Dear Lovehacker, I'm juggling study with part time retail work and my partner is studying on government benefits. She has found her career calling, but it requires significant financial investment for several years before any hope of income. What should I do?
I've been largely financially supporting her for the last year or so. We're both in our early twenties and have poor mental health. She really struggles to work on anything she isn't passionate about which means part-time work isn't an option. I feel like I'm sabotaging her happiness and mental health by not doing more to help her.
Her aspirations and expectations keep growing, despite a shrinking income. I love her, and I absolutely want the best for her, but I can't afford it. I can't work more and I don't know what to do. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks, B
I know it's a cliche, but communication is key here. Have you spoken to them about this yet? Your message implies a level of innocence on their part when it comes to the pressure you're currently under. Do they know how much of a struggle it has been for you? I'm sure they would feel awful about how stressed you are.
I think it's beautiful that you want to do everything possible to help them achieve their dreams. But your relationship is more than just romance and fantasizing about the future. It's a partnership that has to be grounded in reality and be able to withstand the practicalities of life.
Mental health issues and financial restrictions can make that incredibly complicated, but those things won't get better over time by ignoring them. No matter how much you love each other, the road you're going down doesn't sound sustainable.
Empathy has to go both ways and the position you're both in needs to be addressed before it negatively impacts your relationship.
When it comes to their work situation, I do understand. I have struggled through many jobs that I hated. I often felt crushed by the thought I was wasting my life. This is the first full time gig where I've feel personally and professionally fulfilled. And it took me five years to get here.
I coped by working towards my dream on the side. I also tried to bring creativity into my every day jobs where I could.
I won't lie — it was hard. But knowing that I was chipping away at my goal was what kept me motivated, even when I was working two extra jobs to make it happen. Every rude customer, 7am tutoring session and late night close was a step closer.
Even when I knew that I might not be successful and that the competition out there is fierce, I tried to take pride in the fact that I was working as hard as I could and that even if it never happened, I was still in a better situation than many other people.
Could this be a potential solution for your partner? Perhaps they could better cope with a crappy, but paid, role if they were still actively working towards what they really wanted to do?
Perhaps there are even industry adjacent roles that will be more interesting to them? For example, you'll find that a lot of people trying to break into the gaming industry will work at EB, Zing or JB Hi-Fi.
I know this may be easier said than done, especially when mental health is concerned. With that in mind, I was highly recommend that they try to talk to someone about it. This is something that could impact them and their ability to become and stay employed for their entire lives.
A professional may be able to help them work through these issues so they are better equipped to deal with employment and study. It may also be worth seeing someone together if you feel you need more tools to help navigate the situation and your relationship together. It's okay to not have all the answers and reach out for help. More people should do it.
Money may be a barrier when it comes to seeking assistance, but there are options out there that you could take advantage of.
- See if your university, college or TAFE has free counselling or psychology services.
- You may qualify for the Medicare Benefits Schedule initiative, also known as Better Access. That means you would get a Medicare rebate when you see your psychiatrist or psychologist, as well as more than the standard number of sessions.I understand that this might be outside your means at the moment though.
- Access to Allied Mental Health Services (ATAPS) — they can offer free or highly subsidised services for low income earners.
Lastly, it's okay think about yourself. Self care is important. What are your dreams? What are you working towards? Your goals are just important as your partner's. You need to support each other. It isn't a bad thing to prioritise what you want too. That's why it's so good to hear that you're working and studying.
Please don't give that up. Talk to your partner, try and find a way to compromise and don't be too proud to seek professional help if you need it.
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