My favorite nights bartending were those when I got to flex my counseling muscles for couples in crisis visiting my bar.
This adorable pair came in one night at last call for a nightcap to the first date of their second chance. Looking at them, you’d never guess there had ever been enough friction for them to break up. However, midway through their drinks, their lovey-dovey vibe turned into a debate, and they called me over (as many couples have) to be the mediator.
Having almost been married before, they broke up because Cass* thought Riley* was too frugal and Riley thought Cass was too lavish. This disagreement was now coming up again, so they wanted an unbiased opinion.
Riley believed you take care of home first: bills paid, full fridge, savings accounts. Riley also loved to cook and couldn’t fathom spending large amounts of money on fancy meals, saying, “It’s only food. You can’t even keep it.” Riley was a simple homebody and had no need for expensive material things.
Cass on the other hand believed you only live once; you work hard, you play hard. Cass had an appetite for the extravagant, and loved going to fancy restaurants with friends and splurging on big ticket items like designer shoes or jewelry. But Cass also had a well-paying job and could therefore comfortably afford that lifestyle.
The source of contention was that Cass was an outgoing person who couldn’t stand being cooped up in the house. Cass liked to socialized; get out and go dancing, to a concert, or to the movies instead of renting a dvd to watch at home. Riley never wanted to go out with Cass. Riley much preferred quiet dinners at home and snuggling up on the couch.
It was obvious they loved each and loved being around each other; they just needed a happy medium between their personalities.
To me the solution was simple: I helped Cass understand that Riley shows love by protecting loved ones, not with expensive gifts, and to be more appreciative of the “gift” of security. Cass needed to understand that Riley wasn’t going to get in the habit of buying lavish material things. However, since those expensive gifts weren’t hurting the family budget, Riley should no longer give Cass grief for buying them. Feeling judged would only make Cass resort to hiding and lying about purchases, which wouldn’t be healthy for Cass or the relationship. The relationship would be much happier when Riley stopped counting every penny Cass spends and making Cass feel bad for wanting luxury items.
And though Riley was a homebody, I suggested for the sake of bonding in the relationship, go out sometimes with Cass. But to Cass I added pick places that are modest. Since Cass had friends who enjoyed fine dining, reserve those fancier meals for hanging with them.
The couple happily agreed to take my advice. They finished their drinks and left finally having an understanding of how they could blend their two worlds, and I closed down the bar feeling certain they we’re going to make it this time.
*Names have been changed to protect their identities