To Pay the Bill Or To Split It? A Modern Man’s Guide to Dating Traditions

By Jessica Davis

Posted 6 years agoDATING

We are constantly confronted with ads, instructions and debates on how our gender defines who we are and what we do. When it comes to dating the grey areas of traditional customs and practices become blurry. We become overwhelmed when we’re on a date with uncertainty. How do we appear interested, but not pushy? A gentleman, but not old fashioned? Equal, but not cheap?

This article will advise on how traditional dating practices have remained current, evolved or have become completely redundant.

Stage 1: Getting the date

Research has shown that traditional script, such as the expectation of the man to initiate the first date, are still a reality.

Expectations for dates can often be molded for people by how, where and why their date was established. Did you meet through mutual friends or at a bar? On Tinder or eHarmony? One thing is definite – how we initiate our relationship could influence its future.

Online dating

Dating has evolved since the old days of searching through the phone books for her number. With the anonymity and immediacy of online dating, it is no surprise that 40% of Americans use online dating. Regardless of the dating site you select, you need to leave expectations at the door. With 60% of female Tinder users stating they used the app with the intention of finding a match, not just a hookup; we can assume that regardless of the app, domain or portal you use, nothing is definitive.

However, if you are looking for a particular outcome from your date, it never hurts to employ the art of communication even over text or IM to insinuate your priority. If you are looking for a serious relationship, take a more affectionate approach, if you are looking for physical intimacy, increase your flirtations. Keep in mind, her presence on Tinder doesn’t mean she is only looking for sexual relations, just as eHarmony doesn’t mean she is only looking for a relationship.

Online dating also has the benefit of giving the woman more power. When she swipes right you can be rest assured she is at least initially interested in you. This is quite a change from the days when men asked to court a lady and she felt somewhat obligated to accept. While some might argue online dating removes romance or serendipity – finding the person who fits to you out of a population of over 7 billion people, is still pretty damn serendipitous.

Identifying the friend-zone

The modern woman is a more complicated individual than the traditional views of women we had growing up. Barbie was always interested in Ken – he was never just her “friend”. The trouble continues when we’re sent mixed messages from the media. You hear things, like – “it’s the man’s fault for not making a move!” Or “it’s her fault for leading you on!” This all sparks understandable debate with many left scratching their heads in frustration.
I would personally recommend getting answers, rather than wasting your own time. Firstly, establish if she’s interested. Feel the water by using appropriate flirtatious touching. This is a good opportunity to establish a romantic connection with 25% of people having said flirtatious touching can be a very effective technique. Fifty-one percent stated flattery is the best way to attract someone, so why not pay her compliments? If she reacts positively, take this opportunity to open the doors of communication and ask her out. Make sure it is obviously a date. Try saying you have been wanting to ask her out on a date for some time and see if she would want to grab dinner on a certain evening at a restaurant you know she likes.

From my own perspective and that of my single lady friends, a man who asks you out is clearly confident, while a man who skirts around it shows uncertainty. There is a multitude of contributing factors for why someone is attracted to another person. Sometimes it’s not even identifiable, but you have to accept it. Remember, the perfect woman for you will be interested in you.

Do you want to know if you are friend zoned? take our friendzone quiz!

Navigating the bar scene

The bar scene is a little less popular than the online arena, as it can take more confidence. Online you can create the version of yourself you want others to see. In person, you are putting yourself out there. However, this can be an excellent opportunity to meet someone in a relaxed environment and truly evaluate your chemistry. It also gets the awkwardness out of the way before the official first date and avoids any catfish disappointments that online dating can lead to.

Stage 2: Arranging the date

Planning the date may feel purely like the responsibility of the man, but the modern man can collaborate with his date to make sure it’s the ideal night out for both parties.

Planning the evening

To show you are invested, suggest an event, activity or restaurant for your date. Consider where you would both be comfortable. This is an excellent opportunity to get a sense of your chemistry. Is she a vegetarian who loves Italian food and ice cream? Are you lactose intolerant, but love spicy Asian meals? Why not go to the movies and see a scary flick?
Obviously, you may need to compromise, but I’m sure you can agree on somewhere where you both will be reasonably comfortable. Confirm that it is an appropriate venue, and remember that the traditional fancy restaurant might be a little too extravagant nowadays.

