The High Cost of My Messy Love Life

Though I’d moved my things, my heart refused to follow.

The first time I thought about moving out, I poured myself an oversized glass of red wine and spent the evening browsing through short-term rental listings.

By the second glass, I had messaged a few prospects.

I didn’t want to leave. I loved my apartment. I loved my boyfriend. I loved our life together. But it just didn’t work.

Individually, we were pragmatic and productive. Together, we lived in extremes — euphoria and despair — the cycle of which had become simultaneously unsustainable and addictive.

We didn’t need euphoria. We needed contentment. As two ambitious individuals committed to getting there, we had to be capable of it, right?

By the time the responses to my apartment inquiries came in, I’d decided to stay. But a few weeks later, I was ready to leave again.

We’d been together nearly four years. We’d recommitted to our relationship, to compromise, and to communication more times than I could count, but we were still coming up short — short enough to motivate my search for a new place once more.

But running around upper Manhattan, checking out spare rental bedroom after spare rental bedroom, I couldn’t bring myself to part with the life I already had. So, I abandoned my search.

It wasn’t long before the cycle of discontentment caught up with me, and I decided to take a big risk. I was going to get my own place — no roommates, no boyfriend. Just me.

It might not sound like much for your average 30-year-old woman, but there’s nothing average about living alone in Manhattan. It means that there’s no one to split the astronomical bills with, and there’s no guaranteed help with the little logistical issues that make life in the big city exhausting, like installing the window air conditioning unit in the summer. But most importantly, living alone means you can’t list an additional income stream on your rent application to help you qualify for a place. And to qualify, many places requires that you earn forty times your rent.

That’s right, to rent an apartment in Manhattan, you have to meet stringent earnings requirements. You basically need to be making six figures to qualify for a studio the size of a shoebox. While I made “enough” by the standards of New York City brokers and building managers, renting my own place still felt like an irresponsible stretch. But staying in the same cycle of relationship unhappiness didn’t feel responsible, either.

So, after crunching the numbers and piecing together the mountains of paperwork to prove my sporadic self-employment income, I started the search.

Meanwhile, back home, my heart was tearing itself into pieces, simultaneously eager to move forward while not so secretly hoping the relationship cycle would finally break into happily ever after.

And then it happened. I was approved for my own studio on the Upper West Side. I felt sick to my stomach. I crossed my fingers, hoping my boyfriend and I could finally commit to being our best selves before I had to commit to signing the lease.

But we didn’t make it. I signed the lease and started moving things piece by piece from our shared haven in Harlem to the Upper West Side. By the time I got the apartment staples situated, the utility bills transferred to my name, and the new internet connection set up, the cycle of our relationship had reached a new high, and though I’d moved my things, my heart refused to follow.

And so, again, I stayed.

But this time, I had another rent I was responsible for, a broker fee I’d just paid, furniture I’d just purchased, new bills I’d just transferred to my name, and a one-year lease in my name.

I know I sound totally incompetent. I’m embarrassed by my own recklessness. It’s so uncharacteristic. I’m actually really good at managing money. I don’t spend what I can’t afford, I save, I invest, and I’m even debt-free.

But when it comes to relationships, all that financial savvy doesn’t do me much good. I can’t track the ups and downs of my relationship cycles in a basic budget. I can’t plot out the future of my love life the way I’ve planned out my retirement. I can’t graph the day-to-day changes of my heart with a simple tracking app.

As much as I’d like to build relationship security in the same ways I’ve so diligently built financial security, my messy love life doesn’t organize itself neatly into spreadsheets, and it doesn’t follow natural patterns of growth and loss.

So, I focus on damage control. I can’t afford to stay and pay two rents for a year, so I sublet my new rental to cover the costs.

It’s not perfect. It’s not easy. It’s not simple. But it’s life.

And it’s following my heart (in all its fickleness) while working to prevent my love life from taking a toll on my financial future.

 

Join the Discussion

25 Responses to “The High Cost of My Messy Love Life”

  1. J Bernal

    Great read, sad but true !

  2. Luciana Shortal

    Earning 40 times your rent is a very low baseline and not an outrageous expectation at all. I’d actually be nervous if my rent represented 40 times my salary.

