The heterosexual man as the provider and primary breadwinner who must earn more than his female significant other or his masculinity is questioned is one stereotype that really needs to die.
Professional women often find it difficult to find a life partner unless they act less ambitious or shortchange themselves when it comes to salaries, bonuses, or benefits.
Men are pressured to work in jobs or industries for monetary gain instead of personal fulfillment. When dating, they’re expected to either pay for everything or split the bill.
The woman picking up the tab often invites mockery and accusations of him being less of a man.
With such societal pressures, a man might try to hide his inability to pay the bill in front of others.
When this happened with a couple who went out with her friends, the woman turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for feedback.
“AITA for splitting the bill at dinner and not letting my boyfriend pretend he paid?”
The original poster (OP) explained:
“I (24, female) have been dating ‘Ben’ (26, male) for eight months.”
“For context, Ben and I are from different income brackets, and Ben has expressed that he sometimes feels a little bit weird about this because he is a gentleman at heart, but he says it’s hard to treat me since I’m not really impressed by his gestures.”
“I’ve said many times that I’m not concerned about these kind of things either way, but it comes up periodically.”
“Last night, Ben and I went to dinner with 6 of my friends. There were 3 men in total and 5 women.”
“At the end of the dinner the two guys ‘Max’ and ‘Harry’ said they would get the bill, as the guys usually do when we’re out.”
“Ben quietly said to me that he wasn’t really comfortable with the guys paying for his dinner, so I said I’d chip in with the bill. Ben said thank you, but could he chip in, and then I could pay him back afterward because he didn’t want them to know I was paying.”
“This struck me as totally absurd because, firstly, it’s an unnecessary step, second even split the cost was something I wasn’t sure he would realistically be able to cover, and third I felt like he was trying to enter a pissing contest with my friends which was just childish.”
“They’re not going to like or not like him based on whether he pays for dinner though. The two things aren’t related.”
“I said no I would just pay and then turned to everyone and said I’d chip in a third of the bill. No one batted an eyelid, but Ben was sulking.”
“He’s now mad at me saying I emasculated him and made him look bad in front of my friends. I think he’s overdramatising it because my friends couldn’t care less and he needs to get over himself.”
“Is he going to do that every time we go out? When is that going to end? At some point, he’s going to have to get over it or we’re not going to work, right?”
“Mind you, my friends already know he doesn’t have money, so I don’t know what he would be saving?”
“Yes, the guys pay because we’re all used to guys paying, but they also make more money than every woman at the table. If Max didn’t have money, no one would expect him to offer to pay just because he’s male.”
“He didn’t say he would pay me back, he wanted to pay and me to pay him back the money.”
“I can understand why he would be uncomfortable, but he couldn’t have paid for dinner so there was no real solution to that if that’s how he felt.”
“Pretending to pay isn’t a real solution.”
“I think he’s childish for wanting to pretend he was paying. It’s fine that he doesn’t pay, it’s not fine to lie about it.”
“The fact is, all my friends know he doesn’t have money. They’re not bothered about it, but they all know. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of, so why is he trying to hide it?”
“He’s trying to ‘keep up’ with these guys, but he can’t materially, so where does this end? He starts pretending to pay for holidays? For nights out? We just go years with us all pretending we don’t know I’m paying?”
“Why can’t he just let it be what it is, and what everyone already knows it is? If the truth embarrasses him, that’s not going to get better.”
“I don’t care that the guys pay. I wouldn’t have cared if Ben paid; I don’t care if I pay.”
“I cared because he wasn’t actually paying; he just wanted to lie for the sake of what he imagined other people’s opinions to be, and I thought that was a bit dumb.”
“It felt to me like he just wanted to pretend for the benefit of people whose opinions shouldn’t matter to him.”
“Am I in the wrong for not letting him ‘save face’?”
The OP summed up their situation.
“I might be the a-hole because Ben is obviously upset and hurt, and I don’t want him to feel bad about spending time with my friends in the future over this.”
“Maybe it was a case of just letting him have his way, even if it was stupid.”
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors chose every option possible, saying the OP was not the a**hole (NTA)…
“So, he feels this way because the two males in the group were the other two to offer to pay, and five women did not offer to. Therefore, in that moment, he assumed that it was proper etiquette among your friends that the men pay and not the women.”
“Personally, I don’t think like he does, but I’ve heard this argument before, and I can sort of see where it comes in. Figured I might as well explain so that you can address this calmly with him in the future. It is unnecessary for this to keep being an issue.”
“As far as your friends go, maybe you can go to less expensive restaurants occasionally. Do you think that this isn’t a major issue in the long run?”
“As for my overall stance on this, he is in his feelings and making a mountain out of a molehill at this moment. You are NTA a thousand times over. He’s just caught in his feelings.”
