Should men always pay?

Jonathan's heart isn't broken.  But his wallet is.

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Hi Beth,

I’m coming out of a long and serious relationship and it was VERY expensive. Literally. When we were first dating, I was paying for everything, especially because I wanted her to feel like she was being taken care of. Over time, I just kept paying for our outings, movies, concert tickets, dinners, anything. I felt obligated as “the man” but I also wanted to make my woman feel like she was special and indeed being taken care of. But let me repeat, it did take its toll on my wallet; and being a full-time student, working part-time trying to get my career going, it’s not an easy task.

I’m now ready to start dating again. But when I meet someone new, who pays and when? Better yet, how do I make her feel special, and feel secure myself as “the man”, during the dating period without burning a hole in my wallet? From the first date, dinners and outings in between, to being in a fully committed relationship. I would say I’m a little old-fashioned when it comes to my approach during courtship, as I’m sure many men here are as well. I’m a gentleman, I open doors and I am always considerate.

When do I pay? When does she pay? Is it wrong if we split the bill sometimes? What is the secret?

Jonathan

 

Hi Jonathan,

I love this question. It’s an interesting time we live in, right? There’s an expectation for equality in all aspects of men and women’s lives. Reasonable people assume that women are as capable as men and as interested in work-related success. We also acknowledge the need for women to be financially independent. And on the flip side, society has realized the importance men have in more traditionally domestic roles–sharing work in the home, being a present father and a supportive husband, and so on. And yet…the world of dating is in some respects behind the curve. What is it about romance that makes women expect to be rescued and men expect to be rescuers? It’s bizarre.

For a first date, the expectation from both parties should be to split the bill. Men should not be financially obligated to pay just because they have a penis. It’s not right, and it’s outdated. Now, notice that I said this is what the expectation should be. That means, if you feel that as the man, you’d like to pay, either because you had an especially nice time, or your values just dictate that you do that, then by all means. Pay the bill. What a wonderful surprise for your date. Same goes for women. Going forward with a relationship, I see no reason why you can’t continue to split the bill. Or you could trade off paying for dates. Of course, for special occasions, like celebrating a work promotion or toasting a birthday, the one who is being celebrated shouldn’t pay.

If you can’t get on board with bill-splitting (I’ve heard people make the argument that it’s not really a date if you split the bill; I’m not following that logic myself, but okay), then the default should be the person who asks pays. They’ve initiated the date, presumably they’ve picked the place and the activities, they should pay.

Where it gets interesting is that moment of truth during the first date, when you don’t know what the other person’s expectations are.  In situations like these, I say, lay it out on the table. “This is always the awkward part, isn’t it? Do you mind if we split the bill?” I know some readers will probably say, for the first date, just pay, but if you see this person again and again then you run the risk of establishing a routine where you always pay, which is the situation you got yourself into in your previous relationship. And if you won’t be seeing this person again, you shouldn’t have to pony up money for a crappy date.

You mention that you like to be old-fashioned in other areas of dating. I don’t think having those values means you have to go broke in order to maintain them. Being able to pay for everything all the time is not related to a value system. It just means you have a lot of disposable income, and most people have little control over that. But doing the things that don’t cost money, like pulling out her chair, opening her door, getting her coat–those things are a direct result of your desire to be attentive and courteous to your date. To me, that’s much more meaningful than always paying for dinner. I think a deserving woman, one with values similar to your own, will recognize and appreciate that.

-Beth

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