Advice – My husband didn’t react well when I told him that I wanted to find a new career.

I have a career where I make good money. But it is an hourly position with no pension or benefits that tie me to it. I also have “side gig” that I love and enjoy, but obviously make less doing. I discussed my desire to further my learning, maybe take some courses, even start my own business this year, or at least move in a direction that will get me closer to my own personal happiness. We have no financial stress, he makes good money, we have rental properties that cover most of our own personal bills…

His response was just to keep doing what I’m doing, that’s it’s good money, he doesn’t just quit his job because he doesn’t love going every day.

The conversation didn’t end well, I got upset, we both got a little defensive, and I’m just feeling really really let down.

How do we get past this?

Emma, Reddit.
Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

Dear Emma,

Let’s first take a quick step back and review what happened.

In the cusp of a new year, you looked back upon your current financially satisfying but personally dissatisfying career. And when you decided that you wanted to expand upon your personal growth by exploring a more personally rewarding career or enrolling in personally enriching courses, you communicated so with your husband. And instead of nurturing or engaging in the type of constructive dialogue you wished to have with your spouse, he got defensive about your desire to keep growing.

It is no wonder you feel disappointment and sadness from that interaction! Disappointment is the gap between your expectation and your reality. And you might have had a very different expectation of how that conversation was going to go than how it actually went in reality. You did expend quite a bit of emotional labor on what you wanted to accomplish in the new year, long before you approached your husband. And when you did come to him with what you have internally processed, you already knew the gravity and sincerity of what you wanted to communicate with your spouse – the very gravity and sincerity your husband appear to have missed or misunderstood. That is where your pain is coming from.

And I think that is the best place to start your next conversation with your spouse.

Even you acknowledged within the very first sentence that your current career is financially rewarding. But your career dissatisfaction is a deeper reflection of your personal desire to keep expanding upon your foundation, not as a reflection of how much money you earn from your hourly job. And it could be possible that your husband could not or did not see how much of a role your personal dissatisfaction played in your overall dissatisfaction with your current career.

A good way to help your husband understand how you feel is to relate his actions and words to how you felt. When your husband dismissed your desire to take new courses, you felt disappointed. You currently feel very disconnected as a result of the last conversation with your spouse. It could be that his intent wasn’t necessarily to be dismissive or defensive. Perhaps his emotional hygiene was cluttered with other aspects of your collective lives together that disconnected him from being fully present in that vulnerable conversation with you. But your recollection of that memory – the feelings they brewed – are just as valid as his recollection of his words.

Here is an exercise I believe you can implement into your next conversation with your spouse about your intention to expand. Try having your husband explain to you in his own words where he thinks your headspace is at. Relating to others and teaching others is one of the most effective ways for us to learn and absorb new information – 90% of new information, actually. And he might have a better time understanding the gravity and sincerity of your intention setting if he had an opportunity to empathize with your deeper desire to grow in his own words. After all, this is your own experience and reflection. Clearly, your husband has a different relationship and experience with his own career. It is important for him to acknowledge and understand that your experience with your career is not at all the same from his experience with his career.

It might be a good practice for you to also take on his role in this conversation. Try and speak out loud what you thought he felt during the conversation and gauge where his deeper motivation or insecurity could have stemmed from.

Photo by Laura Ockel on Unsplash

If the first step was for your partner to validate your feelings and intentions, then the next step is to figure out why this happened and how you can avoid this type of disconnect in the future.

I am curious if there have been any other instances of obvious communicative disconnect in your relationship history with your husband. We only have a smallest slice of your relationship at this specific conflict point. So you might have a better idea if this is a next example in a general dismissive pattern or if it was a truly random one-time occurrence from an otherwise attentive partner.

It is also very important to note that we are all experiencing a massive societal trauma through this pandemic. We are all on edge, pushed to the brink of our own respective sanities. So it could be possible that your spouse just did not have the adequate emotional capital to process what you shared in a meaningful and productive way. Explicitly allocating time and space for a discussion of this magnitude might be a good way to avoid this type of miscommunication in the future.

