Money Matters
November 18, 2009 1:40 PM   Subscribe

Am I being unreasonable to think that my SO should pay for more things in our relationship just because he makes 10 times more than me?

My SO and I (I'm a woman) have been together for about 6 months now and we are starting to have money issues. He makes about 10 times more than me. I never thought this would be a problem since I've dated both wealthy and poor men and never had a problem.

For instance, I don't know when I should pay for dinners and trips. At first, I gave him silly, inexpensive gifts and paid for simple dinners – such as eating at home or ordering a pizza and he paid for more expensive restaurants. I am embarrassed to say that I can't afford to pay for both of us to eat at nice restaurants. I can afford to go to a nice restaurant maybe once a week and then only if I pay for just my portion. He suggested that I pay one out of every 3 times or so at nicer places. Thinking about this in a cold, rational sense, I suppose I would come out "ahead," but I don't naturally think about it in this way.
I have to keep a budget, while he doesn't. Going to dinner, I need to plan ahead to know how much I can spend. If we go out, I never know ahead of time whether he is going to want me to pay or not. I feel pathetic asking ahead of time if he wants me to pay. It's taking the spontaneity out of our relationship because we can't just decide at 5pm that we're going out to dinner, I need to know ahead of time. I feel anxious each time we eat out, not knowing if he will want me to pay or not.

He gets upset with me when I tell him I can't afford dinner, but then go and buy big ticket items (which I spent months saving for). He says that if I am going to buy expensive items, then he shouldn't pay for dinner because that's in essence him buying the big ticket item for me. Does this logic make sense to the hive mind?

We're going on a vacation in January, which I suggested because he's been busy with work and it's something to look forward to. I suggested it on a whim even though I have another vacation with my closest friend scheduled for April. I'm starting to get in over my head. I'm ashamed to tell him that I can't afford to go. I feel like a child. I also find myself resenting that he hasn't offered to pay for me at all. He thinks that because I'm going on a trip with my friend (also female, so no sexual jealousy), that he should not help pay for my portion of the trip.

I know he loves me, but I feel like he doesn't think I'm worth spending time with. He could easily afford to pay for the trip and has said he'll just go alone if I can't afford it.

I feel selfish for having these feelings. I'm liberal and think relationships should be equitable. I would never expect him to buy me extravagent gifts or my bills. I am proud that I have money saved and don't have to rely on anyone to help me.

Has anyone else been in a situation where one person is wealthy and wants his/her poor SO to split things equally? How did you work money issues out? I don't want him to think that I'm using him (which I am not), but I still find myself with hurt feelings when he doesn't want to share with me. Am I being unreasonable?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (100 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
I know he loves me, but I feel like he doesn't think I'm worth spending time with.

I can't figure that one out. Doesn't sound like he loves you. Sounds like he has contempt for you. The money is just the issue where it's most manifested. What you describe just does not sound like a happy loving relationship. You deserve better.
posted by mattbucher at 1:45 PM on November 18, 2009 [21 favorites]


You shouldn't have suggested a vacation you can't pay your share of, but he doesn't sound very nice.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:45 PM on November 18, 2009 [14 favorites]


I don't think you're unreasonable. It sounds like his expecations are for a lifestyle that costs far more to maintain. Even though you planned a vacation with him, it sounds like pressure to keep up with his expecations is eroding your savings. Because of his expecations, you're experiencing lifestyle inflation. Of course, it makes sense that he maintains that lifestyle, given his income.

Take a good look at what you're getting from this relationship. It's only been 6 months and it sounds like there are some major differences in lifestyle, values and expectations. It's possible that some good communication about your relationship could help. Or it's possible that he doesn't value you and will continue to see you through certain filters. But you eed to talk about it.
posted by acoutu at 1:46 PM on November 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


You are not being unreasonable. If things never change, do you want to live your life this way? Money is a tool to be used for what we need or enjoy. If I enjoy spending time with a friend, and she is low on cash, I would rather pay for her than forego her company. People who see money as an end in itself rather than a tool are not happy people...
posted by Knowyournuts at 1:46 PM on November 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


Your SO is a cheap jerk, and he's making you feel bad for it.
posted by Jairus at 1:47 PM on November 18, 2009 [21 favorites]


I know he loves me, but I feel like he doesn't think I'm worth spending time with.
He loves you but doesn't feel you're worth spending money on. I've been the guy in a relationship where I made a lot more, and where I made a bit less, and in both cases the person with more just sort of naturally spread it around more. That he is unwilling to do so indicates, to me, that his money is very important to him, and is probably something you want to evaluate when you try to determine how compatible your lifestyles are.
posted by dirtdirt at 1:47 PM on November 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


You may be being unreasonable if you haven't had a long, frank discussion about this topic with him. Not just "Listen sweetie, I can't afford to pay for Fancy Dinner," but a long discussion about the state of money in your relationship generally, how it makes you feel, and how you'd both like to go forward. If you have had that discussion, it would help to know how it went. If you haven't, you're being unreasonable by asking us first. It is difficult to overstate the importance of frank conversation when it comes to issues like this.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:47 PM on November 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


He should pay. Full stop. If you are both poor, sharing is all nice and lovely, and helps enhance the relationship. But if he is a Richie and makes his poor girlfriend pay, that ridiculous.
posted by mtstover at 1:48 PM on November 18, 2009 [10 favorites]


I feel selfish...

No -- he's the selfish one here.
posted by spilon at 1:50 PM on November 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's never too late to sit down and have a real, honest discussion about money expectations. If he wants to split things equally (which I believe is his prerogative), then you need to make it clear that you won't be able to do certain things outside your budget, and that he can't hold that against you or expect you to go with him to dinners or go on trips that are outside your budget.

In my relationship we've always split things based on income, but then again we've been basically married since the first day we met, and had money discussions very very early.
posted by muddgirl at 1:50 PM on November 18, 2009 [9 favorites]


Splitting expenses equally or not is up to you and your SO to decide together and I don't think I can give advice on that, but if you do decide that you want to split all expenses 50/50 then your joint lifestyle has to be affordable for the person on the lower budget - namely, you.

Here's an idea: make a budget for YOUR income, allocating a certain amount for eating out, some for savings, some for personal luxury items etc. Have your SO around when you do this and ask him for his input, so it's not like you're spending all your extra cash on yourself while he buys you fancy dinners.

Then stick to the budget very strictly. It won't have to be a tight budget - but you have to stick to it. Pay for yourself if you can afford it, out of the appropriate budget category, otherwise tell your SO that you can't afford to eat out anymore this month/week/budget period. Apply this to other non-essential shared expenses.
posted by Xianny at 1:52 PM on November 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you're paying, you get to pick the restaurant (and in fact initiate the invitation). If he's paying he gets to pick the restaurant. That at least should allow you to budget a bit better.
posted by willnot at 1:52 PM on November 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


Have you told him this in these words? You like to save up for things, and you can't spontaneously go out for dinner at expensive places if you are going to be paying. If you suggest going out to dinner, suggest a place you can afford, and pay for both of you; when he suggests it, he can suggest whatever he likes and pay for both of you together. If he just expects you to spontaneously go out for expensive meals, then either he's completely insensitive or you haven't explained your financial situation to him adequately.

It's unclear what happened with the vacation with him. Has the trip changed from what you initially suggested?
posted by jeather at 1:52 PM on November 18, 2009


You should 'fess up now about the vacation. Tell him the truth, you have looked at your finances and it's not an option to go right now. Your other vacation is beside the point; just because you have money for one trip doesn't mean you have money for two (quite the opposite, oftentimes).

I would put an end to expensive meals out. He will just have to understand the contraints of your financial position (but he doesn't have a right to the details or to tell you how you should spend your money on other items). If he wants to treat you to a nice dinner once in a while, or vice versa, fine, but the rule should be that whoever does the inviting picks up the tab. It sounds like he's got a whole lot of disposable income and simply cannot wrap his mind around having less to spend.

I'm sorry you feel slighted by him, and I would also, but at the same time focus on maintaining your financial independence and paying your own way. Neither of you should be feeling resentment or hurt or anxious over money, you just need to communicate and exercise understanding.
posted by JenMarie at 1:53 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's no right or wrong about this. His money is his money, and yours is yours.

Personally though, if I was dating Mr. Moneybags and he behaved like Scrooge McDuck, I wouldn't even try to explain it to him. He's what I would call "an idiot."

