Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

Don't really know what to make of this

(54 Posts)
ItsDecisionTime Sun 26-May-13 03:26:43

My bf of 18 months and I don't live together, he works as a builder overseas, both for other people and on his own house refurbishment and comes home every few weeks. We are making plans to buy or build a house together once his own is sold and when his commitment to a large building contract has been honoured. We have also talked seriously about marriage.

I would currently like to upgrade some rooms in my own house and, as he really doesn't have the time to just put his current commitments to one side for 3 weeks (and he is completely committed to getting his own property finished), I happily took it upon myself to start getting quotes to have the work done and have kept him in the loop in terms of the prices and discussions with the potential tradespeople.

Tonight, he said that work had quietened down for a few weeks and that it would make more sense if he came home and did the work for me which I was really chuffed about. He then added that he "could do with the work" presumably as he wouldn't be earning any money while his own project was quiet, implying that I would be paying him to do the job. Prior to us being in a relationship, he has done work for me and I've obviously been more than happy to pay the going rate (and he's charged me the going rate) even though we have known each other since childhood and he is a very close friend of the family. I never expected any favours and asked him to do the work purely because he's excellent at what he does and I trusted him to do the best job.

I told him immediately that I wasn't comfortable mixing business up with our private relationship then just blurted out I didn't think it right he should be asking me to pay him particularly given the seriousness of our relationship. He said that was fine and he understood but I could tell by his tone he was either embarrassed or didn't understand at all.

The thing is, the whole episode has left a really bad taste in my mouth but I'm trying to convince myself that for him it is just business. About 12 months ago I loaned him some money (£4k) which to his credit he made every attempt to pay back to me but I doggedly argued the point and convinced him put it to good use on his house so he could get it on the market asap. I almost brought this up in conversation but knowing how he feels about owing people money, I decided it wasn't worth rocking the boat for what just might be a simple misunderstanding.

My mind has now gone into overdrive and I'm wondering if he isn't as committed to our relationship as I thought and whether I'm just an easy option once he returns from working overseas. I'm extremely cautious when it comes to relationships and although I really thought he was the one for me, I don't want to move forward with him if this is the case, I'd rather stay single.

Am I overreacting? You'll probably see by the time of this posting that I've been up all night worrying about it!

GilmoursPillow Sun 26-May-13 03:48:55

You were happy to pay him in the past, you were happy to pay others now so I can see why he assumed you would pay him for the work.

It's not his house so he won't reap the benefit, especially as you don't live together - unless you are planning to put the gains from your own property into a joint one. I guess for him it is, as you said, business.

I'm glad you didn't bring up the 4k, that would have been really bad form. It has nothing to do with this now and you said yourself that he made every effort to pay you back but you wouldn't accept it. You can't hang that over his head.

Unless he's cooled off in other areas I wouldn't worry too much.

ItsDecisionTime Sun 26-May-13 03:51:04

That's the thing, we are combining the sale of our two properties into another. It's nice to have a different perspective on it though. I would say when I paid him the last time, we weren't involved in a relationship so there's no question of me not paying it then.

GilmoursPillow Sun 26-May-13 03:56:05

Do you think he just blurted out about needing the work and is now embarrassed that he suggested you pay?

How have things been left between you two?

ItsDecisionTime Sun 26-May-13 04:05:15

No, he doesn't blurt out anything. He thinks everything through in the most minute of detail. I'm very generous with him in both my time and financially (not in a major way) but just treat that as part and parcel of being in a relationship. He's not in a position to do that most of the time and I'm very conscious that he needs every penny he has to put into his house, which in a way I applaud. I frequently do admin work for him, help him in discussions with lenders, pay his expenses to come home and would never, ever, dream about asking to be recompensed for it. Things are fine between us I think. I'm not really sure whether to bring it up again but I know for sure he'll be thinking about it.

GilmoursPillow Sun 26-May-13 07:53:17

It sounds as if this is the only problem and it would be good to clear the air.

Di he agree to do it FOC in the end or did you not come to a conclusion?

