You’re out on your date. Everything has been going so well. Fun conversation. Lots of eye contact and subtle hand and arm touching. You’ve made a real connection.
And then the waiter comes over and asks if you’ll be paying separately or together.
Your heart starts pumping a little. You see some perspiration on your date’s forehead. You both make quick glances at each other in hopes the other one will make the decision. How can such a seemingly simple question cause this much stress and anxiety? How long is too long to go without answering the question before it gets any more awkward?
So how do you decide how you decide who’s going to pay? It seems like such a small question, but it’s not really something that comes up on first date conversation.
If you wait for too long, it starts to seem as if you’re hoping your date is going to pick up the whole tab. So if you’re in the moment and no one seems to know what to do, then do it like a Dutch. You cover your food, drinks, what have you, and they can cover theirs. No one can really be too upset for buying their own alcohol.
That said, I don’t think it’s too ridiculous to expect the person who initiated the evening to pay. Granted, depending on their job, it may or may not be feasible. But if they planned everything, it should be pretty safe to say it’s within their price range. In this type of situation, if you’re not comfortable on suggesting splitting or covering it, let them take the lead and just be happy you aren’t the one making the decision. I think you’ve warranted giving them a quick glance to let them know you’re fine with either option.
Word of warning, though. If you let them pay for the first date, you should definitely be prepared to pay for date number two (if it happens). It’s only polite if they picked up the first tab. If they keep insisting on paying for everything, it may be nice on your bank account, but that may also be a sign that something’s a bit off. They may not see you quite as equally as they should. As nice as not having to pay for anything is, there’s some reason they feel like they should be paying.
This isn’t just a concern for new relationships, either. Maybe you’ve been dating for several months. There’s still no easy way to figure out who pays. At this point, it might be easiest just to split the bill each time. Months of alternating between who pays might be a bit confusing, and after awhile there’s not really a person initiating the date.
I suppose you could just go with whoever makes the most money pays, but for some reason, something seems kind of off with that (but to each their own). Sure if the person making more wants to splurge on a nice, expensive meal every now and then, certainly don’t stop them. They’re making a lot more, and there’s nothing wrong with being treated sometimes. In fact, it’s quite nice.
But if it’s an all-the-time thing, I think it might throw off the power balance a bit. Relationships should be all about an equal power dynamic, and you don’t want to upset that with something as trivial as who pays for the date.