Dear Ms. Peirano,

I am 58, have an adult daughter and a grandchild. Three years ago I met my friend Uli while dancing. He is a very loving, funny and sensitive man.

The problem is that he never placed much importance on his work and safety, but rather enjoyed his life. He is 60 and has taken odd jobs as a carpenter and all-round craftsman. Sometimes I expanded a house here with friends, sometimes I renovated a piece of furniture there, and then I spent a few months on La Gomera. Since he worked a lot illegally and didn’t make any private provisions, his pension is around 400 euros. That won’t be enough to live on.

Uli already has a new hip and can no longer lift as heavy. He is currently working and staying with a friend in a hotel, but that will come to an end in two years because the friend is selling the hotel.

Financially, I am the exact opposite of Uli: I am a trained travel agent and first worked part-time and later full-time. I am thrifty and careful. I have a beautiful 2 1/2-room condominium with a garden and can afford a vacation twice a year and occasionally extras such as my e-bike, which I have been saving for a long time.

At the moment Uli always manages somehow when we go on vacation together. We’ll stay with friends on La Gomera, or he’ll get an order beforehand and then he’ll be fine. But I’m worried about what will happen as I get older. Uli brushes off my worries and says: “I’ve always managed it somehow, it will continue to work.” But in some moments I can tell he’s worried, especially because his body isn’t cooperating anymore. Ultimately it will come down to him receiving citizen’s money.

Uli has often said that it would be comfortable and cheap if we moved in together and shared the costs. But if I’m honest, I don’t really want that. I have always lived alone and, even when I get older, I wouldn’t like to live with two people in my small apartment. And I fear that the lion’s share of the living expenses will then fall on my shoulders. What if Uli has expensive medical treatment (e.g. dentist) that he cannot afford? What about daily expenses when you want to have something nicer (eating out, vacation, activities like dance classes, purchases like comfortable mattresses). Uli won’t be able to pay for it, but should I then pay for everything for two? And I would also like to give something to my grandchild.

After deducting all expenses and food, I have 315 euros left every month, and I use that to make provisions for old age and save for emergencies and vacations. To be honest, I would have a hard time if I had to divide the hard-earned money in half. But another voice in me says: If you love him and you are a couple, you have to stick together.

I’m currently completely unsure of what is expected of me and feel overwhelmed. Do you have your outside perspective and a few tips for me?

Kind regards, Isabelle B.

I work as a behavioral therapist and love coach in private practice in Hamburg-Blankenese and St. Pauli. During my doctorate, I researched the connection between relationship personality and happiness in love and then wrote two books about love.

Information about my therapeutic work can be found at

Do you have questions, problems or heartache? Please write to me (maximum one A4 page). I would like to point out that inquiries and answers can be published anonymously on

Dear Isabelle B.,

I can understand that you feel overwhelmed by the situation. As you write, you were alone for a long time and managed your life reliably and took care of yourself and your daughter. And now, with retirement already on the horizon, you’ve managed to get your ducks in a row: you own a small apartment, have an adult daughter and a grandchild, and you have 315 euros left over every month so you can travel and be able to fulfill a few wishes.

It sounds like it’s all right for one person, but you can’t make too big of a jump.

Then you met Uli, and it became clear that you had imagined a relationship based on the “living apart together” model: everyone has their own apartment and their everyday life, but you meet to spend a good time together and have a relationship Having partners at your side.

And here the situation sounds somewhat like the saying: “I gave him the little finger, and he took the whole hand.” Uli may not explicitly demand this from you, but for a responsible and planning person like you it is clear that Uli cannot finance himself in the long term. You see the risks that old-age poverty brings with it, as well as medical treatments that are not covered by health insurance, and you ask yourself how you can manage it. You’ve made provisions for yourself all your life, you’ve also raised your daughter, but you haven’t planned for Uli.

And unfortunately Uli himself didn’t plan for his old age, but rather took things easy and spontaneously. This carefree and optimistic side of him is probably something that first attracted you to him, because your life follows a different pattern. You didn’t allow yourself to be carefree and just live your day, but rather you worked, calculated and managed carefully. Now the big question is how much responsibility you have to take for your partner if you love him.

An extreme position would be this: If you are a couple, you should stick together and stick together through thick and thin. There is always someone who contributes more, but that shouldn’t be offset. It’s not a trade, but a partnership.

The opposite extreme position would be: Love is also a kind of exchange and should be as balanced as possible. If one partner gives more than the other in the long run, it is a losing deal and destroys love.

I would advise you to think about which of these positions you are more likely to find yourself in. The important thing is that you should feel comfortable with your attitude and not feel pressured to give more than is suitable for you. Because you really don’t have to give up that much with a 2 1/2 room apartment and 315 euros per month after deducting all expenses!

There are certainly many shades of gray between the extreme positions in your model, and it would be an important step for you to discuss these with Uli.

A key issue is whether you want to live together or apart, and in my view it wouldn’t be helpful if you made Uli’s precarious financial situation your problem and let him move in with you if you don’t want to do that yourself.

Imagine that he moves in with you because the apartments he could afford are very cramped and ugly. How would you feel if you only lived with him because of his financial situation and not because it was right for you? At this point, your relationship would go wrong because Uli would be dependent on you in a way. In my opinion, this fits neither with his desire for freedom nor with your pattern of carefully budgeting for yourself and planning for all eventualities.

Financial dependence in a couple’s relationship changes the dynamic, and this is something to consider carefully. Even between parents and children, there is a noticeable difference for both sides when the adult son or daughter is finally standing on their own two feet and is no longer dependent on their parents for support or, for example, has to ask for a new winter coat or a train ticket. Most of the time both parties are relieved and proud when the addiction ends.

If Uli were dependent on you, this could potentially have a very negative effect in your particular situation: you feel robbed of your small, hard-earned financial freedom (315 euros for you per month) and Uli may feel robbed of his spontaneity and freedom. Both of these can backfire. Especially if you don’t like paying for him but are a bit reluctant, it would be better to respect your feelings and not do it.

I would advise you to put your cards on the table with Uli and talk about different scenarios in the future. The different expectations and boundaries should also be discussed. And then you could think together about how you can bridge the financial inequality or deal with it using your very different approaches.

Uli may be able to pull a few tricks out of his sleeve that suit him and his life situation, for example working for friends or going on holiday with wealthy friends, finding spontaneous orders or buying things cheaply (e.g. on Ebay). Perhaps the best course of action would be for him to continue doing what he has done all his life and for you to continue doing what you are used to.

And sometimes you stay with his friends on vacation, and sometimes you pay for a room for the two of you. Then commit to accepting help and being spontaneous, but also keeping your own life stable and not putting too much financial burden on your shoulders.

I hope that the discussions with him will reveal ways in which you can deal with the situation.

Herzlich GrüßeJulia Peirano