Dating Scene: Are There Any Traditional Men Left?

With all the rules of dating now out, what do women really want? Is it a traditional man? And if, so, what does that mean these days?


Recently I’ve had an influx of new clients complaining to me about the lack of good prospects in the nation’s capitol.  Of course, there’s nothing new about women complaining about men. That’s just par for the course. What’s interesting to me is that instead of the gripes running the gamut, (he’s not tall enough, not smart enough, not funny enough) the complaints I’ve been hearing more recently all share one common theme. Women these days are looking for a “traditional guy” – one who will plan every date, open every door, and pick up every tab. In short, these women want to be courted like it’s 1939. But this is 2010, so is it really fair of us to expect a guy to still “call on” us like the old days?

Who should pay?
Today it’s pretty standard for the man to pay for a first date.  Even if the woman offers, it is common knowledge that if he wants to see her again, he won’t let her get past the wallet reach. But some women today want to stretch out that first date standard, and insist the guys pay for everything … every time.

Patricia, who lives in Dupont, equates how much money a guy spends to how much he really likes her. “If he takes me to a nice restaurant, orders a good bottle of wine, and doesn’t even think of asking me to help out, I know that he is genuinely interested,” she says.  Most other women would not fight her logic, but as the relationship progresses, Patricia expects the same kind of treatment. “If two months in, we go to a chain restaurant and he expects me to chip in, I figure it’s his way of saying, ‘I’m not that into you anymore.'”

Patricia says she gets her old school mentality from her mother, who taught her that men should pursue her.  Not surprising given that most mothers with daughters who are now old enough to date,  grew up in a different era of dating. “The reason that men always paid in the past was because most women didn’t work,” says Eric, who is single and twenty-six. “But that isn’t the case anymore.”

A century ago, less than 20% of women participated in the labor market, while today the number is around 70% and growing. Back then, a boy was expected to ask a girl out, plan the date, and yes, pay for everything. In return, all he expected was a good-night kiss. But with the cost of inflation today, that kiss just doesn’t go as far.

Ryder, a thirty-three year old single male from Arlington, says he doesn’t mind paying for dates. However, by date four he no longer feels he is just dating a woman. They are in a relationship by that point, and she should at least be making an attempt to balance things out. “If she’s making more or equal money, she should be respectful enough to pay sometimes. If she’s making far less money, just pick up the random ice cream, beer, coffee, whatever. Little gestures show you’re not oblivious to the fact that we’re paying or simply sustenance dating”– a term used for women who go out with men they have no interest in other than to pay for them to eat at the newest, hottest restaurants.

There are a few men that do support Patricia’s theory. But most are newly divorced, and unfamiliar with how much the game has changed. When Dan, a fifty-eight year old defense contractor courted his wife back in 1969, he never thought twice about footing the bill. “I didn’t expect a woman to pay then, and I don’t now,” he says quite bluntly. Will he change his mind once he puts himself back on the market? Only time will tell.

To be in a happy relationship, there must be balance. And while there are a good deal of men that claim to prefer the traditional male-female roles, they usually don’t want them to kick in until after the couple is married. After all, you really can’t take a woman out; wine her, dine her, and then take her back to your place to fold your underwear, can you?

Today’s dating
Fifty years ago dating was much simpler. You went out for a soda and a hamburger, or sat in a parked car for a few hours. Today, most dates take place over a three-course meal and a few glasses of wine.  Traditions are changing. The expectation and the expense have gone up. But with both parties out in the workforce dating doesn’t have to break a guy’s bank account.

My opinion? If you have passed the forth date mark it may be time to start showing a little reciprocity, girls. He works hard for the money just like you do. So you better treat him right if you want to see him again.


Author and relationship expert Jess McCann.

Jess McCann is an author, speaker, and dating coach who knows what it’s like to be on the other side of the fence. Before finding love and writing, You Lost Him at Hello: a saleswoman’s secrets to closing the deal, she was confused, self-conscious and alone. Since then, she has coached women all over the globe on how to kick their love life into high gear and get the relationship they have always wanted. She’s appeared on national television shows, such as Good Morning America, The Fox Morning show with Mike & Juliet and speaks frequently at women’s rallies, college campuses and lifestyle events.

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9 Responses

  1. simply scott says:

    So a “traditional man” is one who picks up the tab, which is something I tend to do, including opening doors, etc. That said, I think half the problem is that there are too many women out there in the Wash-B’more area who are just wondering how big your wallet is. I’m not Mr. Fancy. I plan easy, low-maintenance dates that are about getting to know you, not look how much money I can spend. If all women want to know about nowadays is how much money you make, they can find that out in the part of the conversation about jobs — hey, I’m a doctor; hey, I’m a social worker — big pay disparity. Besides, why should a man go spend $150 on dinner with a woman he’s not even sure he likes yet? Again, this all sounds like “gold digging” to me, not dating.

  2. Justagirl says:

    Any woman who is really looking for a good, traditional man to date would be appreciative of a low-maintenance date where the guy wants to “get to know them better”. No fancy dinner necessary. And, I do offer, but am never allowed to pay when my guy takes me out. He forgot his wallet the other day and we were going to breakfast, cheapest meal of the day. Instead of letting me pay, we had to drive all the way back to his house so he could get his money….after he opened my door for me. Now, that’s a guy worth keeping.

