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109 Comments / Post A Comment

honey cowl (#1,510)

You do you, Jane, you do you. It would be hard for me to maintain a relationship in these financial circumstances.

ellabella (#1,480)

You probably already know/do this, but have you asked about a subsidized membership? Gyms in general tend to be willing to negotiate, and YMCAs often have sliding scale options.

If you did have to cancel/suspend your membership for money reasons (I hope not ever!!! Exercise for emotional and physical well-being is great!), you may be able to get them to waive the cancellation fee, or just freeze your account for a few months, if you tell them your situation.

And many places offer work-”study” subsidized memberships if you do a few hours of cleaning/checking people in a week.

Obviously it may be that neither of these options is relevant to you, but I figured I’d point it out in case others are having the same struggles paying for/justifying paying for their exercise memberships.

chic noir (#713)

@ellabella And many places offer work-”study” subsidized memberships if you do a few hours of cleaning/checking people in a week.

Is this only at the Y or do other health clubs do this too?

mlh (#905)

Jane Says kind of seems terrible? For me “I would have no problem affording it if I didn’t have to pay for rent, groceries, hydro, gas, internet, phone, and your work supplies all myself” is something you say right before you break up with someone, and not amicably either.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@mlh She says she apologized when she got home.

I think it’s admirable to put yourself out there, warts and all.

cjm (#3,397)

@mlh She says she apologized and admitted that it was resentful. I think plenty of more traditional relationships have this problem- when mom doesn’t contribute financially, dad, in a moment of stress and frustration, might say, I bring in the money, so I decide how we spend it!

nell (#4,295)

@mlh Eh. Sometimes you’re having a really bad day…and when money is your stressor, money’s going to be what makes you lash out. Having been in a situation pretty similar to this (supporting fiance in grad school – knew what I was getting into etc…) I have definitely had said some things almost identical to that. I appreciated the honesty.

eliza (#3,161)

DTMFA!

No, but seriously. Publishing an article like this is not something that someone who’s totally ok with this arrangement would do.

Not that she should be totally ok with it… I can understand the mixed feelings, since it sounds like this guy has gotten her to buy into certain excuses for him at an insane level: “He can’t work a straight job and still do his art. Some people can but he’s not one of them.” “Getting on a bus and going to a job then trying to paint when he got home would kill him.” …Are you serious right now?

It’s one thing to assume the breadwinner role because one person has a more-than-adequate income to support both people and/or there are mutually beneficial reasons for the other person not to earn money. “He would diiiie if he had to have a job and also make no money doing art” does not fall into either of those categories.

Yikes.

Lyesmith (#4,385)

@eliza “Yikes” summarizes my opinion of this entire situation. I’m sure the boyfriend is very loveable and has his merits and contributes to Jane’s life, but keeping two people afloat – with no end in sight – because one of them doesn’t want to get a job sounds like it can end very badly.

Kthompson (#1,858)

@eliza “He can’t work a straight job and still do his art. Some people can but he’s not one of them.”

And that’s when I went, DTMFA.

nogreeneggs (#154)

@eliza I definitely agree with your comment. Sure I would love to spend all day every day making jewelry and knitting and traveling the world, but none of those things pay my bills. If I could find a way to make those things pay my bills that would be awesome, if not then they are just hobbies and things I like to do and not a livelihood. His art isn’t making him any money, and it sounds like it’s *costing* her money (she mentioned buying his supplies) so it’s kind of ridiculous to me that he wouldn’t get at least a part time job at this point.

ThatJenn (#916)

@eliza Yeah, this sounds a LOT like me towards the end of my first marriage. I believed my then-husband would diiiiie if he had to seek out additional ways to make money beyond student loans/his graduate fellowship, even though I had a fellowship, worked in lab all week, taught, and did a bunch of writing on the side to tide us over. I believed him that if he were going to get his dissertation done, he had to have absolute flexibility in his schedule. Which might have been true! And might have meant he couldn’t afford to do a PhD without building up significant savings first, which he hadn’t (instead, he was in credit counseling so all the debt we accumulated could be in my name only).

That said, I agree with the above commenter that Jane should do Jane. If she’s truly OK with the arrangement, great. If she’s not, there are a couple of options – one of which is that maybe she’s not actually fully compatible with someone who has no interest in making real money, even if she did know what she was getting into several years ago. It’s painful to realize you are not compatible with someone you love after years of investment in the relationship, though, if that’s the case.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@eliza Yeah . . . Maybe dating a fortysomething dumpster diver should have been a red flag? If she knew that up front then this shit now is probably not going to be a DTMFA moment for her. (Unfortunately, I think.)

I just said to my friend as we both read this . . . Would this man just literally be homeless right now if he weren’t in a relationship with her? It sounds like it.

eliza (#3,161)

@aetataureate Ha, also my thoughts exactly!

ThatJenn (#916)

@aetataureate Also a thing for Jane to think about: just because she was OK with this arrangement 6 years ago doesn’t mean she is bound to be OK with it forever.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@ThatJenn GREAT POINT, important to say!!

bgprincipessa (#699)

@aetataureate that’s all I kept thinking.. like, but how would he be supporting himself then?

sunflowernut (#1,638)

@bgprincipessa Yeah, how did he support himself before? I somehow doubt he was homeless when she met him, which points to him having some past history of supporting himself (and therefore pointing to him having the ability to make more money). I just don’t see why he can’t even get a part time job. That way he’d have time for smaller projects, and could quit if he landed a bigger gig. Even if it’s just a few hundred extra bucks a month, it’s something.

