Can You Afford Not To?

One thing that I’ve failed to mention about Mr. Hive (intentionally, maybe?) is that he doesn’t have a college education. Nothing. He dropped out after one semester because at the time he wasn’t ready for college. He isn’t dumb, he just wasn’t ready to go straight out of high school. There isn’t anything wrong with this (in my opinion) and for some career paths having a college education isn’t necessary – and many of these are high paying.

However, on the whole, you have to be pretty ambitious or pretty intelligent or pretty gifted in a particular field to make a decent salary without a college education.

Mr Hive doesn’t fall in to any of those categories above. He’s bounced around from job to job and currently at 31 has found himself in his highest paying job yet. Making $14/hour. A job has no upward mobility. Or very little. He makes around $28,000/yr before taxes. And really, he isn’t skilled enough in any particular field to do better without pursuing some education.

He has aspirations for some day working in the IT field. Which many people can do without a degree if they are self motivated to learn the material on their own – which he has not done. Or have gone through formal education to learn the material – which he has not done either.

I told him when we first started dating that it didn’t bother me that he was uneducated, however, I did know that if nothing was done career-wise or aspiration-wise that eventually it would start to bother me. Our first date he mentioned how he wanted to go back to school and get a degree in IT. The start of 3 semesters later and it finally has eaten away at me. If someone was truly motivated to pursue this career path as he claimed he was when we first started dating, wouldn’t they be saving up money to pay for the tuition? Pursuing the certification exams that are widely accessible online? Consulting with his two good friends who are in the field on the path that they both recommend? Wouldn’t a person who was truly motivated to make a career path change to better their life being doing something more than complaining about where they were at?

The community college near us even offers an A.A. degree in exactly the field he wants to be in which INCLUDES an internship component. The job that he’s at can be done at less than full time if he wanted to pursue school full time and work part time. Also, all the classes are available in the evenings if he wasn’t to continue working full time and do school part time.

I essentially told him a few weeks ago that I had reached my limit. He needed to do something. Maybe it is arrogance, but while I understand that people are not always ready for college at 18, if someone says they’re ready for it now and they don’t do it I start to believe after a certain period of time that I’ve been had and they’re really just full of crap.

(Also, it is very embarrassing for me, the Ph.D. to confess to people who don’t know him that I am dating a guy who dropped out of college in the first semester. Seriously. I’d at least like a college graduate, but maybe that’s my own hang up?)

Last night he then asked me if I would “help him with the application”.

Me: “Have you gone online and looked at it?”

Him: “No.”

Me: *FLIP A LID* Seriously? You are asking for help but you haven’t even gone online to look at it? Why don’t you go look at it, start it, and see if there is actually anything you need help with.

You have to understand. I’m an educator. I HATE HATE HATE when students come in to my office asking for “help” but they’ve never even ATTEMPTED to try the problem on their own. Try it on your own and THEN come back with your specific issues. You may find that it is much easier than you thought it was, once you start.

He says okay and gets online and within 5 minutes he’s finished with the application – without my help.

Later we’re talking and he says “I’m just not sure if I can afford to go to school right now.”

I respond: “Well, you’re in a job where you have absolutely no hope of ever earning more money. Or you have the option of being SUPER poor for a 1.5-2 years while you earn your degree and then have an earning potential of twice what you make now (or more). I don’t think the question is whether you can afford to go to school right now or whether you can afford to NOT go to school right now?

I’m starting to feel like I’m pushing him too much, but I think he needs to be pushed. If he doesn’t want to be pushed, fine, but then I need to not be dating him. He seems to want someone to magically come along and pave the way and hand him his class schedule and a pile of cash and say “Here, have fun.” But that isn’t life. Sorry. You have to seek out what you want, opportunities are earned – not given.

I’ve given him (in my mind) an arbitrary date of Fall semester. He needs to have figured out what he wants and how he’s going to pursue it by then, or we will need to figure out something different in our relationship.

