I have been living with my boyfriend of two years since January 2006. He shares custody of his children who live with him part time. I have arranged to pay him rent of $1500 per month, which I thought was fair, but he recently had a gardener move into the one bedroom (vacant) apartment on the property and has arranged to exchange gardening services for rent (11 hours a week at $16 per hour). I told him I am going to reduce the amount of money I give him, as I felt I was giving him way too much, given what he is charging this woman. I am now thinking of moving back into my house and keeping the relationship going, but I’m having a tough time. I love him, but not his kids. I work a lot around the house and pick up after them constantly, and feel I should just pay what the gardener pays now that he has arranged this sweet deal for her – I’m not sure what to do – could you give me some advice? – Lisa

Hi Lisa, this sounds like a complicated affair. Money aside, it sounds like you don’t enjoy sharing his home with him. With the other factors, it wouldn’t matter if you paid less rent as there is the issue of his kids. It is a little odd that he would make the arrangement to exchange gardening for a room, but he would charge $1500. I have worked out that this woman is getting the room for $762.67 per month which is just under half of what you pay. How the hell has he given her a whole apartment for that money but he doesn’t think that what you pay is odd? If I read between the lines of your story, I’m guessing that he hasn’t exactly jumped at the suggestion of reducing the rent…

Everything, from the financial perspective depends on what the arrangement was when you moved in with him. It is vital when it comes to cohabiting that the expectations from both parties are laid out. It appears that even though you are both living together as boyfriend and girlfriend, this has the hallmarks of sounding like a rental agreement. If you are living together, ideally you should be discussing an arrangement like having this woman move in together. If he hasn’t consulted with you on the decision or didn’t feel like he needed to, it’s no wonder that you feel a little bewildered about the arrangement.

Remember that sometimes men (and women) can be unthinking, but I do think that many men are missing that ability to be emotionally perceptive about situations. This means that he’s probably patting himself on the back about getting his garden done and having everything taken care of in the home without for one moment considering how this may feel for you.

But what about his kids?
To love him and be with him, you are going to have to strike a balance with his children as they won’t disappear. If you are being treated like a maid/nanny, maybe some distance will make him recognise your worth and how you are being treated. Bear in mind though that disruption to your living arrangement, may confuse his children.

I have to put something out there though that is a little uncomfortable… I know that you’re boyfriend and girlfriend, but has he misguidedly made an assumptive agreement with you (clearly without discussing it with you) that you run around after his kids picking up and cleaning in exchange for paying that rent and living in his home? I would snatch your $1500 and run for the hills if I was you!

That aside, you are his girlfriend, not a cleaner and he should be giving you more respect and leeway than the woman who tugs up his weeds. You need to sit down with him and establish whether your boyfriend feels that you are a tennant or a girlfriend who he shares a home with. If you are the former, I would certainly move out (unless of course you are happy with that…you shouldn’t be by the way), and if you are the latter, I would explain in as non confrontational way as possible that you are not happy and give him specific reasons. He may not realise and if he does realise, but he doesn’t want to rectify the situation, you have bigger problems in the relationship than this gardener…

Make sure he realises what you are doing around the house. Sometimes men need to have it spelt out as they think that fairies come in and clean up! Don’t say that you don’t like his kids because it will make for a very uncomfortable situation. Maybe suggest that with the $1500 rent, he can afford to get a cleaner.

I think that if you can come to an arrangement about the rent, you probably won’t feel so irritable at the kids. Try to find a middle ground with him. I also suggest that if you are going to be a live in girlfriend that he be honest about all of the bills associated with your home as the $1500 may be half of what it costs to run the property or it could be 75%.

The key is to ask lots of questions and explain your concerns. This time when you lay out your questions, you can know where you stand and manage your expectations.

I will say though that your boyfriend has got it all worked out well for him…

PS If for some reason you decide to stay, but he sees you as a tenant, get a lease. That will shut him up but it will also protect you.

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