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I am a 26-year-old female, and I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost five years. Our relationship is pretty good, for the most part, but I’m having a few reservations. I don’t really know how to broach this subject, because I feel like I’m just being a bratty little princess. But here it goes:
I feel like I’m at the bottom of my boyfriend’s priority list. He’ll stay up until 5 a.m. working on something, but he won’t sacrifice an hour to do something with me. He leaves for work around 9:30 a.m., and most nights doesn’t come home until 10:00 p.m. Every household expense must be split exactly 50/50, regardless of the fact that he makes four times what I make. If I eat a little more than my fair share, he makes me pay him back. He has a car and I don’t, but he’ll only ever give me a lift somewhere (like work) if he’s already going that way—but he still makes me pay for gas, even though he was already going that way. He doesn’t bat an eyelash at spending $2,500 on new stereo equipment but puts a $50 capper on my birthday dinner, saying, “If it goes over $50, you’re paying the rest.”
If I’m stranded out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night and call him crying (this actually happened), he’ll tell me to call my other friends first and if none of them can come, then to call him back and he’ll come get me—but I’m paying for gas.
We only ever have sex when he’s in the mood. Then, if I want to change position because I don’t like being twisted like a pretzel, he gets angry and stops. So if I want it, I just have to pretend it doesn’t hurt to have my legs pushed so far back that they’re gonna pop out of my hip sockets.
He wants me to go to college, which I’m doing this September, and so I asked him if he would let me pay slightly less than 50/50 for rent so I could afford it. His response was: “Lots of people put themselves through college. Why should you get any special treatment?”
Here’s the thing, though: Isn’t it only fair to split our expenses 50/50, even if it breaks me? And isn’t it fair to ask for gas money when he has to do all the driving? Can I expect a man to spend more on me than I can spend on him? I don’t want to be showered with expensive gifts and lavish vacations, though, I just want to feel like I’m worth something, you know? Am I being selfish?
—Stressed and Depressed
If you’re a new reader, SAD, you may not be familiar with this handy acronym: DTMFA. It stands for “dump the motherfucker already,” and halfway through your letter I started muttering DTMFA under my breath. By the end, I was screaming DTMFA at my laptop. On an airplane.
Look, SAD, this isn’t a relationship. It’s a hostage situation. Your boyfriend is an asshole. Wait, maybe I’m not being fair—to assholes, which are as delightful as they are functional. Your boyfriend is a piece of shit, a loose stool, a santorum slick. And you, my dear, have the worst case of lousy-relationship-induced Stockholm syndrome that I’ve ever encountered. Stockholm syndrome—when a hostage begins to identify with, and feel sympathy for, her captor—is the only possible explanation for the final paragraph of your letter, in which you meekly justify your boyfriend’s appalling behavior. Stop identifying with your captor! Stop making excuses for the way he treats you! DTMFA!
To steel your resolve to leave this piece of shit, SAD, let me clue you in to a few secrets of healthy relationships: Where a large income disparity exists, household expenses are split based on the percentage that each individual’s income means to a couple’s total combined income. If he makes four times what you make, he should pay—and pay gladly—80 percent of the household expenses, while you pay 20 percent. By insisting on a 50/50 split, your boyfriend is treating you like a roommate, not a girlfriend.
Moving on, a boyfriend is someone who comes to your aid when you need him. If you get stuck somewhere and you call him, he jumps out of bed and comes to help you—as quickly as he can. He doesn’t tell you to call everyone else you know, or leave you standing out there in the rain. He certainly doesn’t hit you up for gas money! Yes, yes: We should avoid overburdening our significant others, SAD, but we have a right to expect that they will be there for us during emergencies.
I could go on and on, SAD. Sex? A loving boyfriend may make special requests about positions—hell, he can make demands (and a good girlfriend can as well)—but he does not force his girlfriend’s body into uncomfortable positions against her wishes, and he doesn’t withhold sex to punish her if she refuses to consent to being so abused. College? Yes, lots of people put themselves through college, but lots of people have partners who helped them out when they were paying their way through college. Birthday dinners? Only a piece of shit threatens his less-well-off girlfriend with having to pay the difference if her birthday dinner goes over $50.
DTMFA, SAD, DTMFA! You can do better—hell, being alone would be better than being with this asshole. DTMFA!—Dan
I’ve been engaged to Max for a year. We’ve been together for four. We have a 6-month-old baby. Last spring we tried living together, but by fall I’d moved out because Max wasn’t coming home until several hours after work every day. He would go over to his friend Renaldo’s house instead, leaving me to care for our child all day and night. I am a full-time student and I need his help! I just found out that Renaldo is gay. Max seemed surprised as well. However, he is still going over to Renaldo’s. Max is very comfortable with gays, and despite not living together, our sex life is good—no noticeable changes.
Dan, is my fiancé gay? Tell me before I marry him!
—He’s Out More Often
Gay? Dunno. Inconsiderate, unreliable, lousy partner, neglectful parent? Yes, yep, yup, and ya. Shall we set aside the whole pole-smokin’ issue, HOMO, and focus on what’s really going on here? If this is how your fiancé treats you when you’re engaged and have a new baby, how the fuck do you think he’s going to treat you after you’ve been married for a few years? You too need to DTMFA, HOMO. DTMFA!
A Point of Personal Privilege: I’ve mentioned a certain ex of mine in this space a number of times over the years. Tommy Ladd was the kind of person everyone should hook up with when they’re first becoming sexually active. He was as wise as he was sexy, as kind as he was funny. He was older but not too much older, cynical but not jaded. We were only together for one semester at college—but, oh, what a semester. Tommy was comfortable with sex in a way that I wasn’t, and to this day I’m grateful to him for beating—sometimes literally—the hang-ups out of me. Tommy died suddenly last month. The planet is a less interesting place without you on it, Tommy.—Dan Savage
Dan Savage’s new book, The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family, is on sale now. Send your Savage Love questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.