I mean, if you got married and pregnant, would he expect you to pay for the kid? Or maybe split the cost of upbringing 50/50? It's crazy. DTMFA

-
posted by General Tonic at 1:54 PM on November 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


It sounds like you already know salaries, so that's a start. What about debts? Do you know his debts and other obligations? It's time you had a discussion with each other about your finances. 6 months seems a bit early for this sort of thing, but if you're serious you're going to want to do it sometime anyway. I would suggest you spend an evening going over income, investments, savings, debts. Then goals, short term (like a nice vacation), mid term (a house) and long term (retirement plans).
posted by IanMorr at 1:54 PM on November 18, 2009


If he makes 10 times what you do, split all the bills so he pays 10 times what you do.
posted by wrnealis at 1:54 PM on November 18, 2009


I'm of the opinion that these things should be split equally unless somebody wants to step forward and say, "I got this one." And that's regardless of income. But that means some sacrifice on somebody's part. If you can't afford your half of dinner at Chez Expensive, then you two don't eat at Chez Expensive. And you can let him know that if he wants to eat outside your budget, he's going to have to cover it. Likewise, if you choose to spend your money on a vacation with a friend but can't afford vacation with your boyfriend, you don't suggest a vacation with your boyfriend. And you really don't suggest a vacation with your boyfriend when you can't afford it... and then get upset because he doesn't offer to pony up for you. Just because he makes ten times more than you doesn't mean he can spend ten times more than you. People have financial priorities.

But before I sound like a cold, heartless something-or-other, I do think he's being a tad unromantic about this whole thing. If something as basic as who pays for dinner is causing this much stress, then I foresee trouble for you two. Money is too big of an issue for the both of you, it sounds like.
posted by katillathehun at 1:54 PM on November 18, 2009 [8 favorites]


Is he worried you're some sort of gold digger? If he doesn't want to pay, then he doesn't get to do the nice things he likes that you can't afford to do (with you at least).

But, part of being in a relationship is working these things out. Ask him what the issue is and see how you two can work together to resolve it. If he's been burned by money in another relationship, I can understand why he's reluctant. If he just lacks generosity, well, that's your decision to deal with or not. Good luck.
posted by cestmoi15 at 1:56 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


You have to make your financial situation crystal clear to him. Maybe he doesn't fully understand. Tell him what you can and can't afford.

So everytime he wants to go out to dinner, decline by telling him you can't afford it. If you want to go to dinner, pay for yourself.

Don't rely on someone unreliable for money. Don't expect it either. It's not yours. Sure it would be nice if he shared more, but he's not and I doubt his pursestrings will be loosened anytime soon. Unless you are married or have some other financial agreement, he's not obligated.

You need to decide if this is something you can live with. If it isn't, DTMFA.
posted by inturnaround at 1:56 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I'm liberal and think relationships should be equitable" This relationship is not equitable if you're spending x% of your income on him and he's not paying the same percent of his income on you. Actually he sounds a little nuts. Somehow him paying for a fancy dinner is the same thing as handing you cash and should be counted as such on the tally sheet? Fancy dinners are not a requirement for life that you two HAVE TO DO. The point is to spend time together doing something nice.
My assessment is that it's possible he's been rich for so long that he doesn't understand how money works, or what it's like to have to think about it. If you stay with him he's going to twist your head around so much you won't know which way is up, and you're gonna spend years getting your head back after it's over. Might as well start now while you still have your faculties.
posted by amethysts at 1:57 PM on November 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


He sounds like a colossal jerk for making you feel bad because you don't make as much as he does. He does not love you if this is how he treats you. And if he chooses to go on vacation alone then he's an even bigger jerk.
posted by fenriq at 1:58 PM on November 18, 2009


"He could easily afford to pay for the trip and has said he'll just go alone if I can't afford it"

This sums up everything. Instead of asking whether or not he should be paying for more stuff, you should be asking yourself why he is your boyfriend. He sounds like a real asshole.
posted by santaliqueur at 1:59 PM on November 18, 2009 [38 favorites]


What if you lose your job? Is he not going to take you out to dinner because you can't afford it? What if he gets sued and loses all his money? When does grace and generosity and charity and love enter into the equation? Whatever happened to For Richer or For Poorer? I think you know this is a screwed up situation and are just looking for validation here so I will give it to you.
posted by mattbucher at 2:00 PM on November 18, 2009


As you've described him, he seems completely miserly--not with his cash, but with in terms of having a generous spirit within this relationship. He gets to choose what he does with his money, but keeping tabs on your spending habits and then saying "Because you bought those shoes you saved up for, I'm not paying for your dinner"? That's mean. Or stupid. Or both.

Relationships, particularly those with financial inequality, require honest dialogue about each person's expectations and attitudes about money. However, it seems to me that the tendencies your boyfriend shows in the way he talks to you about money are indicative of something deeper than a simple misunderstanding of your financial resources.

I feel anxious each time we eat out, not knowing if he will want me to pay or not.

Dates should not feel like this. They should be fun and romantic; they should make you feel good.
posted by Meg_Murry at 2:03 PM on November 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


He says that if I am going to buy expensive items, then he shouldn't pay for dinner because that's in essence him buying the big ticket item for me. Does this logic make sense to the hive mind?

This is the key, I think.

Yes, what he is saying here is that he thinks you are using him. Because he has money you get to have the nice dinner AND the big ticket items. Without him around this wouldn't be the case.

Do you love this guy? If so, drop the expensive dinners and the vacations. Do the kinds of things you would be doing if he weren't around and do those things together.

I've gone out with girls in the past that made like 10% of what I did. The things we did together included what other people do: take long walks, see movies, grab some ice cream, go dancing. I may have taken her out to dinner once or twice - more as a special occasion, a gift from her sweetie. But the relationship was never about money. Or is it?
posted by vacapinta at 2:05 PM on November 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


Don't let your mouth write checks your ass(ets) can't cash. He's acting like an ass but you are being childish and irresponsible. If my SO cried poverty when the checks came and then dropped a big wad on some consumer goods I would be pissed, and I'm a woman.

If he proposes that you eat out, he pays and picks the restaurant (or declines to exercise that right and grants it to you). If you choose to eat out, you pay. Same with vacations. But if you want to take a trip to Fleabag on the Beach for X days and he wants the Ritz for X+Y days, you pay for half of the itinerary you can afford, he pays the other half, and then he pays for the upgrade for both of you.

Either 50/50 or equal percentages of income are valid ways to split relationship finances, but you need to negotiate this explicitly and stop the silent resentment.
posted by vilthuril at 2:09 PM on November 18, 2009 [11 favorites]


People can be super weird about money. It isn't necessarily his fault, but he's also unlikely to change in the future. He also isn't required to pay for you, so he's not necessarily a bad person for not wanting to cover the expenses... though he doesn't sound like someone that I would want to spend time with.

If you can't afford to keep up with him, then let him go and do things by himself. If he doesn't like that, then he can either pony up or find a way to enjoy a less expensive lifestyle.
posted by paperzach at 2:10 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


We're going on a vacation in January, which I suggested because he's been busy with work and it's something to look forward to. I suggested it on a whim even though I have another vacation with my closest friend scheduled for April. I'm starting to get in over my head. I'm ashamed to tell him that I can't afford to go. I feel like a child. I also find myself resenting that he hasn't offered to pay for me at all.

Also, from what I bolded above, it sounds to me from here that you are using him, at least a bit.
posted by vacapinta at 2:11 PM on November 18, 2009 [14 favorites]


The hell? He sounds married. Trust me on this one and check it out.

He says that if I am going to buy expensive items, then he shouldn't pay for dinner because that's in essence him buying the big ticket item for me.

Unacceptable douchery. DTMFA.
posted by aquafortis at 2:11 PM on November 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


I have been in this exact same situation, and I know it feels shitty. Well, not the 10x factor, but a 5x factor. I was in graduate school and earning a stipend, and he has been climbing the corporate ladder since undergrad graduation.

I felt all sorts of bad things about myself, feeling superficial, like a gold-digger, etc. Then I thought about what would happen if the roles were reverse, and I realized that I would have NO problem paying for more dinners, excursions, gifts etc if I was making 5x more. In fact, I had been fantasizing about the day I made enough money to support him while he could go do some lofty ivory tower low-wage-making academic endeavour.

In the end, I realized, "This isn't about money, this is about generosity." It's about how much I was willing to spend on him, versus how much he was willing to spend on me. Our differences were highlighted when I saw other couples in my same situation -- women just as liberal, independent and progressive as I, and I saw how their husbands/boyfriends would not split hairs over expenses for needs, gifts, etc.

Anyway, I relate, and I'm sorry you're in the same situation I was in.
posted by NikitaNikita at 2:14 PM on November 18, 2009 [23 favorites]


Make sure he doesn't feel as though you're suggesting activities that you know you can't afford with the expectation that he'll pay -- I'm not saying that you do, in fact you probably don't, but some men can be a little paranoid about being used for their $$.