Harsh? Probably. But the reality is that when we first got together the impression from our very first conversation was that he was motivated to pursue this, and that was a condition I was okay with in terms of dating him. And to find out 10 months later that it was a complete farce is more than I can handle for a long term relationship.

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24 Responses to Can You Afford Not To?

  1. I think you have two issues here – a lack of college education and a lack of motivation.

    I sympathize deeply with the first. I have a JD (doctorate of law), my dad has a JD, my Mom and brother both have college degrees, my 4 grandparents all had at least undergraduate degrees. I never guessed I’d fall in love with someone who never got a high school diploma. For a long time, it bothered me that my husband didn’t have that piece of paper; I was raised to believe that anyone with any ambition got at least a baccalaureate as a matter of course. It’s just what our kind of people did. Eventually, I got over it, in part because, although my husband has no education, he was very motivated, and he does have a career (yeah, it is in IT ).

    It sounds like Mr. Hive is just not very career motivated. He knows what he is “supposed” to do (get a degree), but he isn’t motivated enough to actually do it. Before you write him off, you should think about what you need in a partner. As Western women, we are socialized to believe that men should act in a certain way, including having a career, rather than a job. But you already have a career, and it’s far easier to have a relationship where one of you has a career and one of you has a job. For instance, if you got the job in CA next year, it would be easy for him to transfer jobs and come with you the way things are now. If he’s in school, preparing for a career, he will need to stay.

    Whatever you do, for your own sanity, do not try to be his mother and make him go to school. If he can’t even be arsed to fill out the application form without prompting, I don’t think he has any fire in his belly about this. Do you really want to have to nag and guilt him into schoolwork all the time?

    • SS4BC says:

      I do understand the aspect of one person having a job and the other having a career. I suppose what bothers me the most is the aspirations without any backbone behind them.

      I see this translating to other aspects of life. “I really wanted to take the kids out to go play in the playground, but I just didn’t.”

      I think that people are defined but what their actions, and his actions say that he wants nothing more than to play video games, have a meaningless job, and gripe about how little money he has for the rest of his life. And that isn’t something I can get behind. It isn’t the money aspect I care about as much as the job he’s chosen. He hates it, but not enough to do anything about it. If he was in a job that he loved, it would be a completely different story.

      • I hadn’t picked up that he hated his job. I wouldn’t want to listen to someone gripe about their job for a lifetime either, and if he’s not really motivated to change it, there may not be much you can do about it. Good Luck!

  2. eemusings says:

    I think you should also consider the possibility he is scared. I don’t have an advanced degree, but I’m still a white collar Asian girl engaged to a white uneducated boy from the wrong side of town. The thing is, he is not unintelligent (he was tested as “gifted” in school but was also kind of a hyperactive troublemaker, and saddled with a dirt poor family and a reputation to live up to – one of *those* cases). After a few false starts after high school, he got university entrance, but decided not to go because frankly, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, and neither of us believes in going into debt for an education you aren’t invested in personally (but it’s certainly an option later on). He is also one of those golden people whom everything comes easily, effortlessly to – he’s excelled at everything he’s ever done. Yet during one of our conversations he confessed to being scared of failure (incomprehensible to me, because simply he has no logical reason). Still, I suppose the academic world – even undergrad – is foreign and intimidating to the kind of jock-type guy he’d be if we were American, much less one who’s the first to ever set foot on a campus in his entire family tree. I second Lost Goat in saying do not mother him, but do realise he may need some guidance and some encouragement (unfortunately when T was doing his course I was in my last semester of journalism school and was strung incredibly thin, and had little patience for him).

    His problems? He’s not one of those people with “a calling”. He’s externally motivated, by money, by others (which is better than no motivation), and has an excellent work ethic on the job. If all goes well at his current workplace, he has good long term prospects and could get some great transferable skills/qualifications – but waiting doesn’t come naturally to him and offers of high-paying, short term work in his old field are very tempting. He’s easily bored (nearly 23 and into his third industry). Fields he’s considered working in: IT, accounting, teaching, and many trade variations (he’s good at and enjoys working with his hands and seeing the fruit of his labour).

