Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Case of the Greedy Girlfriend

Zoe has a problem. She writes to Lori Gottlieb, advice columnist and professional therapist at the Atlantic. Gottlieb tactfully tries to explain that, in effect, Zoe is the problem. She is sorely deficient in good character and is suffering the consequences. Naturally, she blames it on other people, on her boyfriends’ parents.

Zoe considers herself a loving soul. And yet, she is also being driven by her lust after filthy lucre. She declaims against her boyfriend’s parents because they are not giving her as much money as they are giving to her boyfriend’s twin brother, his wife and their child.

Zoe is not married. She is not living with her boyfriend, but is off studying for her doctorate. After five years of a loving relationships she is not ready to marry or to start a family. She is not making a home for their son and does not even live with him. And yet, she grants herself the right to complain about how his parents spend their money.

Somehow, she expects that her boyfriend’s parents will finance her dreams. She does not quite understand a point that Gottlieb will make, namely, that she is not married, does not have a child to support and thus lives a situation that is not analogous to that of her boyfriend’s twin brother.

Besides, her boyfriend is apparently successful. Why do you think, Gottlieb argues, that he does not step up and help to finance her studies? Could it be that she is greedy and manipulative? Could it be that he is wise not to want to marry her?

Zoe is a moral trainwreck. Gottlieb wants to be judicious in evaluating Zoe’s character, and her embittered resentment, but still, the verdict comes across loud and clear. The boyfriend and his family understand exactly who Zoe is; ergo, they are wise not to throw money at her.

Anyway, here is her letter:

I am in a loving, five-year, long-distance relationship with my boyfriend, who happens to have a twin brother. My boyfriend is the successful one, with a doctorate from a top university, while his brother has bounced among degree programs and has yet to get a full-time job. His very wealthy parents have supported him through all of this. Recently my boyfriend's brother moved to Florida to start a new degree, and within a year married an older woman and just had a baby daughter.

I am jealous and angry at the support my boyfriend's parents are giving to his brother and his brother’s wife. They paid for their wedding, contribute to their rent and living expenses, and I suspect will now lavish money on their daughter. My boyfriend tells me that his parents are making sure the money they give is roughly even, but every time I ask him to be precise on this he gives conflicting answers or doesn't know.

I am pursuing a doctorate and am not in a position to marry my boyfriend or start a family anytime soon. But even so, why can't I also benefit from his wealthy parents like my quasi-sister-in-law does? My boyfriend says the financial matters should be between him, his brother, and his parents. However, if we are planning to spend our lives together, shouldn't I also be able to voice an opinion on these things?

My own family has been torn apart by my grandmother unequally giving money to her children, but maybe I am just creating the same thing in my boyfriend's family? I would be really grateful for any advice. I'm so upset by all of this that I can't even think.


As I said, Zoe is a character flaw. She should not voice an opinion, because it is effectively none of her business. The parents are helping out a young family that is bring up their grandchild. Zoe does not want to have a child anytime in the near future. For some people, Zoe will appear to be an entitled brat, one who expects to be rewarded for abandoning their son in order to pursue… God knows what.

Gottlieb offers a cogent analysis of the problem:

At the same time, money represents something to your boyfriend. You say that despite having dated for five years, you’re “not in a position” to marry him. It could be that your boyfriend doesn’t feel as if he’s in a position to share his or his parents’ money with somebody who, despite talking about spending the future with him, isn’t ready to walk down the aisle. (Plenty of people in graduate programs, and plenty of temporarily long-distance couples, don’t let those circumstances stand in the way of getting married.) Or it may be that he isn’t ready to commit to you—and the financial arrangement between you two reflects this—in part because of the painful dilemma you’re creating for him around his family.

Yes, indeed. Don’t blame your singleton status on geography. Point well taken. And perhaps your boyfriend does not really want to marry you… because you are creating a problem around the way his parents, who are completely unrelated to you, spend their money. Another point well taken.

After all, Gottlieb concludes, by Zoe’s own account, what she really wants is her boyfriend’s parents’ money:

He may choose you and create conflict with his family (and resent you), or he may choose them and create conflict with you (and leave you). Either way, you won’t get what you want—his parents’ money. I know that sounds crass, but that’s essentially what you’re asking for—money from people who don’t owe you anything. They have their reasons for offering more help to the son in greater need of it, and if you have a problem with how his parents divvy up their gifts (remember, that’s what these contributions are—gifts), it’s important to note that your boyfriend, who is their son, doesn’t.

That’s it, folks. These people owe her nothing. She is acting the entitled brat, one that her boyfriend, if he had any sense at all, would quickly leave. Evidently, the parents are trying to tell him something. We can only hope that he will accept their judgment.


Sam L. said...

Zoe, can you say "Entitled, much"? Yes, I knew you couldn't.

Anonymous said...

Reading about women like that one, just makes a feller go out and get married... Not!