Finding Balance

The boyfriend and I have been dating for over two years now. We’d both been living the single life for a long time before we met, so it probably took us longer than most couples to find our balance. Eating, sleeping, communicating; We’ve had to make a lot of adjustments and compromises to make things work as a couple. And one thing that has taken us a little longer to figure out? Money.

Dating and finances are always a tricky thing. I mean, sure, your money is your’s, and his money is his. But who pays on a date? Does he pay? Do you go dutch? How many dates until you can quit playing the check dance? One of the benefits of dating a much older man is that he’s pretty old fashioned; He believes as the guy that he should pay for everything.

But the more time we spent together, the more awkward it became. I’d pickup something and bring it back to the house, and he’d want to pay me back. Sure, I was saving lots of money, but he was spending a lot. Our system wasn’t fair. The increased spending wasn’t sustainable for him, and I wasn’t really comfortable having someone else footing the bill all the time. It took some convincing, but I finally convinced him he didn’t need to always pay me back. So, when I ran to the grocery to pick things up for dinner, or stopped and bought him some soda, he didn’t need to worry about giving me money.

I’ve learned that making changes in relationships often takes baby steps. Letting me cover some of the costs was better, but it still wasn’t really fair. It wasn’t long before we were basically living together. Me paying for one dinner a week and a few random items here and there wasn’t really cutting it. I offered to start pitching in a weekly amount to cover more of the food costs. He wasn’t at all comfortable with that. For a long time we were at a stand-still, unsure of the best way to balance things out.

A couple of months back, we finally figured out a solution. It seemed so simple, I don’t know why we didn’t think of it before. What’s our solution? A grocery list. We still do dinners on a night by night basis. I know, that probably sounds crazy to most people, but we actually waste a lot less food when we just buy what we are eating that night. Otherwise we end up with things like the “broccoli incident”. Broccoli is now a sore subject in our household, due to my stubborn refusal to have it for dinner for an entire month, despite him having bought it, and even cleaned and cut it in preparation of “tomorrow night’s dinner”. I swear, it was the longest lasting broccoli I’ve ever seen! I kept praying for it to just go bad, so we’d never have to speak of it again.

So, whoever is cooking dinner that night usually buys. But, there are all those things that normal people keep on hand in the kitchen. Like eggs, and butter, and seasonings. Sodas. Household items like toilet paper and paper towels. Anything that we’re getting low on goes on the list. And then, at least once a week, I’ll go to the grocery, and buy anything that’s on the list.

It isn’t a perfect system; It’s impossible to make things 100% even in any relationship. But now I feel like I’m contributing financially to the relationship. And he isn’t having to shell out so much money every week. It’s an adjustment for both of us: I’m not used to anyone supporting me financially, and in his marriage, he was accustomed to paying for 100% of the living expenses. It may seem small, but it’s getting us used to combining our efforts and each contributing to our common goals. We’ve talked about bigger goals for our future, like buying a house. If we’re going to retire mortgage-free, it’s going to take both of our financial efforts.

– Cindy W.



  1. Hi Cindy, I think it is important to have a look at each person’s income. When young, I had a very strong notion that all the costs should be split in equal parts for the two of us. I thought this to be fair. Unfortunately, this meant that I even had to take some of my savings for our (not overstated!) spendings, because I earned so Little then. 25 years later I think I was crazy, because my then partner earned much more than me, and we should have split the costs in a proportion to our incomes. That would have been really fair! As you didn’t mention the proportions of your incomes – perhaps this may be a hint why your boyfriend is hesitating to let you pay as much as you think you ought to?

    1. I think that’s a valid consideration, and something that most couples really need to think about. We’re in an unusual situation right now though; We each have a house, with a mortgage, utilities, etc., but where we “live” is a place that is rented for him as part of his job, making the place we share essentially free to us.

      He makes about twice what I make, but his current cost of living eats up almost all of his income. He saves a little bit here and there, but most of that gets eaten up by his two (20-something) sons. We’re working on unraveling all that, but for right now, he doesn’t have much room in his budget for extras. And before we met, he wasn’t a dinner kind of guy.

      Despite making so much less, I have a lot more room in my budget. And, I was always used to buying/eating dinner. So when we started dating, my food costs went way down, and his went way up. Even with our new system, I’m still spending less on food than I was before, and he’s spending more. But it’s a little more balanced than it started.

      Now, once we both get our houses sold, and are renting/buying a place together, we obviously won’t be able to do a 50/50 thing. But by that point our plan is to combine our money more, so we can pay off our remaining debts and work towards a secure retirement. It won’t be even, but we’re working towards making sure it’s fair. We want to make sure that we’re both contributing towards our future together, financially and otherwise.

  2. Yeah, if I ever met someone at this point in life (age 35!) it would take a ton of working out the kinks; I’m so used to doing things my own way. I’d be uncomfortable having someone else pay for everything. If he made a lot more money than me, then I wouldn’t mind having him carry the bulk of the expenses, but I’d still want to be contributing something!

    It sounds like you guys are working out a system that’s satisfactory to you. Though I hope his sons can be self-supporting pretty soon.

    1. It’s definitely weird being with someone when you’re used to being on your own. Plus, being older, we both bring a lot of baggage and insecurities to the table, which doesn’t help. We’re still adjusting to the idea of “ours” versus “theirs”. We’re both fine with sharing what we have, but uncomfortable taking from the other person.

      And yes on his sons! I think the youngest will be fine. He’s just in that college stage, where he’s trying to bridge the gap between being on his own, and relying on Dad. We just have to ride it out. The oldest though is struggling with a lot of “demons” (for lack of a better term), and things are not looking good. Right now we’re trying to figure out where that line is between helping and enabling. How do you push an emotionally unstable child (man, really) to grow up, without pushing them over the edge? And I’m trying to figure out what my place is in all of this. I keep pushing the boyfriend to maintain a good relationship with his sons, since we don’t plan on having children of our own. But sometimes I wonder if that’s the best thing; Maybe a little distance would be a good thing? I really don’t know.

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