Should A Man Be The Man On The First Date?

should a man be the man?Should A Man Be The Man On The First Date?

Having recently reentered the dating pool, I am reexamining (a lot of “re’s” in this post) the rules for dating.  I’m wondering if in the year 2012 we a truly an egalitarian society or if we even really want to be, at least when it comes to dating?

As a “man after fifty”, I was raised to view women in a certain way and instructed to open doors, pull out chairs, stand up when a lady enters the room, etc.  And of course, it was also inherent to pay for the first date, and many more dates to come.  And as the father of an eighteen year old daughter, I have done my best to be conscious of how she viewed me treating women in an effort to model how I’d like her to be treated by men, so that she would have an expectation of being treated well, with respect and dignity.

And yet as my daughter was becoming a young lady and beginning to date, I also felt sorry for the teenage boys who had to pay $30 minimum  for a movie and dinner and that was cheap (I also felt for their parents who subsidized this).  To my daughter at least, going “dutch” seemed reasonable given no one that age really had that kind of money consistently.  Of course, sometimes they snuck into the movies through the back door 🙂

So, I wondered what the latest positions were on this in the “grownup” world.  Doing a little bit of Internet research, I noticed a 2009 Glamour survey of over 2900 women that indicated:

  • 22.9% let the man pay.
  • 13.3% let the man pay and they leave the tip.
  • 45% do “the reach” and then let the man pay.
  • 16.7% split the check.
  • 2% try to pay the check.

This may be more cultural to America, as a British survey reveals that 58% of women expect to split the bill.  I’ve also read some research that indicates the more attractive you are (male or female), the less inclined you are to pay for the date.  At the same time, the more attractive your date is, the more inclined you ARE to pay as a man or split the bill as a woman.

I’ve also checked this out with a gay male friend who is also of my generation.  His response was “this is f***ing 2012 just split it!”

So, what IS the truth, if there really even IS a truth on this?  I will share with you my own personal thoughts, but first I want to share my concerns about the potential downside psychologically to a relationship that begins in this “man being the man” paradigm.

Yes, we are evolutionarily predisposed to have the man take charge and demonstrate his capacity to care for the woman and therefore their offspring, their family.  And yes, this is arousing to both the male and the female, which tends to create attraction and perpetuate the species.  However, this also sets up the relationship from day one to be in the actor/reactor dynamic.

In this actor/reactor model, for the first date, it is pretty much expected that the man decides what the couple is doing (though it can be negotiated), that he pick up the woman, that he pay, that he makes the first “move”, etc.  Yes, there is room to play here, yet most of the men and women I’ve spoken with, when they are deep down honest with themselves, really LIKE it when this takes place.  And it IS a model that is both in our DNA as well as psychologically and societally transmitted for many, many generations.

The downside of engaging in this model from day one is that while it can be effective for courting and mating rituals, it isn’t so great for creating partnerships and long-lasting relationships.  There is all of this pressure on the man, who can fall into a deep shame spiral when he fails to meet expectations, whether his, hers or society’s.

It also puts great power in the woman’s reactions to his ministrations, which in itself is an unfair burden to her.  And as the reactor, it doesn’t necessarily give the woman a full voice, in which case she may often suppress her own desires in order to please the actor.  And then both feel guilty over a dynamic that seemed so wonderful in the beginning of the relationship and yet now is painful and divisive.  Yes, these are generalizations, yet I truly believe they play a large part in early male/female interactions more likely on a deep unconscious level.

So where does this leave us on the question of should the man be the man on the first date?  I’ll give you MY answers, making the disclaimer that I haven’t dated in quite awhile and they are subject to change with future experiences.  And please separate the teacher from the teaching or more accurately, the psychologist from the dater.  My answers are more huMAN than counselor.  And, I also would like YOUR answers, so please comment on this post.

For me, while I’ve been a hopeless romantic many times in the past and hope to be again, I’m also pragmatic, being an engineer turned psychologist.  I hate waste of all sorts and dating opens the door for waste of energy, time and money.  That’s not a romantic notion, yet I have a number of female friends who have complained about dating as “another full-time job!”

For me then, a short interaction where I can meet the person and get a feel for how we connect intellectually, emotionally, physically and spiritually is the best place to start.  I don’t want to have too many telephone/text/email interactions, as this builds up phantasy and in the first 60 seconds of connecting in the flesh, all of that might mean very little if the face-to-face doesn’t have enough juice.

