Saturday, June 18, 2011

Men Paying For Dates

This letter, posted over at Evan Katz's blog, sparked a huge debate about dating and money. The few men, including myself, all questioned the repeated theme amongst most of the women commenting, that men should do the heavy financial lifting while dating. Now, there is clearly some background differences at play in the discussion. Regional differences, for example. The women who have dated and/or live in the Southern U.S. are quite firm in the story that most of the men they date insist on paying for everything, not just in the beginning, but apparently for the whole relationship. It's also the case that some of these women are used to dating men who make a lot of money, and seem surprised when others question the old "men pay" standard, given that most women are working these days.

First, here's most of the letter in question:

Hello Evan. I recently started dating a girl. I really enjoy her company and she enjoys mine. We get along fine, we’re really into each other and we share many commonalities. There’s only one issue – money! I have absolutely no problems taking her out on dates and footing the bill 100% but we’ve been on about 5 dates and we’ve hung out with mutual friends on numerous occasions, but she never even offers to pay – not even a disingenuous offer. I understand that if we are happy, then money is a small price to pay, but I barely finished college and only make $40,000 a year. I cannot afford to spend $200 every weekend. I mean, even when we’re not on dates, she expects me to pay. I don’t know how she got this old fashioned mindset, but it’s really starting to bug me. Personally, I work just as hard as she does for my money and I don’t find it fair but at the same time, I find it too early in the relationship to bring it up. I just don’t want her getting the idea that I’m ok with it or that she can take advantage.

I don’t even expect her to pay half. If we go out to dinner, I’ll pay for the date and the dinner, but the least she could do is pay for our ice cream or maybe buy me a single drink? I want to have that feeling, like if we’re at a bar and my girl comes up to me and asks me what I want. It’s like she has my back. It’s not about the cash- it’s more about being appreciated and not taken advantage of. I do not know how to approach the situation.

Now, early on, the comments were mixed. Some of the women spoke of splitting the costs with boyfriends, or even offering to pay on first or second dates. However, as the comments kept rolling in, the message became loud and clear that the majority of women, on this particular blog anyway, think men should not only pay, but that any sort of questioning of that fact is simply resentment and a sign of cheapness.

I honestly don't get it.

And I have rarely experienced this in my own dating life. Which made me wonder if this was primarily a class-based and/or regionally-based issue. In other words, is being more successful financially, or being used to having a certain level of material wealth in their lives, driving what I see as a sense of entitlement in these comments? And/or is it the strength of the cultural norms in the South, or the expensive cost of living in cities like New York (where a fair number of commenters are also from), behind some of this talk?

Consider these examples.

Katarina writes:

I would prefer letting him pay for every date and I give back in different ways (there are so many creative ways to pay back what he spends on you, and it can include or exclude money or paying for something). You see, he will feel manly and like a sufficient provider and you will feel cherished and in a feedback loop it increases passion in relationship because the two of you are so polarized (feminine vs. masculine).

Monica, about twenty comments later says this:

equality does not mean symmetry. if they get married, when she is cooking or washing his clothes, she will not tell him, i made my dish and yours, now you must make the dessert. she will not say when she is washing his clothes, i washed the shirts, why don’t you wash the pants? when she has his baby she will not say, i am delivering the baby all by myself, you are so mean and ungrateful! the least he can do is pay the bill. without complaining.

This one from Leslie is rather choice in my view:

This topic has always bothered me. I’m a woman. When I say I want to be treated equally, I mean I want to be treated with equal respect, not “treated like a man.” I’m not going kill half the spiders, I’m not going to change half the tires, and I’m not going to pay for half the dates. If he wants me to pay or to offer, it turns me off completely. Not because I’m cheap or want to take advantage of him, but because it makes me feel devalued…like I’m just another person-a guy, a platonic friend, a random acquaintance-not a woman he desires and wants to take care of. And yes, I want to be taken care of. Not because I’m weak and can’t take care of myself but because, again, I feel desired when a man takes care of me. If he’s counting his money, it shows me he doesn’t think I’m worth everything he’s got, that nothing is too much to give up for me, and that’s how a woman wants to feel. It’s not about money, it’s about the dynamic between a man and woman. And “classic” does not mean “outdated.”

