The world of dating is sometimes difficult for Jewish singles to navigate. One of the problems which arises recurrently is: who should pay when you go out on a date?
In the past the answer to this question was generally simple, as women did not work or make money and the date was a chance for men to prove that they could be good providers. Hence when the bill came, the men took out their wallet in a both chivalrous and practical gesture.
Nowadays, with most women in the workforce and decades of fighting to gain equality, dating etiquette has become blurrier. A study published in 2013 by Chapman University shows that things are indeed very complex: while the majority of men (84%) and women (58%) say that men pay for most dating expenses, 44% of women say they would not like men to let them pay even when they offer to do so (which they do in 57% of cases). Interestingly enough, an almost equal percentage of women would feel offended if the man didn’t let them pay. In the meanwhile, two thirds of men feel women should contribute but most feel guilty about feeling that way. This confusion is, of course, just as true in the Jewish community as it is in society at large.
So what is one to do? Some compromises attempt to reconcile old traditions and more modern thinking. For example, the man will pay for the first few dates and then let the woman pay for one out of every four or five dates. Or the man will pay for the “expensive” part of the date (dinner and show) and let the woman handle the rest (drinks). Or whoever initiates the date will pay for it (in most cases, dates are initiated by men). These are all creative responses to the dilemma but, considering the statistics, there is no guarantee that you will pick the right option. Which leaves many Jewish singles, men and women, petrified at the thought of making a maybe fatal mistake.
So here is another idea: why not have an open conversation about the subject early on in the relationship? While this may not be necessary if you are only interested in casual dating, it is crucial if you are looking for a lifelong partner. If you think you may have found your beshert, keep in mind that what you do on those first dates will likely set a pattern for the type of relationship you will have. This is a good time to express what you want. Do you want a traditional relationship in which the man will be the main provider and protector? In this case, what is the woman expected to do in return? Would you rather have a more equal relationship in which both partners contribute, including financially? Does the contribution have to be equal? Assuming you want to build a sound relationship with your beshert and to avoid misunderstandings and future disappointments, these questions should be discussed openly and honestly.
So next time the bill comes, if you feel the person facing you is a good candidate for a long-term relationship, take the opportunity to bring the conversation to a new level and discuss not only how you want to share the bill but also how you envision sharing your life.