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Should You Pay When On a Date with a Girl?

by Allen Thompson

As you may recall, in the last newsletter I ask for feedback on a particular situation:

You're on a dinner date with a woman. The check arrives. Who pays?

  • Do you (the man) always pay?
  • Do you split it?
  • Does the person who initiated the date pay?
  • Does it depend on how long you've been dating?
  • Does it depend on how well the date has gone?
  • Does it depend on other factors?
  • Does it really matter?

As you can probably guess, the responses I received were all over the place. Some readers insisting that the man should always pay (on the first date anyhow). Others believing it better to split the check. Some saying that the person who initiated the date should pay. And some with much more complicated and detailed answers.

Probably the most common response was: the man should offer to pay, but if the woman wants to pay her half, that should be okay. And the man should not make an idiot out of himself by insisting on paying the whole thing.

If you're looking for one simple-to-remember rule then this would be the one to go with in my humble opinion.

Of course, life is rarely simple. And dating... never.

Let's explore this particular situation in a little more detail.

The Purpose of the Date

The most important thing to remember is what the PURPOSE of the date is. Quite simply, you want to have a good time; you want her to have a good time; and you want to get to know one another better. Who actually pays for the meal is somewhat irrelevant.

Your paying for the meal is not your goal for the evening. Her paying for her half or getting a free meal is not her goal either. The goal is to have an enjoyable evening together and to find out how compatible the two of you are.

Adopting this simple attitude, when the check arrives you'll consider it fairly unimportant who actually does the paying. It won't really matter to you if you pay for the whole thing or she pays half or whatever. Heck, let her pay for everything if she wants. It really doesn't matter. Remember the goal.

[One reason it's not a big deal is because you haven't made the amateurish and sometimes fatal mistake of trying to "buy" her... by taking her to the most expensive restaurant in town. The more expensive the restaurant or date, the more stress and tension you induce into the situation. Nice and inexpensive is the rule (especially for the first few dates). If the check's more than $30 or $40 total, you screwed up. And ALWAYS have enough cash with you to cover everything.]

On the other hand, just because you feel that the check is no big deal doesn't necessarily mean that she will feel the same.

Maybe she wants you to pay for everything. Maybe she wants to pay her half. Who pays may be important to her, or it may not be important to her. You don't know. That's why you're going to pay attention to certain clues throughout the evening in order to "read" the situation correctly.

Two Types of Women

Basically, there are two types of women that you can be dining with.

On the one hand, there's the lady who wants the evening to be orchestrated for her. She wants YOU to be in total control. She wants YOU to plan everything and take care of all the details. And she wants YOU to do your best to impress her.

She doesn't want to take part in planning the date because she feels that how the date goes will give her an indication of the type of person you really are. She's judging you somewhat for how well you pull the date off. She's giving you the POWER, this particular night, and she wants to see how well you handle it. This is called a traditional dating schema. (It's probably how your parents dated.)

On the other hand, you could find yourself with a lady who sees your dinner together as more of a mutual evening out. As more of a simple getting to know one another event. She wants to be an active part of the date, helping to decide what to do and where to go. She does not want or expect the evening to be "orchestrated" for her and she is not really judging you by how "in control" you are. This is called a modern dating schema. (Your parents would be appalled.)

Now neither type is "better than" the other. There are women who belong to each of the two categories who are beautiful, charming, intelligent, and who could make you quite the euphorically happy chap.

And keep in mind that just because a girl has a traditional dating schema does not necessarily mean that she's a "traditional" girl. She may have tattoos and a ring through her nose, but still prefer the evening be planned and orchestrated for her. And just because she has a modern dating schema doesn't mean she's necessarily more of a modern thinking lady. She may, in fact, have very traditional values.

And neither dating schema is completely fixed. That is, what happens on dates 2 - 10 may be completely different than what happens on the first date. You need to "read" each date separately.

You can probably guess that if a woman has a traditional dating schema she's most likely going to expect or prefer you to pay. That's fairly certain, especially on the first date.

The lady with the modern dating schema is trickier to predict. She may prefer you to pay for everything or she may prefer to split the check. Or if she asked you out, she may even want to pay for everything herself. (Remember your goal. It doesn't really matter to YOU, does it?)

Why You Should Never Insist on Paying

Now let's think for a second about why she may not want you to pay (and why you should NEVER insist upon paying). Whenever we do a favor for someone, any kind of favor, it creates an imbalance in the relationship. Suddenly one person "owes" the other person something.

If the other person is a friend of ours we usually don't think too much about it. We figure that eventually things will even out and we'll be paid back or pay back the other as the case may be.

Well this woman you're dining with may have just met you, doesn't know that much about you, and doesn't really even know if she likes you or not. She does not want to be put into the position of "owing" you anything. Thus, she may want to pay herself in order to keep the relationship (and power) in balance.

Now if you dismiss her offer to pay and insist on paying for everything yourself, she's going to conclude, regardless of your intentions, that you're deliberately trying to create an imbalance in the relationship. Deliberately trying to make her feel obligated to you. Deliberately trying to display power over her. Or that in some perverse way you're trying to "buy" her. In any event, she's going to react NEGATIVELY and you will be killing any chance you might have had.

None of us like others trying to control us.

Now some guys are so pathetic and have so little self-confidence that they deliberately try to use "paying the check" to create this imbalance and sense of owing on the part of the woman. These guys figure that if they pay for the meal, then the woman's going to be indebted to them, and they might actually get laid, or at least get another date.

Don't be that stupid! Have a little confidence in your ability to charm this lady with your personality.

The Check Arrives

So the check arrives. You let it sit there on the table for a minute or two to see what she wants. If she says nothing, you pick it up and pay. If she wants to pay for her half, gladly accept.

You won't have to ask her. She knows the routine. She's been on dates before. She knows that if she wants to pay she needs to say something. And if she doesn't say anything she's expecting you to take care of it.

You, of course, really don't care. You are focused on having fun.

Hmmmm...

Maybe dating is simple after all.

Allen Thompson
djnewslet@sosuave.com
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