@sunflowernut I dunno, I know a guy like this. He’s only 30, but he’s had the drifter thing figured out pretty well since he dropped out of high school, so…14 years? And he’s witty, and pleasant to talk to, and does a bunch of freelance writing when he decides to, and has never supported himself. He’s always managed to find friends or relatives or girlfriends to finance his life, scrapes up fun money from freelancing and odd jobs when he wants it enough, and couch-surfs when he’s between situations. I don’t know that he’s ever had a bank account or paid his own rent. He’s had a girlfriend supporting him for the last few years, and while obviously you never know what the inside of someone else’s relationship looks like, she seems satisfied with the arrangement in general.

I can absolutely believe that this guy has never clocked in at much more than $8k a year, and has always been able to find someone to support him. People make do in the strangest ways sometimes. I doubt I would be happy in this relationship, but different strokes, huh?

chic noir (#713)

@eliza – I don’t want to be too preachy/judegy but what about a part-time job somewhere for the boyfriend. One with a regular check not or in addition to the sporadic gigs he takes on from time to time.

At least this way, he won’t be too worn down from his 9-5 to “do” his art. Also, he needs health insurance if he isn’t on his parents plan.

chic noir (#713)

@aetataureate

Maybe dating a fortysomething dumpster diver

Wow he’s 40? How did I miss that. Yea this guy most certainly needs health insureance. What happens if he becomes very sick one day? How will Jane be able to afford the hospitol bills

If she knew that up front then this shit now
aetataureate, don’t hold back now. Please tell us how you really feel :)

Lily (#3,106)

Things I try not to do:
Judge people’s relationships
Judge people’s financial choices

So I’m sorry to seem a little judgey on this one. Obviously you are getting non-financial benefit from your relationship! That is great! But… please prioritize your own health (mental/physical) and well-being in all of this. Please don’t think that you should sacrifice your ability to be a whole person (with hobbies, exercise, friends, time to read or nap or take walks on weekends, whatever makes you happy!) because it’s not as worthy as your boyfriend having time to be an artist. Maybe you’re an artist too. How would you know if you spend the rest of your days worrying and working to keep someone afloat in the world?

planforamiracle (#4,034)

@Lily I’m feeling the exact same—you hit the nail on the head about sacrificing ability to be a whole person, for the sake of one’s boyfriend being an artist. I could understand it more if the situation seemed to be temporarily strained (“I’ll hustle hard for a few months and he will have my back in the future if I’m ever down on my luck”), but she said near the end it has gotten worse with the economy being what it is right now. The art market is not exactly bouncing back, though.

I know Jane said she knew what she was getting into.. but I’m having a hard time not feeling judgy about Dick’s spending money on pot (unless I misunderstood and it’s ONLY acquired via bartering), when they are getting into debt on the line of credit, for groceries. I cannot imagine a healthy situation where pot takes priority over groceries.

The fact of her completely managing the house finances would also be a big red flag for me.

bgprincipessa (#699)

@planforamiracle I almost thought I had misread the line about pot until it went on to say something about bartering for an eighth. Priorities!

bgprincipessa (#699)

@bgprincipessa I also want to point out that the author mentions they “don’t drink.” Now, that could be for a lot of different reasons, and that’s their prerogative – but why is one okay and not the other?

aetataureate (#1,310)

@bgprincipessa Can’t hold a job because of art; can smoke pot because of art. INTERESTING

chic noir (#713)

@bgprincipessa _ I don’t think Jane was making a moral argument for not drinking, more like a show of thrift. She seems to be saying she saves a lot of money by abstaining because drinking socially can be expensive. Also she and her SO don’t pay for weed, they barter for it.

deb of last year (#4,200)

@bgprincipessa “I also want to point out that the author mentions they ‘don’t drink.’ Now, that could be for a lot of different reasons, and that’s their prerogative – but why is one okay and not the other?” I don’t smoke or drink because I don’t like either. “Dick” smokes but doesn’t drink because he likes one and not the other. It isn’t very mysterious.

msworst (#2,640)

You know, if this works for you and you are really okay with the financial and responsibility split- great. Really and truly.

But, Dick reminds me of a relative of mine. It worked for him and his partner until one day it didn’t anymore. Then, said relative expected other relatives to pay for him, bail him out of various jams,etc. so he could pursue his art (in his case – music). It wore thin and multiple family relationships did not end well. I get that he’s talented (so was my relative) but his lack of effort in other areas of life eventually hurt a lot of people he cared about pretty deeply. I would think long and hard about what you are really okay with vs. what you really WANT to be okay with. Ya know?

andnowlights (#2,902)

No one ever promised life was fair or that everyone gets to do what they want to do. There comes a point that the “starving artist without a trust fund” thing stops being cute and just becomes sad. That point is around 25. 40 is beyond my scope of comprehension, honestly. What happens when the inevitable health problems stemming from age comes up? What about retirement?

Jane, you need to take care of yourself. Whether it’s getting a roommate to lesson some of the strain of the bills and letting artist boyfriend live with friends or whatever you need to do, but there comes a point where enabling someone else is disabling to you and it seems like you’ve reached that point. You shouldn’t have to give up your gym membership because your partner can’t pull his own weight. If he can’t even clothe himself regularly, there are deeper issues than your Y membership (which you should keep because it’s good for you!). Time for tough love, both on him and showing love to yourself by respecting your finances.

