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Dear Demetria:

Dude asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday. I said, “Simple dinner.” He said “Fine, as long as it's not pricey.” I was a little turned off by this. It’s not my intention to run through anyone’s money, but at the same time, I felt like a child being told I can only spend XYZ amount at the toy store. Is there a better way he could have said this? Is it tacky for a man to put restrictions on a date regarding price? —Anonymous

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He asked what you wanted to do, and he attempted to manage your expectations of what you should get on your birthday. At least from him. His response turned you off, which means that it could have been handled better, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with the idea of putting a restriction on what he’s willing to spend. Having a budget or not wanting to blow his bank account for your birthday is not treating you like a child; it's being a responsible adult.

You’re dating a man who is not a “baller” and isn’t pretending to be. He doesn’t have the funds—or isn’t willing to spend the funds—on your birthday. I actually appreciate that he was honest about that because so many people like to pretend they got it like that, when, really, their bills don’t match their income. Yes, it’s your birthday, and hopefully it will be an awesome day, but Sallie Mae and his cable and mobile-phone provider and whoever he may be paying rent or a mortgage to don’t understand “I’m short this month because I splurged to take out a woman because I wanted to impress her.”

I think what’s bothering you is that he was “keeping it real,” but that’s not romantic. I’m a woman, too; I get it. Occasionally, and especially on birthdays (and anniversaries), we like to feel spoiled by our mates. We like the excess and the feeling that a partner has gone all out to give us the best and make us feel special. Sometimes we can confuse the money spent as the amount of love offered.

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You seem to be interpreting his unwillingness to go all out financially for your birthday as a lack of interest. And really, that’s a bad way to think about relationships and people. I also wonder if your expectations are a bit high here. You’ve referred to the guy you’re planning to spend your birthday with as “dude”—not your boyfriend, your fiance or your husband.

So he’s a guy you’re dating. It’s nice that he’s offering to do something for your birthday. It’s a sign that he’s interested. Because really? Not being in a relationship with you, he’s under no obligation whatsoever to take you out for your big day. He could send flowers or just a card and his bases would be covered.

What he said turned you off, which I’m sure wasn’t the intent, so yes, he should have conveyed his point differently. Or maybe not at all. He asked what you wanted to do; you answered. It would have been best if he’d picked a restaurant that was within his budget, taken you there and avoided this whole conversation. You would have been none the wiser that he was budgeting his money or that you were being managed.

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You clearly had more pricey expectations in mind for your birthday that he’s not willing to meet. If the price or experience you were hoping for is that important to you, you can always call your girls and do whatever amazing thing you had in mind with them.

Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. She is also a blogger at SeeSomeWorld.com, where she covers pop culture and travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Previously in Ask Demetria: “If You’re Trying to Control Your Man Like He’s a Kid, He Might as Well Go Live With His Mama