This situation is causing a lot of issues in my relationship. I have been dating this person for 17 years, have been engaged for six years and have lived together for close to nine years.
I moved into her house and we agreed on $600 monthly rent. Over the years, I have increased how much I have paid in rent, and I have taken on other expenses such as the $300 cable-and-internet bill, and I have contributed to some home improvements (about $10,000 in total).
Additionally, when we go out to dine, which is probably 60% of the time, I usually pay.
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I am now paying $1,100 a month in rent. She has retired and is listed as a domestic partner on my insurance. I am also paying the $200 health-insurance premium.
“‘Her previous company is reimbursing her health insurance, and she is keeping that money.’”
However, her previous company is reimbursing her health insurance, and she is keeping that money. She says she “subsidized” my rent nine years ago to help me out financially, and this is now “pack back” since I am debt-free.
Wait, what? I paid her exactly what she asked for back then without question and there was no discussion that the agreed-upon rent was below market value or being “subsidized.”
This has caused a rift in our relationship as we view money very differently. I am pretty generous with it.
The cherry on top is that we both have a trust, and she refuses to tell me any details about it. If she was to die tomorrow I literally would be in the dark. With mine, she knows all the specifics, including the fact that she is included in it.
Am I crazy to feel this about the rent, health insurance and the trust?
Appreciate Your Guidance
We could go back and forth all day about who is being unfair to whom.
Whether or not you believe the rent was below market value, it is a sum you both agreed upon. No doubt you also had a good idea of whether that was a fair price. There were no blindfolds or lottery tickets involved. You both came to an arrangement that suited you both at that time, and you walked into that arrangement with both eyes open. You both benefited from living together: You have a place to live, she gets extra income.
The problem, I believe, is bigger than that $200 health-insurance premium. It seems that resentments have built up over time, perhaps due to the amount of money you spent on renovations and/or your own health-insurance premium, or perhaps because of the underlying imbalance of financial power. I suspect it is a little bit of both, perhaps with more dissatisfaction due to the latter: She is the homeowner, and you are the de facto renter.
There are no victims here. Only volunteers. You volunteered to live in her home for nine years, and pay for improvements that added up to $10,000. I agree that’s a lot of money at first glance. After all, houses are expensive to maintain — property tax, mortgage interest, gas and electricity etc. But that $10,000 equates to about $93 per month over the years you have lived there. Chalk it up to wear-and-tear, goodwill and miscellaneous contributions.
The other inequity relates to your respective trusts. Your partner is not transparent about how much money is in her trust and, possibly, whether you are a beneficiary. Once again, this is part of a larger problem: A curious lack of financial faith. It’s curious because you hashed out your financial responsibilities, but your arrangement has so many deep-rooted problems for both of you. There is a reason your engagement has lingered for six years.
“‘If you options are limited, you may be more willing to agree to things that make you unhappy.’”
With the important caveat that I have only heard your side of the story, there is a certain callousness to your fiancé’s comment that she was subsidizing your early years of rent. While it’s your responsibility to be aware of the market rent, this is yet another important thing that was left unsaid (until now). Resentments are like dry rot in the structure of a house. They grow deeper over time, and weaken the fundamentals of the relationship.
You’re not crazy. You’re stuck in a rut. I have a few questions for you: Do you want to remain living in her house after you get married? Do you have a home of your own? Do you have enough savings that would enable you to buy a home? Assuming living with your fiancé is Plan A, what is your Plan B if you break up? Assuming you do get married? Is this an otherwise happy relationship? If your options are limited, you may be more willing to agree to things that make you unhappy.
By picking up the check in a restaurant, you may feel like you are restoring some kind of financial equity to the relationship; but that is fleeting; you are the one in charge on that night only by paying for your fiancé’s meal. But (a) that is also part of a long, gendered social contract that is changing with the times and (b) it does not change the fact that you are living in your partner’s home, and if the relationship ends, so does your living arrangement.
Ultimately, it’s important not to put your $10,000 renovations or $200-a-month health insurance in one basket. While those gestures show a good deal of goodwill, they also come with a “gift tax.” The more you pay and the longer you live under that roof may make you believe that you have a greater right to live in your fiancé’s home. But there is only one name on that deed.
And that’s the one who ultimately calls the shots.
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