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Relationship struggles with differences in economic classes


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Hi everyone. My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost two years now. He and I are from very different social classes and upbringings. He is from an economically disadvantaged family (with both parents working factory jobs), and I am from an economically privileged family (with both parents being successful surgeons). Throughout our relationship, the differences in our values and views toward money have become very apparent, but more so recently with me leisurely traveling this summer and him working a full-time job. This has put a great strain on our relationship because he does not think I will ever understand his life and struggles with money. I don’t want to live in a bubble, and I want to understand his perspective so desperately, but it seems as though nothing I’m doing suffices. I could really use some advice on what to do/how I can better understand his struggles/his upbringing and current lifestyle. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!

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50 minutes ago, Jennaxoxo459 said:

This has put a great strain on our relationship because he does not think I will ever understand his life and struggles with money

What ignites these conflicts, specifically?

Are you wanting to go on trips or dates that he can't afford? 

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Just now, MissCanuck said:

What ignites these conflicts, specifically?

Are you wanting to go on trips or dates that he can't afford? 

No, it’s not that at all. It more so stems from two things: 1. When I seem ungrateful for what I have. As I’ve been traveling this summer, for example, I expressed some dissatisfaction with him about the people I was on the trip with. He was frustrated with this because he couldn’t understand why I wasn’t just happy to be there and why I seemed so ungrateful. 2. I don’t understand his lifestyle. For example, he has only been on one real vacation in his life, and I have been on a multitude. He feels as though I will never understand his lifestyle and his financial situation, no matter how hard I try to. This frustrates him a lot and it has gotten to the point where, if I cannot prove to him that I understand his lifestyle, we will need to breakup. 

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14 minutes ago, Jennaxoxo459 said:

if I cannot prove to him that I understand his lifestyle, we will need to breakup. 

How are you supposed to prove such a thing? In practical terms, what is it he wants you to do or say to "prove" that you understand his life? 

He sounds incredibly resentful and bitter. I get that he has not had it easy, but it is also terribly unfair of him to hold that over your head. 

If anything, I think you need to consider ending this because it's likely not going to get better and will continue to corrode your relatonsip. 

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1 hour ago, Jennaxoxo459 said:

This has put a great strain on our relationship because he does not think I will ever understand his life and struggles with money.

I mean, you probably couldnt understand?

Its different lifestyles. While you go to vacation every year, he is lucky to even see vacation in his lifetime. There is an incredible difference between you two regarding that. As you are somebody who didnt have to work a day in her life(you seem young) and he is somebody who had to work to just survive, let alone go to vacation which is maybe something unobtainable to him as a ticket to The Moon is to you. Its trully something that people who didnt go through it, barely understand if at all. Because they didnt live it. Its like if Beverly Hill trust fund baby would be able to understand average Californian beggar. They can maybe listen and empathise how hard it is to other side, but dont think they can understand. 

As for what to do, I dont think its something that can be done. You simply come from different background and that reflects on you two being able to connect on that level. Its simple incompetability. 

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2 hours ago, Jennaxoxo459 said:

. This has put a great strain on our relationship because he does not think I will ever understand his life and struggles with money

Yea, but it's not fair to put that on you like that. As @MissCanuck mentioned, he sounds resentful and bitter about your financial upbringing. This is NOT something YOU can fix. It's HIS internal problem and insecurities.

This is a good example of incompatibility in a beginner relationship. What would happen here is that one of you admits not wanting to be in such an unhealthy dynamic and bows out. He should have admitted that he's insecure and/or jealous, but he probably doesn't want to pull the plug because he doesn't want to look like a bad guy with a hurt ego.

So it's best that you reflect on the long-term prospect of this relationship and whether you want to carry on living with an unfair guilt over your head just to please that one bitter partner who won't appreciate you for who you are.

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3 hours ago, DarkCh0c0 said:

Yea, but it's not fair to put that on you like that. As @MissCanuck mentioned, he sounds resentful and bitter about your financial upbringing. This is NOT something YOU can fix. It's HIS internal problem and insecurities.

This is a good example of incompatibility in a beginner relationship. What would happen here is that one of you admits not wanting to be in such an unhealthy dynamic and bows out. He should have admitted that he's insecure and/or jealous, but he probably doesn't want to pull the plug because he doesn't want to look like a bad guy with a hurt ego.

