If a Woman Picks Up a Check While on a Date, Does This Always Mean You've Been Friend-Zoned?

The reason is not the same through all types of dates; however, "friendship-zoning" is only an issue in the early stages of a relationship and so I'll focus on these.
05/30/2014 12:21 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A woman paying on a date in no way means the man is being friendship-zoned just as a woman not paying on a date means she is a sure thing.

In fact, this is not a good method of friendship-zoning for people as friends don't generally pick up the bill for friends, they're more likely to go 'halvsies' (NB this varies a lot between cultures). 

It does mean something though, because a woman paying the whole bill is not a cultural norm and when we deviate from our cultural norms there is usually a reason.

The reason is not the same through all types of dates, however 'friendship-zoning' is only an issue in the early stages of a relationship and so I'll focus on these.

Stage I: The first date

Obviously there are many reasons, but in the case of a potential romantic relationship, where there wasn't an expectation or it wasn't necessary for her to do this, but she does make a point of paying is usually because one of the following reasons:

She is making a statement that just because she is woman that doesn't mean she expects to have to conform to typical gender roles. There are many women who don't expect to conform to traditional gender roles, but accept that there are social conventions that are just easier to go along with. I find that the women who do this tend to fall into one of two groups.

  • The 'Feminist': Many women are feminists, but don't identify as such. Feminism is something that they believe in, not something they are. But there are a group of women who identify more strongly as feminists (not necessarily explicitly) and believe they need to be active about addressing gender stereotypes. They make conscious choices to avoid behavior that reinforces unfair gender biases.
  • The 'Woman with Power': She might be his boss, she might be older than him, richer than him, she may just be super confident, but she has the power and she doesn't mind a man knowing this. She is not going to play the dependent woman in order to feed anyone's ego. This is normally a very liberating feeling for a woman.
If it is either of these scenarios then there is nothing to worry about. Whether or not she paid is irrelevant to how much she likes the man.

The other reason she is paying on the first date is that she is pissed off with the guy. I mean really pissed off. If this is the situation don't worry about being friend-zoned - you'll be lucky to see her again. Some might wonder why would someone who is pissed off want to pay the bill for that person:

  • Pride. Particularly when the reason the woman angry is because the man has been complaining about women and how much they take advantage of men. Little tip: 'Women are all gold-diggers' is not the best first date small talk yet surprisingly common (particularly in online dating) - avoid.
  • Not having to worry about reciprocity. If the woman never want to see that guy again, She might want to minimize any chance of him feeling that he has an excuse to call her again. Even if he wants to repay the meal, she can ignore him with a clear conscience.

Stage II: Getting to know you dates

All of the above applies, but with one extra reason.

It is her turn to pay. Yes that simple. Not all women expect men to pay all the time even if the man is inviting the woman. That is too convenient an excuse. Some people do initiate events more than the other, this is a very typical dynamic in most relationships. That shouldn't mean they get stuck with the bill every single time. We don't live in that world anymore, and many women accept that if both of you are on similar incomes then occasionally (well regularly really) they have to pick up the bill.

Stages III onwards

At this point, the rules for your dating relationship have been established and habit has been formed. If she is paying it is usually either because that is the norm or she is treating you for something, which will be made obvious.

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