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When an Online Relationship Leads to a First Date—Who Pays?

Posted by Peter Post  May 15, 2012 07:00 AM

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Who pays for a date in the online dating world, especially who pays for the first face-to-face meet?

When that question came up during my interview on the Dating Playbook (Sirius channel 104) last Friday for the release of my new book, Essential Manners for Men 2nd Edition (William Morrow), a firestorm erupted.

That first date is a critical moment in the online dating continuum. No more electronic brick wall to hide behind. It’s the moment when you and your profile better be a match, when you have to live up to your photo, and it can cause anxiety for both people.

I counseled that the “date” be in a public place, that it be kept relatively simple and inexpensive (like meeting at a coffee shop where conversation is the activity), and that each person pays his or her own way.

One of the show’s hosts was aghast. She expects the man to pay for all dates, and from her point of view this date would be no different. A couple of male callers-in also commented that because it was a date, they would expect to pay. Yet, as the hosts discussed the issue with other women in the studio during the break, they found opinions varied. Some would be more comfortable paying their own way while others would expect the man to pay.

While I appreciate the traditional sentiment that the man should pay for a date, that “rule” grows out of an even more basic concept: the person doing the asking does the paying. And as men usually do the asking, they do the paying. That said, I also encourage women to do the asking and the paying. If they want to share in paying for a date, the time to negotiate is at the time of the ask. “John, I’d enjoy going out again tomorrow. Thanks for asking. But this time, I’d like to take you.” Issue settled.

However, a first date generated from an online relationship is different. It’s a get-to-know-you moment, one which may go somewhere or may never go any farther. Because she pays her way, the woman may feel more comfortable not having any sense of obligation to the man, be it to see him again or for anything else. At this point in the relationship it keeps everything neutral. If things go well and one asks to see the other again, then they’re into “the person who does the asking does the paying.”

I’d like your opinion. Please click here to take my poll which is on the Emily Post home page about who should pay on that first “date” after meeting online.

Essential Manners for Men was first published in 2003 and became a New York Times bestseller for advice books. Essential Manners for Men 2nd Edition (William Morrow) is available now.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News."

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