I sacrificed for my boyfriend’s business and might get nothing, renting a house from my boss, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I sacrificed for my boyfriend’s business — and I might get nothing

In early 2010, I started to date my boyfriend who owned a small business. Two years later, I decided to “partner” with him to expand/re-design his business. I brought lots of knowledge and unlimited hours of work, which “paid off” because the business is successful. However, I’ve always been really under-compensated. I asked my partner/boyfriend to be paid as a full-time employee or to do all the legal paperwork to be recognized as a business partner (right now it is a sole proprietorship under his name). To that date, nothing has been done, just promises and a slight increase of salary.

Three years ago, I discovered that he had an affair while overseas. We did some couples counseling without success. Now, both work and love relationship are really getting out of hand. He is really good at manipulating me. I recently caught a text to the woman he had an affair with saying he couldn’t wait to sell the business, move, and retire with her. I’m in my fifties, and I’ve spent all my savings to pay my bills while developing this business which was a dream of mine, a true passion. I would have never imagined I could be in this current situation.

What are my options at this point? Lawsuit? Business and couples counseling? Walk away with nothing and be homeless? Any other ideas?

First, that’s not a woman he had an affair with. That’s almost certainly a woman he is currently having an affair with, based on what he wrote in the message you saw.

You have put in eight years of hard work to build your boyfriend’s business, while he under-pays you, doesn’t follow through on promises to more equitably recognize your work, avoids giving you any financial stake in the success you’ve contributed to, and cheats on you.

He plans to sell the business you’ve helped build and retire with another woman.

This isn’t someone to go to counseling with. This is someone who’s comfortable enriching himself at your expense (all your savings! this is horrible) while deceiving you. He does not have integrity, he isn’t trustworthy, and you cannot salvage this with counseling.

Talk to a lawyer immediately (without telling him you’re doing that) and see what your options are. I’m sorry.

2. Should I rent from my boss to escape Covid?

I know you’ve advised past letter-writers not to rent from their bosses, but I’m wondering if your advice would be any different given the current state of the world. I am a young professional in a large city and cannot afford to live without roommates. My current roommate does not “believe in” Covid-19 despite us living in a current hotspot and there is a constant stream of people through the house, despite my best efforts. Overall, it is not safe and is extremely anxiety-producing for me.

I mentioned this in passing to my grandboss, who offered up her in-law cottage for a below-market rate. My lease is almost up and I am really tempted to take it. She is truly great and I feel like we could maintain boundaries (it’s a detached property, she is not my direct supervisor, I am a model tenant) but I wonder if that’s just my desperation speaking. I will almost certainly not be able to find another place that I can afford without roommates, and I don’t want to gamble my health on a stranger’s willingness to stay home. If it makes a difference, I am currently working from home but will have to go back to interacting with the public at some point in the near future. Am I crazy for considering this? If I do decide to rent from her, what conversations do we need to have?

I do think this is different because of our current context. Under normal circumstances, I’d strongly advise against renting from a boss or even a coworker, because there’s too much risk of something going wrong that will affect you at work and/or home. For example, if you have a dispute about rent or repairs or noise, will that really not bleed into work? But right now, the calculus is different. This is someone throwing you a lifeline to help you get out of an unsafe situation. (It also helps that she’s not your direct manager.)

If you were just doing this because it was easy and it saved you from having to find a place on your own, I’d tell you not to be tempted by easy and instead deal with the hassle of finding a different place. But you don’t think you’ll be able to afford another place without roommates, and right now roommates you don’t know well are a gamble. It’s okay to take the lifeline your boss’s boss is offering.

As for conversations to have, I’d make sure the lease is clear (and real, not an informal understanding) and ask what issues have come up with past tenants, if any. Say you want to be careful to navigate this in a way that doesn’t cause any weirdness for her or others at work, and ask if she has thoughts on that.

One thing to be aware of is the potential appearance of bias or special treatment. For example, your coworkers might wonder whether, if your team has to lay people off, your role would be protected because of the relationship, or even because she wants you to keep being able to pay rent. There might not be anything you can do about that — and again, I think the current context outweighs that concern for now — but it’s good to be aware of.

3. Why don’t people mute themselves on conference calls?

Why can’t people figure out the mute function on video/conference calls?

That’s it. That’s the question. Probably borne of frustration because I am currently on a call where we’ve been reminded to mute ourselves no less than five times and someone is STILL not muted and is typing furiously.

It’s a mystery for the ages! No one knows.

If I had to guess, I’d say that people often assume generalized announcements — ones made to a whole group, rather than directed to a specific person by name — don’t apply to them. They figure that they’re competent and so of course they’ve already muted themselves, and thus don’t bother to check. Still, you’d think that after the third or fourth reminder on the same call, they’d take a look.

(That reminds me of this excellent account of a conference call where the very person who kept reminding everyone to mute themselves had forgotten to mute herself … which everyone learned when she started insulting the presenter to someone in her house.)

4. Is it age discrimination to keep an older team member from traveling to client sites this summer?

I have a small business and we have mostly virtual-work-from-anywhere for office work, and typically would meet with clients at their sites fairly frequently. This transition to virtual client meetings has been good for most.

A new project is beginning soon and getting it started will require travel to the site. We’ve made all the virtual accommodations we can, but our regulating agencies require us to conduct several on-site visits and meetings. Each attendee can attend individually and the site will be outside at the beginning, so distancing precautions can be taken. But the team member we had planned to lead these site visits, AwesomeGuy, is 70+ years old with some other risk factors for COVID-19 and I definitively do not want him to be out at the project, considering all the travel related to getting there and back. Also, the folks in the town around our project site are likely more of the variety of masks=civil rights violations rather than masks=basic human decency in public.

We have a back-up plan to get these meetings and inspections covered, and AwesomeGuy can easily be in touch with the on-site project team with phone and email to manage and give guidance.

Are we in any sort of age discrimination territory with this decision? I can’t bear the thought of sending him out to that site, even if it is. I do think he would agree with this plan, in case that makes a difference. I know he and his wife have very much embraced a stay-at-home plan these last few months.

It would be age discrimination if you decide on your own to remove the work from him because of fears about his risk — but not if you talk to him and jointly agree to that plan, which it sounds like you’d be doing. (This will probably get more intuitive if you imagine an employer deciding on its own that a disabled person can’t have a high-profile project because of worries about them getting injured. It’s the same principle here — the law doesn’t want you deciding to yank a project on your own, but it’s okay to agree to it if the person with the disability wants that change.)

So if he says no, he still wants to lead the site visits, you can’t legally prohibit him on the basis of his age, but if he’s onboard with not going, you would be fine!

5. How do you handle being furloughed when applying for other jobs?

I was furloughed through the end of June due to COVID-19, and am working to update my resume and apply for other jobs in the meantime. As I was working to pull together my cover letter and resume, I realized I’m not sure if this is information to share when applying, or after they reach out for an interview.

Do I mention being furloughed in my cover letter? How do I handle my current employer on my resume? I’m technically still employed, so it feels wrong to show an end date for my current employer, but it also doesn’t seem correct saying “to present” when I’m currently not working and would be available immediately for a new position. Also, if it matters, I have only been with my current employer for about six months prior to being furloughed.

You don’t need to announce that you’re furloughed, but you also don’t need to hide it. If it comes up, you should be straightforward about it, but you also don’t need to make a special announcement when you sit down for the interview.

Resume-wise, if your employer says they still consider you employed, then it’s fine to go with that (as long as they’d confirm that in a reference or background check). If you feel weird about listing the job as current, you can list it like this:

* Cocoa Stirrer, Beverage Oceanarium, June 2018 – present (currently on furlough)

You don’t need to mention the furlough in your cover letter. Normally I’d say that since you’ve only been at this job six months, it might make sense to mention it as context for why you’re searching, but no one really needs context for job searching these days; it’s generally understood that everything is unstable.

{ 475 comments… read them below }

  1. Black Horse Dancing*

    Oh, gods, #1, lawyer now. Get all the data you can on what you’ve done for the business and any emails stating he planned to add you on as partner. Write done dates, any conversations and if you are in a state where you can legally record with only one side knowing, you may want to do so. (Check with a lawyer as needed.) Good luck!

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      And document, document, document, and then document some more. Pull out bank statements that show you giving him money. Print out emails where he promised you some future stake in the business. Get affidavits from friends and clients and employees and family members who heard him say things about your piece of the business. He’s not going to go down without a fight.

      Yikes. What a cautionary tale.

      1. Grey Coder*

        And to be absolutely clear — keep these documents offsite. Not as extra copies in the office, not at home, not in any electronic format he has access to. I’d go for external drives and paper at a location only you have access to.

        Personally, I’d get copies of all the business records you can find, not just promises relating to you. If this business is your dream and passion, prepare yourself for carrying on with it alone. I’m hoping this is all informal enough that you won’t have signed anything which would prevent you from doing that.

        Good luck OP1, we are with you.

        1. EPLawyer*

          This is the outcome I am thinking. I don’t think there is anything such thing as a “de facto partnership.” Usually agreements have to be in writing, especially if they can’t be carried out in one year (statute of frauds was a long time ago). His promises may net you something.

          But, be prepared to buy out the business. Start looking into what it would take to get a loan to do that. It’s your dream. It’s clearly not his. He just wants to sell up and go live with his honey. Give him the opportunity to do that. Two birds, one stone and all. You get rid of the lout and get to run the business while keeping all the money for yourself.

          1. TimeCat*

            That’s a good idea. The detail here that makes me pessimistic for OP is that she says she ran through her savings supporting herself, not that she poured her own funds into the business. But on these limited details it’s completely impossible to say and she needs to speak to a lawyer.

              1. Bee*

                Well, if she was spending her savings on rent & food while working for free, that’s different from putting money directly into the business.

                1. TimeCat*

                  Exactly. If she had receipts for money she’d spent on the business that would be one thing but “I had trouble paying my bills because of a low wage I accepted” is another.

              2. Mallory Janis Ian*

                “Her savings” and “her own funds” are the same. “Used them to support herself” versus “used them to directly fund the business” is the relevant distinction here.

          2. Sue*

            Probably her best bet is through family law. If she can establish a meretricious relationship, she would be entitled to a share of assets. Her contributions (to his separate property business) would be considered and assets divided accordingly.
            Establishing a de facto partnership seems harder unless they didn’t live together and she has no other recourse.
            This may depend on state laws where she lives. In my state, she would have a decent claim if this was a long term committed relationship.

            1. remizidae*

              Are you talking about a common-law marriage claim? That’s pretty unlikely (even if their state recognizes it, most unmarried couples don’t hold themselves out as married nowadays) but I’m sure her lawyer can advise her.

              1. Sue*

                I’m a lawyer. My state treats long term committed relationships very much like a marriage when dividing assets, determining parenting plans, etc. It is not a “common law marriage” it is a relationship that accumulated assets, debts and possibly children and needs to be unwound. Many states have this same process. It fills a need as more and more relationships lack the official pronouncement of “marriage”.

                1. Also A Lawyer*

                  I’m also a lawyer. My state does not recognize a common-law marriage unless the relationship met all tests of a common-law marriage by a specific date that is now >15 years ago/long-term committed relationships not at all. Less than 5 years ago, I worked on a case where one party lost out on ~$10 million of assets because the relationship did not qualify as a “common-law marriage.” I still marvel that had the parties married legally, the every cent would have been marital assets.

                  Thus, LW should arrange an appointment with an well-established family lawyer and a business/partnership specialist lawyer in her own state ASAP.

          3. Hey Karma, Over Here*

            Yes, that sunken cost fallacy regarding the relationship, honestly, DTMFA, in your mind. In the real world, the only way to end up with anything is to pay for it. OP needs to realize that the guy and their relationship is not real. He’s just a guy who found someone to bankroll his hobby. OP, detach yourself from any fantasy that you think counseling can repair and treat this as you would any business relationship.

            1. AKchic*

              As much as she may want to do this, the moment she breaks up “romantically” from him, that’s the moment he is going to freeze her out of the business. She is going to have to fake that romantic relationship until she has his family jewels in a legal vice grip. She was convenient, financially and in so many other ways (which I won’t enumerate here).
              This is why you don’t poop where you eat and sleep. This is a two-legged table. It is barely balancing against a wall and the wall is shifting. If she removes one leg (the “personal” aspect) then he has no reason to keep her on as an underpaid employee. He may be holding onto her so he doesn’t *have* to sell the business and retire with the side piece, but that’s no guarantee. Once he realizes OP1 is no longer a romantic option, selling the business becomes Hard Plan A and she is no longer employed, has no secondary income (his income), no actual income (her job), and the business gets sold and he’s off to cushy retirement before she gets everything taken care of.

              So, attorney, attorney, attorney. Get all the documents necessary. Go after him personally and professionally. If you’ve been together long enough to be considered “common law”, then hit that way too.

              He’s been making contingency plans for a long time – it’s time to make your own, dear OP1. Please do update us.

        2. Lynn*

          This is a great note.

          I just got a storage unit and wish I had done it years ago — it was super easy and convenient, and far cheaper than I expected. This would be a great option for OP — it would be a secure, locked, location for files and personal items (she didn’t say it, but I am assuming they live together and she needs to lock up her personal items before things go south in this relationship) and most storage units have security cameras.

          1. charo*

            If she gets a lawyer she can turn over all evidence to him/her, keeping a copy in a safe deposit box at a bank.

        3. charo*

          Good points.
          And given his bad character, it’s possible he’s lied to LW about the business. He could’ve secreted money and lied about profits, since he’s planning to retire w/someone else. Of course, that may be a lie to keep THAT woman strung along, but we don’t know.

          So don’t believe what he says w/o proof.

      2. Alice's Rabbit*

        Also, check the laws in your state regarding common law marriage. It could be that you’re legally considered married after having been together for so long, which would mean that you’re entitled to your fair share of all marital assets, including the company you both worked to build.

    2. IANAL*

      #1, in most places, if you informally go into business with someone, the default form of entity is a partnership. Has he actually registered a sole proprietorship in his name? If not, the law may view your business as a partnership.

      The above is not legal advice, and you must talk to a lawyer in your state to obtain legal advice.

      1. Amity*

        It sounds like the boyfriend started the business before he met OP. Get that lawyer OP, and best of luck! Please update us when you have this settled.

      2. Retired Prof*

        In my jurisdiction, even if he registered as sole proprietorship, if they ran the business as partnership, it will still be treated as a de facto partnership.

        OP – Lawyer, lawyer, lawyer. Cannot stress this enough. You need to know how to proceed where you live and what your rights to the business are.

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          Also please try to let go of any idea that a romantic relationship with him is an option. He is using you. He is a heinous person who is taking advantage of someone who loves him and his business. He deserves to lose everything you can get – the business, the money he never paid you, your stake in the company. If he loses everything, that is not enough punishment IMHO. Don’t let him tell you otherwise. He might try to appeal to your former feelings to get away with more. Don’t let him!

      3. Flyleaf*

        The OP seemed to indicate that she was paid (at a low rate), so I’m wondering if she is formally an employee (W2) or contractor (1099)?

    3. Avasarala*

      I feel awful for OP but this is a cautionary tale to everyone who accepts business and personal promises–these are only as good as your trust in that person. That can work if the only thing your risking is your feelings, but once you start investing, and “gambling” things like money and careers and children and houses on that trust… it can really help to have that legal paper that gives you a roadmap of how that comes apart. Or have that title that shows your professional achievements and level of investment.

      As they say about prenup agreements, either you decide, or the state decides…
      I hope that the state can get you a fair shake on this.

      1. MK*

        Often trust isn’t enough, even when it is justified. Your partner might have made these promises in good faith, but circumstances can change and life happens.

        I am very much afraid that the OP will have a tough road ahead. Reading between the lines, it sounds as if she was officially a part-time employee, but was really working much longer hours? I don’t know what she will be able to prove after the fact. Getting a lawyer is certainly the best first step here.

        1. Kimmybear*

          I feel bad for the OP but if she was “a part-time employee but really working much longer hours” she may have better luck at getting those unpaid hours compensated rather than trying to claim she was a partner.

          1. WantonSeedStitch*

            That’s a good point, and definitely part of the info she should share with a lawyer, because getting compensated for all those hours would be better than nothing, if it’s her only option.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yeah, my extremely uninformed guess is that suing for back wages may be the best course of action. then maybe use that to buy him out.

            This is an awful situation to be in and I really hope OP gets everything she deserves and lives happily ever after and comes back in the future to tell us about her new relationship and thriving business.

        2. Avasarala*

          Yep, even if they meant it at the time, what if they pass away and the govt/their evil twin/a mustache-twirling prospector tries to take it from you? Now you have a piece of paper that backs you up besides “well he promised me once, so.”

      2. GreyjoyGardens*

        I would say that, in this day and age, it’s best to NOT trust. Do NOT rely on “handshake agreements” and good faith, except for really low-stakes arrangements (if you cut the neighbor’s grass and they don’t pay you the promised $50, that’s not a big deal; but thousands of dollars IS). Never trust. Always get it in writing. Even if it’s faaaaaamily, even if it’s your darling spouse who would never ever betray you until they DO.

        Trust is a mug’s game. OP1, please get a lawyer and do everything you can to get what is owed to you. I wish you luck, and I wish your boyfriend a terrible lonely old age.

        1. Sara without an H*

          Even if you’re doing a “handshake agreement” with actual, verifiable saints, Fate can and does step in. What if one of the participants in an unwritten agreement gets hit by a bus/beer truck/etc.? How does the surviving partner prove that the agreement existed at all?

          Rule for living: If more than $100 is involved, put it in writing.

          1. SOL*

            Exactly. If OP’s boyfriend had died in a car accident instead of getting caught cheating, his business assets would pass to his surviving family and OP would be out of luck.

            Always, always, always get it in writing. If the person refuses to put it in writing, leave.

            1. GreyjoyGardens*

              This is one reason LGBT couples have fought for marriage rights. Marriage isn’t just a “bourgeois piece of paper,” it’s a set of rights and privileges afforded to a legally married couple.

              I would say that if you are not legally married to someone, be very, very, super, duper careful about mingling any funds or supporting one another financially. In cases where one person is very dependent on the other or supporting the other then it’s best to hire a lawyer and get everything in writing. That won’t help LW1 now, but if she can get a good lawyer (without her boyfriend’s knowledge, so he doesn’t try to hide funds) then she might be able to get SOMETHING back.

              1. Avasarala*

                Yes yes yes. There’s a reason why every small claims court TV show is 70% “we lived together as a couple and now want to split our belongings”. Having that paper is important!

        2. AVP*

          omigosh ESPECIALLY if it’s family. IME that’s the #1 way to end up in a he-said-she-said-lets-read-the-emails lawsuit.

