There's no chat today. (I'm in Cleveland at a book event.) But Commonwealth Shakespeare Company week at Love Letters continues!
Today's letter will be performed by actor Zachary Eisenstat, a.k.a Second Citizen in "Coriolanus." The Free Shakespeare on the Common production begins tonight.
The original letter and my answer are below.
My girlfriend of three months, Selena, who's from the Dominican Republic, is generally unselfish and considerate of others to a degree that is unique in my experience. I cherish her for it.
Lately, we were talking about going on a week-long trip to Europe, something to do maybe six months from now if our relationship sticks. I said, "Sure, you can just pay for your ticket and I'll take care of everything else, the hotel, the food, all the trip's other expenses." She replied, "No. If a man and woman go on a trip together, the man should pay for everything." Convenient belief, I thought. She has even set aside funds for just such a trip she had hoped to take with her mother, but her mother in the end decided she didn't want to go to Europe. So Selena has the funds. But the issue isn't the amount. It is the principle that she should contribute something, no matter how small. If she had replied, "I'd love to, but I can only scrape together about four hundred dollars towards it," I'd have been happy.
Selena's hard line on this is contrary to her generally giving nature. When she visits me she always brings a bag of groceries. It's kind of funny to know that every time you open your door to let your girlfriend in, she will be carting a dozen eggs, paper towels, two boxes of cereal, and some light bulbs, or a similar bag of goods.
I've encountered a few gold diggers over the years, including one girl who broke up with me when I would not spend three thousand dollars to buy her a mink coat. So I'm a little sensitive about this issue.
Am I the one who is off base, my view colored and made cynical by those past gold diggers? I just don't know how to feel about this.
– Señor Ciento, NY
They say that the two biggest relationship killers are sex and money. Based on what I see in my inbox, I have to agree. (I might add internet cheating to that list.)
Some disagreements about money just can't be anticipated. It's difficult to know your philosophies about giving money to a sick family member or paying for private school for your child until you're confronted with the need. I don't expect couples to have everything worked out before they commit to each other.
But I do expect couples to share some basic beliefs about money, and I expect them to be flexible. Your girlfriend is setting her own rules. She pays for bags of light bulbs and paper towels, and you pay for the big stuff. That's how it goes. End of discussion.
You don't like her rules. They make you uncomfortable. That's your answer.
I'm not saying she's a gold digger (I can't believe I just typed that); she sounds generous in her own way, for sure. But her way isn't your way, and this dynamic isn't sustainable. You need to find someone who doesn't have rules and wants to be your peer.
Readers? If she's generous about the groceries, does the trip matter? What are the gender issues here? Can this relationship be saved? Help.