Dear Abby: I pushed back on girlfriend’s order at birthday dinner

Couple fights when financially strained man questions her desire to get a large portion and bring home leftovers.

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DEAR ABBY: Every year my girlfriend and I take each other out for dinner on our birthdays and bring a gift. This year, even though I am currently experiencing financial hardship, I bought her a gift and offered her dinner.

At the restaurant, she ordered the largest portion of what she wanted. She stated it’s what she always orders in that restaurant. I responded that she always takes half of it home, and that I had offered to buy her dinner for that night, not for two days. She got very angry and said I was ruining her birthday.

She then said she’d pay for her own meal. I declined her offer and paid, but now I’m wondering if I was wrong. She did pay for half the appetizer, which I didn’t want or eat, and she left the tip. Should I have told her before we went out to dinner that I was on a tighter budget? Can our relationship be saved? — LOSING IN LAS VEGAS

DEAR LOSING: Strong relationships thrive when there is honest communication. You and the Birthday Girl have been seeing each other for an extended period of time. If money is tight, you should have mentioned it long before her birthday rolled around. Yes, she should have been aware of it before you invited her to dinner. Because she wasn’t, I can understand why she might have been put off by what she may have interpreted as a snide comment rather than a cry for help. Can your relationship be saved? Yes, as long as you two REALLY start talking to each other.

DEAR ABBY: I am in my early 40s. I have reconnected with a girl I dated in high school. Things are wonderful. I have come to understand that she was “wronged” by other men more than once in the years in between. But I have also learned it was happening during our relationship as teens. I cannot stop ripping myself in half for not realizing it was happening and doing nothing to stop it. I wasn’t damaged; she was.

I am hesitant to do anything that makes her revisit her pain, but it is something I can’t let go of. I am not sure how I should proceed in the present, so that I don’t let the past damage a future that seems so bright. Could you please give me a woman’s point of view? — CAUTIOUS IN MICHIGAN

DEAR CAUTIOUS: Understand that you and this woman were very different people when you dated more than 20 years ago. I suspect my point of view is similar to what you would get from a man: If you plan to proceed with this romance, the two of you should get at least six months of couples counseling from a licensed professional.

A lot has happened to you both in the intervening years since high school. There was nothing you could do to stop anything that happened. She was a willing participant in those failed relationships. Your future with her will be brighter once you know each other better as adults, which will involve frank communication on both of your parts.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: “Abby’s Favorite Recipes” and “More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $16 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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