I’ll leave you off with one last consideration. In each of our engagements, we sometimes make emotional bids for our partners. Gottman Institute defines emotional bids as “the fundamental unit of emotional communication” where we request to connect with our partners in an emotional, physical, or sexual nature. This video explains emotional bids in more detail. In your case, your partner turned away from the bid you made, which prompted you to retaliate in defense of your vulnerability. It is important that both you and your husband acknowledge and understand that what happened was not okay, before you two can even attempt to reconnect and rekindle over this miscommunication.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

Advice – How should I talk about finances with my non-nesting partner?

At what point does it become acceptable to discuss finances and financial planning/management with non-nesting partners?

I’ve been with one of my partners for about 2 years now. We both have primary spouses that we live with, though we spend a fair bit of time together as well. We are not primary logistically but we are primary emotionally and sexually.

As we approach middle age, I have some concerns about how my partner is managing money. I want to discuss it with them, help them budget and ensure they are saving for retirement. There have been money problems in the past.

But I feel like since I’m not the nesting partner and we have no shared finances that it’s not my “place” to have these kinds of discussions or help in that way. I’m afraid to bring it up.

What do you all think?

Anonymous, Reddit.

Dear Anonymous,

Your reticence and reservation about discussing financial standing is valid and real. There are a couple different reasons why you could feel this way.

It could be that it is a simple manifestation of general anxiety folks often feel about discussing finance. We as part of western society have made it louche to talk about money, and often are made to feel embarrassed to talk about how much money we have or make. It could also be a different manifestation of internalized guilt many non-monofolks feel about the legitimacy of our non-primary relationships. And that fear can also be a personal reflection of the type of financial decisions your non-nesting partner has made in the past. As in, it could reflect negatively on your own financial situation to be associated with someone who previously made bad financial decisions. While your deeper machinations are unclear, it is clear that you see this as a potentially vulnerable discussion.

And it can be.

Interweaved into this future discussion about your partner’s finances are more fundamental discussions about long-term planning. Of course those feel vulnerable. They are deep, personal, and incredibly revealing. It is their nature to be vulnerable. But it doesn’t mean that it should be avoided either.

Photo by Sabri Tuzcu on Unsplash

One of the biggest advantages of monogamy is that there is an expansive wealth of examples to draw experience from.

It is easy to envision what the process of dating might look like in a monogamous context because much of popular media has already covered what that is supposed to look like. But it isn’t like that in non-monogamy. There is no good example for us non-mono folks to defer to when thinking about how to discuss finances with our non-primary partners. We sort of have to pave our own path in many of our unorthodox choices.

I believe that there is a more fruitful discussion to be had about your internal desire and intention to have this discussion with your non-nesting partner. It could be that you are coming from a place to help your partner set their financial vision in order. Because you feel very well-equipped in handling your own finances, you want to utilize your strengths to improve different aspects of your partner’s life. It could be that you sense this discussion about finances as a visible next step in the relationship escalator that you want to address with your partner. It could also be possible that you have finally gathered enough trust and insight in your relationship with this specific partner that you want to cash in on those trust-reserves to have the vulnerable discussions you want to have about their finances.

Whatever your internalized reason is, set them aside to think about how they might feel about and react to your desire to talk about finances. While you can’t truly estimate how their reaction is going to be, you might have a better idea than I do around the type of programming they might have to detangle or the shame they might feel about their past money problems.

If you still feel that it is beyond a reasonable assessment that a discussion about finances is well in order, then start thinking about your “in.”

And by “in”, I mean to think about how you are going to initiate this conversation. It could be just straight and frank starter that sounds a bit like, “So I have been thinking a lot about how I want to plan financially for the future lately, and I am curious about where your headspace is at.” Or you can try to anticipate for an opportunistic “in” by waiting for the right moment or conversational context to discuss financial planning.