So a short “coffee date” seems best to me.  We meet, we talk, we gaze/stare/gawk/drool (or not) and know if there is another meeting, a true “date” in the future.  And I’ll be polite and charming and gallant  and offer to pay and my date may do “the reach” and offer to pay and I will most likely refuse whether I want to see her again or not.  I’m still subject to that evolutionary drive and my mother’s conditioning.  However, I know that I won’t resent it, as it’s not a big stretch to pay for coffee.

And on that first “true” date, I will most likely pick her up (though in these sketchy times unless there has been a personal introduction, I imagine that some would still prefer to meet at a neutral place), open the car door and pay for dinner.  I’m still in that actor/reactor mode, but I’m not sure how to break it.  And I’ll probably initiate that first kiss as appropriate, the timing of which is a discussion for another blogpost.

My hope is that after a bit, we will start to find some more equalizing rhythm on paying, perhaps splitting sometimes, perhaps alternating meals and entertainment or some other arrangement.  I can’t tell you how many couples I’ve counseled over the past twenty years who STILL have not figured out how to organize their finances together and I believe that this begins with this actor/reactor model.  Time will tell if my head, my heart, my soul, my history or some combination will come up with a better solution.

So these are my thoughts on the mattter, some driven by my intellect, some driven by my anxiety over the new/old situation of dating.  Do I make any sense?  Am I full of it?  Is my bias as a man after fifty showing?

What are YOUR thoughts on this?  Please share your perspectives as men, as women, as daters, as partners, as daters of different generations.  Should the man BE the man on the first date?  And what does that even mean to you?

Thank you for your thoughts,

Dr. Adam Sheck


  1. Great post Adam and welcome to the dating world after 50! I’m with you!

    I love when a man is a man – I don’t do internet dating but coffee would be a great thing for internet dating or any dating. There has to be an attraction – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually or else why go any further.

    Dating in the 50s is a blessing because I hope that people know by now what they want and what rocks their world. As far as future dating, I think it’s only fair to have the man pay for the first date and then I hope the woman would take the lead and pay for the next one – it’s only fair and it shows that you too want to be a giver.

    In gratitude for your post Adam,

    • Nancy,
      Thanks for your thoughts on dating after 50. There’s not much sexier than a woman who knows what she want, I completely agree.
      Thanks so much for sharing,

  2. Clearly, this is multi-factored issue! One thing I try to consider is the relative financial resources of each dating partner. If one is clearly wealthier than the other I think that it’s wise to factor that into the decision about who pays, especially after the first date. I know – it gets complicated!
    Thank you Adam, for raising this question, there are many of us puzzling over it!

  3. Back in the 1940’s (teen yrs), You were either too scared to make advances or too aggressive and flirted with fatherhood. Today, it seems the aggression is on other gender. Age and menapause probably makes the difference. The only obstacle continues to be religious brain washing. Raising the flag is another when Pfizer, Lilly and Bayer don’t work. Neither does much of the herbal BS. If anybody has a breakthrough revelation, please inform the castrated male world.

  4. AWMcLean says

    I enjoyed the post b/c you looked at the subject from all angles. I am a married female in my mid 40’s and my husband and I married in our mid 20’s. My husband has always been The Man from the first date. I love it and always have. He is a gentleman,one of the things I first loved about him. I think you have to find what works for you both from day one. I dont see the harm in a guy paying for the date but I also think a coffee date is a good start too. I think each situation will be colored by peoples backgrounds,the way they were raised,and the social type area they live in. For example, my husband and I are both Southerners and have spent almost all of our lives in the South. Cultural mores are different in general in the South, and in general more conservative(or old school). For example,my husband opens and holds doors, not just for me, but for any woman near a door.He pulls out chairs,he opens the car door,he carries in the groceries. To him,and to me, it shows respect and caring. ~Do you know why men walk on the street side of a sidewalk? Because a man walked closest to the road to protect the women from dirt or mud being thrown up onto the walkway. This is thoughtful and shows caring.~ But this type of beginning and life doesnt have to be unbalanced relationship wise. A married couple is a partnership and being raised to be a gentleman and a Southern woman doesnt mean one has to lead and the other follow,not at all, two people have to respect each other and respect their situation and become a team. That means being respectful of the fact that who ever buys dinner it’s still our dinner together. I suppose to many, having had all our dates paid for by my husband sounds funny,but it would have been odd to us to have it any other way. And yes, I agree it is an expensive proposition to date, especially for teens and college students. We met in college and our dates werent too often expensive.Get creative.(one of my daughters dates last year was a multi course black tie dinner cooked by her dates mom and served by his younger siblings in white dress shirts and black pants in the gazebo at the neighborhood park complete with white lights hung inside the gazebo-what a great date!) Maybe we are old school,but I want my children,the boys and the girls,to be treated with a level of respect that comes with how they were raised. My boys need to treat a girl as a lady from date one.And my girls need to be treated like a lady by any boy she goes out with.And I feel if people can figure out how to be a couple after they have been dating then they should be able to figure out how to be a couple in finances as well. Having dates paid by the man doesnt mean he is the only one with say over finances all your life,its suppose to be a partnership. Again,I may be old school and I havent dated in over two decades,but I think the basic concept of being a gentleman will never,ever go out of style and will always be appreciated. I also believe if you are comfortable being who you are and doing things you have done(such as buying dinner) why change in your 50’s? There must be some like minded female who would appreciate to see a gentleman who buys dinner b/c thats the way he was raised. And wouldnt you be more comfortable with someone raised like you? and thus be more likely to get along than trying to change the norms you have lived by and know??? Just my thoughts