So it's best that you reflect on the long-term prospect of this relationship and whether you want to carry on living with an unfair guilt over your head just to please that one bitter partner who won't appreciate you for who you are.

I agree.  My parents married in the 1950s- her parents were immigrants who didn't finish HS and her dad did manual labor - didn't go hungry but they were on the poor side.  Dad's parents were college educated professionals.  In fact my mom lied to my dad about what her dad did when they had their first date as teenagers--she was ashamed and said he was white collar  But my mom was never ever bitter and never ever "entitled".

She and her brother went to college and she and my dad encouraged us to do the same.  I did notice growing up -we were solidly middle class -that certain friends had larger homes/more fancy vacations etc and it didn't bother me.  My husband grew up with slightly more $ and it was irrelevant to me.  It's about attitude/perspective/values and if he is resentful/bitter now it will only get worse especially if you have a child when financial matters are often crucial and come up often -and even if not just decisions about home buying/vacations/how to care for aging parents/how to care for pets when expenses come up etc

Having said that - sometimes it is better not to "complain" about something that you know the other person doesn't get.  For example I work part time and my husband works full time - and I also do more of the child care give or take. 

My husband travels a lot for work and it's hard on me and he knows it so -no - I wouldn't love if he complained about a hotel pool being too cold beyond "I had an hour to myself and couldn't take a swim" - if he was a person who routinely added a day to his business trips for leisure leaving me to solo parent -then no I wouldn't want to hear if his leisure travel wasn't as fun as he'd hoped even though I love him. Sometimes it is too much but it sounds like any peep out of you about something not perfect about vacation will trigger his innate bitterness.  Not good. 

My husband and I worked very hard and attained more financial stability and education than our parents.  We don't have to worry about $.  Still I didn't love when my dear friend texted me a lot about all the things she had to get done --- having to do with her likely 6 figure in ground pool they had installed - just not in my world at all to hear her complain about all the scheduling logistics with the installation and opening of the pool - even though I absolutely do not want a private home or to have a private pool.  I am not bitter -but it is annoying the extent to which she is "sharing".  It can be nuanced but again someone who is by default resentful of you is never going to hear what you have to say other than through the bitter lens.  It's not worth it. 

Have you volunteered within your community with people who grew up with less $ than you? It's not a bad idea -not so you can be with this person but just for a different perspective.  

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If you can't understand his lifestyle and why he's only been on one vacation in his entire life- it's hopeless.  

There is really nothing to understand.  They were poor, so they didn't have the money for vacations.  That's the way it is when you don't have money for discretionary spending - you do without those things.

 

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I don't know where to begin with this.  Coming from parents, where my mom's childhood home had no floor and windows to being a millionaire on her own, to me growing up with money and traveling with a dad who is old money, but I have had a job since I was 8, and was taken to 4 star restaurants to holes in the wall, and taught to be respectful no matter the background.  You grew up in an ivory tower, and look down on him.  You choose to look down on him, and at the same time, you were never taught better.

If you want to understand him, get a job, stop taking money from your folks, and pay your own way.  Or else, stop humble bragging.  Humble bragging is where you complain about something while also telling others how rich you are. 

Examples:

Oh, my yacht needs repairs.

My hotel in Italy didn't have the best AC.

My dry cleaner couldn't get the stain out of my gown.

My new Benz is a gas guzzler.

Or in your case..."the people in my summer travels are boring/annoying/(insert whatever)"

You grew up privileged, and are sure to tell him all about it.  You are young. I'm glad you are asking about this.  Acknowledging it helps to address it.

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1 minute ago, tattoobunnie said:

I don't know where to begin with this.  Coming from parents, where I mom's childhood home had no floor and windows to being a millionaire on her own, to me growing up with money and traveling with a dad who is old money, but I have had a job since I was 8, and was taken to 4 star restaurants to holes in the wall, and taught to be respectful no matter the background.  You grew up in an ivory tower, and look down on him.  You choose to look down on him, and at the same time, you were never taught better.

If you want to understand him, get a job, stop taking money from your folks, and pay your own way.  Or else, stop humble bragging.  Humble bragging is where you complain about something while also telling others how rich you are. 

