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Who Pays for What on a Date?

Magic at Midlife: Your Relationship Roadmap for Romance After 40

Northwest authors Jennifer Y. Levy-Peck, PhD, a psychologist, and her husband Charles Peck are write a weekly column on midlife relationships. They are working on a new book, "Magic at Midlife: Your Relationship Roadmap for Romance After 40."

Many people who are new to the midlife dating scene are baffled about how to handle dating finances. Who should pick up the check?

Last year, some researchers conducted a survey of more than 17,000 single people called “Who Pays for Dates?” Surprisingly, things haven’t changed all that much over the past few decades. Both men and women mostly expect men to pay for dates, although men want women to offer to pay after they have been dating for a while. There are fascinating sociological implications of this study, but that doesn’t really answer the question you probably want to know: “Should I pay the check?”

Money conversations with a person you hardly know (like a brand-new dating partner) can certainly be awkward. However, the question of who should pay can offer an excellent opportunity to start a relationship on the basis of honesty and open communication.

It really doesn’t matter who pays for the first date. What matters is whether there is an overall sense of fairness and shared responsibility as the relationship progresses.

While there is an argument to be made that men should pay most of the dating costs because there is still a wage gap between men and women, that really doesn’t address the specifics of a particular couple’s situation.

There are really two issues here: one is the actual cost of a date, and the other is who is hosting the date. Here are our specific suggestions for how to handle dating costs, based on our values about egalitarian relationships. See whether these ideas will work for you:

Offer to split costs on the first date, but don’t argue. If one person insists on paying, accept graciously.

After you have been dating a little while, have an honest conversation about wanting to share the costs. Be truthful about any financial limitations.

For heaven’s sake, don’t get stuck in the stupid and sexist idea that a man who pays for a date is entitled to sexual favors. Many of the older women in the survey mentioned above were worried about that, but it is mostly younger men who are dumb enough to think that way. Paying for sex is sex trafficking, not dating.

If one person makes a great deal more money than the other, the person who is not as well-to-do can still host a modest date. If Person A is the only one who can afford a fancy dinner and a show, Person B can reciprocate with a picnic and a free concert in the park. How much fun you have doesn’t depend on how much you spend, but on each person taking the time and trouble to plan something you both will enjoy.

Northwest authors Jennifer Y. Levy-Peck, PhD, a psychologist, and her husband Charles Peck are write a weekly column on midlife relationships. They are working on a new book, "Magic at Midlife: Your Relationship Roadmap for Romance After 40."

Previous Magic at Midlife Columns:

Why You Need a Relationship Roadmap

Living with Pets and a New Partner

Exploring New Roles

Rowing Through Life Together

Let’ Talk About Sex

Helping Your Adult Children Accept Your New Partner

In Sickness and In Health

Step-Grandparenting Can Be Grand

Enjoy Life Together

Online Dating for the Older Set

Enjoying the Single Life

True Love

Sex in Midlife Relationships: Complicated but Wonderful!

Upgrade Your Communication Skills

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