  5. Ran Rhino says

    You have dived into some murky waters, my brother. The whole domain of money is quicksand. MY take? Go with evolutionary biology. I used to angst over the issues of power/ fairness/ etc. That was a loser. There is no winner when, on initial connection, the couple bucks the DNA. I say & I do pay up front. And for awhile. The nuances of family finance and fairness will be and need to be worked out later but until then without polarity you are indeed bogus. Dead in the water. I have lost a lot of potential (shall we say) bedmates by not ‘being the man.’ No an intellectual conversation but an unconscious fact for the majority of men/ women. Of course, the proviso is that we are talking about masculine men and feminine women (a la Deida).

    For what it is worth. Welcome your thoughts.

  6. Great post, Adam. I love this topic. My feeling is that women’s lib has confused the women of the 21st century. We have so-called equal rights in the boardroom, but not in the bedroom (so to speak). Dating still seems to be based on primal caveman hunter/gatherer norms.

    A lot of women show up as competitive and bossy on a date, bringing their work mode with them. They turn off the ‘alpha’ guys who want to relax and chill with their woman after a hard day at work, not debate and argue over dinner. These women claim to want men who are their alpha clones, but this doesn’t work. No polarity, no attraction.

    So, I think women who want more success in attracting men who will nurture them and ‘protect’ them and make them feel safe, need to bring out their more receptive feminine traits.

    This is not about changing who you are to manipulate a man into falling for you and then revealing your true bossy lady self once you’ve got him ‘hooked’. No, this is about learning to be more vulnerable in a man’s presence so you can connect deeply to a soft place in him, to stop emasculating men by taking charge of the date, and to be more receptive.

    I have had clients who took charge from the first date. He asked her to coffee. She said, how about a walk instead? He asked her to dinner, she suggested another restaurant. She’s making him wrong without even realizing it. She’s taking control. And she’s attracting passive men instead of the take charge guy who will turn her on!

    Let him take her to coffee. Let him feel like a man, pay for her coffee, pull out her chair and open her door. She can offer to take him to the theater after a few dates. (She offered after one date). She can offer to pay for dinner or the tip after a few dates.

    I went on a third date with a man yesterday. He drove almost three hours to see me. It made me feel cared for that he made such an effort for me. I offered to help pay for dinner. He refused payment. But on the way out of the restaurant, he thanked me for offering. He said that just knowing that I cared enough to offer meant a lot to him.

    Yes, it can be confusing, all this masculine and feminine energy stuff. The topic is quite complex, and this comment doesn’t do it justice by touching on the outer edges. But in general, I do think that in dating, the old fashioned ways still hold true today.

    Women attract a strong man when they can start out being more receptive. He asks her out, she says yes. He initiates the first kiss, she responds. He takes her to a nice place, she says thank you.

    I know from experience as a strong woman that in subconsciously taking on more masculine dating roles, I was attracting men that I wasn’t attracted to. I had to learn to trust more and be more receptive.

    I am still a strong woman. Men are still attracted to my opinions and intelligence. But they like my quiet strength. I don’t overpower them. And I’m now attracting the men that I WANT to attract.

    I am open to comments on my comment : )


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