          1. GreyjoyGardens*

            TBH I’ve met more people betrayed and effed over by their faaaamilies than anyone else. Parents who take out credit in their child’s names and refuse to pay it back…needy siblings who act entitled to another sibling’s money…cousins who want you to invest in their “business” aka MLM scam. Guard your wallet when around your faaaamily, say I!

        3. Avasarala*

          Yes yes yes. If it’s just your heart that will be broken, OK, that’s an acceptable risk. But money and security and children? Protect them in a legal way!

      3. Artemesia*

        I have a friend in her 70s who is working although she had planned to retire by now because she had a late marriage to someone who took her for everything; she is still paying off his debts. The divorce required him to pay her 250K for some of this, but he is a dead beat and hasn’t done so and will never do so. So instead of her long planned retirement near her grandchildren she continues to work to try to rebuild the nest egg she had before this marriage. she is a smart business woman but still thought she was marrying a man who was very different from the grifter he turned out to be.

        1. Loubelou*

          This happened to my mum. My dad took all their money and squandered it on an awful business. He was supposed to pay her £450k but it ended up being far less. And now she’s approaching 70 and has a mortgage on an apartment and worries about how to pay for unexpected bills, rather than living comfortably in a paid-for house as she should be.
          Trust is a great thing, but when it comes to money it’s vital to protect yourself… sadly.

          1. Loubelou*

            Oh, and I didn’t mention there was another (younger) woman involved as well… We have no way to prove it, but we’re sure that there is thousands squirreled away in her bank accounts.

        2. GreyjoyGardens*

          Back in the day, this kind of situation was sadly common. Such men were called “fortune hunters” (even though they often pursued rich young women, not just older widowed ones – Jane Austen had a lot to say about that). I read that one of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters was bankrupted and left penniless by her “fortune hunting” sweet talking second husband.

          I would never, ever get married without a prenup if I had any kind of assets, or if it was a second marriage and I had kids. I’m so sorry for your friend.

          1. Mily*

            I have a friend who was widowed in her late 30s with five kids. When her husband died, one of her friends who was an attorney offered to handle all of the estate stuff for free as long as she promised not to remarry without a prenup to protect her assets for her kids. He just told her straight up that as a single mom who owns her own home, there are con men who would marry her to take her assets and her kids would end up homeless.

            1. A*

              Oh gosh, this is so sad but true. I received similar advice when I bought my home (no kids, but single young woman).

        3. MJ*

          A couple, married in their 20s, were in their late 50s when this happened.

          The wife came home to find new locks on the door of their house. This was just the start. Turned out that the husband had ‘met’ someone during overseas work trips. Deciding this person was the love of his life (LOHL), he liquidated all the couple’s assets. Everything. And committed fraud to do so. Pension funds, investments, and yes even their house. In the LOHL’s country the law is that a foreigner cannot purchase land/property, so she would have to buy a place and quickly before the wife found out the extent of the deceit. So he transferred the money to his LOHL’s country and then it into her bank account so she could buy property. Which she did – for her and her family. He left his life in home country to move to be with his LOHL, who suddenly could not be contacted. Yes, he got caught in a honeypot (if we’re allowed to still say that). He had nothing. His wife had nothing. The wife couldn’t sue because… well, the husband had nothing. It wasn’t even worth pursuing fraud charges. I know they are divorced, but I didn’t hear else about the wife, only about the husband who moved back into his 80-something parents’ home.

          Even in love, check and verify.

    4. WoodswomanWrites*

      I’m concurring with the excellent advice you’re getting here about initiating the legal process. You definitely don’t want your boyfriend to know you’re looking into that based on his dishonesty.

      You mentioned the option of counseling. Counseling is a good idea for *you*, meaning just you on your own and without your boyfriend, to help you navigate this journey that is difficult both financially and emotionally. You mentioned how manipulative your boyfriend is and since he’s clearly untrustworthy and exploiting your good will with the business and your personal relationship, you can expect that to amplify once you’ve got an attorney involved. It’s not clear from your letter if you live together or not, which could also add a layer of complication. Since you brought up counseling, I hope you will add that to your toolbox along with the attorney, to help you get through a bumpy ride. I hope you’ll update us on how you’re doing.

      1. Just delurking to say...*

        Maybe financial counselling, too, to help you recover monetarily from this leech.

      2. RecentAAMfan*

        And maybe you even need to go through the motions of couple counseling so your snake of a boyfriend doesn’t become suspicious.

        1. Mimosa Jones*

          Maybe, it’s ok to talk about getting a counselor, but I don’t think they should get so far as actually attending couples counseling together. But talking about it, looking for people who take their insurance (very hard to find), vetting them over email, finding room in everyone’s busy schedules, and then sadly discover you chose someone flaky who cancels every appointment so you have to start over…that process could provide cover for a lot of fact finding.

    5. TimeCat*

      Lawyer, document, do it quickly and quietly.

      But, I’ll be frank, it might lead to nothing. You 100% need to try, but it may not work. But the only person who can really say is a lawyer in your state who specializes in these cases and has all the relevant facts. You must speak to someone in the correct field and you must give that lawyer all the ammunition you can in the form of relevant documents, emails, texts, etc.

      This is a cautionary tale. Don’t do things informally. Even with a loved one or family. Something similar happened with my father in law and brother in law and it ended up being a total disaster.

      1. #WearAllTheHats*

        Yes, Lawyer. However, if you were acting as an FTE and have the “receipts” to back it up, I would open a case with the IRS over contractor vs. employee. At the very least, it’s a hearty, burden-laden F-you to the boyfriend if he has eight years of employee taxes and wages. It sounds petty, but it’s the law. As OP paid their taxes on what income they did recieve, they’re in a good place to open that dicussion.

        1. Lynn*

          This is an excellent suggestion– and the IRS has a lot more resources to dig into this than OP might

        2. Tidewater 4-1009*

          Only, don’t do this until you’ve reached a point that it’s ok to let boyfriend know what you’re doing, because the IRS will probably contact him.

    6. Chumped Also*

      #1, I don’t know if Alison would be adverse to naming of another resource for you, but Chump Lady has really helped me see the light at the end of a relationship with a cheater. She is very handy with a clue by four, as well. She walks people through the important work of ending an abusive relationship (and financial and emotional manipulation are abuse!) and regaining a life. I can’t tell you when it will happen, but someday, you will be able to look up and think that your life is much better without him in it. No matter how that feels right now. I agree with the other commentators that documenting everything and finding the right lawyer are your first steps, all in secret, of course. Good luck and know that we are pulling for you!

      1. SeluciaMD*

        I second Chump Lady as a resource for exactly the reasons you state. She has such good, concrete advice for how to disentangle your life from his (and protect yourself during the process), as well as guidance for how to go forward and what to expect. And like AAM, it’s a pretty robust and supportive community.

        1. Similar to OP*

          I, too, benefitted from Chump Lady’s book and blog. I was also in a business relationship with my boyfriend. We at least had filed a Certificate of Limited Partnership with the state but we never created a formal Partnership Agreement. When it became clear (to me) that the romantic relationship was unsustainable, I had to get in gear and get as much documentation as possible about who did what in the business.

          I’ll also throw out a caution about the Chump Lady’s commentariat. Because I wasn’t willing (or financially able) at the time I join the discussion group to just DTMFA, I was taken to task and made fun of. I was told that financial ruin was far better than living in the same house as a cheater. Which. . . wow. I noped all the way out of there and just stuck to the things Chump Lady herself wrote.

    7. Dagny*

      Putting two pieces of the advice together: assemble your documents (everything possible), get them all organised, and then hire an attorney.

      You will be paying the attorney by the hour. The more time that the attorney spends wading through this mess, the more you’ll pay. You shouldn’t try to do their job for them, but the more information you can put together in a usable form, the easier it is for your lawyer.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        You are a person of great wisdom and insight. If you are paying someone by the hour, make it easy for them to work quickly and efficiently.

    8. Emmie*

      OP: What are you looking for? What’s your ideal outcome? Is that realistic given his past behavior? If your ideal outcome is to stop the cheating and to gain your rightful interest on paper with this man, I hope you can be open to a different outcome. He has a pattern of being unfaithful, and you deserve better than that. He’s denied multiple requests to add your name to the business that you also earned. Alison and others are right that you should consult a lawyer. I also recommend working with a counselor who specializes in spousal abuse. Both of these things can help you work through what is best for you in the future.

      1. Loubelou*

        This is excellent advice.
        I’m sorry, OP, your partner isn’t the man you thought he was.

    9. Richard Hershberger*

      I got halfway through the first paragraph and started muttering “Time to lawyer up!”

    10. Quill*

      It’s lawyer time, lawyer time, lawyer time! And keep your documents in physical formats in places where your soon to be ex cannot get their hands on them and does not know they exist!

      (Safety deposit box? Mailed to your PO box? Fire safe in friend’s basement?)

    11. charo*

      Yes, right this minute! If you have “your ducks in a row” you could get a settlement if he sells. Picture the look on his face when he’s excited to sell and then realizes you have a lawyer.

      It’s good that he wants to sell, this is a fresh start for you. Do not be so naive and gullible in the future.

    12. charo*

      Let’s all remember:
      1) We know he has bad character from that text, but it doesn’t mean he’s telling THAT woman the truth, either. He may be telling her what she wants to hear about retiring.
      That doesn’t make this better, it may make him even more evil.

      2) He may have lied to LW about business profits, too.

      So she/we need to not believe anything he says w/o proof. Investigate all of it. And be careful, if he’s a sociopath / psychopath, he could even be dangerous if he feels “cornered.”

      We can’t take anything he says at face value.

  2. Not A Manager*

    LW1, I want to reiterate Alison’s warning not to tell your boyfriend that you’re consulting a lawyer. It might be tempting to talk to him first, out of a sense of “he’s my partner and this is a big step,” or in the hope that it would be a wakeup call for him to treat you fairly, or even out of an (understandable) impulse to express your anger with him.

    But if you give him any kind of heads-up, he will have the opportunity to hide assets or move them into a shell corporation or otherwise make them less accessible. Should you and your lawyer decide that you need to take legal action, surprise might be the only way to preserve these assets.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Agreed. Suddenly he’ll have $1.48 in the bank, and everything else will be in Switzerland or the Caymans.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        And frankly, that all goes double because he has an overseas place — and girlfriend — to go to in order to escape the heat.

      2. LITJess*

        Seriously, happened to my friend in her divorce. Forensic accountants are your friend, but hopefully LW can avoid needing one in the first place by just being more strategic than her partner.

        1. Tisiphone*

          Not to mention what computer forensics can find. The same tech that can recover data after the drive has been destroyed or just stops working can also find deleted financial files if he tries to get cute. Get that lawyer and spring surprise litigation on him before he does. The tech exists, but it’s not cheap.

          Good luck, OP #1, I hope you get what’s yours.

          1. Tidewater 4-1009*

            Hmm.. would it be possible to copy the contents of his computer? Without his knowledge, of course.

      3. Adele*

        Yup. Happened to my co-worker. She told her “independent businessman” husband she wanted a divorce and suddenly he had no assets from the business she had helped to build up and support through all the years of their marriage. To add insult to injury, she now pays him alimony and child support.

    2. StrikingFalcon*

      I would also recommend consulting some resources on how to leave an abusive relationship safely, especially if you live with him. Even if he’s never been physically abusive, this a person who was willing to take your savings and leave you with nothing – you cannot trust him not to escalate when you start taking actions to protect yourself.

      1. valentine*

        It can’t hurt to have a go bag to hand, and a locker or friend’s place he doesn’t know about where you have cash, credit cards, another phone, and various documents, especially ID. I would have the lawyer or a PI run credit reports and a background check on everyone. If we lived together, I would keep my driver’s license and passport on me 24/7.

        I would also share my location with random people at random times. If you aren’t already, maybe you suddenly become a social media maven.

      2. MayLou*

        Yes, this has red flags for economic abuse to me. I don’t know what the law in the USA is around this, but in the UK it’s recognised that economic abuse is part of domestic abuse and that’s being written into law.

        1. Liane*

          Economic/financial abuse is recognized over here but I don’t know if it’s part of any abuse statutes yet. It may mostly be dealt with via civil law or by charging with financial crime/s.

          1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

            As far as I know, it’s not (I practice with DV survivors). DV statutes tend to be focused on physical abuse, even though emotional and financial abuse can be just as bad or worse than physical abuse. It is intensely frustrating to have to explain to clients that yes, he’s an abuser, and yes, he took out all the money in the joint bank account… but we can’t get a restraining order on that basis.

    3. Casper Lives*

      Yes please don’t tip him off. I know it’s hard, but try to act like nothing is amiss while you consult the lawyer for next steps. If the boyfriend controls the business account and realizes you’re getting a lawyer, he could make it hard for you by cutting off your access. You put your life savings into this business. Even if you’re legally right, you’ve usually got to pay the lawyer a retainer to get started.

      1. MK*

        She didn’t put her life savings into the business, she spent them on her living expenses because she wasn’t making enough money to live while working on the business. Unfortunfor the OP it’s not the same thing.

      2. RecentAAMfan*

        I agree that it will be so important for you to pretend everything is A ok. You need to buy time, so he doesn’t get suspicious and accelerate the sell-move-retire plan

    4. Princess Deviant*

      +1.

      This letter has really affected me. I feel so sad about it, LW. He’s abusive. You’re in an abusive relationship. I’m sorry!

    5. Djuna*

      Yes. I’m normally the kind of person who asks people to assume good intentions, but in this case it gets cancelled out by “he has shown you who he is, believe him”. Do not allow him the slightest hint that you are speaking with a lawyer, and do speak with one asap.
      I am so sorry for what you’re going through, LW1.
      I hope you get a great lawyer who can disentangle all of this in your favor.

      1. Venus*

        Assume good intentions, but also consult a lawyer at the start of a relationship rather than at the end.

    6. Traveling Teacher*

      Yes, OP, please do not tell him you are calling a lawyer!

      Also, please contact a domestic abuse hotline (what you are experiencing is, I’m sorry to say, financial abuse at the very least, with a large dose of gaslighting). They will likely be able to give you some state-specific information about lawyers you can contact and give you more specific resources and advice on staying safe and well during the time you are still “partnered” with him on paper.

      I’m so sorry, OP. You deserve better! It feels like an impossible situation right now, but once you are free of him, you will be amazed at how much better you’ll feel about your life, your choices, and your money. And how much more mental and physical energy you will have! You will get free, and you will be in a better place. Not right away, but it WILL be worth it.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      OP, please look into the idea of “financial infidelity”, it’s on a par with sexual/romantic infidelity, as it is that big a deal. Some folks even feel that financial infidelity is worse than sexual infidelity.

      Please pull in all the support you can find for yourself. If he wonders why your money is no longer available tell him you are dealing with health issues. It’s not an exaggeration or a mis-statement.

      My heart goes out to you, OP. I hope you come back and tell us how you are doing.

    8. cotton*

      LW1, I want to reiterate Alison’s warning not to tell your boyfriend that you’re consulting a lawyer. It might be tempting to talk to him first, out of a sense of “he’s my partner and this is a big step,” or in the hope that it would be a wakeup call for him to treat you fairly, or even out of an (understandable) impulse to express your anger with him.

      Yep. Remember, right now he isn’t your partner. He’s the guy who is doing all he can to hurt you and use you. He doesn’t care about you.

      You don’t owe him honesty. You don’t owe him care. Because he’s sure not giving any of it to you. You can’t fix this relationship. He’s a manipulative user who has, as far as he’s concerned, a golden goose.

      Don’t trust him.

    9. Dust Bunny*

      Absolutely this.

      This is an abusive relationship, in a financial sense. As in any other abusive relationship, don’t give the creep advance notice.

    10. It's mce w*

      Please don’t. I’m sad to say it but he’s using you. Don’t try to save the relationship, save yourself instead. Once he leaves the country, it will be much harder to get anything from him.

    11. AKchic*

      He is not a partner and it is time OP1 start shifting her thinking away from that language mentally (if not verbally for now).
      He is an abuser. Financially, mentally and emotionally. He is a user (financially, labor, time, and emotionally). He is a cheater. He is selfish. He has no intention of keeping any of the promises he made. As Bruce Campbell’s Ash character told Sheila in Army of Darkness… “… well, that was just pillow talk, baby”. He said it to keep you compliant, working on his projects, and to continue funding them. He wanted you to feel like you had a stake in the game when he had no intention of ever letting you in. To him, you weren’t Mrs. Right, you were Ms. Right Now.
      I am so sorry that he used you. That he abused your trust, your finances, your goodwill, your good nature, your work, your time, your efforts, and so much more. You deserve better. Please, I am begging you, listen to the good advice everyone is giving you. You deserve so much more than what this odious bum is attempting to do. Once everything has settled and you are well-away from him – don’t feel like you need to keep quiet to protect his reputation. It’s your story too, and if he didn’t want people to know who he was, he shouldn’t have been… himself.

    12. charo*

      Yes, now is the time to get documentation of the business’s worth — he may hype it higher than it’s really worth to sell. So encourage him — verbally only, not in writing. Urge him to see it as valuable. Let him prevaricate. Even if you can only sue for part of the sale price, if you have him writing that it’s worth even more it can only help your case.

      It would be ironic if you located a buyer and could work w/THEM once he’s out of the picture. Also ironic if you walk away w/more than you expected.

      But you’ve brought this on yourself, so learn from this bitter lesson.

  3. Old person*

    Letter 5. Cocoa stirrer. I like it!

    Maybe each year we could have a fun new job/industry like llama groomers, rice sculptures, etc. I hope 2020 can be the year of the cocoa stirrer. Folks could vote on a new one in late 2020 for the new one of 2021.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      Gonna second this. Also, “Beverage Oceanarium”? I would love to work there.

      1. BeesKneeReplacement*

        Where can apply to you for the position of senior otter feeder and snuggler?

        1. Quill*

          Unfortunately they only promote from within, you need to pass through baby otter feeder and teething toy first.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, really. The guy preys on people. OP was his “work plan” and I’d bet the other person is his “retirement plan”. He’s probably going to bilk her out of her money also. When people show us who they are it’s okay to believe them.

          1. GreyjoyGardens*

            Yes, people like this don’t just treat one person badly. Chances are, LW1’s boyfriend has left a trail of destruction behind him. Either his current GF is his prospective “nurse with a purse” or, more karmically satisfying, SHE’s in it to bilk him of his ill-gotten gains (as the saying goes there’s no fool like an old fool).

  4. Paralegal Part Deux*

    LW 1, lawyer up ASAP. This situation can go downhill very quickly if he catches on that you’re talking to an attorney. Good luck.

