Love and money

My friend A was in love with T. They’d been dating for about two months. She said he was very “sweet and kind.” T would send romantic postcards about how much he adored her. They returned from their first holiday together and A was thinking that after a string of bad choices she had, at last, found a really wonderful man. Two days later T sent A a bill for some other holiday costs – car petrol, one lunch and a round of drinks –  that was left outstanding. In total it was something like sixty-pounds; but the real cost was their relationship. 

That’s right: he gave her a bill and she gave him the boot. I need to point out that A had paid her share of the holiday – at least most of it – and she could have easily afforded to pay him the outstanding debt. But that’s not the point. For A this was a matter of principle — or I should say, a matter of T’s pettiness. She told me, “Sorry, but I can’t date man who is so tight about money!” 

And T – who is well off — could have easily afforded not to ask her for the money. But for him it was a matter of principle: after all, they’d agreed to split the costs. So he felt she should pay up and she felt he shouldn’t be so bloody petty. Also, she had paid for numerous drinks and taxis and hadn’t bothered billing him for such trifling amounts.

So what’s the moral of this story? Don’t be so bloody tight or you stick by your agreements? 

It’s not romance or sex that’s the big issue for people who start dating: it’s money. Talking to my female friends I’ve discovered there’s only one thing more unattractive than a man who is a liar or a cheat and that’s a man who is tight with his money. Gentleman, be warned; counting the pennies and the pounds is a total turn off. 

Now here’s a curious thing. According to my female friends – who have all dated wealthy men — the more money a man has the tighter he is.  One friend told me that when she first started dating her present boyfriend – who she still adores — he would woo her with talk of all the exotic trips he would take her on. He said he couldn’t wait to show her Istanbul, Morocco, Egypt and Venice. She tells me, “a year later and we’ve only had a week in Bournemouth!” 

I don’t get it: what is the point of being well-off if you can’t spend it on fabulous holidays with the woman you adore?  Some men I know would reply: Hold on. Why should men have to pay for a couple’s pleasures? Women want equality and if you call yourself a feminist, you should pay an equal amount of the bill! 

And I know feminist friends who would agree – at least till the bill comes. My old friend Dolly Alderton tells a funny story about how because of her feminist principles she once insisted on paying for dinner as she wanted to show her date that they were equals – and then a got a bill for for £200. But a horrified – and at the time broke Dolly – didn’t back down and took it on the chin and coughed-up. 

When you first go on a date it is customary for the man to pay. Why? Because paying the bill has a deep subconscious symbolism for women. It suggests care, protection, provision. I know women who are very wealthy and even they like it when a man pays the bill. I once dated a very wealthy heiress. Whenever we went out for lunch or dinner, I had to pick up the bill. When I asked her why she didn’t pay for things she said, “it would be insulting to your male pride if I were to pay for you all the time.”

“What male pride?!” I asked. I tried to assure her that I would be happy for her to pay for most things but she insisted I get the bill. And I insisted we break-up before I went bankrupt. 

The problem is that when it comes to money and dating nobody really knows the rules anymore – and that’s because there aren’t any. When it comes to who pays what, I’m with Karl Marx who gave the best piece of dating advice ever, “from each according to his ability, to each according to their needs.”

Cosmo Landesman is the former dating columnist for The Sunday Times and writes about love and romance for a wide range of publications including The Times and The Spectator magazine. He is currently single — but remains optimistic that true love is just one date away. 

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