Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Money, Money, Money

Money and relationships. Can the two go together? They usually do. To form a relationship-- one (or both of you) is spending money to make that happen. Dinner, movies, concerts, museums. Who is paying for all of these things? Should we share it? Should they pay for it at the beginning? How fair is that??!

But then again.....

I was raised to expect the man to pay for me. I was raised to expect him to open the door. I was raised to expect him to carry my bags and books and groceries. And old habits die hard. And I am a hypocrite because I want a relationship not tied to gender specific roles (in some cases), and yet I find myself tied to some of these archaic practices myself. I don't want to change my last name when I get married. I want a husband who doesn't mind if I work. I want a spouse who will share the dinner making responsibilites. I want a spouse who is equally responsible for raising our children together. I want all of these things, and yet, I still want him to open the door for me. I think I must be crazy, right?

I'm trying to let go of these unrealistic expectations...but old habits die hard.

I've had some modern day experiences with money lately that have made me feel uncomfortable at first, and then wonder if it should have made me feel uncomfortable at all. It's this entire unknown universe still seeking definition! Because of this, I find myself over-analyzing money everytime I go on dates. I am never sure what I should do/pay for/or offer as I don't want to offend/assume/or exploit.

Up until last year, all my boyfriends (yep, all four of them in the course of my days) and all previous dates I had been on, just paid for me. I never had any weird experiences like my sister April, where the guy asked her out for dinner and then his card was declined (after he ordered several drinks, appetizer, dessert, and she had only ordered a side salad because she wasn't that hungry. She ended up having to pay for dinner AND drive his car home because he got too drunk to drive!). Even after they stopped being my boyfriends and we would just hang out as friends, they still ALWAYS paid for me. Men in my past just paid for me. Is this fair? Is this right?

I've met two different types of men lately:

Summary of Guy #1: He treated me with old fashion gender roles, opening my door, pulling out my chair, helping me with my coat--but still wanted to split the money. So yes, we split the money, but this man would be the breadwinner and I would stay home with the kids and cook and clean. If he is expecting the gender roles, then should he be paying for the dates?

Summary of Guy #2: He treated me with modern gender roles. We are both people and we should show equal respect, so whoever gets to the door first should open it, that's logic. So, yes, we split the money, but this man would also split the cleaning and the cooking and the raising of the kids.

Which is better? What do I expect? What do I want? I don't know!!

I think the thing that I get so worried about is for a man to think I am dating him BECAUSE he has money, or that I even care about MONEY at all. This makes me paranoid. Especially when the man makes more money than I do (which most of them do, because, hey, I'm a poor Utah School teacher). Should it still be 50/50 when one of you makes a considerable amount of money and the other is as poor as a church mouse?
With my recent dates, I find myself offereing to help pay, but none of them have accepted and they have all been paying. Should this bother me? Does that mean they are going to want me to act in a traditional way? Are they not even thinking about it because it's just expected of them? AGH!!!!! Dating is HARD!?! Should I step up and insist on helping out?

How did you handle this when you were/are dating?


Anonymous said...

I'm the opposite. I think it's somewhat disturbing if the man insists on paying. I'm more of a you-buy-dinner-I'll-pay-for-the-movie type of girl because I would worry about ending up in a relationship where I am expected to be the subservient female.

I've also been in a situation for the past five or six years where I've made significantly more than my partner and have been the bread winner. I would hate for him to limit us to nights out or vacations that he can afford when I can afford a lot more and don't mind paying. I think in any relationship you have to have a give and take on these sorts of things and be flexible.

On a related note, I also love opening the door for men in Utah. So many of them are thrown through a loop and have no idea how to respond.

Beth said...

I think that in the beginning of a relationship, it is important for guys to pay. It shows that they feel privileged to be taking you out. Especially if they did the asking.

I don't have a whole lot of experience dating, but I would not worry about a guy thinking that since he paid for me, I was therefore obligated to take on a subservient role... ummm... if he is a chauvinist jerk, I wouldn't be dating him in the first place.

As far as the guy opening the door, I'm undecided. It is silly to wait for them if you happen to be a faster walker. I think that people in general should open the door more for each other. Share the love, people.

But I have to say, old fashioned or not, I would definitely be ticked if a guy didn't open the door for me on a date.