    1. Tisiphone*

      I should also mention that if you haven’t confronted him about his “retirement plan”, don’t. Pretend you haven’t seen that email.

  5. Amaranth*

    Allison, regarding LW4, would it be discrimination if her older employee was still put in as lead on the project and coordinating the initial meets, but not sent to the site? Aside from LW’s assessment of the general population attitudes, some companies might be extremely put off by the idea of sending a vulnerable staff member at this time. I’m all for talking it out with the employee, but would she actually have to send him if he wants to go so long as she isn’t reducing his responsibilities overall?

    1. Lilyp*

      I think if you can truthfully assure him and his standing at the company won’t be impacted by not making the trip, there’s a realistic plan for getting all the input he would normally give, and there’s no pressure on him to make it happen and he *still* wants to go, at that point he’s an adult who can make his own choices and you shouldn’t put restrictions on him that you wouldn’t put on younger employees. It doesn’t sound like that’s the case, but if he really wants to go it would be paternalistic to insist you know what’s best for him better than he does just because of his age.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Eventually insurance companies are going to realize they can have a say in and forcing safe covid-19 behaviors. Maybe not even the health insurance companies… But the life insurance companies certainly will care. They can institute policies to exclude coverage in cases of risky leisure activity or require a rider for it. Are THEY allowed to say a particular person would be too high a risk to be covered on your regular policy? This is relevant to things outside covid-19… sending someone on a business trip to a country where people of their ethnicity or religion are targeted for violence, just one example.

        1. Amanda*

          This is really serious, and it still happens.

          At my previous job, we had an expert on a subject an overseas client desperately needed help with. The guy was absolutely brilliant. He also happened to be black.

          The company sent him off to meet with this client and, to his credit, the client treated him pretty well. But he was so terribly mistreated in his 2 weeks at that country, including being questioned by the local police and taken to the station just for walking through a higher class street (where his hotel was). He was supposed to stay a month, but after that he just went back home 2 weeks early.

          The company decided to never send anyone else to that country, and dropped the client when he balked at remote meetings only. But it was a nightmare!

          1. TiffIf*

            I’m actually impressed that your company didn’t try to salvage the client and send someone else.

            1. Shad*

              Yeah, refusing to send anyone to this location is actually (and sadly) an impressive display of corporate ethics.

            2. Amanda*

              My boss wanted to actually, but Legal put their foot down that the company would be abetting discrimination if they wound up sending a less qualified white person. So the boss pretty much had their hands tied.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      IANAL, but I wonder if it would matter if the employer applied the same restrictions to younger people in higher risk categories, or just based on age. If they prohibit someone who is 60 from going to a site visit, but allow someone who is obese or has COPD (other risk factors), then it would be about age rather than risk.

        1. Tera*

          There are plenty of ways to be at-risk if the virus without being disabled, though.

      1. TimeCat*

        I know my friend got pulled off some site visit work (her job is an essential engineerijg thing) because she’s pregnant but it’s not a prestige part of her job and she’s 100% on board with it. Talk to the employee about it.

        1. BeesKneeReplacement*

          As long as she’s 100% on board with it. There are so many instances of well-meaning and not-so-well-meaning employers yanking job duties or entire jobs for a pregnant woman’s “own good” regardless of how she and her medical providers feel about it.

      2. anonymous now*

        My government agency is restricting travel and return to in-person office work for anyone in any of the higher-risk categories spelled out by the CDC – including people with asthma, people over 65, etc.

        Presumably our in-agency legal team was heavily involved in developing the policy, but I’m curious as to what happens if it’s challenged. Our agency falls directly under the state governor, whose reopening rules are much more lax – though the governor’s guidelines include a stipulation that businesses, employers and individuals (but not local governments) are allowed to take more stringent measures if they want to.

      3. OP#4*

        We have limited – no, restricted – all travel to all project sites for all staff where we cannot be solo on the project site. In mid-March we had a similar site inspection and only one person from our firm went instead of three of us who would have included AwesomeGuy. Seemed like firm-wide rather that singled out was an okay call?

        Though, he wasn’t lead on that one, just more of a technical advisor, and he was able to provide guidance to the lead through photos and phone calls.

        1. HappySnoopy*

          I think the difference there was instead of 3 of u, sending one (using whatever reasonable criteria on role/need). The difference from your question is instead picking who should go/only fraction of normal # go, company is picking who can’t go based on health/age criteria of an individual person. That’s when get awesome guy buy in, or other vetting “anyone in cdc criteria” would apply.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      If OP makes the decision to not send AwesomeGuy to the job site because he’s older and is at a greater risk at this time, that’s not okay. He needs to be given the options and involved in the decision.

      It’s similar to offices opening back up. If you have people at risk, you let them know they can continue working from home and their job is not in jeopardy if they do so, while others are coming back into the office, and then let people decide what’s best for themselves. You don’t ban them from coming back to the office.

      1. Karia*

        What? No. As an employer you have an obligation not to expose your employees to unnecessary risk, even if they claim to be ok with it. For the obvious reason that the implied power differential means that they will think they *have* to go back if you give them the option.

        Companies are legally obliged not to expose pregnant people to certain toxins. This is no different; if would be a gross moral and ethical breach to allow this man to risk his life over a work project.

          1. Karia*

            Wow. That seems rather counter intuitive given laws relating to companies not knowingly endangering their employees.

            1. Grapey*

              Not to me it doesn’t. Being up front about the task and offering mitigation strategies is all the employer has to do here. At risk people know they’re at risk.

            2. BuildMeUp*

              I think the point is that you should let the employee make the choice, not decide for them.

              1. Karia*

                I don’t know the laws in America, but in the UK we have numerous laws where the company is legally obligated not to expose employees to risk. For example, a pregnant person cannot decide to accept the risk of being exposed to lead; it is specifically prohibited by law and the person would have to be reassigned to a lead free environment.

                I had thought this might come under a similar health and safety focused bracket.

                1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                  It’s a difference in UK law between the confirmed proof of a toxic material on site and the possible risk of there maybe being a virus there. The two aren’t treated the same.

                2. Avasarala*

                  It’s different where I work as well.
                  I think the US in general is much more tolerant of “well what if I WANT to hurt myself??” kinds of liability/risk.

            3. Annony*

              I think the difference is that they are not deciding it is unsafe for ANY employee to go to the site, just this employee. If this employee feels he is just as able as any other employee to go on site, that is his call to make.

            4. New Jack Karyn*

              I think that’s more about risk for *everyone*, such as insufficient accident prevention in a factory. When you start making decisions about subsections of your employees, that’s when you want to be very careful.

              1. Shad*

                That, as well as specific restrictions coming from a doctor—if the doctor says “Shad can’t lift over 10 pounds”, the employer doesn’t get to decide they think I can really lift 15.
                But if all the doctor says is “limit lifting”, and I say I think I can manage 15, the employer isn’t allowed to instead limit me to 10 because they don’t really think I can handle 15. (Using weight examples because numbers make it easy).

    4. Pilcrow*

      “some companies might be extremely put off by the idea of sending a vulnerable staff member at this time”

      This is still too close to the line, IMHO. We’ve had a few letters here where all the POC and women were replaced by white men because “the clients would be uncomfortable.”

      I realize that’s not what you were going for, but it goes to show how that kind of thinking can lead to a very slippery slope.

      1. Karia*

        JFC. Pandering to the prejudices of the ignorant and (correctly) choosing not to expose an extremely vulnerable employee to a deadly disease are not remotely analogous.

      2. Karia*

        Or put another way; protecting an elderly man from Covid is not like racism, and it’s baffling that you’ve connected the two.

        1. Pilcrow*

          The question was about discrimination. Last time I checked, racism also fell into that category.

          It’s specifically the framing of “we’re doing this because of what others may think” that I was objecting to.
          It’s specifically the whiff of “we know what’s better for you, so we’re taking your choice away” that I was bothered by.

          Protecting vulnerable populations I’m all for: discuss it with the person so everyone is fully informed of the reasons (and client perception can come into this), offer reasonable options, take the person’s agency into account.

          1. Karia*

            I understand disliking the ‘what others may think’ framing.

            But on the flipside, I *would* think badly of a company who sent a person in an at-risk category to work for me. Because I would be concerned for that employee’s welfare. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for risking someone’s life to complete a project. Especially if other options were available.

            And the other side of ‘taking away people’s agency’ is that if you ask, many employees will not feel able to say no. If you ask the employee if he wants to do this, it is very possible he will feel obligated to comply, whether he feels comfortable with it or not.

            1. Gloria*

              Or maybe he has had covid and feels comfortable that he has immunity. Or maybe he doesn’t care if he gets sick. A surprising number of people of all risk categories feel that way. Obviously, not making employees feel obligated is important, but agency is equally important.

            2. WantonSeedStitch*

              As someone who’s at more risk with COVID and other illnesses right now, I would personally be fine if the company made it very clear that I didn’t have to go, that choosing not to go would not harm me professionally, and that I would have other opportunities to demonstrate skills/acquire experience/etc. that would not put me at risk. If they made all that clear, I wouldn’t be upset that they didn’t INSIST that I avoid taking on personal risk. I’d be happy that they gave me the opportunity to do so without worrying about my job. But I’d probably document it all in writing so that if I did encounter any problems later on due to not taking that risk, I would be able to bring it up with HR.

            3. Yorick*

              But if he wanted to go after they told him that he wouldn’t be penalized if he didn’t, the company wouldn’t be “sending” him in the way that you’re thinking, and it would be age discrimination to be upset that he was there.

            4. kt*

              But you can’t please everyone. Some people would think badly of sending a woman to do “a man’s job”. Some people would think badly of sending a woman to do a job in Saudi Arabia; she might view demonstrating her abilities there as important to gaining a promotion. Race/ethnicity has been discussed above. I’ve had Jewish colleagues who were excited to go to Middle Eastern countries for work, even though those countries are in conflict with Israel. I’m not a crackpot libertarian (using crackpot here as a modifier in order to not paint the whole school of thought with one brush) but as a woman who has been discouraged from doing this & that ‘because of my safety’ I don’t like the paternalism of not being able to decide for myself. For all you know, the at-risk person already had COVID and recovered.

              Of course it’s right to be concerned and act to mitigate risk. It is not right to make a blanket prohibition on ‘those people’ working with you no matter what.

            5. Avasarala*

              FWIW I agree, these would be my concerns about sending someone who accepted the risks. Would other employees think we forced them? Does the employee truly feel able to say no?

              That’s why I think the only safe bet for the company is to ask for volunteers or to have nobody do it.

  6. nnn*

    Can anyone tell LW#1 what kind of lawyer they need? I ask because it’s not at all obvious to me, so perhaps it’s not obvious to LW#1 or future googlers either.

    For a divorce you need a family lawyer or a divorce lawyer, but do you need a different kind of lawyer when there’s a business involved? If so, what kind of lawyer?

    1. Paralegal Part Deux*

      Transactional/business to sort that out in amicable terms, if possible. Litigation of it went that far.

    2. Anon for this*

      I’m not a lawyer, but I do have professional experience dealing with small/family businesses.

      My thinking is a family/divorce lawyer would be the right place to start, because it’s still a question of how to split assets between a couple – it’s just that in this case the asset is a business, not a house or a savings account. Unfortunately situations where a person contributes significantly to a business that “belongs” to their partner are very common, so most divorce lawyers would be pretty familiar with this and would also know who to bring in or refer the client to if necessary.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Because they’re not married, a business lawyer is probably more helpful unless OP is in a palimony state (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming), in which case you want a lawyer with family and contract law expertise.

        1. Vina*

          Not necessarily. I have a law license in several states.

          I all of them, she likely has more recourse though the family courts than through civil litigation through the business angle. I know if no state where she can recover as a business investment absent something in writing. In 2 if my states, she might be able to recover in family court. In one – community property state- they’ve formed a community even though they aren’t married. She can recover some funds from the date they became a community. He may have to sell the business to pay that. in the Other, there are laws and court cases about long term couples living together.

          In any case, a family law attorney will know more than the business lawyer. A family law attorney will know about dividing business interests. A business attorney might not know about family law. A Good family lawyer always refers out or forms agreements with business attorneys and valuation experts. A business lawyer won’t necessarily need family law attorneys.

          Start with a family law attorney.

          This is why I always tell people both to put things in writing and to get married. There are so many legal protections. Anyone who says “it’s just a piece of paper” really is ignorant of all the legal implications that flow from pieces of paper.

          I get that some people prefer to remain in a LTR and never marry. Valid, fully great choice. But it is not equal under the law to a marriage. So if that’s your jam, just understand that none of the protective steps you take (e.g., spectate finances, trusts, cohabitation agreements) ever afford you the protection of Civil marriage.

          1. Generic Name*

            Yes, and to add a side note, anyone who tells their partner that they don’t need to get married because it’s “just a piece of paper” and therefore unimportant knows full well just how important it is and doesn’t want to do it. My fiancé doesn’t care if we never get married because he says he can love me for the rest of his life and a marriage license doesn’t matter to him. But he knows it matters to me and he wants me to be happy, so we are marrying. (And I actually have the license signed and ready to go in the mail right now :) ).

            1. Annony*

              Yep. I always found that argument strange. If it’s just a piece of paper, why not get it to make your partner happy? The only reason is because it’s NOT just a piece of paper.

              1. Iconic Bloomingdale*

                I’m no attorney and do not know all of the specific legal protections marriage affords a couple, but I know there are many. I’ve never fallen for that “it’s just a piece of paper” argument when it comes to a long term relationship where one party wants to get married and the other puts it off by saying things like this. In addition to formalizing the relationship commitment, a marriage certificate is a contract, which confers automatic rights to spouses.

                “Pieces of paper” govern all aspects of our lives and are usually in place for our protection or so we can stake a legitimate claim to something. Birth certificates, passports, property deeds, car titles, business contracts, driver licenses, car registrations, health insurance cards, Social Security cards, even a grocery store receipt – you name it. We may not use all of these pieces of paper on a daily basis. But it can be problematic if you need to produce one and it’s either not accessible at that necessary moment or doesn’t exist at all.

              2. Freeway*

                I have objections to it based on religious grounds, however. More to the point, no longer being religious. How does that come into it?

                1. Tidewater 4-1009*

                  Marriage may have been originally tied to religion but since now it’s a legal thing, there are ways to have non-religious marriage ceremonies. :)

          2. BeesKneeReplacement*

            Yup. I got engaged in law school but decided to have a longer engagement than usual in our community because of that and other scheduling issues. Then, I took Trusts and Estates and we had a brief, civil marriage by the end of the semester. Nothing really changed in our lives but knew where we stood in case anything happened, such as medical decision making or the finances we’d co-mingled while I was in school.

          3. Sandi*

            > This is why I always tell people … to get married.

            Unless I’m the one who is financially much more stable, haha! I love my partner of many years, but I have a lot more assets and consulted a lawyer early on in the relationship (with his agreement) to ensure that I keep every one of them if something happens to our relationship. The lawyer advised against marriage. We support each other in many ways, and if there was a reason to marry then I would be willing to do so with a lot of paperwork, but for now I like the safety of having no financial ties to each other. I am very supportive of writing things down.

            I completely agree with your point, despite my own views on marriage. The critical point in every relationship is to be able to have an open and honest discussion about how to treat all partners equitably. I wish that people who wanted to marry were forced (online classes?) to better understand how finances will impact them.

              1. Sandi*

                I went to school with a guy who refused to get married, until he got a job offer in a different country and they didn’t recognize common-law marriage. So the only way his partner could live with him for more than 6 months (the limit of a tourist visa) was for them to get married.

                There are other reasons, but I always think of that one first because it was a reminder to me that life has ways of altering our expectations.

                1. Sandi*

                  And hopefully it’s clear that this is a personal point of view. I support everyone else’s reasons to marry (financial security, personal preference, legal, etc), but don’t feel that they apply to me at this time. But laws and personal circumstances change!

          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            That’s simply not the case in the states in which I’m licensed. There are several states where individuals can indeed recoup business interests without a written agreement or document.

            Practice can of course differ based on OP’s state of residence, but unless we know which state it is, we should be cautious in our referrals.

    3. Barbara Eyiuche*

      A divorce lawyer / family law lawyer will be fine at first. She has to determine if they are in a common-law relationship first; if they are, then splitting up the matrimonial assets is what family law lawyers do. If not, she may need to go to a lawyer who specializes in business law.

      1. TimeCat*

        As a side note. Common law marriage is actually extremely limited. It’s only a few states and generally requires you hold yourself out as married (meaning you tell people you’re married or similar), so merely being in a relationship for a period of time is not sufficient.

        1. Generic Name*

          Agreed. In Colorado, through words or actions you have to show that you consider yourself married. For example, my fiancé and I are probably considered common law married because I indicated that we are married on the census form. (We legally tie the knot next month)

          1. Clisby*

            Same here in SC. (Last year, the state Supreme Court ruled that new common-law marriages aren’t valid, but anything that qualified as a CL marriage before that decision is grandfathered in.)

            It’s not a matter of how long 2 people live together. You could live together for 50 years and not have a common-law marriage, or you could live together for 2 and have a valid common-law marriage. It’s whether you presented yourself as married. For example, if you went around introducing each other as “my wife” or “my husband” that’s evidence in favor. If you consistently called each other “roommates”, that’s evidence against.

      2. EPLawyer*

        As a family law attorney, this is absolutely not something we would handle. Family law is splitting up the stuff from a marriage, period. For everything else, its a business deal. Or a civil case if its a house. Just because they are a couple does not not automatically put it into that category.

        As someone else noted, it is HIGHLY unlikely to rise to a common law situation. those things are a lot harder to prove than you think — even in states that still recognize them which is a vanishingly small number. It’s not just “we spent the requisite nights together.”

        1. Vina*

          Really? In my states if practice this is a relationship sufficient to court intervention.

          My experience is totally the opposite. No remedy in civil court. Remedy in family Court

          She needs to start s a family law attorney first to see if she has a relationship her state recognizes. If not, then business law attorney.

          In my current state the power of a court in dividing a cohabitating couples assets is greater than a civil court looking at a business relationship

          1. doreen*

            Can I ask what state it is where the family courts divide a cohabiting couple’s assets ? It’s not that I disbelieve you – it’s just that I find it odd that family courts would get involved in “dividing up the pots and pans” of people who aren’t married in any way ( even a common-law marriage typically requires that people hold themselves out as married and since the OP refers to him as “partner/boyfriend”, my guess is they haven’t done that). I could get see a civil court getting involved disputes over whether the purchase of something relatively expensive was a gift or a loan, but that’s about it.

            1. Annony*

              It is probably more about dividing up shared bank accounts and jointly owned property. Not every couple who isn’t married keeps assets completely separate.

