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Why “Who Pays for the First Date?” is a Question in 2014

An article from The Atlantic making the rounds on social media for the last few weeks raises the question: It’s 2014: Why Are Men Still Paying for First Dates?

The article refers to several studies, including one released last month that found

about 77 percent of people in straight relationships believe men should pay the bill on a first date. The survey, put together by the financial website NerdWallet, polled roughly 1,000 people who had been dating their partners for six months or more.


Fifty-six percent of men foot the bill in full once they’re in an established relationship, and, even further down the line, 36 percent of men pay all of household bills, versus 14 percent of women. There’s not much in the way of historical data on the question of who pays for dates, but the findings of a 1985 poll suggest that very little has changed in the past 30 years.

The article goes on to quote a psychologist who speculates that, despite having more earning power than in the past, women may be resistant to social change when it comes to paying for dates because they stand to benefit when the man pays.

What’s Really Going On

It’s unfortunate the piece included such speculation, because I can tell you from my experience in coaching attractive, successful, warm and loving women – nothing could be further from the truth!

You and I both know women often have a hard time not reaching for the check or offering to help pay. 

Do women feel relieved if their date still insists on paying? Yes. But it’s not due to finances. It’s about something much deeper, and much, much simpler.

When a man offers to pay on a date, he is simply giving to you. He is showing you that he wants you to enjoy yourself. It’s subtle, but it’s the reality. He wants to please. As I’ve explained so often on Sparks!, Men feel their true romantic value comes from making you feel good. Paying for dates is a way to do that, especially a first date.

This is also the reason a woman feels relieved when the man refuses to let her pay half or all of the check. It’s not because she’s trying to save fifty dollars! It’s because it feels good to be treated nicely. So again, it’s not about the money, it’s about how everyone feels in the romantic situation.

Quality Connections

This is still a question in 2014 because everyone is uncertain about what’s okay these days, and wonders whether it shouldn’t also work the other way around. And the truth is, of course it can work the other way, but it’s perfectly okay if most of the time it doesn’t. Why? Because men and women happen to enjoy different feelings and experiences on a first date.

The confusion comes in when we get away from our feelings, and we layer in concerns about economics, social roles, insecurity and expectations of sex. When it comes to those first three items, those should be left out of the equation. The idea is for everyone on the date to respond from their heart, and not get caught up in questions of roles and appropriateness.

And regarding the latter, if you are choosing quality men and leading with your heart, you aren’t likely to find yourself out with a gentleman who thinks he is buying “you” for the price of a dinner. A quality man wants only your company, and to make you feel special and comfortable. That, in turn, makes him feel fantastic.

When Should Women Pay?

So the next question is: if you don’t pay on the first date, when should you pay? Here’s a hint: remember what I said about feelings? I addressed this on Sparks! in a detailed post this same time last year, and the renewed discussion seems the perfect reason to share it again: How Soon is Too Soon To Pay On a Date?

It’s worth a read, even as a refresher. And please share your thoughts on the matter here in the comments section. I’d love to know your take. Do you pay for first dates? Why or why not?

Much love, as always,


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