Wedding Woes

She definitely abused your trust.

Dear Prudence,

I (she/her) ended my relationship with my partner (she/her) earlier this year. We lived together for many years. When I met her, she was unemployed, as she’d had a business venture fail. She eventually got a job, and then started working for me in my business—first part time, and then at her urging, she became my full-time employee. Things were great for a long time. My business was growing and she was reliable. It felt like we were building an empire. She had goals to become my partner in the business one day. I was able to pay her well. (I’m aware of how this is often a bad decision for people in romantic relationships—it was the right decision for a long time). She was also in six-figure student debt, so I paid the rent on our place. As my business grew, I was able to afford my dream apartment in my dream location, so I moved there a year and a half ago. She agreed to pay the electric bill.

Then things changed overnight. I discovered a few things: a severe hoarding tendency in her home office (she kept the door closed so I didn’t see how bad it was getting until we got ants); that she wasn’t doing much of her work to a professional standard or in a timely manner; and that she wanted intellectual property credit for an artistic project I was doing on my own. I was working 16 hours a day to make up for the work she wasn’t doing at work. I was now spending thousands a month ordering out meals for the both of us, too, because I had no time to do anything else, and I told her I needed help. I needed her to pick up slack at home, do better at work, something. She cited the electric bill as her pulling her weight—it was hundreds of dollars a month, she said, even in winter when we weren’t running air conditioners. It was almost untenable, she said. She moved out in May. I took over the electric bill. I just received the bill for the first (non-AC) month since she left … it was $19.

Prudie, I feel duped and cheated. I feel so incredibly stupid—I let her into my life, my business. I took care of us the best I could. As the breadwinner in the relationship, I was always conscious about potential financial abuse and wanted to make things fair. I made more so I paid the rent—and she pulled zero percent of the weight, in all areas of our life together. I was talking to a friend about it and told them I feel like I was a victim of financial abuse. Was I?

—Electric Bill Blues

Re: She definitely abused your trust.

  • You know, it's really hard to admit that a relationship was abusive, in any way shape or form.  So yeah, LW, you totally were, as well as a host of other issues.n  Maybe get into some therapy to work through this and forgive yourself too.
  • Unfortunately, that is the risk of involving business and romance.  It can work really well...until it doesn't.

    And then it is an awkward situation like the LW faced.  If this had strictly been an employee, they would have been fired and a new person hired.  But when it's your romantic partner, firing that person has a good chance of ending the relationship.

    An office door always being kept closed would have been a giant red flag waving for me.  Obviously people are allowed their privacy.  But that room was both part of the LW's home and some of the work/files in there are also part of their business.

    It's weird the LW's partner had such a 180 and got so complacent after they moved.  I'm fascinated to know why.  I wonder if the new apartment was a "symbol" of the LW's success and perhaps this caused resentment for the partner.  She was riding the LW's coattails and knew it.  There isn't necessarily anything wrong with that, but I could see how it would build up to bother some people.
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
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