Examples:

Oh, my yacht needs repairs.

My hotel in Italy didn't have the best AC.

My dry cleaner couldn't get the stain out of my gown.

My new Benz is a gas guzzler.

Or in your case..."the people in my summer travels are boring/annoying/(insert whatever)"

You grew up privileged, and are sure to tell him all about it.  You are young. I'm glad you are asking about this.  Acknowledging it helps to address it.

Yes and if you are in your 20s you are an adult so I'd stop holding parents accountable -live and move around in the real world.  I'm financially comfortable and have been for many years because of my hard work but yes I recently returned close to $20 of bottled water we didn't need and had purchased due to a boil water advisory.  Yes, I treat myself to gourmet chocolate and no I don't ever buy fancy coffee beverages more than maybe once a year.

And no I would never complain to my friends who would like to send their children to private school but cannot afford it that it will be a pain to return the keyboard my son's high school music teacher lent us so he can practice at home. It will be but -- I read the room.  I was raised that way but that's not why -it's because I know better as an adult.  

I mean it extends to other areas of life - the pregnant woman who doesn't complain about morning sickness to her friend who is struggling to get pregnant.  Like that.

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28 minutes ago, Jennaxoxo459 said:

We are both 22

Thanks for answering.

You are an adult now. What lifestyle would you have if you were not getting supplemented by your folks? 

We don't control the environments we are raised in, we are just born to them. As adults though, we choose our own paths and values and the kind of people we want to be.

Your values are incompatible as you have shown no desire to live by your own efforts. You are cruising along on someone else's. If you wanted to understand your bf, you'd have to see the value of making it on your own. Do you actually want to do that though? Not for him, but for yourself? Your actions point to no. 

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Sorry about all this. 

Sadly, this is very much what incompatibility looks and feels like—when one person, just by being themselves, exacerbates a place of pain and vulnerability in the other. 

From what you've written, I don't really see you doing anything that would change his attitude. Don't mention being annoyed on the trip, and there are still a zillion ways for him to feel you're being ungrateful, even if you prefaced everything with a disclaimer about privilege. Renounce all worldly possessions and future trips and still you won't "understand" his lifestyle, by these standards, because the safety net of those worldly possessions (the money you come from) will never vanish. 

My best friend in the world is wildly wealthy, basically born on a lava flow endless cash. I love him. I am also annoyed from time to time at things he says, or just places where the chasm in our realities widens. At the same time, I wouldn't want him to edit himself when talking to me, to be on eggshells, because it would impair our closeness. At the end of the day, we're friends because, thanks to whatever alchemy, the differences don't exacerbate things too much. 

It may be that, 5-10 years from now, such a divide won't be such an issue, as you'll each have carved out your own realities rather than still being connected to your childhoods. Still, I'm exactly twice your age and have found these things don't really vanish, by which I don't just mean our ties to our childhoods but our propensity to hold grudges toward people for whatever cards they got dealt in the casino of life. 

 

 

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It sounds to me that your boyfriend will always feel bitter,  resentful,  envious and jealous of not only your privileged upbringing but also your current affluent lifestyle.  There is a reason why most people date or marry within their own socioeconomic class.  They're generally within the same social circles and comfort zone. 

There are rags to riches stories or something similar but it's not always very common.  If anyone comes from the bottom and rises to the top and assimilates into the upper middle class or upper class ranks,  there is the possibility of receiving some type of sneering or condescending remarks due to not hailing from a "good family."  "Good family" meaning a family from good stock,  social status and very comfortable financial standing.

I'm the opposite of your boyfriend.  I married up. 

Two spouses can come from different backgrounds and still make it work if the spouse who was fortunate knows how to behave honorably as in my case.  We've built a very settled and comfortable life together in a coveted suburb.  It was due to a lot of sweat and hard work.  💪 It's all about thinking clearly and knowing how to treat each other right.

I think both of you can work on your relationship with a lot of attitude adjustments.  Both of you will have to cooperate.  Both of you need a long,  serious discussion (with zero distractions) regarding how no one can control their economic backgrounds or the cards they were dealt with especially from your boyfriend's side.  You should explain that it's not your fault that you came from a very advantaged background and he shouldn't criticize you for being well to do. 

