John D. Spooner is an investment adviser, author and novelist. His most recent book is No One Ever Told Us That: Money and Life Lessons for Young Adults. Here, he responds to queries from advice seekers of all ages. Send your conundrums to email@example.com.
I’ve started dating a man who is about 15 years older than me. It’s weird and I’ve never done anything like this. Because he’s married. We met in the elevator in my office building. I’m single and I think I love him. But if it gets really serious, he’s got a couple of kids and I’m not sure if I want that kind of responsibility. I want kids of my own. I know you’re a man, but I’d like your advice. Well, there is nothing new under the sun. Your story has played out over the centuries, probably millions of times. Most of the stories end in tears. I’ve had several clients over the years in exactly your same situation. One of them was a yoga instructor who told me, “It was so exciting for me, I thought it must be like heroin. Hooked.” Well, it’s going to be easier to dump him than it would be kicking drugs. Please treat this as a learning experience, particularly in what not to do. If your fling were a novel, with perhaps five possible endings, virtually all of them would be bad. As the months go by, my prediction is that your boyfriend’s guilt level will rise. Your conversations will turn to his problems—he’ll talk more about his kids, the pressures of his job, his sick mother’s need for care.
Be selfish for you. This was a graduate school experience that you can use to become stronger can’t save your elevator lover from his fate. But you can save yourself.
I’m a guy in my 20s, and I like sports. I’ve been asked to join a pretty exclusive golf club, and I’m tempted to join. But my fiancée doesn’t play golf and would object to me being gone all day on a Saturday or Sunday. Advice? Marriage is always a compromise. I used to enjoy skiing. Shortly after our marriage, my wife and I were on a ski weekend at Cannon Mountain in February, which usually meant ice, fear and trepidation. At the top of the mountain, my wife said to me, “Hot, not cold.” I said goodbye to skiing after that. Compromise: California, not New Hampshire.
As for country clubs, I have a couple of choices for you. Option one: Buy a social membership at the club. Treat it as a dining experience and a chance to meet new friends. Good for business, too. Social memberships often come with limited golf privileges. Convince your fiancee to take a few lessons. Take her out in a cart on a quiet day and try to get her hooked on one of the most complicated and fascinating sports experiences. If she starts to enjoy it, playing golf with your wife and talking about life together between swings can be a transformational experience in your future marriage. It was in mine.
Option two: Give up golf, if you think it’ll take too much time away from other adventures. Just make sure that you find some other activity like squash, yoga or whatever gives you energy. It’s important for sanity, and for your eventual marriage as well.
I won $700 in an office pool. The money came in very handy, and I paid off a credit card. They were nine of us entered in this office pool. Ever since I won, people have been relentless, asking me what I’m going to do with the money, making comments like “Lunch is on you,” etc. Should I have shared my winnings with my co-workers? Is that what they’re trying to hint at? Of course they want you to buy them lunch or drinks after work. After all, it’s “free money,” isn’t it? Tell them, “When you’re hot, you’re hot. I’m taking half the money and betting on the lottery, and with the other half I’m taking my boyfriend/girlfriend to dinner at Benedetto. I hear it’s great. Eat your heart out.” Or, if you want them to be really impressed, or guilty, just say, “Sorry. I’m giving it all to charity.” Try not to do what people expect. Makes you more interesting. Even if others say, “Yeah, interesting. But cheap.” ◆