when it comes to the first date, an environment that is already fraught with tension, anxiety and opportunities for awkwardness, who pays for what can be a bit of a dilemma. should the man always pay? should the woman offer to pay? or should they split the bill? numerous surveys have been conducted trying to answer this delicate question; while there's no one answer that works for every couple, in this article we will explore different dating scenarios and offer ways to start the conversation about who should pay in each one.
the man should pay
historically, society has held that the man should always pay; however, with the rise of feminism, gender equality and the fact that women can now have jobs, this expectation has shifted, and it's not unreasonable to expect women to pay, even if just for their share. however, studies show that while the majority of people believe that women should offer to pay, males should actually pick up the bill. it's seen as 'gentlemanly' for the male to offer to pay, and some men will insist on it out of a sense of responsibility, or adherence to typical gender roles; however, this approach is not without its issues. for starters, it doesn't account for same-sex relationships. perhaps more problematic, though, is the mentality that if the male pays, the female 'owes' them in some way, which can lead to women feeling pressured to have sex when they might not want to. conversely, this attitude can also lead to women taking advantage of men, going on dates just to score free meals. it seems that this view is overly antiquated and problematic - and yet it remains the most popular resolution on a first date.
the woman should pay
there are very few proponents of this idea, and it remains one of the least common responses in surveys conducted on the topic. this is perhaps due to women still earning 70c on the dollar, a lingering social expectation that males should earn more than their female counterparts, or even an unconscious manifestation of the intersection between our inherently transactional mentality and a woman's typically lower desire to have sex on the first date. either way, this is rarely the resolution, but there's no good reason why a woman can't pay if she wants to.
the inviter should pay
gaining popularity in the wake of the decline of 'men should pay' is the theory that whoever initiated the date should pay. while this has some merit, there is still the expectation that males will invite females on a date. the rise of dating apps with uneven demographics means that males are typically putting in more time, effort and money just to get matches in the first place, let alone go on a date. this also doesn't solve the issue of the payee 'owing' the payer; however, it could be argued that if the inviter chose a place outside of the budget of the invitee, it's not reasonable to expect them to foot the bill for a place they wouldn't typically go.
you should split it
perhaps the fairest way to handle the situation is for you to split the bill. however, this comes with its own set of questions - do you split it evenly, or just pay for what you ordered? money is a sensitive topic at the best of times, and people's relative budgets, generosity and expectations really come to light in situations like this. the internet is full of human interest stories, such as 'miserly' transfer requests in which one party requests such a small sum that the other doesn't understand why they even bothered to ask, or bills that be been split down to the mouthful ('you ate 3/4 of the bread and drank 1/3 of the wine') - these situations can cause a rift if the couple isn't on the same page.
how to decide what's right for you
it totally depends on the situation, the person and the date itself. the best way to decide is to understand your own financial attitude and have the conversation ahead of time. when planning a date, ask your date how they like to handle the bill. this way, you can avoid any awkwardness or miscommunication, and as an added bonus this can help get a sense of their relationship with money, which ideally should match (or be as close as possible) to yours to ensure you don't have problems as a couple down the line.
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