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My partner is Ukranian and we met in Australia. She moved into my home, which I loved, however inevitably the conversation of rent came up.

I live in Melbourne which is a high cost of living area. At first I let her stay without paying rent and when I brought up the idea of her helping me out, she got very offended and flat out refused.

Months have gone by and I’ve let her stay rent free. She offered to pay, but since she does not have much money, I said I’d think about it, since I don’t want to place undue stress on her.

We are moving into a nicer place soon, which we have both spoken about a lot and excited by. I paid the first months rent, then asked her about if she still wanted to help me out, and she exploded at me - saying that I am her partner, not some random friend, so she fully expects me to pay for everything on my own. She expects that from a man, and if they don’t pay for it, they are not a man and its proof that I am not invested in her.

I’m confused. In my culture, splitting rent is proof that both of us ARE committed to the future and it, in my opinion is a pretty basic fundamental aspect of relationships in Australia.

She might be being reasonable, but how can I communicate to her that I'd like her to share the rent, without making a fuss about it or upsetting her?

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    "and its proof that I am not invested in her" - did you already ask her if she is invested in you or if she only needs just someone to pay for her? "Is what she is saying true in Ukranian culture?" - even if it was (what I can't imagine), would it help you to change your mind? I guess no.
    – puck
    Apr 16, 2023 at 10:57
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    How is she about other aspects of living together, such as doing chores, agreeing on plans, not hiding debts, etc? If she expects you as "the man" to do all the heavy lifting, that's a bad sign.
    – DaveG
    Apr 16, 2023 at 14:16
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    After reading that question, I started some research, out of curiosity, about the cultural differences between westerners and former USSR countries, especially Ukraine and Russia. Amazing! A lot has been written, and the last century history, the weather and patriarchal society are the triptych of trying to understand the people and attitude. I suggest you read these articles and studies, as it would be too long to use it as an answer, it's a complete psychological study. It's edifying...
    – OldPadawan
    Apr 19, 2023 at 4:59
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    Red flags my friend. I'd walk from this relationship.
    – rhoonah
    May 30, 2023 at 14:11
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    I'm not saying she's a gold digger but I imagine she'd be less interested in someone of modest financial means. Jun 9, 2023 at 9:30

2 Answers 2

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If you guys stay longer together, you will have much more of this, and you better settle this now, otherwise you will face much steeper issues down the road. Who pays for the next car? Who pays for kids' schooling?

You have a much better chance of solving this specific issue by solving the issue of balance at large, instead of trying to solve them one by one and creating a tit-for-tat or revenge/regret situation.

There are 2 opposing options to go on with this with a lot of grey zones in the middle.

On the one side, you have a factual separation of goods (i.e. financials) and an assumed/felt balance of work/duties which is always very subjective, since it's hard to compare different duties managing a household as 1:1 as you can compare expenses. This case is a very technical one, where you reduce the need for discussions to the maximum and also prepare yourself for an eventual separation at the same time since you basically attach ownership to everything in the household, e.g. if the car is owned 50/50 since you decided that when you bought it. In order to go down that route however, you will have to get ready on both sides to get rid of all many potential cultural notions, be it who changes the diapers of the baby or who's paying for dinner. It therefore requires that you both agree that you do not want to take the other's cultural values into account at the price of giving up your own. This can be tricky however since there might be an eternal grudge coming up every time someone needs to do or pay for something they consider the other's duty. And you might have situations where you split costs or duties in a way where BOTH your cultural values being violated just to create equity.

On the other side, you have a completely subjective balance, based on cultural values and shared emotions on how the other's cultural values are being understood. This is easy where both of your cultural values align (e.g. both of you think that it's her job to cook), but the more points you agree on, the harder it gets to accept that some parts are different and have strong cultural values in the other person's brain. The risk (and what happened with you apparently) is that a difference in cultural values comes as a surprise and is perceived as one person trying to take advantage of the other.

This requires a lot of sensible communication where everyone, before making a request on who pays for what or who does what, acknowledge first that this discussion is NOT about taking advantage but actual cultural value differences. Once you both understand that the intention is actually to have a balanced relationship AND respect for BOTH of your cultural values, you have a chance to prepare for instances where either the impact is large because the expenses or workload is high (pay rent, buy a car, cook everyday) or where the cultural value is surprisingly high (e.g. "I would never talk to a repair man, that's your job") despite it seeming like a small issue by the other side.

