I have been seeing an incredible, strong, independent woman for several months. We haven’t put a label on our relationship but things have gotten somewhat serious pretty quickly. There’s just one issue…
On our first date I noticed she didn’t even make the traditional fake attempt to grab the bill. No big deal, right? Except that she hasn’t made an effort to pay on a single date since then. We hang out 2 – 3 times a week and I would estimate that I’ve paid for at least 90% of our expenses. Recently, at dinner, she mentioned she didn’t want a second drink because I always pay. I claimed it didn’t matter (it does) but then brought it up in conversation a few days later. HUGE MISTAKE. I won’t bore you with all the details of our argument but it was a big one. Eventually I backed down and we’ve made up.
I’m more than a bit concerned by the precedent that’s being set going forward. Now, I’ve been in the working world for a few years and she just recently finished her undergraduate degree. I have a great job that pays quite well for my age and location; however she will be starting a similar job shortly with almost the same salary. Additionally, she worked through college and is good with money so she definitely isn’t broke.
Who should be paying at this stage? Is this a deal-breaker at this point in the relationship? Is it a deal-breaker if it doesn’t change in a few months? I’ve dropped it for now but how do I bring it up again and when?
Newly Broke (but smitten) Brad
Maybe Brad’s girlfriend has alligator arms?
I think a lot of people can empathize with what you’re experiencing. At the beginning of a relationship, all sins are forgiven. Someone has bad table manners, or throws wet towels on the floor, or drives like a maniac–it’s easy to avoid these issues because the endorphins of new love are clouding your brain…and it’s also daunting approaching conflict with a new person.
Your financial positions make this sort of negotiation awkward, as you’ve sussed out. She’s not going to be able to afford the types of restaurants and outings that you can afford. And yet, she’s about to join the ranks of the gainfully employed. I don’t think it’s terrible that you’ve been paying all this time. I mean, even a college student with a job is likely broke. If you’d written in sooner, I would have encouraged you to seek out free activities–concerts in the park, picnics, bike rides–or ones that are relatively cheap–drive-in movies, coffee and dessert, bowling–so that you didn’t feel so taken advantage of, and so that she might have the opportunity to offer to pay. As it’s been, dinner and drinks for every date is pretty expensive, right?
Brad feels your pain, Jerry. (image credit).
In an ideal world, she would offer to pay, like, even 1 in 5 dates, or she’d take the initiative and plan some of these no-cost dates. Why hasn’t she? I don’t know. But it sucks. It’s certainly an outdated attitude, and one that I don’t think most modern women share.
So how do you address this with her? The first mistake you made was lying at dinner about not caring that you always pay for everything. FYI, that was your lady trying to broach the topic, because she has picked up on your discomfort with the arrangement. I don’t know how you brought it back up several days later, but I’m guessing it wasn’t super smooth (second mistake) if it led to a huge fight. And your third mistake was backing down during the argument in order to placate her. Eesh.
Just gettin’ ready for date night…hmm…maybe I should take out another hundo. (image credit)
The good news is, the damage is reversible. Broach the topic with her (waiting a month or two until she’s entered the world of adult paychecks is smart). Not while at dinner, the movies, or anywhere else that you’ll be expected to pick up the check. Not after either of you has had anything to drink. A Saturday morning at home is ideal. A Sunday afternoon walk would work, too. Be honest. It bothers you, you should have brought it up earlier, you’re sorry that the one time you did try to talk about it, you blew it, but you want to be open with her, and it makes you feel sort of rotten to always spring for the check. Be prepared for some embarrassment and defensiveness on her part. Money talk does not bring out the best in anyone. If the conversation goes poorly, that’s ok, let it sit with her. She may come around. If she doesn’t…then you have to decide, based on your own values, if it’s worth staying with her.
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