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 26-May-13 08:03:12

I think you need to have an air-clearing conversation because you sound like you're on different pages. You see him as a permanent fixture, life-partner, 'spouse' if you will.... and (leaving aside materials) partners don't charge each other for doing work on their own home. He (and this is just an impression) sees you as not permanent, not connected and that you are not his partner. You are somewhere between girlfriend and customer. Mi casa is not su casa.... etc.

MushroomSoup Sun 26-May-13 08:20:11

If he's going to charge you ask him for a quote. Then choose somebody else!

ItsDecisionTime Sun 26-May-13 09:19:45

Thanks Mushroom, that made me laugh but somehow I don't think he'd see the funny side of it!

Funny how a little unexpected thing can crop up to completely question how he views our relationship. Whether I'm overreacting or not, I'm really hurt about it and will speak to him today.

KeepCoolCalmAndCollected Sun 26-May-13 09:55:36

The building trade as I am sure you know is very much feast or famine, so presumably he is quite poor at the moment.

However, I don't think it is right for your partner to charge you for work on your house particularly as you given him £4k towards his own house.

Surely it's got to be give and take and not all take.

ItsDecisionTime Sun 26-May-13 10:04:29

KeepCool. Yes, I agree. He could come home if he has hit a lull, it won't cost him a thing, he'll be fed and watered and won't be out of pocket. Don't see why he couldn't just see it as filling his time doing something helpful until his next job starts.

lottiegarbanzo Sun 26-May-13 10:14:14

Well, you were going to be paying someone, so he thought it might as well be him. His thinking probably didn't go further than that and you surprised him by saying that you no longer regarded work on your house as 'work' for him (you'd rather pay someone else - that won't make sense to him, as paying him keeps the money in the relationship).

Of course you're saying you'd rather not pay anyone and work together for mutual benefit, which just requires a shift in perspective from him. If he's serious about buying a house with you he'll understand that (but may not be able to fit it in as a freebie, as he'd want to drop it for any paid work that comes up, which takes you back to whether you'd rather 'lose' the money or pay him).

I'd have a chat, saying 'sorry if I embarrassed you earlier, I know I've paid you before but that's before we were together. Can we have a chat about how we can make things work best for ourselves now and for the future?

lottiegarbanzo Sun 26-May-13 10:54:20

Just a thought but does he ever do work for family? Or do others in his family, in similar trades? How do they manage that? Pay or freebie?

GilmoursPillow Sun 26-May-13 10:56:40

I'd have a chat, saying 'sorry if I embarrassed you earlier, I know I've paid you before but that's before we were together. Can we have a chat about how we can make things work best for ourselves now and for the future?

This.

ItsDecisionTime Sun 26-May-13 11:53:48

I did tell him right at the beginning that I wouldn't want him to do the work as he has enough commitments where he is and it just wouldn't be fair.

I've also said to him in the not too distant past that my days of paying him to do work were over. even though it was said playfully. We are, as far as I'm concerned, in a committed relationship and shouldn't be paying each other for anything. Wonder what he'd think if I started charging him rent and took housekeeping money off him when he stays with me?? It's the same principle.

We do have a good relationship otherwise and never have any problem talking about anything. Saying that, there are other signs of non-commitment albeit small and I've always put them down to me over-thinking things. I guess I'll have to be sensitive to the fact he may be embarrassed so I'm just going to ask him how he sees the situation.

lottiegarbanzo Sun 26-May-13 12:16:09

Do give some thought to the 'keeping the money in the family' argument and how he'd handle similar work for his Mum, or Uncle.

If he is committed to you, he'd see a benefit in being able to spend the profit on his house, which he'll sell for mutual benefit. Perhaps this money would help him do that faster. He might not see that it matters too much which of you holds the cash, precisely because he is committed to you and your future home together.

If you see this as him siphoning money away from you, which he may abscond with from the relationship, that's you perceiving a lack of commitment between you and expecting the worst, which may offend him and introduce the idea of lack of trust.

Unless you run a B+B or have lodgers, you wouldn't normally charge for bed and board and don't rely on this source for your income. This is his business for which he does habitually charge, so it's not the same.

I agree that charging is odd and presumably, this work boosts the value of your house, generating profit when sold, towards the shared house in the same way, so according to my argument, if he is committed, he won't mind it working that way around.

