One complaint I hear from men during our era’s particularly ferocious gender wars is that they hate paying for everything, whether it’s a first date, deep into a relationship or alimony. There are a lot of socioeconomic factors that impact this imbalance, most of which point back to traditional gender roles and the glass ceiling. I know, I know, feminism is here in full force, so the question is always: why do men still pay if feminism is working? Well, first of all, yes, feminism is working, but we’re not even close to full throttle with this whole feminism thing, so until the glass ceiling shatters, I’d keep that argument in your back pocket.
Second of all, and this is my real question: why are people afraid to invest financially in their romantic partners?
Sure, there are those outliers who will fleece you for everything you’ve got, and it has created a cultural paranoia around being used by your romantic partner for your money. But, let’s be real, if you’re reading this, you probably don’t have so much money that somebody is going to invest the hours upon hours upon hours upon hours that it takes to fleece you. You’re probably in that big, vast middle part where your net worth isn’t that impressive, so let’s leave this paranoia behind for now.
Back to the question: why are people afraid to invest financially in their romantic partners? First of all, we’re not really taught how to invest in our romantic partners, whether it’s financial, emotional, or even with our time. For example, what’s the amount of money that is appropriate to spend on a first date? A first date if you expect to sleep with that person? A first date if you expect to sleep with that person and just have it be a one night stand? A first date if you want to have a relationship with that person? A friend of mine took a first date to a two Michelin star restaurant, and, honestly, I don’t even know if they slept together. Obviously, a two Michelin star restaurant is a ridiculously high bar. A more reasonable bar is, well, an actual bar. If you’ve asked someone to spend time with you on a date, the bare minimum you should expect to invest in that person is the cost of one drink. Sure, that varies depending on where you go and how bold your date is, so choose between dive bar and cocktail bar accordingly.
Spending $20 (not total, but on the other person) to meet someone new and then never talk to them again is a reasonable price. If things are going well and looks like you’re going to hook up, a $40 ball park (spent on that person’s bar tab) is also a reasonable price to pay. Mind you, this is an investment that you’re making not only in getting to know someone else but also to have an experience, depending on what you do and where you go. Sure, you could have spent your night alone at home, but you chose not to. You chose to go on a date. And perhaps you chose a new bar that you had never been to, and that $20 you just spent was an investment in experiencing a new bar not alone. You also invested $20 in having relevant dating experience, practicing your conversation skills, and leaving the house. Sure, sometimes the date is a disaster, and your $20 was a bad investment, but that’s the thing about investing – sometimes it’s a good investment, and sometimes you just lost $20.
If you’re not willing to weather the risks of investing your time and money into dating, then don’t do it. Your money might be better spent on an experience with a guaranteed positive outcome, such as cam girls or at the strip club. Granted, $20 on a date that lasts two hours is a way better deal than two hours at the strip club (unless you’re a piece of shit), but that’s the thing with money: you get what you pay for.
“You get what you pay for” also applies to dating beyond date one. This is true in more than just a monetary sense – it is true in regards to the amount of time and emotion you put in your relationships. Constantly being cheap with your partner – and by cheap, I mean undervaluing your partner and demonstrating this by the way you spend time, money and emotions with them – makes for a cheap relationship, and who wants a cheap relationship? Personally, I prefer the real deal. Of course, this isn’t to say that you should go into debt lavishing your partner with expensive gifts. “Cheap” is different for everybody, and investing looks different at different socioeconomic tiers. Yeah, we all want the hotel suite and the champagne and the oysters and blah, blah, blah, but a good partner also knows it’s a lot more meaningful when a person with $100 in their pocket spends $50 on a date than when a person with $1000 in their pocket spends $150 on a date.
Really, it’s about letting your partner know their worth in the relationship through a variety of methods, and spending money is one of those methods because we live in a capitalist society. It’s about continually investing in your partner so that you can continue to increase your partner’s sense of worth in the relationship, and ideally your partner will continue to demonstrate value. It’s part of relationship maintenance.
Falling into capitalist traps, however, is not a part of relationship maintenance. This seems to be where the miscommunication is happening. Like my friend who took his first date to a two Michelin star restaurant, the romance industry has seen the value of bumping up the price on expressing appreciation and investing in your partner’s worth. Romantic gestures have become de rigueur, and as someone who benefits from that more often than not, I enjoy that, but I also understand that it can be a money trap. Especially in the Instagram era, romantic oneupsmanship has become a measure of self worth, but it’s not really a measure of a successful or happy relationship. Which is why we have to figure out how much we’re willing to spend on our dates or partners at different phases of a relationship. We have to make our investments smartly.
It’s also important to keep in mind that financial investment in a partner is not a substitute for our emotional investments and our time investments. These three things work in tandem to make a good relationship, but the financial investment is often time the first investment that you can make in a relationship. It’s a precursor to the emotional investment, and it can indicate someone’s generosity and willingness to invest in other areas of a relationship. Of course, even after all this, your investments could totally tank and leave you under water and flat broke.
So, how much are you willing to invest?