Ms. Opinionated: Is It Weird that My Boyfriend and I Split the Check?

ms opinionated

Welcome to Ms. Opinionated, our weekly advice column dealing with questions of life, love, feminism, and pop culture. Submit your anonymous questions here. This week, Nicole Georges takes on the trials and tribulations of splitting the check. 

Dear Ms. Opinionated,

I recently went to get a midnight snack at a fast food joint with my boyfriend. The cashier looked a bit surprised that we were ordering and paying separately. I feel like my relationship is a very fair balance: sometimes he pays for me, sometimes I pay for him, but usually we just pay separately. I see him as an equal and I’m not one to impose gender roles and stereotypes on our relationship. Yet because of the society we live in and how we, as women, were raised, instances like what happened at the fast food place make me question the fact that he didn’t offer to pay for me. Is it normal to feel conflicted about things like this?

- Frazzled Feminist

Dear Fraz,

I am happy to report that the facial expression of a night-shift worker at a fast food restaurant is probably not the barometer by which you need to gauge your relationship, or the impact that feminism has had on your financial dealings.

 I confidently say this as a former late-shift fast food clerk.

If you are happy with the way your relationship is, and how you split your finances, then so be it. 
Let no clerk tear you asunder. 

It is none of your business what other people think of you. Know that no matter what shade the person behind the sneeze guard throws your way, you are an independent, liberated woman, and you are receiving or not receiving favors from your partner as a matter of choice. 

Also, I am sure your boyfriend would have purchased your Chalupa as a special gift to you, had you asked. 

With that said, I suggest you consider the question your situation bring to mind: How do you perceive romance? 

I was complaining to someone the other day about one time when I dated a younger person, and they talked a huge game with nothing to back it up. 

Their highest romantic self promised me cinnamon toast every day for the rest of my natural life. 
This was a short-lived affair, yes, but guess how many pieces of cinnamon toast I ultimately received: ZERO! No toast! In my rant to a friend, I stuck out my hand, pointed to my empty palm and said "Can you believe it???? NO TOAST."

My friend responded that there are different “Love Languages,” and maybe this person's way of expressing love and care was through words.  Apparently mine was through snacks. 

People can express love through words, quality time, gifts, acts of service, or physical touch. It's all a matter of communicating which of these best fills up your "love tank" (barf), and going forth thusly. Maybe it doesn't generally matter to you whether your dude buys you tater tots. Maybe your "love tank" doesn't care about that, and gets filled up by his kind words, or handmade presents, or just by holding his hand. If this is the case, then the opinion of a sneering clerk matters even less, because they aren't even judging you by the appropriate scale. It doesn't mean your dude doesn't love you, it just means a fried potato product is not your currency.

There is a brilliant Lorrie Moore book called The Gate at the Stairs, in which the main character, Tassie, is hired to nanny a child who is about to be adopted.  She accompanies her new employers to an adoption agency and sees them write separate checks, splitting the cost of the baby. 

“Edward and I are splitting this down the middle,” says Sarah. “We like things to be even between us… Though usually they’re not even—just odd.”

I bring this up because it was a moment in the book, in their relationship, that seemed cold and shocking.  At some point, the desire for every thing to be one hundred percent equal, impenetrable, and maintaining the ability to escape at any time, compromises the integrity of the romance. Romance is vulnerability, and partnership is freely joining up with another person, gender aside. 
  
How can your heart be wrapped up in clover if you are fiercely controlling all the foliage that surrounds it? 

I am not saying that a burrito is the time to roll this idea out, but perhaps as you see yourself down the road, consider at what point or for what reasons you would be willing to money-meld for a greater cause. Where is the line between romance and practicality? 

Anyway, Frazzled Feminist, my wish for you is that your love tank remains full of whatever form of fuel you desire. That is what you deserve.

Enjoy your late night snacks, and I hope you get the taco of your dreams.

Sincerely,

Nicole J. Georges

p.s. What do you think of the idea that chivalry is the payback we women receive for living in a patriarchal society?

p.p.s. This has only a little to do with anything, but here is a fantastic column by Pamela Clark called "35 Practical Tools for Men to Further Feminist Revolution.” 

Do you have a question for advice columnists Andi ZeislerSydette Harry, or Nicole GeorgesSend it in! All questions will remain anonymous. Read previous installments of our feminist advice column


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Comments

12 comments have been made. Post a comment.

My husband and I split most

My husband and I split most things-- he had his bills, I have mine. Household bills are assigned-- he handles utilities and car payments, I handle property taxes and insurance.

At the grocery store, we split the total-- 50/50.

Sometimes we pay for each other for dinners out, a special gift, convenience/favors, but most of the regular stuff is split. So there is room for romance and surprises too!

I grew up in a family that had all-out wars over the finances, money, who controlled what. It was hell, it was manipulative, it was controlling, and I promised myself I would never live in a family like that again. And I haven't.

We're both pretty happy with the results. And the cashiers at the grocery store? They got used to it. :o)

This article is so full of

This article is so full of clever/witty turns of phrase that I actually had trouble understanding what the author is trying to say.

