About the Author

Honey's main interests are online dating, long distance dating, and long term relationships. She met her boyfriend on MySpace and they have been exclusive since their first date over three years ago. Currently they live in Tempe, Arizona. Honey graduated with her PhD in Composition and Rhetoric in May 2009. You can contact Honey via email here or online here.

How Much Do I Invest in Someone Else?

For those of you who haven’t been following the sometimes vociferous debates in response to Evan Marc Katz’s latest two posts, do yourselves a favor and check them out.  I’m a huge fan of strong opinions but was a little shocked to be told that my dating/relationship style was “selfish” and “toxic,” so I decided to think a little bit more about where my attitudes toward dating come from.  One of the other commenters, Kenley, writes

The truth is being a great date or partner is about balance. You have to be both selfish AND selfless…the tricky part is figuring out when to give your needs/wants/desires priority vs when to give the other person’s needs/wants/desires priority. And, I think that balance is different for different people.

Not only do I think that’s the truth of it, I know that for me, how much to give and how much to take has been a huge struggle because of my experiences growing up.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, my mother was quadriplegic by the time I was in high school.  The dynamic of my home was pretty much my dad calling all the shots on what needed to be done re: taking care of her, paying bills, cooking, cleaning, laundry, trying to rein in my crazy sister (who by this time was getting arrested, dropping out of high school, getting pregnant…) and me being the one who actually did it all.  Now, in retrospect I don’t blame my dad for his reaction: his wife was dying.  However, despite the fact that I can empathize with him, clearly this didn’t foster a healthy family unit (today, we talk about 4-6 times per year, and I talk to my sister even less).

Many people believe that the dynamic of your home while growing up, even if negative, tends to register as “normal” to you, and therefore we have a tendency to replicate those dynamics in our adult relationships.  It certainly seemed like this was going to be the case for me – my experience with relationships led to me losing my virginity to a guy who was even more controlling than my dad, and physically and emotionally abusive to boot.  My second major relationship wasn’t much better in terms of a healthy balance – again and again, I was the one who was expected to compromise and do all the work, while the guy sometimes would reward me by…well, I guess a temporary reprieve from the usual dynamic was all the reward I got, actually.

After a brief swing to to the other side of the pendulum, I ended things with a guy who was a complete and utter doormat, desperate to please me in any way that he could.  I actually ended things not because he wasn’t a fine fellow (though he actually turned out to be clinically depressed, which explained a lot) but because I hated who I was becoming – the person who held increasingly impossible-to-meet standards that were enforced in an ever more nasty manner.  I felt no different from all the exes that I (rightly) despised, and that knowledge made me sick inside.

So my dating life became a struggle to find the balance that Kenley describes: clearly, I was willing and able to make sacrifices and compromise for another person.  I’d done it tons of times, mostly to my detriment.  I also wasn’t comfortable being the demanding one.  And further, I have enough strongly-held lifestyle beliefs and values that are in the minority that make it difficult for me to find happiness with a significant percentage of the population. 

As a result, I became a lot more assertive (note that I didn’t say unreasonable or rude) about what my criteria were for a partner.  I also became a lot more proactive about ending things as soon as I knew that the possibility just wasn’t there.  I got a lot of flak from my friends for ending things after one date (“you’re too picky!” “how do you really know it wouldn’t work after meeting them just once?”) so I briefly experimented with a three-date minimum…only to realize, every single time, that I felt the same way at the end of date one as I did at the end of date three, except now the guy had dropped a fairly significant amount of time and cash on me and was that much more likely to take my decision to end things personally/as a rejection.  So I went back to doing things my way.

And ended up with a guy that is absolutely perfect for me.  I am happier than I’ve ever been – and guess what?  I realized it on our first date.  I don’t have to worry that I’m giving too much of myself to him, because he gives all of himself back.  And while I’m flattered that EMK would think that I left all those previous fellows “scarred,” I think the far more likely outcome is that they don’t even remember my name.

What’s your philosophy on give-and-take?  Leave a comment below.  Then try these fine posts:

  • Mr_Right

    We ALWAYS remember the names. :)

  • http://honeyandlance.com Honey

    LOL – Really? I went on dates with probably over 100 people, and remember the names of the 5% or so who got past date 3, but the other 95%? NO CLUE.

  • http://casualencounters.com/blog/ Janak

    I can see both sides. In the past I’ve been afraid of hurting people and have ended up leading them on a long way past the point at which I ceased to be interested, with predictable consequences. However, I’m also aware that many of the people in my life whom I value I haven’t initially warmed to.

    Janak´s last blog post…Bondage.com review

  • http://honeyandlance.com Lance

    I’ve got a couple of points (typical Gemini) I’d like to make about this thread, but in general I agree with and don’t have a problem with Honey’s dating strategy. I could easily see myself doing the same thing.

