I have been a fan of yours since I was 25 years old & now I am 31. Your videos have helped me get through some of the saddest and most frustrating periods of my life. When my mother passed away you made a video talking about getting through lifes storms and surviving heavy times. You cried in that video and Xem I cried along with you. You have encouraged me to live a stronger and better life and I pray that you receive all the opportunities that you’ve been working so hard to achieve. You deserve them. You are the only person I watch on the internet for inspiration or a positive outlook on tough situations. This is why I am writing to you today Xem. I have been in a serious relationship for the past 3 years. We live together in the house that my mother left to me and my older sister. My sister is married and has children so it’s just me and my boyfriend living in the house together. I asked him to move in with me at the time because I didn’t have anywhere else to go and it was tough being in the house alone with just thoughts of my mother. Him coming was such a blessing because he helped me remove my mothers wall paper in the rooms, paint all the walls, redecorate the entire downstairs and make the house easier to live in. My boyfriend didn’t have a job when we met but I was so into him because of how creative he was and how there for me he was after my mother died. I needed the support because my older sister had her husband and was just a mess so I was having to even be strong for her. It’s 3 years later Xem and my boyfriend and I still share my car, but he doesn’t ever have money to put gas in it when he’s driving it. I pay ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL of the bills in the house including buying all of the food, toiletries, dog food for his(our) dog and anything else we may need. My boyfriend is a photographer and a semi professional painter. Sometimes he gets paid for the photo shoots he agrees to do for other people but most of the time he allows himself to be taken advantage of and will take hundreds of pictures for free. My boyfriend doesn’t work a regular day job because he says it doesn’t give him enough time to dedicate to his artwork. He refuses to even consider taking a job painting houses where he could make so much money to at least help with the utility bills we have. I do believe in his talent but it’s hard on me at this point trying to financially keep our heads above water by paying for everything on my own. I have tried to organize and design a website that would feature all of James’s work. One of my best friends is a graphic designer and has agreed to do the website for me as a favor. She knows our situation all too well. I have written an official bio for the website, I designed the layout and have even come up with a price list for my boyfriend to begin charging people for all of the photos he takes. I used my camera to take pics of all of his paintings to also go in a special section of the website. I even began planning a little art show three months ago where my boyfriend could have all of his paintings on display at my godmothers beauty salon and possibly begin selling them to customers. He catches an attitude with me whenever I try to sit down with him to discuss the website or even selling his work. I am getting frustrated Xem because I cant do all of this on my own anymore. My boyfriend just turned 32 and cant even go to the grocery store with a simple list Ive given him and come back home with all of the items. When I leave out to go to work I’ll leave a list on the dining room table of simple things he needs to do to help clean up before I get home and he ignores it. I am literally doing everything. I support his painting and photography, but I need him to be able to financially contribute to supporting our expenses. How do I get through to him because I’ve tried everything at this point?
First, I want to thank you incredibly for supporting my online platform. I love receiving messages from those of you who have been with me since the very beginning. As an artist of sorts myself, I totally and completely relate to the challenges that your boyfriend faces at this stage in his life. He’s mentally battling between doing what he loves everyday and taking on the daily tasks that society dictates for a thirty-two year old man. However, as an adult with grown-man responsibilities, I also understand your financial hardship, as well as your frustrations with your boyfriend’s ‘starving artist’ mentality. You are involved and in love with a man whose passions haven’t yet evolved into a paycheck. You believe in his artistry, but desperately need him to contribute more to the household and daily upkeep of the home you two share.
You must first understand that most artists aren’t driven or motivated by money. For as long as they are able to create freely, they’d be willing to sleep on the street and eat whatever scraps they can get their hands on. This is partly the reason why your boyfriend shoots photographs without charging the models. His compensation comes in the form of seeing the beautiful images that he captured and also being able to add them to his growing collection. Your attempts to put a price tag on your boyfriend’s work may be as frustrating to him, as his lack of income is to you. However, I do applaud your efforts in offering to help him create a website to showcase his photography, as well as organizing an art show that would feature his paintings. I think the issue is possibly your approach to helping your boyfriend create revenue. I’m laughing in my head because my idea of assisting a friend or romantic partner in creating anything is basically to take over, which is precisely what you’ve done. Instead of sitting down with your boyfriend and asking him for his vision or input as it pertains to making money from his artwork, you wrote his biography, took photos of all of his paintings, created a price list for his services and booked your girlfriend to package it all into a website. It was a great idea, but it was also YOUR idea. Just like I’ve done many times in my past, you began taking control of someone else’s life instead of simply aiding them. Some men are receptive to this type of aggressive help, but many others begin to feel emasculated. I’ve learned to make verbal suggestions based on how I would handle a certain issue or dilemma. Then, I allow my friend, associate or romantic partner to ask for my help. At that point, I move forward with the creation of price lists and websites and the other amazing tasks you began handling on your own. It’s not always the idea that our partners reject, as much as it is our tone or presentation that turns them off.
It is also important for you to remember that in the beginning of your relationship, you embraced your boyfriend’s ‘starving artist’ lifestyle. You knew that he did not have a stable job or concrete income when you invited him to move into your mother’s house. It was his creativity that captured your attention, and it was his emotional support that framed the relationship between the two of you. I think it’s unfair that you now hold him to a different level of standards than those you placed on him three years ago. He hasn’t changed from the man you initially met. It’s simply that you are beginning to feel the strain of being with someone who cares more about creating than he does cleaning up, buying a car of his own or contributing financially to the household. Now, you have to really decide whether or not you’re willing to move into a fourth year alongside this man. Do you believe that his talents and passion will someday turn into a paycheck or are you too tired and frustrated at this point to wait until that day comes?
We cannot change, nor can we control the men we choose as our romantic partners. If we allow our unemployed boyfriends to live with us without financially contributing to the relationship, it’s then unfair to get upset as they become increasingly comfortable in the situation we’ve created. If our boyfriends weren’t doing the grocery shopping or cleaning up around the house when we first started living with them, leaving lists of daily chores on the dining room table isn’t going to encourage them to begin taking on those tasks.
Dating a ‘starving artist’ can be extremely difficult for those who don’t have the patience to endure extended periods of financial struggle. I encourage you to sit down with yourself and make a solid decision about how you want to move forward. Your boyfriend is a man who isn’t going to trade in his camera or paintbrush for a cubicle job or steady income. You don’t have to feel guilty for no longer wanting to finance the relationship on your own, and it’s perfectly okay to share those feelings with him for the final time. I’m certainly not going to tell you to leave your man, but I am encouraging you to choose a peace of mind. Nothing in life compares.