There was a time when dating was simple. Men were expected to be gentlemen and women were expected to be ladies. Their roles were clear-cut. Today single people are often mixed up about proper dating etiquette. This is particularly true if you are re-entering the singles scene after years of being half of a married couple. It can be quite traumatic to play the “dating game” without knowing the rules.

Singles often feel in a “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” situation. For example, if you’re a man and automatically pick up the check at a restaurant, you may gain points with one woman but antagonize another. If you’re a woman and prefer to pay your own way you’ll find that some men love it and others hate it. So what are the rules for dating in America in the Eighties?

There are none. What works with some singles, doesn’t work with others. It may be helpful therefore, to do 2 things:

  1. Communicate with your dating partners. Let them know your preferences in terms of male/female roles, and find out theirs. For example, if you are a man who enjoys opening the door for a woman, ask her if she’s comfortable with that or prefers to open her own door. If you’re a woman who likes to pay her own way, check that out with your partner before the date.
  2. Be tolerant of your date’s desires. Again using the example above, if she says she doesn’t want you to open her door, then don’t. Don’t get upset or try to persuade your date to give in your expectations.

There are 3 issues that come up most often during dates.

Issue #1: Who Initiates the Date ?

Despite what you hear about women’s liberation, the man usually initiates dates in America. But it also is socially acceptable for a woman to initiate a date. So do what feels comfortable.

Issue #2: Who Controls the Date ?

Some men enjoy the “masculine” role of deciding where to go on a date. Many women feel quite comfortable with this. In that case, there’s nothing wrong with an “old-fashioned date” with the man making the decisions. Many men and women, however, want a more equal relationship where both share in the decisions. It’s important, therefore, to communicate your preferences and try to come to an accommodation with your partner.

Issue #3: Who Pays ?

Here again you can’t believe all you read and hear about women’s liberation. The fact of the matter is that most women in California expect the man to pick up the check at restaurants, bars, etc. If you’re a man, therefore, expect to pay most of the time.

Some men feel uncomfortable with picking up the bill. They prefer a “Dutch treat” where the bill is split. That’s fine, as long as you have discussed this earlier with your date and she has agreed to it. Otherwise, it is quite rude to ask a woman out to a movie, for example, and announce to her at the ticket window that she has to pay for her own ticket.

Men who would prefer that the woman “pay her fair share” often feel uncomfortable about discussing these matters. They are afraid that the woman will consider him to be cheap. This is indeed a possibility. Many women expect to be treated generously by a man. Some want to be taken to expensive restaurants, night clubs, etc. They may expect the man to bring flowers, a bottle of wine, or candy on a date when he comes to pick her up.

What do you do if you’re a man and feel uncomfortable with all this? Don’t date that kind of woman. There are plenty of women who are willing to pay their own way. They are the minority, but still a sizable one.

Some men feel quite bitter about society’s expectation that they pick up the tab on dates. They can’t understand why women are so “unfair”. The most obvious reason is tradition. Throughout history men have been the “providers” and women have been the “homemakers”. Today, with a significant percentage of the American work force composed of women, this is no longer always the case. But old traditions die slowly.

Another explanation is the fact that women only earn 72% of what men do in our society. For this reason many women feel that it is quite fair that the man pay for activities on dates.

One way the issue of equity is often settled is by the man paying for out-of-pocket expenses and the woman repaying him by having him over for dinner. This is a very fair way of handling the issue since most single men don’t eat very good meals and really appreciate a home-cooked meal.

If you are a woman, you may have a problem adjusting to the expectations of different men on this issue. One man may be offended if you offer to pay your half. The next may be delighted. Again communication and tolerance are the keys. Normally it’s assumed that the man will pay, but if you prefer to pay your own way you should discuss this ahead of time, preferably on the phone before your first date.

Come to an agreement on who is to pay.

What do you do if the man insists on paying? You can call him a male chauvinist pig and refuse to go out with him again. Or you can accede to his wishes and let him pay. This has obvious financial advantages. There often is a disadvantage, however. Some men believe that if they spend money on a woman this entitles them to sexual favors. Don’t allow yourself to fall into this trap. If you’re going to feel pressured to give in sexually to a man who spends a lot of money on you in an evening then insist on paying your own way. If he won’t agree to this, then cancel the date.

In other words, stick up for your rights. Try to be accommodating to the needs of your date, but not at the cost of sacrificing your own values or comfort.