The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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My girlfriend thinks I should constantly be giving her money.



































(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Dr. Kenner:      Right now I want to welcome John to the show. John, you're arguing with your girlfriend?


John:               Yes, hi Dr. Kenner. It's a constant fight over money issues. I'll give you the situation. I produce, I work, I'm an occupational therapist. She doesn't work. She lives with her aunt. She comes from a culture where, in Beijing, where in that culture, the Chinese gentleman will often buy lots of gifts for the girlfriends and shower them with money. I'm an American, so I have a different view about money issues and I think I shouldn't be giving her money so she can spend.


Dr. Kenner:      It's much more for a fair, trader relationship in the States.


John:               She doesn't understand that point. She always accuses me of not caring for her because I don't give her money. I just don't know how to respond and make her understand that it should be a trader relationship and not just take, take, take. 


Dr. Kenner:      The question, a more fundamental question to ask yourself is, is this the right relationship for you? If there are many, many good things in the relationship and this is the only stumbling block, then it makes a lot of time to think about it, to work through this and to help her, help both of you understand that there's a cultural difference here that's also a philosophical difference, isn't it? It's a different way of looking at the world. In one sense it's like, I grew up in the 1950s and how many moms in the 1950s didn't work? I mean, it was seen - you may not believe it - but it was seen as a negative if your mother had to work. The mothers would be taken care of, the husbands would be the breadwinners, Leave it to Beaver type. You may not even know that, I'm showing my age here! But if she's expecting a lot of gifts and money and it's not something that you can afford or you enjoy doing, then you want to have a discussion on how you can show affection differently. It may not be quite the American way. It might not be quite the Chinese way, but you may be able to find something that works for both of you.


John:               Okay. Dr. Kenner, I've tried those other things. I help her in school, I give her moral support, I give her my love and attention. But the money issue comes up time and time again. We just got into a fight tonight. She wants to move out on her own, but then she wants me to help her with her rent. 


Dr. Kenner:      But it's a dependency relationship then. It's hard. When you're with someone you love - my husband did help me through school and I've helped him at other times. But there's an understanding that it's temporary. Once I get through school, I'll be earning my own income. But to expect it and to demand it is different from you saying, "Hey, I'd love to be supportive while you're in school. If you want to move out I have a lot of money and I'd love to give you that." If you don't have it, or if it's against your principles, you need a method of communicating with her. Can you be her for a minute? First, ell me what happened tonight?


John:               Tonight we had a discussion. Her mother was sick in China and her aunt kind of has power over her too. By giving her money, control. The use of money. She helped her mom in China, showering her with money, and now she feels obligated to her aunt.


Dr. Kenner:      She's learning a very important principle. If she takes the right take home principle away from this, which is that when you accept a "gift" from somebody - financial support - you feel indebted to them. You feel like you owe them who knows what, your life? You owe them your career, giving up your career for them. You owe them whatever they want.


John:               Right. That's what I tried to explain to her. That's how we got into a fight. I said, "Now you're going to feel indebted to your aunt all the time. You're going to feel obligated." Tonight she put on this big party for her aunt, to show - 


Dr. Kenner:      Gratitude.


John:               Yeah, gratitude. I said, "You didn't have to do that. You're going against your principle. You're doing it not because you love her, but because you feel obligated."


Dr. Kenner:      Duty. She can see that if somebody said, "Ellen, I gave you a big party. Not because I like you - I don't really care for you. You're kind of controlling. But you gave me some money and I want to pay you back, so here's the party for you." Man, I don't want that party! What she needs to grasp is psychological independence. I can think of, can she read English?


John:               Yes she can.


Dr. Kenner:      I don't know if she enjoys reading novels, but I learned about psychological independence by reading the book The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Psychological independence does not mean that you live on an island and you never connect with anyone else. Instead, psychological independence means you build self-respect. That you can speak your mind assertively, not aggressively, but you don't let people walk over you and you don't walk over other people. Another aspect of it is that you work - you might need to go to college for a period of time - but your goal is to become self sufficient so that, barring some cases where people are handicapped, and handicapped people can earn a good living too, but assuming you're not barred physically or mentally from pursuing some sort of career, you want to have something of interest in your life. You want to have some sort of career. You want to sit back and ask yourself, are you dutifully staying in this relationship because the goal, I would think, if you're a self-supporting and self-respecting person, that you would want someone, like you're saying an American, and it doesn't have to be an American, but someone who carries that same policy. Who has built that into that character. She has not built independence into her character. She's built dependence into her character and she's being trapped by now feeling she has to do for other people. You never get out of that trap. She is not a good catch, unless she changes. So, your thoughts on staying with her?


John:               Yeah. I've actually tried to teach her those principles. 


Dr. Kenner:      But you can't be their therapist for life. You want to be a partner. So you may want to sleep on it a bit, but really consider is she the right person for you? You don't want someone that is going to be dependent on you, and you can't change her. I mean, you can recommend Atlas Shrugged, you can recommend The Virtue of Selfishness. That is a phenomenal book, also by Ayn Rand, at my website, Listen, thank you so much for your call.


John:               Thank you Dr. Kenner.


Dr. Kenner:      You're welcome.