            2. Vina*

              You can ask, but I’m not going to dox myself. I’ve shared too much info on this username. While this site is generally full of great people, once in a while we get some jerks who pop in and try and wreak havoc.

              My state is one of the ones having a version common-law marriage. It’s rare to seek remedy in family law court, but it does happen. Mostly it’s rare b/c the attorney’s fees are high relative to the average net worth of clients. However, when it’s possible to go to family law court, that’s where you want to go.

              I will say this: some states will settle cohabitation agreements and such matters in family courts. Some won’t. Some make you go to civil court, but will divide assets. It’s too much a jumbled mess to give any answer here not knowing where she lives. Hence, she needs to talk to a family lawyer first.

              In California, for example, a Marvin action is a civil court action, but it’s usually something family lawyers do.

              Here’s an example of a Marvin action explanation from Pride Law

              When both partners enter into an agreement during the relationship that a non-marital partner can collect support and/or property at the end of the relationship. Even without an express agreement (written or oral), non-marital partners can be eligible to receive support and/or property under certain circumstances. For example, assume there has been an oral agreement between the parties that one person would manage the household and the other would financially support the household. There can be a claim made by the non-financially-contributing partner for support from the financially-contributing partner.

              There are many ways to demonstrate an oral agreement or other arrangements creating financial reliance. That could include shared property rights or accounts. Under California law, an enforceable Marvin action claim cannot rest solely on the rendition of sexual services, which itself is unlawful consideration.”

              Finally, the division between “civil” and “family law” court is not clear cut in some states. A friend practices in Kentucky. It has “Family Law” courts in the 3-4 largest counties. The rest of the state brings divorce and family law matters in civil court. I just texted and she also said that her judges have had to deal with community property partnerships sans marriage that came in from other states, then split up there. What a freaking mess.

              In short: This area of law and what is and what is not “Family Law” is a jumbled mess. You have to look at the law on cohabitation and cohabitation agreements, community property, common law marriage, etc. as well as the actual structure of the court system. There’s no one answer to the question posted above about what type of lawyer to go to first.

              I’d like to know, for example, when a community or marriage forms in that state. Does it recognize oral cohabitation agreements? What about emails verifying that this was their agreement (i.e., “reduced to writing”)?

              What type of attorney she needs is well beyond what we can answer here. She may need multiple attorneys.

              1. Vina*

                “Family law” is like “probate.” You learn what these mean in law school. That’s not reality. As I said, I’m licensed in several states. In one, family law covers not only divorce, child custody, and child support, but also dependency/neglect/abuse actions (e.g., foster care). In another, those foster-care type cases go to the same court that handles probate and guardianship matters.

                The ways the states chunk areas of law philosophically varies. For example, should a DNR order be included in the advance directive section of estate planning code or under the medical codes? What about “business trusts”? The trust code? The business entity code? Should drug court diversion be treated as a civil matter akin to involuntary commitment?

                Where does involuntary guardianship go? Family law? Probate? Something else?

                As with much of life, the law does not always conform to neat and tidy boxes. So, with 50 states, you have 50 philosophies on how to do this.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I’m a California lawyer, and you’re talking about palimony… which is why I included a caveat about palimony states. That said, what OP has described does not sound like a palimony agreement, in which case California business and property law control. Those actions are heard on the general civil docket, not in family court.

                You don’t have to dox yourself, but I would be cautious about suggesting that everything goes through family court and that OP should start there. In many states (I think the majority of states, although I have to double-check), the division of business assets or real property between co-habitating, unmarried partners is controlled by general civil law. There may also be several states where it could proceed through the family court, instead. We won’t know which is more applicable without additional geographic information about OP.

                1. Annony*

                  I think the advice was to start by talking to a lawyer who specializes in family law. The lawyer would know the specifics for the state they are in and can guide the OP in whether they should go to family court or at least tell them what type of lawyer they should be talking to.

                2. Yorick*

                  @Annony: But what if OP goes to a lawyer that practices in family court, and they focus on the relationship aspects and say, “well, in this state, non-married partners aren’t entitled to their partner’s assets when they split up.” Then OP thinks there’s nothing they can do, when there could be a recourse based on the business relationship and any investments. (I’m not a lawyer, so I’m sort of speculating). It sounds to me like OP may need to talk to both, not start with one and go to the other if the first one recommends it.

        2. Yet Another Family Law Attorney*

          There are nine states that currently recognize common law marriage in statutes and they all have tricky requirements. Some states like Rhode Island recognize it in case law but not in statutes. Some states like Alabama recognized it up until 2017 but not currently. If you are going to prove a common law marriage you probably need an expert in family law or probate law (most common law marriages get proven in probate when one of the parties dies and the common law spouse is left with nothing).

          If you have a case and you chose to go that route, plan for the next 5 or so years of your life to be a legal battle. This dude sounds like he is crafty and not going to go down without a fight. But if you have nothing else, it might be worth it to you.

          1. Vina*

            It also depends on the value of the business v. cost. If she needs to litigate, hire experts, fight, that can run into substantial money.

            If she has to fight in court, this will cost a lot of money. In my county of residence, I’d guess $20,000 bare minimum. Attorney’s fees, forensic accountant, business valuation expert, etc. That’s minimum.

            I’d also like to know who pays the court costs if she wins and if she loses. If she wins and he’s stuck with her attorneys fees, that’s one thing. If she loses and stuck with his? Ugh.

      3. Saberise*

        She never said they were living together. She said he is her boyfriend. The use of the word partner was in relationship to the business. And she said she used her savings to pay for her living expenses which also implies she wasn’t living with him. I could be wrong but it seems like it would be hard to claim you are common-law if you aren’t living together.

        1. TechWorker*

          It is totally possible to live together and have mostly separate finances though.

    4. IANAL*

      You’ll want a business lawyer first and foremost, but look for one that is in a firm that also practices family law, so that the business lawyer can consult with someone who has expertise in that area as well.

    5. Anon attorney*

      You start with a family lawyer because this problem arises from a personal relationship. If a corporate attorney is needed the family lawyer can bring one in.

      Source: I am a family attorney.

      Don’t hang around on this. In my jurisdiction you would have a claim even though you’re not married but there is a time limit. Get advice before you leave him. Do it today.

      1. Vina*

        Same here. In my state, the relationship means remedies even without paper proof. She’d be dead in the water in any business law claim. No writing, no recovery

    6. me*

      In most states, you can call the state bar association and explain the problem (google “[your state] bar association”). They usually have an attorney referral service so you can get the contact information for an attorney who handles problems like the one you’re facing. Your city and county might also have a bar association with a lawyer referral service. This will at least get you on the right path.

      1. AthenaC*

        This might be the way to go, since upstream in this very comment thread we have one family lawyer saying “yes this is a family law matter” and another family lawyer saying “no this is not a family law matter.” There may be state-specific stuff at play, but in any case, if the state bar association has this sort of service they should be able to direct the OP appropriately.

        1. Vina*

          They don’t tell her what type of lawyer she needs. They only give her a list of names if she knows what she wants.

          She can actually talk to both kinds fairly simultaneously.

          This isn’t an either-or situation. Why not both?

          1. AthenaC*

            Sure – that works.

            The thing I will point out, though, is that if you talk to more than one kind of lawyer (or even more than one lawyer), you may get conflicting advice as each lawyer is looking at your situation through their particular lens. From personal experience, that’s a bit of a nightmare to sort through.

            I would hope, at the very least, that A lawyer is better than NO lawyer, even if it’s not the optimal type of lawyer.

      2. Dagny*

        Alternately, call up any friend who is a lawyer, or ask a friend whose close friend is a lawyer, for a referral. I happily refer my friends and family to good attorneys, and if I don’t know anyone in that area, will ask those whose judgement I trust for a referral.

        1. Vina*

          If someone calls and asks me to help with a matter beyond my area of expertise or that I simply don’t want to handle, I always try and refer them out. Unless, of course, they are entitled jerks on the phone. Then they fend for themselves.

    7. Koala dreams*

      A divorce lawyer or a family lawyer is probably good if there is a marriage or similar, where the relationship status has legal importance. However, it’s not clear to me that this is such a relationship. A business lawyer or an employment lawyer might be more helpful in that case.

  7. DEJ*

    People don’t mute themselves for the same reasons that some people still haven’t figured out not to reply all in emails.

      1. RobotWithHumanHair*

        Also the same people who still haven’t figured out how to mute their cellphones in a movie theater.

    1. Silent but Deadly*

      I mute when I attend our department meeting by telephone. What is weird is that when I am asked to comment or contribute to the meeting and there is a tiny two second delay as I un-mute to respond, they all make comments ‘Are you there?’ ‘Have we lost them?’ immediately. They have commented on it when I am in the office as well as if it is something funny that I do. I just think it courteous for fairly obvious reasons. It baffles me.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        Yeah, I think this is a lot of it. Confession: I don’t mute if my environment is quiet, for this reason. When I do have something to contribute, if people asked my opinion, they’re very quick to go to “hello? Did we lose you? You there?” If I’m speaking up of my own volition, I might miss my shot while I unmute.

        I swear I mute if there is noise on my end! Or if I don’t think there is, but someone says “please everyone mute yourselves”.

        1. tangerineRose*

          I try to mute myself by default – what if I cough or sneeze? Also, I have kitties at home who can make noise unexpectedly.

      2. WorkIsADarkComedy*

        In my experience it’s the people who have less familiarity with or fluency in virtual meetings who have the expectation that you will respond the same way as if you’re in the same room with them.

      3. Mike S*

        My gaming group (we play RPGs) meets on zoom using video, and there’s a regular chorus of “we can’t hear you. You’re on mute,” when people start talking and we can’t hear them, but can see the mute icon. It’s only 6-8 people, not dozens, but we seem to do OK with all of the parents unmuted.

      4. Mimmy*

        I have a suggestion: Whenever I know that I’m going to be called upon to say something, I unmute myself a few seconds beforehand so there’s no delay when it’s my turn.

      5. Kelly L.*

        I took a class where the professor would tell me I was muted…if she noticed the icon while she was lecturing! I was muted because she was lecturing! But I think she figured it was accidental and that I didn’t know.

    2. MUTE please!!*

      This made me laugh. We now have a ton of conference calls at work. One day there was someone practicing a tuba in the background (MUTE for the LOVE!), we can hear people typing or scrolling with their mouse. Come on people its 2020, its not that difficult.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        A tuba? Good grief. At least that makes it easy to say “if someone in your house is playing the tuba, MUTE YOUR PHONE.

    3. Policy Wonk*

      I don’t mute when I am the moderator, so that I can jump in and cut people off or redirect. I found I have to do this because that second it takes to un-mute sometimes allows the person to get in a final jab, or someone else to jump in and derail the conversation. But when I am not the moderator I mute. And I agree the number of people who will ask if someone is there for that 1 second it takes to un-mute is really irritating!

      1. EPLawyer*

        People who don’t mute and can’t figure out unmute are two sides of the same coin. I was just on a conference call where literally the moderator stated how to unmute at the beginning. Then the first person to speak had trouble figuring it out (it was more than a couple seconds wait) so the moderator explained again. The second person couldn’t figure out how to unmute … and so on. Ugh.

        I love Zoom because the moderator has the ability to mute people. If someone is derailing or just a distractiong, you can mute them.

        1. LQ*

          I think this mute and unmute confusion is why I’m so pro physical mute buttons. I can’t be the only one who has 4 or more different tools for conference calls. If I used the one on the computer instead of the physical button I’d always be scrambling because they are in different places and do different things. I’ve been trying to get everyone I’m on a call with regularly a good headset so that they can use that.

          No one needs to hear you breathe except your doctor. Use the mute button.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            Speaking of the mute button, I have my computer hooked into a speaker/microphone doohickey at work, and it has ACTUAL BUTTONS for both mute and volume – with light indicators! It turns red when I’m muted! I was very excited to randomly find that in a drawer. My husband did not find it as cool as I did. But I like being able to push a button to unmute. I like being able to see at a glance if I’m muted, even if I’m working on another screen.

            Plus the clarity is really nice for what it is, which was a nice bonus.

            1. LQ*

              Buttons with light indicators are the best for this. I would entirely be on your train of super joy. I gave away a couple of my good logitech headsets. I didn’t know I was collecting them in advance of the online meeting world, but apparently I was. I had 4 that I’ve given to coworkers that have the very nice lit up button for mute that is physical, that has a microphone on a little arm that you can swing up and away from your face. That get really decent audio quality. (At least far FAR superior to people who use the in laptop microphones.) Love the light up buttons.

        2. Vina*

          I’ve seen that as well. I’ve also seen mods tell people “the button is in your upper left” when, on my iPad, it’s all upper-right. So some of that could be the moderator assuming all IT systems look the same.

    4. Mockingjay*

      Eh, I think most times people forget. We do a lot of teleconferences (even before COVID) and every meeting starts with taking attendance. “Okay, who’s on the line?” People unmute, report in, and then don’t re-mute because they start doing something else while waiting for their turn to speak.

      I remember vividly a few years ago someone was on the conference line, thought he was muted, and used his cell phone on speaker to call his pharmacy to renew prescriptions. We quickly let him know that we could hear him.

    5. Half-Caf Latte*

      Adam Grant recently had a Linked In post about his kindergartener’s report card which included the skill “can independently mute and unmute himself when requested to do so,” and made a tounge in cheek suggestion about this being a new performance evaluation metric for adults.

    6. Windchime*

      I feel like the people who don’t respond to multiple requests to mute themselves aren’t really paying attention to the meeting. I was in a meeting a couple of weeks ago where an attendee was talking to someone in the background about sour cream. On and on and on. The moderator kept asking him to mute, but the conversation went on so clearly he wasn’t paying attention to the meeting at all. Why join if you’re just going to dial in and then wander off? Same with the OP’s example of the furious typing; don’t attend the meeting if you’re just going to (mentally) wander off and do other things.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Because sometimes you need your name to be in the participant list even if it’s going to be a generic update call where you only have to pay 20% attention, and you *know* Karen from Teapot Design is going to go way over her allotted 10 minutes for her topic (Karen’s gotta Karen) and the information is 80% the same as last week’s meeting.

    7. mayfly*

      Since sheltering in place, we switched to audio-over-computer meetings instead of phone calls, which is bad for me because I vastly prefer to call-in via phone. Yesterday I turned off my laptop’s sound before a call, instead of muting the program–everyone heard me talking to my kids (oops). Sharing a workspace with my husband and (sometimes) three kids means using mute and sound off in new creative ways and sometimes getting it wrong.

    8. Vina*

      I had a hearing yesterday. Kept forgetting to unmute. Another attorney had his mic open the whole time. Could hear his wife singing to his baby in the next room. It was adorable, but it’s now on the record in the case.

    9. frinkfrink*

      The person who sets up our weekly online meetings learned to set everyone to be automatically muted after the very first meeting, when we had background noise, typing, household conversations, and someone HUMMING. I might have posted “The organizer can mute everyone!” to the chat multiple times during that first meeting…

    10. Ktelzbeth*

      I was on a call a couple weeks ago and was muted. Then the moderator was asking everyone to mute because of background noise and I realized my mute had unmuted itself. I muted again as fast as I could, but sometimes technology is weird. (I am certain that I was previously muted and not mistaken both because I check regularly while I’m on a call just in case and because the background noise level in my area did not change and the call had been going on for quite a while with no comment when the unmute happened.)

  8. compte*

    Removed. We’re not going to blame victims here. You’re welcome to repost this in a kinder way, without the personal criticism of the OP. – Alison

    1. Heidi*

      The reference to being deceived might be about the affair. In that he told her that he had stopped having one, but apparently did not.

      I’m sorry that this happened, OP. I wish you the best.

  9. allathian*

    Re OP1, it never ceases to amaze me how foolish people can be when it comes to mixing business and relationships. Yikes. A real cautionary tale if there ever was one.
    Lawyer up and don’t tell your dickhead of a boyfriend until you’re ready to take some action. Meanwhile, do what it takes to get yourself out of there, and for goodness sake, don’t invest any more money in his business!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      We want to believe in our SOs and trust our SOs. Certainly life is not without risk. So at some point we decide to keep going, when perhaps we should stop. But we don’t.

      Younger me would have so enjoyed a spouse that I also worked with. Older me has grown more cautious. I have seen the opposite of OP’s story where one partner protected the other partner so much, that the other partner did not realize that the business was close to collapsing. By the time the other partner became aware, it was too late. The protection came from a place of love and support. But the problem was so big, that the both of them should have been working on it together from the beginning. They lost the business and their home. (With professional advice and some pure luck mixed together, they got back on track years later.)

    2. Polly Hedron*

      don’t tell your dickhead of a boyfriend until you’re ready to take some action

      No, not even then, because the boyfriend would talk you out of that action.
      Get the lawyer first. Then strictly follow your lawyer’s advice about what to tell the boyfriend and when.

      We’re pulling for you, OP1, and eager for an update!

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I’ve been there. I consider myself an intelligent, no nonsense type of person, but we all have our insecurities. When I was young I allowed my BF at the time to manipulate me into lending him money, then a credit card for “business trips”. When we broke up, he owed me over $2500. I had to take him to court to get my money. Manipulative people prey on the vulnerable.

    4. Generic Name*

      As someone who is the survivor of an emotionally abusive relationship, this framing isn’t the most helpful when someone is still in the relationship and thinking of leaving. The friends who supported me the most were by my side and told me they loved and supported me while I was in the midst of the relationship. I still remember, after my ex finally moved out and divorce proceedings were underway, my best friend said to me, “I never would have said this when you were married, but Ex-husband is a real asshole.” (Ha!)

      From personal experience, there is a lot of shame and self-directed anger at allowing oneself to be treated that way. But you do it because at the time, it really is the safest option. Saying “yes” when you should say “no”, and backing down, and conceding, and appeasing are acts of self-preservation. So please don’t judge the OP too harshly for this. She is doing the best she can.

    5. Koala dreams*

      I’m not surprised about that, it makes sense to me that people trust those they know. What I find sad is that so few people do the thinking that OP #3 is doing, and think about what you need to do (write a contract, agree on the terms) before moving in, starting a business and so on. Even if both of you are super honest, there will be problems if you have different expectations. And then there are the tragedies in life: illness, unemployment, divorce (even as a divorce is a good thing in this case, it’s still a sad situation), death.

      There is no business contract so well-written that it can protect you against cheaters and scammers, but even a simple written contract can help you find out about your different expectations and make a plan for the future.

  10. Potatoes gonna potate*

    #1 – I am so so sorry you’re going through this. The guy is an abusive, manipulative grade A piece of scum. There is no counselling for this type of situation, only damage control which I am hopeful an attorney can help with. I’m sure others will weigh in with more helpful advice but please write back and let us know how you’re doing. Keeping you in my thoughts.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I love what Alison said:
      “He does not have integrity, he isn’t trustworthy, and you cannot salvage this with counseling.”

