‘I cook and clean’: I live with my boyfriend. We’re 51. I pay for all utilities and groceries. Now he wants me to pay half his mortgage.

Dear Quentin,

I have been in a relationship with this man for five years. I moved into his home a year ago. The plan was for me to pay all the utilities, dog expenses, and groceries. I cook and clean, and take care of things around the house and now he is asking me to pay half his mortgage. He does not want to marry me — nor put me on the deed to his home. 

I don’t think it is right that I help him pay half of his mortgage. What do I get out of this? We are both 51 years of age. I have nothing to my name, no security, and I’m not sure if it is a smart thing to do. Can you please help me? I am very confused on how to handle this. Some people say pay half and others say move out. What should I do?

Feeling Desperate 

Related: My husband, 76, and my daughter, 26, don’t get along. How do I make sure he doesn’t disinherit her if I die first?

“You are better off finding a place with roommates than subjecting yourself to this kind of demeaning arrangement.”

MarketWatch illustration

Dear Desperate,

Your boyfriend has a live-in girlfriend and housekeeper. 

There’s something odd about a relationship where one person does all the cooking and cleaning, and pays all the bills in exchange for accommodation. How does this make you feel? That will give you your answer. You may rationalize your decision, but as a wise woman once told me: “Your mind will lie through its teeth, but your body never lies.”

The bottom line: You can’t expect to live anywhere rent-free and, despite the rising cost of rents in the U.S., you are better off finding a place with roommates than subjecting yourself to this kind of demeaning arrangement. You’re not the only one: More households are renting than at any point in the last 50 years, according to the Pew Research Center. 

Dare I add: Your boyfriend has done you a favor. He has shown you who he is; anyone who is prepared to have a partner cook and clean, and pay all the bills in lieu of rent should be avoided or looked at with a skeptical eye. This seems like a series of micro humiliations, culminating with his request for you to pay rent. It would have made sense to pay rent from the start.

However, he has given you valuable information. There will be no marriage and no commingling of assets and, frankly, that is a wise decision if he does not believe your relationship has long-term prospects. If the roles were reversed, and you were the homeowner, I would tell you the same thing. It is time for you to put a higher value on yourself.

You can rent, you just don’t have to rent in your current abode. The price gap between renting and buying hit the widest point since 2000 — it’s roughly 62% more expensive to buy rather than rent, according to a recent analysis by the real-estate technology platform Cadre based on data from the real-estate information provider CoStar Group
the St. Louis Fed and Zillow. 

The key questions concern you and your financial future: Do you have any income that would allow you to buy your own place — when interest rates finally start to decline from 8% — or rent? What did you do before you moved in with him? Could you start saving for an emergency fund or a down payment? Is it worth sacrificing your self worth for such an arrangement?

It’s cheaper to rent in most places. The median price of a home hovers at $348,539, according to Zillow
The median asking rent has surpassed $2,000, per separate data from Redfin
The company estimates the median monthly mortgage payment is around $2,866. Talk to friends and family. Everyone needs a support network to make big decisions.

You will feel less trapped if you don’t take this journey alone.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

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Previous columns by Quentin Fottrell:

My wife received a $1 million payout from her employer when she retired. Am I entitled to 50% of that if we divorce?

I’m a 61-year-old single librarian and ‘proud’ Democrat from Maine. Should I move to Florida like Jeff Bezos?

I cosigned my boyfriend’s mortgage, but I’m not on the deed. I didn’t want to marry again after a costly divorce. How do I protect myself?

‘I cook and clean’: I live with my boyfriend. We’re 51. I pay for all utilities and groceries. Now he wants me to pay half his mortgage.

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