Birth Control: Should He Pay For Half?

Birth Control: Should He Pay for Half?
Self

For the best advice on sex, love, dating and relationships we ask two experts with personal experience. Cathi Hanauer is the author, most recently, of Sweet Ruin, a novel about love, marriage, and adultery. Daniel Jones is the editor of both the "Modern Love" column for The New York Times, and Modern Love, an anthology derived from the column. They've been married for 15 years, and together they provide a his and hers take on relationship questions. This round: who pays for birth control?

My boyfriend and I have been living together for a while now. We’re committed, but since we're not ready to say "I do" or start a family, birth control (me taking the pill) is essential. I want him to share the not-insignificant cost of my prescription. He says none of the guys he knows split the contraception tab with their girlfriends, so why should he? —B.K., New York, N.Y.

Her take: My first thought here was, Of course he should pay half the birth-control cost! In fact, I was preparing to rant about his even questioning your very reasonable request—especially in such a seventh-grade way. "None of the other guys do it"? Please. And in five years, will he tell you none of the other daddies change their kids' diapers, either? My twenty-something sources tell me lots of guys split the cost of the pill. So what does this say about your boyfriend's friends?

But then I started to think twice. (Hey, they don't pay me for nothing.) Yes, if you're one of those couples who co-pay for everything from gas to toilet paper, why not add birth control to the tab (and in that case, should you switch to condoms, you'll of course cough up your half). If anything, he should be grateful you deal with the gyno visits, pharmacy lines, daily pill-popping, and potential hormonal side effects, while he shows up for the party scot-free. But if your dynamic as a couple is more along the lines of "He's the guy, so he pays for the dinners out, movie tickets, and good scotch, while I cover the bathtub votives, chardonnay, and Cosabella," maybe you've established a precedent where paying for the pill does fall under your jurisdiction. This answer depends on what sort of financial—and political/feminist—arrangement you have. (If you're one of those retro-'50s "traditional" types … you reap what you sow, Dollface.)

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The important thing is that your relationship feels generally equal, and generally kind. If it doesn't, it may be time for the "What are we really even doing together?" talk. Because the fact that you had to ask for this—and that he had the gall to refuse—makes me worry about you guys down the road. The money is less the issue than his refusing to chip in for something you think is important. And if he continues to refuse, I'm guessing (OK, hoping) you'll be so miffed you won't have sex with him anyway—in which case, he'll surely regret not closing his yaphole and opening his wallet in the first place. His take:

His take: I know the politically correct answer is: "Absolutely! Make him pay his half!" But prepare your tar and feathers, because the nasty realist in me is screaming, "Pay for your own birth-control pills!"

First off, I don't mean to throw water on your hot coupledom, but let's face it: You and Mr. Cuddles may not last. It happens. And since you say that the cost is "not insignificant," I'm guessing you're laying in several months' supply at once—so if you do break up, why face the potential ugliness of him demanding his birth control money back? Don't you want to be able to grab your pills and flee?

You and Mr. C. are going to drive each other crazy if you try to divide the cost of every single thing you share. Try to look at the whole forest of your relationship, not just the weeds, and decide if the financial burdens of your shared life are approximately equal. If they aren't, then you have a legit complaint. But if they are, and you push him on this issue, what is he going to demand that you pay half of? The cost of the porn he watches to get himself in the mood? The health-club membership that keeps him in top physical condition for you?

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One thing I’ve learned is that the more you choose to fight about in your relationship, the more you will fight, and not all fighting leads to a better place. Sometimes, in fact, it leads you back to your own place—where you’ll be paying 100 percent of everything.

Cathi Hanauer is the author of My Sister’s Bones and the editor of The Bitch in the House. Daniel Jones is the author of After Lucy and the editor of The Bastard on the Couch. They have been married for 12 years.