The Date Debate: Should The Man Pay For Dinner?

Singles: Splitting the bill or letting him treat?

Whether you’re eating at a hole-in-the-wall diner or a fancy French bistro, there comes a time in every date when a woman must answer this question: Will I reach for the check?

I know some women who would rather run out of the restaurant without paying than chip in on a first date.

Others make a token effort to look for a wallet.

And still others make a sincere offer to pay their share. (I don’t know of any women who have tried to pay the whole check, but I’m sure it’s happened somewhere.)

The tradition of men paying for a first date seems to have stemmed from a time when few women worked or were able to support themselves, and a man’s offer to buy dinner was not just a sweet gesture of romantic interest, but a necessity and a signal of the financial stability required to support a family.

But a recent post by Taylor Marvin at Prospect, a journal of international affairs at UCSD, wonders whether such a tradition is still relevant in an age in which many women support themselves and some earn more than their dates. The idea stems from the fact that, in 2009, women earned more than half of all doctorates in the United States. In general, individuals with PhDs earn more than those with master’s degrees or bachelor’s degrees, although all of these still lag considerably behind those with professional degrees.

Marvin brings up some interesting points about relationships in which women earn more than men. He asks:

“What’s the point of an expectation that a high-earning man buys a female date dinner if there’s a good chance she makes more than him?”

However, as one reader of “The Daily Dish” (which featured the Prospect blog post) pointed out, possessing a PhD doesn’t guarantee wealth:

“While it’s true that women are earning more advanced degrees, they aren’t earning the salaries that go along with them for men. It goes without saying that PhD women earn less than PhD men.  But it may be more surprising that overall, women with PhDs earn less than men with master’s degrees; among those between 35 and 54, the gap is in the neighborhood of 20 grand.”


High-earning eaters

Let’s leave the income disparity discussion for another day and focus only on the possible effect that high-earning women have on the dating scene (not to mention the male ego). While Marvin raises some interesting questions, he also believes that the tradition of men treating women to dinner is here to stay.

But is that fair?

Is that what men really want?

A recent episode of “How I Met Your Mother” featured Ted, one of the main characters, trying to decide which of two women he wanted to take to a gala. He created a list of each woman’s good qualities and under one woman’s name he had a laundry list of lovely traits. The other had a single item under her name: She reached for the check. He didn’t want her to pay it; he just didn’t want to feel like his date took it for granted that he would pay.

I don’t assume that a date will pay for a meal, but I’m usually pleased he does, not simply because it’s a free dinner, but I do think it’s a sign that the date is generous and serious about making a good impression. However, I’m happy to pay my share too, and I always order only what I can afford to pay for myself.

Ladies, I’m interested to hear how important it is to you that a guy pick up the tab on a date. Does it matter more on a first date than on subsequent dates? Do you reach for the check? By trying to pay, or insisting on paying, are you trying to send a certain signal (good or bad) to your date? If you earn as much or more money than your date, do you still expect him to pay?

Guys, how often do you pay on the first date? Do you wish more women would pay their share? Do you wish more women would at least make a token effort to reach for the check? If a woman made more money than you, would you want her to chip in? Or even pay for the whole meal?


  1. Julia-611938 November 20, 2011

    I think people should discuss it before going out. I hate the awkward moment when the bill arrives and I have no idea how this particular person feels about the issue. I’m tempted to ask before I go out. If a guy asks you to a nice place that you can’t afford and then expects you to pay your share…that is not the best scenario. It isn’t about who makes more money (although that can influence how much you can afford). I feel that it is mostly the gesture of it that counts when a man pays.

  2. Jason-745589 November 20, 2011

    The answer is Yes. Naturally, an article referencing an academic and a television show will only evoke confusion on this matter. Where are the Scripture and catechism references?

    To answer the author’s questions in order: Always, No, No, Definitely No, and By All Means No. This splitting-the-check-thing has always been a particular pet peeve of mine. Fairly or not, I read a lot into the “token gesture” that many well-intentioned women give. For one, it tells me the girl isn’t much interested in a second date. More importantly for our future happiness, is the likelihood that the girl who offers to split the first date check becomes the wife who publicly contradicts her husband and hurts the unity of their marriage and family (that will sound unfair when read at first, but quit watching TV and think about it… look around at who’s happy in a fulfilled and holy way, and you might see things differently).