EM (#1,012)

@andnowlights Errr yes I am feeling guilty for jumping on the “DTMFA” train on this post, because if you’re choosing your choice, than that’s enough, but in this situation I would have a hard time being committed in a relationship that will only get harder with time and age. Also, I would have a hard time with the fact that even if he got a part-time job at Starbucks or something, earning a couple of hundred dollars a month and still leaving four or five days to paint, then that would lessen a lot of the financial strain.

ellabella (#1,480)

So…. are we completely ignoring his “house husband” (her term) contributions?

Also, last year this dude made enough money to entirely cover his half of the rent. Say you valued his housework-cooking, cleaning, laundry, gardening–at the (very low) rate of $10/hour, 2 hours a day, every day. That’s $7,280 of work that gives Jane Says time to go to the gym and do whatever else makes her happy. It seems to me that if this is becoming a point of strain in the relationship, it’s something that could be adjusted and worked through. For example, if Dick took on another odd job or one with a more regular commitment, they would be able to pay the bills, etc.

Based on my calculations Jane Says has $580 left over from her paychecks after the bills she notes, assuming she pays 100% of rent (and $100/month in utilities, for ease of calculations). If she is okay living on a shoestring and feels Dick really does contribute to the relationship in other ways, I don’t see why everyone is ganging up on her.

Of course, not everyone would be okay with this arrangement. (I wouldn’t.) But I don’t think that means it can’t work for her. However, the credit card debt may be an indicator that she’s not really up for this kind of lifestyle and does need to find/create a different situation.

nogreeneggs (#154)

@ellabella Jane also mentions paying for Dick’s supplies which would come out of that $580, aren’t art supplies not cheap? If she’s wracking up credit card debt just to pay for food I don’t think their arrangement is really working out.

eliza (#3,161)

@ellabella I would definitely say the fact they need to consider a line of credit for their everyday expenses, coupled with the hardship created by a $63/month gym membership, is a strong indication that this lifestyle is not working out for them from a financial perspective, all relationship issues aside.

And it didn’t sound like, from the article, the reason for this arrangement is that she really, really wanted domestic help and has decided this is a worthwhile tradeoff – it sounded a lot more like “Welp, he can’t work because… reasons… so, I guess this is my burden.”

Honestly, I’m not impressed by his house-husband accomplishments, personally. If someone is going to earn no money whatsoever as a matter of personal preference, the least they should be doing is being productive around the house. So congratulations Dick, you’re not 110% a drain on this woman’s life. Good for you.

ellabella (#1,480)

@nogreeneggs Yeah, I would agree with that. The art supplies, to me, seem like a different beast than “we both contribute what we can to our basic living expenses.”

The other thing I would see as crossing the line would be what his health insurance plan is. I’m guessing he doesn’t have any. I see that as hugely problematic (especially as he ages) more so than her bearing the brunt of daily expenses. At minimum, what to do in the case of a health catastrophe (or even minor issue!!!) is something they should talk about and plan for.

@ellabella Yeah, nothing in this suggests that he’s expecting to be supported. They appear to have discussed it, and he knows his own work style well enough to know that his art won’t mix with a “regular” job. If the situation usually makes her happy, I don’t see the problem.

Of course, right now the situation isn’t making her happy, which does mean a change may have to be made. If he’s not willing to make it, then either he’s an asshole or she’s a pushover, but otherwise, they seem fine (is my expert assessment based on this short conversation).

Also, housework really is incredibly valuable. As another angle, $2200 a month works out to $13/hour – if we value her time at that amount, and use your estimate of 2 hours a day, he’s saving her close to $10,000 a year in time she can use for other things.

Like you said, the situation probably wouldn’t work for me as she describes it, but it’s mostly the uncertainty that’s the problem. I’d be totally willing to take on a larger share of the household expenses if Mr. Fringehead were to work part-time and take care of the house for me.

@nogreeneggs She only mentioned paying for the supplies during this period where he’s not earning anything, though. I definitely agree that the current situation needs to change, but the overall arrangement doesn’t bother me that much.

maddog (#1,935)

@SarcasticFringehead Housework *is* incredibly valuable, although I would like to point out that we shouldn’t assume 100% of what he is doing is saving *her* time, because doesn’t that then assume that the housework is 100% her responsibility as a default (not saying you are saying this, just wondering about the math). Wouldn’t the best way to figure out what his work saves her be to calculate the number of hours times estimated dollar value per hour and divide that by half? The rest is what he technically would be responsible for in an equitable partnership.

I am not going to assume this guy is some kind of inflexible moocher; it sounds like he wants her to have the things that make her happy. However, I would be interested to know what he was doing to pay the bills before they became involved.

@maddog good point – I was basing my estimate on the suggestions upthread that she break up with him, in which case she would have to do all the housework herself (and of course, there would be other financial changes).

nogreeneggs (#154)

@SarcasticFringehead If he’s eating anything other than what grows in their garden he tends I think Dick is expecting to be supported by Jane. He’s made ZERO money for 3/4 of a year and the year before that he made barely enough to cover his half of the rent, how else would he expect to eat and live if not for Jane’s income and support? Without Jane he wouldn’t be able to afford housing or food. He has no livelihood, no way of providing life’s necessities for himself.

aetataureate (#1,310)

Does anyone else think there’s an element here of “Things I am telling myself I feel fine with” or “Things I should (for whatever reason) feel fine with”? I wondered that a lot.

@aetataureate That’s entirely possible – I will absolutely admit that I tend to assume that other people have their shit together way more than they actually do, so when they say they’re happy in a situation I’ll believe them even if it might be obviously untrue.

deb of last year (#4,200)

@ellabella “The other thing I would see as crossing the line would be what his health insurance plan is.” We’re in Canada so it’s not much of an issue.

