Go dutch or accept your date’s offer to treat?

restaurant tableI was talking to a friend about how to deal with paying for a meal when you’re first dating someone.

Friend: I always insist on paying for my own meal. At least until we’re going together exclusively.

Me: Why do you insist?

Friend: I don’t want to feel beholden.

Me: Beholden for what?

Friend: I don’t want him to think I owe him sex for treating me to dinner.

Me: I don’t think many men would think they are buying sex for the price of a dinner. Unless they’re taking out a call girl!

Friend: I know. You’re right.

Me: So what happens when the check comes?

Friend: As soon as the server puts it on the table I say, “Let’s split it.”

Me: What if your date says, “Please allow me to get this.”

Friend: I say, “No, I want to split it.”

Me: Why is it important to you to go dutch?

Friend: I just feel guilty if my date pays.

Me: Why do you feel guilty?

Friend: I don’t want him to think I’m cheap.

Me: What if he gave you a present. Would you accept it graciously?

Friend: Yes, if it wasn’t something really expensive.

Me: Would you feel beholden or guilty?

Friend: No.

Me: Can you see that his wanting to treat you is similar to him wanting to give you a present. The present is a nice meal and he wants to treat you because he enjoyed your company. When you don’t accept his gift, you are saying, “No, I don’t want to receive anything from you.” It puts up a barrier. It’s a control issue. You’re not allowing him to feel good about doing something for you and for which he’s received enjoyment, too.

Friend: When you put it that way, it makes sense. But then I’d want to pay for after-dinner drinks. Or I’d say, “Next time it’s on me.” That will guarantee a second date!

Me: That’s fine, if that’s what you want. However, if he isn’t interested in you, promising to pay for dinner next time isn’t going to get him to want to spend another evening with you.

So on your date tonight, when the check comes and he says he’d like to treat, what will you say?

Friend: I’ll say, “Thank you. That is generous of you. It was a great meal. I’d like to treat us to a nightcap.”

It is perfectly fine to go dutch on early dates if you want. It’s even okay to let the guy know this when you accept his invitation. And it’s also acceptable to take turns treating. My ex and I did this when we first dated as neither of us made much money then.

However, my experience is most midlife men will expect, and — most of the time — want to treat on the first date or two. This is why you should always let him choose the place you meet. If he isn’t from the area and asks you to pick, give him descriptions of three restaurants that aren’t the most expensive in town, unless he says he wants to try some top-of-the-line hot spots in your area.

If nothing has been said ahead of time, when the check comes don’t excuse yourself to the rest room. Men hate that. And don’t let it just sit there for a long, long time.

When the check comes, if he grabs it and pulls out his wallet, that signals he wants and expects to pay. If the check sits there for a minute or two, I find the best way to handle it on a first date is to reach for my wallet and say, “How would you like to handle this?” I don’t physically pick up the check or tray. I just reach for or pull out my wallet and ask the question. Nine times out of 10, the man will say, “I’ve got it,” or “Allow me.” If he’s had a nice time, he’ll gladly spring for lunch or dinner, even if he doesn’t plan to ask you out again.

At that point, don’t argue with him or snatch the check away and say, “My treat.” Most men feel this is emasculating. Even if you make more money than him, don’t do this.

I know some women have different experiences on this, but mine is that if a man accepts your splitting the bill, assuming you haven’t ordered a much more expensive meal and/or drinks than him, he won’t ask for a second date.

My ex and I shared all entertainment costs during our 20 years together. Occasionally, when one of us closed a big deal or for the other’s birthday, we’d treat the other. But generally, we split it all. It was hard for me when first dating to feel okay about not sharing the cost, nor insist on taking turns. John Gray and others helped me see that this is not what most midlife men want, no matter how progressive they are — at least at first. Not all, but many, many men see picking up the check as part of his romancing you. When you insist on reciprocating tit for tat, it diminishes the positive feeling he gets by taking you out.

To even things out, if you can cook, ask him over for a special meal. If you can’t cook, invite him over and bring in some food from a great restaurant. How is that different than treating him in a restaurant? I know, it’s pretty comparable. But somehow, hosting someone at your home has more of a special feel to it.

How do you feel about splitting the check the first few dates?

Technorati Tags:,,,,,,,

Got a dating-after-40 topic you want Dating Goddess to address? Send your issue to Goddess@DatingGoddess.com.







8 responses to “Go dutch or accept your date’s offer to treat?”

  1. Elena Avatar

    In the past, I’ve normally offered to go dutch AFTER the first date. [I think the guy should pay on the first date if he was the one who asked the woman out.] But I don’t do this out of a sense of obligation or worry that the guy is going to expect something in return if iI don’t pay my own way. I’ve gone dutch out of consideration because I assume that the guys I’m meeting online are also meeting other women and I figure it can quickly get to be very expensive if the guy is expected to pick up the tab on everything. Dinner and a movie one weekend, museum outing and lunch the next. The meter is running.

