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Dating and Money: Must a Feminist Pay?

dating and moneyWho pays on dates? It used to be simple. The guy did the asking and the paying. Today it’s less clear, as we can see from this range of views:

  • Tom, 26, says he paid for the first five or six dates with his girlfriend of three years, who’s 29. “She felt bad about me always paying, so sometimes she does. “But I usually pay,” he adds, “and the guy is always expected to pay for the first date. I pay more because it’s the gentlemanly thing to do. If you’re a guy, it feels good to take a woman out to dinner.”
  • Marge, 35, liked being treated on her first few dates with Wesley. But when he was ahead of her on line to pick up sandwiches and drinks for a picnic together, “he paid for his and left me to pay for mine,” she said. “I felt awful.”

    Wesley, it turned out, wanted no more than a hook-up relationship with Marge. This example suggests that a man’s reluctance to treat on a date might be a sign of lack of interest in investing himself emotionally in a relationship.

  • Brandon, 69, on the other hand, said that while dating, he and the woman he ended up marrying always split the cost. “I felt like that was fair; she was doing the right thing.”
  • Teresa, 45, married for two years, said that when she and her husband were dating, “he always asked and he always paid” and “that was fine with both of us.” She mused, “It changed in the 60’s and 70’s. There was more “going Dutch” then.”
  • Penny, in her forties, in an off-guard moment mentioned that she always expects the guy to pay and mumbled something about her father having abandoned her family when she was young.

So Who Should Pay?
Most agree that the man pays for the first date and often for the next few. But after that, it’s anybody’s guess. If you have a strong preference about who should pay for what, you can initiate a calm conversation in which each of you shares how you prefers to approach the financial part of dating.

If you feel shy about bringing up the subject, you’re not alone.

My family’s “don’t ask for money” rule stayed with me, unconsciously, into adulthood. So it was difficult for me to talk about money on dates. I wanted the man to treat, even if I offered to pay. Which I sometimes felt obliged to do. Wasn’t I a feminist? Didn’t that mean I should pay my own way? I expected the man to read my mind, because I was ashamed to let him know I wanted him to treat.

Can a Feminist Allow a Man to Treat?

When I did offer to split the check on a dinner date, if the man accepted, I felt unfeminine, which meant no second date. I’d think he was cheap or didn’t like me much. But now I think many men were as confused as I’d been. The guy could have thought I really wanted to pay my way. Maybe he feared I’d reject him as a “male chauvinist” if he refused my offer.

Most people would probably agree, at least concerning early dates, that the “going Dutch” trend has subsided. Today men usually pay for early dates. Most seem prepared to continue to treat, but as the relationship evolves they may be open to some sharing of expenses if a woman offers.

By the time my then husband-to-be asked me out for the first time, I told him the truth, which was that I’d already planned to see a play on my own that Saturday night. He said he’d like to go with me (not “take me”), which created ambiguity about whether this would feel like a real date. I asked, “Are you planning to treat?” Fortunately, he said yes.

I learned that feminism means being who I am, not marching lockstep to a different drummer.

What about you? Answering the questions below may help clarify your views about money as it relates to dating.

Exercise: Identifying Your Views on Money and Dating

  1. Do you expect the man to pay for the first date? What are your thoughts about this?
  2. Who do you think should pay for subsequent dates?
  3. How do you feel when your date spends money on you? Does the circumstance make a difference? E.g., do you sometimes feel guilty or obligated? Sense a power imbalance? Accept it graciously? Enjoy it? Or something else? Please elaborate.
  4. Under what circumstances do you feel inclined to share expenses or reciprocate after a date spends money on you initially, or over time?
  5. How comfortable are you about sharing your ideas and feelings with a dating partner about how to approach the financial aspects of dating?
  6. Did you get the impression growing up that men should treat on dates, h that expenses should be shared, or something else?
  7. Has your viewpoint on this changed since then? Explain.


Dating and Money: Must a Feminist Pay?

Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW

Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW, author of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted (New World Library, 2014, audiobook, 2020), has a private psychotherapy practice in San Rafael, California. She offers and workshops for couples and singles, and continuing education classes for therapists at NASW conferences and online. She has taught also at the UCSF School of Medicine, UC Berkeley Extension, and Alliant International University. A former executive director of a family service agency, she earlier held senior level positions in child welfare, alcoholism treatment, and psychiatry.

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APA Reference
Berger, M. (2018). Dating and Money: Must a Feminist Pay?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 24 Aug 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.