Tread carefully at first and listen to him before you imply lack of trust or commitment. It may all be ok, just habit, or that he's thought carefully about there being an advantage to doing up and selling his house faster, that benefits you both but that he hasn't explained. Just give him the chance to get things right first, before exploring whether there is something wrong.

ItsDecisionTime Sun 26-May-13 12:40:01

He is very money-focused. Being self-employed I suppose he has to be as when there's no work, there's no food (not quite that bad but you know what I mean). I offered to loan him all the money to finish his house on the basis he would pay me back when it was sold. He declined. We have very different philosophies when it comes to money, I wouldn't take money off family for anything I did, nor would I expect to give it. He's always had to look out for himself and hasn't had the same luxury. His mum would take the price of a loaf of bread off him so he wouldn't hesitate to take money off her for any building work. Maybe it's just a clash of upbringing or circumstances, I don't know. I'll take all the above advice on board and let you know how it works out.

SirSugar Sun 26-May-13 15:05:53

I understand you paying for materials; I think he's being cheeky considering the financial contributions you have made towards his property

SarahBumBarer Sun 26-May-13 15:44:42

If you're combining the sale of your two properties into the purchase of the next then to me it would make sense that the arrangement would be - whatever you save on paying a third party to do up your home could be plunged into finishing/forwarding his project. At it's logical extreme that would effectively mean that you are paying him but there is a full sense of joint enterprise/commitment to it - that could be how he was approaching it. That only makes sense though if the other small indicators of lack of commitment are very small or a product of you over-thinking things.

BalloonSlayer Sun 26-May-13 15:58:32

Well call me rude and grasping but I would definitely have mentioned the fact that I lent him 4 grand and never got it back.

In fact I think I might have put it this: "Tell you what, you pay me back the four grand I lent you, and I'll pay you for your building work with that."

I understand the idea that a) you were happy to pay someone so why shouldn't it be him and b) he would be unavailable for other work while working for you BUT the difference in your situation is that you have given him a substantial amount of money which he has spent on his own house.

The 4 grand is MASSIVELY relevant to this situation and I can't imagine why you are being too polite to mention it. He wasn't too polite to keep it, was he?

SgtTJCalhoun Sun 26-May-13 16:11:34

I was just charging on to say exactly what Balloonslayer said.

I simply can't see how owing the OP £4k and all the other travel costs and expenses she has paid out plus contributions towards his house AND her time and labour, which she does not charge for are not relevant confused.

I think he sounds greedy and grasping.

Londonmrss Sun 26-May-13 16:11:50

I think if you're seriously a couple and planning to be together long term then what's the point in paying him? It's all the same money anyway, isn't it? It's all shared. If you start paying like that, then you should start dividing up who paid for the loo roll last time etc so you can always keep tabs on who has spent what. But that's not a relationship, that's more of a flatshare.

garlicgrump Sun 26-May-13 16:28:38

If you pay him, it'll be taxable, won't it? Pay him cash-in-hand and not only are you probably breaking the law, but would have no record of payment if things went bad later. So he's willing to take money out of your relationship and give it to HMRC?

I didn't really think this was much of an issue when I first read your OP - just assumed he has a cash-flow problem and landed on your job as an easy answer. But, now you've said he always thinks things through and is careful about money, I fear you may be coming at your relationship from very different points of view. At least this has given you the opportunity to clarify things!

I agree about the £4k as well. It was an unconditional gift, but he's now demonstrating an unwillingness to show similar unconditionality towards you.

WafflyVersatile Sun 26-May-13 22:42:20

Maybe he's approaching it like this.

You are both working towards living together. this is dependent on him finishing and selling his house. Cashflow is tight and he's already had a loan/gift from you which he feels a bit uncomfortable about. This way, he gets money he's worked for rather than borrowed to go towards this goal quicker and you get the work you need done.

?

gettingeasiernow Sun 26-May-13 23:05:28

I think you are naturally generous both financially and emotionally, and he is less so, and it is very important that you redress that give/take balance now, because otherwise, it'll tip more and more towards the you giving/him taking position over time. He has a quiet period, it's no loss to him to do your work now, and I do think the £4K is relevant now that he has the opportunity to repay in kind.