ThatJenn (#916)

@SarcasticFringehead

If he’s not willing to make [a change], then either he’s an asshole or she’s a pushover

Or perhaps they were once compatible and now are not. What we want and are willing to deal with in our late 20s/early 30s for both ourselves and our partners to be happy may not be compatible with what we want in our later 30s, and neither person has to be an asshole or wrong for that to be the case, even if her feelings have changed and his have not. She has perhaps found the extent of the sacrificing she wants to do; the ball may be in his court to sacrifice on his end (whether it’s sacrificing the relationship or sacrificing his art), but if so it’s up to him to gracefully decide what he wants to do. And recall that if she does change what she wants from him and we were hearing this from his side – “My girlfriend wants to change the way money works in our household, but my career is more important to me than that” – we’d probably be sympathetic to him and tell him to leave if he wanted. None of us are required to bend in a specific way for our partners, and that’s a good thing.

Similarly, we all might have moments of frustration with a situation we’re generally OK with because it is really hard right now, but maybe it will get less hard in the future. I hope that whatever changes, Jane gets happier.

P.S. I think this comment sounds like I’m trying to argue with you, but I’m not? I just think it’s far too easy for us to think, “This person has to behave in X way because they’re in a relationship and I believe that’s what you do when you’re in a relationship” when really, we all get to decide what our own priorities are – Dick, Jane, and everyone else. At least if there aren’t kids or other dependents, anyway.

joyballz (#2,000)

@ThatJenn A+ comment. I always play the scenario in my head, “what would we say to the partner if they wrote in?” to see the other side a bit.

@ThatJenn Your perspective is really helpful here. I always really like your comments, but this in particular is really good to hear.

antheridia (#2,995)

Trying very hard not to be judgey but this guy sounds like a Grade A Douche.

AliahMoldovan (#3,960)

Jane Says….I’m right there with you. I am married to a professional musician (violin, guitar, bass) and I am the one with the “good” job that allows us to live indoors. He receives a small monthly amount from a bequest that covers the rent. I have no problem with our arrangement; I was fully aware that I would be shouldering most of the financial burden. HE is the one that worries that he is taking advantage of me and has been hustling to find other means of bringing in income.

I completely understand why Jane Says’artist can’t work a day job and then come home and paint….creativity cannot be forced and it is difficult to come home and make dinner after a long work day, let alone be creative. While I didn’t find this essay to be whiney and poor me, sometimes you just have to bitch…..and you need an outlet for that.

Jane…thank you for putting this out here. It is nice to know that I’m not the only one that has a situation similar to yours. Best of luck to you and your guy.

eliza (#3,161)

@AliahMoldovan I don’t totally get how we arrived at the notion that creativity – and even beyond that, easily facilitated creativity – is something anyone is entitled to. It’s not easy to go out and go running after a long day at work, and it’s important to me to train for marathons… yet somehow I haven’t yet parlayed this into the expectation that I cannot or should not have a job. Because so far, running marathons has not shown itself to be a viable way for me to earn money.

It sounds like your arrangement is going fine for you, which is great, but I seriously challenge the assumption that Unrestricted Freedom to Pursue Hobbies is a reasonable expectation, for anyone.

ellabella (#1,480)

@eliza Is anyone saying that anybody is entitled to Unrestricted Freedom to Pursue Hobbies?

eliza (#3,161)

@ellabella Yes, that kind of seems like the argument here.

Here’s what I’m hearing:
1. [Partner] really really loves [hobby].
2. It would be way too hard to [pursue hobby to the extent that they want to] with a job.
3. Therefore, [partner] cannot have a job.

It sure sounds like the unstated premise that comes between (2) and (3) is “[Partner] deserves not to have it be hard to [pursue hobby as much as he/she wants to].”

Blondsak (#2,299)

@AliahMoldovan Yeah, this is me too, or rather where I wouldn’t mind being.

My SO would work on his art all day if he could; instead he works a solid 9-5 (physical labor) job that pays his half of the bills but also sucks out his creativity and drains his energy. I’ve watched him get more and more depressed over the past few years, to the point where I have suggested he quit his job and take a few months off to figure out a new work situation that accommodates his real passion. But, he is also worried about putting that burden on me and refuses to take that leap, not understanding how tough it is for me to watch him flounder in his current situation.

There’s no easy path when you love someone whose passion doesn’t translate to money-making. But hopefully, for Jane Says, you and myself, it’s worth the effort.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@ellabella Well . . . So I don’t want to be rude, but counting on another person to almost completely support you while you pursue art and can’t hold down any kind of job . . . Seems that way to me? Like, I don’t know how much MORE freedom to pursue a hobby you could have.

ellabella (#1,480)

@eliza Maybe I’m misreading the writer, but this would be my outline of the argument. I’m going to assume this situation is working in practice, which I would say has been true of Jane & Dick in the past but may not currently be working.

1. [Partner] really really loves [hobby].
2. It would be way too hard to [pursue hobby to the extent that they want to] with a job.
3. [Breadwinner] is happy working, wants to continue working, and would not attain similar emotional rewards from quitting job and devoting life to [own hobby].
4. [Breadwinner] derives practical household utility and emotional utility from financially supporting [partner] in arts. Said utility is greater than utility [breadwinner] would derive a) from breaking up with [partner] or b) from [partner] getting job but no longer being able to pursue [hobby] to a fulfilling extent.
5. Therefore, [breadwinner] and [partner] jointly agree to [said arrangement], both deriving increased utility than they would if conditions were different.

ellabella (#1,480)

@aetataureate Oh yeah he obviously has that but I don’t think either she or he is arguing that he’s “entitled” to it. I mean if he is than definitely DTMFA but isn’t it entirely possible he sees it as a great privilege that few people get the opportunity to receive?

eliza (#3,161)

@ellabella I don’t think (3) is supported by the article (not enough information to know), and it sounds like (4) is debatable. The article gives pretty much equal examples of utility gained from this relationship vs. utility taken away.

deb of last year (#4,200)

@eliza Artist ≠ hobbyist

eliza (#3,161)

@Jane This is splitting hairs I suppose, but I do believe an activity that someone loves but doesn’t earn any money from is a hobby. No matter how much they love it.

msworst (#2,640)

@Jane You know – I get that argument. I really do. And to an extent, I think it is true.

