Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Keeping a Promotion Secret

Dear Tia,

I recently received a promotion at my job and a major raise in pay. I'm very happy with my new responsibilities and title. There's only one setback — I don't want to tell my girlfriend. I love her a lot but she's not the best with money, so I find myself frequently bailing her out of bad financial situations. I'm afraid that she'll think my pay increase gives her a free to pass to spend even more frivolously. The problem is that we have mutual friends who may blow my secret and I know that she'll be very upset and hurt if I don't tell her. What should I do? — Money Matters

Dear Money Matters,

Your problem is bigger than snitches. Let me throw a few words at you: trust, honesty, boundaries. How would you feel if you found out that your significant other lied to you about her job? Betrayed is the first word that comes to mind. I have a few tips. FIrst, you may want to take some time to evaluate why you feel obligated to fill in the monetary void caused by your partner's wayward spending — and is that decision working for you? Secondly, I suggest that you think about what you need from your girlfriend and what you feel comfortable giving her. Lastly, it's time to discuss the strain personal financial decisions are placing on the relationship. You may want to bring up the promotion during this conversation or afterwards, but basic disclosure is a major component of any healthy, happy relationship.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Should Soul Mates Marry Quickly?

Dear Tia,

I recently met a man who I believe is my soul mate. We clicked instantly. After only dating for a few weeks we've met each other's families and have become inseparable. We've already made plans for our happily ever after. Now don't get me wrong, I am not naive enough to think things will be perfect, but I do feel confident that we have what it takes to make it work. So what's the problem? Some people in my life are saying things are moving to fast. I don't plan to get married tomorrow, but I can't guarantee it won't happen next week. Am I crazy? - Ready for a Quicky

Dear Ready,

Congrats on finding the love of your life. Should you be excited? Yes. Should you follow your heart? Yep. Should you use your head? Definitely. Don't let naysayers lead you into making a decision you'll regret. If you love this man make plans to marry him — notice how I said "plan"? Be strategic about how you enter into the union. Undergo pre-marital counseling to ensure you see eye-to-eye on key issues, such as money matters, sex and family values. Additionally, you may want to consider swapping credit reports with your partner. This will allow you to get great insight into the lifestyle you'll lead as a unit. Love is grand. Marriage is beautiful. Enjoy it. But just like sex, you reduce your vulnerability to risk when you protect yourself.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Should I Propose if I Hate My Girlfriend's Family?

Dear Tia,

My girlfriend and I reside in the same building — we met while we were both living there. My friends swore this arrangement would be a recipe for disaster but it actually works pretty well. We get to see each other frequently. We also get to see the other's habits. I know I want to marry this woman. There's only one reason I haven't proposed: Her family. The are very "hood". Her siblings are in their late twenties and still act like kids. Additionally, her parents make bad financial decisions and lean on my lady way too much. They are constantly at her place and have even had to reside with her on more than one occasion. She feels committed to helping her family regardless of their poor choices. I don't know if I can sign up for that. What I do? — Ice Cold Feet

Dear Ice Cold,

Your fiance-to-be definitely has a close bond with her family. I suggest that you view her loyalty and devotion as a strength. Still, I commend your ability to see how her enmeshed familial ties may become problematic as you look ahead. First, you need to talk to your girlfriend. You don't have to blatantly tell her your intentions — though I'm sure she'll be able to figure out what you're fishing for. Make sure to ask her about what she perceives her role to be has a wife and how she sees that impacting her current family dynamic. Let her know what boundaries you consider to be important as a couple and see whether you are on the same accord. Love has two components, feeling and function. You need both to make the relationship work.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Unwanted Travel Companions

Dear Tia,

I have a big problem.

My girlfriend and I love to go on group trips with our pals. Unfortunately, two of our close friends, Jerry* and Tammy*, recently broke up — and both of them decided to attend our last trip. It was horrible. Even though Tammy ended the relationship she's very bitter about the split. She's miserable and loves company. She pouted. She started fights with Jerry. She was generally petty and unpleasant. She even tried to ruin a few of our planned activities. Now Jerry, who did not want her to attend, is our childhood friend, and though our crew has been friendly with Tammy during their three-year relationship, we never really liked her. She's toxic. Needless to say we're happy to see her go. So here's the problem: Tammy has invited herself on our next trip. No one wants her to go. I believe her plan to sabotage Jerry's ability to participate. My friends, specifically the women, are having a hard time telling Tammy she isn't welcome. I refuse to let her pettiness spoil another trip. What should I do? — Dealing with The Break-Up

Dear Dealing,

One word: awkward. It's hard to pick teams after a break-up. Seems like Tammy may be more than vindictive; she may also be remorseful about splitting with her man and losing access to "their" friends. I suggest you meet with the other trip participants and have a candid chat about who wants Tammy to remain in the circle and who doesn't. I suspect that some people may be fonder of her than you think — how else would she have found out about the trip? Once a consensus is taken you'll have the opportunity to decide whether her presence is a deal breaker for you. Additionally, you can suggest that those who want to include her plan their own events since it will obviously be awkward for Jerry to socialize with his ex. At the end of the day Tammy cannot force you, or anyone, to hang out with her. If she doesn't get the hint state the obvious: She is not welcome.

* — name changed

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Fiance Makes Big Plans — With My Money!