One of the best ways I have found to have those uncomfortable discussions is by playing the “What If” game. So for example, it came up in one of my previous relationships that we never actually talked about what would happen if my partner got pregnant (in the case of failed protection). We started by talking about different hypothetical scenarios without actually being in it, such as possibility of meddled parenthood, prohibitive healthcare costs, and health complications. That particular conversation made us both feel really vulnerable because we each had other nesting partners. So we took some time after the discussion to reconnect and become whole again. Perhaps that could be an approach you can use to open this dialogue with your partner.

The last suggestion I have for you is to have this discussion be a part of a monthly check-in with this partner. I talked a bit about the immense value of having a regular check-in with a partner in a column from last year here.

Whatever you decide to do, you can also take this opportunity to also question what you perceive as is and isn’t your place.

There were some very intriguing rhetoric in your post about what parts of your relationship with this partner was primary and what was not. It could be that these words and labels bear power and allow both you and this partner to describe your relationship in a way that others can better understand.

But as you have discovered in this particular experience, nesting these discussions around conditions can be problematic. In your case, it appears that you nested the ability to have discussions around finances around the condition that you must share finances. It might be worth your time to dissect and reflect on why that condition exists.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

Advice – My boyfriend gave me an ultimatum.

A little background, I grew up in a family with more financial means than my boyfriend though my parents didn’t spoil me and often hid that they were well off. I’m currently in school full time getting a graduate degree and working part time. My parents made a deal with me that while I’m in school they will help me with half my rent and two other essential medical bills. My boyfriend grew up in a family with almost no money and besides currently living with family to save on rent while he’s in school, he’s had no other financial help from them.

So the ultimatum… we are planning on moving in together in less than a year and we recently started having some really open and honest communication about what our expectations are. This was all going really well until he told me that when we move in together I have to cease all financial help from my parents. If I don’t do this then he is very uncomfortable with this and will end the relationship.

The thing is, he’s asking me to do this exactly at the time that I would be significantly cutting my work hours and entering the work for free part of my graduate program. He says that one of his reasons is because he doesn’t want to be with someone who can’t show that they can live completely on their own with no help from their parents. My objection is that it would only be for the first 9 months of us living together that they would continue to help me while I finish school and why would I put myself in an even more stressful situation financially during a time where my life will be consumed with working long hours for no money and little time for anything else. I know how it sounds, and that many people don’t have a choice to not be in that situation. I am incredibly grateful that I even have this option.

He says that when we move in together our finances become entwined and that if I really need it he will help me, that he doesn’t want my parents to have any control over us (they wouldn’t) and that I need to show I can do it on my own. So I’m wondering, is it normal to tie finances together when you move in together? Is this a reasonable ultimatum? I am happy to show that I can budget and handle my finances fully on my own I just don’t get why I can’t do that 9 months into living together and when I’m back to actually working a full time job where I’m getting paid. He won’t budge on the matter or discuss any compromises. Thank you in advance for reading this far and any advice is greatly appreciated.

Anonymous, /r/relationship_advice.
Photo by Elton Sipp on

Dear Anonymous,

Your situation is very layered. There is a significant disparity between how you were raised compared to how he was raised, which has manifested in the form of his ultimatum. While his ultimatum is straightforward, the rationale behind his ultimatum is also incredibly complex. The vision for the future of the relationship is in direct conflict with the reality as it stands. So let’s first talk about ultimatums.

Ultimatums are an extreme statement of a non-negotiable boundary. Often, ultimatums are communicated in the form of a relationship-breaking statement of intention. And in your case as you’ve discovered, it is stated as a very rigid “take it or leave it” ultimatum, with very little room for discussion or flexibility. Such a stringent statement has no place in adult relationships where growth and change is to be expected over time.

Let’s consider the following.