    My points:
    1. On one side of the spectrum, you have Sinn, who will immediately qualify (or disqualify) a potential date within like the first 5′ of an interaction. There’s not even a chance for a cup of coffee. This way he knows if a girl is compatible or even cool enough to hang with him. He might miss a few diamonds in the rough, but in general, he’s super accurate because he knows what he wants.

    2. On the other side, you’ve got EMK who might agree with giving 1-3 full dates and really getting to know the other person. Yes, the potential is there to waste a lot of time and money, but there’s also more potential to exchange value and not hurt feelings.

    I’m right in the middle, where I prefer 1 full date that might last 1-2 hours. Even if there’s only a minimal attraction, I might go another couple of hours provided the convo is good. I consider this networking and socializing with new people even if they are not date potential. That’s no hard rule, though, as I might mix it up and disqualify a date after 10′ if it’s obvious.

    Ultimately, the bottom line for me is it’s all fair in love and war. Singles need thick skins to prosper and they shouldn’t take it so seriously if a date doesn’t work out.

    Lance´s last blog post…How Much Do I Invest in Someone Else?

  • http://20-forty.com lisaq

    I completely see where you’re coming from here. Being raised by a narcissist (my mom) left me plenty of strikes against me in relationships. I tended to choose men just like her and, like you, pendulumed at one point and found it horrid. It took me a lot longer to get my crap together relationship wise than most but, when I finally did, I became tuned in enough to recognize whether or not there was potential there on the first date as well.

    lisaq´s last blog post…Sexual Mythbusters: Sexual Arousal Creams & Performance Enhancers Are NOT Just For Women

  • http://www.beforewisdom.com beforewisdom

    I’m a regular on EMK’s blog.

    I thought he had a good point. That point being that a failure point in dating is not giving the other person enough of a chance to know them. I’ve become friends with people ( with potential for more than friendship ) through work and volunteer groups who I wouldn’t have considered as romantic timber in the time span of 1 first date.

    Whether or not this insight can be applied in a practical way in modern dating I don’t know.

    EMK had a good point, what it had to do with you or your comment I have NO idea :).

    I agree with being yourself. Sooner or later who you are has to come out. If the other person has a problem with that you can move on with less drama by finding that out sooner.

    beforewisdom´s last blog post…Goodbye Kwai Chang !

  • http://www.ericainsugartown.blogspot.com Erica

    I do the 1-date-rule too. I feel like romantically, I either click with someone right away, or I don’t. There’s no forcing it. My friends all give me a hard time about it too. I may not know what I want, but when I’m faced with something I don’t want, I know immediately. And I don’t see anything wrong with that.

  • Jonsi

    Honey, didn’t you go out with your BF KNOWING he’d be moving long distance? Or did that come out on the date? Because that demonstrates — along with the rest of your writing — that you are not picky. You are open to potentially positive experiences, and that same openness actually makes you more intuitive. I’ve always felt a lot of EMK’s advice is more applied towards the “must be 6′ and make $200k and take me to nice restaurants because I deserve to be treated like a Princess. And that’s all I am going to say in this profile, because anyone who’s worth it would take the time to ask me more” crowd. THOSE people are picky. They are looking at the surface instead of substance and if that is what you are looking for, it takes a few dates to see the chinks in their armor. But your openness suggests you can see through it right away, because it’s not necessarily the surface qualities that disqualify someone for you. The truth is: some people are much more open to experiences and meeting new people, and that attribute is strongly correlated with things like politics, morality, etc. I believe an intelligent woman with that openness will be more intuitive about a potential relationship than someone without those qualities, who would then need more dates.

  • http://hammer86blog.com Hammer

    I pretty much know instantly whether a girl is my type or not, and do a lot of things early on to disqualify girls who don’t fit a certain mold. But even if a girl doesn’t qualify, I’ll still try to sleep with her if she’s hot enough and giving me good feedback.

    But as far as relationships go, I think I’ll have to write a post on this soon, but the thesis is that compromise in relationships is bullshit.

    Hammer´s last blog post…Are You Your Dream Girl’s Dream Guy?

  • http://honeyandlance.com Honey

    No, I didn’t know. It came out either at the very end of the first date or sometime on the second date. I can’t remember for certain although I am PRETTY sure that it was the end of the first date. Our second date was dinner and drinks and that’s where the arrangement to visit back and forth over the summer was made.

    Honey´s last blog post…How Much Do I Invest in Someone Else?

  • http://www.singlemomseeking.com/blog Single Mom Seeking

    Honey, thanks for such an introspective, thoughtful post. I feel like I “get” you better now.

