Psychology Study Asks: Should the man always pick up the check?
November 4, 2014
A study by Dr. David Frederick, Assistant Psychology Professor at Chapman University’s Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences was referred to in the following article, originally published in Morningstar MarketWatch. Written by Quentin Fottrell, the article discusses the psychology of dating and expectations.
UPDATE: Should the man always pick up the check?
By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch
I recently went on about six dates with a woman who I met online. I liked her and we seemed to have a lot in common. Every Saturday we met — and I paid. After our first date, she also picked the restaurants. She chose very swanky places like Nobu, Spago’s and The Ivy, all places I’d always wanted to go to but couldn’t really afford on my salary. It’s not like she made it clear that I was paying, but when the check arrived she made no effort to reach for her bag. Rather than call her bluff and sit on my hands, tempting as that might have been, it was easier to just pull out my card and pay the bill.
This happened again and again, and I became increasingly annoyed with myself as much as with her. The intention was clear. She got to choose the best restaurants in the city and I had the privilege of paying the bill. I didn’t think this was fair, given that I had no say in the budget and all this wining and dining was adding up. After less than a month, I decided that I’d had enough and stopped calling her. She was a nice girl, but I just thought expecting me to pay every time was bull****. I’m sort of embarrassed about how it ended, but I had had enough. Was I wrong to pay or walk away?
Peter in Los Angeles
After 50 years of feminism, the answer should be easy. But it’s not.
If it’s a first date, the person who chooses the restaurant pays; often, that’s the man. And if somebody asks you out — whether it’s a member of the opposite or same sex — and chooses a very expensive restaurant, they should definitely pay. (If this woman chose to go to Wolfgang Puck’s steakhouse in L.A., for example, I would advise you to sit on your hands or have the conversation before you go.) Ultimately, it’s better to go Dutch so the person who pays doesn’t have an expectation that there will be a second date, and the other party doesn’t feel compelled to accept one.
When it comes to who pays when a man and a woman go out for dinner, there’s a fine line between chivalry (“I should pay for her”) and sexism (“he should pay for me”). Studies on the subject tend to favor men paying. In one recent survey of 2,000 people by financial website NerdWallet, 82% of men and 72% of women think the man should pay on the first date. Roughly 40% of men and women say they take turns splitting the bill as the relationship progresses. That should be Date No. 3, in my opinion, although the study in question didn’t specify an exact time period).
See also: My charming friend keeps asking me for financial favors
Of course, it’s more complicated than that. Some 84% of men and 58% of women say men pay for most expenses, even when they’re in a committed relationship, according to a study (pdf) of 17,000 people by David Frederick, assistant psychology professor at Chapman University. There’s clearly a disconnect: Men are either overstating their generosity, or women are understating how much men pay. The study, which was presented at the 2013 annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, also found that 57% of women offer to help pay, but 39% hoped men would reject their offers and 44% were bothered when men expected them to split the bill.
Take heart: You are one of the 44%. That’s how many men say they would stop dating a woman if she never offered to pay, according to Frederick’s study. But 76% of men also felt guilty about accepting women’s money. “Whereas young men and women in their 20s were the most likely to endorse egalitarian practices, this is a mass culture phenomenon — the same basic patterns were seen regardless of daters’ ages, income, or education,” the study found. The takeaway: You can’t change generations of dating etiquette and gender roles overnight — or even over five decades, for that matter.
While you’re chewing over all that data, I have a bit of advice. If you like someone it’s rarely a good idea to pick up your ball — or credit card, in this case — and walk away. Your date might have been brought up to expect a man to pay; maybe that’s the story of her own parents’ courtship. (There’s the more sinister possibility that she’s eating for free on dates at other chic restaurants on Thursdays and Fridays.) If you like her, talk to her. I mentioned your problem to a friend who used to pay for every date, but finally told his girlfriend that he couldn’t afford to keep doing it. I asked him what happened. “I married her,” he replied.