    Only you can make this decision. Is he driven enough for you? Is this a relationship dealbreaker? Not everybody is career-motivated, but whether you can live with that is up to you. For me, the things that matter may differ from yours – that he treats me well, puts me first, is motivated enough to make a decent living (to be fair he is on about $35k currently and itching to make much more), is generous and kind and moral. Sometimes a single person can make us rethink our preconceptions of a “musthave” in a partner, but I get the feeling that’s not the case for you.

    Anyway, this will if nothing else show you how much Mr Hive values the relationship, but if he does this solely and entirely for you, then that’s probably not a recipe for success, either.

    Email me if you want to talk more about it!

    • SS4BC says:

      He absolutely is scared. I know he’s scared. I get that.

      But there is a point where desire has to trump fear. And it has been way too long that he has let fear get the best of him. In this, and in other aspects of his life.

      I can live without him being career motivated, that actually isn’t the issue. What is the issue is telling me he wants more and doing nothing about it. That is what bothers me. If he was happy with his job and used it to pay for a life he enjoyed, I would be happy for him. But he isn’t happy with his job. He tells me it is “killing his soul”.

      He treats me fantastically. He is kind and gentle and loving. I would just like… well… a smidge of self-starting power or motivation.

      I have told him repeatedly, that if he does this for me he’s doing it for the wrong reasons, it has to be for him. Whether or not he gets that I have no idea. The reality is that he could see him “having” to go as the only way to “keep me” and then we still don’t make it for a variety of other reasons and then he is mid-way through a degree he doesn’t actually want and in debt from it. He has to want it for him, not for me.

  3. girrrrrrrrl, we need to talk.
    My husband didn’t graduate college, and I found out after I married him. Don’t get me started on that one.
    As someone who values education IMMENSELY, and worked damn hard to get her degree, I was flabbergasted to find his sorta laid back attitude toward education. From what I know, he’s only a few classes short of graduating but I hate that this now becomes OUR responsibility rather than his.
    My husband makes about the same annually as your boyfriend working as an EMT. Which means 24-hour shifts, usually on weekends, and he’s testing for fire departments so we have to pay to fly him everywhere and hotel too and food while he’s there. It’s just a sucky situation. SUCKY. I get no time with him, and I have less spending money than when I was single because I have to cover his share.
    Of course I love him, of course I still think he’s the one for me, and he’s absolutely amazing and most likely, I would have married him anyway had I known all this, but STILL it doesn’t make it any easier. So my advice to you? Don’t get married unless he gets his shit together. You obviously have a very good head on your shoulders that you’re already thinking that…

  4. Kerry says:

    If he’s got a general lack of motivation, nothing will really fix that. I speak from experience. And I wish I’d gotten out of that relationship earlier. I second those who say you’re not his mom and it’s not your place to fix him. It does sound like yeah, the no degree thing is bothersome, but it’s the lack of desire to do something more with himself that makes you incompatible in the long-run.

    • Kate says:

      Seconded! I also wish I’d gotten out of a similar situation earlier. I *could* live with it, *for now*, but a) why would I?, and b) I wouldn’t have been able to put up with it indefinitely.

  5. I’ve learned that you can’t make someone change their mind about education – i.e. if you believe education is crucial and necessary, no one is going to talk you out of it. If you believe that you can live without it, no one can talk you into prioritizing it. At the end of the day, if he enrolls in school to appease you, is it for the right reasons? He might resent you for it. Please know I definitely understand your reasoning too. It’s his choice whether or not he returns to school and your choice whether or not you stay with him.

