For men, 44 percent insisted that they would drop a woman who never offered to pay. Most reported anecdotally that, when this happens, they never reveal the real reason they stopped calling, leaving those women in the dark. “After a guy disappears, have you ever met a woman who says ‘Maybe I should have paid more?’ ” Lever says. “Never.”
Some men actually drop hints that they would like their partner to pay, making comments such as “So, where are you taking me tonight?” or “I’m afraid it’ll have to be pizza tonight.” But the topic is a sensitive one for 76 percent of men, including those who say they would dump a woman who never pays: They admit that they feel guilty when they allow their date to pay.
These fascinating results provide a glimpse into how precariously many of us are straddling the “chivalrous past and the egalitarian present,” says YouBeauty Relationship Expert David Sbarra, Ph.D., who was not involved in the study.
Some women want the best of both worlds—equality and chivalry: A woman may demand equality with her male counterparts in the office, but when it comes to paying her share on dates, equality does not work for the woman’s interest, so she’s happy to enjoy a bit of freeloading. “As social roles start to change, people often embrace changes that make their lives easier, but resist the changes that make their lives more difficult,” Frederick says. But Lever points out that women who expect men to always foot the bill, in a way, are supporting sexism.
There is no such thing as a free lunch, notes Lever. Men who always pay may feel like they are entitled to call the shots in the relationship. They may also think that their date owes them something. And indeed, many women feel obligated to pay their partner back with sex, while 32 percent of the women surveyed said they feel less obligated to engage in sexual activity if they pay for themselves on a date. This turns what should be a mutual, intimate experience into an economic transaction—the act of investing one thing to get another.
Some women surveyed went so far as to say that they wouldn’t allow a man to touch them if he so much as asked for help with cab fare or the tip. On the flipside, some men said they would be happy to cover all expenses if they knew they were guaranteed sex at the end of the evening, although just 16 percent said they expect some sort of sexual activity in return if they foot the bill (that figure jumped to 21 percent for the younger guys). “The reality is that the world is still not evolved to be an equal place, and we’re seeing it play out in this very interesting microcosm at the restaurant dinner table,” Lever says.
The good news, however, is that most couples seem to find a happy balance, with three-quarters sharing expenses by the six-month mark. Since there is no longer any clear script to follow concerning dating expenses, they are left to devise their own strategies for sharing the cost. Perhaps he gets dinner, and then you get the tip and movie tickets. Or you alternate turns picking up the check. If you live together, maybe he covers restaurant meals, while you pay for groceries.
“In many ways, early dating is about finding out if you’ve stumbled upon a person who is a good match with your values and sees the world as you do,” Sbarra says. “The ‘who pays?’ question illustrates many such gender-based values, and it reminds us that understanding our own expectations is an important first step for understanding what we’re looking for in a partner.”
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