Dating can be stressful. First you have to ask someone out; then decide where the date will be; pick out a nice outfit and make it through the date without coming off as a total weirdo. And after all of that, there’s the discomfort when the check comes. You’ve just enjoyed a really nice dinner, drink, coffee, etc. with a great person, and now you have to decide what the protocol is for paying for bill.

No woman should automatically assume the man will pay for the meal, even if tradition dictates he does. Paying the bill based on gender also doesn’t apply to LGBTQ couples. In an ever-changing society where traditional values are shifting to include modern men and women, what can anyone expect?

This is something I’ve discussed with a lot of people, including guys I’ve gone on dates with. Personally, I am a huge believer in alternating who pays on a date. I think that’s fair to both parties, and it doesn’t require the headache and confusion of splitting the bill.

As a graduate student, my funds are pretty limited. Likewise, I have only dated other college students, so they aren’t exactly in the most secure financial position either. Why would we not both contribute? Alternating who picks up the tab for the date should want to pay for someone you are going on dates with. Part of dating should be that you care for someone and want to take care of them, and what better way to do that than treating them to a nice evening?

Then there’s the debate over paying for the first date. I know a lot of guys have told me they want to pay for the first date because that’s the way they’ve been raised, or they think it’s the “gentleman” thing to do. Do I totally agree with this? No. Do I think it’s archaic? Yes. Can I get past this? Yes – as long as I can pay for the second date.

I posed this question on my Instagram stories as a poll about a year ago and received several passionate/aggressive messages on paying for dates. One guy even wrote me explaining why he would never let a woman he dated pay.

“I was always taught it’s polite and respectful,” he said. “Plus it shows a girl and her family [I’m] willing to spend both time, money and effort on her. It’s going that extra mile to take care of someone.”

To be fair, yes, that does show you want to take care of someone, and I agree to an extent. However, I’m a modern woman, and I can take care of myself. Dating someone should only bring additional light to my life in the form of companionship and general fun. I don’t need someone to materially take care of me.

I continually make this case for alternating paying the bill, and I think it has even been a good method of weeding out guys I have no business dating. I don’t want to date someone who is going to leverage paying for dates in the same way that dowries were once used for engagements. I am worth much more than 37 sheep and a couple of cows.

If he gets upset that I want to contribute to dates, then he probably isn’t the one for me. I want someone who’s going to see me as an equal. If he doesn’t let me contribute, what kind of partnership would that create? Not one I want.