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Dating and Dollars

Dating and Dollars by Stacy Kravetz

The date had gone well, Jane thought, munching the crust of the last piece of pizza.

Now it was time to pay. Jane had asked Michael out, so she decided she'd just pay for their dinner. She took out her wallet to pay the check and her date tossed her two dollars, to pay for his share -- he'd only eaten one piece of pizza because he wasn't too hungry.

Jane was mortified; she'd offered to pay, so why couldn't he just let her do it? Or if he wanted to split the check, why couldn't he split it evenly? The ugly green monster -- money -- had ruined a perfectly pleasant date.

Who Treats

Even if you don't consider yourself likely to discuss high finance during the early stages of a relationship, money will probably come up. Even as early as the first date, you've got to decide who pays for dinner, coffee, the movie -- even for valet parking.

Etiquette aside, it's bound to get awkward when you both reach for your wallets or, worse, begin arguing about who should pay.

There's always the issue of whether the person who asks is the one who should pay. That's a useful rule of thumb, but it doesn't always apply. Some guys have been trained since birth to pull out their wallets when the check arrives, while others feel as if they've scored when their dates offer to pay.

Since most of us work, there's no reason to assume our dates will do the paying, especially since we're perfectly capable of doing it ourselves. Besides, there's another benefit to sharing the costs: If you go out six times and decide it's over, you won't feel bad because the guy's spent his life's savings buying you dinner.

21. If you're striving for parity in a dating situation where the guy insists on paying, think of other tactics. For example, the next time you make plans to go out on a date, ask whether he'd be interested in seeing a play, an art exhibit, or a movie -- and tell him you'll pick up the tickets. That way he won't feel as if he has to pay for everything, but he also won't get stuck under the accusatory gaze of some antiquated waiter in a restaurant when you pick up the check.

Power Play

Once you've gotten the "who pays" issue resolved, you'll no doubt move on to bigger financial issues. You may find yourselves trying to mesh different styles and philosophies. You may have a personal policy that you never discuss how much you spend on anything or how much you've invested. He may ask you flat-out on the second date how much you pay for rent or what stocks you own.

Jennifer, a stockbroker in New York, went on a date with a new guy who not-so-subtly told her he was wearing an Armani suit and Ferragamo shoes. He tried so hard to let her know he was just as successful as she was that Jennifer was repelled: "He was probably a nice guy, but he was so concerned about showing me how much he spent on things that it was a total turn-off."

Money issues are often about boundaries and power, says psychologist Phyllis Goldberg. Talking about your investments or dropping hints about how much money you make or what you can afford to buy sends a signal to the person you're dating. It may convey more about you -- or him -- than you're really ready to learn at an early stage, so Goldberg suggests keeping money out of your conversations when you're just beginning to date.

The bottom line is that love and money can coexist quite nicely as long as you make the relationship take priority over who has the fatter wallet or who picks up the tab.

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