The two of us are completely lost in engaging conversation over dinner. The Chilean sea bass was delicious. My second glass of Riesling has eased initial first date jitters and I’m able to kick back, relax, and gaze into his green eyes with intrigue as he recalls his 8-day hike up Mount Kilimanjaro. Things are going well. And then the check arrives.
It’s as if I’ve been violently woken up from a dream. Panic ensues. I reach for my purse in an exaggerated manner, making sure the gesture doesn’t go unnoticed. He picks up the bill, waves me off, and offers to pay. I’m relieved because I secretly wanted him to foot the bill and only made the good faith reach-in because I didn’t want to come off as presumptuous. You know, as a modern day working woman and all. Call it a test — but a worthy one, because this gives insight into the type of person he is, whether or not he’s interested in me, and our future relationship dynamics.
In today’s modern dating terrain, there is no script for who pays for what. Money is already an extremely touchy and pesky subject to breach with a significant other, let alone a new love interest. Most will say that it’s important for the man to pay on the first date. While the act conforms to traditional notions of masculinity and gender roles, the recent social and economic mobility of women has challenged the status quo of dating etiquette.
Going Dutch on a first date is a common occurrence nowadays when men can claim gender equality and weasel their way out of what is supposed to be a respectable, romantic, and courteous gesture. Bottom line: It feels good to be treated and taken out, especially if he initiated the date. Going Dutch implies a platonic involvement, usually a sign that neither party is interested in pursuing a romantic connection. But when a man picks up the tab, it also lets a woman know that he values her company and is willing to invest in their date. It shows a strong, dependable commitment from the man. Just because feminism is alive doesn’t mean that chivalry is dead, people.
Basically men, if you want the possibility for a second date or action, you’ll need to shell out the money.
There are inherent problems that exist within these differentiated gender roles, though. Men may feel like they are owed something or being taken advantage of for a free meal. Women are less likely to engage in sexual activity if they pay for themselves. As a rule of thumb, those who initiate should pay because they are the ones hosting. When a woman initiates, in theory she should treat, but often that doesn’t translate into practice because all women appreciate chivalry at some level. There shouldn’t be any other expectations beyond that or an intimate experience turns into a financial transaction. Besides, we all take risks in dating. If you don’t want to break your wallet on essentially a stranger sitting across from you then don’t dine at a fancy restaurant on a first date. Save the splurging on someone you know you like.
What happens after the first date? Who should take care of the expenses then? When, if ever, is it okay to go Dutch? Let’s look at some statistical findings:
From a survey of 17,000 straight, unmarried participants between the ages of 18 to 65 conducted by NBCNews.com:
- 84% of men and 58% of women report that men pay for most expenses after dating for a while (huge discrepancy here!)
- 57% of women offer to pay but 39% of women want their men to reject the offer
- 44% of women were bothered when asked to pay
- 64% of men say that the women should contribute financially to a relationship
- 76% of men feel guilty when a woman pays
- 44% of men would end a relationship if a women did not contribute financially
- 75% of men and 83% of women share some dating expenses by the six-month mark
It’s apparent that modern dating hasn’t caught up with the evolving gender roles brought on by more women entering the work force and having financial resources. Some can argue that women want the best of both worlds: equality in the workplace and chivalry on dates. The real difficulty is how to adapt a social behavioral model that incorporates a woman’s financial independence and social equality without losing the special aspects of the chivalrous past.
Sometimes, men and women can inadvertently pigeon-hole themselves in traditional outdated roles. Men would like women to pay yet feel guilty when she does while women offer to pay but secretly resent men when he accepts. It’s clear that both sexes approach the issue with precariousness and have yet to reconcile their beliefs with the current egalitarian dating trend. Ideally, there should be equal contribution in a relationship whether it is financial or otherwise barring any exceptions like a partner losing their job or undergoing financial hardships. Then there’s the issue of one partner making significantly more than the other. How should that be handled? Does the balance of power tip more to one side?
Every relationship works differently and early dating can reveal whether or not a person’s values are in alignment with yours. Ultimately, a couple needs to figure out what works for them. Financial compatibility is just as important as emotional, physical and intellectual compatibility. They say that issues of sex, power and money are all related. If you both see money in the same way, you could save yourself 6 months of time when you find out that it’ll never work because one of you is a free-loader or has to be head of household.
Figuring out finances is an organic process grounded in mutual respect and consideration for each other. If he paid for the first date, you may offer to treat the next time. Some couples prefer to go Dutch because it makes the division easier. But splitting the costs 50-50 lacks elements of love, care and reciprocity. In another study by Alksnis, Desmarais & Wood in 1996, both men and women agreed that a bad date was one in which both parties paid for themselves. One of the charming aspects about being in a relationship is romance (doing special things for the one you care about) and you are essentially taking that right out of the equation by going halfsies. In the end, it’s less about who pays for what and more about the reasons behind why they want to pay.
Finding a compatible mate is hard enough. And now, here comes another thing to worry about on your next date. The check arrives – who is going to pay?