Dating and Relationship Advice

As someone whose partner makes consistently more money, I know well the strange push and pull that comes with letting them pay for everything. During the holidays, my partner can buy me nice gifts and pay for trips for the two of us. At first, I took it all in stride. I wasn’t used to being spoiled in that way. It made me a little uneasy, but his generosity felt genuine and I let the discomfort roll off me. But after some time, I began to feel more self conscious, and even at times ashamed.

I was raised to believe that relationships should be equal, that feminism means fully supporting myself at all times. It felt wrong to accept lavish gifts when I couldn't supply them in return. I cast down my eyes when we went out to dinner and he paid the check. I never believed there was anything wrong with the sugar baby relationship, but that’s not us — our relationship didn’t begin with the understanding that he was the giver and I the taker.

I’ve never been opposed to gifts. I usually believe that if someone offers, they mean it, and aren’t acting out of obligation or charity. But when it becomes a pattern, I began to question my own values. Did I deserve to be pampered? Isn’t it unfair? Am I a burden?

I've created mantras to discourage the toxic thinking that wouldn’t change the state of my finances, but would only get in the way of my relationship. Here are ways of thinking that helped me navigate this issue.

Money does not indicate worth

We live in a money driven world. An important step in my journey of self acceptance has been untraining my own internalization of capitalistic ideas. There’s more than one way to contribute toward society, and so there’s more than one way to contribute to a relationship. Just because I don’t contribute as much financially, doesn’t mean I don’t contribute. I turn to other love languages. For example, acts of service (doing the dishes), and words of affirmation, etc.

It's important to communicate about money

I’ve heard some say that the only people uncomfortable talking about money are those who have it. But I’m not sure this is always the case. It’s a touchy subject to bring up because there’s so much subtext.

For so long, I was afraid to admit to my partner that I had credit card debt or student loans, that my bank account is familiar with overdrafts, that I never expect to be able to buy a house. But I realized that I can’t enter a true partnership with him unless I am willing to show him pieces of myself that I’ve deemed ugly or shameful. My glaring credit card statements from six years ago are one of those ugly pieces.

I’m lucky because when I shared with him that I was burdened by these debts, he didn’t go running, and he didn’t worry about what this might mean for us. He took it in stride the same way I have.

Don’t let shame get to you

This is perhaps the most difficult task. I regret many of the decisions that have landed me in such a fragile financial state, and assured that I often have to rely on others in order to get by. But shame never got anyone anywhere. I can regret my decisions and try to take them as lessons, and I can work to fix them without hating too much on past (or present) me.

Don’t forget the role of generational wealth

Have you ever played the card game Kings? In this game — also known as Asshole — the previous hands significantly affect the ranking for the present hand. It’s fun as a game, the same way that Secret Hitler is fun as a game, but less so when you realize the parallels with the real world. What I’m saying is: our financial background can make things much easier or much harder. That's something out of our control.

Don’t take them for granted

I know that I am really freaking lucky. Lucky that my partner wants to travel with me so much that he will help fund my part of those travels. Even if his situation has made it easier for him to be financially stable, it doesn’t mean that I necessarily deserve to benefit from it. I like to think if the situation were reversed, I would do the same for him.

Download Iris