    Unfortunately, some good women out there will make this “nice” gesture because they read fluff like this article. Indeed, among friends it is a nice gesture to pay one’s fair share. However, on a date we are not interested in making friends. In this possibly-more-than-friends scenario, it’s a nicer gesture to keep your wallet in your purse, thus communicating that the date is going well. More importantly, by graciously allowing him to pick up the tab, you show that you’re looking for a man will be a self-sacrificing Christ-like pastor of his home.

    Since the author failed to quote any Scripture, let’s bring out the big dog: Ephesians 5:21-27 instructs us to “be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.” The first command is to “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord,” with the more severe commandment to, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church…” Lest there be any confusion on how Christ loved his Bride, there is a crucifix in every Catholic Church.

    The Good News is as human beings made in the image of God, our worth and equality are not based on our incomes. If I take a girl out and find out she drives a BMW worth more than my entire annual income, we are still driving my ’97 Corolla and I am still paying. The stuff we have doesn’t matter: it is who we are as men and women that matters.

  3. Vidal-632983 November 20, 2011

    I think the most gentleman like thing to do is for the guy to pay the bill i sincerely feel bad for a girl paying for the bill i have been raised in a way that a guy should never take money from a girl i dont care how expensive the bill is i will never let my date pay the bill even if she offers to i think that a true gentleman should always be prepared to pay the bill and always be prepared if you are taking a girl out i think that gentlemanly conduct should never dissapear

  4. Stephen-788080 November 20, 2011

    I think it goes back chivalry being lost its not for some keep it and love being a gentleman it goes with opening doors, seating a woman before we sit and leaving notes to be found in unusual places.

  5. Sherrie-702451 November 21, 2011

    I would be absolutely embarrassed if a gentleman wanted to discuss incomes before we went on a first date. I would not go out with him if he brought that up. I was taught that discussing money was rude at the very least and that a proper lady NEVER reaches for the check on any occasion; first, second or 29th date. After being married money becomes a tool and all of it would go in to a family pool of funds to pay for what was needed so it becomes less important who makes what, but even then it is best if the balance of “power” is more traditional in my opinion. Just my two cents.

  6. Donald-585826 November 21, 2011

    I always pay for dinner. It doesn’t matter if the woman makes more money than me or not. If I ask her out or she ask me, it’s a given I am paying for dinner, lunch or breakfast whatever it might be and I let her know that before hand. It also doesn’t matter to me if it is the first date or the date I ask her to marry me. I was unemployed most of this year and every date that I was on, it was my pleasure to pay. Ladies unless you agree to pay for the meal or you both agree to go dutch, let the man you are with pay for it. After all you are deserving of at least that much!

  7. Bett-607108 November 22, 2011

    I think yes man should pay for the dinner. Because we take our time for the dinner date unlike we insist we will pay for a shout. I feel like you are femine taken care like a princess. Oh how romantic!!! But if you share 50/50 date seems like the man doesn’t like you or vice versa.

  8. John-759808 November 23, 2011

    I always pay….guess that is the way I was raised.

  9. Linda-666928 November 23, 2011


  10. Vhie-763540 November 23, 2011

    I think it should be discuss beforehand. Dutch treat is also fine with me. But during my good old days, its the man who takes care of the bills everytime, by and large, men taking care of the bill is the norm. In these modern times, I see more women taking the charge of expenses or sharing and it seemed to be the norm now, as long as it doesn’t affect men’s ego, that is fine.

  11. Robert-486073 November 24, 2011

    Always. Even when it is my birthday.
    If her parents invite you out for dinner, that is different.

  12. Andy-516957 November 24, 2011

    I always pay. If I’m broke, I still pay. If she’s taking me out: I give the waiter my card on the sly and make sure I pay, not her.
    I open doors, the florist knows me, I have an account with See’s Candy, I write thank you notes. To a gentleman, what the woman earns, or her wealth, is not any concern.
    Pehaps a mother of two or three can maintain a career, but to try and balance a mother’s career with four or more would only make economic sense in few cases, and would stress both mother and children. At that point, the only income that matters is the father’s.
    But, hey it’s just a date.

