There was a time when I was uneasy letting a man foot the bill for, well, anything. I could take care of myself, thank you very much. I fiercely defended my financial territory because I believed it defined who I was as a woman.
I’ve since shifted my stance, however, and come to this simple conclusion: I’m done with going Dutch.
It’s not for reasons you might assume, though—like “men should always pay” or “women should never have to” or that I suddenly can’t afford to cover my part. No, it’s because I’ve realized that the even-steven approach to a meal, a date or a relationship, for that matter, creates an unreasonable standard. And it may, in fact, set a precedent of fairness that doesn’t exist in real life.
“It makes sense. It’s practical. And yet, no one likes doing it,” points out popular dating coach and author, Evan Marc Katz, who’s against the practice when it comes to dating. “Throwing down all those credit cards just doesn’t feel good,” he explains.
This doesn’t just apply to dates, though. It plays out in the client-vendor relationship, the get-to-know-your-in-laws relationship, the old-friends-from-school relationship and so on. Every moment you spend picking over an itemized dinner bill in each of these scenarios, to me, cancels out a moment of joy. Every attempt at making things fair (“Wait, who had two glasses of wine?”) breaks the spell.
The truth is that no relationship is split evenly down the middle. Like everything in nature, it oscillates, ebbs, flows. Going Dutch says “every man for himself,” but relationships are about turn-taking, giving more than you thought you could and being open to receiving. Show me someone who absolutely will not allow the other person to pay, and I’ll show you someone who’s afraid to accept almost anything, including love.
In the arc of your own relationships—significant and otherwise—there will be periods when you’re the breadwinner and other times when you lean on someone else. The partner who picked up the bill countless times may, five years in, decide to go back to school and need you to step into the support role. If we never needed anyone for anything, well, what would we need relationships for?
I realize I’m taking a lot of meaning from a simple dinner bill—but what are relationships if not a series of meaningful gestures? Which is why the best thing you can do, says Katz, is alternate checks (so long as you’re not keeping score). “It feels good to pick up the check,” he says. “It makes you feel generous to take care of the people you love. And when someone else picks it up, that feels good, too, because it means that person appreciates you.”
That’s really my whole point with being done with dutch because a relationship doesn’t balance out to zero after every meal. Whether I’m on a date with someone new or sharing a meal with an old friend, I enjoy taking care of the check sometimes because it shows I care and appreciate them, more than I do ensuring I haven’t paid more than my share. And I’ll let someone else pay if they want to, with my gratitude, because allowing someone else to give is just as important.
Taking turns caring for and appreciating the other isn’t just a rite of courtship, but a practice—one that allows for graciousness on one hand, generosity on the other and a rich balance that accrues over a lifetime.