ImperialBlether Sun 26-May-13 23:40:21

Can I just get this straight? When he comes home he lives with you for free? No rent, no bills, no food money? Really? And then he thinks you should pay him for a bit of work on your house while he's there?

I wouldn't be sharing properties with this man. I really wouldn't. I think you will end up much worse off than him.

OP you were doing him a favour by giving the work to him because you are in a relationship so it's not asking too much for him to do the work a bit cheaper - especially if you are doing admin work for him plus feeding, etc. Most people will drop prices for loved ones.

He sounds a bit tight tbh and I would be wary of tying up my finances/property with a meanie. Those little niggles are there for a reason - don't just brush them off or be too quick to think it's you being unreasonable - they might be trying to bring your attention to something you should be noticing.

ItsDecisionTime Mon 27-May-13 19:12:29

Well, that went really badly. He said he was being sarcastic when he said it (he wasn't, I'm sure of it because we had a subsequent conversation when I said I wouldn't feel comfortable paying him for doing the work and he replied that was fine).

He accused me of calling him a money grabber and saying he was begging me for work - none of which I said. He said he was only looking out for me, didn't want me to get ripped off and it would give us more time to spend together. Now, I know he's back-peddling and definitely won't swallow his pride and just admit it was perhaps a bad judgement call and we can move on from it. He ended our conversation saying there was a time to say things and a time to keep quiet but I seemed to think it was ok to say anything and to hell with everyone else.

He did mean to charge me for the work and if I'd gone along with it, so would he.

I'm not really sure where to take it from here. He says he can't move on from it and thinks he should "cool his heels".

How do you get someone who is so stubborn to admit when perhaps they could be in the wrong? Should I just leave it in his hands and go along with any decision he makes? In my head, if he ends our relationship because he can't swallow his pride, then there's no relationship to save. I've eaten humble pie in the past when other things have come up that weren't really my fault but in this situation I don't want to.

At the same time, I'm not afraid to apologise if I really have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. Whatever happens, I won't let it drag on.

ImperialBlether Mon 27-May-13 19:20:08

He's horrible, OP. Honestly, read what you've written about him and think about what you'd advise someone else in this position to do.

Tell him to take as long as he wants. The longer the better.

changechangechange Mon 27-May-13 19:28:47

I think you're both being a bit funny about money tbh. You told him not to worry about the 4k but now you've changed your mind?

Otoh, if you're used to taking the blame for things you know weren't your fault, I'd cut my losses and move on. That's a red flag ime.

ItsDecisionTime Mon 27-May-13 19:37:30

Oh, I never said I'd changed my mind about him giving me back the £4k. It was a gift in every sense and it hasn't come up in the context of our conversations today. The only reason I brought it up on here was to illustrate that I'd been financially generous in the past but he wasn't taking that into account.

It's sometimes easier to just hold your hand up and just say OK, I'm sorry, let's move on. And to be fair, these have always been pretty minor disagreements.

I'm going to let him marinade on things and let him tell me how he wants to take things forward then think on it. I've aired my grievance and now it's been said, it can't be taken back so the consequences are in the lap of the gods.

FarBetterNow Mon 27-May-13 19:52:48

I think you should take this blip as a sign that he is not for you.

You sound very generous and he isn't.
It can be very easy for generous people to be taken advantage of.

When he comes to stay with you, does he pay towards food?

Maybe it's time to rethink the relationship and maybe you won't see any benefit for the £4k you gave him, but at least you won't be subsidisng him any more.

You obviously know there is a problem with him or you wouldn't have posted here.

You are right It's Decision Time.

Best Wishes to you.

ChippingInWiredOnCoffee Mon 27-May-13 20:02:52

Frankly I'd see the huge red flags flapping in the wind here and extract yourself from this relationship. It sounds like it is all take on his side with no give and no committment. Sorry sad I'd also be getting the 4k back or have him do the work if he wants to do it that way (and stay at a friends while it's being done).

WhiteBirdBlueSky Mon 27-May-13 20:04:51

He's 'cooling his heels'? Sounds to me like he's using this argument as a way of backing out of the relationship.