    It’s amazing to me how we often find relationships that mirror our relationship to our parents… unconsciously. Lisaq’s narcissistic comment resonated with me, too (yep, that’s how I was raised in a T, too.)

    Until we step back and take a hard look at ourselves — our pasts, our patterns — genuine giving and taking simply won’t happen. That’s how I see it anyway.

    Single Mom Seeking´s last blog post…I have a fourth grader?

  • Nadine

    Pretty much off topic: I think you just tipped me off to why I seem to be craving attention from “my guys” – simply because my father never had a lot of time for me due to his crazy work schedule (self-employed, many business trips) plus his impatience with me, when I was very young. Now, I seem to get clingy with guys, even if I know that I don’t want them – I just try to claim them for myself. Has been this way with my ex, and now is the way with my best friend/ friend with benefits. Interesting! Have been working on that for a long time, though, without realizing the reason behind it – thank you!

  • http://honeyandlance.com Honey

    I’m interested to see how you define compromise…there’s a lot of things I refuse to compromise on (religion, politics, vegetarianism, a love for cats), but what we watch on TV tonight, where we go on vacation, or whether I “have” to go to your boring office Christmas party? I’m fine compromising on THOSE things…

  • http://honeyandlance.com Honey

    Glad I could help you come to a realization, Nadine! Now if you found yourself not only being clingy, but also picking guys who are emotionally unavailable/super busy, THAT would be something. Keep me updated on your revelations – there might be something in there to help me understand myself, too :-)

  • http://dadshouseblog.com dadshouse

    Five minutes is pretty short, but one date is a pretty good indicator of whether two people click. If I don’t feel compelled to call a woman after the first date, I’m probably not that into her. That doesn’t mean she’s a horribly flawed person. It just means I don’t feel compelled to invest more time and energy in knowing her on a deeper level.

    dadshouse´s last blog post…Dominos Pizza College Entrance Exam

  • Nadine

    That has not been the case in the past, but in my mind I *know* what kind of guy I want – and that’s someone really independent, who’s got a life, so to say – so, yes, I’d say that I do go for guys who’re super busy. But that’s actually the reason why I myself try to be super busy and *get a life of my own*. But I do actually think that’s a good thing – you can’t just live off each other in a relationship, can you?
    Really confused, right now and all the time =)

  • http://openyourhearttothelove.blogspot.com/2009/02/is-your-radar-broken.html searchingwithin

    I have always been different than most, as I am not one to even go on a date with someone one on one, unless they have passed through some inner intuitive scrutiny.

    Probably one of the reasons I scoff at Online dating, and I have probably missed out on some great guys because of it. Such as they say…life.

    However, the men I have allowed into my life, have not always been the best choices, even though they made it through that scrutiny, and I have recently come to realize that it is due to the parent seeking (namely opposite sex parent) dilemma. My attraction radar has been terribly flawed this whole time. What I thought was actually making me feel good, was in reality feeling familiar, therefore safe. With that new found knowledge, now I have to rethink everything, and that takes more time than just one date.

    searchingwithin´s last blog post…How Will We Love?

  • Jonsi

    Well I still think my thesis holds. There was a great TED talk about the differences in political morality between the right and the left, the thesis being there are different visceral responses to any experience that might require change or uncertainty in those persons. 5 minutes is too soon — someone may have had a bad day, be a bit anxious, have been getting over a cold — but someone who is more conservative and needing stability almost at a biological level probably needs 3 dates because they are evaluating different traits than someone who is more open to uncertainty.

    One date certainly isn’t enough time to know about a long term relationship, but it usually is enough to know if you’d enjoy a half dozen dates. There’s no sense in going on 3 dates with those people if you strongly doubt they’d make it to 6.

  • http://www.odzyskiwanie.com.pl Odzyskiwanie Danych

    We usualy take most of our relationship pointers from our early childhood. Whatever you learn later won’t “come naturaly” to you – you’ll have to constantly focus on it.

  • Jools

    How about things are going great, you’re onto maybe your 7th/8th date. You’ve already got physical, maybe it wasn’t so great, but you like him a lot, he makes you laugh, he’s kind and gentle and generous. But then he drops a whopping great big clanger one day, makes a comment that you find incredibly demeaning and insulting (says he wishes you were 14!!). Red flag or do you just keep on trying???

  • http://honeyandlance.com Honey

    Wow, Jools – I’d have to know more about the context. If Jake said that I’d know he was kidding, but you haven’t been seeing this fellow long enough to know. Maybe that’s the way to approach it? “This made me uncomfortable, but we are still getting to know each other and I wanted to know more about why you said that”?
    .-= Honey´s last blog …A Typical Date With Lance and Why Intimacy Matters on First Dates =-.