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He’s not worth your time.” When a guy paid, it meant that he liked me, and how much he liked me was directly related to how much he paid. Now in my thirties and happily married, I find myself with very different views on money.

I didn’t just hold this expectation for the first date, either; I expected the guys I dated — whether we were on our second date or in a full-blown relationship — to pay for everything, all the time. My husband and I each make our own money, and when it comes to shared bills, we each pay half.

Paying for ourselves is part of being smart, independent, capable women.

I realized that if I wanted to be in a relationship where power was equally distributed, where respect was mutual, where each person in the relationship mattered and had value as a human being, then I had to shift my perspective about what paying for things meant. Paying for myself makes me feel good about myself and my situation, because I know it means that I'm part of a healthy, mutually respectful relationship. We're not living in some past, using an outdated definition of what a relationship should be or should look like.

But I’d be lying if I said that I’ve personally experienced such inequality.

In many cases, I made even more money than my partners. Sometimes, I'd attempt to make up for it all by buying expensive gifts for birthdays or Christmas.

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When I was in my twenties, I’d commonly give my friends advice like, “If you have to pay on the first date, then forget him.But because I'd long equated how much a guy paid with how much he liked me, I allowed myself to be flattered by his offers to pay for me, instead of embarrassed with my acceptance of them. But day-to-day expenses add up, and if I compared my expenses with theirs, it's clear to see that I was a straight-up freeloader.

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