Dear Ethel-Mae,

At what point in a relationship do you think it’s a nice and reasonable gesture for a woman to pay for some of the dates?

I’m in my late 40s, divorced. I’ve been dating a guy for about a month now. Lately, when we go out, he’s been asking if I could split the bill. We’ve been going out about twice a week and see each other on weekends for an outdoor activity and usually a dinner or night out.

I feel less cherished when he asks me to come up with half the bill and told him so. He said that we both are successful at what we do and that our dating should reflect that financially. But it’s a romance buzz-kill for me. If I pay half the bill so early in the relationship, I feel like I’m more in the friend zone.

Am I being unreasonable? Have times changed that much?

—Confused and Out-of-Touch

Dear Confused and Out-of-Touch,

It’s okay to give back, and my question to you is: How are YOU giving back?

In early dating when a man asks you to help pay and it’s not due to a lack of money on his part, there could be a part of him that feels he’s giving a lot and not getting back and it’s manifesting itself in him asking for you to chip in to feel some kind of compensation or “giving” from you. Ultimately, there are no hard and fast rules about who pays. Each couple can work out what suits them best.

Many women have intuited that when a man is truly interested in you, he’ll INVEST in you. That usually translates into investing both time and money into his wanting to get to know you better. Not every man has the budget to date if it means paying for everything. If his budget is an issue, then his investment in time spent with you and doing small, helpful things for you will show his interest in you and vice versa.

You’re right! When we’re really into a guy, we rarely want the relationship to be equal with the money stuff during the early courtship—because that does dampen romance—but look more for his investment in time spent with you than dollars spent and how he treats you. It’s not that times have changed so much—men DO want to give—however, women need to give back as well if they’re truly interested in building a longterm relationship with the man they’re dating.

As your dates get more frequent, give back in more feminine ways. Get dressed up; cook him a favorite dish and dessert; give him a back rub… these gestures will make him feel like a man and not have money attached to it. Do and say things that let him know you appreciate him (men have a strong need to feel appreciated) for what he has done and is doing for you.

If he begins to want more tit-for-tat with the money and it becomes an issue for you, then maybe he’s just not the right dude for you. However, if you find more ways to give back and see a change in his behavior, then it’s important to recognize that you need to step up and become a more active participant in the relationship.

And trust me, you’ll be covered and HAPPY for the next three months…

Ethel-Mae

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