My boyfriend has very hurt feelings that: (A) my parents did not offer to pay for his airfare; and (B) that I did not offer to pay for half of his airfare since I didn’t pay for my own. My parents like him, but they are also thrifty and frugal. I know that in this type of situation his parents would have paid for both of us. I feel terrible that his feelings are hurt over this, and I don’t want this to cause a rift between him and my parents. However, I don’t agree that I should have subsidized his airfare. I don’t believe I should have to give my boyfriend half of a gift that my parents give me. Am I being unreasonable?
He and I both earn very good money, and my parents and his parents are well-off. I want to talk to my parents about how my boyfriend feels, but I’m not sure how to approach this sensitive subject. I would greatly appreciate any advice you may have on making things right with my boyfriend. — Subsidized and Confused
Absolutely do NOT discuss this with your parents. This is an issue between you and your boyfriend and, by inviting your parents to be part of it, you risk turning it into an argument between your boyfriend and them (“They should have paid my way!” “No, we shouldn’t have!”), or an argument between you and your boyfriend that your parents take sides in, which, in turn, risks alienating your boyfriend and turning him off to the idea of attending future family gatherings with you (especially ones in which he is expected to pay travel expenses). How your parents spend their money and whom they decide to share it with is their business, and it would be rude and tactless to express anything but gratitude that they paid for your ticket to your sister’s wedding (despite not offering to pay your boyfriend’s expenses).
Honestly, I don’t blame your boyfriend for being upset (with you; I don’t think he has a right to be upset with your parents at all). He accompanied you to YOUR sister’s wedding — something he would not have spent the money and time to attend if he weren’t your boyfriend — not the other way around. How would you feel if you went to his sibling’s wedding and you found out his parents paid his way but he let you pay your way entirely? And how would you feel if you found out AFTER the fact? Like, if he didn’t even tell you his parents were subsidizing his trip (and it’s interesting that you used the word “subsidized” when referring to the idea of you paying for his ticket, but, when your parents paid for your ticket, it was a “gift”), and didn’t offer to pay for yours, either partially or entirely, with the money he was saving? I bet you’d be pissed. Or, at the very least, hurt. Like your boyfriend feels now.
You may not believe you should have paid for his ticket or that you should have shared half your parent’s “gift” with your boyfriend, but, at the very least, you could have been open about the situation. You could have invited a conversation about whether or not your boyfriend should still pay for all of his ticket (who knows, maybe he would have refused to let you pay for any of it, but you didn’t give him that chance). For all you know, the hurt feelings he’s expressing now may be mostly, if not entirely, related to your omission of your parents’ help. You may not have meant to keep the gifted ticket a secret, but that’s the way it seems now. And secrets can be hurtful.
I respect that you want to make things right with your boyfriend, and I’m going to trust that you are genuine in that sentiment. So here’s what you should do: apologize to him. Apologize for not being up-front about the entire situation and for allowing him to believe you were paying equally to attend your sister’s wedding. Thank him (again, I hope!) for traveling to the wedding with you. If he took time off from work, express your gratitude for that. Tell him that it meant a lot that he went with you because you are partners — partners who live together now (and maybe have plans to spend their lives together?) — and part of that means showing up to things like siblings’ weddings together, and part of that also means being open and honest about money matters. It means discussing the payments of big items that affect each other — and in this case a plane ticket is a “big item” and it certainly affects one partner if he’s expected to pay for his while his girlfriend’s ticket is subsidized by someone else.
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