I was talking to a gal pal about how to deal with paying for a meal when you’re first dating someone. Go Dutch? Or let them pay?
Friend: I always insist on paying for my own meal. At least until we’re going together exclusively.
DG: Why do you insist?
Friend: I don’t want to feel beholden.
DG: Beholden for what?
Friend: I don’t want him to think I owe him sex for treating me to dinner.
DG: I don’t think many men over 50 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.
DG: So what happens when the check comes?
Friend: As soon as the server puts it on the table I say, “Let’s split it.”
DG: What if your date says, “Please allow me to get this.”
Friend: I say, “No, I want to split it.”
DG: Why is it important to you to go Dutch?
Friend: I just feel guilty if my date pays.
DG: Why do you feel guilty?
Friend: I don’t want him to think I’m cheap.
DG: What if he gave you a present. Would you accept it graciously?
Friend: Yes, if it wasn’t something really expensive.
DG: Would you feel beholden or guilty?
DG: 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!
DG: 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 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 that 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 he, 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? Do you like to go Dutch? Or will you let him pay?
This is an excerpt from Dating Goddess’ book, First-Rate First Dates: Increase the Chance of a Second Date, one of the 15-book Adventures in Delicious Dating After 40 series.
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