Should the man pay on the first date?

by Eharmony Editorial Team - March 5, 2015

In our new blog series The Dating Debate, we look at two sides to some of the more controversial issues in the world of dating. First up is the common conundrum, should the man shoulder the bill on the first date? Feminist writer Louisa Ackerman and etiquette tutor Emma Dupont share their thoughts.


Lousia Ackerman argues that relationships shouldn’t be economic transactions.

I was disheartened to read that a survey released last year found that 77% of heterosexual people still think the man should foot the bill on dates. It’s 2015! We are basically living in the future, and we should be striving for equality. Interestingly, the percentage of men who thought this (82%) was higher than that of women (72%).

One of the most cited reasons for this is that by-and-large, men are still out-earning women in the workplace. One possible solution to navigating this is to split the bill accordingly; the woman pays 89p to every £1 the man pays. This may be the most statistically viable option, but by the time you have done the long division, any chance there was of a second date is as washed out as the person who brought their calculator on the date in the first place.

The idea that the man should always pay also has some more troubling implications. Research in 2010 also showed that men were more likely to think that sex should be expected when he’s paid for an expensive date. Some women have also said they have accepted dates with men they aren’t attracted to for the prospect of a free meal.

It seems far better, and fairer, to split the bill properly. Of course it’s nice to treat someone on occasion but one person constantly shouldering the financial burden implies that the other’s time is worth more. This is no way to establish a relationship as equals.

If we get rid of the outdated expectation that men should always pay, dating will become more equal and honest.  Eradicate the paying politics, and we’ll know that when we’re going on a date, it’s because we both fancy each other and want to get to know each other –  rather than reducing the moment to some kind of economic transaction.

Louisa is a freelance journalist and feminist. She is the editor of blog


Emma Dupont says men should honour tradition – but offer, don’t insist.

Today’s gentleman faces the delicate subject of whether chivalry is still deemed as the defining feature of a refined man. In an era of feminism and equality just where do men stand on this subject, especially when it comes to paying the bill on a first date?

In these confusing times, a gentleman’s aim should now be to strike the perfect balance between honouring traditions and remaining respectful to a lady’s autonomy. To achieve this, any gesture should feel appropriate and natural to the situation.

The big question: should he pay the restaurant bill on a first date?

If a man has invited a lady out to dinner and has chosen the restaurant, and often the wine, then yes he should offer to pay. Why? Because he has chosen the venue for the evening and it would be impolite to expect someone else to pay for his choices.

Going ‘Dutch’ is fine for friends but shouldn’t a possible romantic liaison start off, well, a bit more romantically? There is something rather clinical about both parties taking out their credit cards at the end of a delicious meal. The point here though is the word ‘offer’, rather than insist. The offer should be a firm one along the lines of “I invited you to join me for dinner and therefore I would like to pick this one up” said of course with complete conviction.

This leaves the door slightly open if the lady wishes to object and insist on paying her half, but hopefully she will thank her date graciously and insist that she pay next time or indeed she will pick up the tab for further drinks afterwards.

As a modern woman I don’t think it is appropriate to expect a man to pay for every date. Both parties are most likely earning an income and have their own bills, so it is quite right that the costs of dating should be evened out.

But this does not mean that every bill has to be split there and then. It is much more elegant to treat each other, and it should all even out over time.

Emma Dupont is an etiquette tutor for The English Manner and can be found on Twitter @etiquettewoman.


Agree? Disagree? Tell us your take in the comments.