Chelle said...

Ugh, I'm in the same position as D'Arcy. I don't think guys should have to pay just cause they're guys. I could care less about the door opening thing. But I too have had guys expect me to pay sometimes. If it's going to be a continued dating situation, don't you make adjustments for income? And when/how do you bring this up?!?

D'Arcy said...

Jen (SLC)--I've been in that position with opening the door, it is interesting to see how people react isn't it? I like your idea of splitting or treating each other. I am so ok with that, and I think it is something you figure out the longer you get to know each other. But at the beginning, it's been a different road to walk. I used to be that girl that expected to be placed in a traditional gender role. I used to be the girl who was going to grow up and be a mom and stay at home and put my husband's education and job first before any of my own dreams.

Now that I am coming into my own, I have this NEW role to learn and find something I feel comfortable with.

D'Arcy said...

Beth, WHY is it any more important for them to pay than for the girl to pay? If we truly ARE Equal and we seek after that equality, shouldn't we try to be more equal?

What if I make more money? I don't think I would mind paying. Now, what if HE makes more money (which is usually the case) then how far to we take that? I think that's the question Chelle and I are posing.

Stina said...

When Dave and I started dating we were both kids without any money of our own so I don't really know where we got our money from or who paid for what. Once we were working (after college) we split everything pretty evenly. Then we took turns going to graduate school while the other was the breadwinner. So we were pretty even until this past year when I stopped working and Dave started making much more money. I'm having to navigate my own issues around this as well! We have always "shared" our money without any issues but now that I bring in zero and Dave makes all the money I do feel a little uncomfortable.

Gustav said...

I like the idea of being generous which means you don't need to split every expense down to the last penny.

Instead each person takes a turn in being generous. I buy the ice cream and maybe you will buy the coffee.

Its more fun and romantic. Opening a door is just a courtesy that I would do when it felt right for anyone.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora D'Arcy,
Not a situation I have found myself in for quite a few years. I guess back in those days it was more or less expected that the man pay, that a gentlemen opens the door for a woman. Opening a door for a woman was something I was brought up to do, and still do.
I think the money has drastically changed in the last 20 years, maybe more, due to the simple fact women work now, that economic reality has changed the playing field. This is that traditional way you refer to in your writing colliding with the modern roles we now are filling, and there seems to be a lot of fluidity there. How you work it out is a real issue, but my guess would be if it is someone whose company I really enjoyed I would work it out sooner than later.
I agree with Gustav in perhaps early on sharing small gestures, but men today, in my limited view, could do much more with simple gestures that cost nothing - like opening a door, complimenting how a woman looks,cooking dinner at home, or just listen to her. When I was on the dating scene I simply assumed that if I was the one doing the asking out, I also assumed I was paying.
I love that story about your sister, that just had me laughing. What was the after math of that date? I have had a few shockers in my time, but nothing even close to that!

D'Arcy said...


I could imagine that that would be hard for you. It would be hard for me. Even in marriage is seems difficult to be SO dependent on someone in that respect. I am sure you and Dave work it out beautifully, but it would still be hard.

It goes back to the Vriginia Woolf idea of a metaphorical Room of One's Own.

D'Arcy said...

Gustav, That sounds logical and right. How has that been working for you? What if you are with a woman who doesn't offer to pay for anything? Does that bother you?

D'Arcy said...


The rest of the story gets EVEN more incredible. After driving herself home and then letting him sober up enough to drive himself home, he kept calling her to go out again because he had SUCH a great time. She, of course, declined. He then said he'd like to pay her back the $76.00 dollars that dinner cost. She denied, but he kept persisting. However, he said he didn't really have ANY money (obviously by the card decline) but that he worked at Kinkos copy center.

He told her that he would absolutely hook her up with free copies, because, you know, that's what ever single girl has a need for.

Fast forward two years, April was sent by her boss to make quiet a huge order of copies. She went to kinkos and who was still behind the counter but this guy.

He started talking and chatting and doing the whole "You never called me back thing..." and April was like, "So, I get these for free right?"

Him: "Huh?"
Her: "You remember your promise of endless copies you made to me two years ago?"
Him: "What? I can't do that, I'd get in trouble."

April, with a roll of her eyes took her copies and left.

