Updated: Jan 5
Who pays? It can be a contentious and divisive issue, and older younger relationships often have more beats to dance to than those of a similar age. At best figuring out who pays is a solvable an annoyance, at worst it can cause irreparable rifts.
The biggest point to remember is that everyone wants to feel valued in their relationship. Issues arise not from someone failing to pay a bill, but from feeling that the other isn’t contributing adequately, or that your contribution and situation isn’t seen as sufficient by your partner.
Equality in a relationship doesn’t mean splitting a bill 50/50. It’s about treating and appreciating differences differently. People in older younger relationships are often in different life stages, and that should be reflected in what’s expected of each other. It would be unreasonable to expect a younger partner on a modest wage to spend hundreds every week on restaurants, just as it may be equally unfair to expect an older partner that’s used to healthy living to only eat beans out of a can.
In order to establish who will pay for what, an open and honest conversation needs to be had on your personal situation. I’m not talking getting out your tax return, but in establishing what your standards of living are, what you’re willing to spend money on, what you’re not, and where you’re able to flex. This doesn’t need to be a super serious conversation - when we had it it turned out to be a fun evening at the pub. Conversations like this not only help you get to know each other a little better, but help establish where/how you can contribute that’s valuable, and sets benchmarks for the other to understand when you’re going over and above (or underperforming) in your relationship.
It could be that the older pays for nicer restaurants, whilst the younger will pay for a more inexpensive restaurant, a takeaway or make a nice dinner at home instead. It could be that the older is willing to try some new cheaper things they haven’t in the past, and the younger chooses to try going for one nice meal instead of two cheaper ones. Not only is compromise important in a relationship, but it comes in many forms. It can even be seen as helpful as it can get you out of your comfort zone and trying new experiences and ways of thinking.
It’s important to not have what’s discussed as guidelines and not 100% strict rules - and please do not write them down!! Hard rules can take spontaneity and fun out of relationships, and instead create expectations and requirements that can lead to resentment when not met.
Always remember that things change too. People get pay rises and promotions, lose jobs, take sabbaticals, retire etc. Situations and relationships evolve and so should your approach too. It’s worth checking in with each other from time to time to make sure you’re both happy with how things are going. If the answer is no, listen to them. Their opinion is as valid as yours so be open to their concerns. It may just be you need to rethink how you approach who pays for what.
How you physically pay for things is up to you. You can opt to split bills in a certain way, per for certain things together and certain things separately, have budget boundaries, whatever works for you!! From a personal perspective, we started out that J would pay for more expensive restaurants - as he loves eating out - and I’d pay for cheaper ones - as I’m not that bothered by restaurants. As my pay has increased we’ll now more likely take it in turns regardless. We’ve also set up a joint account that we both contribute into to pay for day to day things and money when on holiday. What works for you may be totally different though
So there you have it. A few thoughts to hopefully help figure out how to create an ongoing basis guideline (remember, not rules!!) for who pays in inter-generational relationships. Remember to change it up and surprise each other from time to time - you’ll enjoy it more than they will I promise!! - and evolve alongside your relationship. Let me know how it goes and if you have any tips of your own.