Should You Pay for Dinner?


Men, get with the program. Gender roles are outdated. She can pay for herself!

Guys, we know you just want to do the right thing. But these days it can be hard even to know what that is. So let's see if we can clarify.

First, a little history. Men have been bringing home the bacon for thousands of years. But in general that doesn't mean women are sitting around doing nothing. In simpler times, as today, there was a division of labor; men hunted and women gathered. Throughout history the roles have changed and what it means to work has evolved. But, the basic dynamic has remained steady with happy couples taking different roles, the man as the breadwinner more often than not.

The 1950s can be considered the last time in the Western world that women were expected to take "housewife" as their sole occupational option. In the '60s and '70s that model imploded. Women had been an accepted part of the workforce since World War II and were enjoying an autonomy they'd long sought. And, let's be honest, in the wake of unprecedented industrial progress the Western male's sense of entitlement had also reached a new crescendo and become intolerable.

It was around this time that it was more common for a woman to pay for her own dinner, mainly because having her date pay for it became a more costly proposition than it was worth. They had grown tired of the obligations. Over the strong objections of men, women paid to keep their own sovereignty on a night on the town. They could sleep with whom they wanted, when they wanted, and marry if they chose to.

Cut to today. What has changed? There is a decidedly stronger consensus that a man should pay for dinner.  Does this mean she's decided to be a kept woman after all? Nope. If there's anything he's buying it's the pleasure of her company during the meal. That is, if he proves to be good company himself. Buying dinner definitely improves his likability over the guy who insists on going dutch, and for many women, if not most, it's a baseline, but that's about it.

So is this something to get upset about? Not on your life. Being around a happy woman is a vastly more pleasurable experience than being with an unhappy one. Statistics show that his happiness depends on her happiness a lot more than the reverse. So, take it as good news that buying a woman dinner is a path to happiness.

One final thing. Guys, you really need to be able to discern when a woman is insisting on paying for herself out of politeness vs. genuinely not wanting you to pay for her. If it's the former this is all the more reason for you to pay. Good for you for not accepting her modest politeness in the face of something she wants. If it's the latter, forcefully going against her wishes by insisting on paying just makes you a jerk. So, cultivate that skill.

Part of a series on money and relationships by On Mutual Terms.


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