My feeling is that a

My feeling is that a committed, long term relationship like marriage requires sharing money - I can't see how people can be truly intimate and committed without sharing their money with each other. In my mind, holding one's money separate from one's life partner implies that there is a lack of trust. There may be exceptions to this belief, in the case of second marriages where the interests of children from the first marriage must be protected. I don't think it is necessarily appropriate to share money with a boyfriend, however, since the boyfriend status implies a temporary or non-committed relationship to me. Marriage is different - when I married, I agreed to take on full responsibility for the well-being of my husband for the rest of my life (or until I change my mind, which would lead to a divorce). Taking full responsibility for the well being of another person includes sharing all of my resources with him; that is why we have had a joint bank account ever since we got engaged, and all of our assets are in both of our names together.

Eh,

It seems sort of strange to me to view any partner as someone you have to take full responsibility for. You help each other out, sure, but I certainly wouldn't want my significant other thinking he had full responsibility for my well being.

Yep, that's all well and good

Yep, that's all well and good for you and your husband, because that is a term of your relationship that you agreed upon. However, your relationship - no one's relationship - is the yard stick by which all others are measured, so what seems strange to you can be perfectly normal for others. So your use of the word "requires" is not wholly appropriate. Your marriage requires sharing money, no one else's has to. You holding your money separate would imply a lack of trust, my keeping a separate bank account would not: it makes the most sense to me, is practical for how my relationship works, and was easier. What works in your marriage won't work for everyone else's relationship, cause all relationships are different.

why are you judging other

why are you judging other people's level of intimacy? your comment is ludicrous.

Spot on

I love this so much.

Indeed, there are "love languages," and everyone's is different. They can also change over time.

My younger self would scoff at the idea of any dude I dated wanting to pick up the tab. And now, here I am, truly believing that yes, "chivalry is the payback we women receive for living in a patriarchal society." I think [hetero] women have much more at stake then men when first dating someone new. We are at greater risk of assault, stalking, or general bullshit. We are taking a greater risk-- period. And although chivalry did not originate with this kind of compensation in mind, I think a modern-day assessment of it might allow for some kind of monetary benefit for willingly putting ourselves at risk for something resembling love.

Also, we might add in to the same conversation that men paying for women (especially on the first date) is a good way to compensate for women getting paid a whole lot less than male counterparts.

I acknowledge, however, that my opinions are not trendy with men nor women.

I agree that it's no one's

I agree that it's no one's business how you choose to do things. When i was dating my partner it was important to me that we pay for things mostly 50/50. I have always taken care of myself and I just don't feel comfortable expecting or asking anyone to pay my way. We are married now and we still split the cheques on evenings out - we don't get separate cheques and we don't break out the calculator, but we split them.

When we moved in together, things got more complicated because we had actual shared expenses. What we have always tried to do is make things equitable. Both of us feel more comfortable without shared bank accounts - we like to manage our own money. But we have decided, every step of the way, how to manage our money together. For the first several years of our relationship, he was making quite a bit more money than I was (me in human service and him in trades - typical). He paid two thirds of the household expenses and I paid a third. When the business I started began to finally make a lot of money, I started paying more than 50%. Two years ago, he decided to start his own business too. I took over all of the household expenses while he's not making any money at all He has recently just started to pay himself and so now he pays a small portion of the household expenses.

A lot of my friends think we are strange because we don't have a joint bank account and there is still 'my money' and 'his money'. But this is the way that it works best for us. I think it's about open communication and a fair distribution of responsibilities.

Many of my friends choose to

Many of my friends choose to have one account for joint bills like car payments and rent, and then separate accounts for other spending. Why? Because they each have different spending habits. And so while one thinks that going to Starbucks everyday is a waste, the other has it budgeted into their finances. But it doesn't matter because that's their separate spending and they can spend it on what they want without judgement.

That's what we do. We have a

That's what we do. We have a joint account for the mortgage and utility bills and then we each have separate accounts. I get my paycheck split almost half and half to my account and our joint account. I used to work at a bank and saw the hardships of having all of your money in one joint account. It can get pretty murky. And having a separate account all your own also make gift shopping more private. But I will admit that my partner puts most meals in his credit card..but that's because he's after those coveted LL Bean points.

I'm a "500 pounds and a room

I'm a "500 pounds and a room of one's own" woman myself. My guy and I keep our finances mostly separate. There are "his," "hers" our "ours" categories. In the "our" categories, we sometimes go 50-50 (e.g. for vacations) and sometimes we are Marxist--from each according to, to each, etc. (I make a LOT more money than he does). There's no lack of trust or intimacy; we loan each other money all the time, and we also get each other quite a few gifts and treats.

I've honestly always thought

I've honestly always thought totally combining earned income into one mutual bowl was weird, though I know that it isn't. but the weirdest thing to me about this question is how did the cashier even know you were a couple? obviously maybe you were particularly affectionate at that moment but usually I'd never assume what the relationship of two people coming into my bar is. then again, when I used to hang it with him more. my brother would get comments from dumbasses about how he wasn't paying for me or letting me go first or any number of stupid things brothers don't do. and we have the same face, so it always made me super uncomfortable.