This week I’ve had a few reactions from men about an article I wrote about why we are having so much confusion around who pays for a date. While they like the suggestion that this awkward conversation should happen prior to a first meeting, they have expressed considerable concern over “fairness” and why it is still being expected that men pay for a date even if they are the ones to ask. The real questions they are trying to ask is, “Why am I only good enough for my finances” OR “What’s wrong with women who don’t want to collaborate?” “I will never date a woman who does not contribute. It’s a red flag.”
I totally understand the questions. Things have changed considerably and many young women are insisting on paying their own way for things. In Japan, where the social dynamics have changed considerably, many men are simply not getting married out of financial fear while women are walking away from the institution altogether to pursue their dream careers. While many marriage minded women in other countries really do prefer a man to foot the bill in the initial parts of dating.
My heart goes out to everyone during this time. I can feel the insecurity coming to the surface. Whenever I hear an insistence on being “fair,” I know there is work to be done on healing someone’s perceptions of how money was used in a previous relationship or in their family of origin. The “fairness” issue really represents some trauma that needs to be dealt with. It is being projected on to people who have nothing to do with your mindset around money and dating. Not committing to a relationship because of financial concern is also on the rise and represents a misunderstanding around what makes for a long lasting partnership (money, in and of itself, can not bring you the confidence you need to get over your fear of commitment).
The whole topic is starting to highlight our love affair of money over any scientific research that points to the criteria needed to have a successful relationship — money is not on this list.
Money is Simply a Tool We Choose to Use
Money, at the end of the day, is simply a tool used to move energy around. For a very long time (and still in many places) men controlled the flow of money. When this dynamic entered a dating context, there was little to discuss — men had access to this energy and the choice to use it. Unfortunately, not all men choose to use this energy in a healthy and collaborative manner. Finances are often a way in which people control others and financial abuse occurs in over 90% of domestic violence cases. We are clearly still collectively healing from how abusive some members of our society can be when money is involved. This is all bubbling to the surface and, as with any difficult conversation, will result in a lot of emotions being acted out in situations that do not warrant it.
The issue is not in the preference for a split check or that a conversation happened ahead of time. It is much deeper. The issue that is really being discussed is that we are in a time of heightened realignment of our cultural values. Men no longer want to abuse women but are being incredibly impatient in their experiencing of what collective healing of the abuse looks like in their partners (and it may surface as a heightened need to pay the bill or complete passivity if there has been current trauma). From where I’m sitting, it may be the first time we are seriously considering other characteristics of a good date outside of their educational status and financial background. This transitions is bound to be challenging and leave a lot of people, especially men confused about “how to act” in order to “get the person they want.” The truth is however, you don’t get what you want in dating, you get what you need in order to learn and grow. That’s the purpose of a soulmate.
Insecurity Brings Exactly What you Fear Most
When you are constantly worried about being “taken advantage of” or that you are going to meet a gold-digger — guess who shows up? When you are going through a difficult financial situation like the loss of a business or divorce, guess what type of person starts showing up? Our greatest fears will materialize in real life for us to deal with them. Unfortunately, most of us don’t see it this way and draw erroneously negative conclusions about entire groups of people. Right now, we are seeing it happen with men judging women for wanting them to take care of a check on a first date without realizing that, collectively, this is the first time in thousands of years where women really do have some power. We may all want to be more patient with this transition and use our social skills to be less reactive and more open to discussing the topic!
The View from My Personal Experiences
As a woman who prefers somewhat traditional dating (you can blame my Venus for being in Cancer), I will use myself as an example to illustrate how people can have drastically different mindsets around this issue. I was raised and taught that if someone asks you on a date, they should pick up the check. I have a preference for alternating dates as well. If I think that things are becoming too imbalanced, I start offering to pay for things but because I know my preferences, I screen in people who are a better fit for this overall perception of how dating should go. Most of the time they decline until we are in a much more established relationship. I find this more traditional way of courtship much more romantic and sexually appealing.
But I have had experiences on a first date where the awkwardness comes up. I’ve learned that when this happens, it is can be because the other person is trying to ascertain your financial status and is not operating from a place of unconditional love — in other words, that moment of awkwardness is a sign we may not be on the same energetic level and I’ve learned those are the red flags I need to pay attention to. Generosity is important to me and while I may not be going out to donate millions of dollars in charity, I am very generous with giving my time and knowledge to others. Qualities, by the way, that many people (especially emotionally unavailable people) who are focused on numbers often miss as a potential gift. I’ve also learned that these moments can convey important information about someone’s intentions. They are opportunities to practice listening to your intuition.
“Don’t believe everything you think.” — Byron Katie
So what happened in these situations? I’ve learned to stay in my receptive way of being and wait to see what happens. On one occasion it forced my date to admit he left his wallet at home and to ask if he could PayPal me (it was true and he did PayPal me although it wasn’t necessary). It was hard for him to be vulnerable but it broke the ice and we did go on another date. On more than one occasion, sitting back led my date to have an in person melt down which led to a confession that they were not over their ex whom they recently divorced. We did not go on another date but it gave them clarity that they were not ready to be dating and he apologized and expressed gratitude for our date. On another occasion, I was able to intuit (and later confirm) that he had a habit of trying to date women he perceived as having money so he didn’t have to work. While he paid for the check, he started talking about how much he enjoys paying for dates (a red flag of insecurity — secure people don’t talk about it, they just do).
So why do I really pay attention to whether my date pays the check or not (if he asked) — The research shows that the number one trait associated with healthy marriage and high earning potential is conscientiousness. Paying a bill, happily, says more about your personality as a transformational leader than your bank account ever will.
If you are truly mindful and committed to your own values, you learn more about what is going on in someone’s life in these moments. If you, however, just jump to conclusions or rush to fix a situation — be prepared to continue to meet the people who will confirm your negative thought patterns. It is the lesson you are supposed to learn. Insisting on “fairness” is the mind’s way of talking you out of your using your intuition and emotional intelligence.
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” — Confucius
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Dr. Jennifer B. Rhodes is a licensed psychologist, relationship expert and the forthcoming author of Toxic Insecurity: Our Search for Authentic Love. You can connect with her on Twitter and Instagram @jenniferbrhodes.
This post was previously published on Medium and is republished here with permission from the author.
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