Dear Trish: ‘I do trust my girlfriend, but I also know she aspires to having a lavish lifestyle’
PROBLEM: One year ago I had a substantial win on the national lottery – enough to allow me to take time off work and buy a dream home, with plenty left over to invest in businesses and contribute to charity. However, I have not spent any of it as yet.
I am 26 years of age and have always struggled with excess, gambling, drinking and partying in general. Around the time that I won the money I had just started a new relationship which prompted me to stop using all drugs and online gambling, and significantly reduce my intake of alcohol. The relationship has since flourished and, for the first time in my adult life, I feel in control. I was afraid to celebrate the win for the fear of returning to my old habits. I have only told one very trusted and discreet member of my family.
I do trust my girlfriend, but I also know that she aspires to having a lavish lifestyle. We are now talking about buying a house together and she is saving towards a deposit. I know that I am going to have to tell her about my good fortune, and am worried that she will be furious that I have not spoken to her about this before. She did not know me that well when I was overindulging in drink, drugs and gambling and I don’t know if she will understand that I need to be very careful about how I spend this money.
I do intend to spend it, but I want to do it wisely and at my own pace.
ADVICE: Congratulations on the win and well done on your reserve and self-control in considering how to spend the money. You sound as though you have lots of self-awareness and have been cautious knowing that you have a history of excess. However you are now getting into a very serious relationship and both of your issues need to come to the surface so that they can be taken into account in building your life together.
Your girlfriend needs to know of your past and of possible pitfalls in your relationship and you need to take into account her desire for a lavish lifestyle. No doubt there will be lots of arguing and positioning but this negotiation is very important if you are to trust the relationship going forward. Money is often a sore topic in developing (and in established) relationships and it can often be a flashpoint for division. Hiding either savings or spending can feed mistrust and it can lead to a power inequality that can later scupper a relationship. At the moment this money is yours to do with what you wish but if you are considering buying a house with your girlfriend, this suggests that you are serious about the relationship and this will challenge the notions of what is yours and what is hers.
This is not for you to decide alone unless you are going to end the relationship
Relationships are a recognised stage of development for us as human beings and they challenge us to get beyond our own skin: to put someone else to the forefront of our considerations and to sacrifice for the sake of love. When we are in a committed relationship we can no longer behave as when we were single and our decisions need to be based on what is best for the unit (the two of you until or if you have children and then the family is the unit). So what is best for this relationship given your winnings, your history and your girlfriend’s tendencies?
It is unlikely that you will come to a conclusion in a first conversation
This is not for you to decide alone unless you are going to end the relationship, so some real and honest communication is needed. It is unlikely that you will come to a conclusion in a first conversation so be prepared to have many conversations before a lasting decision is made. Fear of your girlfriend’s anger at the secret you have been withholding is something you need to face. She has some justification in being upset at the deceit – she is after all saving for a deposit for your house together when there is no need for this. But there is also the future that this windfall offers you as a couple so she may also be excited. You have begun a relationship where a secret has been maintained so this pattern will need to be consistently challenged until you have confidence in each other’s ability to handle difficulties and take constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is one where the intention of the criticiser is to raise the other person to their best selves and the one giving the criticism is willing to take flack for it. A robust relationship should be one where this type of criticism is welcomed as long as it sits alongside genuine love and affection.
You have the best type of problem in that your life is about to be enhanced but you are being challenged (as any good relationship should do) to face your fear, to dare to be honest and to share your life with someone you love.