Broken Hearts, Empty Wallets: What Breaking Up Means For Millennial Lesbians

Can you afford to break up?

Cuffing season is just around the corner, which means that de-cuffing season is sure to follow. If you’re a “been living under a rock” type of lesbian who isn’t “hip to the lingo” these days (like me!), let me back-up and explain: cuffing season is a specific time of year (approximately October to March) when lesbians are feeling a little extra, turn up the charm, and ramp up our efforts to find that special someone to U-Haul it with on the second date. Cuffing season is a time for falling in love, moving in together, forgetting financial stress, sharing your favorite oversized hoodies, planning your future wedding, and adopting shelter pets together.

But what if the woman you shared that U-Haul with isn’t actually Mrs. Right? What if you realize that she actually doesn’t look better than you do in your favorite hoodie, and dammit, you want it back — and her out of the apartment? For lesbians, breaking up is never easy. It comes with more than its fair share of processing, crying, break-up sex, and more processing. 

For millennial lesbians who barely have two nickels to rub together, breaking up is even harder to do. A survey from Varo Money found that 55 percent of people across all ages don’t have $500 in ready cash, which comes as a surprise to absolutely no one in our generation. And without this extra cash stashed away for unexpected expenses — like moving — what’s a shacked-up-but-don’t-wanna-be lesbian to do? 

For many Millennials, financial stress isn’t a matter of whether or not to get yourself a caramel latte on a Wednesday morning or to have that avocado toast for Sunday brunch anymore. Financial stress and worries seem to be the norm for millennials, and it has a terrible impact on our mental and physical health. According to that recent Varo Money survey, more than half (54 percent) of millennials between the ages of 23 and 38 said they experience stress and anxiety due to financial pressure and worry nearly every single day. 

More than half of the survey respondents (55 percent) say their financial instability is preventing them from settling down in a relationship, and that should come as no surprise really, considering a whopping 61 percent have lived with their parents as an adult. Face it, it’s kind of hard to settle down when you’re still living with your folks because life is so unaffordable. And depressingly, 47 percent of respondents say financial stress even makes it hard to invest in relationships.

Because when you’re so worried about how to pay the bills or think about how you’ll be paying back your student loans until the day you die, it’s kinda hard — if not impossible — to pay for dates, focus on finding and maintaining a healthy relationship, and buying a home and building a life together. 

But let’s say you’ve managed to afford some dates and found that special someone, fell in love, moved in together, and then eventually fell out of love. What do you do if you’re in a relationship that’s no longer working for you and your lover, but you feel stuck because you can’t afford to move out or can’t afford rent on your own? 

First, know this: you’re not alone. A quick google search will show you some of the more common searches regarding relationships and money are: “Staying in relationship for money,” “I want to leave my partner but can’t afford to,” “How to leave a relationship with no money”, and “How to get out of a toxic relationship with no money.” People, this is a thing, and it sucks. 

But it’s important for your mental health that you don’t stay in a relationship where you’re stuck because of finances. It would be better to move back in with your folks (after all, you wouldn’t be the first Millennial to do this!) than to stay in a relationship that is no longer working. Here are a few things you can do to get yourself out of a relationship you no longer want to be in. 

Get educated: If you haven’t already, take some time to learn the basics about money management. There are tons of free resources out there to help you improve your financial health. Public libraries have books on personal finance, the internet has a plethora of personal finance blogs that dole out wisdom, and some communities offer free financial literacy programs. And even if you aren’t in a bad romantic relationship you need to get out of, this is something you can do to improve your relationship with money. 

Forecast your expenses: If you need to get out but aren’t sure you can afford it, sit down and work out approximately how much it will cost you to live on your own. How much would you be spending on rent, groceries, and other expenses? How long do you need to save up in order to afford your moving out expenses? 

Seek counseling: If you truly can’t see you and your partner separating due to financial constraints, consider counseling. Of course, it’s not to stay in a relationship you no longer want, but to work out what can you do to get a handle on your situation and make it work temporarily. Friends of mine ended up splitting up their 2-bedroom apartment into two separate homes until one of them was able to save up some money to afford moving out. It wasn’t perfect, but it gave them both an opportunity to save up for the expense of living on their own. 

Open your own savings account: Save every penny you can. Even when you’re single and/or in a healthy relationship. And if you don’t have any pennies to save, do you have anything you can sell if you need to get out in a hurry? Do you have skills you can offer in exchange for cash? (i.e., tutoring, surfing lessons, helping write personal statements for college essays, etc…)

It’s easy to get anxious, scared, and even depressed about your break-up and the financial woes and worries that come with it. Try not to let fear hold you back from leaving the relationship and pursuing happiness. Do what you can to focus on how you feel. If you feel powerless, you won’t have the emotional energy to build up the confidence you need to leave your partner. Start by doing things that help you feel like you’ve got your power and autonomy back. Surround yourself with people who will build you up and help you. And know that, no matter what your financial situation, you’ve got this. 

Have you ever stayed in a shitty relationship because you couldn’t afford to break up? Share your financial stress experiences with us in the comments! 


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