Tonight I'm going out to dinner with my boyfriend to celebrate his getting a new job. He starts on Monday and today is his last day at his current (and very yucky) job. He's been unhappy with his current (soon to be old) job ever since I've known him (two and a half years). He's even told me that he disliked this job nearly the entire time he's had it (about seven years). Personally, I have a hard time even imagining myself in an unhappy situation that long, let alone actually doing it. But, that's how he is, that's his choice, and I'm beyond happy for him to be soon starting a new position with a seemingly much better company.
Anyway... When I asked him where he wanted to go out to eat tonight, he brought up two possible choices. Both of which he has gift cards to (he's usually quite economical and thrifty). One is a middle to low-priced restaurant. The other is more high-end. I suggested the high end place because this is a special occasion, and after all, he does have a $50 gift card. Ironically enough, he "won" the gift card through his current place of employment as a prize of some sort. So, it seemed fitting.
Ok, here's where my ego decided to make an appearance. We had decided on this restaurant and were looking at the menu online. As I mentioned, it is pricey. As in, just shy of $50 for a single steak, alone. No sides, no salad. Just the steak. I don't eat steak, so I was looking at the other menu options and saw some enticing seafood entrees, a soup, and a couple appetizers that I would be interested in. The other menu items (non-steaks) were less expensive.
Now, I knew (and he confirmed) that my boyfriend would order a steak. He likes them on occasion, as a celebratory meal, which this certainly was. Not to mention, this restaurant is "known" for their steaks above anything else, so I figured that's what he would get. That's fine. But here's where my ego embarrassingly chimed in.
It looked through the menu, mostly at the prices, and considered the fact that "we" have a $50 gift card. "We" could eat for close to $50, both of us, if we ordered cheaper things. But my boyfriend over here is planning to spend pretty much the entire $50 on a single steak for himself. What about me?
Yes, it's embarrassing because it is, after all, his celebratory dinner. And it is his gift card that he won at his job. I'm there to support him. I'm happy for him. I'm not trying to take advantage of him in any way. My ego was having a very hard time with making this all fit in its plan however.
As I mentally chose what I'd like to eat, it's not that expensive (compared to the $50 steaks anyway). Ten bucks for some soup. Five bucks or so for an appetizer. Alright.
Let me break in here and tell you all that my boyfriend and I usually pay for ourselves when we go out together. Neither of us has tons of superfluous money (yet). So it would be a stretch to have expenses beyond what we, as individuals, accrue. So from just a few dates into our relationship (he did pay for everything for those first several dates), we've been getting separate checks. And I'm ok with this. It actually seems most fair and reasonable to me. So why is my ego having such a hissy fit with this fancy dinner?
Egos like to control. Egos think they know best. When my ego self considered the fact that my boyfriend has a $50 gift card, it came up with the "best" way to use it. That "best" way meant making it stretch as far as possible... certainly not blowing it all on one single menu selection.
But, in trying to be understanding, my ego accepted the fact that my boyfriend would get that expensive steak. Ok... plan B. What if we got one check, took the $50 off that one check, and then split the remaining balance? That way we could both still benefit from the gift card, and I (ego-self) wouldn't "suffer" because he chose to order such an expensive item. I would still be paying for at least part of my meal, but I would also get to "use" part of the gift card as well. It seemed like the most fair, rational solution.
So I proposed this idea to my boyfriend. He pointed out that we usually pay for ourselves, why would this be different? And that I didn't let him get his frozen yogurt on my gift card when we went to the frozen yogurt shop a few days ago. "That was like three bucks," I shot back. "So?" he responded. Then he finally relented and agreed to my plan of a single check.
Was it really the principle of all this? Was my ego just really that bothered by him blowing $50 just like that on a single piece of meat? After all, it was his gift card to spend. What was my real problem? Or should I say, is my real problem? Tonight is the dinner and I've been going back and forth on this in my head for the past two days.
I have moments of planning to tell him I'll just pay for mine, he pay for his, like we usually do, and don't worry about how he chooses to spend his gift card.
Then I have moments of feeling uncared for and like he should want to share his gift card with me, rather than leaving me out in the cold... that's how I was taking it.
Would this be as big of a deal if we went to the cheaper restaurant? Would my selfish ego throw as big of a fit if we got separate bills there? I'm pondering this right now and I think no. I don't think it would be as big of a deal at the less expensive place. So why is that?
I think it's because I see $50 as a lot of money. I don't know about you, but most gift cards I get, or give, are closer to the $25 range. So $50 is huge. I feel like that amount of money should go further. Certainly, in most places, the two of us could easily eat for $50. And my ego sees putting all of that money on a single steak (a steak of all things), as a waste. Like, we could get five menu items for the same amount of money as one steak. Which makes more sense?
But, again, it's not my call. This is where our egos cause so much trouble. They like to stick their nose in where it doesn't belong and try and run the show. And when its way isn't agreed upon by everyone else to be the best way, it gets self-righteous, indignant, and hurt. That's exactly what I was feeling when my boyfriend and I were talking about this restaurant and this dinner.
"Love doesn't control."
My ego was trying to control. My ego wanted a piece of the "pie," i.e. the gift card. But all I needed to do was relax and love. Stop demanding. Stop expecting. Stop controlling. Just love.
This also brings to mind a webinar I listened to a couple days ago with John Gray. You know, the author of "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus," among other great books. In this particular webinar interview, John talks about how women are natural givers. When we want someone to like us, our innate instinct is to give to them, and then they will like us. And when we love someone, and really do like a person, we tend to give more. This is where the conflict between men and women often arises. Women give more and more and more, and this often leads to expecting more in return. We think, I love you, I want to give you whatever I can. You should feel the same way. But men don't think like women do.
I see now that this was another layer of what was going on within my ego self. I was thinking of all the times I did give to my boyfriend, or did share gift cards, or what-have-you. And I thought how if I had the $50 card, I would share it (because for one, I wouldn't be getting the $50 steak). So, I assumed he should want to give and share with me as well.
That's where the hurt feelings came from.
So. What to do with these ego flare-ups? What to do when we know how we'd act in a given situation, and find that other people don't necessarily think like we do? What to do when you're feeling entitled, and even deserving? What to do when we feel hurt, in any way?
Open to Love. Remind yourself of what you're really all about, and that is Love.
It's not always easy. Even the most mundane, simple situations can cause the biggest ego flare-ups. I mean, come on... I'm having such a "moment" over a gift card?
There are greater things in life. More important things. Let's focus on those and not let the trivial stuff get to us. (Ok, ok, I'm finally starting to hear my own message.)
Focus on the Love. BE the Love. Money is just money. It comes and goes. Open and Love.