    What I’m doing now is playing it by ear. If a guy invites me to do something or go somewhere that is expensive and he doesn’t say anything about going dutch, I won’t offer. But if the guy invites me out on a date and it is a multi-activity date, I will make an effort to pay for some things, For example, imagine, a Sunday date that consists of brunch, a walk in the park, visiting a museum and then going to the movies and then a couple of drinks or coffee at the end. I will look for a way to treat him to something during the day, if he has picked up the tab on most everything. For example, asking him if he wants to stop and get an ice cream or offering to pay for the both of us at the movies, etc.

    I know it is important for the guys to feel like men and to know that they can do something that pleases the woman, but I also think it is important for women to show that they don’t take the guy’s generosity for granted. Is there a happy medium when it comes to who pays?

    I think you are right when you say that women can emasculate a guy by insisting on paying, that they can diminish a man’s warm fuzzy feeling toward them. That said, the guys need to make it clear that they are ok with paying. If the check is on the table for longer than 10 seconds and the guy hasn’t looked at it or made some kind of gesture or movement that he’s taking care of it, I assume the guy wants to go dutch but is hoping I will say something first.

    One other comment…last month the press in Argentina was talking about Jenna Bush’s Argentine boyfriend. The boyfriend was asked about his relationship with Jenna and what he liked about her. What did he say? He was impressed by the fact that she “had her own credit card” and always “paid her own way” whenever they went out on a date. Nothing about her intelligence, looks or powerful personal connections. Just her ability to go dutch!!

  2. Ally Avatar

    I agree wholeheartedly with Elena.
    In a day and age when women make money, why should we assume that the guy should pick up the check, especially if we’re dating/investigating early on. In addition, the implication that he is treating me in exchange for (paying for) the pleasure of my company 1)puts a price on it, and 2) ignores that I’m getting the pleasure of his company, as well.
    That said, I think the best indicator of how you’d be treated later is how you’re treated on those first dates, so I’d like to see him offer, with me at least offering to split the meal or pay for drinks. That would perhaps (notice the hedge) indicate that neither of us assumes, and both are givers, not takers.

  3. john Avatar

    Thank you for the article. I am a new reader of your columns and as I face the date scene again, I have found comfort and sound advice.

  4. ER Avatar

    Great post DG, and great replies from Elena and Ally.

    I will often pay for the first meal and drinks, but I expect the woman to at least offer to go Dutch. If she doesn’t offer I’ll still see her again, but if she does this a second time, then it’s pretty much over.

    The smart woman I’ve dated have always said that they would like to go halves, or that they would like to pay for the whole meal when the check arrives. 99% of the time I pay for the meal, but at least they make a gesture.

    The biggest turn-off is when I feel that there is an expectation that I should pay. I don’t have a problem if the check sits on the table and she doesn’t make a move. This could mean that we are having a great time and that she isn’t in a hurry to leave. That’s fine.
    But once I start going for my wallet I want to hear her say that she wants to contribute. If she remains silent I think it signals her expectation that I should pay.

  5. Gatti Avatar

    I just had a date where I took a train 2 hours each way to his city (cost of about $40) and he INSISTED on paying for lunch, which was very nice, first time it’s happened to me. He also paid for tea and a scone later. Most every other time I’ve gone for my wallet when the guy did and they seems actually relieved that I paid my half.

    But this is the UK and maybe the customs are different here…?

  6. Cupertino Avatar

    On initial dates, I have never minded picking up the check, especially if I had invited the woman. But like ER, I began to resent those women whose actions (or inactions) showed they expected the man to *always* pay.

    A men’s group friend of mine had an intriguing strategy once he and his girlfriend were exclusive: when they discussed going out, they flipped a coin to decide who would pay. If the person the coin-flip selected didn’t feel like they had the money at the time, the other person could offer to pay or they would just not go out. But with coin flipping, there was never an uncertain or awkward moment when the check came — it had been decided in advance. Worked for them!

  7. David Yoho Avatar

    If you want to go dutch or feel the need to offer, discuss it when asked; do not wait for the check. It’s never concerned me if a woman did not ever offer to pay a share of a meal. There are other ways she can share in a dating investment – tickets, cooking dinner (if she enjoys it), transportation, etc.

    I believe most men enjoy it when a woman wants to share the expense of their time together. There were times when I felt like it was done to send a message; I’d have preferred a direct approach. Interesting enough, happily married since 1994, my wife still wants to feel like she’s a partner in our dating, including obtaining coupons.

  8. Aggressively Single Avatar
    Aggressively Single

    Well, I seem to feel a little different than the rest of you. During my earlier dating years, I insisted on paying my share and was very generous. Now, I realize that I prefer to be treated just a leeeeetle bit like a princess, and I want a guy who likes to pay. So I NEVER offer on the first date, rarely on the second, and will make a token gesture on the 3rd. I do usually buy tickets or pay for takeout or a dinner or make a meal occaisionally after that, but I’m looking for a man who wants to put forth extra effort to be with me, which includes paying more of the time. This is especially important since I can’t afford as much entertainment as I could in my earlier years.