I find it HILARIOUS that she ran into him again though. Very classic.

Kristan said...

My first boyfriend REFUSED to let me pay for anything, which made me especially uncomfortable since he worked, tutored 5 kids, and still complained about money. ("Having a girlfriend is SO expensive," he would whine to me.)

So that, combined with my mom's instilling in me a strong sense of fairness and equality, means that I prefer to split things "fairly."

However, in some cases that isn't always 50/50. For example, my bf currently makes 6 times what I make, so would 50/50 really be fair? We both agree, no. Thus we split at a different proportion, but we're both free to speak up if we think it should change either higher or lower. He's really great about supporting me, and I try really hard not to burden him.

I think that's basically what you have to find with any person: balance that you agree on.

Steve and Jenn Fletcher said...

Let the guy pay if it makes him happy. Lots of guys really like doing that. So why not let them? Make 'em happy.

I think I would run the other way if a guy was really uptight about the issue (about having to split it 50/50). I mean, if THAT gets him all controlling and uptight, then what ELSE in a relationship will get him all controlling and uptight?

And why can't you define your OWN relationship the way YOU want to?

Let him pay for the dates most of the time if he wants and you don't mind, let him open doors for you, all that jazz. It's still reasonable for you to wish for all of those other things (sharing the responsibilities around the house, etc.) Afterall, that's what you want. If he doesn't want that, then he can find someone else. But those same role definitions that you've set forth may really work for him, too. He might like that about you, your determination. (So long as you return the favor. It's not fair to expect him to do EVERTYTHING your way.) Every guy is different. You've just gotta find one that fits you.

--Signed, The Expert. (J/K)


skippylongjacket said...

I am in the opposite situation. I have pretty much always made more money than the guys I have dated. Most of the time, significantly more. And yet, I still appreciate if he offers to pay. And yes, I do expect it if he asked on the first date. If I had asked, I would have expected to pay. In asking for a first date, you are asking that person to spend time with you. If you decide to do something that costs money, it is only fair and respectful to pay for the other person, especially if you decided what the activity was with no input from the other person.

After the first date, it's gets hard, though. Starting with the second date, I usually would at least make an offer to pay or split it. Some guys took me up on it, some didn't. I tried to leave it at that, taking them at their word. If they really did want me to pay and didn't take me up on their offer because of their ego, their loss.

Money is such an ego thing for guys. Some guys seemed to feel like they had to prove something by being able to pay, knowing that I made more money than they. Whereas with others, it really was just a courtesy thing, they had all been brought up to pay. Many of the guys who always paid for me still respected my career, my decisions about working after having children, etc. I agree with the other comments about it being a sign of how he will treat you in a long term relationship. If he is controlling and/or nitpicky about who pays at the beginning, there are probably going to be other issues along the road. In my most recent relationship, the guy would pay, never grudgingly, but always appreciated if I picked up the check now and then. It is as others have said, you get to the point where you communicate and work it out together.

With door opening. When walking with a group of male colleagues, often I find that they wait for me to go first through an open doorway. If there is a door, they always open the door for me and I go first. Though I appreciate the sentiment and their respect, it gets really annoying and I would appreciate if we could all go through in the order in which we arrived, the first one opening the door for others. On the other hand, it is really nice if the guy opens your door on a date. I'm the same. Though I know it should all be fair and equal, there is just something male, respectful and protective about a guy opening the door for you. I think it relates in part to security. It's a way for the man to show the woman he respects and appreciates/loves her and the woman gets to bask in that. Since I don't think (and I could be wrong) that most men feel the same way about a girl opening the door for him, I think guys should continue to do so for girls in a romantic setting. At least for a few more decades until all significance of this tradition really does wear off or change.

Rowena said...

I had this dilemma when I was fresh out of my feminist women's college. I wanted to split the bills all the time and I came up against major problems. Guys seem to want to pay. I think it has to do with their idea of masculinity.

Even when I was working two jobs and my boyfriend was a graduate student, he almost never let me pay, although, he would accept me getting the tip, or the snacks at the theater. That's what i ended up doing, suggesting smaller things, like coffee, that I would pay for.

I think the one who asks out should buy, but what if a girl asks a guy out. Will he feel emasculated if she whips out her Amex?

