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Which appeals more: Boyfriend with debt, or comfort?

Posted: April 17, 2014 at 2:37 a.m.

DEAR CAROLYN: I finished my undergraduate degree a year ago, have a good job, and consider myself financially stable. My boyfriend is finishing his master’s and will graduate with $200,000 in student debt.

We’ve been together for nine months and have not talked seriously about his massive debt. I know we both eventually want to be married and have kids, travel and live comfortable lives.

I don’t see that being a possibility. Home ownership and kids seem impossible under that kind of debt.

I’ve considered talking to a financial adviser but doubt that will help much. I don’t want to break up with him, but, the way I see it, he’d have to throw massive amounts of money into his loans, and what I make would support us. I would end up resenting him for that. Should I break it off?

  • Not My Debt

DEAR READER: Maybe.Probably. If you’d walk away over money without talking to him “seriously” first, then definitely. But for his sake, not yours.

Debt like that will dog you, limit you, wake you up to stare at the ceiling at 3 a.m. if one’s job is the least bit unstable. I sympathize with all of your misgivings. I also recognize this has become a too-common reality and, coldly, I guess, hope others will read this and weigh the realistic return on education investments carefully before making them.

All of this is the responsible, predictable answer.

Here’s the other answer that I can’t shake: A lot of us would choose our mates, and their liabilities - education debt, chronic illness, (guano) -crazy family - over homeownership, travel … even comfort, depending on how you define it. Plenty sign on despite children from previous relationships at an estimated $241,080 liability per to age 18, in middle-class style (per U.S. Department of Agriculture).

So, break it off? If he’s not the guy you’d choose over your preferred lifestyle, then, yes. If you’re not sure yet, then talking seriously about money sounds like a fine place to start finding out.

DEAR CAROLYN: I’m due with baby No. 3 in May, and we picked a name after the place my husband and I fell in love. My mother-in-law told my husband we couldn’t name our daughter that because she hates the name. She noted a cousin’s wife of that name whom everyone in her family hates and whose own daughter committed suicide. We’ve never heard of this woman before.

She later told my husband that if we named our baby something she didn’t like, she wouldn’t call her by it. She’d make up a name she liked because she’s a “free spirit.” It makes me feel disrespected and angry.

Carolyn, it would be so great if you could respond with a letter I can give my mother-in-law. This behavior is really nothing new, but I especially hate the drama she loves to drum up around special occasions like the birth of our children.

  • M.

DEAR READER: This letter’s for you: Stick with your name and ignore your mother in-law.

Per your description, she’s just being herself, fighting hardest for the spotlight when it’s focused on others. Since that’s about her, not you or your family, the only things on your to-do list are to resist the urge to take offense and calmly ride this out.

Chat online with Carolyn at 11 a.m. Central time each Friday at washingtonpost.com. Write to Tell Me About It in care of The Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. N.W.,Washington, D.C. 20071; or email tellme@washpost.com

Weekend, Pages 31 on 04/17/2014

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