Raised as a princess, she's now seeing dust on the fairy tale
Q: My outlook on dating is very traditional — man courts lady and pays for dinner/drinks, etc. Then, after you figure out you truly want to continue to date, the woman offers to pay. The man I am dating seems a bit more on the equal end . . . I paid for last night, you pay for tonight. It started very early on, maybe the eighth date or so. I kept getting the vibe that I should offer to pay, and then it got uncomfortable. We went on a vacation together and he wanted to split everything. The place was not my first choice of vacation spots, so the more he said, "Okay, give me this much for the bill," the more animosity I felt. He earns a good $30,000 more than I do, his company pays for a lot of his food/transportation, and his rent is half of mine.
I approached him about this when I was frustrated beyond belief, and basically unloaded repressed anger. His response was, "Well, I'm not Prince Charming, and don't expect me to be." Then he claimed he was "used" for money in his last relationship, which I find very, very hard to believe.
I have a very tight budget, with student loans and a huge rent check, yet I still manage to "split" everything. I get him meaningful gifts, and his are only so-so, in meaning and value. I don't need expensive things, but it would be nice to be treated like a lady in terms of dinners and vacations!
Growing up, my dad was amazing and I was his princess! He showed me the role a man is supposed to play: Take the girl out, open her door, pull out her chair, etc. How do you suggest approaching this situation?
The Princess and the Finances
A: So, do men pay because they're supposed to, or because this man out-earns you, or because you out-borrowed and out-rented him?
You'll help your cause if you scrutinize and solidify your beliefs on gender roles — and make sure you apply the resulting ideology consistently. If indeed "female and male roles in a relationship" are unequal, then do you believe the inequality is ceremonial (opening doors, etc.), or substantial (men are breadwinners)? And if you vote "substantial," are you prepared to have less say than your someday husband in family matters? To accept less pay and lesser jobs because men are the ones with the greater social and familial expenses?
Your dad may have doted on you out of love. But, he may unwittingly have installed a fairy tale that's now weak with dry rot. You blow right past those first eight or so dates, which could easily have lightened him by a sum in the thousand-dollar range, and for which you come across not as grateful, but spoiled and unimpressed.
The bigger and more important reason to dismantle the fairy tale lies between the lines of your letter: You struggle mightily to express how you feel, what you believe and what you want. As un-princessy as it feels to speak your mind, your inability to do so is more to blame for your unhappiness than your boyfriend's bean-counting is.
Had you said early on, "My father treated me like a princess, and I'm traditional about gender roles to this day," then you probably would have actually talked about who pays for dates/vacations — and maybe even the deeper implications of such — allowing each of you to proceed with eyes open.
I believe that being in the habit of directness yourself allows you to be more receptive to it in others. So that's my suggested approach: Lock coyness in the tower. Tell him who you are, and why splitting everything rankles. Find out now whether princess and frog have a chance.