Of course a partner shouldn't charge for work they're doing for you - so long as they're not turning down paid work to do it. Especially if he's at yours rent free when he's home. And you pay for his travel?!

frustratedashell Mon 27-May-13 21:13:41

I think he's taking advantage of you. And now he's cooling his heels because you are starting to see that. No way should he charge you for the work. You pay lots of his expenses and have given him 4 grand. Very unequal partnership! Red flag!

ItsDecisionTime Mon 27-May-13 21:35:47

Does anyone think the statement "I could do with the work" means anything else than he plans to charge for it?

MissStrawberry Mon 27-May-13 21:42:43

nO, IT OSUNDS LIKE HE WAS EXPECTING TO BE PAID. oOPS.

the fact you gifted him £4k would be irrelevant if he was equally as generous and supportive if you needed financial support.

WafflyVersatile Mon 27-May-13 21:49:35

People who need to borrow £4k are rarely in the position to be equally generous or they wouldn't need the £4k in the first place.

I don't really know what to make of it all, tbh.

I guess your choice is dump him now or wait and see, if and when he gets in touch, what he says and take it from there.

lifer Mon 27-May-13 21:53:13

Whoa there!Have to be blunt and say this guy is being a cheeky barsteward and you need to cool things off in a big way with him. Asking someone you are in a serious relationship with to PAY for labour on your house is pretty hard nosed for sure. The fact that he asked this in the first place sounds to me like he doesn't plan a future with you at all. You are in a sense, just another customer.
Put some distance between you for your own good.

Earthworms Mon 27-May-13 21:59:55

'Icould do with the work'.... Well if it were me, I hate to be idle, so if I were ok financially then I'd say this kind of thing - maybe- if I was taking on a project just for something to keep me out of mischief for a few weeks, before the start of a paid job.

Only you know him well enough to know whether he cares more about money or having something to keep him occupied.

From what you have said so far about him it sounds more likely about the money.

Londonmrss Mon 27-May-13 22:04:03

Sounds like his reaction was pretty weird and over the top. Worrying really.
If you truly had misunderstood him, wouldn't he have laughed and said "If course I want planning to charge you! It would be work towards our joint future, wouldn't it?!" Why get so angry about it?

Money is a fucking stupid thing to argue about and he is creating an issue. You have been generous. He has been cheeky and then just rude. He sounds like a bit of a cock to be honest. Get rid. Meanness is a horrible characteristic.

Londonmrss Mon 27-May-13 22:04:39

*wasn't

WhiteBirdBlueSky Mon 27-May-13 22:11:34

I could do with the work might not mean he was planning on charging you if...

...he hates to be idle. As in it would drive him crazy not to be doing anything.
...the work will give him experience that will prove useful.

Um, actually I'm struggling to think of any more. And the second one seems unlikely. Does he hate to be idle OP?

ItsDecisionTime Mon 27-May-13 22:20:57

Earthworms I'd think that too if I didn't know he had a shed load of work in front of him on his own house. He could be fully occupied on it for the next 6 months and it still wouldn't be finished.

It's easy when going through a bad patch for all the negatives to jump out at you but I have to balance those with the positives, and there have been many. It just seems money is always a sticking point for us, well not necessarily for us but for him. He won't take the money off me to finish the house when I have it sitting there. Why? Is that in itself a signal of non-commital or is he really so proud that he wants us to be on an even footing ultimately - which is what he says.

That said, I would't offer it now. Even if we were to bring this back together, the foundations have been left too shaky and he'd need to prove himself to me in a major way.

I'm no push-over and if I've left him with that impression along the way then he'll get a surprise.

noseymcposey Mon 27-May-13 22:27:06

Maybe he really needs to the money? I think that 'I could do with the work' generally means 'I could do with the money'.

Is he having any financial problems? Financial problems can lead to odd behaviour - Just think this is maybe something to consider before you decide that he isn't committed to your relationship.

noseymcposey Mon 27-May-13 22:27:45

Also, you say that he is very busy with work/his house. But he is saying 'he could do with the work'. Is everything as you think on the work front?

lottiegarbanzo Mon 27-May-13 23:44:25

Oh dear, that defensive reaction sounds as though he was expecting to be challenged, probably because he has been before.

