Dear Prudence

Help! My Boyfriend Refused to Follow My Advice. Now I’m Paying the Price, Too.

In We’re Prudence, Prudence asks readers for their thoughts on a question that has her stumped. The answer is available only for Slate Plus members.

Man grimacing while holding his lower back.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images Plus.

Every Thursday on Twitter @jdesmondharris, Dear Prudence asks readers for their thoughts on a question that has her stumped. She’ll post her final thoughts on the matter on Fridays. Here’s this week’s dilemma and answer:

Dear Prudence,

Several weeks ago, my boyfriend’s cousin asked him to help her move in. My boyfriend has back issues, but gladly accepted because he is someone who loves to help people. I reminded him of his back issues and told him I was worried about him helping her. For context, his cousin makes almost three times what my boyfriend makes and could easily afford movers, but didn’t want them.

Like I guessed, my boyfriend hurt his back. He had to go to urgent care and then to his doctor the next week. He was left with a ton of medical bills. His doctor also told him he needed physical therapy, but he can’t take any more medical bills.

His cousin hasn’t even offered to cover anything. I told my boyfriend that she might be liable because it happened on her property, but he is reluctant to ask for even splitting the medical bills. I know he’s an adult who has to deal with his own issues, but this is now starting to affect our relationship. I make more money than him, and even before this, we already had some arguments about spending money on social things. I like doing nice things sometimes and he doesn’t, but he also objected to me paying for them. Now, not only does he not have any extra income, but he does not have the physical capability to do any of the fun things we used to do. I’ve offered to pay for at least some of the sessions of physical therapy, just to hopefully show him how important they are, but he has refused.

I’m really at a loss here with what to do. We basically now just sit in his apartment and watch TV, which is getting old. It’s going to be summer soon and I want to do a ton of things that require him to be recuperated. What should I do?


Dear Frustrated,

When I shared your letter with Slate readers, one thing everyone agreed on was that your partner should definitely not ask his cousin for money. And he definitely shouldn’t sue her! Accidents happen, he helped her move because he wanted to (even if it was a bad idea), and billing family members is never a great way to nurture healthy relationships.

Beyond that, people found the letter significantly less complicated than I thought it was—and they changed my mind. I’d originally predicted readers might argue that your boyfriend deserved a little more sympathy, as someone who is temporarily disabled, overwhelmed by the costs associated with getting better, uncomfortable accepting money from his partner (which could complicate your relationship), and possibly even a bit depressed. I thought they might push for more patience and understanding from you (similar to what I think @outerbororoyal was suggesting when she tweeted, “LW seems less concerned with how her BF’s back injury is impacting him, and more with how it’s impacting her. But, that’s just an observation. 😶”).

But not really. There was pretty much a consensus that his actions (and your feelings about them) signal incompatibility and call for a breakup:

She told him not to do the move in the first place because he has a bad back. Once someone knowingly does a thing that has an entirely predictable, negative outcome, what is one to do? Keep enabling them? Move on. —@elsbet

End the relationship. She is unhappy, he’s not cooperating, and they sound incompatible around problem solving, and this incident is a glaring example. —@awisephd

Break up. It’s not him, it’s you. His injury is inconvenient to you as is his lower salary. Time to find a less altruistic, less broken, money maker —@MeshBaltimore

break-up, i can sense the resentment building up which is only going to make her more and more “frustrated”, best to cut them ties now —@Black_Ted_Mosby

Just break up. LW’s contempt is showing. —@akmcquade

In support of the “break up, now” argument, people also pointed out something I’d kind of skimmed over in the letter: You had problems before your partner hurt his back!

Also, they seem incompatible anyway. They like to do different things and he won’t even let the LW pay for both of them to do the activities that the LW enjoys. This relationship is going to end eventually, so just do it now. —@mmissbee

I’ll add the broader point that at the end of the day, you really don’t want to be with someone who you don’t think makes good choices: about what to do with his free time, how altruistic to be, how to make and handle his money, and how to take care of himself—but also about all the other issues that will come up if you decide to have a future together. It doesn’t even matter who’s right; find someone you trust and respect to do things that make sense to you.

Classic Prudie

I’m in a pickle, or rather my son is. He is 17, is about to graduate high school, and likes to smoke pot, which is illegal in my state. He has been through a teen-intervention course for having pot and paraphernalia in his vehicle (teen court, tour of the jail, the works), and we thought that would scare him, but once he met his community service requirements, he started smoking again. This past December, between his work and holiday money, he spent about $500 on pot. He wants to move out and live on his own when he is 18—he says his goals are to just “work and smoke pot.”

We have a college fund for him and are paying for his car. He can’t afford to take over car payments or get a loan. I refuse to have him drive a car that is in my name when he has been smoking. So we’re considering cashing in the college fund.