She Works Hard for the Money

… But she’s pissing off her honey.

Q: The girl I am currently dating is great in so many ways. She is fun, quirky in a good way, very funny, very pretty, is a loving, smart woman, but there is one glaring problem. She has zero ambition toward any career. She tends bar now and sees herself always doing that work. It pays great, and she has flexible hours, but she gets off at 4 a.m. and has drunk guys hitting on her all the time and following her out to her car. I can’t see myself taking this to the next level due to this. Am I overreacting?

I mean, if we ever got married, I would never see her. The difference in our hours means that she sleeps during the day, so she is always asleep during the day, even on weekends. I am not sure why it bothers me so much, but I just feel like it’s not a healthy job on many levels.—Bummed by Bartender Girlfriend

A: Since I’ve never tended bar, I enlisted the input of my good friend M., a saucy minx of a gal who has spent her fair share of time slingin’ drinks. If it’s still in the early days of your girl’s gig, then here’s some pretty stark perspective about what could be going on: “My first bartending experience was in my early 20s, and the scene was quite intoxicating (pun intended),” says M. “I partied my butt off, slept with the cute waiters and even quit my full-time job to dedicate more time to bartending. And I had an f-ing blast. But the sparkle faded fast. Within six months, I am happy to say, I was back in a ‘real’ job and got that party-bartending bug out of my system.”

So it’s not out of the realm of possibility that your gal, like M., could eventually lose her buzz for bartending. And this is not to say she’s bonking her way through the wait staff, either. Though M. admits she never could have had a boyfriend during that time, she says there “were plenty of other ‘colleagues’ who had healthy, happy, committed relationships.”

But the thing is, Bummed, in the service industry, with its late hours and alcohol-soaked atmosphere, those kind of relationships happen with others in the industry. Trying to make it work with a partner who works 9 to 5—presumably, like you—is much tougher. If you’re thinking marriage with this gal, then it’s time to voice your concerns. And not just those involving the hordes of drunken dudes hitting on her, but on your conflicting schedules and how you’d like to share more waking hours together. If, however, she’s not budging from bartending and you can’t ever see yourself supporting her in that choice, then it’s probably time for last call.

Q: At what point in a relationship is it time for combined finances: dating but living separately, living together or married? In my relationship, we pay for what we spend; if I spend more, my checkbook gets the hit, and vice-versa, but we live separately. If incomes are combined into one account, is it reasonable to expect your companion to spend according to his or her own income level, excluding joint expenses like housing, food, etc. but more so for weekend getaways, new shoes, big screen TVs? Am I being unfair to expect otherwise, considering I bring in more to the checkbook?—Money Woes

A: The point in the relationship you consider shared finances is after a conversation about shared finances. Doesn’t sound like you’ve had one yet.

But unless you’re Suze Orman, the topic of money—especially in the context of a relationship—is a difficult one for many of us. So open the lines of communication with a conversation not about the Benjamins themselves, but what they mean to you. Freedom? Security? Confidence? Fear? As with so much else in human relations, finding out the context and the background to someone’s behavior makes it much easier to understand a coupon-clipping obsession, for example. Or spending on, let’s say, new shoes, weekend getaways or big-screen TVs.

Finally, if you do reach the live-in or marriage stage, then you will likely further enmesh your finances. What works well for many couples, especially those who have disparate incomes, is to keep separate spending accounts (for things like new shoes) with a joint account for shared expenses like housing, food and insurance. The general rule of thumb is to pay an amount proportionate to what you make: If you make 60 percent of your combined income, then you’d pay 60 percent of your shared expenses.

But enough of the formulas. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I think it’s odd that you grouped weekend getaways and big-screen TVs along with new shoes into your mate’s personal spending category. For me, weekend getaways — and their cost — should, at least sometimes, involve one’s mate. And the big-screen TV: that’s a hefty expense to shoulder alone, without the input of someone who could soon be a live-in partner … Jussayin’. If those hunches are right (and I hope they’re not), then I certainly don’t think you’re unfair to expect otherwise, financially and beyond. Good luck.

1 Comment »

  1. Not at all dude. If you have aspirations of marrying this woman get her in a career. Tending bar isn’t a career, it’s a stop over on the way to a job. If you marry her and she never develops any job skills guess who foots the bill for her life if things don’t work out? Not to mention she will feel better about herself. I have 3 recently divorced friends, 2 of them had wives with no job skills. They are paying for it now…..yikes are they paring for it out the nose.

    Comment by Bryan — July 15, 2009 @ 6:49 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment