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Do I need to prove my love to him by giving him money?

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Jasmine asks:

So basically I have this boyfriend who is 2 years older than me. The sex is great and everything is fine. He really is one of the sweetest guys I have ever known. We have been together for months. I went out with his best friend first (who I lost my virginity to). He is perfectly fine with that as it was 2 years ago. Just one minor flaw. I was also under a lot of pressure at the time I lost my virginity and so when he asked me for large amounts of money, I gave in, believing that he loved me. It would not be an understatement to say that he ruined my life. He told EVERYONE at school what happened between us. However, he only told his friend (my boyfriend) about the money.

I am deeply in love with my boyfriend, and everybody is happy for me. When I say he is the most generous, kind guy I really mean it, and my caring friends also agree. But now he has asked me to give him money. Now I appreciate the fact that I am more well-off than him and his friend...but still. He said that if I love him I would give it.

Heather Corinna replies:

(Jasmine's question continued)I have no idea what to do. I mean it is just a little money...we've already had sex and now we understand that he want to be together for ever. He even told his parents about me, which was hard because they are as strict as hell.

But I don't want to give him anything, it seems to me that I have to pay him for his love. It doesn't seem right. Could you please instruct me on what to do, because I am lost and I have found myself in the same situation which I was in before.

Jasmine: it's pretty clear that a part of you knows that you were and still are being exploited here. It's also clear that you probably not only think, but know, that something very much is not right. Everything is NOT fine. It's particularly troubling that this is a pattern between he and his best friend and you.

You need to state strongly that you will not be giving him money, and that he needs to give back any money you have given him so far or make a plan with you to do that. This isn't a minor issue. It's very disturbing and worthy of concern.

It's one thing for a partner to ask to borrow some money every now and then, but that should always be rare and with the full intent of giving it back (it should also be a given that that can go both ways). When we borrow or loan money among one another, discussions should always be had about why a loan is needed or being asked for, and when and how it will be returned. And loans should never be about proving love.

It's not generous to ask a partner for money like this or as a routine. I can't know the perspective that you're coming from, and obviously generosity isn't all about money, but a person who is not only asking you for money, but trying to emotionally blackmail you for it, isn't being generous. That person is being exploitive, coercive and potentially abusive.

If you truly feel that this relationship is otherwise positive and healthy, then you can let him know that you'd like to continue the relationship, but that his asking you to give him money as a way to prove your love for him is hurtful and totally not okay. You might ask how he might feel were the shoe on the other foot, and remind him that you have seen this pattern before with someone very close to him, so this bothers you even more. You can make clear that you do love him, but that just because two people love one another does not mean that one becomes a human cash station for the other. If you two are in two very different economic brackets (presuming you're old enough that the money here is even your own: if he is an adult and you are a minor, him looking to take what isn't even really your money when he's capable of earning his own is particularly gross in my book), you can express knowing about that imbalance and being sensitive to it, but that that doesn't mean you owe him money, either.

You can also talk about the kinds of healthy ways people can and do show love for each other, such as by spending time together, treating one another with respect and kindness, expressing love verbally and physically or doing things like writing songs, poems or letters for the other, what have you. Certainly, we can sometimes show love with thoughtful gifts that do cost money, but that's different than giving a partner money or gifts because they are asking for them in their own self-interest and as "proof" of love.

Someone who loves you, respects you and cares for you will see you as a person, not a bank. You're not his parent: it's his responsibility to take care of himself financially, or, if he is a minor, his parent's responsibility. It isn't yours, and it's manipulative for him to state that, for whatever reason, it is. People of integrity don't improve our economic situation by manipulating others into giving us money, we take an extra job, cut back on expenses, apply for a loan from a real bank.

If this guy is as caring and loving as you say, I'd have every expectation that this will be a productive discussion, and that he will immediately realize -- if he has not already -- that he behaved horribly in this regard, be very sorry, and not do or say anything remotely like this again.

If this conversation is NOT productive, if he doesn't realize he's in the wrong or that this kind of behavior is abusive or exploitive, not loving, if he doesn't take responsibility or still insists on you giving him money, then I'm afraid you may have misjudged this person as a sound, healthy parter and someone who loves you. Something like this is a warning sign of someone unhealthy, dysfunctional or abusive. Folks like that not only can seem charming and sweet, they often seem that way and learn to appear that way in order to reel other people in. If manipulative or abusive people were big jerks from minute one, abuse wouldn't be so pervasive because no one would ever get involved with those kinds of people. It's also typical for abusive people to seek to control a partner's income or get that income for themselves, particularly by convincing their partner they are somehow owed that money.

I know it's always painful when something like that happens, but if and when something like that becomes clear, the only healthy thing to do for yourself is to get away from that kind of person. The fact that both of these guys, who are best friends, have had this in common really worries me: I have an additional concern that you may be being purposefully played or manipulated. I'd be on the lookout for other possible signs of manipulation or possible abuse, like, for example, this guy moving very quickly in the relationship with claims of love or things like meeting parents, stating he wants to be with you forever early on in the relationship, blaming or guilt-tripping you for things that are about him, not you, or other kinds of emotional blackmail.

If you are feeling like this is only one problem in a relationship which is sound and safe, go ahead and start by drawing that line about the money and talking about the kinds of things I have suggested here. See how it goes, and trust your guts: when you get that feeling something just isn't right, go with that. And again, if he is not responsive and very quickly understanding about this, I'd give serious thought to getting out of this relationship, as well as away from whatever social circle these guys are with.

I'm tossing you a few links I think might help with all of this:

written 03 Jul 2008 . updated 17 Jan 2014

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