I have read your column for years — and like many people, I imagine, never thought I would be writing in myself. But here we are!
This letter is not about inheritance or divorce or even about marrying my partner for his Social Security. (I told you I read them.) I’m newly single, and I have an ethical issue with my ex-boyfriend. We met about five months ago, and he was just a delight from the very beginning: engaged, funny, upbeat and confident and, most of all, he really liked me. I felt valued and cherished. I thought, “There are good men in the world.” But then the wheels came off our relationship.
After we were dating for three months, he offered to take me on a trip to the Caribbean. I was just about to turn 40, and I work as a public-school teacher, so I don’t tend to have the money to splurge on fancy vacations. I hesitated about whether to accept, but he was so insistent and we were both caught up in what might or could be, so I said yes, and we had an amazing time. I estimate he spent about $2,000 on my share of the trip, including the airfare and hotel room. We came home and continued to date. I felt like a newlywed. We were both enjoying the first flush of our romance.
“‘He spent about $2,000 on my share of the trip, including the airfare and hotel room. We came home and continued to date. I felt like a newlywed. We were both enjoying the first flush of our romance.’”
Real life got in the way. He works on Wall Street, and obviously spends long hours at the office. Dinners got canceled, our phone calls and texts became increasingly erratic, and I started to feel like he was not as invested in the relationship as he had been in those early months. My job is also stressful. Teaching a classroom full of 14-year-olds requires a lot of energy and, like most teachers, I have my share of challenging students. The bloom wore off the rose, or the sheen wore off his smile. He didn’t seem like the same happy-go-lucky boyfriend. We missed a weekend or two, and eventually drifted apart.
On our last meeting (lunch, not even dinner), when it became clear that I was no longer as invested in the relationship as I once was (neither was he, to be honest), he said, “I should have charged you for that vacation!” He gave me this piercing look, as if I had taken his ATM card and withdrawn the $2,000 from his account myself. I was taken aback. I was shocked that this once generous and gregarious man would say something so cutting, but was also faced with a moral and ethical dilemma.
Do I pay him back for the birthday trip? I did buy several meals while we were there that probably added up to about $450, and I also picked up the bill for taxis and other miscellaneous expenses in an attempt to show my appreciation, although I did not spend $2,000 over the course of the weekend. I have not heard from him in about two weeks and, frankly, I was put off by this comment. It seemed like a complete 180 from his demeanor and personality in the early days of our courtship. What do you say, Mr. Moneyist?
Happily Single (Again)
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Romance is a grizzly disguised as a teddy bear. It feels like one big long cuddle at first, but sooner or later reality bites you in the backside.
When we are in the early days of a romance, we idealize the other person, and they do the same with us. We are not three-dimensional, fully realized figures. We are — absent of our faults and annoying habits — who the other person wishes we were: uncomplicated, happy, unburdened by the daily slog. But romance, like the feeling we get when we buy a new coat or sweater, wears off. We start to spot the sagging shoulders and worn fabric, and it becomes another drab item hanging in our closet.
I’m reminded of the lyrics of “Sex Bomb” by Mousse T. and Tom Jones: “Now you found the secret code I use/To wash away my lonely blues/So I can’t deny or lie cause you’re/The only one to make me fly.” But I substitute the lyrics in my head. Instead of “Sex bomb! Sex bomb!” I think of, “Love bomb! Love bomb!” Yes, he love-bombed you. When someone you barely know showers you with compliments and gifts, it’s usually because they have figured out what you want or need: attention, affection and a whirlwind trip to sweep you off your feet.
“‘Romance, like the feeling we get when we buy a new coat or sweater, wears off. We start to spot the sagging shoulders and worn fabric, and it becomes another drab item hanging in our closet.’”
He figured out what you wanted, and gave it to you. You are a public-school teacher who is not typically able to fly away at the drop of a hat. Public-school teachers in the New York metropolitan area earn an average of just over $80,000. That’s not a lot for what I consider to be the one of the most important — if not the most important — job in the world. Actually, pay a public-school teacher a Wall Street trader’s six-figure salary and a Wall Street trader the public-school teacher’s salary. That’s the world I would like to live in! He figured out what you wanted, because he wanted you.
If he gave you a book for your birthday and later asked you for the money back, what would you do or say? If he bought you a birthday dinner and then asked for the $125, excluding tip, would you dash to an ATM or Venmo him the cash? You might want to get him off your back and make sure he is in your rearview mirror, but acquiescing to such a churlish demand would also undermine the goodwill of that moment for both of you. It’s an unreasonable and uncouth request.
The price you paid for that vacation is processing the offensiveness of his request and the awkwardness you feel. The price he paid for his love bomb is $2,000.
You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.
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