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Opinion and Editorial

Investigating the Age-Old Question: Who is Supposed to Pay on Valentine’s Day?

*Author’s Note: While this article explores gender norms in today’s society within heterosexual couples, I support couples of all kinds and truly believe that ALL love is equal. These are typically concerns and arguments that arise when thinking about roles of individuals in heterosexual couples, but I would appreciate feedback on how homosexual or other LGBTQ+ couples handle issues such as who pays for dates. I wanted to explore how and if gender norms have changed when thinking of males and females in the dating world in today’s society.*

“The man should pay for dinner on Valentine’s Day…that’s how it has always been.”

This is surely a quote you will be hearing sometime this week as Valentine’s Day approaches. But, you also might hear things like “The couple should split the bill,” or “One should pay, and one should tip.” As our gender norms have changed over the years, one we’ve had much debate about is who is supposed to take care of the bill on dates, especially on Valentine’s Day.

I recently came across an op/ed on Facebook from The Odyssey where a woman took a very firm stance that Valentine’s Day was about her. She wrote that her boyfriend was going to treat her to dinner and use the day to show her how much he loves her. Faipler said she did not believe that she was asking for too much. She also argues that women should never have to pay on dates. Faipler stated in the article, “I don’t think I’m putting too many demands or too much pressure on my boyfriend, because as a man, he is already expected to do these things. He is expected to provide financial support, and I am expected to provide emotional support and make his house a home. These things have been done by my parents, my grandparents, their parents and so on.”

While her views differ vastly from my own, it made me wonder: what do other people think about this? How do past gender norms about dating stand in 2019? So, I created a survey in which I asked my Facebook friends, family members, and peers from campus organizations to complete about who should pay on dates, if both parties should buy each other gifts for the holiday, and if Valentine’s Day is really just about the woman or if it’s about couples too.

The surveys that were completed included people of the ages 18 to people in the mid-50s, and in total about 70 people were a part of this research. This is a small sample, but I think the age range and background differences do help reflect our current society. As a whole, about 87% of people, male or female, said they would be making or buying their significant other a gift for Valentine’s Day, regardless of gender.

I was surprised to see that 52% of people said that the male should pay for Valentine’s Day dinner, while 48% said that the bill should be split by both parties. Most of the individuals who answered the latter were college-aged females, but there were older individuals and males who answered this way also. I did expect there to be a higher percentage of people who answered that males should always pay for Valentine’s Day dinner, so this is a definite shift in gender norms as opposed to how individuals would have answered this question 40 or 50 years ago.

When asked if one person should be solely responsible for paying the bill in general, only about 6% of people said yes. Of those, they were mostly male. Most of them were in the 30-55 age range, with some in the college-aged bracket. However, 12% of people answered “other” and used a qualifier.

bee and puppycat money GIFThese included, “The majority of the time the guy should pay,” and “The person with the higher income should pay. Both should take turns and pay when they can, but for special occasions whoever makes more should pay.” Another was, “It’s nice if one person pays but not always the same person each time. For instance, if my partner pays this time then I will pay the next time.” And another said, “Men should pay until it’s an actual relationship. Then they should take turns. But also, don’t be hardline about it.” I last time, so it’s your turn. The woman should be willing to pay and the man should be willing to have his meal paid for.”

Another argument was that one should pay and one should leave the tip. Another response stated, “Depends on our age and what we’re doing with our lives. Currently we’re broke a** college students I don’t expect my man to pay all the time alone.” Also, someone stated that the couple should pay for different things so that it evens out. In summary, most people agree that one person should not always pay the bill. College-aged individuals particularly agree that couples should take turns paying and split dinners/dates evenly.

Another question I was particularly interested in was if people saw Valentine’s Day as a “woman’s holiday” or if it is a day for couples equally. About 80% responded that Valentine’s Day is for couples, while 20% said it was mainly for women.

Surprisingly, of that 20% the majority was overwhelmingly college-aged females that said Valentine’s Day is mostly for females. Based on conversations I’ve had with friends and family members, jokes in the media about men always forgetting holidays or not wanting to buy gifts for their significant others, I expected for men to mostly see that the holiday was all about the ladies. So, this was surprising to me. This group of women also argues that they should split costs of dates, but not on Valentine’s Day.lady and the tramp date GIF

Overall, I enjoyed viewing the results of this survey. I was both surprised and not surprised by some of the responses. I think it’s safe to say that in general, gender norms in relationships and dating are becoming more progressive and equal. But sorry guys, it looks like the pressure is still on you to treat your significant other to dinner or a date on Valentine’s Day.

Please give us your feedback below! If you have any insights into how these norms are reflected within LGBTQ+ couples, please also let us know!


Senior Secondary Education English Major | Creative Writing & Education Technology Minor | Co-Managing Editor for BUnow.com