      That it’s in a nutshell. Nailed it.

    2. RecentAAMfan*

      I mentioned elsewhere but I’m gonna reiterate that there may definitely be a role for “pretend counseling “. Boyfriend is a snake, and OP doesn’t want to do ANYTHING to tip him off. And if she’s suddenly not interested in working on their relationship that might look suspicious. Do what you gotta do for now.

    3. Jean (just Jean)*

      Like everyone else, I am sorry that you are dealing with this challenge. Look after yourself and your own interests … while not revealing anything to this selfish person.
      Two more thoughts, with the warning especially re #2: I am no expert on tech security.
      – Protect your cell phone and any other electronic devices. NEVER leave them unlocked around this boyfriend. Change your passwords, maybe frequently. If he asks why, tell him whatever he’ll believe… that you wanted to commemorate some aspect of your partnership with him? Appealing to his vanity might be be effective.
      – If you have a safe storage location away from home and work, consider getting a new, “false front” phone that contains *no* information you you want to keep private. Keep the “phony” phone with you and the “real” phone in your safe location. But this may be too complicated; you might do better with password-protected cloud-based storage.

  11. Kiki*

    #3 I’d also like to add that sometimes the UI is not as clear as one would hope. I wish more meeting/conference apps had the actual words displayed at all times saying “You are muted” or “Everyone can hear you.” There are a few apps my company used that just have a “mute symbol” that is filled in when you are muted and just outlined when you’re not. We figured it out, but it’s really easy to misread or mix up which state means you’re muted in the moment when you’re focusing on the meeting.

    1. Avasarala*

      Yes, many tech companies think their UI is so clear and beautiful with filled in circles or outlined circles. The rest of the world does not know which is which. Or if the microphone button means “click this to turn your mic on, because it’s muted now” or “this is the current status of your microphone, which is on”.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Today I was trying to register for a webinar, and accidentally misclicked. I got a dialog box asking “Do you want to cancel your registration?” with the options OK (to cancel the registration) or CANCEL (to get back into the registration process). Uuuuuugh.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I watch old episodes of What’s My Line on YouTube. They had great fun with multiple negatives. A simple case would be the panelist asking a question like “Can I take it that you are not a member of the armed forces.” The contestant would naturally answer “No,” if he indeed was not a member. But this “No” is a “Yes” answer, so John Daly, the moderator, will make a show of “Yes, he is not a member of the armed forces no.”

    2. Dan*

      Microsoft added something to Teams that will tell you if you’re muted when you try to talk… but it does so in like 8 point font in a part of the screen that isn’t the most obvious.

      Best I’ve seen so far is some web conferencing software where you are muted by default unless you are presenting, and if you want to talk, you have to hold down the space bar. I loved that thing.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I like that – so it’s like using a shortwave radio? It would also encourage you to be quick so you don’t have to hold the key down for ages.

      2. Works in IT*

        I love push to talk keys, and really wish more web conferencing applications would adopt them. More people than just gamers have a use for them!

      3. cotton*

        Teams keeps screwing me up since it joins unmuted by default. Skype for Business always joins muted by default. We use both.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          I wonder if that’s a setting you can change or that the IT administrator sets. When I join a meeting with more than 4-5 other people, Teams gives me a notice that I’m joining muted since there are already several other people on the call. For smaller calls it defaults to joining unmuted.

        2. EPLawyer*

          I love Zoom because the moderator can set whether people join muted or not. I usually choose muted just so we don’t hear the ding when a new person joins, then I immediately unmute them if the situation is just a general free for all.

    3. LAMM*

      Our office phones (if you called into a call on them) was difficult for me to tell if I was muted or not. Which is why I always just called in on my cell phone (that and the static. Soooo much static on those phones)

    4. Not So NewReader*

      It’s really not clear. I have had to use a couple meeting apps and the symbols just don’t cut it for me. Sometimes the symbols are so tiny that I can’t even figure out what the symbol is.

      It’s really helpful if the leader quickly goes over the controls for people, if there are new people who may not be familiar. This is the age of learn on the fly and it’s just not possible to catch everything.

      What puzzles me is why the leader doesn’t just mute the person themselves. If someone is clearly not paying attention, ask once of them to mute, if they don’t then go ahead and mute them for a moment. I recently had one person in a meeting who was chewing. And chewing. And chewing. I guess the person had no idea that the mic was picking up every single chomp.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        On some apps there isn’t always a leader who has mute power over participants, I think. At least, we all use Teams a lot and people don’t go around muting each other, and often I don’t really know who the
        “leader” of the call is, even if it’s me.

        1. Lindrine*

          If you look at the participants window, often there is a “mute all” feature. It depends on the version and IT setup of Teams.

      2. Mimmy*

        My misophonic self is twitching at the mere thought of having to hear that chewing during a conference call!!!

      3. Yorick*

        I was just thinking that. We had a huge problem with that on a Zoom meeting, which does allow the host to mute anyone.

    5. SarahTheEntwife*

      Yes! And it’s so easy to forget to re-mute yourself if you’ve turned on the mic because it’s your turn to speak.

    6. CDM*

      So much this.

      When Webex shows a line through my mic and everyone can still hear my spouse’s meeting in the background, the problem is with Webex, not with me.

      Apparently, the mic button has to be red to actually be muted, but you can only see the red if you hover over the mic button. And if you aren’t colorblind. And you’re supposed to know this instinctively the minute your company gets bought by another that holds all meetings through this UI you’ve never used before. I had to turn my mic off in settings until I figured this out.

      1. MCL*

        Ugh, I hate WebEx so much, and I agree that the mute button design is not at all intuitive – I always panic a bit when I’m on a WebEx call and can’t immediately tell if I’m muted or not! I feel like I’ve used every online meeting platform under the sun lately, but that’s the only one that is consistently terrible.

        1. JustaTech*

          The one thing I’ve found useful in WebEx (it’s the only thing we use and while everyone whines about it, I really don’t want to get another system we’d all have to learn and there would be *more* whining), is that if you have the “Participants” tab open you can see who is making noise (it’s little blue curved lines), but only when they are making noise. So if there’s, say, a weird gurgling noise when no one else is talking I can see the lines by Bob’s name I can IM him to mute himself because we’re all hearing his aquarium.

    7. Anon100*

      Yes, the UI gets even more confusing when you can call in separately with a phone for audio control. I was on a videoconference yesterday and had unmuted my actual phone to speak, but completely forgot that I *also* had to unmute the computer as well for other people to hear me. Very frustrating.

      1. LQ*

        Weirdly I think the calling in with the phone makes all this easier. You unmute online once, which is annoying, but I just do it immediately or try to set the default. But the mute button on the phone is big and lights up red when I’m muted and can be seen even if I’m in another window. (And I’ve only twice accidentally hung up on myself rather than unmuting, and out of the thousands of calls in the last month, that’s pretty good.)

    8. LQ*

      Yes! So much this. Multiple apps with different ways of displaying it. Physical mute button that you can see lit up and physically hit are so useful and way under used.

    9. Mimmy*

      This mute / unmute thing has been a huge annoyance for me with our weekly staff calls. And now, we’re starting to do group sessions with our students this week through Zoom. I didn’t even consider that there are multiple UIs that people are still trying to figure out. I really like the idea of a single, physical mute button that others have suggested.

      1. Humble Schoolmarm*

        I’m having a bit of the opposite problem! My office hours aren’t always well attended, so I open the meeting and mute myself (mostly so no one catches me singing along to my show tunes playlist). Unfortunately, I forget to unmute when a student arrives and I find myself stupidly wondering why no one is answering me when I greet them.

    10. button*

      Yes, this! Especially if you use one software internally and then have a meeting with someone externally on their platform.

    11. Littorally*

      Agreed. I’m always very paranoid about whether icons are “click this to mute” or “you are currently muted.”

      On our work phones, there is an indicator light, which I find preferable. If the light beside “mute” is on, mute is on. That’s much clearer to understand.

  12. Courtney*

    Depending on the country LW#1 is in, talking to an accountant may also help. I work for an accountant and we went through something similar with a client

  13. Barbara Eyiuche*

    #1 Where are you living? If you are living with your boyfriend and you are in Canada (outside of Quebec), you are common-law spouses and should get half of all matrimonial assets when you split up. In any case, see a lawyer. There is no point to couples counselling now.

    1. MayLou*

      Is this automatically true for all cohabiting couples who are not already legally married? What are the requirements for that to be the case? In the UK I don’t think we even have common law marriage any more so I have no idea.

      1. rear mech*

        In my (USA) state you have to represent yourselves as spouses in order to be considered common-law married. Living together, etc, contributes to this but you also need to do something like regularly introduce the other person as your husband or wife, or refer to yourselves as spouses on official paperwork.

      2. Yet Another Family Law Attorney*

        Fun Fact, the England and Wales NEVER had Common Law Marriage. It’s something that was sort of kind of invented for the colonies of Canada and the US because it was very difficult to get a marriage solemnized by the right parties the way that you would in England or Wales. It’s sort of commonly thought that it came from there because many U.S. states had (and some still do) have what they call “common law” statutes which state something to the effect of “In the event that we have not legislated a statute concerning something, the common laws of England and Wales shall apply.”
        Additional fun fact, In Scotland any citizen could witness a public promise to marry and you’d be married. That’s why in old books and stuff, people are going to Gretna Green. It was way easier to get married in Scotland than England or Wales, you had to publish banns.

      3. Barbara Eyiuche*

        In Canada it depends on the province or territory you live in. In some, if you live together for three years in a conjugal relationship, you are common-law. In others it is two years. In some it is only one year if you have a child together. In Quebec, they don’t have it. Outside of Quebec, it is pretty well automatic – even if the two people involved don’t want to be spouses, the government will consider them to be so after the required time together. You rarely see cases where people are trying to convince the government they are common law; you do see cases where people are trying to convince the government they were not common law.

      4. Sandi*

        There is no specific requirement beyond cohabitating for 1-3 years, or less time if there are kids, although there has to be a ‘marriage-like’ relationship. Room-mates are not common-law, nor siblings or any other non-intimate relationship. Often they will show it on tax returns, or some other paperwork.

        The impact of a common-law relationship depends on the province, yet for almost every one (or perhaps all of them) Barbara Eyiuche is wrong about having rights to half of all matrimonial assets. The one distinction is that children have a very strong influence on the legalities, as the law aims to better support any kids. If the couple keep their finances separate during their relationship then they do not have obligations to the other upon separation, although child support is obviously a totally different issue, and spousal support maybe be an option in some provinces. So, for example, if I clearly bought my own condo during our relationship, and paid the mortgage and fees out of my own income, then my partner has no financial claim if we split up.

        Definition ‘marriage-like’:
        https://www.nsfamilylaw.ca/separation-divorce/common-law
        Rights upon separation:
        https://www.legalline.ca/legal-answers/common-law-rights-upon-break-up/

    2. Sandi*

      This is not true for some provinces in Canada (I have consulted lawyers in Ontario and Nova Scotia). I suspect it is not true in most provinces. I would agree with talking with a lawyer, because most people think they know the laws but they don’t.

  14. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, what you’re describing is sometimes called “concern bias.” It refers to situations when an employer becomes aware of an employee’s condition/disability and attempts to limit that employee’s job duties based on the employer’s perception of the employee’s health limitations or risks. Alison is right to refer to the disability context—think of the process as being similar to the ADA’s iterative process where you work with your employee to determine the right accommodation. :)

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      It reminds me of when I was pregnant with #1. Everyone was SO CONCERNED that I not over-do in my delicate condition. They would not let me do a lot of normal things “because of the baby”. And it was maddening. I’m an adult, we can talk this through like adults.

      Also the concern evaporated when I was pregnant with #2 and taking care of toddler #1. All the people who had worried that I not over-exert, not over-do, get lots of rest no longer gave a crap. They were only concerned as long as their concern limited my actions, not when they would have to do something if they really were worried.

    2. Karia*

      This is a deadly disease that is mostly killing people in this man’s age bracket. 72% of Covid deaths are in the 65+ demographic. This isn’t a matter of discrimination, or bias, or condescension. This is them not wanting to kill their employee.

        1. OP#4*

          @Karia, that’s what prompted me write in in the first place, but as long-time AAA reader, knew I’d need to get out of my own head to see what the law says.

          @PCBH, I can totally see how it applies and I think a conversation with AwesomeGuy will be in order this week and make it his choice.

          @Alison, thanks so much for answering my question so definitively.

          1. Karia*

            Yeah, I guess it’s good to separate ‘stands to reason’ from the legal point of view. Often different.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yeah, unfortunately this is part of the tension of anti-discrimination laws when an employer is trying to do the “right thing.” I think it’s also hard because there’s an inherent power imbalance between employee and employer, and when you add economic strain, there are plenty of employees who will “volunteer” to undertake high-risk work because in the short-term, they can’t afford to turn it down.

            But thankfully for AwesomeGuy, you sound like a compassionate and decent employer who wants to mitigate serious and unnecessary risks. Hopefully AwesomeGuy will agree and understand that it would not be in his interest to travel given his demographic’s vulnerability.

        2. Karia*

          I saw all your comments at once, and haven’t been ignoring them; I also won’t comment further after this reply.

          I accept that this is the law. I still regard the law as wrong. I cannot fathom that this is classed as ‘discrimination’ rather than ‘reckless endangerment of an employee’.

          I find this law horrifying.

          1. OP#4*

            It’s painful for me, as well, but also know the slippery slope of poor employer actions against employees that actually causes harm. I can see it through the lens of my own good intentions, but we know for sure there are unethical employers whose intentions are significantly less that good.

          2. ThatGirl*

            Based on your other comments, you’re in the UK. Our worker protection is not as strong in the US *and* there’s a long history of pushing individual risk assessment and responsibility versus governments or workplaces making those decisions. You’re free to disagree with that, of course, and I understand where you’re coming from, but you do need to accept that it’s true :)

            1. Gloria*

              Yeah, this is huge cultural difference. I saw in another comment that a pregnant woman is not allowed to decide what risks they want to take when it comes to lead. That would not go over well in the US.

              1. pancakes*

                The way questions like these are discussed in the US at the moment, there would be people framing that as “her freedom to ingest lead.”

          3. Annony*

            I can see where you are coming from but I don’t think you are seeing how without that law, employers would be able to use “concern” to harm people’s chances of advancement in their career. For example, leading a high profile project is generally good for a career and can lead to promotions. If an employer were allowed to unilaterally decide that some employees needed extra protection and could not be given this project because there were on site visits then they could justify passing over older employees, pregnant women and anyone with known health issues and give the opportunity to the young guy they just hired even though he is objectively less qualified. And when there is an opening higher up they can use his performance on this project to justify promoting him over the woman who just got off maternity leave or the 70 year old they are trying to push out the door.

            By giving the employee the agency to choose which risks they want to take it prevents companies from twisting things to justify discrimination. Even good intentions can result in discrimination if opportunities are withheld without really knowing what the employee is and is not capable of.

          4. New Jack Karyn*

            Imagine you are 62 years old, in pretty good health. But your employer has been wanting to get rid of you for a while now, bring in someone younger and cheaper. Now, there’s Covid-19. You’d be fine traveling for work, going to meetings, everything that everyone else is doing as long as there are reasonable precautions.

            But your boss says, “Nope! Can’t risk you! You can’t go do these things.” But that was a major function of your job. And there’s suddenly no way to make a lateral move. Now you’re off projects, you’re deadweight on teams. And now, a few short years from retirement, you’re let go.

          5. Yorick*

            How can “giving him accommodations if needed but letting him make his own decisions since he’s the one who knows about his medical history and actual risk,” be reckless endangerment??

          6. NerdyKris*

            Think of it this way: The law is written that way because otherwise the employer would need to know the employee’s medical status and be involved in making medical decisions for the employee. If my doctor says I’m okay to work under certain conditions, that’s enough. My employer only needs to know if I can perform the duties with reasonable accommodation.
            You used the example of pregnancy. What if the employer thinks it’s dangerous for a pregnant woman to do any work at all? That would impact their career based on sexist assumptions.
            What if they don’t want women to go to a certain event because it’s in a city they don’t think is safe? They’re giving men preferential access to training or networking over the women.

            For a less extreme example, I’m deaf in one ear. That requires a minor accommodation in any job with headsets, because I won’t be able to hear someone in the room. I definitely don’t want an employer deciding that they aren’t going to hire me because they’ve decided that this is a safety hazard somehow.

            The law is that way because the alternative can be abused. The employee is entirely capable of asking for accommodations if they need them. The employer should not be the one deciding if their condition might cause issues.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’m in the UK. I’m judged as at risk because I’m physically disabled, overweight, etc. But I wouldn’t want anybody making decisions for me as to my actions. I deserve a right to balance my own risks and make informed choices, and frankly I know what my body can/cannot handle better than an outsider/manager.

        (I’ve grown a little tired recently of being told what I should or shouldn’t do/eat/think by well meaning people. It can unintentionally come across as extremely condescending.)

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          (Oh, that made it sound like I object to self isolation or social distancing etc. I don’t! I do stay in to avoid the virus and haven’t seen my family in months.)

        2. Koala dreams*

          Yes, this pandemic has really made some people give even more unwanted health advice. Sorry you have to listen to those people. :(

  15. Mute*

    #3 – Some programs like WebEx allows for only the host to unmute participants.

    Person could have muted themselves, only to be unmuted on the host side. Easiest thing is for the host to mute all and use the hands up or chat feature instead.

    1. Twinkle toes*

      Omg, this! My HOA is meeting via zoom and the property manager kept unmuting everyone. I finally had to interrupt the whole meeting and explain that standard etiquette is to keep yourself muted unless you want to talk. Property manager was shocked and never heard of board members wanting to be muted.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I am fanatic about muting– even on small group calls– but last week I was on a huge group Zoom and didn’t realize I wasn’t muted until about five minutes in because I’m so used to being muted by the host! Luckily I hadn’t said anything, but I hope no one could hear me snacking on strawberries.

    3. Kettricken Farseer*

      My default setting when scheduling a meeting is to mute all participants on entry, saves a lot of aggravation

    4. Dumpster Fire*

      Interestingly, Google Meet doesn’t allow anyone to unmute anyone else, for privacy reasons. Annoyingly, it doesn’t yet have a “mute all” feature.

  16. Christmas*

    On a recent Zoom video meeting, one of the participants UN-muted herself and started yelling profanity-laden complaint that “nobody listens” to her. Several people practically started shouting at her to mute herself! After a few moments, she did.

