Picking a Boyfriend Who Doesn’t Hold Back Your Career or Bank Account

(Incidentally, I debated with myself whether to change the language to include same-sex couples. While I do hope that everyone who is interested can get something out of this and other Bullish columns, I think a lot of what I’m talking about in this column is predicated on people conforming — for good or for bad — to certain gender norms. So I left it as-is, with “Boyfriend” in the title. But I’m just throwing in a shout-out; I did think this one through, and since I said “marriage” all over this column, I’ll add that of course I support everyone having the right to engage in matrimony and make all of the legally-binding and often financially perilous decisions discussed herein, plus receive free casserole dishes from distant relatives).

That said, here are some boyfriend-types to avoid:

The Boyfriend Who Obviously Doesn’t Bother With a Savings Account

I’m not talking here about the unemployed (although I would hardly give all of them a free pass — some people are unemployed due to the economy or other terrible circumstances, some people are temporarily unemployed as part of a natural and healthy cycle of career growth, and some people are unemployed because they are misanthropic, inept nitwits). I’m talking about anyone who buys stupid shit all the time, and then when his computer breaks, has no way to get it fixed. Do you want to attach your fortunes to those of such a man? Even if you are 20 and in college and not thinking about marriage at all, constantly being around someone like that is like trying to be on a diet around someone who’s constantly eating ice cream out of the carton. Watching someone else blithely buy fifteen stupid things makes it seem reasonable for you to buy just one or two stupid things.

The Boyfriend Who Initiates Sex During Your Most Productive Portion of the Day

As a college student, I regularly stayed up until 3 or 4 in the morning, getting things done. I’m not sure that this was actually the optimal strategy: once, at the height of all-nighter delirium, I wrote a truly senseless paper about Susan Sontag’s definition of camp, and I think my professor charitably viewed the paper as a demonstration of camp itself. That said, it is now unavoidably obvious to me that I can do one very-high-concentration activity per day, first thing in the morning. After that, I can teach classes, I can give presentations, I can fold all my hand towels into the precise folding schema that reminds me of a high-end luxury hotel, but I can’t, for instance, write this column. I therefore studiously avoid early-morning meetings; I never waste my best timeslot on something that could easily be completed in an inferior timeslot. (This is why I do my own nails late at night; if I get a manicure during billable hours, its cost to me increases by approximately 500%). You’ve been waiting for me to mention sex, right? No judgements here on when in the day people should be having sex; I hear some people don’t even bother to brush their teeth before going at it in the morning. I’m just saying, it had better be really, really great sex if you’re going to miss the most productive timeslot of your day. And keep in mind — the early thrill of a relationship probably won’t last as long as the phase of your life in which your most productive timeslot is the same as it is now. That is, while right now it seems sexy and romantic to be pulled away from your Etsy storefront as soon as you sit down to business, later it’ll just make you annoyed and broke. There are a lot of fish in the sea; you can probably find one who mostly shares your ideas about when to get it on.

The Boyfriend Who Expects to Use You as a Line of Credit

This sort of thing comes up when you live with someone. Say you decide to split the rent. Usually, you pick one person who’s in charge of physically mailing it in. Some landlords will take two checks, but I think most couples have one person pay the other person, and then that person sends in one check to the landlord. If you are that person, you’re sort of acting a bit like a bank. For instance, if the rent is due on the 1st, either your boyfriend will have to pay you far enough in advance for his check to clear before the 1st, or else you will have to have enough in the bank so that you can cover his half before his check clears. What I mean by a boyfriend “using you as a line of credit” is when your partner, noticing that you have often covered his half of the rent for a day or two during this check-clearing process, decides unilterally that you can cover it a bit longer — as in, “Oh, by the way, I won’t have the rent until the 8th. I figured that was fine.” This, obviously, ties up your cash. If you constantly have to keep a $1,000 cushion in your account to accommodate your boyfriend’s financial instability, that keeps you from investing that cash in a money-market account, in your own business, etc. That means you are acting like a bank without receiving any of the benefits of being a bank, such as government bailouts, pens attached to counters with curly little cords, and, you know, making a profit.

Of course, all of this goes for you as well. Some women feel they can get away with financial irresponsibility and that, much like professing to a big, strong man that you are bad at math, it’s sort of cute. It isn’t. I can’t imagine that this column is read by a whole lot of the kind of woman whose financial plan for the future is to marry an investment banker, but I guarantee that something those kind of men don’t find cute at all is buying Louboutins when you haven’t paid your student loan bill. (Dare I mention the Sex and the City episode in which Carrie realizes that she has spent $40,000 on shoes and thus cannot afford her apartment? Show that to any man and see if he can even sustain an erection afterwards). Similarly, being late with your half of the rent and trying to make up for it with sex? Men like sex, but that really doesn’t make them forget about money for longer than the duration of the sex act itself.

I’m all about reciprocity here: don’t be a sinking ship, don’t have sex with a sinking ship.

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    • Nicole

      Great post, Lilit, but wtf happened to JEN??

      • Lilit Marcus

        Eep! I loaded Jen’s post for her and forgot to switch the byline. Thanks for catching that. In other news, I need some more caffeine.

    • meg

      hmm, i don’t think it’s de rigeuer anymore to share a bank account with your spouse. i’ve pretty much had a boyfriend since i was 15, several who were live-ins, and i’ve always kept a separate account. my parents don’t even share banks.

      anyway: great post!

    • georgeelliot

      Yes, I think that generally speaking it’s best to avoid co-habitating with anyone can’t keep his (or her) bills paid, but some women find nomadic roustabouts endearing. I do not envy these women.

    • Halima

      This is a great post. Personally, i am kind of old fashioned. I still go by the principle where i see my men as providers of my needs. This is not to say that i am a parasite of some sort. Sure, i work and am responsible enough to support him and also take care of stuffs without necessarily waiting for him. That said, it is important for women all over to understand the lessons of this post and be able to draw the line between romance and financial matters in relationship. In my opinion, every healthy relationship should enjoy financial freedom & stability.

    • Suzie

      I just came across this article via reddit.com/r/twoxchromosomes, and I just wanted to say that I really needed it right now. Thank you for sharing, and encouraging. It is reassuring to know that my feelings are justified, and that I am not alone.

    • “M”

      Thing is, though – as much as I appreciate this column and think it should be part of that curriculum along with Sexual Ethics that you mention … women of all ages are excoriated for thinking like this. Even if you keep mum about it and don’t mention it to people.

      I’d really appreciate some tips on how to bypass and/or silence that kind of judgment from “friends”, colleagues – and family – without resorting to excess antidepressants.