Last July, my girlfriend of three years ended our relationship in a highly disrespectful and selfish way. After much retrospection and careful consideration, I’ve come to understand that there were some serious warning signs right up front that I ignored. As a result of my failure to heed these warnings, the relationship was haunted by a few nagging issues. The most important of these is the classic behavior I’ve seen many times exhibited by my friends and myself. This behavior is one of the easiest ways to introduce a wedge between you, creating conflict and adding tension. I call this the front.
We’ve all done it at least once, and we all felt the sting when it came back to haunt us later. The front is the image of yourself you portray to your date because you think it will increase your chances of succeeding with the date. I’m not exactly sure what succeeding means in this context, as it seems to vary widely. Nonetheless, we’ve all attempted to front our way into a new relationship at some point or another in our lives. I believe this behavior stems from the inherent uncertainty of the dating ritual, coupled with our personal insecurity about the date. We believe if we somehow augment ourselves in the eyes of our prospective mate, we will gain an advantage. I’m here to tell you this is always a bad idea.
Sure, it may seem like the right approach. We usually want to put our best foot forward when making a first impression. Naturally, it would seem like a good idea to bolster that impression as much as possible. That is a mistake. What you’re really doing is giving a false impression. If you start off by paying for everything for your date, you set a precedent. You may feel chivalrous and gallant and other adjectives describing a knight in shining armor, but you’re setting yourself up for the big fail. That is unless you *want* to be the bitch for the rest of the relationship. The first time, you think it’s sweet, and your date may agree. On subsequent dates, you reinforce your role as the subservient partner by continuing to insist that you pay for everything, never once realizing the catastrophe you’re building.
To me, the first red flag is when you offer to pay and your date accepts, without even offering to pay for their half. Sure, it’s a nice gesture, and I even agree that it should be done from time to time. What I don’t like, though, is the pattern of abused generosity that is created if you don’t stop offering and your date doesn’t stop accepting. Every time you pay, your date loses respect for you. They may not realize it consciously, but it happens. Each time, they see more evidence that you’re willing to pay for them, regardless of the situation. This is a boundary concession, and you must not do it or you risk losing the respect of your would-be partner and possibly yourself.
If you offer to pay for your date, and they politely refuse, insisting the bill is split evenly, you have a decent chance at a real relationship. If not, get the fuck out of there. I don’t care how hot your date is. It’s not worth it. If you really want to buy sex, find a hooker. It’ll be cheaper in the long run and almost certainly involve less drama.
At some point, the front is going to become transparent, and your partner will lose even more respect for you. This leads to disappointment, which can be very difficult to shake, especially if the front was held up for a long time. When the front fails, your partner will see that you’ve been faking to look more awesome than you really are. The magic fades, the thrill is gone, and you’re back to dinner for one. So, instead of fronting, I suggest being yourself – completely – from the beginning. Only offer to pay for your date when you want to do something special. You’re not going to sprint the whole race, so you might as well start at a comfortable pace. Otherwise, you’ll gas out, trip, and fall on your face.
You might think I am encouraging you to do something that seems like it would guarantee you a bad outcome. I promise you that’s not the case. What I’m recommending is a way to know right away whether this person is going to take you for all you’re worth or carry their own weight. To quote Andre 3000, “I wanna see your support bra, not support you.” Nobody likes a mooch. Don’t enable your date, and you can be sure you’ll know where they stand immediately. That way, you won’t waste years of your life disarming conflicts that arose because you allowed your partner to take advantage of you. You’ll feel more confident, and you’ll be glad you held your own in the face of certain heartache. It’s far better to live happily alone than miserably with someone else.
Of course, if you’re into dating someone who treats you like shit and takes advantage of your generosity, or if you’re into the sugar daddy/momma thing, ignore everything you just read.