Three months ago, I started dating a guy who is very conservative and religious. Normally, this wouldn't be my type, but he's proven that he's open to my considerably more progressive viewpoints, which is awesome! I'm into him, despite his love of target shooting and good ol’ boy sensibilities. He likes that I have an open mind, and he doesn’t make fun of me when I order vegan at a sports bar. What's more, I've been reconnecting with my own spiritual beliefs, and I'm happy with the direction this is taking me.
We're both (so far) happy to listen to and respect each other’s beliefs and expectations, but the only thing I'm not sure how to navigate is his approach to the male-female roles in dating. While I'm a lady who likes being pursued, I'm also happy to pick up the check or go Dutch on dinner. I make more money than him (for now—he'll finish grad school in August and will start a high-paying job at that time), and I can sense that he feels weird about not being able to take me out on the kind of dates he wants to.
I’m excited about this guy, and I am starting to see long-term potential with him. And his financial situation is temporary. But even if we can make this whole “opposites attract” thing work, are our differing views on gender roles in relationships a red flag or, worse, a deal breaker?
This is definitely something that you should talk to him about as soon as possible. If you're thinking of really hunkering down into a long-term relationship with a person so vastly different from you, you should get square on your basic moral principles and political fundamentals.
That's not to say that you can't date someone with differing opinions or spiritual views—you're proving that wrong right now. But by the time we reach grad-school age, we start to become fairly rooted in our personal philosophies about life and our attitudes towards the world. And you've only been dating this guy for three months, which isn't very long. It takes a while for us to settle into relationships and really show our true selves. It's kinda like letting your soul fart in front of your boyfriend.
This reminds me of an old boyfriend from my East Coast days. We were both weirdos, but in different ways—he was a Japanophile and alcoholic who loved D&D and Renaissance fairs and did tons of drugs. I didn't have a problem with any of that stuff, but he was also a guy with really traditional views on gender roles.
I tolerated it for the first two months, because he partied as hard as I did, and the sex was bonkers, but by the end of month three I was publicly snapping at him. He paid for everything, too, but he would also physically pull me out of conversations with other men to tell me I was beautiful. (He was obviously just jealous.) I broke up with him a week after Valentine's Day, when he'd gotten so drunk at an anime convention that he wore an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt and his friend's Dr. Horrible goggles to our rooftop dinner.
I never talked to my guy about his muted chauvinism, because frankly, I never really liked him that much, but your guy deserves the benefit of the doubt. Do y'all talk about gender politics in any way? Start mentioning stuff that's important to you—feminist things you like—and gauge his reaction. Talk through undesirable reactions with him. Hopefully, there will be none.
I like that you've connected with someone so different from you, and I'd like to see all healthy relationships succeed, but I can't pretend a guy like that isn't a bit of a red flag for me. Still, he's been with you for three months, so quality is clear. As we go through life, we learn from those around us, and our attitudes change and evolve. You could certainly be a lesson for him, and he for you.