Who Pays on a Date?

A couple on a date about to get the bill and wondering who should pay.

Hey Joan-

I get mixed messages about who pays on a date. Letting the guy pay for me makes me feel like I’m less independent and needy. When he picks up the check, I worry if he thinks I’m taking advantage. I appreciate the gesture, but do I always have to let him do this? 


We all carry assumptions about how that first date bill should be handled but, unfortunately, talking about who’s paying for what is more socially unacceptable than having un-met expectations. Without open communication, it’s easy to end up disappointed: She might be hurt if he doesn’t pay, and he might be annoyed if she doesn’t offer.

Perhaps more women would feel better about having the check paid for, if they didn’t view the payment from a strictly transactional approach. People use money to pay for goods. When someone pays for a date, it can leave the other person wondering, “What am I expected to do now?” Feeling like you’ve entered into an unspoken agreement with expectations contributes to pressure and anxiety that some women would rather avoid by simply splitting the check.

If you want to avoid drama surrounding who pays for the date, remember these three things:

1. If your date pays, consider it a demonstration of interest. And, for that reason, you should be flattered.

2. If you were asked out on the date, it’s perfectly appropriate to expect the asker to take care of the check. At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with offering to contribute if it makes you feel better.

3. If your date insists on taking the check, just let him or her do so. Don’t end your date back and forth over a couple of entrees. It’s just not worth it.

If your date ends up paying, don’t dwell on it. Treat the paid bill as you would a gift. Just say ‘thanks’, have fun, and enjoy the way it feels for someone who wants to show you a good time.

Still confused? Watch and learn.


Joan Actually

Dating Expert

Joan is a writer and dating expert.

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