[Got a Dude itch you just can’t scratch? Sick of getting the pity-eyes as you sift through the Self-Help section at your campus bookstore? Over wondering what those boys are thinking? We got your back, girlfriend. Send your question (Is our relationship an obligation to him?) over to [email protected]. The Dude won’t sugarcoat it, beat around the bush, or any other weird cliche that means lie to you. Like a nice, juicy hot dog, he’ll be 100% real beef, 100% of the time. So bring it on, ladies.]
My boyfriend and I have been together for a little over a year. Things between us are simply awesome. We are best friends and we want to spend the rest of our lives together.
Recently, my boyfriend moved into his own apartment. Since this happened, all we ever do is stay in and watch movies on the couch. That’s fine and all, but we haven’t had a “date night” in over two months. He says it’s because he’s trying to save money for bills, gas and groceries. I totally understand that, but he is a college grad with what I refer to as “a grown up job” with the government and makes more than enough money for food, gas, bills and date night. I’ve offered to take him out to dinner and a movie, but he feels uncomfortable with me paying, since I am a broke college kid. I’m starting to believe he’s just cheap.
-Sick of that Damn Couch
Dear Sick of that Damn Couch,
I believe you believe correctly. Your boy’s stingy. Now why he’s stingy is pretty simple: He’s scared of not having enough money. He’s scared of being broke. He’s scared of not having enough to be his own person. He’s scared of not having security. He’s scared of not having control over his life and how he can live it in the way he wants to live it. That’s one chain of logic that I can come up with. There are other variations of it but that’s as good as another. Now we know the status quo. You’re real question is, what do you do next?
First, to get it out of the way, let’s deal with his dumbass pride of not letting you pay for date night. That’s all part in parcel with his issues. He wants to be a breadwinner and feels like it makes him weak if you take the lead. That’s stupid. Really stupid. Buttmonkey dumb. No question. It’s not a partnership if one person pays for everything. No relationship will ever be 50-50 but hopefully it’s an alternating 60-40. This is something you’ve got to try to talk through with him. Try not to yell or attack him at first, if you can. Tell him it makes you feel unappreciated. Tell him you understand if he’s trying to help you save what little you have but that you’re your own person who can look after herself. How you spend your money isn’t his business and it’s insulting when he tries to tell you how. You might have to have this talk several times before it sinks in (usually it takes reinforcement with the knuckleheads) but if he’s worth it then he’ll keep listening and will hear you. If he’s not, well, then you’ve got some bigger issues to deal with, like whether you want to be with someone who can’t accept his partner being her own person.
Onto the more practical stuff…Look, with an unstable economy pinching pennies is good policy. His intent is a great one. However, sometimes people are so obsessed over what could or could not happen that they forget to enjoy the moment they’re in. It’s a tough balance that plenty of people never are able to strike. That’s how you end up with some people spending everything before they’ve even received a check and others that hoard cash like mint condition baseball cards they’ll be buried with. The best thing you can do is work with his fears rather than simply contradict him.
One of the great practical skills of growing up is learning how to make and stick to a budget. This is something I suggest you do with him. You’re partners in love. Ask him about his finances, look at the costs, look at how much income he brings in a month and suggest that you both start setting aside so much money a month for date nights, movie nights, show nights, comics, or all other forms of personal pleasures you enjoy. This is a practical, responsible, and understanding way to work through this with him rather than fighting against him.
Fear can’t usually be overcome as easily with shoving someone into the light as it can by leading them into it. A lot of people let their impatience or their own fears overcome a sense of compassion in dealing with the other person’s issues. They can’t understand why their boyfriend doesn’t just “get it” that they’re wrong and need to change. So they write them off and give up on them before being willing to do the hard work. Relationships are hard work but it shouldn’t feel like obligation. That’s the ideal. That’s what we all hope we’re lucky enough to find. You’re going to have to do some hard work with him to work through this.
If you love him, as you say you do, and he loves you, as you say he does, then you’ll make it. Again, it’s all about having patience, making an effort, and working around his fears rather than coming off like you’re attacking him. It’s not about ego stroking, it’s about understanding.
Help each other find your balance. That’s what working at love is.
Bailing you out,