But, as I mentioned in another comment, I had an artist relative. He was a musician – a legit musician with lots of published songs, songs on Broadway even. But at some point he stopped making money at it. Some of that was fair (he didn’t work as hard, distracted by other things) and some was just the breaks (the music industry is fickle, etc.). But we’re talking decades that went by without him pulling in a significant income from his art.

At some point, he crossed over to hobbyist in my opinion. He was still talented but he wasn’t selling any music. What he WAS doing was looking at his partner and saying he couldn’t possibly take a regular job (like she had) and sell out but then holding his hand out so he could order a pizza. When she left, his hand stayed out to others. “I could never take a job that would make me miserable,” he would say. Then, in the next breath, he would ask me or someone else he knew for money to pay the electric bill, or the cable bill or the dentist or whatever. He wouldn’t even consider things like teaching music or working in a music store or other things that might have interested him.

So, pretty soon the message everyone got is: I’m too talented and special to “sell out” but I want at least some of the benefits of what I am calling selling out.

JanieS (#1,826)

@Jane An artist who isn’t able to support even a small fraction of his or her living expenses is, in fact, a hobbyist.

eliza (#3,161)

@JanieS I’d add too that if you ever need to correct someone by saying “I’m a [whatever], not a hobbyist”… you are a hobbyist.

Fig. 1 (#632)

@Blondsak As someone who works 40 hours a week, writes freelance and does art (I have a fine art degree, if that means anything) I can totally empathise with you & your partner’s situation. You’re right, it is very exhausting and difficult to maintain a practice when your well is sapped by work. Decision/willpower fatigue is a very real thing, and being denied an outlet to create can be frustrating and depressing. If I could quit my job and still be able to afford our accommodations, I would. I don’t want to put more stress on my husband, though. Luckily I’m managing to just start making a bit of extra money on the side from my “hobbies” but it will be several years before I start being self-supporting with freelance – exacerbated by the fact that 40+ hours of my week are spent working at my day job.

The value of art and the practise of art are vastly underrated in North American society. It’s part of a larger discussion about who deserves to get paid and who doesn’t. (Or, who deserves to get healthcare, a discussion I find reprehensible.)

Art, like education, libraries, healthcare (I live in Canada too) have an overlooked gestalt effect upon quality of life and well-being in a society.

swirrlygrrl (#2,398)

@JanieS Like that famous hobbyist, Van Gogh.

gyip (#4,192)

@swirrlygrrl Yes, and he died in poverty and depression.

Many famous artists had other sources of income, be they jobs or inheritances, and many borrowed incessantly from relatives during their lives. There have been millions of artists through history .. only a tiny fraction can command Van Gogh prices today, and many only after their deaths.

That is not to say that being an artist can’t be sustainable — plenty of artists are successes or manage perfectly respectable incomes — but immediately jumping to a name like Van Gogh, I think, is a bit ingenuous.

maddog (#1,935)

Yeah, like many of the commenters here, I am attempting with significant difficulty, a “you do you” attitude because, you know, it is not my life. So I’ll just talk about *my* feelings on this kind of topic.

Economially-speaking, I think this kind of arrangement only really works if 50% of all household chores is worth more than a second salary. As in, at her current salary and if she wasn’t with Dick, would Jane be paying someone to clean her house and maintain her garden, and getting take-out meals two times per day (I am assuming she makes her own breakfast if Dick goes to bed at 6am)? Would she even remotely consider it? I am at approximately the same salary and I absolutely would not. I would consider it more economical for me to have someone bring in a full second salary while I do 50% of the household chores (with said other person doing the other 50%).

Generally speaking, unless one of the partners makes Serious Money, I am kind of skeptical of long-term housewives/husbands with no kids or other dependant people (aging parents, etc) in the household. Very seldom does it seem worth it. What if the breadwinner should suffer an illness or injury that made it impossible for her to work temporarily or for the long-term? Would the non-breadwinner be willing to and capable of getting and holding down a job to support them both?

aetataureate (#1,310)

@maddog It’s interesting to me that we’re all like, “Well, voluntarily broke and financially unstable (and seemingly unhappy about it) person, you do you!” in comparison with how rich people are variously skewered. I wonder why that is, genuinely.

maddog (#1,935)

@aetataureate Hmm I can’t speak for everyone, but personally I try to adopt a non-judgey attitude towards people who are not hurting anyone else. So I am not judging Jane and I try not to skewer rich people, unless they are exploiting, mistreating, or dehumanizing their workers/employees. Maybe it’s that? That often, although certainly not always, the very rich are involved in exploitative practices?

ellabella (#1,480)

@aetataureate Yeah, it seems a little disingenuous to me to say that it’s fine for Seriously Rich people to have an unpaid partner but that people who are getting by ok and happy with their situation shouldn’t be okay with an unpaid partner. (Sorry, I don’t really like the terms “housewife/house-husband”)

