Who pays in a relationship?

Tracey Folly

There’s nothing wrong with paying for your own meal.

I don’t like it when a man buys me dinner. It makes me feel uncomfortable. I am, literally, a cheap date.

That doesn’t mean I want to pay for his dinner all the time either. Separate bills are ideal. Taking turns is acceptable, but no one should be getting a free ride.

The debate of who should pay has long been an issue for women and men, particularly on a first date. It seems that men are expected to do all the asking out and paying for dates. However, when it comes to the bill, whether or not the guy pays varies from person to person.

So why am I bringing up a debate of who should pay? Because it always comes up. I’m talking about the question of who should cover the bill in a romantic relationship. As you probably know, when a man takes a woman out on a date, he traditionally pays for everything, but is this really fair?

I don’t think so, but it’s not fair for the woman to pay for everything either.

Allow me to explain.

I started dating when I was fifteen. My first boyfriend was a little older. He had a job, and he had a car.

All our dates were the same. I would walk to the corner store where he would pick me up in his clunker. Then he would drive me to the local park. We would take long walks on the water’s edge, collect seashells, and have inconsequential conversations.

He never took me out to dinner.

When I met my second boyfriend, I was sixteen. He was a little bit younger, but he worked full time while I was still in school; he had dropped out.

Neither of us had a car. We had to take the bus everywhere we went, and we went everywhere.

He always paid.

Yes, my second boyfriend paid for everything. He paid the fare for the bus. He paid for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He bought me books of poetry, stuffed bears, and half-gallons of egg nog. He sent me flowers. He bought me a denim jacket and leather boots.

I didn’t mean to take it all for granted. You see. Once I got into the habit of having everything provided for me, I forgot entirely about providing anything for myself.

When we went out on dates, I didn’t even carry a dime. We were teenagers. I didn’t have a credit card or a debit card. When my wallet was empty, I relied upon him to pay for everything. He’d even pony up a quarter if I needed to make a payphone call, yes, payphone.

I didn’t give any of it another thought until later, much later.

Boyfriends number three and four were borderline homeless and outright homeless, respectively. They had no income and no money, and I paid for everything all the time out of necessity. And I didn’t like it, at all.

When number four demanded I use the last dollars of my part-time paycheck to buy him a pack of cigarettes, I broke up with him. I bought him the cigarettes first.

Number five was, I think, the man I wound up marrying. He paid for our first few dates, and I thought it was nice.

Out of reciprocity, I offered to buy him dinner. He accepted, and he never took his wallet out of his back pocket again. Unfortunately, I married him. For our entire relationship, he spent more than he earned, and I paid the rest.

When it comes to dating, it is sometimes difficult to determine who should pay in a relationship. Some people believe that men and women should be treated equally within any relationship while others feel that men should be the ones to pay for everything.

Depending on your values and beliefs concerning dating and finances you may be inclined to perform the role of provider differently than your partner, regardless of gender— and that’s okay as long as both parties are in agreement and nobody feels they’ve been taken advantage of.

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Writing about relationships online since 2009.

Massachusetts State
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