Dear LetterBalm: I’ve been living with my girlfriend for a year-and-a-half. She owns the house we live in, but she’s always behind in the mortgage payments. She sometimes ignores notices and is sloppy about meeting due dates. I actually diverted foreclosure because I now make the payments every month. I’ve noticed that she behaves this way about all her bills and financial responsibilities – she never opens bills, they get lost, etc. After almost eight years, she and her husband still aren’t finally divorced. I constantly must remind her about bills. I have to put them in front of her so she’ll write checks or pay online. I believe that if I move out, it will be very bad for her and her kids. I love her, but I hate being the gatekeeper and can’t keep paying my bills and hers. What can I do?
Wow, you certainly are a dutiful boyfriend. Your lady may not be deliberately addle-brained, but she certainly is putting you in a difficult position. Ms. L.B. assumes she is working and able to afford her house and lifestyle. She may have grown up in a household where one or both parents were irresponsible about money and financial obligations. She also may have other issues of which you’re unaware. There are several reputable credit/finance organizations you can research that can help her. Or, you can make an appointment for her with a financial planner who can discuss her budget and automatic payment plans. Sessions with a behavioral therapist who can offer coping mechanisms might be useful. Sit privately with your girlfriend and try this:
Lucy, there’s something that’s been bothering me, and I need to talk with you about it. Please don’t take this as criticism, O.K.? You know I love you, honey, but you have problems paying your bills on time and meeting your financial obligations and other responsibilities. It’s big enough that it’s affecting your life, not to mention your credit rating. Will you be willing to listen to a couple of suggestions? I think we should make an appointment with a professional – a financial planner, maybe – who can put you on a budget, arrange for automatic bill paying and discuss investment strategies for the future. And, I think you should see a behavioral therapist who can help you figure out why this is such a problem for you and how you can cope with it. Does this make sense to you?