  13. Carole-11018 November 25, 2011

    I would ALWAYS take precaution when on a date, and INSIST on paying MY cost of the meal! Unless you know, very well, the kind of guy you’re with, it seems most men nowadays, if they pay the ENTIRE meal check, tend to “expect” a little “dessert” from their date afterwards, usually between the sheets…just some food for thought!

  14. Nigel-748943 November 26, 2011

    I am of the opinion that a man must pay the full cost of lunch, or dinner, for himself and his female partner.
    We men have to care for women, and treat them with immense respect!!!

  15. Anna-731422 November 27, 2011

    This is always a concern for me when going out on a first date with a guy. I find it very stressful just wondering what is the right thing to do. I always offer to pay my part, because I don’t want the man to think I’m expecting a free dinner. Most of these guys insist on paying, which I graciously except. Although I went out with a guy once who complained the whole time about not having much money, and how he expected his mother to pay for his daughter’s education, and on and on. It was so uncomfortable for me. Not only did he take my money when the check came, but he thought it wise to “split the check right down the middle”, when in fact he ordered a whole spread of food for himself and all I had was a chicken wrap. Needless to say, we didn’t go out again.

  16. Eileen-533238 November 27, 2011

    I think the first date is always so nerve wrecking when the check comes. I have no problem paying my share, but I think it’s a nice gesture for the man to pay. Also it feels awkward to reach for the check. I have had some guys say that if a woman doesn’t reach for it and allows the guy to pay she is showing interest back. And I have heard that if she tries to pay it or he share it automatically tells the guy she has no need for him… Aka, not interested. Since I’ve heard these things, I just know I’m SUPER confused. What am I supposed to do??

  17. Benjamin-148488 November 28, 2011

    Of course the man should pay, as initiator, orginator (Eve came from Adam), and provider. As a logical extension, the woman should be his “helper” in every way possible: support him, reward him, encourage him, etc. This isn’t about a “tryout”. It is about living and display the true natures each sex has received from God. Whether or not the date and/or the relationship work out, men and women should be doing their utmost to live our their roles with each other. It isn’t complicated in God’s eyes, but when men and women lose sight of whom they really are and whom God is, that is when and where it goes wrong…

  18. Roxanne-790387 November 28, 2011

    I think that in today’s world, a woman should pay for herself on the first date. This shows your date that you can take care of yourself. You are not assuming that he must pay for you. And last but certainly not least, if you don’t have any chemistry or simply don’t care to see your date again, there is no obligation to do so. I, personally, am a realist. I don’t believe in creating a false sense of possibility where there isn’t one. However, I do believe in honesty with diplomacy.

  19. I have never once let a woman pay for dinner. I doesn’t matter if it’s the first date or we’ve been dating for two years. It’s just the way it is.

    That’s not to say in the past my girlfriend hasn’t come over with food for me, but if it is a conscious effort to go out for a date night I have and will always pay. That will never change.

  20. Cheryl-728346 November 30, 2011

    Finally, it is out in the open for discussion and most men think like I do. For most of my working life, I made “guys wages” and whenever I went on a date, I still expected the man to pay. Why, you may ask, because, it allows him to be the man. If I reach for the check or offer to pay, or even offer to go half, it demeans him in his role as a man. After you are married there should be no question, it all goes to a common pool with the bills and necessities paid out of it.

  21. Philip H. January 26, 2012

    I totally disagree with many of you. Your arguments are illogical and make no sense. God doesnt want the man to pay on dates. This tradition stems from a time when it was a necessity for the man to pay because women couldnt support themselves. We are in a new day and age where women make their own money and support themselves so if you feel obligated to pay on a date then you are basically paying for her time and attention which is similar to prostitution. You cant possibly provide for a woman that can already provide for herself but if you do get married and want to play your role as the provider Id suggest the man take complete controll of the finances. Otherwise the women might think what do I need you for, I have my own money. Now when you feel obligated to pay no matter what and this is what you must do to get a female whether you want sex, a relationship or marriage this is called “tricking.” Some people trick to prostitutes some people trick on dates but its tricking one in the same. If a woman demands that a man pays for everything on the date this is similar to prostitution.

  22. Wow, if I wasn’t confused about who pays what before, I am now….As for me, I am an old fashioned girl , with old fashioned values…I like being treated with traditional roles…

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