WTF: My rich boyfriend is derailing my professional joy

In this weekly feature I answer your personal finance questions.

Dear Emma, WTF?!

I divorced three years ago after 10 years with a man who barely worked, was constantly promising to make good on a variety of schemes and scams: home security system pyramid programs, flipping short-sale condos, buying a share of a beer distributorship, etc. When we met I had an associates degree and worked as a nurse’s aid. Our finances were a constant source of stress, to say the least. I felt totally out of control and worried all the time about money.

Now, money is still tight, but I earned a nursing degree and am able to support myself and daughter by working as a registered nurse in a hospital. I am continuing to go to school with the goal of being a physician’s assistant, when I can make a very comfortable living doing work that I am very good at and love. This is the first time in my life that I feel very strong and confident as a professional person, and I actually love paying the bills each month — because I always have enough money!

My big problem in life? I have a rich boyfriend. He is 10 years older, a successful entrepreneur and semi-retired. By all measures he’s a great guy: he totally adores me and my daughter, treats us incredibly well and is proud to be part of my life — and me of his. We connect emotionally, intellectually and sexually and enjoy a lot of the same things. Sometimes I can hardly believe that such a successful man loves me so much, especially after my marriage to a deadbeat. We are discussing a future together, and that is where the problems start.

He is looking forward to lots of travel, weekends at his lakehouse and time with friends. It seems he assumes I will join him on all these adventures, which sound fantastic, except that they don’t work with my professional plans. His attitude is, “Why work when you don’t have to?” But I WANT to work. I love having my financial independence and building a career. That is not to say that I don’t enjoy all the material trappings that come with his money. I am human, after all. But I’m also starting to resent him and his wealth.

What should I do?

Frustrated in Fresno

Dear Frustrated,

Here are some truths:

1. There are lots of layers of a relationship: The two people’s souls, the elements of their physical lives, time and place. Everything has to fit together to make things work out longterm.

2. Money is power.

3. There is more love in the universe than any of us can fathom.

In rebuilding your family’s life post-divorce you have discovered quite possibly the greatest power of all: Your own inner strength that allowed you to discover your greatest strengths and capitalize on them for greater good. This power allows you to find joy in nursing, benefits the patients and businesses with whom you work, and benefits you and your daughter financially. That thrill you feel each month paying bills, going to work every week, waking each morning looking forward to your day — you have found a groove that few people in this world discover. Do not undervalue it.

There is another joy at play here, that of romantic love. There is a reason that there are countless poems, operas, epic novels and bump-and-grind jams devoted to love between a man and a woman, and not to nursing. This love is so powerful and feels so special that we sense it will never come again. And when it is with a person we deem to be glamorous or better than us, it seems such a precious commodity we must sacrifice all to capture it, forever.

To which I say: Let that shit go. The universe is abundant with love. Look around you! Everywhere you look people are falling in love! They’re flirting and swooning and hooking up! Sure, they are also crying and lonely and breaking each other’s hearts. And then they pick themselves up and start again.

Your boyfriend is no doubt a good person. But he is also a powerful person with a powerful commodity — money. Question his dismissal of the need to work. After all, he succeeded in business because of his own passions and joy. Why would he want to rob you of that experience?

And to you I ask: Do you see that he is asking you to be dependent on him? You were once dependent on a poor man. Will being dependent on a rich man be better?Also, do you feel you deserve to be with someone who appreciates the very things that you love about yourself? In addition to his appreciation of your daughter your interests and sexuality, you deserve to be with a man who admires and respects your professional accomplishments and ambitions. That is part of the essence of your best self. On many levels, this guy offers a great package. But dig a little deeper and you will see that there is a critical piece missing. And then you may tap into that deeper place and use that confidence and strength to know that other, different and better loves await you.

Emma Johnson is a veteran money writer, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, REAL SIMPLE, Parenting, USA Today and others.

The Kickass Single Mom: Be Financially Independent, Discover Your Sexiest Self, and Raise Fabulous, Happy Children (Penguin, 2017), was a #1 bestseller and was featured in hundreds of media, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, and the New York Post, which named it to its ‘Must Read” list.

Her popular blog, and podcast Like a Mother, explore issues facing professional single moms: business and career, money, sex, relationships and parenting. Emma regularly comments on these topics for outlets such as CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine, Woman’s Day, The Doctors, and many more. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” one of “20 Personal Finance Influencers to Follow on Twitter” by AOL DailyFinance, “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and “Most Eligible New Yorkers” by New York Observer.

A popular speaker on gender equality, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality.

Emma grew up in Sycamore, Ill., and lives in New York City with her children.

4 thoughts on “WTF: My rich boyfriend is derailing my professional joy

  1. At least get him to agree that abandoning your career to more or less retire with him is not something you need to do as soon as you’re married. And if he says, “Don’t you trust me?” run, run away. Manipulator alert.

  2. Saying that a greater love awaits is the only piece of this article I don’t agree with. If you choose x over z and somehow life will give you a Z.2 which is better and faster then my friend you will keep waiting and life might disappoint you.

    I agree that you need to dig deeper and find an answer for yourself as it really depends on whether or not your partner and you can build a life with a difference of your financial and emotional status. The understanding needs to come from both the sides. He needs to understand that you are where he was 10 years ago, still ambitious a wee bit far from retirement and looking for passion in everyday life instead of a relaxed semi-retired life. On the other hand, you too understand that he ain’t wrong either but you both need to build a life that satisfies your passion oriented working days and his relaxed weekend.

What do you think? Please comment!

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