Whenever the topic of dating after divorce comes up, so does the question of who pays. More specifically, who pays on the first date. I’m a little confused by this myself which is probably why I like to ask my interviewees for their philosophy. It’s not a clear cut issue for me but more about my confusion later. First, here’s my current guest, Elizabeth:
He pays on the first date. It’s just protocol.
I wouldn’t have somebody meet me at a 4-star restaurant for the first date. That wouldn’t be fair. But, if he can’t cough up $25 or $50 on a first date that would be a problem.
If it’s coffee, please let them it pick up.
My first date after thirty-eight years of marriage, we went to Starbuck’s. It was no big deal. I ordered coffee with soy and he ordered the same thing. It was kind of sweet. I just started noticing things right away. He asked me why I liked soy. I thought that he had potential. By the second date it had exhausted itself. So much happens in the etiquette of the date that you can pick up on. If you’re a sensitive person who notices things, there’s a gold mine of information in that first exchange.
Going back to cave times, men are the hunters and women are the gatherers. They go out and get it and bring it back. On that very primitive level they provide. So on the first date, if it’s an issue, it’s just like, “Really? That’s going to be an issue for you? Providing?”
By the second date or the third date, I think it would be OK to say, “Would you like to contribute?” Or “I’ll make you dinner or I’ll take care of the next thing.”
I think it’s almost genetically built into our code that men take care of in that way. I’m feminist in many ways but a cup of coffee? I think it speak volumes if somebody said you should pay your half all the time.
That would be just kind of weird for me, for who I am. Not for anybody else but for me, I would be like, “Really?” I just think in how people handle things, so much is revealed.
With my present boyfriend, about our third date, we went to a restaurant and I said, “Can I contribute?” He said, “Sure,” and I felt this little glitchy thing in my stomach like I didn’t really want to. It’s not that I can’t afford it.
Later in our relationship he said he wanted to take me out for dinner and it felt so good. I don’t have to go to a fancy place, but I do want to be taken out. And I will reciprocate in time. There are other times when I will treat, like when he was helping with my move.
I took him to a really nice restaurant. It was well over $100, and I was very happy to pay. So, it’s not like I’m not willing to contribute in time but I like being taken care of.
It was something I got in touch with and I handled on my own. It’s never about the other person. It’s really about how I handle it. I just found for myself that, “Ahh, I like to be taken of.” And he takes care of me in so many ways. If it means me eating at a Chinese restaurant instead of a white table cloth restaurant, that’s great. That’s okay.
The Divorce Coach Says
I wish I could have such a clear idea of who pays on first dates but I don’t. I don’t remember ever discussing it with my mother and I suspect that’s where we get our earliest ideas on the topic.
I consider myself feminist. I believe in equal rights and opportunities for women. The notion then that my date should always pay on the first date seems to contradict my idea of equality. My idea of equality involves some sort of negotiation or agreement.
I also don’t like buying into stereotypes so I’m not comfortable with “provider type” role and it doesn’t fit with me as a feminist. I’ve supported myself since I graduated college and I don’t expect that to change. I’m not even sure I would be comfortable with it changing.
The bigger issue I suspect though is that when someone pays for something for me, I feel obligated to them. I feel I owe them something in return. It makes me feel uncomfortable. I think this is connected to what Elizabeth was saying in the very first segment that she grew up feeling that happiness had to earned.
Another of my interviewees and guest blogger, Debbi Dickinson said for her, the gentleman always pays on the first date. If she had to pay, there was no second date.
I’ve thought about the approach of whoever does the asking pays but even this seems murky – if I do the asking, especially on a first date and then also pay, is there a danger of being seen as too independent?
I also wonder how men feel about this – does it annoyed them when they are expected to pay or does it somehow speak to their irresponsibility?
Am I making more of this than there is? Maybe it’s as simple as, it’s just a cup of coffee. Don’t attempt to read anything into it. Just accept it.
What’s your approach to who pays?
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