Advice

My boyfriend and I agreed on my new remote work situation. But now my lower salary is causing friction.

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

During COVID, I worked from home, and when my employer required my return, I chose to leave my job for one where I could work remotely. I did this with full support of my boyfriend, who lives with me. Up until then our salaries were about equal and we shared household costs. He has since gone back to the office. He knew — we discussed at length — that this would mean I was taking a significant salary cut and we would have to make some big lifestyle changes.

Before I left my job, we had plenty of money — two strong incomes, no kids, a low mortgage. But removing a significant amount of money from our shared household expenses has really put pressure on us. We have had to really cut back on extracurricular stuff, which wasn’t such a big deal when everything was closed down, but now that the world feels mostly normal again, we’re both feeling the strain.

He wants me to try to get my old job back, or a similar job. I can’t do that kind of work remotely and while money is tight, I am generally happy right now, except for the money thing. We have had several arguments about it. I feel he’s being unfair because we agreed to this arrangement. What do you think?

Wanda says:

Your boyfriend misses your old financial security. You don’t miss being in an office. There could be more than one answer to this problem, one that doesn’t necessarily mean you return to a physical workplace.

You didn’t elaborate on your current income source. Is it something you could work harder at, and make more money? Is there a secondary or tertiary income option — sideline, freelance or consulting work that could result in extra cash flow? You could seek out a different remote job altogether that yields a better payout. Or, you could consider a compromise where you work a hybrid schedule with a better-paying employer, splitting time between home and office.

The takeaway, really, is that working in-person doesn’t automatically equal high pay, just as working at home doesn’t necessarily mean you’re broke. There are a whole range of options to explore, thanks to today’s wacky workplace realities and this unprecedented time of workers wielding serious bargaining power. Be creative, be sensitive, be open-minded, and find a solution that best supports your relationship. Your partner was kind enough to agree to you making this major change; you owe it to him to be flexible.

Wayne says:

Your boyfriend has given it the old college try. And just because he agreed to try out this new work situation with you doesn’t mean he can’t feel upset about how it has played out. He can be supportive of your improved mental health and at the same time feel bummed out that you two aren’t regularly meeting friends for dinner or having date night anymore. He can be grateful that you’re less stressed while feeling increasingly stressed about making household ends meet. And he has every right to compare the lifestyle you had then to the way you’re living now, and seriously think about and discuss how he wants to live moving forward.

While you made this agreement as a couple, this decision was ultimately about you and how you want to spend your career. I’m guessing he went along with it because he wants what’s best for you. That’s what great partners do. But I’m guessing he also wants what’s best for him, and that isn’t daily frustration, arguing with his girlfriend, and having “the money thing” hovering over his once steady and reliable relationship.

This is the point where you strengthen this relationship or witness it melt down. It’s also an opportunity for you to verbally appreciate your partner’s sacrifice and start making some of your own. If you are in this relationship for the long haul, come to the table with him and talk about a future that makes you both happy. This isn’t a fight or argument. This is a check-in about where you are and where you want to go and be together.

[I see an opportunity for a happier work-life balance in a new job offer; my wife only sees the pay cut]

[My boyfriend will be traveling more for work, and I feel like I might lose him. What should I do?]

Wayne and Wanda

Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and been to therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at wanda@alaskadispatch.com.

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