Splitting the Difference: Financial Investment Versus Emotional Investment in Modern Romantic Relationships

Men are so eager today to talk about wanting to split the check. I’ve already written about the socioeconomic implications of splitting the check and abolishing the glass ceiling. A 2015 study showed that women make 83% of what men make, so if you’re splitting a check on the first date it’s practical to split it 41.5% (woman) – 58.5% (man). Men picking up the check on dates is a nod to women historically being excluded from the workplace (although, yes that is changing). It is also a reflection of our culture’s male status as the bread winner in a household (which is also changing) – if a man isn’t fit enough to pick up the check, then he won’t be a good provider for those theoretical children. But all of this is changing.

As this changes, it’s worth letting men know about the power implications of the collective financial dating decisions. If you are a man who complains about splitting the check 50/50, are you also a man who fights for women’s right to equal pay in the workforce? If you are a man who complains about splitting the check 50/50, do you expect total equality in all other aspects of the relationship? It’s unfair to expect financial equality – which is certainly a new kind of equality in our society – if you don’t expect equality in all other aspects of the relationship, such as shared house duties, emotional labor, emotional availability, mutual intellectual respect, shared decision making. Or, what I’m saying is: as a man, have you proven that you are worthy of splitting the check by proving that you believe in all the non-monetary aspects of equality in a relationship?

If men want to talk about financial equality in a relationship, I’d hope that they would examine where this dated system comes from and why it was expected for so long. As we change those expectations of the power dynamic in our relationships, the financial aspect is merely one facet of a relationship that needs equality, but it is the one that is most commonly harped upon by men in the dating scene. Financial investment in a relationship is just as valid a currency as emotional investment in a relationship – and heretofore, the common balance put the burden of financial investment on the man and the burden of emotional investment on the woman. Let’s change that.

So, let me tell you: I am ready for equality. I am ready to discard the machismo-damsel in distress complex that dating has foisted upon us. I am okay with being the first one to reach out. I am okay with asking you out. I am okay with picking you up and driving you around. I am okay with making the first move. I am okay with taking the time to understand your vulnerabilities and your sexual insecurities. I am okay with splitting the bill. But I’m only okay with this if you meet me half way. I expect that you would do the same for me, but that you would also not talk over me in conversations. That you would respect my career and my ambitions. That you would help with chores without needing to be asked. That you wouldn’t expect that my dreams and goals take a back seat to major life changes, such as having children or moving to a different city.

All of this starts on day one. If we are changing the balance of financial investment in our romantic relationships, then we also need to modify the expectations of emotional investment. I can’t be expected to split the check 50/50 if all I get out of this is…nothing. So, I guess this is me saying: if I don’t split the check, it’s because I’m getting nothing out of your company other than food and drink, but I work in the food and drink industry, so I don’t have to do that anymore.