Going Dutch on a Date: Good Idea?

By Erina Lee, Senior Research Scientist

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Over the last couple of weeks, I have been asking my friends (both men and women) who paid and who should pay for first dates. Almost everyone said men in their experience paid for first dates, although most of my women friends added that they reached for the wallet and offered to chip in. The one person who didn’t say “men” said that whoever asked for the date paid (or at least should pay) for the date.

I looked into the research more to see how dating has changed in the past few decades. In the 1980’s, men and women both expected gender differentiated roles on dates. Paying for dates was generally considered a masculine behavior. A shift started to happen in the 1990’s when dating became a little more egalitarian. Although men were still generally expected to plan and pay for dates, women who paid for dates became much more common.  In one study, 72% of men had been on a date where the woman paid, and 76% of women daters footed the bill at least once also (Lottes, 1993).

How Long Does the Guy Foot the Bill?

Then I asked my friends, “How long do men generally pay for dates if the relationship continues?” The responses varied on this question but the most common response was that men paid for dates for about 2-3 months before the bills were more evenly if not equally split.  A few had relationships where men paid for almost all of the dates.

What I really think is that it doesn’t matter who pays for a date, but behaviors can bring more insight into the kind of person you, or your date, are.  For example, if you offer to pay even if the other person invited you, then maybe that shows your generosity or maybe your stance on traditional dating values. 

Never offering to pay might show a lack of consideration for the other person or possibly strict traditional values.  And if neither person offers to pay for the whole bill, perhaps it’s a statement that the date is more platonic than romantic.

Going Dutch: A Big Dud

In one study of dating scripts, participants were asked to point out elements of a “good,” “bad,” and “typical” date (Alksnis, Desmarais, & Wood, 1996). Surprisingly, both men and women agreed that a bad date was one in which both parties paid for themselves. Translation: Going dutch isn’t the best idea if you are trying to impress your date and want to see them again!

Although I am happy to pay for dates or even outings with friends, I think it feels good to be treated and taken out.  And I imagine the other person feels the same way too.  Next time I might even try opening the car door.

What do you think about going dutch on a date? Does it bother you or make you think the other person isn’t interested if they offer to split the bill?

Further Reading:

Alksnis, C., Desmarais, S., & Wood, E. (1996). Gender differences in scripts for different types of dates Sex Roles, 34 (5-6), 321-336 DOI: 10.1007/BF01547805

Eaton, A., & Rose, S. (2011). Has Dating Become More Egalitarian? A 35 Year Review Using Sex Roles Sex Roles, 64 (11-12), 843-862 DOI: 10.1007/s11199-011-9957-9

Lottes, I. (1993). Nontraditional gender roles and the sexual experiences of heterosexual college students Sex Roles, 29 (9-10), 645-669 DOI: 10.1007/BF00289210

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