People on this site just LOVE to argue about who should pay for dates -- especially first dates. I've gotta say, the sheer level of raw passion surrounding this subject is entertaining to see.
In any case, I've got answers for ya.
First date: NOBODY should pay.
Yep you read that right.
No one should pay for a first date.
Because a first date shouldn't cost anything in the first place.
I mean... This is pretty simple, no?
Just go on a date that doesn't cost money. And is actually INTERESTING.
Do you live in a city with any kind of downtown, or any kind of walkable area? Just walk around and explore stuff.
Gawk at things.
Make fun of people.
Have *gasp* actual conversation—that isn't forced, because there are so many things around you to prompt it.
Play together... and you'll stay together.
If you're the active type... do something active together. Do some sort of outdoor workout, or go on a cool hike.
Still plenty of opportunities for conversation -- but even better, because there won't be "awkward silences" that are pregnant with anticipation for someone, anyone, to just say something. If you're doing something active together, conversation and silence will weave together seamlessly, without awkwardness.
Not only do these kinds of dates cost $0.00... but they're also much more dynamic, much more fun, much less formal, and much less awkward altogether.
Oh, yeah, also... If all goes well, and things get physical?
You won't be weighed down by a whole stomach full of restaurant food, either.
(Really -- does *anyone* wanna go at it after eating an entire restaurant portion? Serious question here...
I speak only for myself, but there are exactly two things I ever want to do after eating in a restaurant, and those are (1) go to the bathroom, and (2) take a nap.)
I mean... seriously, I have never understood the idea of dinner as a first date. Never understood it in my life.
Like, what the...?
What if it doesn't go well -- as many first dates don't? What if there's just no chemistry (which, I'd imagine, is an especially common problem for people who meet online)?
Well... then you're stuck at a table together, awkwardly eating, in awkward quasi-silence... for a long time... with basically zero distractions of any kind.
And even if that kind of date does go well... If the two people aren't great conversationalists, it's still awkward AF.
There's very little in the environment to serve as a conversation starter -- and, let's face it, a restaurant isn't exactly the world's most dynamic or exciting environment, either. So, if there are awkward silences, chances are they'll just grow, and fester, and become more silent and more awkward.
Oh, and, restaurants are expensive, too. What an awful idea.
First dates should be free.
But... eventually you'll end up going on dates that cost money. What then?
Later dates: Just go with the flow.
That's the answer everyone has been looking so hard for.
The RIGHT way to go about this is...
...to not make it a big deal.
As a couple, you NEED to be able to handle this sort of thing smoothly, naturally, and without drama or passive-aggressive bullshit.
The specific parameters of exactly HOW you handle it are irrelevant. That's going to vary from couple to couple, and from situation to situation.
Some people are more concerned than others with equity, in general. They may just have a strong sense of "fair play" that extends into every little corner of their lives. They may have suffered the indignity of having a previous partner feel entitled to sex just because they'd paid for a few dates -- as though dating were just some drawn-out form of prostitution. Or they may have been taken advantage of, financially, in the past and so they're understandably sensitive about these things. Who knows.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, some people are just generous by their very nature. These kinds of people may be deeply hurt if their partner doesn't let them foot the whole bill, at least sometimes -- in the same way most of us would be hurt if someone rejected a gift or a heartfelt compliment.
Last but not least, in some couples one person earns far more than the other, while in others the two people have similar means.
Hopefully, the point here is obvious: One size does not fit all.
But, whatever the agreement is, the most important point is that it shouldn't be a big deal. It should come naturally, as part of the dynamic of a healthy relationship.
If you NEED a "rule" for who pays what and when, then your relationship isn't going to work.
Let's face it, people -- This is a pretty trifling little issue, in the big picture. It's something that SHOULD be easily resolved with -- at the most -- a few lines of chitchat, a wave of the hand, and a little mutual understanding.
If an "issue" this insignificant is enough to cause ongoing tension in your relationship ... I'd hate to see how you'd weather real financial issues together. Or any real issues, for that matter.
Not a good sign.
You should be able to resolve this quickly and easily. However you resolve it.
Also -- Even if both of you are totally on board with splitting expenses, it's still super tacky to split the bill every time. Getting literally separate checks? Even worse.
Just so ... petty.
Like, really? Why can't you just have one person pay, with an understanding that the other person will get it next time. Or, one person puts it on her/his card, and then the other person just covers some other expenses (a tank of gas, some drinks, some groceries, whatever) accordingly?
If you have to literally split bills every time... this says more than you think about the health of your relationship (and what it says ain't good, either).
In the real world, expenses have a way of popping up, and they have to be paid by someone. VERY rarely will both "someones" be right there on the spot, to pay half apiece. The vast majority of the time, someone just has to cover it -- and then you work it out as a couple later.
So... you should be able to do the same thing with the cost of dates. If you just can't go out without splitting it, then, eventually, you'll need to take a good hard look at whether you have the necessary trust and understanding to sustain a long-term relationship.
The good news: If this IS a problem right now, and you can successfully move past it together -- that says a lot about your ability to handle future issues as a couple.