It's all up in the air as gender roles change. You can only play it by ear and tackle gender inequalities as they happen.

The door opening thing, though? That's more a nicety. Although not opening the door might point to a more "equal" attitude. I wonder about the door opener who split the bill, though. Those two actions don't seem to go together and I would wonder what the deal is.

HappyWifeHappyLife said...

Well, D'Arce, my darling, since I'm the old married fart at 41 (and have been married for 17 years), I'm pretty traditional. Hubster paid for EVERY one of our dates in our 5 years of courtship. YES, every one.

However, times have clearly changed since the courtship days of my youth.... :-)

If I were to be single and in a dating situation I would probably want it to be on a more egalitarian footing.... seems silly for the man to have to pay for everything unless he really really wants to. (Candidly, because I've been married so long, I think I would be utterly LOST if I found myself single these days... eek.) :-)

The second expert (kidding). :-)

maya said...

If a girl I dated did not offer to pay after a dozen dates or so I would have reservations.

Isn't any relationship based on a partnerhsip? I will water you if you agree to water me?

Relationships should be sustainable and having men or women pay for everything is unsustainable in my humble opinion. If nothing else it puts a burden on the person not paying, male or female.

Gustav said...

The comment above was from me Gustav not Maya. My apologies.

Olivia said...

The thing is, ideally after you get married it doesn't matter who pays because you're a partnership with all things in common. It's kind of a let down because there's no such thing as a free dinner or movie any more.

I never saw myself as being in a "traditional gender role" before. I think when you're married it's important for each person to feel fulfilled in whatever role they are playing.

mapelba said...

I'm clueless about the rules of dating. I was when I was single and more so now. But it doesn't seem unreasonable to think that when anyone invites another person out, the inviter ought to pay. I mean, I don't make people pay for dinner if I invite them to my house.

You could always ask him out next and take your turn paying that way.

But if he's a good guy, whatever you do will be okay.

Ujlapana said...

I would recommend doing whatever you feel is appropriate at the moment. Being yourself is what's most important while dating, after all. If you really want to pay and he's adamantly against it, maybe it's a sign to move on.

I paid for almost all dates, held doors, etc. when I was dating. (I drew the line at opening a car door for a date to get OUT of the car--if she waited I let her out, but that was our last date!) My wife currently is choosing to stay home with our brood but has pursued employment as she saw fit off and on post child-birth. She plans to continue this career/domestic path. Our housework is less gender-oriented than usual--she will mow and take out garbage sometimes; I will do dishes and fold laundry. Amusingly, I still "pay" on dates, although all money is held in common!

Anonymous said...

If you've got lots of spending cash, (regardless of gender) and you desire an activity with someone whose company you crave...

Assume they might be broke today. There's a recession on, ya know...

Assume you might have to bankroll your brilliant idea. Assume this person might be too self conscious to scream 'I'm broke' at the top of her(or his)lungs.

If you desire an activity, and your funds fall just short of being able to cover it...Here's a thought...TALK. COMMUNICATE.

'Hm...I want to do X...'

'Here's the deal...I have X dollars...'

'Can we make it work?'

'Or if not, what CAN we make work with what we have?'

The other party can now become part of the solution, and youse can have a grand ole time, on any budget!

Communication: It's what's for dinner.

j said...

That first part goes double if you catch someone at the end of a European vacation. Most mortals are usually broke at the end of those things.

You want someone to extend their vacation to suit your Richard-Gere roleplay jones? Pony up, or just wait till you're both stateside again.

D'Arcy said...

I think that I have to agree that this seemingly HUGE problem has one very, very, very simple solution.

And that is to talk about it. Before you even go out. I know that sounds weird and pushy and that you don't want to. But honestly, I'm over dating just to date. The men I date are quality people and I enjoy spending time with them. If I can't be honest up front about a simple thing like who is paying, etc. then why am I dating this person.

I know many of you are thinking NO, that's crazy. But honestly, I could have avoided a lot of awkward situations if I had just known what was expected and what was happening.

So yeah, communication, it IS what is for dinner. And when you find those people who you can be terribly honest with about life, then I think you've found someone who you can date.

Now, if people you are dating can't be honest, can't be real, like to pretend, well, then, I really don't have time for that anymore.


Rant. Over. And. Out.