Also, there are a lot of possible solutions to the What If question. Isn’t that why people get life insurance? disability? go back to work when their partner no longer can? I’m not saying that any of these are perfect, but they may be risks some couples are willing to take in exchange for other benefits.

aetataureate (#1,310)

Helpful points, folks, and @ellabella, you’re right that it cuts both ways on having a stay-at-home partner. In a way, it’s like if you knew someone who complained about being broke, but paid someone to clean their house for them? Know what I mean? Everyone prioritizes differently. From the outside, it seems like nothing a rich person does should require prioritizing, because the pool of money can look bottomless. But those same decisions come up.

eliza (#3,161)

@ellabella But the whole thing with this article is that the couple is not getting by ok and happy. It sounds like they’re really struggling, actually. And for me, the thing that’s making me react to this whole thing by saying “really, WTF are you even doing??” is that the alternative – the other explanation for why they are not getting by ok and happy – is that there is somehow something unfair or wrong happening TO them, which is absolutely not the case.

ellabella (#1,480)

@eliza I absolutely agree with you in the case of money being an issue in this relationship, and that Jane has a right to get by ok and be happy and have expectations for how her partner will contribute financially to make this possible. If Dick is acting like this is unfair or happening TO him, as you put it, that is a huge problem and super-douchey.

But I am interested in challenging the what seems to me to be slightly knee-jerk assumption that someone who doesn’t contribute financially to a relationship is an asshole/impossible to be a contributing partner to the relationship (and to society as a whole) in other ways.

maddog (#1,935)

@ellabella Unpaid partner! That is a much better term, thank you!

And to clarify, I am not saying it’s “not okay” – I’m saying I personally don’t see how that it is, in the coldest financial sense, “worth it” (as in, the value of 50% of the household labour being equal more than the value of a second salary).

You’re right, there are a lot of solutions. Hopefully the paid partner in this type of situation would have access to life insurance or disability pay, although that is not a guarantee (neither is a pension). as for going back to work, that is absolutely a solution. My only concern is that in this economic climate, it might be extremely difficult for someone with nothing or very little other than “artist” of various types on his or her resume, to find a position capable of financially supporting two people.

Like I said, I am trying to maintain a “you do you, this isn’t hurting anyone else so who cares?” attitude. The situation is just so beyond what I would do or how I would feel in this scenario that it is hard for me to understand and I am talking that through here, like everyone else.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@eliza It seems like she entered into the arrangement with her eyes as open as they could be and is finally reaching the point where it’s unsustainable. And, any feelings I have about how this guy “can’t” have a job aside (I do have those feelings and won’t pretend I don’t), she may just really not be able to support them both on her own. Even if she wants to and feels it’s completely fair to do. That seems like the biggest issue: Is it sustainable? Not about whether he is or isn’t contributing enough, though she seems to have some half-buried feelings about that, too.

TL;DR In theory someone can support him and no one has to editorialize about it but it seems like Jane isn’t financially capable of doing that.

nogreeneggs (#154)

@eliza THANK YOU. This couple isn’t getting by, they can only afford food by going into debt, that is not getting by ok! Maybe the arrangement was working out better a few years ago, but from the article it clearly hasn’t been working for nearly 2 years.

ellabella (#1,480)

@maddog Yeah, I think it’s really interesting to talk about, and it’s definitely something that’s beyond what I would do as well, so I feel you on it being hard to think through it.

It’s interesting trying to separate out contributions to a relationship/household in financial ways. I’ve given examples of how housework contributions could be “worth” $x, and I think it’s helpful to do those calculations, but I tend to see them as helpful reminders of how historically undervalued women’s contributions to households have been and that it’s important to recognize them as valuable and important, but, yes, just like you, I would totally be wary of using them as actual budgeting devices. Mostly because it’s really hard/impossible to break down everyone’s contributions.

Like, how much is a hug when you get home from work from a smiling partner who is happy because they spent the day pursuing passions that you believe contribute to humanity worth? What is the emotional cost of being with a partner who pursues a career you find morally problematic/are ambivalent about but brings home tons of money? These things seem really difficult/impossible to nail down!

Anyway, interesting conversation.

eliza (#3,161)

@ellabella I definitely don’t think that a partner who doesn’t contribute financially is by default an asshole, or a drain on the relationship and/or society. In fact, I have no issue with an “unpaid partner” (and thank you for that term) in situations where the “paid partner” is able to provide for both without hardship, or in cases where the unpaid partner is doing something mutually beneficial (raising children, pursuing a degree in order to get a better job, taking care of an elderly relative) that the couple has decided is worthwhile.

The problem I’m having is that this couple does not seem to fall into any of those categories. Certainly, Jane’s income is not enough to provide for them both without hardship… like, groceries-on-a-credit-card level hardship. And it doesn’t sound to me that Dick’s art OR his domestic contributions are benefitting them both to the extent where it really is worth it to continue this way. As another commenter excellently pointed out, what person who earns $2200 a month would ever decide to pay $1100 a month for a housekeeper?

So it’s just the fact that this situation seems so evidently financially dysfunctional, plus the fact that it sounds like it’s been this way for almost two entire years and shows no signs of changing, that is leading me to conclude that there must be an asshole involved.

ThatJenn (#916)

@eliza I think we’ve definitely learned that for you, having a partner who chose a very low-paying career in art would not be OK. And that’s cool! It wouldn’t work for me, either. But that doesn’t mean it’s inherently an entitled or bad thing to do. If Jane feels like things are unfair for a long period of time, then it’s not OK, but if things are mostly fine and this is just a rough point, there’s no reason to tell her that her choices for her relationship are inherently dysfunctional. We have one snapshot, really – just because the money has been a certain way for two years doesn’t mean she’s felt bad about it for two years.

