Stella Williams, a content creator, has been a stay-at-home girlfriend for a year.
Her partner pays for her rent, groceries, beauty treatments, and other living expenses.
Williams says this lifestyle reduces her stress, but critics worry it could ruin her independence.
Every Friday, Stella Williams gets a fresh manicure.
A year ago, the fashion and travel content creator would often have to carefully budget for her nail treatments, sometimes forgoing them to afford rent and living expenses.
But now, her money-related concerns are nearly nonexistent. Williams, 29, is a stay-at-home girlfriend. When she gets the bill for her nails, she pays with her boyfriend Dre's credit card. The same goes for groceries, bikini waxes, and last-minute purchases at Target for upcoming vacations. And those vacations, Dre pays for them too. Most recently, they've been to Paris.
The term "stay-at-home girlfriend," which refers to a woman who largely lives off of her partner's income and often repays the favor with domestic support such as cooking and cleaning, emerged in 2022 on the heels of the "tradwife" trend, Business Insider previously reported. That term stems from the words traditional wife and references the stereotypical role of a picture-perfect 1950s housewife.
On TikTok, women who have adopted the stay-at-home-girlfriend label often rack up millions of views on their day-in-the-life videos, in which they make breakfast for their partners, tidy their homes, go for leisurely walks, and lounge on the beach, never clocking in for a 9-to-5 job.
The lifestyle appeals to women who feel overwhelmed and overworked by hustle culture, but some people commenting on social-media posts say the trend glamorizes unhealthy financial dependence and gender inequality, as BI previously reported.
Williams says it's a common misconception that receiving financial help from her partner means she's giving up her self-autonomy. In contrast, she says, allowing her boyfriend to take care of certain aspects of her life has been a practice in letting go of her extreme self-reliance, an internal struggle that she's still overcoming.
"Before this, I was in survival mode, trying to figure out how I was going to keep a roof over my head. Now I can completely focus on my health and lean into building my brand," Williams said.
Here's how embracing the stay-at-home-girlfriend lifestyle has empowered her to live with less stress and more time for her passions and family.
How to become a stay-at-home girlfriend
When Williams chatted with Dre for the first time at a church-run singles night in February 2023, she learned he was seeking a life partner to marry and support emotionally, spiritually — and financially. At first, Williams said she was skeptical. But a few months into their relationship, when Williams felt ashamed to ask Dre to lend her money for groceries that she couldn't afford at the time, she realized her dream of becoming a stay-at-home partner could be a reality that made sense to her.
"He told me that I could come to him for those things and that I didn't have to feel bad asking for help," Williams told BI.
She says she had no prior experience as a stay-at-home girlfriend, but the lifestyle was one she saw modeled in her family.
"I'm Latina, and I've always seen that the women are well taken care of. They're having your children, and they're the investment," Williams said. "But for a long time, I had low self-esteem and didn't feel good enough for that lifestyle. I settled for less until I met my current partner," she said.
What does a stay-at-home girlfriend do?
Williams says she and her partner often joke that "my money is my money, and his money is our money." In their day-to-day lives, the quip holds true.
Most mornings, Williams and Dre wake up at 5:45 a.m. to eat breakfast, typically toast with cream cheese and jam and homemade lattes that Williams whips up for both of them. For the next hour, they participate in an online prayer group before Dre gets ready for work, and Williams plans out the rest of her day, she says.
Usually, she'll dive into work for her social-media pages. Right now, she's pivoting her brand to focus on travel content, so she researches destinations and brainstorms ideas. Any money that comes from her work is solely hers, she says, and she uses it to pay for work-related bills such as new filming equipment.
By noon, Williams stops working and goes to a pilates, barre, or yoga class that her boyfriend pays for. After, she usually spends time with her aunt and nana, then closes out the day by preparing dinner.
Williams says she's not required to cook and clean for Dre to have access to his money, but she enjoys finding ways to support him and make him feel good, such as making a homemade meal and keeping their home organized. But William says she has made it clear that she doesn't enjoy doing these chores for the sake of it.
They've talked about outsourcing these tasks to a housekeeper one day if their budget allows for it, and Dre often pitches in by tidying up or folding clothes, Williams says.
Williams typically ends her days playing with her pets and reading to wind down. By 9 p.m., she's in bed. She'll also pepper outings with friends, beauty treatments, and errands into her schedule as needed.
Despite Dre's financial support, Williams says she doesn't feel as if he expects her to maintain a certain appearance. Still, she says she likes to look put-together — usually by doing her hair and makeup and wearing a cute outfit.
The stay-at-home-girlfriend trend is a step back for women, critics say
Williams views her relationship as a major upgrade from her past ones, but not everyone is receptive to it. She says that when she uploaded a video to her YouTube channel explaining the details of her arrangement, many viewers left "brutal" comments suggesting Williams was losing herself and throwing away her dreams of being a model and influencer.
"Many women are unable to leave situations because they are completely financially reliant on their partners. Just something to think about, because the message of fully relying on a man is pretty dangerous," one of Williams's viewers commented on her video.
Williams says that, in reality, she's constantly thinking about how to prioritize her independence — and when it could better serve her to let it go. She says it requires continued talks with Dre so they can figure out how to avoid making their relationship feel transactional — such as Williams making her own money through content creation, Dre pitching in with housework, and a mutual commitment to taking pre-marital courses through their church.
She doesn't know what the next years of her relationship will look like, she says, but she does know she's been able to prioritize the things she cares about most because money is no longer her biggest stressor.
"There's an understanding between me and my partner that I just need to feel taken care of so I can serve in the ways that I want to serve in life," Williams said.
Read the original article on Business Insider