When you talk about this, maybe just say that, to keep things fair, you want to make sure you're not expecting a lot of expensive dinners and dates unless that's how he wants to spend time -- if he wants to eat fancy several times a week, well, there's no way to do that and be responsible about money unless he pays.

As far as your big-ticket items, since you didn't specify what it was, let's pretend it's something frivolous he'll never understand: a hair weave, or having all your beautiful hardwood floors replaced with metallic gold, pink, and white nylon fake fur. Fine. You want expensive things, you're willing to save up for them, and this is a good thing -- it indicates that you don't expect some man to come along and take care of you. That you are making enough, if you continue to be prudent, to take care of yourself so that you absolutely will never use a man for his money.

However, you do this by not spending beaucoup on vacations or meals. Of course it's natural to want to go on vacations with him, and to spend time in beautiful places with your beautiful man, and you'd hope that he'd like those ideas too.

How do you bring up these ideas without making it seem like you expect him to pay? I guess you'll both just have to be able to talk about it frankly. Or he can come up with fun ideas, but for some reason, men are sometimes not as good at this.

Have that talk, and good luck.
posted by amtho at 2:14 PM on November 18, 2009


"He could easily afford to pay for the trip and has said he'll just go alone if I can't afford it"

This sums up everything. Instead of asking whether or not he should be paying for more stuff, you should be asking yourself why he is your boyfriend. He sounds like a real asshole.


Well, come on -- they've only been dating for 6 months. If I had been dating someone for only 6 months and suddenly felt like I was obliged to pay more than half simply b/c I earned more, I'm not sure I'd be too keen on it... maybe I'd feel comfortable spending more when I wanted, like taking them out for a nice meal... but if there's been a sense of obligation created here, that might be the root of the problem. I also wouldn't be keen on paying for my relatively recent gf's vacation b/c she had chosen to go on another vacation with a friend and couldn't afford both.

Again, remember the time scale here -- this hardly a long-term partnership.
posted by modernnomad at 2:15 PM on November 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Has he always been well off? Because sometimes people who have always had enough money for everything just don't understand how you have to live when you're broke. It just doesn't occur to them. I have a friend who thought people who want to pay for their own meals only at a group dinner, instead of just splitting the total by the number of people at the table, were just petty. It didn't even occur to him that some people can only afford an appetizer and can't afford to subsidize everyone else's steak. I had another friend who was really into switching off on buying each other drinks. He didn't realize that I could only afford the drinks I was drinking (beer on tap), and didn't have the money to get him a $10 cocktail the next round. I mean, he just didn't know.

If it's not that your boyfriend is oblivious, it's that he's just not generous. And it is his money, he has the right not to be generous. But you also have the right to be turned off by non-generosity in people.
posted by Ashley801 at 2:16 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


He has every right to pay for his trip and go alone if you have money and are spending it on a trip with friends you have prioritised.

Bottom line is you have to make your feelings crystal clear - tell him what you wrote here. I'm betting the way he came into his money has a big bearing on his behaviour here.
posted by fire&wings at 2:16 PM on November 18, 2009


He says that if I am going to buy expensive items, then he shouldn't pay for dinner because that's in essence him buying the big ticket item for me. Does this logic make sense to the hive mind?

You say you budget very carefully, clearly you're making a conscious choice here to decide to buy big ticket items but not put that sort of money toward meals. If he pays $1500 more in meals than he should if things were split up fairly, and then you spend $1500 on something with the money you made from this, isn't he indeed kind of buying it for you?
posted by floam at 2:16 PM on November 18, 2009 [7 favorites]


(I should add, I am currently in the 'graduate stipend' time of life and make significantly less than pretty much anyone I date).
posted by modernnomad at 2:17 PM on November 18, 2009


People in a relationship should come up with a reasonable agreement that's sensitive to their specific financial circumstances. All other things being equal, the person who makes a lot more should pay a lot more. Otherwise, you're shouldering a dramatically more onerous burden for the same relationship-y activities -- activities that should be fun, shared times that don't lead to built-up resentment.

He shouldn't put the burden on you to avoid ever splurging on yourself. The two of you should be able to come up with a mutually acceptable arrangement without either of you needing to become ascetic.

Of course, he's not legally obligated or anything, but he's sort of ethically obligated to be fair. Furthermore, he should realize that you're not obligated to stay with him; if he keeps this up, he'd be practically asking for you to leave him and start looking for a more equitably minded chap.

I'm as adamant as anyone in believing that men and women should have equal financial burdens in relationships (relative to their means), so this is not about gender roles. I'd find this just as objectionable if it were done by a woman making 10 times as much as her boyfriend. So, if he's trying to make some sort of gender-equality argument that the man shouldn't pay more than the woman, I think very few people would find that persuasive.

(But as mentioned above, if you're going to press this point, you should also be aware of whether he has complicating factors like debt. I don't think 6 months into a relationship is too early to ask someone about their debt.)
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:18 PM on November 18, 2009


I don't necessarily agree that he's a cheap jerk, a vacation bill is a pretty big chunk of money to ask for in a relationship of only six months and I think it's a little unreasonable to expect him to cover that. However, I would expect him, if he wasn't willing to cover you, to gracefully accept that you can't do it this year, maybe next if you're still together.

I'm a social worker, so basically everyone makes more money than I do. My college friends for the most part are exceptionally sucessful professionals and make exponentially more money than I do. Just about any woman I date is going to have to be cool with the fact that she at least for the time being is probably going to be making substantially more money that I do. Absolutely, this changes the dynamic when it comes to things like dining out and travel. My college friends when I go to visit them in NYC have to understand that when we go out they either pick a place I can afford or someone has to help me out. If they aren't willing to do that, I encourage everyone to have a good time and assure them that I'll catch up with them later. They have to be cool with that, there's really no option for them not to be cool with that; I'm poor because I work with poor people not because I'm lazy and don't work.

I have found that my college friends for the most part appreciate this because it keeps things down to earth when I'm in town and I think we generally have a better time as a result, anyway. And a couple of my wealthier friends are very generous and are totally cool picking up my slack on a more expensive tab, no questions asked, no expectations, because for them it's about the company and not about the money and they can afford it. I'm okay with it when it happens because I'd rather spend time with my friends and have someone help me out rather than be excluded because I can afford to go. But, yeah, if we're going somewhere I can afford obviously I'm expected to pay my share and that's never a problem with me, either.

Dating isn't really any different, and honestly I've never found women to be anything less than super accomodating and totally understanding in this department. This is really all pretty cut and dry. We go somewhere I can afford and split it equally, we go somewhere I can't afford and you help me out because you realize we're going to have a better time going together than you will going alone and we're both okay with this arrangement, you go somewhere I can't afford with a friend who can afford to go with you and you guys have an awesome time and that's totally fine with me, I'll be here when you get back. It's not really that complicated.
posted by The Straightener at 2:18 PM on November 18, 2009 [17 favorites]


Unless you would be going to nice dinners and buying 2 meals as regularly as you are now, then no, he is not paying for your "big ticket" items.

It's kind of a douche move to suggest someone take you on vacation, though, even if he's been spending a lot of time at work.
posted by shownomercy at 2:19 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can afford to go to a nice restaurant maybe once a week and then only if I pay for just my portion. He suggested that I pay one out of every 3 times or so at nicer places. Thinking about this in a cold, rational sense, I suppose I would come out "ahead," but I don't naturally think about it in this way.

This ridiculous. Just because he's used to a certain standard of living (expensive restaurants, vacations) doesn't mean that he should be able to strong arm you into living beyond your means. That's what he's doing here. You're not coming out "ahead" because, if he wasn't in the picture, you would be buying things you can afford. You're also not being cheap at all--it sounds like you're being very generous with the money you have. He, on the other hand, sounds like he's being a jerk.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:20 PM on November 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


He may not really be able to understand your situation. Does he know exactly how much you make? Has he seen your budget?

I wouldn't be able to fathom the financial situation of someone making 1/10 of my income, or someone making 10 times my income. I can't even figure out how I survived on half of what I'm making just three years ago. When I look at the budget I kept at that time, it makes sense, but just talking about it without numbers makes it hard to compute.

So I do think you need to have a frank conversation with him about your financial situation, and explain that there are certain things you simply can't afford (and apologize for suggesting that vacation) and figure out together how to work around them (for example, if he wants a fancy restaurant dinner, he has to pay for it. In turn, if you want to go out to eat, you will pick a place that fits into your budget).

But I think you also need to have a frank conversation with him about how he's treating you--saying that your saved-up-for purchases are the same as him paying for dinner (because he's denying the sacrifices you made to save up for those purchases, ignoring your priorities, etc) and what it feels like when he says he'd just go on vacation without you if you can't afford it. These are very hurtful things and frankly would make me seriously consider leaving a relationship. Maybe he's been burned by golddiggers, but if you're not one, you shouldn't get painted with the same brush.

