Feel Good

My date was a bust, but I let him pay – should I have split the bill?

Our Secret Dater considers dating decorum – and asks the guys what they think.

Written by High Life North
Published 12.07.2023

this article contains sponsored content

To pay, or not to pay – that is the question.

The other week I went on a date. It was perfectly fine.

Okay, to be honest, it was nothing to write home about. He was quite lovely, but we had very little in common and I won’t see him again. In fact, I knew that within about 30 seconds.

And that got me thinking. In 2023, as a woman, is it okay to let the man pay if you know you don’t want to see him again?

According to a recent survey by dating site Elite Singles, over half (62.6%) of men surveyed said they prefer to pay for the first date, where less than half (46%) of women surveyed believe the man should pay, preferring to split the bill instead.

So, in a world where we’re making roads towards equality between the sexes, what’s the etiquette on a first date?

I asked some of my single male friends how they feel about paying on the first date, and the results were pretty much unanimous.

One dater from Glasgow, said: ‘I make a point of paying the bill on the first date without exception.’

This defiance and determination to pay was consistent across my (very scientific) research.

As well as asking if the men expected to pay on the first date (universally, yes), I also wanted to dig into behaviors and etiquette.

We’re all very used to making the fumbled grab for our purse when the bill arrives – only for the man to then gallantly say, ‘please, it’s on me, I insist.’ So what do they think of our attempts?

Once again, the response was relatively unanimous. A simple ‘thanks, but no thanks.’

‘I like it if the woman offers, it’s sort of a green flag, but I always insist I pay,’ said one of the hopeful swipers from London.

Where another of the ‘subjects’, from Manchester, said ‘I like it, I suppose, but I wouldn’t allow it. Mainly out of general chivalry.’

Seemingly, this research signals that we’ve got the green light to ‘let’ men pay for our first dates, but how can we apply this to my situation with my disappointing date last week?

Allow me to set the scene, and then you can be the judge.

We matched on Hinge and had a bit of chat. He was very sweet, we had some good conversations about travel, work, dating and food.

But he wasn’t setting my world alight. Our conversations didn’t make me buzz with excitement. But he seemed lovely – he was lovely – and so, when he said he would ‘love to take me out for dinner’, I agreed.

After cycling through some of Newcastle’s pricier options (all his suggestions), he settled on a seafood place and booked a table for Sunday lunch.

We arrived, there was some kerfuffle around where to meet, an awkward greeting, and then…a very average lunch with very stilted conversation.

He was very shy, and therefore not particularly forthcoming conversationally. I had to do most of the talking. He barely asked me any questions.

For these reasons, coupled with the fact that we are entirely different people, I wouldn’t see him again. And I think that’s fair.

However, when the waitress handed him the menu, I got the sense it was more expensive than he was expecting. So, I ordered conservatively and let him choose the wine.

When the bill arrived, I made two attempts to split it, but he insisted he’d pay. So, I let him. Then I said my goodbyes with an awkward hug.

Within about 30 minutes of leaving the restaurant, he texted me expressing a desire to see me again, and I politely let the conversation fizzle out.

That’s all fine. We’re grown-ups who understand that not every date leads to something special. But I can’t shake the slight feeling of guilt over letting him get the bill when I knew almost instantly I wouldn’t see him again.

Should I have been honest in the moment and, as kindly as possible, said that I didn’t think we were a match and that I would like to split the bill?

Or, even in the equal society we’re forging in 2023, is it just expected that men will pay regardless?

I asked my ‘subjects’ what they would have thought in this situation, and they did put my mind at ease a little.

Our dater in Glasgow said: ‘you’re not buying a second date when you get the bill – it’s nice to be a gentleman.’

Meanwhile, one of our Newcastle daters said: ‘it’s not a problem! I wouldn’t expect anything just because I had paid the bill.’

So maybe I’m worrying about nothing. Or maybe he’s quietly sitting at home, seething.

What would you have done?

If you’re also searching for love but are sick of using dating apps, NCL Dates could be the answer.

The Newcastle dating agency is on a mission to make ‘old-school’ speed dating fashionable again by hosting single and double speed dating events across quirky city centre venues for all ages and sexualities.


Upcoming speed dating events:

NCL Dates: Speed Dates X Social Bar (25-39yrs)

When: Friday 11th August, 7:30pm – 10:30pm 

Where: Social Bar, Newcastle upon Tyne

Ticket Price: £9.99

Last time this event sold out over two weeks in advance so act fast!

You can go alone or with a friend and they’ll ensure you either sit together (women) or follow the circuit of dates around together (men).

The event will begin at 7.30pm sharp so you need to be inside beforehand. Table service will be available throughout. Your dates will last around 5-6 minutes long and there will be a two or three 10-15 min breaks.

You will be provided with a date rating sheet, whereby you can ‘like’ up to 10 other daters (a like based on whether you felt you had a connection and would like to exchange contact details). If they liked you back, you will match and preferred contact method shared the following day. You input your preferred contact method on your date rate sheet – either text or Instagram is preferable.

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