(And look, having had my ex take terrible financial advantage of me for several years under extremely similar circumstances, I am ALL ABOUT D-ing-TMFA if he really is an asshole. I’m just very uncomfortable with the idea that we can conclude that from this post, which is also probably edited down/simplified to make a good vignette.)

eliza (#3,161)

@ThatJenn To clarify, my use of the word “dysfunctional” referred specifically to the finances of the situation – it sounds like this arrangement is literally not functioning at a level that is financially sound.

To be honest, I’m not even sure this arrangement wouldn’t be okay for me. Maybe if I was making enough money to comfortably support someone else, and our expenses weren’t too high, I’d be fine with it! But yes, if my finances were in shambles and there was no legitimate reason my partner couldn’t earn money aside from his deeply held conviction that he is an Artist, I’d probably be outta there. Hopefully.

Glad for you that you are now out of that situation.

JanieS (#1,826)

@nogreeneggs I KNOW. How is going into thousands of dollars of credit card debt JUST TO EAT considered reasonable?!?

maddog (#1,935)

@ellabella Oh yeah, gender absolutely informs this conversation for me and I really wanted to be careful not to perpetuate the assumption that domestic work (historically women’s work) has no value. I just don’t know how much value it has to people this or similar situations, especially if we are operating on the assumption that half of it should be performed by the unpaid partner anyway, even if he/she had a paid job.

To be honest, I admit that it is possible I would have a different reaction to this situation if the genders were reversed. What struck me is the question of how much great art has been made possible by the fact that the (typically male) artists had all the non-creative, daily-grind domestic work taken care of for them by women? Of course it is ridiculous to assume that if Dick had less time for his art and worked more, Jane would be an artist when working less. Talent and interest doesn’t work that way. But it still rankled me somehow.

Perhaps it is also that I cannot imagine being that unselfish? You are right that it is impossible to quantify emotional cost and gain, but I know in my heart of hearts that my partner’s happiness at being able to devote all his time to his non-lucrative passion would not compensate for my unhappiness at having to work on my days off and being unable to afford my hobbies. But maybe Jane is just a less selfish person? Like you said, interesting conversation.

Sloane (#675)

@maddog I was bothered by the fact that the only unselfish person in the relationship seemed to be Jane. They both prioritize his art, which means she prioritizes him, and he prioritizes him. That’s selfish.

ThatJenn (#916)

@Sloane That may be true, or it may not be – this exchange does not give us enough information to know if he is unselfish in other ways (prioritizing her ability to relax when not working, or her hobbies, or her desire to live in a specific geographical location, or her desire to eat homegrown food, just for a few totally random, made-up examples) that sometimes (or used to) make the trade-off worth it to Jane. Dick is clearly not the unselfish one financially, and that is the easiest thing to quantify – but it is not the only axis on which selfishness matters, especially in a relationship.

Sloane (#675)

@ThatJenn Reading between the lines of the YMCA membership episode, it seems that he is selfish by not prioritizing her. They both have activities that they enjoy – she enjoys swimming, he enjoys art. Jane works so that Dick has time for his art. But when Jane can’t afford the Y membership, Dick suggests that she find somewhere cheaper. He took the selfish option here, which I’m guessing happens a lot in their relationship – she offers to sacrifice, and he takes her up on it.

BellaLincoln (#4,056)

@Sloane This! I kept waiting for him to acknowledge her effort in paying for so much of their expenses…and it never happened. He deflected it into a conversation that seemed to imply she should be putting in even more effort. She’s acknowledges his work, and I hoped he would acknowledge hers.

j a y (#3,935)

It’s all about choices and if you’re happy most of the time then it’s fine. Honestly with 9k including student debt you’re not doing as badly as some. So I want to believe it’s working for you?

And if it ever doesn’t that you make whatever changes are needed to be happy which might not be DTMFA,or might.

Discussing limits might be a good idea. How long can this go on before you think you’ll really be too resentful? Forever is an OK answer and anything else is just an estimate. He could always hit it big tomorrow.

sarahsayssoo (#4,237)

You do you Jane!

But really do You, don’t just do 6-year-ago Jane who was way more willing to scrimp and scrape by. Choices you made then don’t have to be the choices you make forever if you are no longer happy.

ThatJenn (#916)

@sarahsayssoo YES. This.

msworst (#2,640)

@sarahsayssoo Cosign. Things change.

maddog (#1,935)

I have been all over this thread but I wanted to add one more thing: there has been a lot of discussion around how much (or more often, how little) art is actually valued in our society. I think that bringing this up in the context of this situation is important.

I believe art of all kinds is incredibly valuable to our society and I believe that artists should be paid comfortably for their labours, 100%. But I think you can simultaneously hold that view *and* the view that these artists shouldn’t necessarily be paid for their work out of their domestic partner’s pocket/free time. And frankly, I think this is actually a more pro-artist position. I do not know what the answer is (although my default answer “Just tax me more and spend government money more wisely!” might be on-point here).

Fig. 1 (#632)

@maddog “Money for artists, not bankers”. Imagine what that society would look like. I’d want to go to there.

Fig. 1 (#632)

Another discussion worth having is relationships and what constitutes a drain on them. For example, I know of partnerships where one is incredibly draining – even though both make good money, have full-time jobs. The other partner is limited in job choice, travel choice, how your free time is spent, and where to live due to the demanding one. This relationship is far more unhealthy than one where you’re trying to scrabble a bit for a gym membership.

