He Pays, She Pays- A New Dating Norm?

Dear Toni--

This guy I have been dating for six months always makes it a point that we take turns paying. I don't mind taking turns, but hate the way he emphasizes it. When it is his turn to pay, he has already planned what we will do on our date. Sometimes I have reasons I can't go out the day I get paid. When this happens, he will say something like; "you just don't want to go because it is your turn to pay." This really bothers me. I have told him this, but he continues with the same behavior.

Perhaps what surprised me the most was when my birthday fell on a payday and it was my turn to pay. He asked me if I wanted to go out for sushi for my special day. Guess who paid for the meal? I did.

Is this kind of turn taking normal for couples? One time I jokingly told him that he should learn to treat a woman like a lady once in a while. He suggested that I was materialistic and manipulative. Does this guy need a relationship boot camp or should I just move on? --Is it Me Or Is He Cheap?

Dear Is it Me Or is He Cheap--

The short answer (multiple choice):

* He's a new age guy

* He's very careful with money

* He's cheap

* He believes you are equals and this is the fair way to handle it

Short answers never address the whole of a situation; so let's look at this a little more in-depth. You two are dating. You both have agreed to share payment. He enforces this to the letter. You go along with it, but clearly have mixed (uncomfortable) feelings about it. You are questioning whether this is normal and believe he needs to learn about how relationships should be or you should just walk away if it continues.

We all know that the world of dating has undergone major changes over the past 10-15 years. Women are picking up the tab with a lot more frequency. This was unheard of once upon a (not that long ago) time. Many other aspects of traditional dating have gone through a metamorphosis as well. It has to do with the changing role of women. Many women today have college + professional degrees. They are living independently, marrying much later, owning their own homes and making salaries comparable to their male counterparts. The playing field between the sexes has been leveling and has led to a real change in the dynamics of relating.

While most people feel the changes for women are positive, women themselves often share mixed feelings about losing the "special" status women had in generations past. Women gained something, women gave up something.

What it always comes down to is what you as an individual want and need from a relationship. You have agreed to this arrangement with your "boyfriend," yet clearly have negative feelings about it. If these feelings cannot be resolved and you are unable to accept this condition as part of a relationship with this man, you need to be honest with yourself and him about it.

There really is no "normal" here. Couples establish norms and patterns that work for them. As a relationship progresses and intimacy increases, the sharing and negotiation should become easier and more comfortable. However, this can't happen if a major block such as yours exists.

Think about what kind of relationship you want. If it's one where the roles of the individuals are more traditional, then seek out a guy who wants the same thing. This really comes down to values and goals. If a couple is not in sync on these, the relationship will falter and most probably not survive.

(from July 2004)

Want to read other columns on this subject?

"How Do You Know When You Have Met "The One?""
List of more
"Help With Dating"

"The Serial Dater"


Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


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