By Quentin Fottrell
I have been with my boyfriend for over two years and he recently dumped me, which caught me off guard, blindsided me and left me so confused. We spent every weekend together; he would call me at 8:30 p.m. every night and I would always wake up to a good-morning text.
When I met him, I was in the middle of a total house renovation. He is a contractor. Weekends consisted of doing projects around my house together. I felt like Chip and Joanna Gaines, exercising and enjoying my home-cooked meals and watching Netflix /zigman2/quotes/202353025/composite NFLX +1.39% .
Last weekend, he hung some blinds for my daughter. Then I asked him to take a look at my pond, as it was leaking. We worked on the pond for a few hours and, when we were done, he was angry and tired of doing things around my house. He said it wasn’t his house, even though he stays there 12 to 15 times a month.
He took me to dinner on rare occasions, but I prefer to cook and he does not contribute to the grocery bill, which is fine. Something snapped inside him. He told me that he loves me, but said this isn’t working out for him. He was tired of driving 45 minutes after work on Fridays to see me.
I told him that once he closed on his condo, I would drive to see him. He is living with his daughter and she has not been very friendly to me. He responded that he would not want to take me away from my paradise. I told him I would never ask him to do another thing around my house, and to leave his tools at home.
Although it was an amicable breakup, I am still in shock. I have not reached out to him, as he told me that I have to let him go. Any insight on your part would be greatly appreciated.
The Reluctant Ex
No one wants to feel obliged to take their work home, especially during a time when work-life balance has become such an important goal.
I recently met a friend of a friend who had great teeth. Actually, perfect teeth — a gleaming Hollywood smile. I said, “That’s quite a double decker of Bobby Dazzlers you’ve got there.” He replied, “My ex was a dentist.” Two things struck me about that statement: He likely received a mouthful of veneers worth tens of thousands of dollars for next to nothing, and the person who installed them is now his ex.
It must be tough being a dentist or a heart surgeon or contractor at a dinner party. Sooner or later, someone will say, “I have a problem. What do you think I should do about fixing it?” Then they either open their mouth wide for the dentist, reveal far too much information about their medical history to the doctor, or draw a layout of their home on a paper napkin for the contractor.
It feels good to be the one to solve a puzzle and see the results. That’s why Wordle is so popular. But there is a line — one that is not necessarily visible to the naked eye — where a favor becomes an expectation, then a duty, and finally a resentment. He came to represent all the odd jobs that needed doing. He is a contractor, after all. But the relationship became transactional, at least for him.
There was an economic imbalance in your relationship. That is not a dealbreaker, but it does not seem like something you both addressed in an open fashion. He traveled 45 minutes to spend time at your home because his own residence was not suitable or welcoming due to his daughter’s chilly attitude toward you. He was at fault too: He rarely treated you to dinner out, and you paid for groceries.
A transactional relationship and economic imbalance can lead to the equivalent of dry rot in your foundations. If problems are not dealt with head on, they get worse with time and make your life together less secure, until suddenly everything collapses. Two years is a long time after which to receive such a surprise, but people have been served with divorce papers after 20 years for similar reasons.
This study by researchers at the University of Denver found that 54% of couples cited financial reasons as the cause of a breakup, the fifth most common reason after lack of commitment, infidelity, too much conflict and arguing, and getting married too young. What studies often leave out are couples who never argue, but never solve their problems either. It’s just as deadly.
So what now? Keep your own domestic chores separate from the relationship until or unless you move in together. Chip and Joanna Gaines are equal partners, after all. Those renovations really only benefited you. Watch out for future inequities related to time and money, whether it’s driving a long distance or who buys what. And if your next boyfriend is a dentist, don’t tell him you’ve always wanted veneers.
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