I know this is a finance site, but my partner is fond of saying “Money is money. It comes and goes. What’s left behind is far more important.” (He works like a dog and saves scrupulously, which is why I find it funny whenever he says it.)

anonybill (#4,387)

It just doesn’t sound so equal. My bf and I are discussing a similar arrangement we’d like to have: I would go to work outside the home – I make enough to support the two of us and considerably more than he could make and I like my job and I really really like working. I make work if I don’t have enough. He would like to support me by taking care of the house – all the cooking, cleaning and household tasks would be his. He’s good at them and likes them and it would help me not to worry about coming home and making dinner (=spending a lot of money on crappy takeout) and how I hate spending weekends doing the laundry. We feel this is an arrangement that can work for us.

This also leaves him time at home to pursue his favorite sport and to play music and do art and the things he likes to do. The difference I see is that he’s not asking me to pay for those Hobby/Personal Pursuit things. Just as I wouldn’t ask him to pay for my gym membership or personal – me only – things. He’ll get a part-time job or pick up gigs or whatever. That feels equal (though maybe we’re crazy?!).

blueblazes (#1,798)

@anonybill That sounds like a utopia. BUT, you will need to adjust to his way of managing the household. If he already knows how to cook, clean, iron, run errands, etc., in a way that will actually save YOU time and trouble, he is my hero. In my experience “letting” my husband do “his share” of the household work, things did not get done correctly or in a timely way. For all that really wanted to hand him the household tasks (my job pays enough to support us both), I’m not interested in spending the whole of his learning curve eating burned toast and wearing wet, wrinkled shirts to the office.

I think that the different ways that girls and boys are socialized from young childhood means that women are able to anticipate and meet men’s needs much more easily than the reverse.

chic noir (#713)

Shouldering the majority of our financial burden was a choice I consciously made.

God bless the ladies who bring home the beacon. I don’t think this sort of relationship would work for me because I’m sure I would become resentful.

chic noir (#713)

@chic noir He’s also a total house-husband: He cooks dinner every night, does laundry, maintains our vegetable garden—he’s not sitting at home eating bon bons all day!

Okay, this I can respect.

chic noir (#713)

he gave a girl we know some oil paints he never used in exchange for an eighth, etc.

Somebody help a sister out…what is “an eight”?

@chic noir 1/8oz of marijuana

chic noir (#713)

@stuffisthings – Thanks :)

Crazy how I grew up in a neighborhood with an open drug market yet had no idea.

I just wish someone would support me to stay at home and pursue my passion of finishing all the games in my Steam library.

It’s not really compatible with the whole 9-to-5 job situation.

honey cowl (#1,510)

@stuffisthings You are probably dying inside going to your day job huh?

vunder (#752)

What is the possibility for income growth at Jane’s job? I guess I get supporting your artist partner on the face of things, but maybe she simply isn’t making enough money to do it. If you’re going to make that sacrifice maybe do it for more money? 2200/month is 26.4…whether that’s take home or gross, it’s not a lot.

sheistolerable (#2,382)

Hi Jane. I hate to pile on, but … My husband works 30+ hours/week on his unpaid passion that he’s hoping to build into a business, and 20+ hours on things that usually have nothing to do with his passion, but that make cash. I’m a grad student on stipend and so we bring in about the same per year. I’ll be the breadwinner when I graduate, because of the gap in our education levels/prospects, and probably then he’ll just do the passion full time. But for now? We couldn’t live if he only did the passion. And he completely gets that. I feel resentful sometimes because I pick up more of he housework, but that basically means I’m carrying him to the tune of a couple hours chores per week, while he works a much less flexible schedule than I do. You’re carrying your partner to the tune of ‘most everything. I guess I just wanted to say, other setups are possible with creative partners in he picture., but thank you for your bravery in sharing this.

sara_am (#4,013)

@sheistolerable Yeah, I also wanted to point out that other setups are possible. I get that it would be very difficult for him to be creative on top of working a full time job. But maybe Jane’s SO could look into a part-time job? It seems like if he were regularly bringing in even just a few hundred a month from some kind of small, steady employment, they would have a lot less money stress and he would still be able to do his own thing most days of the week. Or if he worked full-time for a limited time period, like a 6 week holiday retail gig or a summer landscaping job, then returned to his art.

Penelope Pine (#2,808)

Girl, you’re being played. If he really loved you/wasn’t a manchild, he wouldn’t be expending so much energy on searching out weed.

hello_sunshine (#4,393)

Was anyone struck by the fact that if the author pays the entire rent, it is over half of her take home pay? That is crazy! Now maybe they can’t get anything cheaper, but it seems like they calculated their rent based on two incomes instead of one stable income and one highly variable income … if one partner has variable income, I feel like you should budget like they have no income aka the ’50′s concept of ‘whatever the housewife makes is pin money.’

D-U-M-P this loser guy, FAST!

Again, he is a LOSER! Dump him NOW! Today!

At least you do not have a baby with this man! He is totally IRRESPONSIBLE. You are supporting this IDIOT as if he were your adult child!

Why in the world would any educated young woman of today date a man that only makes $8,000 a year? Unless he is a Total Idiot, or clever freeloading GIGOLO!? He would be a horrible husband and even worse father. YOU DESERVE A BETTER MAN, my friend! You cannot write him off on your tax return either! He needs to move back home with his mother. Cut him off, and no more sex with him either. Keep this going with him, and YOU will become a bigger idiot than he is!

EDaily (#4,396)

Girl, as long as you’re happy. You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t so you might as well just do whatever you want.

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