busted halo annual campaign
Busted Halo

Most dating and relationships books, columns and shows won’t go near issues of faith. Author, professor and speaker Dr. Christine B. Whelan assumes faith has some role, and tackles even the toughest questions.

Click this banner to see the entire section.

May 3rd, 2010

Our Readers on Reading the Coffee Grounds

More on deciphering the meaning of who pays on dates



If a woman insists on paying for her $3 coffee when she’s on a first date with a guy, does that mean she’s probably not that into him? Longtime Busted Halo reader, Phil, wrote in with that question a few weeks back — read the original piece here — and you replied with some great comments:

“The reciprocity heuristic is pretty hard-wired into most people… [and] for a dating female, the stakes are higher,” counsels Karen. “I pay my own way, and find ways to get to know you to see how I like you. By the way, I work to stay even on a gesture-for-gesture basis, not strictly dollar-for-dollar. So: you get the movie tickets, I’ll get the popcorn and soda. Please, please do not be ‘persistent’ on paying. It sends the complete opposite message you intend.”

“If a woman doesn’t want the guy to pay, it’s a sign of something. ‘A sign of what?’ you ask. Who knows? Everything that happens on a first date is a sign of SOMETHING or other,” quips Matt. “In Phil’s position, I’d pay more attention to how she said it (including both tone of voice and the selection of phrasing she used — ‘no, I always pay’ is very different than ‘this one’s on me’ which is different in turn than ‘maybe next time’). If you’re otherwise interested, it’s worth exploring the source of the issue over time.”

And advises Theresa, who has both been on the dating scene herself and watched her son struggle with these question: “I always told my son to rely upon manners, when unsure. If he asked her out to coffee, he’d pay, but if she insisted on paying for her own, see nothing negative in it. She’s treating you as an equal and that’s respect. If she asked him, he’d still pay his own, allowing her the dignity of saying ‘halves’. The real message is all about respecting each other as equals but different in needs and abilities.”

What’s the bottom line?

57% of women (and an even higher percentage of younger women) always offer to pay, even on the first date, but 46% are bothered if he accepts the invitation. Translation: Most women will offer to pay, and most women are OK paying. But a sizable minority are doing that just for show, so it’s a good idea to test the waters a bit.

So does a woman’s insistence to pay for her own coffee mean she doesn’t like a guy? Bottom line is no, it probably doesn’t mean that at all.

While a lot of girls like it when guys pay for early dates, it’s not an indication that’s she’s uninterested if she wants to pay her own way. Is she laughing and smiling? Is she talkative? Does she seem to enjoy spending time with you? Those cues are much more telling than her money choices.

Still, Phil is right to make the offer and at least say, “No, really, I can pay.” Surveys find that 57% of women (and an even higher percentage of younger women) always offer to pay, even on the first date, but 46% are bothered if he accepts the invitation. Translation: Most women will offer to pay, and most women are OK paying. But a sizable minority are doing that just for show, so it’s a good idea to test the waters a bit. Don’t be insistent, just go through the dance to make sure.

Interestingly, in a survey specifically geared to teens on Studio2B.org, younger daters seem to be split over who should be on the hook, the guy, or whoever asked for the date. But since guys do the asking the majority of the time, I think we’re still pretty traditional on this front.

Good luck as you continue to read the coffee grounds and decipher the crazy world of dating, Phil (and all the other guys out there pondering these same question!) And to the rest of you Busted Halo readers, keep the questions coming!

The Author : Christine B. Whelan
Dr. Christine B. Whelan is an author, professor and speaker. She and her husband, Peter, and their dictator cats, Chairman Meow and Evita Purron, live in Pittsburgh. Her book "Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women" is available in stores or at the Halo Store.
See more articles by (214).
Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Christine

    Just got a great email from James K. who said I could post his story online here. He writes:

    “I sometimes teach English to foreign engineers at a major car company. One day in a session with a Mexican engineer in her 20s, the lesson contained some idioms, including “to go Dutch”. When this young woman saw the idiom and its definition, her eyes popped out, and she asked me what the US tradition was on who pays for a date. I told her it was flexible but that usually the man pays for everything.

    This explained a lot to her. She was a wonderful person, and a lot of American men asked her out. However, she had a sense she was offending them when she adamantly insisted on paying her own way. The men acted rejected. So why did she still insist on paying? Because in Mexican Spanish, the expression “to go Dutch” is “pagar a la gringa” — in other words, “to pay gringo style”.

    She wasn’t rejecting the men — and she’d have been perfectly happy to let the man pay, as she did in Mexico — but because of that Spanish expression, she though that in the US she HAD to pay! Of course, no guy would ever guess that that was the reason.”

  • Mike Galligan

    Oh, I understand the independant Woman, being the only son with 3 older sisters, all of us with in 4 years, and you will find a variety of answers here. I’m some what old school YET, respect the (forgive me) stuborne Woman who insists she buy. Let Her! But, I believe the Dude should at least offer…and even make a little fuss…about buying. Hey, we’re talking Courting here!! Does not the Male bird flash the color feathers and dance around?? Well then, The Female has the right to puff up and demand her ouwn way! My advice…He had better listen and let her! Good luck Dude! Your gonna need it! ;)

powered by the Paulists