Let the night continue

It is always wise to have a few casual suggestions of ways to continue the night. “Would you want to grab a drink? My friend recommended a bar just around the corner.” Keep it casual, but keen. If you leave a restaurant, cinema or event and are at a loss of what to do, but want the night to continue, it is good to be prepared. Check that the location of your date is near other options so the night can continue to be a success!

Stage 3: On the date

Paying the bill

This topic is often a cause for discussion, with different arguments surrounding the subject often surpassing the gender barrier. So, in our modern world where gender equality is a hot topic, should men pay the bill?

One recent study about money and relationships revealed 49% of couples split the bill, challenging the traditional view of solely men paying. However, when it comes to the ritual of the “first date” there was still research supporting the traditional script of men paying the bill; with 86% of men saying they preferred to pay the bill, but only 56% of women claiming they preferred the man to pay. This notable disparity is surprising as it suggests men feel more emotionally invested in this custom than women.

Regardless of the apparent continuation of this time-honoured dating tradition, the influence of contemporary values is still evident. Twenty-five percent of men who participated in the study stated they would like the woman to offer.

Despite evidence that men are more invested in the ritual of paying the bill, another study found women also had an emotional investment. In the study, women shared their belief that men who pay for the date are more likely to be attracted to them. This finding is something that I have had confirmed by single women, who said they felt when a man offers to pay the bill at the end of the night, it is a reassurance of his interest.

Dating customs

It can be challenging to distinguish between modern and old-fashioned dating customs. You may find yourself asking – what has become obsolete? What is still popular? Are some traditions just contextual?

I conducted a focus group with an equal mix of single men and women in their 20s. I asked for their opinions on different dating traditions, in relation to first dates only. We categorized the traditions under three categories, outdated (obsolete), trending (popular) and debatable (contextual).


    • Bringing chocolates
    • Pulling out the chair
    • Three-day rule before making contact (so wrong! you don’t want to be played, right? So don’t be a player yourself!)


    • Holding the door open
    • Paying the bill
    • Giving her your jacket
    • Picking up something if she drops it


bringing flowers to a girl

    • Bringing flowers. (This can come across as outdated, but if you pick a bunch of flowers spontaneously yourself and offer to a girl, it would be cute!)
    • Holding hands
    • Walking on the right side of a woman when walking down the street
    • Coming to the door when picking her up

The single women and men I spoke to agreed that giving a woman flowers or chocolates on the first date was an outdated custom. They also agreed that pulling out and/or pushing in a chair for a woman has become outdated in contemporary society.

Tips for a successful end to the date

What can we expect at the end of the night? A kiss? A second date? Sex? In reality, we can’t expect anything. However, we can increase the likelihood of certain outcomes. Here are the top flirting tips for the modern man:

      • Healthy eye contact throughout the night
      • Mirroring her body language
      • Subtly drawing attention to the lips
      • Continual, but appropriate touching

Here is a breakdown of suggestions for appropriate flirtatious touching:

      • Comment on her hands and have her compare yours and hers
      • Gently inspect her bracelet or ring on her hand
      • When you hold the door open for her as you enter the restaurant, rest your hand on the small of her back
      • Sit next to each other shoulder to shoulder where appropriate
      • Put your arm around her if it’s a cold walk home
      • Casually touch her upper forearm when making a point

When employing these flirtatious techniques be aware of her personality, body language and your chemistry and cater your approach to that. It is important that you both feel comfortable to keep the date natural and fluid for you both.
As evident from our findings, everyone has their own customs and preferences, and it can be minefield to navigate through. So, try to be aware of how she responds. If she insists on splitting the bill, it’s not necessarily a negative sign. It could just be her way showing she is invested in you. Read her signals and if you are feeling confused, just open the lines of communication. You need to establish your relationship dynamic and this is an excellent opportunity.


About the author Jessica Davis

Jessica Davis is a professional copywriter for Columbus, a digital marketing agency.
She has written articles covering a range of topics including finance, marriage, relationships, fashion and travel.
Her interests include travelling, writing, snorkelling and Netflix binging with her boyfriend.

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