These conversations aren't fun and they don't always go well, but they're important.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 2:21 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


It really doesn't matter "who is right".

Here's what matters: this is how he is about money, and it doesn't seem to be in sync with your attitude to money.

He is doing you a HUGE favor. He is signaling, loud and clear - THIS IS HOW I AM ABOUT MONEY.

Take heed. Internalize that. Think what that means for the future. Then make your decision.
posted by VikingSword at 2:22 PM on November 18, 2009 [8 favorites]


When I was in college and making $6 at a part-time job, I got some guilt trips from my full-time-working boyfriend (at the time) who expected me to pony up more than I could afford on some things. In retrospect, I should have sat him down and explained to him that I had to work 5 hours (more, really) to make the $30 that I spent on him for that fancy breakfast, while he didn't even have a budget.
Instead, I used a credit card. This was a really, really poor decision.

Sit him down and talk it out. If he can't see your perspective on this, DTMFA.
posted by aabbbiee at 2:26 PM on November 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


He gets upset with me when I tell him I can't afford dinner, but then go and buy big ticket items (which I spent months saving for). He says that if I am going to buy expensive items, then he shouldn't pay for dinner because that's in essence him buying the big ticket item for me.
...
I know he loves me, but I feel like he doesn't think I'm worth spending time with. He could easily afford to pay for the trip and has said he'll just go alone if I can't afford it.


If you devoted ALL of your spending money to other people and pursuits, I could see him getting cranky about choosing everything except for you-and-him. If you're budgeting some of your money toward you-and-him stuff, he's being a jerk.

If you choose to save your money for Big Ticket Item, you don't need to justify it to him. His logic potentially treads into some pretty ick waters that suggest that he thinks he gets to choose how you spend your money. And his logic is especially judgmental considering he's willing to go alone on this trip if you can't afford it. Huh? You're supposed to devote all of your spare money to joint pursuits like dinners out, but he'll go solo on the vacation you planned as a couple?

On the other hand, it's pointless for you to torture yourself with this constant anxiety over whether or not he's going to expect you to pay. You need to be more straightforward and get this stuff settled, instead of hoping for the best and dreading an argument.

Did the vacation start out within your means and then spiral out of control? If you were over your head from the get-go, you should've nipped the spending in the bud then, rather than hoping he'd step up with the cash.

You're level-headed and smart enough to live within your means and take care of yourself. Put your foot down and stop feeling guilty about what you can afford.

I've dated or been best friends with people who had both less and more money than me. The understanding has ALWAYS been that we do stuff together than we can both afford. If richer person really really wants to do more expensive thing with the other really badly, they make it a gift, pooh-pooh any "zomg, that's too generous!" and graciously make it about the experience, not the money.
posted by desuetude at 2:28 PM on November 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


You need to be straight with him and say listen, "I make a lot less money then you so if we have to split everything 50/50 then we can only do things I can afford." In situations like this it's best just to be honest.

I also find myself resenting that he hasn't offered to pay for me at all.

Also, from what I bolded above, it sounds to me from here that you are using him, at least a bit.


I don't necessarily read that as the OP using him. I know that I am a generous person, and if my SO couldn't afford a trip I would be more than happy to cover him, because I would want to be able to enjoy the trip with him more than I cared about things being "fair". If it became clear that he did not feel the same way, I wouldn't be able to help feeling hurt and resentful, not because of materialism but because I would feel like there was a mismatch between how we felt about each other.
posted by cottonswab at 2:29 PM on November 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


"This relationship is not equitable if you're spending x% of your income on him and he's not paying the same percent of his income on you."

I second this. Pretty easy to figure out, too, if he actually makes 10x what you do. Together you have 11x. Fair shares on a 200$ dinner is 182 him and 18 you. How many 200$ dinners could you two afford that way?
posted by ServSci at 2:32 PM on November 18, 2009 [2 favorites]



Am I being unreasonable to think that my SO should pay for more things in our relationship just because he makes 10 times more than me?


Yes. It's his money and no one's fault there is such a difference in your incomes.

BUT, if you said: Am I being unreasonable to think that my SO should WANT TO pay for more things in our relationship just because he makes 10 times more than me?

Then my answer is No.

Seconding what NikitaNikita said: "This isn't about money, this is about generosity."
posted by NoraCharles at 2:34 PM on November 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


Relationships often get in trouble when they get unbalanced... but it's possible for them to be equitable without having a 50/50 split in every specific item. The question I'd ask you first is: what do YOU bring to the relationship that you carry more than your share in?

Once you've identified those things, then you'll realize you can cut yourself some slack... ok, so maybe he gives extra on the cash thing, but you give extra other things to balance it out. And then you work on getting HIM to realize it, so that hopefully he feels less like he's pulling more than his share.

(I agree it sounds like he's being a jerk about it, but that's where this is coming from -- he currently sees himself as contributing more to the relationship than you do)
posted by Pufferish at 2:36 PM on November 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ditto cottonswab. You might preface this by saying "we've let ourselves fall into a bad situation regarding money. I regret that we haven't discussed how we're going to handle money explicitly, and if I've leaned on you unfairly, I'll apologize for that right now."
posted by adamrice at 2:39 PM on November 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm going to agree with vacapinta here. Nothing in your post actually sounded like you thought that maybe you shouldn't go out to eat at expensive restaurants three times a week. It really sounds like you want to go out to eat at these restaurants and have him pay for it. And then you want to spend your own money on yourself rather than using your money to spend it on something that you'd be doing together. To be crass, you sound like you want him to fund your fun filled life while you fail to pony up anything for it.

You are at the six month mark in your relationship. It is now the time to actually be a grown up and talk about your relationship. Mention how money is making you anxious and let him mention how money is making him feel anxious too. Talk about different ways to approach your relationship. Start planning more dates, start budgeting, and stop assuming that your boyfriend is Mr. Money Bags. He's not - he's a person in a relationship with you. Time to figure out what that means, what you want, and money is a part of that equation.

Now, if you want to be a gold digger, my advice is that this guy isn't who you should end up. It sounds like he's getting annoyed that you seem to think it's okay to not take a financial stake in your relationship together. He might view money differently than you do. Did you ever think of that? Maybe how you are using money implies to him that you really don't love him but you love the lifestyle he seems to be able to provide you. He doesn't sound exactly like the guy who believes in that kind of relationship.

Stop using "spontaneity" as an excuse; start planning more. He will not love you less if you start planning your dates. He will not dump you because you want to get ice cream rather than a 6 course meal at a 3 star restaurant. And if he does, then he wasn't worth the time you invested in him in the first place.
posted by Stynxno at 2:39 PM on November 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


He thinks that because I'm going on a trip with my friend (also female, so no sexual jealousy), that he should not help pay for my portion of the trip.

He's right. That's your trip, not his. Why would he pay?

6 months is not so long in relationship years, really, and I think you're expecting a bit much from this guy in the finances department. It may be alright for him to foot more of the bill if you had been together for several years, had kids together, owned property together; but you're still in the early stages of a relationship. OTOH, if you've been clear with him about how his habit of dragging you out to fancy restaurants you can't afford makes you feel, then he's not being very sensitive about your situation, either. It seems as though candor and rationality can win the day here. Sit him down and chat him up about it.

And the point - This relationship is not equitable if you're spending x% of your income on him and he's not paying the same percent of his income on you. - seems a bit cock-eyed to me. He is under no obligation to 'match' the amount or percentage of money you are spending on him. He's not even being 'mean' if he chooses not to. It's his cash. The amount he's willing to spend does say something about his emotional investment, though (hint, hint), and I think you'd be wise to heed the signal he's sending.

Money is the bugbear of many relationships, and I think a lot of people fool themselves into thinking that it doesn't matter if True Love (TM) is involved. If he's more money-focused than you are, and it's making you uncomfortable, it may just be time to jump ship. Just because he doesn't want to take care of you and pay for everything all the time doesn't make him a bad person, though. Insensitive, shallow, and a bit crude? Perhaps; but he has the right to expect a certain lifestyle for himself, whether or not you can afford to keep up.

Maybe pay your own way on your trip with your friend and enjoy the alone time. When you get back, ditch him and find someone more your speed.
posted by Pecinpah at 2:39 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


A good partner is someone you can count on to have your back when life's challenges inevitably arise. This guy does not sound like such a partner.
posted by bunji at 2:39 PM on November 18, 2009


I agree with everyone who says he seems a bit miserly, but you should look at your own role in all of this. Why don't you put your foot down about these expensive places?