This ultimatum is owned entirely by your boyfriend. It could be that his frugal upbringing has taught him a very difficult life lesson about financial independence as essential to his own adulthood. Maybe he thinks that financial dependence on anyone’s parents reflect such a disqualifying attribute in his partner that is unbecoming of the relationship. It could be that he had a previous bad experience with a former partner whose parents constantly overstepped their bounds to dictate what their child’s relationship with him should have been. Perhaps he feels envy or jealousy as his upbringing wasn’t as affluent as yours, and feels that your partial financial dependence in your parents puts a stop on progressing through to the next step of his relationship with you.

There is a right place and time to assert a non-negotiable boundary like an ultimatum. But an ultimatum is almost always delivered in a way such that your relationship is held hostage with no winners. Even if we assume that you adhere to his ultimatum and break off with your parents. How are you supposed to be financially independent on your own if you have to depend on your partner for housing? How are you supposed to communicate so with your parents without it reflecting negatively on you, your partner, or your relationship? We currently live in a very unique circumstance with COVID wrecking job economy. There is no guarantee that you’ll find a job post-grad either. He is in essence asking you to take up an immense financial risk for the sake of his perception of you. There is just not a reasonable upside to his ultimatum other than the continuation of the pleasantness of his company, maintaining the status quo of the relationship. Downsides are innumerable.

Photo by Elle Hughes on

Financial entanglement should not be assumed.

What I am surprised by is how his rationale – “he doesn’t want to be with someone who can’t show that they can live completely on their own with no help from their parents” – is entirely and immediately contradicted by his solution – “when we move in together our finances become entwined and that if I really need it he will help me.” Is his assumption that you are to go from a partial financial dependence on your parents to a partial financial dependence on him? What exactly is his plan here? To isolate you financially and from your family?

I am further perplexed by is that he knew to what role your parents played in your life prior to the considerations to live together. And based on what you’ve shared, he should have known that your current financial predicament is temporary. And when you further provided an alternative plan as a compromise, he immediately shut it down without any reflection. There really isn’t any good-faith argument to be had here about how unwilling he has been to communicate why he feels so strongly about this.

I also want to touch on this. I get the feeling that a lot of folks immediately assume financial entanglement as a lighthearted commitment, as if it is something that just naturally happens over the course of any romantic relationship. I strongly disagree with this expectation that you are to intertwine your finances with your partner at any given point in your relationship.

Financial entanglement is one of the most serious commitment you can make in any relationship. One of the reasons is that it is notoriously difficult to become unentangled once your finances are enmeshed. When there are shared expenses that apply to your shared account, how can you determine which portion of your shared money is really your money? Furthermore, it can be incredibly vulnerable to be open about your financial standing and expectations. With shared finances, you won’t have financial privacy to spend as you wish. If you are financially dependent on your partner, then he’ll have a sense of authority to further dictate your actions and behavior. Most couples don’t merge their finances when they move in. And fewer and fewer folks are merging their finances post-marriage nowadays. So no. I don’t think your boyfriend’s expectation regarding merging finances when you guys move in is the standard.

Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on

Flexibility as a virtue

Flexibility and compassion is frequently an overlooked attribute in a relationship, as it gets incorrectly compared to weakness. Constant water flow between rocks over years can carve massive canyons and valleys that no drill can accomplish. And there is a distinct lack of compassion and flexibility in how he has approached this disconnect, however dire. It is simply not a mature way to conduct this particular conflict and many more conflicts to come. Mature folks manage problems together as a team, with an aim to better understand each other in the process.

Your answer to his ultimatum need not be a yes or no. Even if this ultimatum isn’t catastrophic to the status of your relationship, it might be time for you two postpone moving in together or enmeshing your finances together. Take some time to hammer out if this is a level of commitment you want to engage on with your partner and what changes you two will need to see from each other in order to compromise to an acceptable level. You’ll both need to figure out a better way to coalesce and reconnect that isn’t as one-directional as an ultimatum.

Good luck.

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!