And this one from Selena is even better:

The guy who pays without allowing a moment of uncomfortableness is the one who’s most interested in most cases. The guy who wants to split (for equality) usually turns out to be Mr. Casual that hopes to be “entertained” at your house with your food and beverages.

Paying is what separates the men from the boys – at every income level.

As a man who has never had a lot of money, I've always found myself confused as to what to do with the whole "men should pay" narrative. My general answer has been to have the first date be a coffee or drink date. Or going for a walk. Or something else free or very low cost. But then you go out again, maybe for dinner, a movie, or whatnot, and the questions comes in my mind - what to do?

I readily admit that up until maybe four or five years ago, I would probably fall into the category of being "too frugal" or even "cheap" at times. It's been a process to move from that kind of place, to one of being more generous with my money, but also still careful enough to maintain a budget. So, some of my own quandary is driven by internal questions about lack and abundance.

However, over the past three and half years, I have been on numerous first dates, and plenty of second and third dates. And in there, I have paid for a fair amount of dinners, but have also had women pay either their share or even a few cover the whole bill. So, my experience is totally mixed. I can imagine this is fairly commonplace amongst men and women my age and younger.

But I still find myself influenced by, and/or resistant to that old narrative that men should be paying for dates because that's a major way to "show interest."

One of the comments I made over at Evan's blog was this:

I just find it so interesting how many women here seem to link level of care and interest with the frequency of times a man is willing to foot the bill. With all the other signs and signals a man could be giving within a relationship, somehow it seems to continually come back to spending habits of the man. Hmmm…
Perhaps this is what comes from living in a capitalist culture where money and stuff trumps most everything else.

I guess I just wonder how common this linking is between a man's spending and the perceived level of interest and care experienced by women. Perhaps it has negatively impacted my relationships in the past, and I didn't know it.


  1. Well Hello Nathan :)

    I posted this to you on EMK's blog, but now that I see you have your own - and mentioned me!- I'll post it here too.

    Nathan #187

    It’s a lifestyle more than anything, there is no “time limit” lol. The guy who paid for my glass of wine and appetizer on our first date, was still paying for my glass of wine and shrimp-on-the-barbie 5 yrs. later. But by then we had lived together for the majority of those years, shared a life, shared bills, and most of our “dates” involved all the things I listed in #153. It makes me smile to imagine any of the men who loved me saying, “We’ve been together a year and half now Selena, I think it’s time you buy my $2 beer at the free beach festival. ” My parents have been together over 53 yrs. and my Dad is the one who still pays the check – do you think that’s weird? For over 50 years it’s been “their” money he’s spending on “them” – though I doubt either of my parents give the “who pays” thing even a passing thought. Or ever did even when they were dating.

    It’s been my experience (and observation of others) that when people become “a couple” they start thinking more in terms of “us” and what “we” can afford, how do “we” want to spend our disposable income. Especially when they start living together. In a “traditional” relationship the man might pay the check at the restaurant, but the woman knows it won’t mean the electric bill goes unpaid. A couple works out what feels fair, equal, whatever, for themselves – by the time they actually become a couple I’d think they’d have a pretty good idea of each other’s values and expectations – otherwise why are they together?

    Like other women have said on this thread, having a man pick up the tab makes me feel romantic, sexy, feminine- even if it’s that $2 beer at the free festival. Going Dutch or taking turns does not feel like “a date” to me, it feels like going out with a buddy.

    So I’m a little mystified by this advice that a woman should start paying after the second or third date. I’m not “a couple” with a guy after just 2-3 dates – that’s ridiculous. And why would either party want to kill the romance when it’s just getting started? Why not just find inexpensive ways to spend time together so neither person feels “burdened”?

    Anyway it’s what has worked with me and the men who’ve loved me. And I suppose that’s all that matters.

  2. Well, you've definitely had different experiences than I have, and our views - while not completely opposing - are also pretty different.

    "A couple works out what feels fair, equal, whatever, for themselves – by the time they actually become a couple I’d think they’d have a pretty good idea of each other’s values and expectations – otherwise why are they together?" This makes total sense, as does your parent's example. If the finances are all together, then it's not the same issue, and doesn't matter if a man is paying.

    "Like other women have said on this thread, having a man pick up the tab makes me feel romantic, sexy, feminine..."

