Ask A Guy: How Do You Know If Your Boyfriend Is Using You For Money?

Dear Ethan,

My boyfriend of almost nine months always asks for money. He has a temporary job and his work varies from two days a week to five days a week. I’ve paid for his rent, dinners, groceries, a tattoo, a used car, and more. He gets stressed over his money and lack of work. I have money to spare so it’s almost like he feels like I should be helping him… but I feel like maybe he is using me. How do I know?

There are few issues that can cause bigger problems quicker than money imbalance or concerns. Regardless of which side you’re on, money is a very touchy subject, but if it’s a serious relationship, the conversation is absolutely necessary.

It’s not 1950 anymore, so the idea of the male having to be the sole or larger money maker in the family is thankfully a thing of the past. But there’s a difference between making more money and providing ALL money.

With this in mind, the line between doing your part and being used can be very blurry, so it’s understandable that you’re confused. It sounds like you’re helping out more than most people would in such a young relationship.

I think it’s time for you to get a bit stricter with your expectations and lay down some rules if you’re going to keep supporting him financially.

First and foremost on your demand list should be that he spends a few hours every week actively looking for full-time employment. Having spent almost 3 full years on the job hunt myself, I can tell you that it takes at least 4 or 5 hours EVERY week to have even a decent shot at a great full-time gig. If he can’t show you he’s trying to move up in life, then it’s time to consider other options. This will also help with his stress over lack of work, because at least he’ll feel like he’s being pro-active about it.

Along with that, stop the frivolous expenses. While going out to eat and tattoos are nice, they are a luxury he clearly can’t afford right now, and it sounds as if he needs to be reminded of his lack of earnings.

In many ways, the fact that you’re providing pretty much everything allows him to care a bit less about getting a better job. There’s nothing wrong with a treat or gift now and then, but any sort of regularity is reinforcing bad habits and creating more imbalance between the two of you.

The bottom line is, if he’s not trying to better his place in life, whether or not he’s using you becomes secondary to whether or not you want to be with someone who lacks motivation or ambition. It’s great to help your partner out when they’re down on their luck, but it’s quite another to be a walking ATM.

Best of luck!

Joel Freimark has done a lot in life and seen even more. From last minute international travel to bizarre places to writing award winning books, he’s here to bring his wisdom to all your problems. He hosts a weekly advice series on Youtube and a music series also on YouTube.. No question is too outrageous or personal, so go ahead and fire away! Follow him on Twitter.


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  • Efraim Kristal

    Joel, in your response to the original poster, did you really write, “If he can’t show you he’s trying to move up in life…” regarding the man’s lackadaisical pursuit of full time employment? Why must “mov[ing] up in life” equate to what one does to earn money, or even that one earn money? Maybe if the man is pressuring his partner for money it needs to be pointed out to him that if he wants things that cost money he should supply his own, and maybe this particular man is exploiting his partner financially, but I couldn’t disagree more with your implicit association between moving “up in life” and getting a job that pays money. Perhaps another relationship would suit him better–one in which someone else is willing to support him financially in exchange for household and other contributions he makes. Women did it for millennia, investing themselves into rearing families, and creating and managing nurturing households, while men supplied *all* the money. From what you state earlier about times having changed, I suspect you’d agree it’s no longer the case that men cannot assume such a role today. There are many worthwhile contributions individuals can make to their families, communities, and the world at large. Ultimately, it should be up to each person alone to define what she/he considers a productive life–not an online advice columnist. For the record, I agree with most of the rest of your assessment, but the comment about moving up in the world in this financial context belittles many, many productive, valuable members of society who nonetheless happen not to be earning (enough) money.