  3. lcgiroux

    Every situation and relationship is different… But as a woman who spent twenty-two years married in a similar situation (The High/Low addictive cycle part) My advice to my younger self would be to get the hell out of that relationship. The mental toll is not worth debilitating yourself. Starting over at 30 is tough, doing it at 53 is monumental.

  4. J.F. Patterson

    Making the transition from your dysfunctional relationship is a big step. You can invest in yourself and move forward to mapping your next stage in life. It sounds like you are very responsible. Taking the time to determine what you want in life and in any future relationships is tough but doable.

    • Stefanie OConnell

      Thank you for the encouragement 🙂

  5. JNoire

    Soooo what was the point of this story? I’m sorry if I’m heartless, but I just don’t get it.

    All I got from this was that you can’t move on. You are stuck in a relationship by inertia because you are too scared to give it up. And it is costing you major money.

    Brokers fees in NYC are anywhere from 10%-15% of the yearly rent.

    The UWS is more expensive than Harlem.

    Damage from the subletting tenant could affect your credit and your ability to get your security deposit back.

    If the subletting tenant decides to stop paying rent and start squatting, it could take months to evict them because NYC is a very tenant friendly city.

    Love does not pay the bills, especially in NYC.

    You are putting yourself in a precarious situation. You know its reckless and incompetent. You said so. So stop it.

    You have to make a choice. Stay in a dysfunctional relationship that is costing you – mentally, emotionally, and monetarily or going through the pain of leaving and potentially experiencing tremendous growth.

    You may also find someone that is better for you. That is the alternative that I am not seeing here.

    • Stefanie OConnell

      Thank you for sharing your perspective. My objective is to simply share my perspective as someone who is incredibly type A with money navigating a non-type A situation.

      While these kinds of personal matters often seem clear cut from an outside perspective, they tend to be far more messy from the inside. I think we all have our own version of them and can gain something from hearing one another’s experiences – even if it’s to remind ourselves of what we should not do 🙂

    • Suzi Q 38

      Have you explored why you are unhappy? Be honest. You have been together for FOUR years. What more is there to learn about him? He must be fairly special for you to stay and live with him for that long.
      My guess is that you are wondering what the next step is, and either he, you, or both of you have yet to take it.
      Dating is getting to know each other and see if you are compatible enough to live with or marry. Living with someone takes it all to the “next step,” and you either want him or you don’t, and vice versa.
      If you have been living with him, one foot in and one foot out, is he really “the one?”
      If not, why are you wasting your precious time? Sorry for my direct talk, but we women need to determine what we want and fulfill our idea of how we want our future to be. We don’t need to be waffling and living with someone for a long time, wasting your youth away. What are you worth? A lot.

    • Tis But A Moment

      I feel you. It’s hard to read your story, as I’d just gone through something eerily similar. 4 year relationship, 3 years living together, both very logical people as individuals, but on an emotional rollercoaster together. Although I loved him and loved the life we built together, I found myself looking at rentals online more and more frequently towards the end. While he was the one to pull the trigger on the breakup, I was the one left looking for a new place…

      I’m glad that I did, though. It hurts to have such a stark contrast between being with someone with whom you’ve built your life, and being alone. But if I’d stayed with him, I don’t think we would have gotten through our issues. We’d tried over the past year. We’d talked about everything over and over again. No progress was ever really made.

      For what it’s worth, I wrote my experience up in the as-purely-financial-as-I-could terms: http://tisbutamoment.com/getting-dumped-cost-2300/

      But yea… I imagine you’re in a very confusing, frustrating situation. I’m sorry. I wish you luck and clarity, and hope you come out of this moment in the best way possible for yourself.

  6. Vicious vixen

    I agree with JNoire – not sure what the point of this article was. She makes six figures, rent in NY is astronomically high, and she’s still in the same situation when she started.

