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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?


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.

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