    What I think happened is: she *thought* she unmuted herself and tried to voice a question or comment, and when nobody responded because we didn’t hear her, she clicked the button again and then unmuted herself *for real* just before launching into an outburst.

    Later that day, she emailed out an awkward apology.

    1. TechWorker*

      I have had two meetings now where webex randomly refuses to use my system mike (it’s not on mute and other meetings via webex before and after have been fine).

      Both times it’s been stuff where I’ve needed to jump in in a gap to make my point and it has felt like being ignored! The second time I realised a bit quicker and pinged a coworker to ask if they could hear me… very frustrating!

  17. CatMom*

    #3, I believe Zoom allows for the host of the meeting to mute all participants on entry and also gives the ability to unmute. Maybe you can suggest this as the default standard setup for scheduling meetings?

  18. Bob*

    LW1: Document, document, document. Everything you have ever done for him and document the proof you did them. Correspondence from text messages to e-mails to paystubs to industry rates for similar work and more.
    Then lawyer up. If your first lawyer choice says you have no case get second, third, fourth opinions, this may be a grey area but you have nothing to lose by seeking many opinions if necessary.
    Don’t look back, and accept no promises you get from now on. If any are offered get them in writing for your lawyer to use. And don’t try to salvage the relationship, it takes two to tango and he has chosen an outside partner and will not change his mind. He has treated you as indentured servitude, he will not accept you as an equal because you deciphered his master plan. He is more likely to split as soon as he realizes that you know his plan. Be prepared for this financially an emotionally as well.

    LW2: Get an ironclad lease, have an exit plan in case your job falls apart and you need a new job (people can change for the worse when money is involved), and treat this as an extra professional relationship. Also once covid is done mutually agree that you will be moving out once you quickly find a new place. If its a fixed term lease (say one year) you will move out then. Also utilities will cost a lot more then you expect, if your splitting them now some will go down, some won’t. And each house has unique heating/cooling costs. And electricity and hot water costs as well. Having these included in the rent is good for you but could turn your boss against you if they whine that your using too much even if you are not. So talk these things out before you sign anything, get copies of old bills if you can and make sure you can afford them if not included.
    Also the landlord will likely be losing money talk that part out as well. Talk about how you will resolve any disagreements if they come up, you hope they don’t but if they did how will you separate work and renting?

    LW4: Alison, your response is excellent!

    1. RecentAAMfan*

      For LW2 this all sounds very sensible, but I would be afraid if the OP gets too formal, lists too many conditions , etc, the grand boss might balk. Sounds like boss is just trying to be helpful.
      To be clear, I’m not suggesting no paperwork/lease. Just don’t come across “high maintenance “.

      1. OP 2*

        I definitely don’t want to come across as too high maintenance or demanding. I’m trying to come up with a list of things to say “Here’s what would make me feel most comfortable about this arrangement” so that I don’t end up agreeing to something that could cause problems down the road.

        1. Bob*

          Don’t look at it as being high maintenance or too demanding, think of it as tying up all the loose ends.
          You need a lease. You need an understanding of the unique situation, how will you separate work and living? What will the costs be, are the utilities included or are they on top of the rent. If on top how much were the previous bills. If included what if it spikes (say a heat wave using more AC). Also being below market how will it affect their finances. This one is the most delicate but i highly recommend you don’t skip it, the last thing you need is this person realizing later they gave away the farm and trying to get back at you for it. Its one of the big reasons you should not rent from a boss, but since your in a unique situation try to ward off potential problems before they start. Even tell the boss that why your asking so many questions. Approach it collaboratively but be sure to look out for your interests. This won’t cover every possible issue that could happen but should cover most of them. Pay your rent on time, not even a day late.
          Finally damage deposits and pictures taken before you move in, signed by both. And get rent receipts, if the landlord wants a cash arrangement your the one who loses if there is a problem, you lose all your bargaining chips. These include legal protections for tenants, proof of rent paid, legal problems with the IRS, few alternatives if the landlord turns on you and so forth.

        2. Alice's Rabbit*

          I have a basement apartment that I rent out. As part of that, I have a standard contract that renters must sign. It spells out all the money aspects, length of the lease, as well as what repairs we’re responsible for, how to reach us, and how quickly we will respond. If they have any additional concerns, we decide on those together, and then add another addendum to the contract.
          As a business person, if you present it as “Of course we need a written contract for any business arrangement” I am sure your boss will appreciate the professionalism.

  19. willow for now*

    #3, It might (might!) help to name the noise issue – “Someone is typing very fast and very loudly”, “Someone is crinkling a bag of chips”, “Someone is gargling”, and the like. That might cut through the “they’re not talking about me” fog.

    1. Casper Lives*

      IME people are too unfocused or oblivious for that. The only thing that worked for us is meeting etiquette. Big boss muted all at meeting start. Unmute yourself to talk, and mute yourself right after speaking.

      We tried saying, “Someone’s typing loudly” and got no response until we called the typer out by name. It took several name repetitions before he realized we were talking to him. He tuned us out. I’ve had a couple people answer phone calls without muting. Because they were calling in for sound and using the computer for video (the system we have to use can be finicky), they thought taking a phone call automatically muted them. Nah, we hear them talking but they couldn’t hear us talking to them.

      1. Avasarala*

        I’d also be concerned about someone so checked out of a meeting that they don’t respond to their name after multiple times. What’s the point of being on a call if you’re not even going to listen for your name.

        1. Casper Lives*

          It’s not a good idea, no. I sympathized though – I wanted to check out myself. The thrice weekly meetings went on too long, had too many people on, and were mandated by corporate high above my boss’s level. Corporate has relaxed the amount of meetings as the metrics show we’re working from home, not screwing around. The old school execs hate WFH as a concept.

        2. WellRed*

          I’ve certainly been on calls where I would have loved to do something else while others droned on…and on.

      2. doreen*

        I have a regular conference call where I don’t pay much attention during large parts because they don’t pertain to me . It starts off with about 10 higher ups talking about issues relevant to everyone on the call – and then the next 40 or so participants give a short update on their offices which is information that is irrelevant to the rest of us. ( I have no interest in the fact that an office 400 miles away has received approval to fill a vacancy.) There is no dialogue at any point and the whole thing could have just been an email and saved me a couple of hours every time. I listen for my supervisor – when she speaks, I’m up soon. Mention my name at any other point and I may or may not notice it.

      3. Oldbiddy*

        I accidentally forgot to unmute myself one time when I was clipping my fingernails. Ooops! I was paying attention so I stopped immediately when people started speculating on the weird noise. Never did that again!

    2. Dan*

      I was on some call where somebody was breathing *super* heavily right into the mic. It was creepy. So, I announced (un-muted): “Apparently, we have a creeper on the line.” I got a couple chuckles and the creeper didn’t even get the hint.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I’m not surprised – they wouldn’t have been able to hear it.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          (to hear their own breathing, that is – they’d have been literally the only person not to get it through their speakers/headphones)

          1. SarahKay*

            Yes, I hate that about MS Teams – it doesn’t ever show me that noise is coming from me; only from other people. (With the exception that if I’m muted and make noise it will tell me I’m muted.) At least on Skype the microphone image would change to show sound coming from it for everyone making noise, including myself.

      2. Kettricken Farseer*

        When someone is breathing into their mic, I just say a generic, “Hey, someone is breathing heavily, if you can’t hear it, it’s you.”

    3. Jeanne*

      I run a lot of video meetings, mostly through Zoom. Zoom shows you who is making noise, and in the attendees’ box shows whose microphone is unmuted. I tell people at the beginning to mute. I have interrupted speakers to tell other attendees to mute their microphones in general. I send a private chat telling them to mute themselves. I call them out specifically by name to mute themselves. I mute them myself, and in the end I have sent people to the waiting room and messaged them there that they are to stay muted. The message is beginning to get through!!! 8 weeks and some 10,000 participants later!!
      Some people think that the microphone is their speaker. They have their volume turned right down and so can’t hear, so they unmute themselves – which doesn’t help!!

      1. Bibliovore*

        Oops, sorry; I somehow didn’t see your post until after I sent mine that echoed much of your first paragraph.

    4. Bibliovore*

      With Zoom (and Discord, and likely at least some others), if you look at the attendees list during the meeting you can see who’s muted and who isn’t, as well as who’s actively sending sound at any given time. This makes it easy to call people out specifically, either aloud or via a more-discreet message.

    5. Delta Delta*

      “Sounds like someone’s family is having ravioli for lunch!” did not lead to Team Ravioli muting on their end.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Nor did the VP saying “if you’re yelling at Fluffy, mute your line” after five minutes of barking dog and “BE QUIET, FLUFFY” “WHERE DID FLUFFY GO?” “CAN YOU TAKE FLUFFY OUT?” We have now figured out how to mute all by default :D

      2. Windchime*

        Yeah. It’s because Team Ravioli dialed in and then wandered off to heat up lunch. We had someone on a call the other day that was washing pots and pans in the sink. Loudly clanging pans together, running water, the whole thing. The meeting was somehow set up in a way that the host couldn’t do a mass-mute, so he kept hollering for people to mute. The pan washer finally either muted or got done doing dishes.

    6. Half-Caf Latte*

      We have a daily safety report out, with 50+ people on the line. It’s meant to be a succinct 15 min rundown.

      At least weekly, someone puts the call on hold, and apparently no one knows to mute first, so we are all treated to hold music as we try to complete the report out.

      Without fail, the leader of the call asks “will whoever has us on hold please take us off of hold we can hear the music.”

      I’ve tried to point out the futility of this request, but it’s been literal YEARS and she continues to ask.

    7. Temperance*

      That doesn’t work. I’ve had someone WASH DISHES loudly while on a call, get called out on it multiple times … and keep going.

  20. Chocolate Teapot*

    3. I was listening to a podcast for some work training, and heard crockery rattling and somebody doing a spot of building work. (That was definitely a hammer and a drill!)

    1. pancakes*

      This is a reverse of the time I was in a pub (pre-pandemic, obviously) and heard a contractor who was having a pint on the phone with a client as if he was checking on another job site, lol.

  21. Dan*

    #3

    I’m blaming Microsoft. They own the stupid OS. They own Skype. And now they own Teams. I have a Logitech headset that has volume, mute, and disconnect controls all on the cord. Mute comes with a red light. I really liked that, and I always new what the status was.

    Except… when MS rolled out Teams, they did something with the software so that those controls don’t work with Teams unless I switch something somewhere else that I haven’t figured out, and then I’d have to switch it back to do Skype stuff. WTF? Since I still use Skype for stuff, I haven’t switched the controls over. And the mute indicator on teams is really tiny. More WTF.

    I’m not asking for advice or tech support, I’m just blaming Microsoft.

    1. Lost academic*

      I’m sorry you’re having such a bad experience but it’s not universal. My physical headset controls all still work. I’ve found the panel controls for Teams to be at least as easy to access on screen as Teams. The platform does have an adjustment phase when you’re used to Skype but as my company slowly switches over it’s much more powerful to use with our clients especially with screen sharing.

    2. Susie Q*

      I find Teams to be one of the easiest conferencing UIs. Maybe don’t rely on your headset to mute or unmute yourself.

      1. cotton*

        Teams is the worst UI I’ve ever used, since the controls aren’t always there, you have to move your mouse to see them, and then they are on top of the screen being shared, so they obstruct the presentation. Horrible.

      2. LQ*

        Why wouldn’t you rely on the headset to mute or unmute yourself? This is by far the better way to do it IMO. The on screen ones are horrible. Which tiny little button do you click on which piece of software. If the physical headset button works and works for everything (which it should) then you can use it universally. Teams is a huge PITA. Their UI is worse than skype for a bunch of the video conferencing things. It’s fine once you get used to it or if it’s the only one you are using, but your experience is definately not universal.

        (My tiny little annoying example. Skype you can set to remember your phone number to call out. Teams you cannot. You have to type in the number every single time.)

        1. lost academic*

          There’s a lot Teams can do that may not necessarily be enabled at every installation. That’s a very annoying point we’re having right now with external numbers, because our IT department is being slow and uncommunicative about when they’re going to have full functionality. But I know the things we want from Skype all exist in Teams at least.

          1. LQ*

            I’m very VERY happy to blame our IT department’s installation of Teams (and anything else) but this is something that I haven’t been able to find the ability to do in any installation, like asking google I get a lot of answers about how to dial out, but none about saving the phone number.

            But part of the point of it is not just to complain about this minor little thing, but to say that every tool is different, every installation is different, new features get enabled without notice, or with notice to just the IT people who decide they’ll communicate it a few months later, or notice but people don’t read it because they get a thousand emails a day, or they just missed it.

            People will behave badly with the mute, and share, and everything else. It doesn’t make them bad people, but it is inevitable. Sorry, I know everyone here thinks that all people are perfect and should be treated like they can do no wrong, but the truth is we are all human and flawed and sometimes stink at things. Some of those things are muting. So instead of just demanding that everyone changes the way they exist come up with some tools or processes that work for your group. Get everyone a physical button. Have someone who sets everyone to mute at the start and is the official re-muter. Decide that you’re never going to meet again and you only have emails from now on. Whatever works for your group. But stop assuming that you can make people change by generically complaining that “someone’s not on mute”.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Actually what bothers me more is that the people in charge of the meetings don’t just mute everyone themselves. Most apps I’ve used for meetings allow this. There’s no need to remind everyone 20 times in the first 5 minutes to mute…just do it yourself!

  22. CoffeeLover*

    #3 – At least in the applications my company works with (Teams), you can mute other people. I always mute the person that’s making a bunch of noise. You can see it’s them because the application lights up the person that’s talking/making noise or you can also see who’s not muted already. I feel like I’m doing a public service by saving others from the noise and by saving that person from being the one that flushes the toilet in a conference call.

    I am the hero the world needs :P.

    1. PX*

      This was the best thing about Skype/Lync, and I used it liberally! Unfortunately I now work in a company that uses Webex and only the host can do this – and they often do not.

      1. Kettricken Farseer*

        I’ve found that this is mostly due to the host not knowing how to do it. I’ve had to show my grandboss and one of his peers how to do it, now they’re fanatics about it

  23. Isabelle*

    OP#1, do get legal advice immediately but also consider therapy if you can. You have been financially and mentally abused for a decade, you don’t recover from this level of abuse and manipulation overnight. If I can be blunt, the fact that you are considering couples counseling even now after what he put you through is alarming and a direct consequence of his mental abuse. Do not let him gaslight you any further!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        If anything it just gives the abuser more ideas on how to control the other.

        (20 odd years ago I learnt that the hard way.)

  24. babblemouth*

    In a related question to LW3’s: how is it that we’ve all been working from home for 3 months, and some people still can’t find the “share screen” icon in Teams? IT’S RIGHT THERE NEXT TO THE MUTE BUTTON.

    *deep breath*

    1. Carlie*

      Wait, it puts screen share right next to the most commonly used button? What a recipe for disaster. About three weeks into the quarantine surge, Zoom made screen share harder to do because so many people were doing it on accident.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yeah, my kid managed to accidentally share his screen on zoom a couple of times.

        The button on Teams brings up a window selector so you can choose which application you want to share, it doesn’t just start sharing immediately when you click on it, thank goodness.

      2. 'Tis Me*

        Nah it’s fine: as established people don’t use the mute feature anywhere near as much as they should ;-)

    2. LQ*

      We’ve had a horrible time with having people figure out how to stop sharing their screens in teams (describing that icon has become a favorite passtime of mine, it’s a goal with an x for the goalie, click the goalie). The 5 minutes to get someone to unshare their screen every time is a pain. It’s not that hard except apparently share and stop sharing and muting are that hard.

    3. Generic Name*

      Yeah, but the icon that represents “share screen” isn’t intuitive. At least not for me. It’s a rectangle with an arrow, which could mean a lot of things.

      1. Amanda*

        Sure, it’s not at all intuitive, and it ok to have trouble in the first week or so. But it’s been 2 months, and a lot of people are STILL having trouble. Just hover your mouse over all the buttons, for Pete’s sake, and read what they do. o_O

  25. Up there in age*

    LW#4, My concern and the only thing that I would think was not brought up, would be HOW you have the conversation with the employee. You are his supervisor and that means power over him. Your concern, while certainly noble, does place the company dangerously close to a discrimination claim. And, when you meet with the employee, you need to choose your words very carefully. It is quite possible that the employee may feel pressured to agree not to go and because of the power dynamics say he does not want to go. The fact you had a meeting to “decide” would, in that case, actually become ammo for an age discrimination complaint.

    Perhaps a team wide meeting asking for a volunteer to do the site visit would be better, not just this locale but any until things are better. Then you could still have the employee as involved but without having to risk an age discrimination lawsuit.

    1. WellRed*

      But if he’s naturally the person expected to go, this would probably alarm him (are they pushing me out?) It also doesn’t alleviate the risk of age discrimination. Besides, what if he volunteers.

    2. Colette*

      “Bob, the site visit is coming up. You’re the expert and we’d love to have you go, but if you’d rather not take this one, we will happily make other arrangements.”

      1. WellRed*

        Again, if I were Bob, I’d be wondering, “Do they not want me to go? Am I being pushed out?”

        1. Colette*

          That would be on you, though – if the employer is clear that he’s their first choice, there is no reason to think he is being pushed out.

          1. WellRed*

            I guess to me, not having an actual conversation with Bob, and instead, skirting the issue, makes it unclear he’s her first choice. I really think the manager needs to handle this directly, not put out a general call for volunteers. If your boss suddenly started to look for someone to take your place/take over a job duty of yours, without speaking to you, you’d wonder what was up, wouldn’t you?

            1. SimplyTheBest*

              How is “Bob, the site visit is coming up. You’re the expert and we’d love to have you go, but if you’d rather not take this one, we will happily make other arrangements” not a direct conversation?

        2. 'Tis Me*

          Yeah, I was worried that it may come across as “I know you may not want to go so let’s talk that over because I want you to go”… I’m not sure how quite to word it so it’s utterly clear that this is coming from a place of concern, his job is as safe as anybody’s etc.

          “The site visit is coming up and while you would usually go as you are the expert, would you rather we ask somebody else to deputise on your behalf this time around? I don’t want you to feel any pressure to risk your health, and I’m not sure if people will be wearing masks, socially distancing, etc there or en route. To be clear this is absolutely your choice and from a business perspective there are no consequences either way, and you would still be in charge of the project.” and then trust to the relationship to mean Bob knows that you mean it?

          1. OP#4*

            I’ve been pondering the right balance of showing concern with making sure I don’t come across exactly how WellRed and Up there in age indicate. Thanks, I like this script.

            Kind directness is my preference, but AwesomeGuy is often deferential, so I have to give it some thought so as to be extra careful to not guide him to the decision I want him to make!