  7. Suzi Q 38

    Have you explored why you are unhappy? Be honest. You have been together for FOUR years. What more is there to learn about him? He must be fairly special for you to stay and live with him for that long.
    My guess is that you are wondering what the next step is, and either he, you, or both of you have yet to take it.
    Dating is getting to know each other and see if you are compatible enough to live with or marry. Living with someone takes it all to the “next step,” and you either want him or you don’t, and vice versa.
    If you have been living with him, one foot in and one foot out, is he really “the one?”
    If not, why are you wasting your precious time? Sorry for my direct talk, but us women need to determine what we want and fulfill our idea of how we want our future to be. We don’t need to be waffling and living with someone for a long time, wasting your youth away. What are you worth? Alot.

    • Marie

      So very true. He may be a lovely guy but I get the feeling he’s not the best for her thus wasting her time, youth and money.

    • Suzi Q 38

      You are right. She may be too young to realize that she may be wasting her time.

  8. J. G.

    the new Yahoo! articles that draw you in, then drop you on your face lol… sheeesh what happened to daily worth? its a complete waste of time! I want my five minutes back lol

  9. Jenn L

    I see myself in your story. The difference is I’ve made the decision to end my dysfunctional relationship. I recognize it’ll be hard financiallly. I live in CA where a 6-figure income is considered low income. But I’d rather have the money problem than suffer the emotional roller coaster in my relationship. You’re brave to admit that there’s an issue in yours. I hope you find another dose of that courage to take the next step.

  10. David

    Wow, he must have a big one ! da’ boing boing !

  11. Marie

    And I thought he was just using her for her good credit…

  12. Suzi Q 38

    I want to add that her telling him she is going to move out, then ultimately renting an apartment, then risking her financial bank balance by subletting the apartment and staying with him is not smart. She is putting herself legally at risk should her “renters” do anything to the apartment or decide not to pay her rent and not move. Does the lease allow for subletting the apartment? It is a legal document, and she should follow the law or possibly end up in court. I am a landlord, and I do not allow people who did not sign the lease live in the property. If anything goes wrong, the landlord can sue her for the damages that her substitute renters caused. Hopefully, nothing will go wrong, and they will move out as planned.
    This happened to my son. He sublet his apartment to a young lady while he came home for the summer. She did not pay the rent the last month, and when it came time for my son to move back in, she refused to leave. She did not pay her rent for the last month that she was there. She told him “I have no where else to go” even thought she knew how long her time at the apartment would be (two-three months). He ended up moving back in, even though she was still living there. He made her life miserable until she moved. He never sublet an apartment again.

    Emotionally, the author is showing her boyfriend her weakness by threatening to move out, then supposedly renting an apartment, then being wimpy and not following through with her “threat” to him.
    He is probably realizing that her threats have little meaning. I truly wish her well, but she is not demonstrating strength and power with her own life.

    • Stefanie OConnell

      Thanks for sharing your son’s experience, subletting can definitely be risky, that’s why I always create contracts and rent apartments I’m allowed to sublet. I spent the majority of my 20s working abroad and out of town, so I became intimately familiar with the subletting process. I know that even with due diligence, it can still be a nightmare if someone decides to squat. Luckily, housing demand is so high in NYC, I’ve always been able to find someone no more than one or two degrees of separation from me to rent my space to, which can also be good for reducing risk. Like you said, so much to consider!

  13. Anita Gilbert

    OK “what’s love got to do with it” ? Girl please you can have that man and a separate apartment too. Move and get on with it. Somethings not right here this codependent self inflicting confessional is just weird. Move move on if this man really wants you he will follow. Is this really about the cozy Harlem apartment? Is this really a territorial issue?
    Is this really about the real estate the physical space if so tell him to move? Why won’t he move? Obviously he has no problems causing you grief and then making you feel like you have to leave and move. I think I saw this movie Vince Vaughn and Jen Anniston. Dump that man get and grow a backbone.

  14. Cat Alford/ Budget Blonde

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I can’t imagine how much courage that must have taken to put it all out there. Most of the people commenting don’t realize how much guts it takes to admit a financial mistake like this on such a large site with so many commenters and opinions. To me, when I read this, I see a lot of strength, a willingness to make your life together, but also a heart that wants to forgive and make things better. I’ll be thinking of you and hoping that it all does work out in the end!

  15. Jessica

    So what happened in the end?! I would really like to know if things worked out or not 🙂