Dear Tia,

I absolutely love my fiance. Steve's a great man; we have a fabulous connection and support each other whole heartedly. I'm an attorney and earn a comfortable living. My fiance has a master's degree in business. When we met we both had relatively secure corporate jobs, and that contributed to why I thought we'd make a good team on all levels (spiritually, emotionally and financially). Unfortunately, we are not on the same page when it comes to budgeting. As our relationship progressed Steve told me that he's an entrepreneur at hearts and wanted a mate who supported that goal. I shared that I was happy to be cast in the role of "doting significant other", as long as he remained focused on contributing to the household — it didn't matter who was the top earner. I also disclosed that saving and living within our means was important to me. Since we effectively communicated I thought all was well; I was wrong.

I'll be frank: Steve's business is in the slow lane, but our relationship is not. We plan to get married within a year or so (I'm still waiting for the ring), and we're currently looking for our first home together. Steve wants to price a home based on what he "believes" our income will be once his business takes off. Since I'm the primary breadwinner my salary will pay the lion's share of the mortgage. I want to select a home based on one income, so we can save, travel and avoid foreclosure. Steve says my practical approach means I don't have faith that his business will eventually succeed. I do. However, I think it's better to play it safe and upgrade later. I want Steve to lead, but I can't let any man send me to the poor house. What should I do? — Not Going for Broke

Dear Not Going for Broke,

Love is grand — but rule no. 1 is no romance without finance. I definitely think you should support Steve if you plan to build a future together. Still, I wonder why you guys are looking to buy a house before you're married, have a ring or even have a wedding date set. There is something to be said for doing things in order. If you want Steve to lead, start by waiting for him to propose with a ring. Then you can both sit down to set a date, plan the wedding, and then go for the house. While Steve may have the best intentions, it's easy for someone to get so caught up in their dreams that they can't accept reality — especially if they have a benefactor. I wonder whether Steve's hesitancy to buy a ring is because he's already married... to his business. While women often multitask (kids, business, marriage, etc...). men tend to get their careers settled first then move to family.

It's not wise to buy a house you can't afford — and due to the financial climate you probably won't be able to. That said, Steve needs to feel supported and you need to feel secure. Once you're officially engaged try premarital counseling. It's a good forum to share your expectations and learn how to communicate your needs effectively.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Dealing with Busy Friends

Dear Tia,

I have a very, very close friend who started a company and did not tell me. Does that mean I am not as close to her as I once thought? - Too Far For Comfort

Dear Too Far For Comfort,

If you're wondering why your friend didn't share this bit of information I suggest that you go straight to the source. Don't be confrontational when you approach your pal. Instead, offer your congratulations and let her know how proud you are of her accomplishment. Then, as the conversation progresses, share your thoughts about not being informed about the venture and ask whether there was any specific issue that made her decide to exclude you from the project. Be prepared for what the person has to say. It may simply be that she wanted privacy while formulating and executing her plan. However, it may be more complicated. I suggest you be open to whatever your friend has to say and remember that the new business endeavor isn't about you — it is all about your friend's success. Additionally, your pal may not rely on you when it comes to business, but you may be a great confidante when it comes to relationships. Trust that you add value to your buddy's life. Be supportive. Be patient. Be a good pal.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I'm Jealous of My Boyfriend's Daughter

Dear Tia,
My boyfriend and I have been together for nearly five years however about two years we broke up and thought we'd never reconcile. He ended up dating another woman shortly thereafter and she became pregnant. She loved out of state and to entice her to move to Michigan, he proposed. Upon my hearing of all this I nearly went mad...not six months after our breakup and he has a child on the way and is engaged. This man had been the love of my life and to he I had lost my virginity and had loved against all odds. Yes I had ended the relationship but it was because he refused to seek psychological help and was dragging he into a black depression with him...I didnt know what to do.
We are back together and we have vowed that he will be a father to his child and that the past is the past. But I am struggling to keep that promise. I feel discomfort and even a hint of jealously. His upcoming trip to visit them out of state makes my stomach turn in knots. Will he regret his decision to be with me over his daughter and ex-fiance? — Ex-Factor

Dear Ex-Factor,

You’ve skipped a huge portion of this story: Why did you get back together? That will likely determine your future stress levels. For example, if you decided to reconcile because your ex finally got the counseling he needed to be a healthy mate then it is likely he has some of the tools needed to be a good partner. Moreover, it also means he chose you after evaluating his wants and needs from a sound place. However, if you decided to revisit your relationship to prevent him from moving on, or because he was running away from being in a long-term relationship with a woman he just met, you have a great reason to be concerned.

The truth is he will have a connection with this woman that you don't have; she is the mother of his child. Accept it. If your ex wasn’t a cheater then there really isn’t a reason to assume that he will now — he can practice self-control. Still, there are factors to consider that will make things more challenging, such as where he'll sleep when he’s visiting his child. Another concern is whether his ex-fiancĂ© would like to reconcile with him. I have three suggestions. First, have a discussion with your mate before the trip to discuss your expectations (i.e. where he'll stay, checking in with you during his stay, the length of his visit, etc...). A word of caution: don't impose on the visit by calling incessantly — it will backfire and push him away. Secondly, do not get pregnant to compete with his ex. Having a child will only complicate matters emotionally and financially. Love yourself and unborn child enough to wait until you have a drama-less environment where you all can thrive second. But that’s not all.

Next, I encourage you to explore why you rekindled with your ex. Is it purely because you don’t want another woman to have him? Was it out of loneliness or your own depression? Have you addressed your issues and come up with changes that you both can make to improve your relationship? Think about it all.

It is natural to be jealous in such an intertwined situation. As a woman you have a choice. You can decide to stay with this man or leave. If you stay you must seek help to deal with the feelings you have around his child and new situation. Additionally, you should not sabotage his relationship with his child. He can have both: you as a girlfriend and be a great dad.

You can’t determine or control his regrets, only yours. I suggest you focus on the latter.