When I was a teenager, I was no longer sure. It was awkward to have a guy I liked buy me food – or anything else! It made me feel obligated to continue going out with him, like his purchase of dinner guaranteed my future company. This sense of obligation on both sides felt like we were starting off the relationship on false pretenses. Why couldn’t we share the responsibility? A relationship is always made up of at least two, so why should one shoulder such an uneven financial responsibility? I was perfectly capable of working and earning my own money, so I did just that.
In college, I started dating a classmate whose parents were considerably wealthier than mine; I couldn’t afford to eat or travel off campus while he did several times a week. I worked to pay for tuition and a bit of spending money; I felt no guilt in accepting the free meals and movie tickets from my boyfriend. He could afford it while I could not. When we married several years later, he was a graduate student while I worked full time and it was my turn to provide. He worked to pay for his tuition and I paid all of our bills, including providing any spending money he had to buy me dinner or gifts.
For me, paying for anything in a relationship is all about your ability and potential to provide. My relationship with the grad student is over and I have a new partner in life. When we met, he was unemployed in a tough economy. I work in mid-level management and I was more than happy to pay for dates. It was never about who was paying for what or why, but who could pay for it.
The author of the other article lists several reasons why she thinks a man should pay for the first date. All of them seem sexist, placing more responsibility on the man for outdated reasons.
First, a man should pay to show he is willing to invest in her. What? Is she a business? Aren’t there other forms of investment like time and communication that are so much more important than spending money?
She also states that being willing to spend money on a date shows he is not overly stingy. This might be a fair point, but there are other ways to see this in a person and paying for a date is not necessarily the best of them.
The last point is controversial at best: a man should pay to show he can be a provider as she needs or expects him to be one. This is a personal decision, and it’s her choice to decide how much income, if any, a partner needs to make to be “marriage material.” Where I am uncomfortable with this point is that it’s so far from my own. I could care less who the “provider” is in my relationship as long as it’s one of us and we’re not living in our parent’s home waiting for something to happen. Jobs and incomes change all the time and nothing is guaranteed in life. I try to be financially smart so, should anything happen, I’ll be OK until I can get back on my feet. That mindset is what I expect from my partner, not the size of their paycheck.
Our concern is not who makes what and contributes what to the relationship; that will probably never be equal. I think the better question is: Do we contribute 100% of what we can to each other and our relationship? If the answer is yes, then why worry about the correct “role” for you to play?
While the author’s reasons for a man to pay for the first date bother me, a few statements really perplex me. First, the author makes the case that the man should pay for the dates until the woman starts to pay which should eventually happen. I don’t understand why these first several dates must happen before equal responsibility can take place. If we are equal, then we should be equal from the start, not from some magical moment when she decides you are going to be worth her money! If she needs you to prove you will invest in her, then she should reciprocate just as much by showing she will invest in you.
Finally, her ending message states that paying for the first date “forces men to actually choose women they really like.” But how does it weed out the women who won’t say no to a free meal? Or the women who really aren’t sure they are into you? Isn’t the point of a first date to decide if you like each other in the first place? Paying the bill at the end of the night makes no implication of how much someone likes you, and it should not be a gauge for the success of the date.
Today, there is much to consider when saying yes to a date. How do you decide who should pay?
I think whoever asked gets the privilege of paying. If you make it past the first date, then the other can pay for date two. If that is a success, then perhaps it’s time to start talking about who can and wants to pay. There isn’t a need to keep score or split everything 50/50. This isn’t a contest to see who can afford the most expensive or elaborate date. It’s a first date! If you ask, you pay. If you can’t afford to pay, then cooking your own food or having a picnic sounds like an excellent solution to me.