Keep yourself and your friends in check.
This little tug of war is a nice way of expressing gratitude and humility, but don't play the game if you fully intend to lose every time. That is disingenuous, selfish, and deceitful. Also, it's very important to not take things too far. Spending more time arguing than you did eating is a sure fire way to get yourself uninvited to future dinners. It is polite to tug a little, but graciously conceding is just as important as offering to pay for yourself. A "thank you" and an offer to get the next meal should be sufficient.
Manners of Paying: Couples
When couples head out to eat together, the general rule is that each couple takes care of their portion of the bill. However, this can depend on the type of invitation. Questions like "Would you guys like to join us for dinner" and "let's grab dinner together" are a little ambiguous and should always be taken as each couple for themselves. Now, if you want to make it clear that you are going to make this a special treat for your friends, you might say something like, "May we take you to dinner?" or "We'd like to buy you dinner". It's best to be as clear as possible up front so there is no confusion at the end of the meal.
Even if it becomes a discussion about who will pay, it's still fine to ask the server for separate checks. Just make sure you aren't asking for separate checks after you sat for a moment to see whether your friends would be buying your dinner. If there wasn't a clear expectation set up before the meal, it's better to default to splitting the bill instead of sitting around awkwardly waiting for someone to make a move.
Manners of Paying: Dating
When it comes to courting, the age-old expectation is that the person who asks is the one who pays. In the past, that has typically been the guy, but we know that's not how things work these days. With that said, it is a good rule to consider that the one who asks is going to pay, but, I'll say it again, don't guess at this. Always make sure you have enough cash on you or money in your account to take care of the meal. If you don't, it's okay to suggest a picnic scenario or offer to cook at your place.
I'll let you work out your long-term financial practices out amongst yourselves. In the meantime, if you are not the one who typically pays for the meal, you can show your commitment to the relationship by offering to pay for meals periodically.
The important things to remember are that expecting for someone else to always pay for you is selfish and unmannerly, arguing about who pays is only going to annoy everyone else, and suggesting that you will pay for the next meal will clear up any misunderstandings before they start.
And as a final word to the listener's question, relax and let your older friends take you to dinner. They are trying to be good examples and offer you encouragement. When it's time for you to start returning the favor, you can make sure they know up front and you can be proud of your outstanding manners.
Thanks for reading to this installment of The Modern Manners Guy's Quick and Dirty Tips for a More Polite Life.
Remember that if you have any comments or questions you may email me The Modern Manners Guy at firstname.lastname@example.org. And don't forget to become a fan of the podcast on Facebook. Drop by, join the discussions, and let us know about your manners situations. You'll find a link to my Facebook group at manners.quickanddirtytips.com.
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