At the same time,  you need to readjust as well by not sounding like a whiny spoiled brat regarding your travel mates during your vacation.  Know your audience and be considerate.  I could see your comment boding well if you were speaking to people who were very similar to you.  However,  you need to be clued in when other people cannot empathize with you because they haven't shared your same experiences whether current or in the past.  Think before you speak and write because it will save you.

I've known some people who are quite wealthy yet they're very humble in attitude and behavior.  You wouldn't know of their wealth by the way they speak,  act,  write,  dress and how they treat others.  They're rather quiet and very low key.  They don't draw attention to themselves and if they have the spotlight,  they possess very humble behavior.  It's actually quite impressive.  You can be this way if you change the way you think and act.  There are affluent people who are compatible with others if they are modest in attitude.  This is the difference.  My late FIL (father-in-law) was this way.  He was a self made man yet didn't talk too much.  He didn't have to because he was extremely secure.   The more secure you are,  the less you have to say. 

Having said that,  unfortunately,  once anyone catches wind of someone else's better station in life,  envy or jealousy is common.  Most people prefer to be equally yoked.  They want you to be the same as they are or beneath them but they don't like it if you're better off than they are while they have to struggle more to put food on the table.  Misery loves company.

Despite my explaining how I grew up,  even though my husband listens,  he can't understand and I don't blame him.  If a person hasn't experienced what you have and vice versa,  how can anyone understand?  Accept that they or you can't understand but both parties can treat each other with grace and respect if there is sincere effort to always remain considerate.  This requires tremendous amounts of mutual maturity though. 

You and your boyfriend should try working on developing mutual emotional intelligence for starters and take it from there. 

 

 

 

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He's trying to put words in your mouth. You are not being ungrateful...that's just his bitter perspective...and he is punishing you for it...like it's all your fault, you are bad person for not struggling like him. IMO he needs to get over it or move on. I think the only way to make him happy is for you give everything up, work a crappy paying job and struggle like he does...just scraping by. So since that's so doubtful, this incompatibility is pretty much going to be the demise of this relationship. 

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My sense here. Based on the variety of responses I think we’re not being given as clear a picture as needed of the interactions and dynamic here. Plus it’s one sided. I mean plus as in it’s not just we don’t have his “side” but I’m not clear on exactly what’s going on with her values and attitude. I’m a little surprised at 22 she hasn’t figured out how to broaden her view of the world. She doesn’t know how to “understand “ how he experiences the financial aspects of his lifestyle and environment?  For example. 

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I think compassion is key.  A person can't really understand unless they've walked a mile in their shoes. 

There are some people in my life who are not doing well financially.  There's only so much I can do though.  I give them home cooked and store bought meals,  purchase their household items and help out in other ways as well.  You have to be careful though because trying to make other people happy in laborious capacities can lead to burnout. 

On the flip side,  I've experienced being with very affluent people and while many of them are very modest,  humble and kind,  like your boyfriend feels,  it does feel uncomfortable when the person who doesn't earn as much income observes a person with a disposable income.  It's unsettling and you don't feel equal to them.  They have the bigger house,  drive more expensive cars,  dine out frequently,  travel without concern for expenditures, more leisure time,  can afford a lot of hired help and they don't even bother looking at price tags.  Price is no object because they can afford it.  They just buy and still save a lot of money every month without debts.  You feel economically inferior or beneath them which is not a good feeling. 

Communicate effectively preferably in person at length regarding how to treat each other with respect.  If that doesn't work,  you'll most likely will be on the same page with those who share your same socioeconomic class. 

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17 hours ago, Jennaxoxo459 said:

...if I cannot prove to him that I understand his lifestyle, we will need to breakup. 

I would gently ask him exactly what he wants you to say or do to meet this requirement.

If he's unwilling to offer that, then he's setting you up for a breakup. That might not be an entirely bad outcome given that his requirements are likely to change over time anyway, putting you in an untenable position.

Control is not love.

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Money can be a bigger relationship challenge than even fidelity.  

You were both brought up with different views on money & it's causing conflict.  Neither of you are going to change your views overnight.  I also don't really see either of you wanting to change your views about money.  You don't have to but you do need to recognize that those different perspectives make you incompatible as a couple. 

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