To Split or Not To Split?

That is the highly-charged dating question of the decade, and I don’t have a perfect answer.  I do, however, have a few things you can consider when the check comes, particularly on those first couple of dates.

First, who asked whom out for this first date?  If he asked you out, then he did offer to “take you out”, and I believe it’s fair to assume he will pay for this date.  Just be sure to say “thank you”, otherwise you come off as entitled. It’s also a nice thing to pick up a round of drinks at the bar, even if he asked you out.

Did you ask him? You should assume you will pay. If he offers to pay, and you like him, you can say “next time” (with a smile) and take care of it.  He may insist, and if it seems important to him, let him. It’s his way of showing you he likes you and appreciates the time with you. You can always say “Thanks! Let me get the candy at the movie” (or something to that effect). Again, just be sure to look him in the eye with a kind smile and a “thank you!” because men love acknowledgment.

Next, let’s consider the man’s position in a “he should always pay” dating world.  I know some high quality men who simply opt-out of dating because it’s cost-prohibitive.  Think about it… dinner and drinks for two can be easily $80-100 a pop.  Even dating less than once a week can quickly add up to about $4000/yr.  That’s 5% of your income if you’re making 80K!  Seriously, that’s a lot of dough.  I think most men really enjoy the ability to treat a woman to a date, but also feel there is a lot of kindness and kinship shown in wanting to share the expense of having a fun night together.

Finally, consider your feelings around “being taken care of.” Are you comfortable with someone paying for you? Do you feel indebted? There is some validity to that feeling, considering the history of courtship and marriage between men and women.  However, just as with your girlfriends, you want to consider the “giver’s” feelings as well.  This is where an open heart and mind come in and you have to trust your social instincts.  If it seems meaningful to the person to treat you, then practice accepting graciously. You can find opportunities to pick up the tab in the future.

On the other hand, if it feels very important to you to be “taken care of,” you definitely want to seek a man who wouldn’t have it any other way.  For some it is your love language and you therefore want to find a compatible partner that way.  I caution though: in a day and age of “dependence” not being a “given” you can set yourself up for disappointment and heartbreak.  It’s a lot of pressure for a man to support the whole ship in this economy, and if you feel “unloved” by any failure on his part to do so, this can be emasculating and lead to the ultimate demise of the relationship.  I would invite you to look at other ways you feel loved and make sure to strike some balance.

Ah, such serious talk from a simple question.  A simple act of paying for dinner brings up serious issues.  Money ranks harder to discuss than sex among married couples and it’s important, starting now, to be honest with yourself about your feelings around it. Those first few dates can reveal so much about a guy if you’re paying attention…. and even more about you.


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Sophie Venable holds a Master's Degree in Marriage & Family Therapy, is a Certified Professional Coach, Author of MYLF 101: Make Your Life Fabulous and Founder of The Real Deal: Courses in Love & Life for Women.