            1. Amanda*

              If he’s deferential, I’d also add “I’d prefer you didn’t go, since you’re in an at risk group, but ultimately it’s your choice. Again, you’d be leading the project either way.”

    3. Sara without an H*

      One thing I haven’t seen mentioned so far is, how do other employees feel about going to this site? While LW#4 is immediately concerned about this employee because of his age, there may be other team members who are reluctant to travel to this site, either due to their own health conditions or because they live with somebody who would be vulnerable to the virus.

      Rather than calling for volunteers, why not make sure everybody knows that the company will find work-arounds for anybody who doesn’t feel safe doing off-site visits? If LW’s company doesn’t have a task force in place working on this issue, then they need to get one started.

      1. OP#4*

        We’re super small, so the task force is me – and AAM – for now! I do have an appointment with an outsourced HR specialist next week to get some policies together, and we’ll ask for candid feedback from staff after I wrap my brain around legalities first.

        We definitely will find other ways of getting work done for anyone who’s doesn’t feel comfortable traveling without any consequences to their job or prospects and thanks for the reminder that this is really important to communicate in an open forum. I’m so thankful we built this firm on valuing virtual work, because so many firms in this industry are absolutely losing their minds right now.

        1. Sara without an H*

          Good on you for getting some outside expertise involved. And yes, absolute transparency on your part is going to be essential for this to work. My own employers have indicated that they’re fine with remote work for now, but this is also our slow season. Nobody has any idea what they plan to do when things pick up in the fall, and rumors are already flying. If other firms in your industry “are absolutely losing their minds,” you can be sure that your team has heard about it from friends, social media, etc. Do everything you can to stay out in front of the rumor mill.

      2. TiffIf*

        This!
        Additionally, can you forewarn those visiting the site (both employee and regulators etc) that everyone will be expected to wear masks on site and follow all recommended social distancing guidelines?

  26. Clementine*

    For LW#1, I would be worried this is the type of guy who has passwords to your email and your banking and so on. Change those on a device that he doesn’t use. Lock your cell phone. Expect that he will have no compunction about leaving you destitute. Like everyone said, do your best not to tip him off, but find a way out with legal and counselling help.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Yes, and if his name is on any of her bank or investment accounts, she needs to fix that now.

  27. Clementine*

    For #2, I know that all of the cautionary advice is good, but sometimes you just have to make a move because it’s less bad than your current situation. I don’t see any reason to say you will move out after one year right now. People want to be helpful, for the most part, and your grandboss will get peace of mind too. (Having a private, unshared dwelling sounds so wonderful right now, so I admit there might be a bit of bias in my answer.)

    1. Ali G*

      Agree and I would also suggest that you start out with a short-term lease, like 6 months. After 3 months you can evaluate if this is a good long-term solution or not. If not, you have a few months to find something else, but at least this gets you some breathing room.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        Agreed. Also, after 6 months, we should definitely have a better idea of what is going on with covid. So OP2 can reevaluate the risk at that point.
        6 months, 1 year tops, for the initial lease. If it seems to be working well for both of you at that point, you can always extend.
        Also, make sure to actually talk to your boss/landlord about extending if you want to stay. Don’t assume. Because, without hearing from you, they might assume you plan to leave at the end of your lease, and might promise the space to someone else.

    2. Smithy*

      I agree with this.

      At one point, I found myself to be in a very bad living situation and needed out. The option that came around was as a roommate without a lease. While I learned a lot about why it was a bad move, and why a “hand shake” is not the same as a lease and clear division of responsibilities – it also provided me with a safe and lovely home for 9 months. And while the end of my living there happened just because he didn’t want it anymore, because the offer did come from a place of kindness when I replied how much time I needed to move out, he agreed.

      With that being said, I do think a 12 month lease is important and will give the OP an ability to breath and save money like crazy knowing the situation is not ideal. The lease can include language that allows the OP to break the lease with very short notice, but I think having one is important. Additionally, I advocate for setting a flat fee that covers rent and all utilities. It may be that the in-law unit doesn’t have amazing insulation and therefore heating/cooling runs harder to keep the unit a stable temperature. If the OP offers upfront that rent could be $X fee offered by the grandboss plus $Y in a way that could be phrased “this is what I was spending on internet/utilities in my last place”, then it all gets combined.

    3. OP 2*

      Thank you for this perspective. Not necessarily a perfect or permanent solution, but less bad.

      1. JSPA*

        Details also matter.

        If you know you’ll be able to pull together enough money to cover a spare month’s rent, you have more flexibility (as does the grandboss). Two months = even more so.

        Do they want a “no visitor” policy (at some point–probably well after COVID restrictions ease, frankly–there will come a time when it’s at least semi-safe to have guests? Have you talked this through? Are you comfortable making home be, “where I have a safe space alone”?

        Is there a risk of grandboss inviting themselves over, either because “we work together anyway” (once that’s true) or “it makes sense to be in the same social bubble”–and if so, is that going to be problematic?

        Do you have a friend you could vouch for who’s as excellent a tenant as you’ll be, whom you could propose to take over the lease, if anything gets awkward?

        Will there be a clause in the agreement about breaking the lease if grandboss needs the space for their own use / for family?

        Is the space really a legal unit, and if not, how do you feel about being there on a handshake agreement, and your rent being paid under the table? How will your boss feel, if you bring it up, and it’s not legal–will that, alone, make work awkward?

        None of these are automatic dealbreakers. But they’re things to think through.

  28. staceyizme*

    LW1- you can call a lawyer. Maybe you should. But the biggest question is what you want to do about YOU? This guy is bad, but you’ve been tolerating bad for a long time. Now you’re about to embark on a struggle to exact what you’re due from him, financially at least. My concern is that you are going to throw away more money, time and energy that you can ill afford. Ditch him. Cut all ties. Do therapy and anything else that will help you to build your life up in a good way. Money matters and it matters a lot. But your losses could be compounded by a protracted process of using the law as a remedy for the injustice you’ve experienced to date. More money, more time, more energy gone. What are your real chances of recovery in the absence of a contract? It’s worth pondering. Drop the rope, move on and build a life that works for you. He’s really a bastard. I’m just not sure that his very bad character and bad acts will be remedied through legal proceedings.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      In my fantasy mind, OP is able to show documentation that this guy owes her a bizillion dollars, or he could, you know, quietly sign the business over to her in exchange for no legal charges, then walk away. It sounds like the business is basically okay and OP probably would be able to make a living doing it.

      But maybe OP would just rather have no reminders of STBX and move on in life.

      1. MK*

        What legal charges? His treatment of the OP is awful, but he is unlikely to have broken any laws.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          It’s possible that he’s broken wage laws, if she was working more hours than being paid for. That might be the only way to get anything back.

        2. JSPA*

          This is more a divorce issue; if OP demonstrates that they put their own career on hold to build up the business etc, that’s going to figure into the division. An LLC or sole partnership isn’t “unbreakable.” There’s a presumption that it’s an independent entity…but with enough motivation, enough evidence and a good enough lawyer, the business is absolutely fair game.

    2. MK*

      The OP wrote to AAM, a workplace-specific advice column, and not one on the many online sites that give advice on personal matters, so the advice was business-oriented. The first thing to do is see what her options are (it’s possible she has little legal resource), then she can decide what she wants to do. Not everyone has the option to walk away from a decade of work.

    3. WellRed*

      She’s a woman in her 50s who has blown through her life savings on an unreliable man. She doesn’t have the option to walk away without trying to salvage something, financially. However I also suspect this will be a hard road.

    4. 'Tis Me*

      It might be that she agrees to settle out of court for “enough” rather than everything she’s owned; it might be that a lawyer thinks she has an excellent case; it might be that the STBX crumbles when faced with a lawyer and losing her and she can dictate her terms and walks away with the business and all goodwill it has built up; or she might decide to walk away with no savings and trust to her work ethic to rebuild her financial security for retirement. Talking to a lawyer and finding out where she stands – how strong a case she has, how often people settle in cases like this, timescales, etc – is a first step to give her the tools she needs to decide what route to start going down.

    5. White Peonies*

      With 10 years invested the OP has to at least consult with a few lawyers and see what if any options there are. At that point the OP will have to determine which direction to take most likely depending on the cost/return of a lawsuit. OP has to figure out a plan on how to survive (securing a place to live, money coming in to pay for this and her necessities) all without alerting the partner this is happening. Therapy and letting it go will be great for when the OP has a plan in action on how to survive and has left their situation.

      OP when you pack your stuff and leave don’t forget the toilet paper this is the relationship that you get petty in the end.

    6. Koala dreams*

      Isn’t that the point of contacting a lawyer? You discuss the situation and find out which legal remedies there are, if any, and how the process would work. Then you can make an informed decision. Yes, it costs money to consult a lawyer, but it can help you find peace of mind. Whatever you decide after talking to the lawyer, you’ll know you did your best to protect yourself.

    7. It's mce w*

      I don’t know what OP does for a living, but re-entering the workforce in your 50s can be a challenge. She does not deserve the worry of whether or not she can afford a safe place to live or what to do in the case she gets seriously ill. She supported him and was faithful to him. She is entitled to his business profits.

  29. Retail not Retail*

    LW 1 – all those comments about talking to a lawyer made me think of The Social Network and that scene. Too bad you can’t be that dramatic! I’m so sorry this has happened.

    LW 4 – I know we’ve seen letters like this from the employee’s point of view – “my boss wants to send me to X when I’m having Y health issue” and sometimes the boss already knows (say 8 months pregnant) and sometimes they don’t. I wish there was an easy way to let your employee know he can push back on it without it costing him. Also something to consider – have you ever let people nope out of an assignment before? Is there precedence?

    (My job is very physical and I have 2 close in age coworkers who have very different capabilities and risk taking limits. I’ve never offered to do something for her but I have offered to divide the tasks for him. He groans and moans with every movement. One example was something that was awkward on my back – “why don’t you do not bending activity and we’ll get it”)

    1. Retail not Retail*

      Ah crap. Precedents.

      Although if you use precedence in decision making is that favoritism?

      In my defense I don’t know how to spell most of what I work with.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I can’t type my own first name, “patent”, “application”, “applicant” or “assignment” correctly first time. Guess what my job is…

  30. The Sleepiest of Tays*

    For Letter #3: My employer is very large (100,000+) and has an app you can download and use to dial into to conference calls over wifi. The “mute” button is huge and changes colors, which is nice. But what I really like is that it displays everyone’s name if they dial in from the app or web app, or their phone number (super nice for taking attendance for meetings) and shows a little speaker icon by their name when they are speaking/have audio going through. I may or may not have called people out or at least IMed them on a bad day.

  31. Helvetica*

    LW#3 – the thing that really helps is telling the person specifically that they’re the one making noise. Believe me, I understand the politeness and not wanting to call someone out – I work as a diplomat! – but this is what works. Essentially since, as mentioned upthread, some videocall software is bad at letting you know that you’re not muted. So, for me, I’ve seen success where the host will say “Oh, Jocasta, your mic seems to be on, please mute” in a kind but firm way and that works. Sometimes you really don’t know that you’re not muted.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I like this about Zoom–one general reminder, then by name, works for my meetings–but apparently in some conferencing apps it’s just ongoing chew toy jingle with no idea who has a dog off camera.

    2. Blue Eagle*

      And instead of saying “please mute” tell them specifically what to do – “please push alt +A to mute yourself” (or however is correct for the platform you are on). Maybe the person doesn’t know how to mute themselves (which was the situation I found myself in the other day).

  32. Batgirl*

    OP1, I’ve been in a similar situation and if you can achieve all that with a leech around your neck, imagine what you can do unfettered. You are the goose with the golden egg, not him. If he’s manipulative, don’t communicate with him directly but go through lawyers (once you’ve done all your snooping and got all your evidence). He will pretend like he will only negotiate in person but don’t bite. If he won’t say it to others or write it down, it’s a figment.
    I would also pay some mind to your professional reputation. Look into whether he’s scammed any clients or broken the law and get ahead of that. Check out his level of debt too. If you’re aware of all his financial arrangements I will eat my hat.

    1. un-pleased*

      LW, re-read the first part of this comment several times a day to remind yourself who YOU are without that turd. He has designed your lives so that only he can profit from you because you can apparently do things he can’t. You will get through this. It will be really really hard for a while. But just keep reminding yourself of your own value and abilities, even if you don’t quite believe it right now.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, I picked up on it, too, that OP is probably very, very good at what she does.

    2. Generic Name*

      Yes! Once you are no longer living with him and are in a safe living arrangement, only discuss things with him through your lawyer. He knows he can manipulate you, but he won’t be able to manipulate others as easily (if at all). My ex-husband categorically did not want to use lawyers for our divorce. I knew I wouldn’t be able to advocate for myself without a lawyer, so I hired one, but I didn’t tell him until he had moved out. Best thing I ever did.

  33. drpuma*

    OP2, it may be helpful for you to decide, at least for yourself if not share with your grandboss, how “okay” things have to be before you start looking for a longer-term living situation. Maybe it’s once your governor declares your area has reached level X, maybe it’s once the spread has dropped to certain levels described as under control by the CDC. If I were you I would pick an outside authority I trust to be the standard for when things are okay, and decide at that point whether to move on. I’m sorry you have to make this calculus.

  34. DiscoCat*

    LW #1 Please take heart, stay safe and put yourself first.

    In addition to all the above advice- please also start therapy/ counseling to accompany you through this process. You seem like a giving, honest, trusting and genuine person, your blighted boyfriend is an abuser and manipulator with whom you share a large portion of your life with. Unlike most of us, you cannot escape a shitty situation at home by going to work and vice versa. I don’t mean to overstep, but if I were in your shoes, my ground would be crumbling under my feet from bearing this double whammy, and I’d be seeking our psychological/ spiritual guidance. Not only to get through it, but also to catch all the emotional fall out afterwards.

    For 8+ years you have been emotionally invested in the business, which is tangled up in your emotional investment in the relationship itself and also your bf as a person.

    Please secure yourself in all manners- as commenters said, find a lawyer, secure documents, secure commitments and promises, secure your finances, secure your heart, secure your psychological and mental well being. If you can, secure your home, in the sense of finding yourself a safe and homely place to go to (friends, family, BnB).

    1. Not So NewReader*

      OP, I mentioned about about financial infidelity and sexual infidelity. You have two HUGE breaches in trust going on at the same time. Pull in several types of professionals to help you through this. I realize that money is an issue, perhaps you have friends who are professionals also and willing to give you random tips here and there to help you keep your costs under control.

      But whatever you do, please do not lose sight of the fact that you are probably very good at your field of work. You do have that, and you get to KEEP it.

  35. RecentAAMfan*

    The “not muting” thing was particularly frustrating recently during a zoom funeral! It’s distressing enough that the whole paying-respect/grieving/supporting the mourners thing has to be so reduced in scope, without the actual eulogies being intermittently interrupted by coughing/kid-shushing etc. And not necessarily even by elderly people (who might be forgiven for being less comfortable with the tech bit).
    Come on people! We were all brand new to this 10 weeks ago, but time to catch on!

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      For some people that’s 10 × 10 meetings a week, and for others it’s three meetings total. I had my first Zoom webinar today and it’s so different from Zoom meetings it took me ages to work out how to navigate it even within an app I already know.

      But yes I can see that for anything as important as a funeral it would have been better to have at least one practice, for everyone’s sake.

      1. RecentAAMfan*

        And I’m not suggesting that everyone should be expected to be fully competent with all the features of every program.
        Just. The. Mute. Button.

  36. Jedi Squirrel*

    OP#3: Some people are still a potato on their video calls. Not everybody can figure the technology, alas.

  37. Gloria*

    I’m not sure what I find more irritating– forgetting to mute yourself or forgetting to unmute yourself until someone says, “Francis, not sure if you’re talking, but you’re muted” and responding with “oh, I didn’t realize I was muted! HAHA!” You would think that after both of these things happen multiple times in every call you’re on that you would learn to pay attention to the mute button. But nope, not Francis!

    1. RecentAAMfan*

      I way prefer not hearing what someone is saying, to hearing them crunch their apple.
      Especially because when they’re crunching their apple, they’re ALSO blocking us from hearing what someone else is saying.

      1. Kettricken Farseer*

        OMG the apple thing! I react in a pretty visceral way to the sound of someone eating an apple or similar and so I’ve been know to call out that person directly, i.e., “Lucinda, are you eating something?” if it’s a small meeting with my team. If it’s a larger meeting, I ping that person.

    2. Ali G*

      Sometimes I use that as an excuse because I haven’t been paying attention and someone asked me a question!

    3. Phony Genius*

      I had a problem last week when my phone wouldn’t unmute. Even though it was unmuted, for some reason, nothing I said was getting through. People, including my boss, thought I had quit the meeting on them. I finally had to disconnect and call back in to be heard. I must have taken too much time trying to make it work before reconnecting because they still seemed irked when I explained what happened.

    4. TimeTravlR*

      We have asked our team to use headphones or headsets on all calls (regardless of the platform) as it reduces the white noise. There are a few that always “forget” and half the time we can barely hear them. Then we remind. Oh yea, I forgot!!
      A few said they don’t have headphones and want work to buy them some. Except we were all issued smartphones a long time ago and just recently had a refresh so everyone should have at least one (I have about 5!) sets.

  38. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Lawyer here, and I do some family court work. If this OP called me I’d likely send them to an attorney who does business formation/dissolution or someone who does employment-related work. The issue (from the business standpoint) isn’t something a family court is going to touch – that’s for divorce or child-related issues, which this isn’t. It’s potentially closer to a contract issue – A promised B X if B did Y. B did Y and didn’t receive X.

    I agree with others who suggested obtaining as much employment documentation as possible to show the existence of and context surrounding the business relationship. Get as much as possible, see attorney, make list of additional documents needed, get those, see attorney again. I can’t tell you how often I meet with clients who think documents A, B, C are important, but what really matters is D, E, F. But by the time we’ve figured that out, access to those documents is limited.

    1. WellRed*

      Thank you for outlining this more clearly. Lots of comments say to get a family lawyer, which didn’t make much sense to me. I hope OP sees this.

      1. Generic Name*

        The recommendations to get a family lawyer are likely from people in common law/community property states. In those states, going through family court will be MUCH more beneficial to the OP than going through the business angle. A family law attorney in her state will be able to tell her if they can help her or not.

        1. sunny-dee*

          But they’re not married, though. In most states in the US, cohabitation isn’t enough for a common law marriage — you have to present yourself as married. And it’s not clear from the letter that they’re even living together.

          I’m glad Delta chimed in. Ultimately, resolving the financial end is business issue and needs to be handled by a business attorney.

