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Mom and Dad say he should pay!

My boyfriend and I take it in turns to pick up the tab, but they say he should pay for everything. Who’s right?

That’s an outdated rule, says our elder. It sounds like you are doing just fine.

Dear EWC

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for more than a year. I can tell my parents don’t like him even though they say they do. I’m 19 and he’s 20, and we love going out on trips. We came to an agreement that I pay for food and he pays for gas or vice-versa. My parents say we’re not in a good relationship because he should pay for everything. They say we’re very dysfunctional and I shouldn’t pay anything. I don’t feel like that. He has credit cards to pay off and even a truck to pay off. Yet he finds a way to fix my car and do monthly check-ups to see my car is running smoothly — he does my repairs and does not charge me for them at all. We each take turns paying the tab when we go out and eat. My parents find that wrong. What do you guys think of this?

Folk replies

With all due respect to your parents, I personally do not think it’s at all fair to expect the guy in a relationship to always pay for everything. This custom, after all, originated in a time when women mostly didn’t work and earn their own money. It was also a time in which men were seen as in control and women were seen as helpless. But since this is (thankfully!) no longer the case, it doesn’t seem right for women who are making as much as the guys they are dating (and sometimes even more) to expect their dates to always foot the bill. Because men have expenses and debts the same way that women do, it doesn’t make sense to me to apply a 19th-century standard to dating in the 21st century. We don’t have outdated rules about chaperones or dowries anymore, so why should we still hold on to the old rule about men always paying?

I do feel that a guy who asks a woman out for a first date should pay. And vice-versa. In other words, I think that the person who does the inviting ought to do the treating. But after a few dates, most women nowadays at least offer to pay. And most men expect them to. Some men though, i.e. those who were raised by traditionalists like your parents, always insist on paying. This doesn’t mean, however, that they want to pay; they do it because they have been taught that dating is something separate from friendship. In this traditionalist view of things, how much and how often a guy pays is considered an indicator of how serious and committed he is to the relationship. This is very different from the way you and your boyfriend and lots of other people think. You and your boyfriend probably consider yourself friends, maybe even best friends. You parents wouldn’t expect a friend to pay for you in order to prove that he or she liked you, but that’s exactly what they expect your boyfriend to do.

I also do not think that splitting expenses with your boyfriend is a sign that your relationship with him is dysfunctional. Quite the opposite, in fact. I think it’s a sign of your mutual respect for one another. In splitting expenses, you and your boyfriend are ensuring that neither one of you is being taken advantage of by the other. When a couple gets serious about their relationship, money becomes important because it determines what they do for fun, what they eat, where they live, and how they live. But if the guy is the one covering all the expenses, he may feel that his partner does not deserve an equal voice in deciding how his money gets spent.

It sounds to me like you and your boyfriend are doing just fine with your current arrangement. It also sounds to me that what you suspect about your parents not liking your boyfriend is probably true. It’s possible though that your parents don’t like your boyfriend for some other reason other than that he doesn’t pay for everything and are only using the money thing as an excuse. I suggest letting them know in a calm and polite way that you are very comfortable with the way you and your boyfriend handle your finances. If they continue to bring it up, do not respond except to say, “We’re fine, Mom and Dad. “ Do not get sucked into a discussion of whose point of view is the right one — yours or theirs. Theirs is right for them, and yours is right for you, and as much as you love and respect your parents, what you choose to do with your own money is not their concern.

Letter #: 425369
Category: Dating/Relationship

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