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Dating Advice # 171: The Man with the Tight Fist

May 9, 2009 | by Rosie Einhorn, L.C.S.W. and Sherry Zimmerman, J.D., M.Sc.

She's resentful that he doesn't buy her flowers or go to nice restaurants. Is there any hope for this?

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I've been dating a man that I like very much. As our dating progressed it became obvious to me that he is cheap. He owns real estate and has a very nice income and few expenses.

He refuses to buy me flowers or go to nice restaurants. He gives small tips. At the beginning it didn't bother me because I have my own income, but with time I began to resent it and feel hurt. It makes me feel not valued and not cherished, like I'm not worth enough for him to invest money on me. If I offer to treat -- like buying tickets to a Broadway show -- he takes me up on it.

If it's like that now what will be when we're married? Also the pre-nuptials that he wants is that I'd move into his house, and we'll split all expenses. (Our incomes are similar.) But in the event of dissolution of the marriage, I only get a half of the increase in the value of the house. If the value doesn't increase, I get nothing, even though I'd be paying half toward the mortgage and upkeep of the house.

Shouldn't I expect a better deal?

Can you give a general guideline of what works in second marriages so nobody is resentful? Also, what can I do about his cheapness? Can I expect to get used to this and not feel hurt and lose respect? There are so few eligible guys in my age group. I'd appreciate your advice.


Dear Naomi,

We are sure that you are not imagining that the man you are dating is "cheap." Some people are like that, and they will never change. The question for you is -- is he generous enough to you in other ways to make you feel cherished and cared for? Is he generous with his time, compliments, conversation, and expressions of appreciation? Does he want to do nice things for you that don't involve much money? A generous spirit can be more important than a generous wallet.

If you answer most of these questions in the negative, we urge you to take a closer look at this man and clarify why you are considering marriage. If it is to avoid being alone, consider how lonely it can be in a marriage with someone who cannot give of himself enough to be an intimate friend.

On the other hand, if you can honestly answer, "yes" to many of these questions, then you have to weigh how important it is for him to be generous with money if there are so many other valuable qualities. When you think about your answer, clarify how much his attitude toward money will have an impact on everyday life should you decide to marry. You need to know how this man deals with the day-to-day expenses of living, and if he is as cheap as he seems to be with what he considers luxuries.

For example, what is his attitude about using air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter? Does he live so frugally that his home is falling apart, he eats poor quality food, and won't replace wardrobe items until they are threadbare? Is he opposed to household help? What about home repairs or medical care? Even though he doesn't like to spend money on expensive theater tickets, flowers, and fancy meals, what hobbies does he like to do and how often does he do it?

Does he ever give gifts to his children? Does he ever give gifts to you, even modest ones? Would he have any objection to from time to time doing some activities that mean a lot to you, even though they will cost more than he is comfortable spending? Does he give any charity? Would he have objection to you giving tzedakah?

It could be that except for certain attitudes about money and luxury, the man you are seeing may have overall lifestyle expectations that are similar to yours. He may also have a generous spirit when it comes to matters that do not involve money. If that is the case and if you both care about each other and enjoy each other's company, you may be able to build a framework for a good marriage. However, you will have to be willing to accept that aspect of his personality without trying to change it. If you cannot accept it, you won't be able to respect him, and respect is vital in a marriage.

You also asked about the splitting of assets. This really is a question for a matrimonial lawyer to answer. From our perspective, however, this man's suggestions are not unreasonable. It's an approach that many couples agree upon when marrying later in life -- they keep what they bring into the marriage and share the fruits of any "joint enterprise." The joint enterprise would be living in and caring for the house this man owns -- splitting half of the increase in value is certainly fair. If the market has a downturn, he loses -- not you.

However, if you view marriage as more of an economic proposition, expecting to get some kind of compensation for the years you invest in a relationship, then you are bound to be unhappy with the "arrangement" this man has proposed. Furthermore, if he is cheap about all areas of life, it seems it would be very difficult for you (or anyone) to live in such a situation.

We hope this has been helpful, and wish you the best of success,

Rosie & Sherry


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