Instead of navigating the awkward waters of going to a fancy place and only paying for your own plate, why not start the night with, "Tonight is my treat! Let's go to X." (Where X is a place you can afford both plates.) That way, you know who's paying (you) and that you can afford the bill.

Also I'm confused by your comments:

"I also find myself resenting that he hasn't offered to pay for [my vacation] at all."

"I would never expect him to buy me extravagent gifts."


What is an expensive vacation if not a gift? If you want to live on a budget, be prepared to turn some things down or run the risk of looking like you're taking advantage of him.

But overall: he seems selfish, nitpicky, uncooperative and you can do better.
posted by cranberrymonger at 2:43 PM on November 18, 2009


> Here's an idea: make a budget for YOUR income, allocating a certain amount for eating out, some for savings, some for personal luxury items etc. Have your SO around when you do this and ask him for his input, so it's not like you're spending all your extra cash on yourself while he buys you fancy dinners.

Then stick to the budget very strictly. It won't have to be a tight budget - but you have to stick to it. Pay for yourself if you can afford it, out of the appropriate budget category, otherwise tell your SO that you can't afford to eat out anymore this month/week/budget period. Apply this to other non-essential shared expenses.


That's logical, but it won't work, because Rich Boyfriend doesn't want to live the budget life. He wants to live high on the hog, which his money entitles him to do—but he also wants you around, because he... feels whatever he feels for you (I'm not sure I buy the "love" description, but everyone has their own definition of love)—but he doesn't want to pay for you, because he thinks everyone should carry their own weight. This is classic Rich Person behavior. I have never been romantically involved with a Rich Person, but I have had them as friends. One such friend could never understand why our poor friend A. only ordered appetizers or a Coke when we all went to a restaurant; he simply couldn't grasp the concept of "can't afford it." He's a great guy, but he never had to worry about money. I made the mistake of moving in with another such friend when I had hardly any money, on the promise that I would only have to pay $XXX per month; when I started earning a little more money, he suddenly demanded that we split the rent equally (he made at least ten times what I did). I moved out.

If I were you, I would try the "serious talk" thing people are recommending, but I would also be preparing myself psychologically for the end of the relationship. I won't call the guy a jerk, but he appears to be neither generous nor capable of putting himself in your place, and that's not a good recipe for a relationship.
posted by languagehat at 2:48 PM on November 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


Look at any other aspect of the relationship than your finances, and you'll probably find that it is the same as the money: he's not that into sharing or contributing. If that's the case, I think all of this really boils down to the fact that he isn't as into your future together as you are.

He should want to go on a vacation because he wants to spend time with you. Instead, it sounds like he just wants to get away, with or without you.

But you don't really want to get away with him so much either. If you think about it, I imagine you suggested the vacation because you are so stressed about all these little things, like not knowing who will pay for what, that you imagine getting away from it all will make everything better. But if you do go on vacation, you will still have these same problems, just in another place. You still have to eat somewhere and pay for meals, etc.

To me, he sounds miserly and disrespectful of your contributions to the relationship. Others seem to feel that you expect to be provided for by your boyfriend. The unfortunate truth is that you and your boyfriend also look at your relationship with those two very different views.

The healthy approach would be to discuss just what you both make, what you would be willing to pay for, what percentages make sense, and work out an equitable arrangement. Start with how you really can't afford that vacation, and go on from there.

I think you'll find that your views are incompatible, but maybe you two can reach some middle ground.
posted by misha at 3:05 PM on November 18, 2009


I think part of the problem here is a disconnect about how involved this relationship is. There seem to be two choices:

1)you aren't really committed yet, so:
- split everything 50/50
- it's none of his business how you spend your money
- you shouldn't expect him to pay for your vacation.

or

2) you're in a serious relationship/partnership (yes, 6mos, but seeing each other 3+ times a week)
- then the apportioned 1/10 split makes sense
- it makes more sense to have some joint discussions about how you spend money (inasmuch as it limits what you can do with the above 1/10 contribution)
- it seems a little ridiculous that he would go on this vacation alone.

I don't know which scenario applies, but it sounds like he (and maybe you) are trying to have it both ways. I think that you should talk about it.

(As a side note, if this doesn't change, don't let yourself pretend it will magically at some later date like moving in together or getting married)
posted by mercredi at 3:05 PM on November 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm liberal and think relationships should be equitable.

Does he believe in progressive tax or flat tax? It sounds like you're working on a flat tax system here, and he gets to set the dollar amount by choosing to go out more than you would like.

Make a budget. After you pay your bills and pay your savings account, set aside some "fun money", and give it a number. Subtly, or not so subtly, let him know what that number is. If he demands that all that money is spent on time with him, (in the form of nights out with him) and not on clothes, vacations, or big ticket items for yourself, I'd say thats very selfish of him. It seems like the argument in his mind is that you are taking advantage of him one night out at a time, and that your new TV is made of the savings of 30 steak dinners. The reality of the situation is closer to him taking you out of your budget and financial independence.

Let him know that you need to live within your budget. That is the complete opposite of gold-digging, and completely respectable and responsible. If he wants to pull you outside of your budget, it should be as a generous gift on his part, not a begrudging burden.

Let him know about the stress this causes you. If he cannot understand or accept your stress about this situation, he probably has never lived on a budget (I mean he's never actually thought about controlling his spending whether he need to or not) or hasn't got the emotional intelligence to see a lasting relationship through. Then again, perhaps being miserly, (and picturing your TV as 30 steak dinners), is something he'd like to change about himself.

Frank conversations about budget are necessary in the long term, but you can avoid the problem for now by suggesting cost saving alternatives. (I found a new recipe we should cook, I rented a movie, lets just go for a walk, etc)
posted by fontophilic at 3:06 PM on November 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


if i were with someone for a year or two years or we lived together, i'd expect that the flow of money would be a lot easier.

if i were with someone for 6 months, i wouldn't suggest a vacation i couldn't afford and going to expensive places to eat. i would be worried that my SO would think i was either clueless or a gold digger. to me, and maybe to him, you come off as entitled to his standard of living just because you guys are dating.

you seem to have shame and embarassment about your own finances and your inability to spontaneously decide to go to swanky dinners and vacations. i think if you really thought about it, a lot of your resentment towards him is actually about your own situation. i think it's easy to think "if i had the bigger wallet, of course i'd pay for things!" but you don't actually have to know that or follow through on it while he has to actually open his wallet to pay for you.

it's up to you to sit him down and have a frank conversation about money, where expectations are laid down. you also need to get comfortable with when you guys start talking about dinner at 5pm, you suggest things in your price range and when he suggests things out of your price range say, "i only have money budgeted for this tier or restaurant".

my gut feeling is that it's too early in the relationship for you both to be feeling so spiteful and angry and that you'll have to lean these lessons for next time.
posted by nadawi at 3:08 PM on November 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Maybe he is overly focused on money and an ungenerous person. But operating under the assumption that he isn't just a big jerk and does have redeeming qualities about him, I can see how I might become resentful in his situation. You can budget to buy yourself big ticket items, you can budget to go on holiday for a friend, yet you cannot budget anything for the two of you seem to feel that he ought to pick up the tab for everything. That would make me feel like I wasn't a priority, maybe even that you were using me. Especially since this seems to have come to a head after you suggest a vacation that you want him to pay for in the entirety.

It's nice to be treated by one's SO, not so much as an issue of money but as a gesture. It could be taking him to a restaurant you can afford or even a simple thing like a picnic or spontaneously treating him to ice cream. Pull out all the stops some night and cook him an amazing dinner.

So it's time for a frank discussion with him. Tell him if he wants to take you to expensive places that's nice and generous of him, but that you can't take him to the same types of places. He needs to really understand that your significant differences in income mean you cannot maintain the same lifestyles. But I think it's time for some groveling ("I am really sorry but I have been taking advantage of you and I really shouldn't have."). Then make a real budget for yourself that includes him so you can be as generous with him, within your means, as you wish him to be with you.
posted by 6550 at 3:15 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pretend he makes just as much money as you do. What can you afford now? Do that. It will even out the power differential.

That means no vacation, no fancy restaurants.

What? That's part of the fun of dating a rich guy? Too bad.

References: Dated someone with a huge amount of oil money for 3 1/2 years, while broke. Slept on the floor, ate cheap takeout, never fought about money.
posted by kathrineg at 3:16 PM on November 18, 2009 [7 favorites]


Oh, and expect a prenup.
posted by kathrineg at 3:17 PM on November 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think it's kind of understandable why a guy might want to keep costs somewhere close to equitable in a relationship.

I mean, I don't want to flash around my money like I was filming a gangster rap video*, because were I to do that I can be criticised for trying to 'buy' her affections and make her feel indebted to me; she can be criticised for relying on my money to maintain her lifestyle; we can both be criticised for naively falling for the former, or for consciously attempting it and cynically thinking the it might work; and we can both be criticised for perpetuating inequitable relationships. Plus, I just feel that sort of thing is in poor taste.

