Over the weekend, I got into a debate with some folks about gender roles in dating and relationships. The discussion had all of us analyzing our stances on various things, including who pays for dates, who should be the breadwinner in the relationship, and whether or not it is OK for a woman to propose marriage to her male partner.
These may all seem like simple questions to answer, but there are variables that go along with them—variables that can make people’s answers differ based on who they are in a relationship with, how long the relationship has been going on, and whether or not they can see a long-term future with the person involved.
When you go out on a date, who pays—the man or the woman?
I will admit that I am a traditionalist on this one. In casual dating, I generally expect that if I am going out with a man, he is going to pay for the date. I always have my own money when I go out, as a rule, but when the check comes, I sit still and allow him to take it. How he handles the check situation will likely play a big role in determining whether or not I will go out with him again.
If he attempts to avoid looking at the check, waits to see if I will grab it first or even suggests that we split, he gets the side eye from me. That’s just how it is. If you ask me to go out with you, I am assuming that you are paying, or else why ask?
There are folks who say the exception to this rule is if the woman asks for the date, and on that I can agree—so I don’t ask men out on dates, because I don’t want to be in the position of paying in a casual dating situation.
I feel differently if I am in a long-term situation with someone.
In those types of scenarios, I am more inclined to offer to split the bill or just pay the bill outright sometimes because we have a bigger involvement than just casually seeing each other. I am more invested in the relationship, and therefore more invested in the person, so splitting the check or taking turns paying makes more sense to me—especially in cases where I make more money than my partner.
Men are traditionally seen as being providers and therefore the breadwinners in a relationship, but what happens when that is not the case? Are we comfortable with the idea of a woman making the most money? Can relationships work when a woman is the provider?
I have had this scenario happen more than once in my adult life, and it was always uncomfortable, for a number of reasons.
Men have a sense of pride that is unrivaled by anything else, really. Their egos can often drive them toward behavior that is harmful and even destructive.
I found this to be the case in a previous relationship in which I made more money. Not being able to afford the things that I liked made him feel some type of way. Having his “girl” pay for things that he felt he should have been paying for made him feel some type of way. My not necessarily needing him for financial or material things made him feel some type of way. It was exhausting.
The other side of the game is complacency. There are some men who are already generally unmotivated, and having a woman who has her own money and can afford to do things not just for herself but for them as a couple can lead to him never wanting more for himself.
Why should he, when she can do everything anyway? It’s crazy, but it happens.
What this has shown me is that in long-term situations, I need a man who is evenly yoked with me. It just creates less complications and less confusion.
Could there be exceptions to this? Absolutely, and when I run across them, I will tell you. Until then, if it comes down to a choice of me being the breadwinner or me being by myself, I’m going to choose self each and every time.
The idea that only a man should propose marriage is heavily steeped in patriarchy and the romantic ideals we have been sold by the capitalist spending program known as the wedding industry.
If a woman loves her man and wants to ask him to marry her, why shouldn’t she be able to? It doesn’t take anything away from him if she does.
The worst he can do is say no, and it’s the same risk a man takes in asking a woman.
Of the three topics we discussed, this is the one I couldn’t really wrap my head around, because I didn’t understand what the big deal was. Why can’t a woman propose? If there is a valid argument for why she shouldn’t, I have yet to hear it.
My stance on this is that it doesn’t matter who pops the question if both people are in love and want to move forward with the relationship.
Ask, answer and do what you will with it.
Even in the 21st century, gender roles play a big part in how we deal with our romantic relationships. We all have our different stances on them, and for the most part our minds won’t be changed—but it is an interesting and ongoing discussion that obviously needs to take place.
We will be discussing gender roles in dating and relationships when The Root After Dark Twitter chat returns on Tuesday at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT. I will take over The Root’s official Twitter account as always, and we will chop it up. Be sure to follow The Root on Twitter and be a part of the discussion using the hashtag #TheRootAfterDark.