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1 year ago
My Boyfriend Pays Most of Our Bills, but That Doesn’t Make Me Any Less of a Feminist

Last week, I received an email from my boyfriend, Jay, regarding how we will divide the rent for our new apartment. We're both 23 and just graduated from college a year ago; this will be our first time living together. Over the course of this very transactional exchange, we determined that he will be paying 60 percent of the rent while I pay 40 percent, because he makes more money than I do. While this proration seems more than fair, something about it still bothered me; the fact that we had to come up with a system to balance a shortcoming on my end, frankly, gave me the icks.

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I've always defined success as having a fulfilling and important career, financial security (I’ve got what my mother refers to as “champagne taste on a beer budget”), and a strong sense of independence. I grew up with a workaholic, primary-breadwinning mother who didn’t get married until just shy of 30 years old. Both of my parents stressed to me the importance of focusing on myself, instead of on boys and relationships—and I listened to them.

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That said, I grew up in a southern town where marriage was acknowledged as the ultimate achievement. Back home, if a girl didn't go to college, she got engaged almost immediately following high school graduation. In college, women still used phrases like “M.R.S. degree” and “ring by spring," and only half-jokingly. I’ve spent my entire life scoffing at such notions, making fun of these women as “husband hunters” who wanted nothing more than to marry rich. I had no desire to get married in my twenties and was sure that when I chose to marry, it would be for love, not for stability. Sure, I was a little judgmental, but I promised myself I would never need some dude to get by.

And then I met Jay during my freshman year of college. He grew up abroad and shares my thirst for travel, but his Midwestern roots keep him down to earth, making him one of the kindest people I've ever met. He understands that The Sopranos is probably the greatest show of all time, helped me study for all of our econ exams, and has a pretty cute butt. Five years later, what I love most about him is his acceptance of who I am. We are in absolutely no rush to get married, but I know it’s probably coming sooner than my original don’t-need-no-man-til-I’m-30 plan.

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Beyond the rent, Jay has always paid for the majority of our meals together, too. Since we graduated last year and he started working full-time, he’s chipped in for plane tickets, too many Ubers to count, movie tickets, you name it. Of course, I appreciate all of these things, but I often wonder: Should I be more independent? And does all of this make me any less of a feminist? 

Five years ago, I’d never even considered the fact that I could come to depend on someone for security. But now, beyond the emotional devastation I’d feel if our relationship ended, I'd also have to consider how I would pay for my own apartment.

My mother's voice often plays in the back of my head, adament that I had to have my own ambitions far beyond marriage, and that once I do marry, I never wind up in a position where I have to be with someone because I need him. Plus, as the great Lady Gaga says, "Some women choose to follow men and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you're wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you it doesn't love you anymore."

Voices like this, while valid, totally made me question my decision to accept a lifestyle much cushier than what I'd be able to afford on my own. Was I selling out? I tried to remind myself that contributions to a relationship don't always come in dollar amounts. 

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Watching #2 with my #1 

A photo posted by Alexandria Gomez (@agomezzzz) on

After going over this in my head a million times, I'm finally starting to believe it and realize that this imbalance doesn't make me less-than in any way. By no means have I lost myself in this relationship—though I am invested in Jay, I am equally invested in myself. I work hard, I go after what I want, I don’t expect handouts, and I fully intend to stay this way. 

Also, what my mother and some feminist rhetoric fails to acknowledge is that there can be something beautiful about needing someone. I’m not talking total codependency, but that gentle leaning on one another is part of what builds intimacy in relationships. I don’t think Jay minds carrying a little more of the load right now because he believes in the potential of my dreams just as much (if not more) than I do. His faith in me is what assures him that I’ll one day be bringing more to the table (and our bank accounts) than my *~*sparkling*~* personality.

So rather than beat myself up about being a “bad feminist,” I consider myself lucky to have found someone that gives me both love and stability and respects my decision to follow my passions instead of a paycheck.

But here’s hoping the big bucks come eventually, because, ya know, shoes. And also maybe something nice for Jay. 

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