A few weeks ago I'd had a few drinks with a girl, and we both needed to get home; and though I would think nothing of hailing a taxi were I on my own, I knew she had a bus ticket; I knew she wouldn't easily be able to pay half of the taxi fare; and I knew she wouldn't be comfortable with me paying the entire taxi fare.

So I got the bus with her instead.

Anyway, my suggestion is that you try to work out events that you can both afford to go to. Go to cheap concerts for bands that aren't well known, rather than expensive bands that are. Look out for events we'll enjoy that target a lower price point - some arts events cost next to nothing, assuming your tastes are flexible enough. Compromise on seat locations at plays and ballets and take some binoculars. If you're close to a university, have a look for events, classes and activities targeting people on student budgets.

Needless to say, though, you'll need his cooperation in this if he isn't doing it already, and that means having a talk with him about money, so I suggest that too.

*NOT GANGSTER-RAPPER-IST
posted by Mike1024 at 3:22 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


He shouldn't expect to go to places you can't afford unless he pays for it. It's really that simple. He can either eat pizza with you for dinner and let you pay for it, or he can take you somewhere nice and pay for it. There's another option, of course, which I mention just for the sake of completion: he can go eat somewhere nice and you eat somewhere else. If he ever does that when you had planned to eat together, then he's an absurdist caricature of a cheapskate.
posted by Nattie at 3:28 PM on November 18, 2009


Yes, what he is saying here is that he thinks you are using him. Because he has money you get to have the nice dinner AND the big ticket items. Without him around this wouldn't be the case.

And then when you can only afford one trip, you choose to go on a trip with a friend instead of going on a trip with him. I can see why that might frustrate him. Really, you both want the same thing- you want him to spend more of his money on you, and he wants you to spend more of your money on him. But you're both holding tight onto your own pots. I hope you can find a way to work through that.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:30 PM on November 18, 2009 [8 favorites]


I also find myself resenting that he hasn't offered to pay for me at all.

I would never expect him to buy me extravagent gifts or my bills.


These two things are like so totally polar opposites of each other. You should come to terms with how much you expect from him (financially speaking). If it's closer to "I expect him to pay more because he earns more" then you should act like it. If it's closer to "I think we should pay equally" then act like that. But it sounds like you want it to be both, and THAT is the source of all the tension.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:34 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


You need to sit down with him and say this:

"I have x budget for going out for dinner this month. We can shoot the wad on one pricy meal or we can go several times at "more reasonable restaurant" or I can make dinner. If you want to go out for nicer dinners more than this, you either need to pay or go without me. "

What he says after that will tell you what you need to know.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:34 PM on November 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


It doesn't seem like a lot of people are paying attention to the fact that it has only been 6 months. We don't even know how casual it is.

I agree with the advice that the person who picks the expensive restaurant should be the one to pay and if he picks a more expensive restaurant then he should at least cover most of the bill.

He does sound a little callous about money but really, she hasn't yet talked to him about it. He might have other concerns.

I definitely don't agree with all the people saying that they should each spend the same percentage. The way I have handles things so far (when I've both had less money and more money), is to make the assumption that I'll pay 50%. If one person can't afford it, they simply say so and the other person can either say cool or offer to subsidize or pay.

Using this logic, she really shouldn't be upset about not being able to afford the second vacation and he really shouldn't expect her to pay for the expensive restaurants (unless she picked it).
posted by just.good.enough at 3:36 PM on November 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


He thinks that because I'm going on a trip with my friend (also female, so no sexual jealousy), that he should not help pay for my portion of the trip.

He's right. That's your trip, not his. Why would he pay?


To clarify, I believe the OP meant "He thinks that because I'm going on Trip A with my friend, he should not help pay for my portion of the trip that he and I have discussed taking together, Trip B."
posted by tristeza at 4:00 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Which makes sense to me. I think people are way too credulous about the OPs presentation. Remember, this is likely the best slant on things from her point of view and, even so, I think this is at least a mutual problem.

Money is fungible. If you're spending money on whatever you want to spend it on (big ticket items you save up for, trips with friends) and then expect him to pay for whenever you guys are together, well, he's probably feeling like you're using him for money. Because you basically are. Oh, that might not be why you're with the guy, but the fact is that he's subsidizing all the other things you're doing.

He also sounds like he has hangups with money. Like I said, I think you both likely have problems.

You guys really need to have a big talk and work this out. Maybe you simply aren't compatible. Nothing wrong with that. But I really disagree with the people who think the whole problem is that this guy is a cheap asshole miser.
posted by Justinian at 4:15 PM on November 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


It doesn't seem like a lot of people are paying attention to the fact that it has only been 6 months.

What difference does it make whether they've been together 6 months or a year or 2 years?

I remember seeing a post here about a couple who had been together a long time (probably years), and the OP suddenly felt they should have a different money arrangement to make things more equitable. Most of the answers said that this was a big problem and it would have made things much easier if they had established a satisfactory financial arrangement from the beginning. So, putting this kind of thing off is not a good idea.


We don't even know how casual it is.

It's serious enough that she wrote this earnest AskMetafilter post about their relationship issues -- that's all we need to know.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:32 PM on November 18, 2009


"To clarify, I believe the OP meant "He thinks that because I'm going on Trip A with my friend, he should not help pay for my portion of the trip that he and I have discussed taking together, Trip B."

Ah, thanks - I can see my misunderstanding there. Even so, I don't think he's under any obligation to pay for any portion of any trip the OP takes, with him or no. Sure, he'd be a real dreamboat to do so, but I hardly think it's expected that he do.
posted by Pecinpah at 4:37 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nthing the above: he's a jerk.
posted by rokusan at 4:38 PM on November 18, 2009


Ugh. I dated That Guy once. Turns out he thought I was a gold digger.

Of course I wasn't - I was a struggling single parent. He invested a lot of his self image in looking prosperous and I was in no position financially to try to keep up. Plus I had other priorities.

When we inevitably broke up, it wasn't about the money. I broke up with him because I learned not to date people who thought badly of me.

(Really? Golddigger? What an ass.)
posted by Space Kitty at 5:13 PM on November 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


What difference does it make whether they've been together 6 months or a year or 2 years?

it's not that these issues shouldn't be hashed out early to avoid later stumbling blocks - it's that the OP has an assumption that her boyfriend should pay for a vacation she planned because he makes more money (or pay for dinners they both agree on). if they had been together a long time/were planning a financially cohesive life together, it would make sense for her to propose a vacation that he's going to pay for if that was the framework of their relationship. however, in the context of this being a fairly new relationship, to some of us she's expecting that they're moving as a single unit instead of as two people who are just beginning their coupling.

at the root of this it seems like both people are making assumptions about where the relationship is and that those aren't matching up. conversations about expectations, limitations, and future planning seem to be in order. it's not unromantic to make a plan that both people feel safe and secure in. if the status quo continues it seems like they'll both go on feeling misunderstood and taken for a ride.
posted by nadawi at 5:15 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think as soon as two people move in together, they should get a joint bank account.

It doesn't have to be all their assets, but it has to be an account they both contribute to and use for rent, bills, groceries, joint vacations, dinners out... all of that. To live from.

And then fund it jointly. If there's not enough to go to Maui, the less-wealthy person can't contribute any more than they already are, but maybe the wealthier one can. It's up to them at that point, but unless they do, the couple doesn't have enough money for that trip.

You need to start sharing money eventually. The whole "my money" and "your money" thing doesn't work, long term.
posted by rokusan at 5:35 PM on November 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


As a concrete suggestion for what to do: you don't have to stress out about who's paying. Just always assume you will have to pay. If you can't afford that, then say so. "Oh, that sounds fantastic, but I just can't afford that right now. What about a pizza and a movie?

If he wants to volunteer to pay at that point, than great, and you can go with a clear conscience. If not, then he won't. (Whether or not that bugs you may be a different issue.)
posted by ctmf at 6:02 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was going to say he was a jerk, but then I started wondering...does he have any large (or possibly secret) debts or does he just put a big chunk of his money away for a rainy day? Also, does he have an anxious personality? Does he hate his job where he makes big bucks? Is he really lonely?

I think if these things might be the case, he just has issues that manifest themselves as money issues.

