WAVING, NOT DROWNING

Dear Viv: I found a used condom in my son's bedroom

On this week's podcast, Viv discusses what to do when your finances are mismatched in a relationship, a sibling taking advantage of your parents, what to say to a sexually active teenage son, and how to keep your relationship alive when life becomes “one big parentfest”

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By Viv Groskop on

Dear Viv,

My boyfriend and I are talking about getting engaged soon, and trying for a baby soon after. The only bump in the road is our financial situation - we live in a rented flat in London and he wants to own a place before we have a child. He has some savings from his job, which is quite well paid, and I have much less (less than a quarter of what he has) in savings from my grandparents, so we could just about scrape a deposit together. My job in social care is much less well paid than his, which is in the private sector. It makes me feel fulfilled but he always brings it up as an ‘issue’ - he says we won’t be able to afford children and a good quality of life on our combined salaries. I think there are more important things than money and we’ll find a way to get by, but he thinks I’m being delusional and always nags me to look at potential career changes and ways to earn more. I think he thinks he’ll have to fund the majority of our life together, and that makes him feel bitter towards me as a lower earner. What should I do?

Hello fulfilled social care worker. Well, this is a tricky one. And alarm bells are ringing for me here as they are for you. It doesn’t really matter if finances are mismatched in a relationship as long as the two people hold similar values. Values are what hold a relationship together in the long-term. And it sounds as if you have a clash not so much about money here, as about values. It worries me that he is “nagging” you to look at potential career changes. How serious is he about this? Does he really understand how much your work means to you? Is he prepared long-term to accept what your job means? Two people working in private equity management live a very different lifestyle to a couple where one of them works in social care. You have understood that and accepted it -- you’ve even chosen it. I’m not sure he has understood that, let alone accepted it.

It sounds as if you are doing the right thing by talking about these things and you clearly love each other because you are planning a life together. But I wonder if you have really been honest with each other up to this point about what exactly it is that you both want and how you imagine your life together working out. There’s not much to be done here other than to talk about all this very calmly and with preconceptions and melodrama.

The other thing to add is that you say you want to try for a baby. Babies have a habit of making people change their minds about jobs, money and life generally. It can go in both directions. Some people suddenly become very ambitious and want to earn a lot more money than they did before. Others want to step right back and be able to devote all their time to family life, even if that means a huge financial cost. So that’s something to bear in mind -- you might not always feel the way you feel now. And he might not either too. How can you build some flexibility into your situation so that either of you could change your mind? Lots to talk about. Don’t be afraid. Just do the talking.

Dear Viv,

My brother and his girlfriend have recently had a baby. My parents are so excited and try and see him as often as they can, but it involves a 5-hour-round trip each time. They're happy to do it, but it would help if, very occasionally, my brother and his girlfriend made the journey but they won't ask as they don't want to put extra pressure on new parents. What is the best thing to do in this situation?

Well, this is an easy question to answer. The best thing to do in this situation because you are not any of the people involved is this: butt out! I know it’s annoying when it’s someone as close as your brother and you don’t want to see your parents being taken advantage of. But this is a problem between your brother and his girlfriend and your parents. It is not your problem and it is a very bad idea to appoint yourself -- or allow yourself to be appointed -- as some kind of go-between. I don’t often insist that people take my advice because I think they should only take it if it speaks to them in some way and they choose to, but in this case I urge you: take my advice and keep out of it! Let them set their own rules and boundaries. Close your eyes, go la la la and just get on and live your life.

You can hear the answers to these and the following questions on Viv’s podcast, Waving, Not Drowning, above.

Dear Viv,

I was cleaning my 16 year old son’s bedroom this weekend and found a used condom in the bin. Now I’m worrying about him. We never had ‘the talk’ and I know his school didn’t have the best sex ed programme. He must have had his girlfriend over when my husband and I were out at a birthday party, but he didn’t tell us he was going to invite her over, and they haven’t been going out for long at all - perhaps a month. Should I talk to him about it?

Dear Viv,

My relationship is suffering since we've had our second child. I know everyone says your life totally changes when you have a baby, but we were kind of doing OK until our second child came along. Why did nobody warn me that going from one to two is, in a way, even harder than having your first? I mean, it's great that you know what you're doing second time around, and you're not so shell-shocked by the newness of it all, but I'm really struggling with the fact that the precious little 'us time' my husband and I had with baby number one has all but disappeared. Life is one big parent fest and we're just not getting on as we used to. We're tired and irritable with each other, and I know my husband thinks I've turned into the clichéd tired mum who doesn't want to have sex (and I don't – I just want to sleep). Our youngest is two now – so we're out of the newborn craziness – but it's just not feeling any easier. We used to feel like a couple who'd had a child – now I feel like we're only parents with children. Are we going to be able to come out the other side intact?

Got a question for Viv? Email her at DearViv@thepoolltd.com. The Dear Viv podcast airs fortnightly on The Pool at 5pm on Tuesdays. All letters will be edited for length. Unfortunately Viv cannot reply to your emails personally. 

You can subscribe to The Pool's podcasts on iTunes.

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