Q: I’m a 21-year-old woman who’s been seriously seeing a 25-year-old man for a year. We really love each other, and have a great relationship. However, he’s irresponsible about money: he has to spend it the second he gets it and is not always honest about where his money goes. I’m concerned about his bad habits but I’m wondering just how far I should stick my nose in his business. We’ve talked about marriage, but it’s very important for my own sense of security to be with someone who is financially stable.
Dr. Klein: OK, since you asked… this relationship is an accident waiting to happen. You are unusually clear about what’s important to you, and also clear that this man is simply not in a position to provide it. While he’s single, his lack of life skills is his problem. The second you’re married, it becomes your problem too. Do you want this problem?
You must have a long, serious talk with him immediately about your fears and your resentment (about his dishonesty). Let him know exactly how much you need what he doesn’t have. Both of you will hurt, but the alternative is getting deeper into a relationship that will eventually frustrate and scare you tremendously. If he wants to change–and develops a plan (“trying hard” is not an effective strategy)–let it unfold and keep your options open. Please, please, do not think you will fix him after you marry, or that he will “outgrow” his approach to life. Love is not nearly enough to make a marriage work.