He might also not be a generous person, or, sadly, he might not love you like that yet.
posted by anniecat at 6:16 PM on November 18, 2009


Also, I was thinking about this recently, and thought that some of us grow up desiring a kind of chivalry that makes sweet and thoughtful gestures that make us feel very cared about (the kind of thing we do for our friends even, just to be nice and take care of the people we love) -- paying for dinner, surprising us with our favorite magazine, running out to get us cold medicine without asking us to reach into our wallet for a fiver to pay for it...I think though, generally, that might just be fanciful for a relationship where the guy hasn't yet "decided" that you're the one and isn't really ready to do the nice things women do for their boyfriends without looking so deeply into what it means.
posted by anniecat at 6:26 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wonder if perhaps he was taken advantage of in a past relationship. He could just be trying to figure out how to rig this relationship so that it's definitely not about money, but hasn't quite figured out how to do that yet. It's reasonable for him to want that but the two of you should work out how to do it in such a way that it doesn't make you feel like you're suspected of gold-digging, which is probably unintentional.
posted by XMLicious at 6:55 PM on November 18, 2009


He is helping you to buy the big ticket item if you would have spent that amount without him. But, you are eating at more expensive restaurants than you would otherwise. If it is at your suggestion, then you are takiung advantage of him. If it is at his suggestion, then he is being unreasonable. I also think he is looking at this from a purely economics viewpoint devoid of emotion.

I have no doubt that he loves you. I also have no doubt that as long as you are in a relationship with him, money will be an issue unless or until he suggests you stay at home or pursue a career regardless of the compensation.

If I were you, and I am not, I would invite him out for a dinner, pay for it, and tell him you can no longer afford this relationship. Depending on his response, I would either walk away forever or know that it can be worked out. Do not continue on the present stressful and impractical course.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:47 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I had this same problem in my relationship. I made 30K, SO made around 200K. It's over now, the best part being that SO has decided that I now owe about 12K in order to "make up" the amount spent "on me." Meanwhile, I'm still paying the 5k credit card bill I racked up buying presents and accompanying SO on trips.

Needless to say, I took this relationship as a lesson learned. Namely, that finding someone who views finances and spending similarly to the way I do makes a world of difference. Life's too short to stress about the money in a relationship, and believe me, it adds up.
posted by buzzkillington at 10:03 PM on November 18, 2009


from the original poster:
Thank you for all your answers. It's helpful to read the variety of answers I received.

First, we do love each other and our relationship is good in most other ways. I think we can work through the money issue. He grew up poor and has felt burned by family members demanding money while my family was upper middle class and generous with money.

If he and I were making the same amount of money, I wouldn't feel hurt if he didn't pay for me. I think I am just having a hard time understanding why he wouldn't want to be more generous with money. I try not to compare past relationships, but I have paid for friends to go on vacations with me when I had money and they didn't. I never thought twice about it. It seemed natural.

I think the main thing I have taken away from this discussion is that I shouldn't assume that because he doesn't want to spend more on me that he doesn't love me. I know logically that he does love me, but it's just an emotional sense of hurt that probably comes from our different backgrounds. On the other hand, maybe with his background, he thinks I am using him. Somehow the money issue evoked things from our pasts that are in opposition. I plan to talk to him about this soon. I think we both want going out to be fun again.

By the way, the trip with my friend was planned before I met my boyfriend and the idea of hurting her by ditching that trip was not at all acceptable to me.
posted by mathowie at 11:03 PM on November 18, 2009


I don't know about JohnnyGunn's idea of telling him you can't afford "the relationship" but I do think you need to swallow your embarrassment and tell him that you can't afford to share in the lifestyle he prefers. The thing about his paying for expensive meals subsidizing your expensive purchases for yourself, well, however logical it may be, unless he is then willing to not eat at places that are outside your budget he is basically saying you shouldn't buy things for yourself in favor of paying for meals at the expensive restaurants he prefers. If he is willing to tone down his lifestyle to fit your means then his insistence on more or less going dutch is fair, if ungenerous. If he insists on your keeping up with his lifestyle preference he is not just being unfair he is actively harming you by pressuring you to live beyond your means and put yourself in financial trouble which is a pretty damn destructive thing to do to someone especially these days. You're probably going to have to cancel the vacation which will probably be a sort of testing ground for whether the relationship is really viable.

There are a couple factors in his favor: it is pretty early in the relationship, and it sounds like you are having a hard time communicating how hard it is for you to afford things so he might not be that aware of how much these things are putting a strain on you. I suppose it is also possible he has some legitimate reasons from his past for being gun shy about being overly generous in a relationship. But the dynamic you describe where he gets on your case about spending money basically on yourself instead of on doing things with him sounds kind of petty, and with the income level I imagine he has (assuming you are making something in the vicinity of a normal income) and his ability to live without needing to budget he certainly sounds like kind of a cheap ass. If this is the case even if he decides to "pay your way" to live the lifestyle he wants he will probably be a jerk and resentful about it. I'd kick him to the curb in this case sooner than later because otherwise he will be an ass about all the money he spent on you prior to killing your relationship by harping on it all the damn time.
posted by nanojath at 11:19 PM on November 18, 2009


Going on from your follow-up, and really stretching to give this guy the benefit of the doubt: his family history may have made him very prone to bicker or bargain about money. It may be he is really touchy about the fear of being taken advantage of. Things that could make talking this out go better might be stressing that it is not about expecting him to pay but about what you can afford to pay, and that you don't need a bunch of money to be spent to enjoy being with him and going out with him, but being in situations where you are spending beyond your means makes you nervous and stressed out. I think being up front about the fact that you have a hard time communicating about your ability to afford things and copping to the fact that you were impulsive and didn't really think ahead about suggesting the vacation might make it go down easier for him. But I think he really needs to concede that it just isn't fair for him to expect you to divert more of your limited discretionary income to doing things with him. If he's willing to dial down the lifestyle for a while and see that you really are in it to be with him for himself perhaps he will loosen up and as the relationship matures become more generous and sharing.
posted by nanojath at 11:32 PM on November 18, 2009


Has anyone else been in a situation where one person is wealthy and wants his/her poor SO to split things equally?

The only time I've ever been edgy about money in a relationship is when I felt taken advantage of - my then-boyfriend would invite me out for a meal then expect me to pay AND lend him money, insist we get a taxi instead of walking, then not even offer to pay half, etc. I responded by not wanting to pay for anything for him, and chasing him for even tiny amounts of money he owed me. (e.g. he asked me to buy some fizzy drinks (for his personal use) on the way over to his place, I'd pester him for a week for the money he owed me.) I'm sure he still thinks I'm a total skinflint, which is sad because I'm really not generally, I just felt that he was taking advantage of my generosity and it left me not wanting to pay a penny more than half my share.

So while your boyfriend may be a selfish, cheap jerk as a lot of people are suggesting, he may also just be uncomfortable with the situation. I do understand where you're coming from, and it must be frustrating, but my personal view is that people should pay ~50% each as the default. If you discuss it and one person doesn't mind paying more, that's cool, but just automatically expecting the other person to pay more because they earn more than you is unfair and somewhat rude, in my opinion.

(For what it's worth, I'm with an utterly wonderful man now who has much less money than I do, and I'm happy to pay way more than my share so that we can do fun things and eat at nicer restaurants. We've discussed it several times, though, and I don't feel at all that he's taking advantage of me, and both of those factors contribute heavily to my willingness to pay extra.)
posted by badmoonrising at 1:57 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


I know many people who grew up dirt poor, struck gold, and are now no longer able to remember what it was like to be poor. The concept of "basic needs" gets shifted.

He may think you are overreacting or being dramatic when you say you can't pay for your share of Expensive Thing. Expensive Thing is after all not a big deal to him, and because he is blinded by his relative wealth he can't see why it's such a big deal to you.

It's really just a lack of empathy. It's probably not malicious, just a bit thoughtless. I'd like to know if he shows empathy in other situations? Does he recognise your strengths and weaknesses, and how they differ from his own?

I wouldn't confuse it with a lack of love, although IMHO a lack of empathy and understanding is a big alarm bell. You need to sit him down and explain the money situation, and you also need to tell him how it makes you feel.

Good luck!
posted by heytch at 2:32 AM on November 19, 2009


It may not be about the actual purchases at all. For people who grew up poor, money is a huge emotional issue - it's not about the actual cash but about perceived power. If you grew up in a house that was relatively affluent and money just appeared as required you may not associate it with control the way someone who didn't have any might.

These are deep issues and can be very divisive. He may want to retain retain total control of his 'power' - not over you, but over his own circumstances. Yes, you should talk about this and over time he may mellow but affluent-middle-class-to-modest-financial-independance versus dirt-poor-to-working-rich are very different starting points.
posted by freya_lamb at 4:49 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


It may not be about the actual purchases at all. For people who grew up poor, money is a huge emotional issue - it's not about the actual cash but about perceived power. If you grew up in a house that was relatively affluent and money just appeared as required you may not associate it with control the way someone who didn't have any might.