    Assuming a man should pay until you "become a couple" just seems to me like saying "he better keep showing me a good time, and making me feel sexy and feminine in this way." Why is romance tied to a man's money and how he spends it on you?

    That is what mystifies me.

  3. I think this whole argument about it makes her feel feminine is a bunch of hooey. It is just another way of saying she is a gold digger. If she wasn't then who paid on a date wouldn't make any difference at all.

    In my experiences, a woman should be offering from date 1 and should be expecting a guy to take her up on it by date 3 or 4. The current woman I am dating has offered each time and i didn't take her up on paying at all - though i highly appreciated that she offered. On date 6 she insisted that she would pay for dinner and wouldn't take no for an answer. I now feel like she has appreciated me paying and I know that she isn't just interested in my money.

    It's funny how women want equality only when it is convenient for them.

  4. Yeah, I had a hard time not just laying out the "gold digger" comments myself during that discussion. I wanted to hear them out, and see where things would go.

    I don't think all the women commenting on that post are like that. Some seemed like they hadn't really thought about a different way of approaching dating.

    But a few definitely seemed to fit the gold digger narrative, completely.

    And yes, there's something off about how some women are framing "equality."

  5. This is very simple then Nathan & anonymous - if you think women who want men to pay for the dates they ask them out on are "golddiggers" - ask them to pay their own way on the very first date and see what happens.

    If they refuse a second date with you, then you know. Time and money saver for everyone. Win/win.

  6. Reading blogs like this make me pine for the future where there are authentic robot prostitutes. Men wouldn't put up with any of this shit if women didn't have a monopoly on all the vaginas.

    Women that treat men like this secretly hate men. You can't respect someone you take advantage of. Oh and yes, I know you don't think your taking advantage of him, but you are. It doesn't matter if you feel romanced by this act, he's just doing it because he thinks he has to to get laid. Men know that we pay for sex, and when the answer to standing up for ourselves is no sex, we cave like fucking wimps.

  7. This is how I see it: money is a form of energy and depending on the person's financial situation, spending money is a pretty good indicator of how much energy the person is willing to put into an experience, in this case a relationship or their significant person. Not everyone is comfortable with showing affection nor knows how to be romantic, but saying, "I care" or "I'd like to take care of you" through paying for things is a really beautiful thing. Balance is key too. In the case of men and women (however, I often think about how it works in gay relationships and am really curious to know), if a man doesn't make much money, then this should be discussed at some point. Women are perceptive, so are men, and if a woman sees that the man is struggling financially - perhaps he prefers to stay in than go out, or doesn't pay for most dates or meals - then gently bring up what you've noticed in a creative way -- AFTER carefully thinking through your own values honestly and brining up the topic compassionately and with an open mind. Figure out a way to have fun, support each other but not buy into any sort of victim consciousness or poverty consciousness. It's great that he treats you well, as he should and so should you treat him well, but that doesn't mean you can't have a balanced life and relationship where affection, respect and money comes in abundance.

    What I care about most is, is this man driven, responsible and will he be a provider? I'm a classic relationship person at heart and prefer to know that my partner wants to take care of me and our family. I do, however, love spending money on my partner. The entire point of making money isn't to put most of it away and spend very carefully but to enjoy life and share the wealth. If my partner isn't of like heart and mind then there will be significant problems due to financial incompatibility -- this matters. So if he's frugal, gently find out why he seems frugal or, some may think, "cheap", it might just be that he doesn't have as much as you think he does at the present time and he might feel uncomfortable about the subject. So be gentle, be kind, be understanding, and be honest.

    Ladies, you are not "gold diggers" just because you believe in financial abundance and stability and understand that financial freedom allows for wonderful life experiences which compliment growth. This must come with love/respect too. And isn't living life to the fullest what we're all here to do? If someone argues otherwise, then they have some deep rooted issues with money and you may need to take a second look at their belief systems and if that is something you wish to build a life together on.


  8. Selena-
    "Its a lifestyle more than anything, there is no “time limit” lol. The guy who paid for my glass of wine and appetizer on our first date, was still paying for my glass of wine and shrimp-on-the-barbie 5 yrs. later."

    My take on this view? Your guy had no other options when he was dating you. He is dating way above his league (meaning you are higher than him). And of course you will refute this saying he is very good looking and other women check him out, yada,yada,yada. If that was the case then he is a wuss. Any self respecting guy who has other options will look to be with a woman who wont take his wallet for granted.Since yours continued to be used by you and deal with your "guy always pays attitude", then he was just buying your affection because nobody else would be with him.

