Monday 21 October 2019

Dear Mary: He's so incredibly mean to me that I'm not sure I want to stay with him

'My partner has always been quite mean'
'My partner has always been quite mean'

Mary O’Conor

I have been with my partner for almost a decade now and am starting to question whether I still want to be in a relationship with him.

We live apart, and he is comfortable and has a separate income apart from his job that pays quite well.

I am a single parent and have spent the best part of the relationship trying to make ends meet.

My partner has always been quite mean. He never offers to take me out, although he does buy me Christmas presents and a birthday present.

He has never surprised me and only brings flowers when I bring it up. He is quite happy to stay home when we are together, and doesn't like spending money on things when we are out, so I usually end up paying.

When it comes to house repairs, it is my parents who step in and help me out. Once I was stuck in an emergency and he lent me the money on the understanding that I paid it all back to him, even though I was poorly paid at the time.

He got engaged to me only because he knew I wanted some form of commitment, but isn't keen on the idea of marriage even though he knows I would love this.

We are both middle-aged. His meanness hurts me so much. I have brought it up with him many times and his explanation is that he is just careful with money.

It is me who pays for any surprise - a couple of times we have enjoyed short breaks away or meals out.

He says we will move in together in a couple of years - when the time is right.

That is when my children are older. It breaks my heart that he is like this.

Mary replies:  He calls it being careful with money, you say he is mean. So there is a difference in terminology but whatever it is he makes you unhappy.

Once we suspect a person is mean we begin to notice it more and more until it becomes almost unbearable.

And the mean person may or may not have plenty of money - it doesn't seem to bear any relationship to the state of their finances, they are just plain mean.

In some cases it may relate back to childhood poverty where they remember being so poor that every cent counted. But in other cases they have always had money and are still mean. But one thing is for sure - they will never change.

So in your case you will have to decide if you can continue your relationship with this man on his terms.

If there is generosity of spirit in other ways and you cannot imagine a life without him then you will have to learn to put up with his parsimony and embrace his good points.

And if you choose to be the one providing little treats, with your money, then be sure that you are doing it because you want the treat yourself.

If you do get married, have you discussed what is going to happen to your finances?

This is something that would seem to need forward planning.

Will you have a joint account, will bills be shared or what percentage are you expected to contribute. What happens to your salary?

These are all questions that need to be settled between you before you embark on marriage.

I am struck by the fact that not once during your entire letter do you say anything complimentary about your fiance - no sentence such as he may be mean but at least he is thoughtful in lots of other ways.

So I have to ask what is it about him that has led you to spend so long with him?

It may be that you have only written about the financial aspect of your relationship and there is indeed a lot more to him.

I certainly hope so.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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