Group Chat is In The Know’s weekly advice column, where our editors respond to your questions about dating, friendships, family, social media and beyond. Have a question for the chat? Submit it here anonymously and we’ll do our best to reply.
Hi, Group Chat,
I’m 50, divorced with a kid in college. I am reasonably well-off enough that I retired and am now living off my savings. I have been dating a slightly younger divorcee with high school-aged kids of her own for the last 2 years.
When we first started dating, it was right after my divorce was finalized, and after 20 years of marriage, I enjoyed quite a bit of extravagance re-entering the dating arena — meaning I paid for everything on dates all the time, extravagant vacations included. Fast forward to the present and I feel that bearing 100 percent of all the expenses are simply financially unsustainable. Moreover, I am resenting the fact that she does not financially contribute to our dating lifestyle or even make an effort to try to.
I tried to suggest that she could share some of the costs or our dating lifestyle and/or we dial the extravagance back if she can’t afford it. She is quite successful in her own right and in the top 1 percent income bracket herself. She feels that since she is still saving for her own retirement and her kids’ college — and because I have more savings in the bank than her — that I should still pay her way since that was what I’ve been doing so far.
I generally believe the guy should pay for many, perhaps even most things when dating, but now I resent that the fact that she thinks I should still be paying for everything, all the time. Am I so wrong to want to have some cost-sharing and fairness regarding our dating expenses?
Sincerely, Divorced Dad
Morgan Greenwald, who keeps her finances entirely separate from her partner, says… It’s 2020, and the onus is absolutely not on “the man” to pay for everything in a relationship. Relationships are about balance and compromise, and in order for things to work, everything — including finances — needs to be split properly.
Some couples prefer to split things down the middle; others like to divvy up expenses depending on how much each partner makes; others just pool all their money and pay for everything together. You and your girlfriend need to decide how you want to split expenses in a way that’s fair and doesn’t put all of the financial responsibility on you. Saving for retirement and her kids’ college and contributing to the relationship are not mutually exclusive.
Justin Chan, who considers himself a generous person for the most part, says… If everything you’re telling me is true, I’ve got two words for you: split ways. It seems like you two are on different pages, and I have a feeling that even if you insist on sharing the bill or dialing back the extravagance, she won’t budge. At this point, it seems like she’s taking advantage of your financial situation and doesn’t want to compromise. There are plenty of other single people out there who can treat you better. Do yourself a favor and move on. You (and your pockets) will be better off.
Alex Lasker, who
treats spoils others as she likes to be spoiled, says… The tricky thing about relationships is that so rarely can aspects of them be labeled wholly as “correct” or “incorrect.” For instance, one couple’s financial arrangement, where the man pays for everything, might horrify another couple, who prefers a clean 50/50 expense split. But, neither situation is incorrect … so long as both parties agree to their roles in said arrangements and remain happy with them.
“Remain happy” is key, here. It sounds to me like your behavior early in the relationship led your girlfriend to believe she was agreeing to a financial dynamic between the two of you where you pay and she enjoys the finer things — and she doesn’t want it to change (why would she? Being spoiled patently rocks).
She isn’t wrong for expecting that part of your relationship to continue, but neither are you for wanting to reevaluate how the two of you split expenses to suit your needs and keep yourself happy. At the end of the day, this is a negotiation that must end with the needs of both parties being met, not just one partner compromising in a big way. People aren’t static, and neither are relationships — they grow with us, and sometimes, if they cannot change to suit our most basic needs, they need to be left behind.
Kelsey Weekman, who is currently accepting donations to close the gender wage gap, says… I’m genuinely curious as to why you believe “the guy” should pay for so much of a couple’s shared dating experiences! Is it because of tradition, or because women earn, on average, just 82 cents for every $1 earned by men? Either way, you don’t have to abide by all that. So long as wealth inequality exists, people will have to weigh what they can splurge on, what they need help paying for and what they just need to skip in regards to their own personal budgets.
This is an easy fix, in my opinion — just tell her that for the sake of your own finances and your lack of active income, you’d like to split things down the middle. That’s perfectly justifiable. You guys can spoil each other here and there as you see fit, but if you are going to be equal partners in life, it just makes sense that you view money the same way.
Also, I’m not a financial expert, but I feel like you would have some investments or something in addition to your early retirement savings? Maybe your next date with her can be buying Tesla stock, and if it pays off, you can go on vacation to Mars together. For legal reasons, if this doesn’t work out for you, it was a joke.
TL;DR… Look. If one person is majorly unhappy with any aspect of a relationship, it is valid and needs to be addressed. You said it yourself — you’re both starting to resent each other because of this financial inequity. Anything that breeds resentment in a relationship should be swiftly addressed by both parties in hopes of reaching an agreement, lest things snowball past the point of amicable resolve.
You are certainly not “wrong” for wanting to share some of the cost regarding your dating expenses. But when you have this hard conversation with your girlfriend, try to steer clear of that type of phrasing and thinking (i.e., wrong vs. right). Just let her know how the current situation is making you feel (resentful, unsupported, unequal, etc.) and go from there.
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