  6. jane says:

    You’re concerns are genuine and something you should not belittle or ignore. Nothing is wrong per say with not having a degree, like you mentioned with sufficient motivation and interest, a person can do well for themselves but Mr.Hive has had more than enough time to get his shit together. At 31 with no degree, he could have gotten himself into much better job situation if he had actively pursued it. Seems to me that he doesn’t really have the ambition to succeed in the things he’s said are important to him. Maybe he was just intimidated by your academic success on that first date where he mentioned a desire to go back to school. Academics is not the issue here though, it’s his ability or lack thereof to follow through on his word. A man with a plan and the will to pursue it, is not too much to ask for. You’ve worked and pushed yourself hard to get to where you are, ambition and drive are obviously important to you and something you should also value in a man that you potentially will choose to open up your life, finances, emotions too. His indecisiveness on this at age 31 should and must make you question his long term potential effectiveness as a provider, helpmate, father, etc.
    If he’s a great guy and you figure you can deal with the uncertainty and doubt that the dichotomy between his words and action have presented thus far, it maybe be worth your while to see things through with him. If you know you’re the type of person where these concerns will grow and potentially turn to resentment (as is common in relationships where one party is dissatisfied, unfulfilled, etc in some way) I say get out of the relationship. Time’s a wasting, you shouldn’t have to cajole or mother a man into to manning up.

  7. TeacHer says:

    I have SO many thoughts about this issue, I’ll try not to hog up all the comment space.

    My dad doesn’t have a college degree and my mom’s bachelor’s is in fine arts – like, painting. Yet they are both incredibly motivated, hard working people and will make more money than I could ever imagine making, working in fields that they probably never thought they would.

    My bf has a master’s (like me) but would have been perfectly happy working in construction his whole life. He was pressured into a master’s by his dad (a lawyer) and I think really yearns for a job where he can make things, work with his hands.

    Both of these anecdotes show that this is a very personal decision for everyone – which career path to take and how much education to pursue. However, I think you’re fed up because Mr. Hive HATES his work and has no motivation to change his situation. If he liked his work but was poorly paid, I think the situation would be different. I think you are SO right that this quality can translate to other areas of life, and that you are SO right to be up-front with him about this. You really don’t even have to explain yourself to him – or anyone else – about how you feel about this. It’s how you feel. And you shouldn’t have to settle for a relationship that you don’t feel comfortable in – for any reason.

  8. Girls are way more proactive and motivated that guys. For real.

    This is a tough situation — from everything you’ve said about Mr. Hive, he is a super stand-up, sweet, nice guy. But this a fundamental, major difference. People say a lot of things at the beginning of the relationship to impress the other person, but I feel like their true self comes out over the next months. It sounds like he doesn’t really want to go … and it sounds to me like you don’t want to nag him about it (which is understandable … I HATE nagging).

    You are NOT being too harsh either. Everyone wants to build a life with someone that they can lean on and depend on and not have to worry if they’ll ever move forward in life, career, etc.

    I dunno … so tough!!

  9. NDChic says:

    I think that what really bothers you is that he lacks ambition. Ambition to get a college degree or a better job. He could get a good paying job without a college degree. If he really likes the field he is in, he could start his own company or something similar. My husband doesn’t have a college degree and only has a GED. However, after the army, he’s been super motivated and now has a good job.

    I think your comment about playing video games is more telling on how you feel about his situation. I can see how it would be embarrassing to you that he doesn’t want to do something to better his situation.

    With my job, I talk to people about their finances and incomes. I will often see people who just aren’t motivated to make more money. Some of them have college degrees and some don’t. I also see some people who don’t even have a high school diploma but make very good money because they were willing to pursue a high paying job. My dad’s best friend didn’t even have a high school diploma and started his own construction company with his brother. They sold the company about 25 years later for 60 million. Not too bad for a high school dropout.

    I think that if he doesn’t change his attitude about his future, it would really take a toll on your long term relationship.