Tenacity Mon 27-May-13 23:46:21

OP there are so many red flags flying wildly in this scenario, and you really need to be careful about offering him any financial help in any shape or form.
There is nothing wrong with being generous, but some situations can open you up to being exploited by other people (even with the best intentions in the world). Do you use money to 'buy' love from others?

Your attitudes to money seem on opposite plains, and to buy a house together has 'disaster' written all over it. Don't do it! At least not until you are on the same if ever level regarding sharing your pooled resources. Your expectations are just too different.

I also think that people change, and money corrupts, and by continually dangling money in front of him, you might be creating yourself a monster.

ItsDecisionTime Tue 28-May-13 00:32:47

He lives for each day. Sometimes it's feast, sometimes it's famine. I think at the moment it's the latter although I have asked him and he laughed and said he's not destitute yet. He also has some debtors who owe him money but he doesn't want to chase them as they're friends. I suggested he just lock up the house and come home then I could help him find work here. He's well thought of professionally and it wouldn't take long for him to get on a roll. We are lucky in that we live in a bubble as far as building work is concerned.

He buys and restores other 'stuff' like cars, agricultural machinery etc. so that he has things to sell when times are tough. He also has a grown up daughter who is a financial leech, doesn't work and expects him to pay for everything. So as I see it, things can't be that bad if he's prepared to let that situation go on.

Whatever happens, I'm going to keep money and love quite separate from now on. That's whether I stay with him or move on.

garlicgrump Tue 28-May-13 02:35:08

I'm relieved to see your closing sentence there, Decision. I'm inclined to say I wish you were making a final decision now - walk away from your sunk costs before the sink gets any deeper - and hope you will come to it soon. Glad you posted your update, because that scene reveals a whole lot of qualities you won't want to live with. Read it back when you're not feeling wobbly!

He lives for each day. Sometimes it's feast, sometimes it's famine.

I'm like this. I'm none too proud of it, though I have happy memories of many feasts to smile about during my present, seemingly interminable famine! I'm telling you this because I do accept money when anybody's kind enough to offer it, and have done so for work I knew was going nowhere and/or would have done for nothing. If this happens, I'm extremely upfront about what's happening ("I'm willing to accept this because I'm broke, but want to make it really clear you can change your mind.") and extremely appreciative. Buggering about half-heartedly is mean spirited, imo, and guaranteed to cause problems later on. It sounds like your man's far better at accepting money & favours than giving them out.

Don't set any store by how he treats his daughter; loads of people have blind spots where their DC are concerned. He may even see her costs as a financial obligation you should contribute to.

Be careful. Better still, get out of it and cheer yourself up with the workmen you hire! (I didn't say that last bit, honest wink)

ChippingInWiredOnCoffee Wed 29-May-13 19:51:58

If I were you, as he's so damn keen to keep things on an even level and all that bs, I'd get the 4k back from him, otherwise you are actually the one 'keeping' his grown daughter, not him!

ItsDecisionTime Thu 30-May-13 03:12:02

Wanted to update everyone on where we are with this as you were all kind enough to help me work through the problem.

Bf believes I got hold of the wrong end of the stick as he would never expect me to pay him for work especially given how generous I am to him (and he did bring up the £4k. I think perhaps he's had time to think everything through and take a long hard look at himself.

I'm not so sure as I heard what I heard. However, we have really cleared the air and have been able to discuss the other issues which were bugging me but without me being confrontational about it.

We are going to spend a couple of weeks away at the beginning of July, away from all the pressures of work, and see how we both feel. I want the relationship to work as apart from this, we get on really great. However, I'm nobody's fool and if I still have doubts after our time together, it's time to put an end to it - and I will.

Thanks everyone, couldn't have done it without you wine

garlicgrump Thu 30-May-13 03:28:53

Oh, good! Well done, and thank you for updating smile

You are nobody's fool, are you. Enjoy your holiday - however it turns out.

BalloonSlayer Thu 30-May-13 09:14:08

"He also has some debtors who owe him money but he doesn't want to chase them as they're friends."

hmm . . . anyone else wonder whether he dropped that one into the discussion because he is worried you'll be asking for your four grand back . . . ?

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now