“Discuss it logically with him and determine if this is actually a problem for him or if it’s something he’s just going through growing pains with at the present time.” ~ TangledUpPuppeteer
…the OP was the a**hole (YTA)…
“YTA. The group has established an apparent social norm (i.e., men will pay for nice dinners when the group goes out). Boyfriend wasn’t previously aware of this based on OP’s summary, as he was caught off guard.”
“By paying instead of boyfriend, OP has put boyfriend on a lower footing than his peers in the group at a time when he’s presumably working to build those relationships. If the friend group is an important part of OP’s life, and OP anticipates a long-term relationship with boyfriend, then this was a disservice to the boyfriend and their relationship.”
“Maybe the group doesn’t care, but I would guess that there is a subtle implication there simply by the fact that the rule exists to begin with.”
“As mentioned in other comments, this is irrespective of the broader societal toxic masculinity issues. This isn’t a situation where the boyfriend was proactively trying to look good by paying for the group ‘as the man’ and having OP reimburse him behind the scenes.”
“This is a situation where men paying is ‘table stakes’ for the group. The norm itself certainly has toxic masculinity implications, but the boyfriend’s intent seems to be focused on adhering to the group’s norm and not asserting dominance.”
“Slightly YTA, because it doesn’t seem like you caught onto that nuance in the moment or compromising (like boyfriend pays, OP reimburses, and then boyfriend pays her back over time by taking more of the cost of the next few dates).” ~ lilrachmaninoff
“YTA. You knew his money situation compared to you. You admitted to not having an issue with it and knowing he struggled at times not being able to provide for you.”
“He wanted to not feel extremely bad in front of YOUR friends. He just wanted to pay, and you pay him back later so he didn’t feel bad. You knew it all and still choose to make an issue on it.”
“Yes, it is sad that he still has issues about money with your dating. And yes, he is making an issue about what he can afford when it isn’t your fault, nor should he feel bad about you being an equal financial partner in paying for his way at times, for he likely returns the favor other times and other ways.”
“But he asked you to let him pay, then pay him back later to avoid him looking ‘LESS’ than your circle of friends.”
“But you chose to ignore his feelings and announce you would be paying. Your friends might not think anything of it.
“But it had NOTHING to do with what they thought. It was your boyfriend’s feelings you should have considered.” ~ Gandoff2169
…no one was the a**hole (NAH)…
“NAH. You’re not an a-hole, but I also think you missed Ben’s point a little bit.”
“Blah, blah, blah modern society but, in this particular context as you stated, it was common for the men to pay for the women. Now Ben has been added into the situation, and the writing is very clearly on the wall that he is supposed to step up and pay for part of it as one of the men in the group.”
“Outdated as it may be, in that situation, your group made it very clear that that was expected. You may not realize it, because you’re simply used to it, but as a new person joining the group, particularly a new man, there’s a lot of (probably unexpected) pressure all of the sudden with clear social guidelines.”
“The reason why your boyfriend leaned over to talk to you about it was because of that clear sudden social pressure to chip in as one of the men in the group.”
“I understand where you’re coming from because I am also very much a practical woman, and this is an impractical situation. And I can see where your solution comes from because, in your eyes, it’s just a matter of helping the friends split the bill.”
“However, in Ben’s eyes, it’s a matter of that amongst your friends the men split the bill and pay for the women. By announcing that you are as a woman going to split the bill as well, you have now broken that social construct.”
“And you’re probably right, that your friends don’t really care, but you also know your friends a lot better than Ben does. So in Ben’s eyes, it was clear that he, as a man, was supposed to pick up part of the bill, and now his girlfriend made an announcement that she was going to pick it up instead.”
“Again, I don’t think that you’re the a-hole in this situation because I think you simply misread it; however, I do think you might want to sit down and talk to Ben a little bit and let him express himself with what was going through his head in that situation.” ~ GardenWitchE
…and everyone sucked (ESH).
“There have been many times before that I’ve slipped a friend or boyfriend my credit card so they could ‘pay.’ It’s about discretely saving someone you care about embarrassment or to be put into an uncomfortable position to announce they can’t afford something that seemingly everyone else around them can.”
“It shows consideration for someone else’s feelings, especially after they were invited someplace last minute (without having a heads up on what to budget) or are trying to make a good impression to unfamiliar people.”
“OP should have definitely paid attention to Bens’s feelings, signals, and circumstances, then slipped him her card without anyone noticing. Ben would have understood what was happening, and I’m sure he would have appreciated it.”
“But I have to vote ESH because OP should have been more aware and understanding of her boyfriend’s situation but Ben also shouldn’t have pipped up to pay if he genuinely couldn’t afford it only to ask to be reimbursed? That part had me stuck.” ~ chlocatt
It sounds like this couple needs to have a serious discussion about their finances and their future.