February 19th, 2013
Aaron Steinberg is my resident “dude” in my new, “Ask A Dude” series. Where all us ladies get to have our questions answered by a super cool guy, who is totally in love with his girlfriend and thinks about relationships all the time (score!). Check the bottom of the post to ask your own question!
Q: Do you think it’s rude if we don’t offer to pay for at least half of a meal out together?
A: No. Many of us still believe men should pay for women, and, although I dislike statements involving the word should, I am fine with that idea. I don’t take issue when a woman doesn’t reach for the bill. I want to pay; it makes me feel valuable and romantic.
On the other hand, I don’t love the idea that men always provide for women. I feel excited when I hear about a stay-at-home dad or a woman who makes most of the money in the relationship. I respect a woman who keeps her own last name, and couples who keep their money separate.
Because people carry such strong and varying opinions on the issue, it’s hard to create a generalized protocol. To some guys, a girl offering to pay could be totally offensive. Even a guy who believes men and women are equal could have a strong caretaking value and want to pay, whereas another person sharing the same base viewpoint could think, “If we’re equal we should split everything equally.” You can imagine how much more complicated this becomes when we take into account all the different values of hundreds of millions of people.
I have two answers for how to think about this problem and what to do in practice. First, if you want a go-to solution for any first date, based on the average of our current culture, simply ask if he’d like to split the bill, and offer that genuinely. Second, think of this as a higher level question. How do you want finances structured in your ideal relationship? Starting from the beginning of any relationship, try to practice your ideal. If you value the more traditional structure, then let the guy pay. If you like to divide everything down the middle, split the bill, say you’ll have the next one, or pay yourself and say he can get the next one. If you want to be the primary monetary resource in the relationship, by all means take the bill yourself and pay.
I don’t see a purpose in skirting around these issues at the beginning, or any other important topics for that matter. If you wait until later to figure out who wants what, you may end up with a guy who’s constantly trying to pay for everything when that doesn’t make you feel good. Over time these things can build up and cause problems. Money issues often tear relationships apart.
When I went on my first dinner date with my girlfriend, she offered to split the bill but I said I wanted to pay; as I said, I like paying for things. However, when we went out for drinks after dinner she paid for all of it, which I totally appreciated. This way of doing things has worked throughout the entirety of our relationship. Neither of us believes it’s the man’s job to pay for everything, and we both feel good when we do something nice for the other, so we decided that sometimes I’ll pay and sometimes she’ll pay and we’ll assume it will all even out. This works for us because we like to have our own money, she likes to take care of herself, and I don’t really like splitting stuff unless it’s a big ticket item we couldn’t otherwise afford. We put this right out on the table on our first date and money has rarely been an issue for us.
Since Sally and I believe this will be a regular thing, I want to mention now that in all these articles I am talking about heteronormative relationships because that’s what I know and am in. While I have close friends who are gay or trans or both and I believe in equality for all people, I can only make the most educated guesses of answers for the relationships with which I’m most familiar. I don’t want to offend anyone with a bunch of unfounded crap.
Have your own question for Aaron? Email them to me at email@example.com.
Aaron F. Steinberg is a life coach specializing in one-on-one poker psychology and romance coaching. He loves both because money and love are such challenging and important topics for most people; they are amazing avenues for spiritual and psychological work. He has a CPCC life coaching certification from the Coaches Training Institute and is a Master’s Candidate in Integral Psychology at John F. Kennedy University. While Aaron has written for various blogs, currently he doesn’t have a website, so if you’re interested in working with him you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org–he’d love to tell you more about what he does and give you a free sample session. He happily lives in Oakland, CA with his girlfriend.