  10. psychsarah says:

    Woh-rough stuff. I can kinda relate to some of what you’re saying. Here I am with my PhD, and DH left university with 2 credits left to complete, because he was out of money and had to work. I kinda get it, but sometimes it kinda drives me insane. (Just do the two lousy credits for heaven’s sake!!) He’s since worked hard and become an sought after expert in his field, but there are days that his lack of degree acts as a barrier in his job. I am a person who finishes things and once in a while it drives me batty to see that he doesn’t have this same priority. That said, he does have ambition (just not the kind that would have him finish school) and he has many other wonderful qualities that make him a great partner, so this isn’t the a big issue in our relationship.

    For you, it sounds more like a “process” issue than a “content” issue. It’s not so much that he doesn’t have a degree of some kind, but more that he isn’t following through on comments he’s made. I wonder if there are other areas where he does demonstrate follow through, or if this is a more insidious issue? It seems from reading between the lines, you’re sensing this issue as a possible harbinger of other concerns down the road? To that I’d say trust your gut. Good luck.

  11. Just in general I can’t handle being around folks that complain and complain without actually doing something about it. No matter who they are. Like that lady in When Harry Met Sally who was dating the married man.

    No advice, but I get what you’re saying. My ultimatum would probably be stop complaining or do something about it. Maybe he’d get something out of reading Your Money or Your Life.

  12. Ella says:

    I hear you and I don’t think you are being harsh at all. It is not just a question about getting a college degree, it is about not going to college when you actually want to. I don’t understand people who say they want something, but do not take any efforts to achieve that! One thing I have realized is that it is very hard to make people change their habits. Mr Hive might go to school for IT now, because you have given him an ultimatum, but you can’t expect him to be super motivated about anything else in the future unless you give him a hard time about it.

    This is a tough situation. Good luck. Hope things work out the way you want them to,

  13. One of the smartest people I know doesn’t have a college education – he makes furniture and digs wells because he enjoys seeing the fruits of his labour. But he loves what he does and is happy to live simply on what he makes… which it seems Mr. Hive doesn’t.

  14. As someone who doesn’t have a college education (and who recently wrote a post about the downfalls of our college or bust philosophy) I can understand that some people just aren’t cut out for college. For me, I knew I didn’t have the attention span to go through 4 more years of school, so I went to work instead.

    This isn’t a college issue though, I don’t think, it’s an ambition issue. He hates his job, and then doesn’t care about moving forward. And for me, I might as well be dead if I’m not working towards something.

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  16. Personally, I don’t think the degree is really important, but the desire to do something better is the key.

    I love the quote from this article “You are what you do”: http://www.jdroth.com/words/action-is-character/

    I think you guys are done – you want someone with ambition and he doesn’t have any.

  17. Money Rabbit says:

    I have unfortunately dated two men with serious lack of ambition. And in my experience, ambition is either something that burns inside you, or it doesn’t. It cannot be taught, or inspired, or coaxed. You either want to live a better life, or you don’t.

    Perhaps Mr. Hive is different – maybe he just needs a patient and guiding hand to help him along, but it seems like he’s comfortable, which I’d argue is most dangerous, not his lack of education.

  18. This seems like an unfortunate situation to be in, because your actions will depend very heavily on the type of person that you’re dealing with. Some people (myself included) will get things done if they want to do it and feel like its worthwhile, no matter how difficult, and will typically do all of it (or as much as they are able) on their own. Others would like some help along the way, motivation, etc – Personally, I’d prefer if people left me alone and gave me my space while I was trying to do something.
    I do have to agree with most of the comments though you cant fake ambition or motivation. Sure it may take a while to figure out what you want (and that’s fine) but my guess puts 3 semesters at 1 calendar year that nothing has been done – I just wouldnt understand what they would be waiting for.
    Good luck, I dont envy you.

  19. I had an ex who was exactly like that. He was fired from my life. Those people don’t change. Either you accept them the way they are, or be resigned to nagging, pushing and mommying them forever.

  20. Christa says:

    Wow! I can’t even imagine having such little motivation…or dealing with a bf with such little drive. Good luck in either pushing him, either toward his goal or out the door!

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