Seconding this. As someone who grew up poor, I also have trouble understanding certain aspects of generosity with money--when I was first dating Mr. WanKenobi, who came from a more affluent background, it stunned me that his family was willing to pay for me to go on vacations with them, et cetera. In my family, that's just something that would never happen; it's certainly not something my family would have ever done for someone I was dating.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:09 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


These are deep issues and can be very divisive. He may want to retain retain total control of his 'power' - not over you, but over his own circumstances. Yes, you should talk about this and over time he may mellow but affluent-middle-class-to-modest-financial-independance versus dirt-poor-to-working-rich are very different starting points.

This. Case in point, my father had an atrocious childhood: extreme poverty, alcoholism, mental illness, you name it. He had to fend for himself at an extremely young age (like, grade school young). He put himself through college despite being homeless and managed to overcome all of this but he never got over it when it came to money. He is almost pathologically miserly even though he is fairly well-off. My mother on the other hand, while she didn't grow up wealthy, there was always enough, and her and my father could never see eye-to-eye when it came to money. It eventually destroyed their relationship, despite the fact that they loved each other very much, because neither one was willing to try to understand the other's point of view. If you want to continue a relationship with this man, you need to find a way for you both to have a common ground, because if you think it's stressful going out to eat, wait until you are buying a house, having children, etc.
posted by cottonswab at 5:28 AM on November 19, 2009


You guys need to have the money talk. It's not fair that this is putting a dent in your savings.

Your social outings should be more in line with what you can afford if he wants to split it 50/50, anything else is unreasonable. If he wants to live it up, then he pays.

I make much more than my wife who works part-time, but then she gave up her job to follow me with work around the world, so it would be unreasonable for me to insist we go 50/50. We're married, so all money we make is OUR money. One proviso, my wife saves most of her income for her own usage as her mother always told her that she should not be dependent on any man for money. That is only fair given that her sacrifice is far more than any money I might spend. She spends as she sees fit and occasionally treats us out of her funds.

This is what works for us, but we had the money talk and have similar attitudes towards spending and goals so it's rarely even a discussion. Communication is the key for this, as with all relationship issues. Good luck.
posted by arcticseal at 8:27 AM on November 19, 2009


At some point you have to accept that someone who has lived without money will have some issues about it.

Keep in mind that, should something happen to you, you have family (with money) to fall back on. He has nothing. He is his own safety net, and the safety net for his family.

You see money as something that's fun to spend, and even if logically you know that it's a finite resource, deep in your heart you feel that there will always be more. He sees money as water, food, shelter, and when it's gone--it's gone. And he goes without. He doesn't know where his next meal is coming from. He loses his home. He has no one to fall back on.
posted by kathrineg at 8:48 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


So--in his mind--you're asking him to take care of your luxury desires at the expense of his and his family's survival.
posted by kathrineg at 8:50 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


You see money as something that's fun to spend, and even if logically you know that it's a finite resource, deep in your heart you feel that there will always be more. He sees money as water, food, shelter, and when it's gone--it's gone. And he goes without. He doesn't know where his next meal is coming from. He loses his home. He has no one to fall back on.

katherineg, this is a good description of the mindset, but anonymous's boyfriend seems to have a penchant for going out to fancy dinners instead of more economical places, and he has no qualms about going away on vacation, so I think he's past the money-is-necessities mindset.
posted by desuetude at 9:43 AM on November 19, 2009


"I feel like a child."

This should not happen in a healthy relationship, about anything. You're not a child and you're clearly making responsible financial decisions for yourself. Just because you date Mr. Extravagant (or Mr. Charming or Mr. Gorgeous or Mr. Whatever) doesn't mean you have to be that yourself, or else fail at life. But especially when it's related to something you're objectively good at, as in managing money.

If you make 10 times less than him and you're able to support yourself, then he either needs to:

(1) decide to live a lifestyle you can afford

- or -

(2) decide to pay for things that you cannot afford and/or that you are not willing to pay for (other than the basics of splitting groceries or rent or whatever - which at six months you're probably not involved with yet). Eating meals out is not a necessity and vacations are not a necessity, so he can't fairly expect you to pay for those things unless it's something YOU decide to prioritize.

I say this as someone who's dated people who make zero or 10 times less than me for several years now. Applying the choices above to your situation, he needs to (1) relax on needing to eat out at fancy places all the time, or (2) pay for those meals.

On the vacation - look, you realized you couldn't afford it. Too bad. Let him know you'd love to take the time off and spend it doing something special with him near home instead of going somewhere else. Not every moment has to be spent doing something expensive, and just because you spend money on a trip (or on anything) won't make it fun or good.
posted by lorrer at 10:10 AM on November 19, 2009


Here is an oldie-but-goodie blog post from a friend of mine about gendered expenses in dating: "Experience has made me rich." I'm not sure I agree with her 100%, but it's an interesting perspective to consider.

A practical suggestion regarding dinner: what if you cooked him nice dinners at your place sometimes? That would be less expensive than eating out, but you'd still be doing your share of providing dinners.

It sounds like the trip with the friend was already scheduled before you planned the trip with the boyfriend, so if you can't afford both trips, you have a perfectly legitimate reason for why you are prioritizing the one you planned with your friend -- you planned that one first.

In general, he may have had bad experiences with other women in the past using him for his money. (Or maybe he's just a jerk -- who knows, we're only getting your perspective here.) If you think that might be the case, why don't you suggest that from now on, you two only go on dates, trips, etc. in which you can afford to pay for half. He may be testing you to see if you are as careful with his money as you are with your own before he considers a commitment that would actually make his money yours too.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:31 AM on November 19, 2009


anonymous's boyfriend seems to have a penchant for going out to fancy dinners instead of more economical places

I've seen this repeated several times in the thread, and re-reading the question I'm not sure this is at all the case. The OP says that "he gets upset with me when I tell him I can't afford dinner, but then go and buy big ticket items"; most people have parsed that as the boyfriend getting upset about her not being to afford dinner at nice places full stop when it seems clear to me that his complaint is her pleading poverty with him but being okay spending money on other things. There's nothing wrong with having different priorities than spending all your free cash on your dates with your boyfriend, but there is a problem with letting that fact somehow create an expectation that he should picking up the slack because he has more disposible income.

It seems to me that the root of the problem here is the OP's reluctance to actually talk about money with the boyfriend in a dollars and cents way; I think *that* combined with being the lower-earning partner can lead to acting in ways that start to seem manipulative or gold-digging, even if that's not what you intend to do.

I feel pathetic asking ahead of time if he wants me to pay... I feel anxious each time we eat out, not knowing if he will want me to pay or not.

I think it's a little bit weird that you would agree to go out at all if you weren't 100% prepared to cover half of the cost, to be perfectly honest. Would you do that to a friend, and silently hope that your friend was generous enough to cover your half? If you wouldn't, I think you need to examine whether your expectations for your boyfriend are fair. It may be you're silently hoping he'll be generous and take care of it because you feel like explicitly saying you expect it of him would be crossing the line. In general, I think it's a good rule in relationships to never silently expect or hope for something you wouldn't have the courage (or bad manners, depending) to ask for explicitly.
posted by iminurmefi at 12:01 PM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


ok - you planned your trip with your friend first, you saved up for a long time to get the extravagant item. this still doesn't excuse you inviting him on vacation and then getting upset that he won't pay your way or coming up with dinner plans with him and being put out that he might think you'll pay your share.
posted by nadawi at 12:19 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I made ten times what my SO made, she wouldn't have to pay for sh*t. But.......if you saved up for months to buy a Louis Vuitton bag, I might have second thoughts about spending money on you indiscriminately.

For fun, to figure out what is equitable, figure out how much more he has in disposable income every month, not net. Even though he makes 10 times what you make, he make actually have 20 times more disposable income. Get that number. Let's say its 20x to use a round number. If he is willing to spend $200 on dinner, it is reasonable that you should spend $10. Not that you need to get this scientific about it, but financial equity needs to always be calculated as a percentage of income. Bill Gates dropping 5 million on a school is like me giving 5 dollars to the Salvation Army.
posted by jasondigitized at 3:14 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I think the OP is saying that he gets upset when she buys things she's saved for and pleads poverty when he wants her to pay for expensive dinners on impulse. I think she needs to communicate her budget. It's entirely reasonable to have a certain amount of money budgeted for dinners out and to plead poverty when that budget is exceeded and to still budget money for big ticket items. This is what a budget is about -- priorities. But perhaps the OP's boyfriend is not aware of the decision process or her budget -- or that she feels pressured to keep up with lifestyle inflation. It sounds like a good discussion might help. If the discussion doesn't resolve things, she may want to evaluate what's going on in the relationship beyond this.
posted by acoutu at 9:05 AM on November 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


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