he is feeling depressed. Unemployment can do that. But depression could only help explain his inertia, not excuse it. And either way, the end result is the same: for his employment status (and your relationship) there doesn’t seem to be any progress on the horizon. Incidentally, it also doesn’t sound like you two are having much fun. Fun which, as many of us familiar with the recession already know, doesn’t have to be expensive: all you need is Netflix, some homemade pizza and a cheap bottle of bubbly for a fun date night in!

So what’s your next course of action? Talk to him first by paraphrasing what I said above: it’s not that you cannot love a man without a job; it’s that you cannot appreciate a one-sided, imbalanced, joyless relationship. Say that you know you sound like his mom, but you can’t have him loafing around your place (or in your bank account) all day without some indication that he’s interested in doing something else with his life. He needs to show that he’s aware of all that you’re doing for him and that it’s not being taken for granted. Tell him why this is tough on you and how it’s affecting your end of the relationship. Though relationships shouldn’t require a specific quid-pro-quo tally, ask him to think about what weight he is willing to pull around the house in order to balance things out. And for this discussion to be effective, you need to give him a deadline: not for landing a job, necessarily, but for establishing some semblance of a life — for himself and for the two of you as a couple. After that deadline passes, Joan, no more handouts; and if, at that point, you’ve really had it? No more girlfriend, either. Bottom line: if he gets to be choosy, then so do you. So unless things change, Joan, I’d call this relationship a dead-end job and hope you find something that makes you happier in the near future!


Lynn Harris (www.lynnharris.net) is co-creator, with Chris Kalb (www.chriskalb.com), of the award-winning website BreakupGirl.net — you can visit BG's blog to discuss this letter! A longtime journalist, Lynn has written about dating, gender, and culture high and low for Glamour, Marie Claire, The New York Times, Salon.com, Nerve.com, and many others. She is currently the communications strategist for Breakthrough, a transnational organization that creates pop culture to promote human rights. Submit your own dating questions for Ask Lynn via bg@breakupgirl.net. Your question may be answered in a future column.
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