In this case, you need to first have a conversation with your partner that those differences in cultural values actually exist and maybe have a conversation that lists "typical" female/male roles and how you both see those. If she does not expects to pay for the apartment, maybe she plans to also never work again once you are married or that both of your income goes anyhow into a shared account. You better want to know that now and be prepared to give up some of your expectations if you expect her to do that as well.

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It's hard to offer a reasonable approach to handle this without fully knowing your girlfriend's perspective. So let me give you a broader overview.

First, yes, there is a component of cultural misunderstanding. Ukranians, like Russians, are not culturally western but have a Eurasian culture (a mix of both Europe and Asia). So as an indian, I can culturally relate to her view of the typical household she describes and can offer you a perspective on it.

Broadly, in such a marital relationship the division of labour is:

  1. The husband is expected to be the earning member who protects and provide everything for the family.
  2. The wife is expected to have the responsibilities of fully managing the household and providing nurturing care for the family members.

If both partners are willing to this, it's actually a pretty reliable and good setup for raising a family - the earning member can fully focus on his career, without needing to worry about daily household chores or kids, which is the wife's responsibilities. Everyone in the family gets home-cooked meals, thanks to the wife. Kids grow up with one parent always there to watch their progress, in the early developmental years, and not feeling alone or neglected. Raising kids can become a community activity when the kids are younger as many home-maker wives plan social activities together - kids learn valuable social skills. As the kids grow up, and become more independent, the women gets more and more free time for her personal hobbies and / or social activities. Both husband and wife make some sacrifices for each other and for the kids.

Overall, you provide a stable environment for your kids to grow up in. (Assuming, ofcourse, that both parents are psychologically healthy individuals :).

While today the role a a wife as a home-maker is demeaned, anyone who has managed a household knows that it isn't an easy or cushy job at all. And that's where the kicker comes - if the man doesn't have a good profession, and doesn't make enough money, the wife's responsibilities becomes more stressful - if a husband can't provide her with a washing machine or a dishwasher or a microwave (or even a part-time maid, if you are a middle-class, in my country) that can make her job easier, she is going to be burdened with more physical chores. If you can't provide her with a car, she has to waste time travelling on public transport. All this means that the wife will have less time for her own needs and her family members.

That is why, it must be clear, why there is a cultural view that a man who doesn't provide a reasonably comfortable life is seen as someone neglecting his wife and family, by not earning or sacrificing enough for them. (From that perspective, you can see that the rosy picture of a man always relaxing and having nothing to do because his wife is a home maker, ain't really that rosy at all. :) Similarly, a women who doesn't uphold her own end of the bargain - to manage the household and the kids responsibly is looked down in such a society.

First decide if you like the idea of such a setup, where the divisions of responsibility are clear cut between the husband and the wife - the husband is the sole earner, and the wife manages the household.

If you don't like it, you have your answer on how to handle this. You need to tell her clearly that isn't the kind of setup you envision for your marital life. That you see your marriage as a partnership where both members work and financially contribute for the family, and both members share household chores.

If she doesn't agree to that, you have to make a decision whether to compromise or let go.

Otherwise, from her offer to pay you once, I assume she has a job. In that case, if she really expects you to take care of all the household finances, without any contribution from her, then it is not at all culturally insensitive or unreasonable to ask her to assume the full responsibility of household chores (and if necessary to work only part-time or quit her job).

It's good that you are realising the difference in financial values both of you have so early on - different financial values is one of the major reasons why marriages fail.

To sum up, decide the kind of married life you see for yourself. Decide if your current girlfriend can fulfil it (without suppressing her own desires). If yes, ask her what kind of marital life she seeks. If both of you can come to an common agreement and an amicable and acceptable understanding, good for you all. Otherwise end the relationship immediately.

(Note also that attacking your manhood in an outburst, when you were trying to share an important concern with her, indicates that she has an anger problem. This can create a lot of communication problem in the problem and will not be healthy for your relationship in the future.)

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