Sex & Relationships

“My BF Makes More But Always Wants to Go Halfsies!”

Our wicked smart sex and relationships columnist, Kate Carraway, to the rescue!

(Photo: iStock)

(Photo: iStock)

My boyfriend makes slightly more money than me, but we split everything down the middle, from t.p. to entertainment expenses. I don’t think this is a very fair system for us to have but I don’t know if I should be bothered by it, since it is technically equal. —S.R.

I’m going to decide in a de facto kind of way that it was your boyfriend who established the halfsies model in your relationship, not only because you don’t seem to be down with it but because it just seems very, deeply male (sorry; true) to rely on something so calculatedly… correct. And what is “correct” isn’t usually what is “right,” which is something I have recently learned during my sortie into graduate school.

From a practical perspective, sure, this isn’t “fair,” and my actual and the only good advice is for you both to decide on a percentage (versus a flat amount) of your income you both contribute to the joint bank account, or straight-up envelopes stuffed with cash if you’ve been watching that Canadian reality TV show about couples and money. (I usually hate any non-Kardashian reality stuff but that show is great! What is it called?), and spend that on everything you share. That’s “fair.” Also, a tip: probably spend less money on everything. You seem stressed.

But it also isn’t! It never is. The down-the-middle money thing, or even the objectively correct same-percentage money thing, never takes into account the typical economic differentials in heterosexual date-ships. It could never begin to adequately address what things have what value—like, even the things that are “personal” expenses contribute to the relationship in some non-specific but probably important way—and it could never address, without many boner-killing hours in front of a spreadsheet, the many kinds of labour that go into the relationship, both explicit (cooking, cleaning, shopping) and implicit, or “immaterial,” like the very real work of being nice to each other’s friends even when you dislike them so, so much.

This is the basis for my eventual social movement, which I have yet to find a really tight and expressive name for, but with all of the emphasis on the oxymoronic “online-dating etiquette” and other attempts to morally organize relationships in a culture that is running on apps, the mostly stagnant economics of dating and relationships have been kind of forgotten about. If you really looked into it, you would find that the only dating cost men are expected to bear—at this stage, anyway—is paying for the actual dates (which only happens never of the time anymore, when it comes to young-ish dudes thinking they’re progressive). Ask a guy what he does before a date and he might be like “Shave? Change my shirt?” while Joe Lady is taking a Friday afternoon off to wax her area ($) and get a manicure and pedicure ($$) and then spending an hour blow-drying the hair she already spent a few hundo on that month ($$$). So, I dunno, maybe slide some of these facts across the table to your bf. I think guys sometimes genuinely don’t know, which is cute and absurd, but they don’t, and they should. (I’m not that interested in expensive experiences, but I still like to be paid for, to give that date-job to someone else, because it just feels so good.)

Money is one kind of currency in a relationship, and it’s not the most important one. Some people (guys; jk) who are more generally nervous about money, and nervous about doing equality wrong (bless) are fixated on spending as this perfect indicator of “fair,” maybe forget that every relationship is a network of complexities, and inclusive of many non-money-related micro-economies, if you want to get into it like that. Consider that one of you is probably better at socializing, and will heroically throw yourself in front of the other like you’re stopping a Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started A Conversation With at a Party-shaped bullet. One of you is going to be better at, more in possession of, something, and you will share that thing, and that is what a relationship is.

To, um, get back to you and your problem: I also wonder why it’s harder (I’m assuming) to talk to your boyfriend about money than (assuming) other stuff. Even if you change up the who-pays-what stuff, money will still exist between you, and like, what happens when one of you wants to take some time off, for kids or sick parents or just to chill for a month between jobs? (Can you imagine? Total dreamscape.) Negotiating anything in the interest of changing an established pattern—and even with this boss-bitch pose, I’m still just lately finding out that it’s better to deal with money as an active, squirmy, insistent thing—is hard-as-f, but if your relationship is a serious, in-it-to-win-it kind of thing, you kind of have to.

More great advice from Kate Carraway:
Help! My Boyfriend Sucks at Giving Gifts
Will Dating My Co-Worker Ruin My Life?
Why Do Women Pretend to be Someone They’re Not?
I’m Dating a Woman. What Do I Tell People?
Should I Be Worried About My Guy’s ‘Good Friend’?
Is My Sensitive Boyfriend Just Not All That Deep?
How Can I Make My Boyfriend Initiate Sex More?
We Had the Perfect Date and Then I Never Saw Him Again…
Help! My Boyfriend and I Are From Different Worlds
Help! My Friend Has Become a Selfie-Obsessed Monster
Help! My Girlfriend Is Always on a Diet
Help! My Boyfriend Is Better Looking Than Me
I’m So Tired of Hearing About My Friends’ Boring Babies.
I Have Proof My Friend’s BF Is Cheating. Do I Tell Her?
My Best Friend’s Life Is Perfect. Can I Tell Her to Stop Complaining Already? 
How Young Is Too Young?
Is Long Distance a Dealbreaker?
When Do I Need to Disclose My Dismal $$$ Sitch?
How Can I Curb My Tinder-Rejection Sads?
When Should My Guy & I Talk “Numbers”?
Can We Be FWB When He Wants More?
Is It Ever OK to Date a Friend’s Ex?
How Do I Get Over a Guy?
Why Aren’t I More Obsessed With My BF?
Should I Propose to My Guy?