            1. sunny-dee*

              There are limits, though. They don’t seem to be living together, so palimony wouldn’t apply. And even then, the business wouldn’t necessarily apply. In Texas, for example, any property that was owned prior to the relationship is not considered community property. Since the boyfriend owned the business before, this likely wouldn’t fall under any kind of family law.

              I’m not saying don’t go to a lawyer. ABSOLUTELY GO TO A LAWYER. The thing is, though, that she’s been treating this like a personal relationship instead of a business. She needs to treat this like a business.

          1. Generic Name*

            I agree that if they’re not even living together, then yeah, they are not common law married, if they live in such a state. My, and I think others’, point is that the OP is more likely to get a favorable outcome if they are able to go through family court, so there’s no harm in asking an attorney if her case is eligible to go through the family court system. Let a lawyer who is an expert on the law in her state decide that. I think the worst case is for the OP to decide herself that she’s not eligible to go through family court and losing out on her fair share only to find out later that she made a mistake. There is no downside to asking a lawyer.

    2. I Love Llamas*

      OP#1, my heart goes out to you. We are of a comparable age. I helped a boyfriend start his business, loaned him money and put a lot of effort into marketing his company. Even though he was/is very grateful for the help, I did not get my $$ back, but I suspected that would be the case at the beginning. I ended up closing my small business and going back to corporate America partly due to spending too much time on his business.

      Anywho, be smart, be clever. You need documentation, lots of it. Every thing you can think of and even if you think it might not be important, save it. Figure out the safest way for you to save all these files (external hard drive versus cloud or both) and start downloading like a mad fiend. However, you have to play a strong game of poker right now and bluff, bluff, bluff that everything is hunky dory. He has had time to plan, now you need time to plan. You need tax returns, bank statements, emails/texts between the two of you, email/texts with clients showing your involvement. You need a lot of stuff and it will take time. Talk to an attorney so they can help prioritize a list of documents. Good luck and please provide us with an update. We are all pulling for you.

      Attorneys can only do so much — they need evidence and documentation to support their case.

  39. working from home*

    Re muting, for me it depends on the nature of the call and the technology. If it’s a smaller, more collaborative call, I want to be able to jump in without having to futz with unmuting. If it’s a larger, more formal / structured call, I’ll mute. It also depends on how easy the technology to mute/unmute makes things, though. The harder it is to toggle, the less likely I am to mute.

  40. hmmmm*

    OP1 I am so sorry you are going through this. Everyone is giving you great advice – don’t invest any more money, get a lawyer, don’t tip off the scumbag boyfriend, do business as usual until all your ducks are in a row.

    I do want to point something out. This business was floundering before you started helping. After so many years of working on this business, you seem to be more of the heart and soul than he is. He is not selling today; it seems like the text has a sale happening is somewhere in the near future. In the interm you will have a lawyer to help you sort things out. However when all is said and done, I think that boyfriend will be in for a rude awakening when he realizes how much work you actually do. It’s not all “him/ his work ethic” making things succeed. I’d even venture to say, you should branch out and start your own business (with your lawyer’s advice). You have the contacts, the know how. If your boyfriend decides to pull that “it’s my business” card and “we don’t have a formal contract” there is no reason you can’t take your experiences and contacts for your own business – ie you did not sign a non compete clause. Again check with a lawyer, but I feel like no matter the outcome, your almost former boyfriend’s business will not be worth as much without your input.

    1. Dancing Otter*

      He may find that the business is not worth what he hopes, if the LW jumps ship.

      Decades ago, my father was a salaried inventor for a company that was bought out. He worried himself into the hospital over job security, only to find out that he was actually written into the terms of the merger. (Don’t ask me for details; I was 13 at the time.)

      People buying a business pay a LOT of attention to the valuation factors, which go far beyond the balance sheet.

      1. hmmmm*

        Exactly. OP I’d also say make sure you aren’t asked to sign something where you have to stay with the company. If you boyfriend suddenly tries to make you commit to a 5 year contract as an employee then you will know something is up.

        PS “Dancing Otter” love your sign in name!

    2. hmmmm*

      OP I am having this comical vision of you starting your own business and your boyfriend looking quizzical and shocked when you explain to him that after ten years you want some security… after all what’s stopping him from picking up, selling the business, retiring to some tropical island with someone else.

      I think I have been watching too many movies during the lockdown quarantine.

      PPS I just made this statement to cheer you up not to cause worry. You are a strong employee. I’d say go for it. You are a valuable person. Start your own company where you are the boss.

  41. notacompetition*

    No 3, I feel this SO HARD. Two weeks ago a member of our executive team ($100K+ salary) was accidentally unmuted and called us all incompetent.
    Never followed up with any apology or recognition that this occurred. We heard him gasp and then he just kept contributing to the meeting as though it didn’t happen.

    1. hmmmm*

      Please follow up! I am intrigued by your story.

      I am curious when things return to “normal” and people are going into the office, how will morale be? Will there be any animosity towards the executive? Will people be willing to work on his specific tasks and requests?

      I understand accidents happen, but when you are that high up, you need to have common sense and realize who is helping your company do the tasks that need to be done to make the company move forward.

      1. notacompetition*

        Right?!?! I so agree. If you’re in a leadership position ANYWHERE you need to be really careful about how you interact in general.
        This person, specifically, has a history of outlandish and problematic behavior that in a non-toxic workplace would get anyone fired…think popping into meetings uninvited and spewing personal details, crying (it’s a male exec), remarking on people’s appearance and their spouses’ appearance, and “snapping back” at people who are asking him for info or details in order to complete a project.
        I am definitely not willing to work on projects with or for this person (my manager is actually OK with that), and he has a reputation because of his behavior. Morale overall organization-wide is not good unless you’re in a leadership role, unfortunately, and it’s because of things like this!

        1. hmmmm*

          I would think based on past behavior and the above incident, even his bosses would have to have taken notice, maybe even say something to him. How are the other executives?

          1. notacompetition*

            I would hope so, but would have no way of knowing. The rest of the leadership is pretty lacking as well, and there’s a lot of disappointing behavior from the top. Hence the morale issue!

  42. irene adler*

    OP #1: In addition to other good advice given here, you might want to visit the Purple Purse Foundation for assistance. Clearly this is financial abuse. This foundation is for helping women who have been in similar circumstances as you now find yourself.
    (yes, it is sponsored by Allstate Insurance)

    https://allstatefoundation.org/

  43. AnonAnon*

    #3 At my company I this happens for a couple reasons and people are unaware they are not on mute. We have headsets we can plug into our PCs for conference calls.
    We also have built in microphones on our PCs. You can mute your headset but your PC mic can still be on and that is picking up sound. Both need to be muted or disable your PC mic.
    Same thing can happen when people use a cell to call in but also let their PC call in. They mute their cell but their PC mic is still on.

  44. Naomi*

    OP #1: I was surprised not to see anyone else bring this up: should she be starting a job search? (Discreetly and without telling the boyfriend, of course.) She mentions being worried about homelessness if she walks away, so it sounds like time to find some financial security that isn’t dependent on the boyfriend or his business.

  45. CU*

    #1, after you call a lawyer also make sure you get an STD/STI test. That’s not business or work advice, but it should be one of the first things someone who was cheated on does.

  46. Jillian*

    #3 Since Covid my craft group has moved to Zoom. Any time I mute myself everyone panics and tells me that my mic turned off. None of them do conference calls for work, so I feel like it’s maybe an office norm type of thing.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      We were playing Jackbox games in a Google hangout with friends the other night and noticed that if we muted while they were talking it seemed to help with the sound quality a bit. Sometimes we would accidentally start talking before unmuting and they would get all panicky. OMG! I can’t hear you! Is there something wrong with your sound? LOL

  47. Anononon*

    The courts in my district are currently conducting hearings telephonically where there is a conference line to call in. They call the list of cases (usually about a dozen and a half or so), and you’re expected to stay on mute when it’s not your case. You can imagine how well some attorneys are at that. So awkward and uncomfortable when a judge is repeatedly telling people to mute.

  48. cmcinnyc*

    Oh LW1…I know married people who have lost big when a business partnership with a spouse went south. This guy is planning to leave the country? You have to assume that assets are already hidden. Does your–or rather, HIS–business have an outside accountant/auditor? Take all the lawyer/documentation advice above and maybe have that lawyer first communicate directly with that outside entity if that exists. You may have no right to the business information that person/company has, but if your boyfriend has committed actual fraud, at least his accountant will be on notice and THEY will no doubt start documenting if only to protect themselves. Reputable accountants/firms do not want to be a party to fraud. Sadly, from the info here, your boyfriend could well have legitimately hidden all kinds of assets from you.

  49. Mel_05*

    Does the advice to #5 apply if you’re layed off but they’re intending to bring you back? They can’t guarantee anything, so I feel I should look around, but my stuff is still at the office, I’ve been assured by multiple people that I’m essential and they’re bringing me back as soon as they can. I just worry that they won’t be able to before the end of July :/

    1. Zeus*

      I have had similar assurances but I am still looking. I can’t eat assurances. I can get my stuff at some point, even if I end up not going back to work there.

    2. RobotWithHumanHair*

      I’m in the same situation and on my resume, along with my profiles on Indeed and whatnot, I’ve listed it as March 2017 – current (currently on furlough due to COVID-19).

      My job’s started bringing people back, but I’ve only found out about that via social media posts from the company and one time I reached out to the GM, since the company went back on their whole, “Don’t worry, we’ll send you weekly email updates!”. Aside from the email reply I got from the GM, there hasn’t been an email update in almost a month.

      So, I doubt I can be blamed for job searching at this point, even if I’m not finding a damn thing at this point.

  50. Wallacd*

    OP#1, I’m very sorry your boyfriend is such a massive asshole. Unfortunately, your story is all too common. Stories like yours keep our courtroom in business. I am a lawyer (I work as a law clerk for a judge), and you should definitely get a lawyer. But I’m going to be honest, from what you’ve written, your odds of prevailing are slim and even if you do prevail, it will likely take years and significant attorneys’ fees. That’s just the reality of civil litigation where the other party is unlikely to be reasonable and seek a quick settlement. Your boyfriend does not strike me as the reasonable type.

    And for everyone else who ever considers going into business with a boyfriend/girlfriend or buying property with a boyfriend/girlfriend please take my advice and DON’T DO IT!!!! It’s the number one rule I’ve learned dealing with these types of cases. NEVER EVER! Really! And if you absolutely must, every last detail should be in writing in a formal contract with each side represented by counsel. (and the same almost always holds true for going into business with family – many of our worst cases – the ones that drag on for years because of all the underlying personal crap – are business “divorces” involving family businesses).

    1. Not For Academics*

      Yep, agreed. She has no legal rights, they are not married, there was no contract, there were no terms, she’s not an employee. She was just “helping.” I’m surprised at the overwhelming “lawyer up” comments. While it can’t hurt and the guy is a major asshole, being a major asshole isn’t grounds for paying out when your own business fails or you cheat on your girlfriend.

      1. Pilcrow*

        A lawyer is the only chance the OP has of getting *anything* back, even if it’s a slim chance and not very much.

        Also, we as commenters cannot really offer any other helpful advice than to lawyer up. This is going to hinge on details we don’t have and expertise most of us don’t have.

    2. hmmmm*

      I’d still lawyer up to see if she can get any compensation and do it quietly. I posted above something similar as well. While legally OP may not get much compensation from boyfriend’s business (let’s hope we’re wrong)…. there is also the flip side. There was no contract/ non compete signed. OP has the experience, know how, training and contacts that she could technically just start her own business. I would still get a lawyer but if the boyfriend is playing the “it’s my business” card then this would just be a case of the an underpaid employee moving on.

    3. cotton*

      The thing about buying property with a boyfriend/girlfriend is I’d say, “what is the reason you aren’t marrying this person, but are buying property with them”. AKA, if you don’t feel comfortable marrying them for whatever reason, why are you comfortable buying property with them.

      And there are often good reasons, such as “someone will lose their survivors pension if they remarry” or whatever. But if there’s a long term couple who aren’t tying the knot… buying property is also a big deal. And it’s a big deal in many ways a marriage can be. You can do one without the other, but consider the reason you aren’t doing both. It’s often a red flag.

      1. CU*

        IANAL, but I do work in mortgage default… it’s easier to get out of a marriage than a mortgage. If you’re not ready to marry someone, you are not ready to buy property with them.

      2. Naomi*

        I think mileage varies on that one. In some cases it could be an eye-opener, but sometimes long-term couples not getting married has more to do with their feelings about marriage as an institution than their feelings about each other.

      3. Freeway*

        Not everyone views marriage in the same way. To view it as a monolithic belief is simplistic.

  51. Employment Lawyer*

    1. I sacrificed for my boyfriend’s business — and I might get nothing
    These are really complicated–I’ve done a few–but a lawyer should be able to help. You should lawyer up right away and should NOT tell him that you’re getting a lawyer! Stay outwardly normal, but seek help ASAP, like “today.”

    2. Should I rent from my boss to escape Covid?
    Yes, sure.
    I would make sure you are very explicit:
    “I appreciate this, but I want to make sure we’re on the same page. I would only want to lease a property which was what I think of as a ‘normal’ lease. In other words, I want a normal lease term, normal landlord/tenant relations, and don’t want the lease to be contingent on my job (or the job on the lease.) Is that also what you’re thinking?

    Obviously there will be some potential for blowback: If you’re an ass as a tenant you may get fired. But then again you may also have some benefits; so long as the lease is solid I would take it.

    3. Why don’t people mute themselves on conference calls?
    Because they are hand-free or on speaker and can’t/won’t reach the mute button. Or because they’re flustered/inaccurate and are concerned that they will press the wrong button, hang up, etc (lots of folks are like this.)

    4. Is it age discrimination to keep an older team member from traveling to client sites this summer?
    As AAM says: Yes, it can be.

    Or not.

    I will continue to say this here, but any employer who is large enough to have teams and team members should REALLY have an employment attorney on retainer. Answering questions like this is SOP and fairly cheap, and it’s much better w/ someone who knows your business, knows your employee manual, knows your state laws, etc.

    Hire an employer-only specialist, not someone like me. Solo or small firm. There are a lot of firms who only represent employers and who are skilled at AVOIDING issues, which (trust me!) is much much much cheaper than DEFENDING them. The same person/firm should draft (or review) your employee manual, hold annual (or longer/shorter depending on you) reviews to make sure you’re legal, and such. They will then know you well enough to efficiently answer basic “can I do this without a consult?” questions.

    I mean, seriously, this is a great example. If you do it wrong, you could get sued (either for discrimination or employer negligence or him getting CV or god knows what else.) Your 70 year old team lead is obviously in an age-protected class. You’re probably fine if you work w/ him but there are plenty of laws where it actually doesn’t matter what the employee says/does/wants, you’re liable anyway.

    If you have a lawyer who you routinely pay and who you’re on a first name basis with, this is maybe a $150 answer (if that!) and it’s well worth certainty.

  52. Mel*

    Unrelated to this post:
    Sometime in the last week, Allison posted a link to another advice column in response to someone’s question. Or maybe cited another columnist. I started reading that column too but now I forgot it. Can anyone remind me?

    Thanks AAM community!

  53. Another worker bee*

    OP #4 I echo Allison’s advice, just ask. I’m at low risk for covid-19 but encountered a similar issue as a woman in a very male dominated field. I was a little stressed when we started working with a client in Saudi Arabia and I was afraid I’d be asked to go there, because…equality. My boss (male, of course) danced around the subject for like six weeks before he worked up the courage to tell me that he didn’t like the idea of me going but didn’t want to be discriminatory. We were on the same page and I am not going to any Middle Eastern countries and I do not feel like my career is being held back in any way.

  54. Ann O'Nemity*

    Reading #1, all I could think about was the scene in Waiting to Exhale where Angela Bassett burns up her cheating husband’s car, while hearing the song “Not Gon’ Cry” in my head. Wowza.

    Instead of burning his belongings, I agree with the advice here. Get a lawyer and start working on your backup plans.

  55. Beezus*

    I do have to say that background checks and bank VOEs /ARE/ specifically asking if someone who’s still employed is still on payroll lately, which I hadn’t seen before. Just a heads up from your friendly HR/Payroll lady!

    1. OP #5*

      Thanks for sharing this. I hadn’t considered the background check side of things, but I will most definitely be adding the “(currently on furlough)” to my resume and applications to be sure my employment status is clear.

  56. Stormy Weather*

    I was trained for conference calls early when I worked in radio during my misspent youth. A very important rule: if there’s a microphone near you, assume it is on.

    But some people won’t learn or think the rules don’t apply to them. I swear I start meetings with, “remember to mute your mic when you aren’t talking” and you’ll hear people talking, chewing, typing…..

  57. Bostonian*

    #5 I’m going to second Alison’s example of how to put it in a resume. I was hiring the past few months, and for practical purposes it was helpful for the candidate to have on their resume “(currently furloughed)” or “(position cut/laid off due to COVID-19)” so I would know how to reframe questions like “why are you looking to leave your current position?”, or instead of asking about their “current” role/duties, refer to it as their “most recent” position.

    1. OP #5*

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience hiring over the past few months! It’s reassuring to know that it’s been helpful for candidates to include “(currently on furlough)” on their resume as Alison suggested, and I have just added it to mine. I think deep down I knew it was information that I should include from a practical perspective, but I was struggling with where and how to do so appropriately.

  58. Frustrated Fitness Professional*

    LW 1… oh, honey. I’m so sorry. I once put myself in the position of racking up debt to support a man who ultimately left me to pursue a dream that had nothing to do with what I wanted in life. I wish I hadn’t, and I so wish you were not in that position either. Hugs to you, it sounds like you are going to be out of luck financially, and I know from experience that very few people ever understand how very, very alone it feels to be in your position.

  59. JessicaTate*

    LW3 – I feel you. I’ve noticed two types. Sure, there are many people who fall into the “human error” category, like Alison suggests — oblivious, unfamiliar with the interface, whatever.

    But I have absolutely been in mid-sized meetings (10-12 people) where specific individuals will NEVER use mute, even though the group’s culture is to constantly mute/unmute (regardless of background noise risk) and everyone is extremely familiar with the tech. This guy’s view is pretty clearly: A) he wants to be able to interrupt the discussion at any moment without being hampered or slowed down by that pesky button, or B) mute could not possibly apply to someone as important as him who should be expected to interject (interrupt) at any moment.

    In most cases, it’s probably the former and that’s the more generous interpretation. But the latter absolutely exists. Don’t be that guy, people.

  60. I'm just here for the cats*

    I really hope that next year we get an update on OP1 and that she has dumped that idiot boyfriend, gotten the business herself, and that it’s doing 10 times better than ever before. Oh and that Boyfriend’s side chick dumps him when he doesn’t have any more money!

Comments are closed.