  9. "My take on this view? Your guy had no other options when he was dating you. He is dating way above his league (meaning you are higher than him). And of course you will refute this saying he is very good looking and other women check him out, yada,yada,yada. If that was the case then he is a wuss. Any self respecting guy who has other options will look to be with a woman who wont take his wallet for granted.Since yours continued to be used by you and deal with your "guy always pays attitude", then he was just buying your affection because nobody else would be with him."


    way to go and be really f*ckn offensive! You took Selena's comment out of context because her entire post was about the reciprocity of their 5-year relationship, and how they were able to work out who footed the bill sometimes because they maintained the relationship in more ways than paying for silly dates. You're an imbecile for deducing that an obviously intelligent woman deserves no better than a desperate man who's only ploy for courtship of the last FIVE YEARS is his wallet. That's the point I don't understand how you overlooked, she had a very thoughtful input on paying for dates because of her successful longterm relationship- she seemed the most qualified to offer her take. Her mans attractiveness, salary, or how good he is in the bedroom is really none of your concern on the subject at hand and you cannot possibly gauge how many women wanted him before or during their relationship because you don't know them and its IRRELEVANT! So according to your logic, men who pay for dates only pay because the woman who actually accepted their date was their only option? He was buying her affection because theres something really reaallyyy wrong with him, and no other woman ever found him attractive? Right...

  10. I feel like this might be an income-to-income thing. I am 20, and my most serious relationships have been with guys who were 40, 40, 41, 42, and 55. They always paid for everything. I thought that was just how it worked. I thought the man was the one who paid, just like he was the one who penetrated. But those guys all made SOOO much more money than me. I guess I can understand why a guy who is dating a woman his own age, who makes the same amount as he does, would feel taken advantage of if she expected him to pay every time.

    That said, I love spending money on other people, even with what little I have. At one boyfriend's house I noticed he collected stone carvings, so I bought him a $50 carving made of blue goldstone, which is supposed to symbolize communication. I surprised him with tickets to The Book of Mormon ($260 each), and I am thinking about getting us a nice hotel room. I will be going away in a month, and my plan is to spend about $500 getting professional photos taken for him to remember me by. I like to take each boyfriend to one big event, whether it is Cirque du Soleil, Broadway, or a concert at Madison Square Garden. I spent $90 on an assortment of birthday presents for my best friend.When prospective students came to visit my dorm room as part of a campus tour, I spent $50 on chocolate and cheese for them. I bought my mother a scarf because I felt bad for yelling at her.

    So really, I don't see why a guy wouldn't just WANT to spend money on a girl he liked. Spending money is a way to show you care, and it truly feels good. If someone ASKED you to spend money, that would be so annoying, but if I were a guy, I would do it before she even had the chance.

  11. I'm currently dating a guy who makes less money than I do (well, we never discussed finances but based on our age, work experience, industry AND apartment locations, it's not too hard to deduce). We've been out ~10x so far and he's paid for all the dinners and movies but we've always chosen pretty low-key restaurants (around $30-40 for 2). Even though I'm a foodie and regularly spend $40-60 for my own meals when out with friends, I never asked him to take me to these places. On the other hand, I've cooked for him 3 times (got expensive ingredients like salmon and desserts from Whole Foods), paid for a hockey game ($60/ticket) and made cookies and chocolate truffles for him since he's a chocoholic! In addition, I've spend about $150 on bras and lingerie and let's not even get into the more girlie expenses. ;)

    My question is, should I have started paying for dates already? My experience has been I don't pay until we are "in a relationship" and in this instance, we're not quite there yet. But I do like him a lot and I can definitely pay my way, so I don't want this non-issue to become an issue. I always get the feeling guys feel emasculated when the waiter and waitress hands them the bill, only to have the girl pick up the tab (I see their sheepish grin) so could an alternate scenario be for him to keep paying for dinners but I'll pay for movies, coffee/treats, cook him dinners, and spend more on presents? (I already got him his Xmas presents and spent about $100 total; if we're still together by his birthday, I'm planning to spend ~$500 for a trip for us.) What do guys think about that?

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