Dear Goddess: I’m close to retirement and have been saving for it for years. I’m living with a man much younger, whose money goes toward supporting his ex-wife and two children. We love each other and agreed to split household expenses, but the reality is that suddenly, in the downturn, much of this “split” goes toward them and not toward our household. Suddenly I see our household money going to pay for one of the teenage daughter’s college course books. Help!
Dear Earth Child: I can’t tell you how many women tell me similar stories! I thought it might be coincidental, all these tales of monies being siphoned off from new wives and live-in girlfriends to members of others’ blended families, but I looked up the stats. The stark truth is that 50 percent of all American women will live with or marry a man with children. So the stories have resonance!
The other truth that comes with that statistic, and it’s brutal, is that you – the new lover – will never be as important as his kids. It’s only fair that the children are his primary concern. However, they’re not YOUR primary concern. You are your primary concern. You must openly claim that position and not confuse it with loving him, or with generosity. You want to participate in your boyfriend’s and your new life, but where your retirement is concerned, you intend to act – always and without hesitation – strictly on your own behalf. Even if he’s mad at you. Even if he calls you “selfish.” You needn’t mention your feelings about his daughter (it’s irrelevant to your argument, except as a reminder of the sometimes galling reality of blending); you just say, without a trace of guilt, “Darling, I’d love to have sufficient funds to help your children out, but I don’t. My retirement must be my first priority – just as your children are yours.”
I’m tempted to tell you to remind him that any money siphoned off from the household’s expenses is money that you and he can’t enjoy – but clearly he’s a desperate man at the moment, and he doesn’t care.
But I do. And you do. You cannot end up in two years both resentful AND poor because of a family in which you’re not even a remote consideration.
P.S. My darling earth girls, whatever your age, remember the increasing importance of the pre-nup! It’s not just for allocation of funds in the event of death or divorce. A pre-nup forces couples entering blended families to decide in advance how and where money should be split.