On our first official date, John gave me a copy of a Dream of Red Mansions, treated me to a Buddhist vegetarian Chinese feast, and then romanced me beside the West Lake in Hangzhou. An unforgettable night with the man who would become my Chinese husband? Priceless.
Except for John, who not only paid for it, but actually took out a loan to make it happen — from his friend, a guy we call “Lao Da.”
But when I asked John why he went to such great lengths to pay for me, he gave me an answer I never expected: “Our relationship wasn’t settled yet.”
“What do you mean by that?” I asked him, rocking back and forth in his arms playfully as we traded smiles.
“Well, if our relationship is settled, then the money is equal.”
“So you mean, if we’re a committed boyfriend and girlfriend, a couple, then it doesn’t matter who pays because we share the money, like a married couple?”
“Yes,” he said, rocking me back and forth as he flashed me an embarrassed grin.
“So, as long as we weren’t a couple, it wouldn’t be right for me to pay for that evening, because I’m the woman?”
“It’s the duty of a man, a cultural thing I guess,” he confessed, shrugging.
Then I had a thought, remembering how, weeks after that date, when we first kissed, I bought John an Italian button-down shirt, jeans, and a long-sleeved shirt. “So that’s why you let me buy you all of those clothes after our ‘relationship was settled.’ You didn’t mind because you saw it as our money, and not me taking care of you.”
He smiled again, that smile that says you’ve got me.
It’s no wonder, then, that my husband never protested about me taking care of things, financially, after we started dating. Or worried much about how I made more than him for a period of time. He already saw us as something like a married couple, long before we even got married. And, to him, that meant we shared the money.
So I say, knowing your husband was committed to you from that very first kiss? Now, that’s priceless.
Has money and love ever surprised you in a cross-cultural relationship?