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Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017 12:09 am

A good man is hard to fund

PHOTO COURTESY AMY ALKON
Amy Alkon
I’m a 35-year-old woman. I’m living with my boyfriend who’s a freelance artist (talented but just getting started). We’ve been together for three years and I am paying for pretty much everything. I don’t feel resentful. I feel like we’re a team and eventually his career will take off. However, my parents keep saying it’s a bad dynamic: I’m coddling him and he’s taking advantage of me. – Worried

Ideally, when one partner is the sole breadwinner, the other is the stay-at-home parent to more than two rambunctious goldfish.

There’s a term in risk researcher and former derivatives trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s books – “skin in the game.” That’s what’s missing when, say, a hedge fund honcho advises you to make some big-bucks investment. If he’s guessed right, he’ll share in your profits. However, any losses are all yours – as in, you’ll find him up in his penthouse, not two cardboard boxes down from your new “home” on the corner.

“Skin in the game” is also what’s missing from your boyfriend’s end of the relationship. You’re doing all of the work to keep the roof over the relationship. Your boyfriend’s doing none of the work but reaping 100 percent of the benefits. This isn’t to say relationships have to be exactly 50-50. But such a gross asymmetry in effort may be creating a breeding ground for laziness – setting your boyfriend up to go all Leisure Larry in both his work and the relationship.

In fact, by making things so easy for him, you may be making it harder for him to succeed. Consider that you put in more effort when it’s a necessity – when you don’t have inherited wealth (or a 9-to-5-toiling girlfriend who allows you to live as if you do).

Also, the fact that you’re a woman who’s paying for everything may make this more of a problem. Women evolved to seek “providers,” and men coevolved to expect that – and to expect the best women to hold out for investment. Men’s self-worth is also driven by their ability to provide. So though many couples think they “should” be okay with a woman as the sole or primary moneymaker (because … equality), it often leads to resentment in the woman and emasculation in the man. (Great if you like your sex without those boring erections.)

Finally, consider whether you really aren’t okay with this Vincent van No Job arrangement but are going along with it because you think it’s the good-girlfriend thing to do. It’s okay – and probably good for your relationship – to ask your boyfriend to put “skin in the game,” like by driving a bunch of runs on Uber to fork over for the electric bill. People value and feel more a part of something they have to work for – and not just by opening all the bills (with an artistic flourish) before handing them over for the wage slave girlfriend to pay.

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