The Dude Baseline
You also mentioned that your boyfriend thinks you work too hard for your money.
Now, that’s interesting. Is he just unimaginative and unambitious? Or is he better at making money than you are?
It’s been my experience that there is a sort of Dude Baseline below which men, in general, will not stoop, and women often will. My women friends are often taking internships for free and doing weird projects just to get their names out there and assisting wealthy or famous people in exchange for “connections,” and many men meet these activities with the response, “You did what for free?”
Sometimes, they are right! In Bullish: Are You Thinking Too Small?, I said, “Don’t settle for anything that would embarrass a stereotypical man.” (Think of the last shitty offer you got. “Oh, this unpaid internship will give you great experience … in the self-storage industry of Fayetteville.” Would whoever said that to you say it to a straight-up bro?)
But sometimes, men are hampered by the expectation that they “man up” by having a “real job” and making a steady income. (Of course, men are also more free to live in their cars while they tour as singer-songwriters, because they are much less afraid that someone will break into their cars and rape them. It depends.)
Why does your boyfriend think you work too hard for your money? Is it because he is lazy and entitled? That’s no good.
Or, is it because he is rightfully embarrassed for you, and you should charge more? Then, do so! Could you raise your rates until you effectively give yourself some time off?
If you are doing things below the Dude Baseline — things no self-respecting dude would agree to do — please make sure you’re doing them wisely. Sometimes, working for free is a great way to make connections. Sometimes, a second job pulling weeds for minimum wage is perfect, because it’s nice to be outside after a day in the office, and you really don’t have the mental power left to spend that time making money in a more cerebral way. Also, if you want to start your own business(es) someday, doing lots of weird odd jobs is a fantastic way to get ideas, see how business is done at different levels and in different industries, and meet a wide variety of people.
Sometimes, the back burner is exactly where a relationship belongs.
Especially when you’re 23. (But not always.)
Is this guy offering to arrange his life around you, and just waiting for you to reciprocate? Keep in mind that even if this is the case — and he’s a total gem — accepting this offer still may not be right for you.
You need to have a conversation with this guy in which you make clear:
1) It is natural that your lifestyle at 23 would be different than your lifestyle at 20, when you two started dating.
2) Your lifestyles will contain to change throughout the various stages of life, and it’s important to think about the future and how you will mutually adjust to each others’ changing needs.
3) Your goals make you happy. His keeping you from them would make you unhappy, even if spending more time together would be pleasurable in the moment.
4) You are willing to try to work this out, but you can’t be the only one making sacrifices, because:
a) It’s not fair
b) You would resent it all the damn time
c) Have you ever tried to have sex with a woman who resents you all the damn time? Does that really sound fun?
(If there comes a point when you’re pretty sure all is lost, you might as well speak the truth, no matter how much it freaks the guy out. For instance: “If we get married, my debts become your debts. Either I pay them now, or we pay them together later, once more interest has accrued, or else you don’t care because you think we’ll break up before then. So … which?”)
Maybe he’s just a sweet guy who didn’t realize where you’re coming from. Maybe he’s a sweet guy who just wants to live a more relaxed lifestyle, permanently, in which case maybe this won’t work out. Maybe you’ve outgrown him. Maybe he’s lovely but not for you. Maybe he’s the love of your life, but, if so … would you have written to me? Or maybe he is the love of your life and really just needs to have this conversation.
Also, your mom sounds awesome, and she knows a lot more about your boyfriend than I do. What does she think? (If your mom is not clear on the realities of the job market for young people right now, a good rule of thumb is: Do what older people say you need to do, but do it at least 25% harder.)
Good luck! And if you end up breaking up and working harder than anyone around you can really understand, well … welcome to the club. We’re nice and can afford good scotch and will spend our sixties taking up hobbies that haven’t even been invented yet, because compound interest is awesome.