  3. Jason says:


    You are either a trophy wife in training, gold digger, have issues, or check “d” all of the above. I make six figures, but I dont want to eat at Citronelle or blow big money on dining all the time. Every now and again is fine, but do you really equate how much a guy likes you on how much the bottle of Bordeaux he orders costs? Patricia you are an empty sweater. Good luck finding your sugar daddy

  4. Jennifer says:

    I appreciate a low-maintenace date and when a guy pays. It is tradition for a guy to pay no matter what for the first date. I know a lot of girls that expect their boyfriends/husband to pay for rent if they live together. I don’t expect my boyfriend to pay for rent. I can support and pay for myself. I think that a lot of women just feel good when a guy pays because they feel like the man is taking care of them. We can take care of ourselves but its just nice and tradition for a man to pay. I have always been career minded and independent and I am a great saver. Usually men make more money then women. In most cases I think women expect men to pay and men expect women to clean or stay home with kids (its tradition). Even if I got married and my husband told me I didn’t have to work I would probably be bored and want to work but I would take the traditional role if needed. I don’t think a woman should complian if they do have to pay or should offer to pay and some times demanded to pay(to be nice!) It’s just tradition for men to pay.

  5. Sommerswerd says:

    Women say all the time that they want a Gentleman, or a “traditional man”, a man who believes in opening doors, paying for dates, etc, for his woman… But many women do not consider or understand, that a “traditional” man is looking for a “traditional” woman, and will not accept a new-age-type of woman. A Gentleman wants a Lady. Being a Lady dosent ONLY mean that you like having a man pay for dinner and you like to wear high heeled shoes…

    Women often forget that a traditional man expects his traditional lady to cook and clean, wash dishes, do laundry, iron clothes, as well as stay home to take care of the kids… that is what a “traditional” lady does. A traditional man expects a woman to sit quietly and speak when spoken to, while she is eating the meal he is paying for. A traditional man expects his woman to agree with him and never argue or contradict him, etc. A traditional woman sacrifices her ego, and her career to support the ego and career of her man. That is the tradition and that is what a traditional Lady does.

    A “traditional man” opens doors, pulls the woman’s chair out for her, takes her coat, pays for dinner etc., because a “traditional” man is accustomed to the “tradition” that women are the weaker sex, that must be cared for. Opening the door for you is a sign to you and everyone else that you are Under his protection… you BELONG to him. A traditional man pays because a traditional man expects his woman to make less money than him. That is the tradition, because traditonally, women were seen as deserving less pay than men. A traditional man makes a big deal to pull out the womans chair and take her coat because it is a symbol to her and everyone watching, that she is WITH him… and she BELONGS to him.

    All those things traditional men do are a symbol of his taking possesion of you, and he expects you, the traditional lady, to behave accordingly. He is the leader, and you are his prize, you follow his lead, you submit to his will, you make way for his ego and play a supporting role to him, because you are a “traditional” lady and that is the tradition. The tradition of a paternalistic, chauvinistic society.

    Now some women like that. They like to be possesed, and they like to be treated and attended to in public, and they love to cook and dont mind playing the happy homemaker role. Some women are perfectly content, even look forward to being the quiet supporting partner in the relationship/marriage. These are traditional ladies, and they will have little trouble finding a traditional man.

    But many women are looking for a Dream Man who is the perfect hybrid of all the best parts of the old-school, chivalrous, traditional gentleman, but without the chauvenism, and all the while integrating all the best parts of the new-age enlightened man who sees a woman as his equal and can handle a woman being stronger, richer, more intelligent than him. That is perfection, and perfection is a fantasy. The reality is that the more “traditional” a man is, the more chauvenist he will generally be as well, because that is the tradition.

  6. Ben says:

    Even for many of us Good Single men out there it is very hard to find a real Good old fashioned woman these days since the women of today have really Changed since the Good old days.

  7. Theo says:

    I would like to think of myself as a “traditional man” or a gentleman. I hold doors for women, I pay for dates, offer my coat, etc. even though I regard women as equals. All of the aforementioned gestures are a sign of respect, free of charge and obligation. However, I’m not one who likes to be taken advantage of and as such I’m looking for a “lady” who would appreciate my efforts and show me that she has respect for herself and is kind to those around her. When I date a woman my goal is to find out who she is and if we are right for each other. I have no interest in sex on the first date, the third date or after any other arbitrary amount of time. Not until we are in a loving committed relationship, and not until we’ve met each others parents. THAT is what courtship is all about but unfortunately you’d be hard pressed to find a like minded woman. Perhaps after they’ve spent some time casually hooking up, they start to see things differently and long for a “traditional man”, but as a traditional man you can never be too sure if they are “born again ladies” by choice or by circumstance which is why dating is a bit of a gamble for me. As I said before, I’m not overly fond of being taken advantage of and I would rather treat a good woman who truly deserved it.

  8. Lynn says:

    Noifty me about a guy that really is interested inme I’m 60 years old looking really hard for a older guy

  1. June 4, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Washington Life and Washington Life, wedate. wedate said: Dating Scene: Are There Any Traditional Men Left? | Washington …: With all the rules of dating now out, what do … […]

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