How To Split The Check In A Relationship Without It Being Awkward, According To Experts

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Dealing with splitting the check can always be a little tricky, but it can be even weirder during a relationship — especially the early days of a relationship. Maintaining independence is so important, but we're still dealing with all of these horrible old-fashioned hangups about men paying for things, and sometimes you just ordered a damn salad and water and you don't want to pay for the effing steak, ALRIGHT?! Seriously though, it can be a lot to balance — and it's not always obvious how we should split checks in certain situations.

And if you one of you earns a lot more than the other, it's hard to know whether or not take that into account. "We are expected to split things evenly in social settings, but everyone is in a different place in life," Maggie Germano, Certified Financial Education Instructor and financial coach for women, tells Bustle. "You don't have to try to keep up with people who are either earning or spending more than you are. Keep in mind that 'keeping up with the Jones'' is often what puts people into debt. Focus on what is right for you, not what might be expected of you." But in a relationship it feels different than when you're out with your friends, is it expected to be more of a shared responsibility?

The truth is, no matter how complicated it is, it's something that you need to get a handle on. Studies consistently show that money is one of the biggest stressors in a relationship, so though splitting the bill may not seem like that big of a deal, it can be representative of much larger issues. Learn how to negotiate money on something smaller like that can also help you when it comes to larger money issues. And trust me, you're going to want to figure those problems out early.

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“Money is a major cause of anxiety in relationships,” New York–based relationship expert and author April Masini tells Bustle. “People are not usually honest about money — until there is a problem.” So how do you know if you should split the check? Well, think about where the relationship is.

It Depends On Where You Are In A Relationship

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One of the things to focus on is where you are in the relationship. "Depends on how serious the relationship is," Priya Malani, co-founder of Stash Wealth tells Bustle. "If it's serious then a joint account/card might be best. This has much more to do with tradition and values than money. Quite frankly, if you guys aren't comfortable or are having trouble figuring out how to handle splitting the check, you can almost always expect to have differences on much larger, perhaps more important money conversations." And she's right— money is reflective of much larger things and a fight over the check can reveal something much larger.

That being said, if we're talking early dates, don't fret about it too much. "If the relationship is not so serious, then it best would be two separate checks or take turns paying to minimize issues, but it can still get awkward," Malani says.  

Think Of It As Part Of A Larger Picture

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In a relationship, it can help to think of your finances as a whole rather than just focusing on small things like checks. "When we start having conversations like this with our clients, it leads to larger conversations and the first step is in deciding if they see themselves as a 'team' and want to work toward their financial future together," Malani says. "Having the right mindset around finances and a shared picture of what kind of future you want (big stuff, I know) can help to eliminate smaller issues like who earns more, who has more debt and who should pay for dinner!"

Maybe one of you takes care of all of the household stuff and so the other wants to treat for dinner. Maybe one of your incomes goes more towards savings. Or maybe, one of you just makes way less than the other. Try not to stress over the bill and, instead, think of where it fits into your whole financial experience as a couple. If you're working as a team, it shouldn't make that much of a difference.

Splitting a check is awkward in the early days of the relationship, so splitting it down the middle or doing separate check just makes things easier. But as you go along, it shouldn't be as much of an issue — you share a financial future, so if you're not on the same page it may mean bigger problems.