Should a Woman Offer to Pay on a Date? What to Consider


Anita just started dating again after the breakup of a long relationship. Considering herself a modern woman, she thinks she should split the check with her dates, so she always offers to pay. When Tom comes along, she is surprised by her reaction to this habit. When she offers to pay, he agrees and she’s disappointed. How serious is he about her? She can’t tell.

Is Tom not that into Anita if he lets her pay? Or is he just trying to do what will make her happy? Who knows. Who should pay on a date?

Chivalry and entrenched societal expectations and gender norms insist that a man should pay for dates. But shouldn’t feminism change this traditional approach to modern dating?

Not necessarily.

According to a recent study of 300,000 singles, nearly two-thirds of men (63%) think that the man should pay for the first date. Less than half of the women (46%) think the guy should pay on the first date.

A study from 2017 of more than 17,000 heterosexual men and women, dug a little deeper. Their results indicated that:

  • 76% of men reported feeling guilty when they didn’t pay for their date
  • 64% think that women should contribute

Meanwhile, on the other side of the equation:

  • 39% of women wished that men would reject their offers to pay
  • 44% said they didn’t like it when men expected them to help pay
  • 40% said that it bothered them when men wouldn’t let them pay

What is going on here?

These studies’ results indicate society’s progress, in that we’re making conscious choices in our lives based on equality. But sometimes the way in which we interpret equality can interfere with getting what we want from our date.

After the women’s movement came along, society lost its old rules for dating. We haven’t really replaced them, either. These statistics show our confusion about what to do without consistent new rules about who pays when dating.

Should a woman put her egalitarian ideals ahead of what she wants from a man and offer to pay on a date?

Does wanting courtship and romance make you a “bad feminist?”

Does offering to pay for your half of the date protect you from unwanted sexual advances?

Some women might offer to pay to show their belief in equality, while others will do it to demonstrate their independence or thoughtfulness. But some women may do it as a test, to suss out his values and beliefs regarding who pays when dating. Unwittingly, a man might fail this test. He may go along with whatever she seems to want in order to please her. A woman who does this type of testing might not even be consciously aware of what she is doing. She might feel a bit guilty about wanting him to pay because she thinks she should pay since women are equals.

A woman today may feel that she has more power when she asks men out, pays on dates, has sex without commitment, or lives with a man without being married. These things can work out well for some of us. Does it work for you? Frequently, it backfires. One reason why is because some men will take advantage of these situations. Another reason is that it’s important to be true to what you want. You want to make it clear to men when you have expectations. If you don’t, it can be harder to tell how into you he really is before he breaks your heart.

But, didn’t the women’s movement mean we were equal and should take the initiative and risks in love?


Why are we making decisions based on what we ‘should’ do? Why decide based on political correctness rather than our own feelings? That is not the spirit of the women’s movement.

When women are expected to ignore our emotions, we are denied our individuality. The women’s movement was about women’s individuality, not that we should be the same as men. As Gloria Steinem said, “A feminist is anyone who believes in the full humanity of men and women.”

Feminism isn’t the problem. It’s how we translate feminism that is the problem. We threw out one set of rules that women should be wives and mothers only, and subservient to their husbands, for a new set of rules; women should act just like men. Both deny our own unique, emotional needs. Listening to your desires does not make you a “bad feminist.”

So what are the reasons you should consider letting him pay?

1-  Let him show that he wants to make you happy.

When you start your relationship with him doing something to show you that he wants to take care of you and make you happy, it’s a very good sign.

Being independent is great. But no one is an island. We all need someone to help us out from time to time. There is no shame in wanting to find a man who can help you when you need it and isn’t afraid to signal how he feels in concrete ways.

Why make it harder for you to figure out where he stands? A man who wants you to pay might be sending a signal that he isn’t interested in taking care of you when you need it.

2-  Let him show he’s into you.

The men who felt guilty when they didn’t pay for their date probably knew that they weren’t putting their best foot forward by showing real interest in their date. One gauge of a man’s real interest may be when he insists that he pay, even when she offers. That may be one of the reasons so many women offer, even when that is not their desired outcome. It also can easily backfire if he agrees just to please you.

For those of you who are worried that if he pays, you’ll be ‘dessert,’ the 2017 study looks at this concern, too. Only 16% of men said they would expect sex in return for paying for a date. When you screen your dates properly before meeting them, you can probably avoid this 16%. Always meet him in a public place if you have even the slightest doubt.

3-  It’s practical.

As much as women want to be equals, we still can’t forget that women still only earn 83% of what a man earns. (Women of color make significantly less) Worse, progress has plateaued for over two decades.

Should a woman offer to pay for a date when she makes more money? If you make much more than him or the same as he does, should that factor into your decision to split the bill or pay for both shares of the date?

Not really.

The main problem here is that it’s not always best for a woman to decide what she wants by following societal norms. Will you feel like his mother if you pay? Is that the kind of relationship you want? Feelings matter more than numbers. Let him plan a date he can afford, so that he can easily pay.

4-  Creates a dynamic where you feel pursued and desired.

When it comes to modern day dating, it’s OK to want some romance and courtship. Although a woman prefers to be pursued, she may not be sure it’s OK to want that because it’s “old-fashioned.”

Letting him pay gets you used to the idea that feeling pursued and desired can feel good, and some “old-fashioned” ideas about romance don’t have to feel dated. They are timeless.

5-  He can feel like a hero.

Everyone loves to be appreciated. When a man plans and pays for a lovely date, and you genuinely appreciate his efforts, it creates a very healthy dynamic. You enjoy how he makes you feel desired and cared for. He is satisfied that he can make you happy. He feels like a hero, and he wants to do more to make you happy because it feels good.

Don’t forget to show your appreciation whenever he goes out of his way to do something nice for you. This can create a very good interaction that can make you both happy.

Bottom line:

Everyone has a different comfort level with the question of who pays on a date. Don’t ignore how you feel about this subject just because of some arbitrary societal norms.

What are your thoughts and feelings on this common, modern dating dilemma?

Please leave a comment. Your thoughts might help someone grappling with this issue.

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