Q. We have two couples with whom we associate with fairly regularly. One male likes to insist on paying the bill. The other couple seems to have no problem always accepting. I appreciate the gifts of dinner but would really like to reciprocate and am never allowed to do so. What to do?

A.  In some cultures the male is expected to pay for dinner; in others people take turns. Still others just divide the bill evenly among the adults present. So when one person always insists on paying, it may be due to his perception of cultural expectations. It may also be he (usually a he) wants to evidence his wealth or wants to be in charge or figures if he pays he gets to choose the venue or it makes him feel important.

Having said that, all things being equal and finances are no problem, I understand that “turn about is fair play.” Personally, I enjoy reciprocating. However, if it makes others feel uncomfortable then I need to decide whether it is worth creating the discomfort in order to make myself feel comfortable. In the big picture, “giving” is the other side of “receiving.” When one person always insists on “giving,” it may be because the individual is uncomfortable “receiving.” But in effect, that blocks others the opportunity and the pleasure they would receive from giving.

If “it is what it is” and he can afford to foot the bill, your decision is how to relate to that: graciously with a “thank you for dinner,” or ungraciously because you are uncomfortable with receiving (in which case you may want to figure out the reason you are uncomfortable accepting the dinners…).