Wednesday, May 28 — Q: I’m a single mother with a 12-year-old son. Four years ago, when my boyfriend fell in love with me, he would buy me clothes and jewelry. He also promised to build a house for my son and me to live in. (We can’t live with him, because he repairs motorcycles from home and it’s loud day and night.) Well, he is building the house but now says it’s for his mother — a woman living perfectly fine on her monthly Social Security checks. I work six days a week and still have trouble making ends meet, despite my boyfriend’s giving me $400 to $500 a month. He keeps making promises that get me excited and make me want to stick around, like that he’ll take me to Hawaii one day. I love him, but I fantasize about having a boyfriend I could live with so he could help me with the rent and bills.
A: We all dream of finding that special someone to pay the cable bill.
There’s looking for love, and there’s looking for some man to take over where Daddy left off on your allowance. You do say you love this guy — well, somewhere in there, between all the grumbling over money, clothes, jewelry, trips, and elderly moms getting houses. Compare your kind of love with my favorite definition, by sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein: “Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” This implies a level of effort — beyond waiting around, frowning, with your hand out, for that other person to slap a handful of $100s into it.
The truth is, money actually can buy happiness, because the possibility of having real love starts with not having to choose boyfriends according to which provides the best financial aid package. Monetary independence would also allow you to have higher standards for a partner than you can now. Though no man owes you a home or a trip to Hawaii (are you dating a man or a game show?), promises should mean something. You wouldn’t have to stick around to see which promise your boyfriend breaks next if you could go to the ATM and get a stack of your own money (instead of what the ATM probably spits out now — increasingly rude receipts: “Cash? Are you nuts, lady? You’re more overdrawn than Greece”).
Consider taking steps to become independent, like living a more “European” existence. (Europeans seem content with far smaller living spaces, fewer appliances, and not living life as a mad dash to get the next shiny new whatever.) You could get a roommate or move in with one — perhaps some other single mom whose values you seem to share. And you could figure out and work on ways to improve your earning power. It won’t be easy street, but it should eventually prove far more satisfying than sitting around feeling cheated out of a house and resenting some old lady (already living the high life on her Social Security checks!) for not reusing more of her teabags.
Q: What’s with a man who fathered three children with three different women but never married any of them? He always cheats on girlfriends and then just moves on to the next. Sadly, I was the most recent. By the time I learned how he operates, I was very much in love with him. I told him he’ll end up a sad old man with no one to care for him, but he still won't work on our problems; he just left and is now with some new woman. When does he pay the piper?
—Still In Love With Him And Hating That
A: Unfortunately, “paying the piper” is just a metaphor, out of a folk tale about a town with a rat infestation and a mayor who tried to stiff the medieval cousin of the Orkin Man. As for your rat problem, the state may make this guy pay child support, but they can’t make him come back and talk about his feelings. You say you love the guy. But you don’t. You love who he pretended to be, like in one of those movies where Mr. Wonderful’s face finally falls off, revealing the creepy space alien underneath. You’ve now seen the creep. Focus on that, and use it to avoid being fooled again. Even the cleverest deceiver will have little truths that leak out — behaviors that don't match their words. We're prone to focus on the good things about a person, but it's essential to also look for the bad. It’s the bad stuff that leaves you filled with longing — for your boyfriend to be thrown in somebody’s trunk, tried for crimes against womankind, and sentenced to spend the rest of his life being belittled on national TV by Dr. Phil.
(c)2014, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com). Weekly radio show: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon