Dating and Relationship Precedent: Why It’s So Very Important
Poorly-set precedent: it's the scourge of relationships
face of mankind. Every day, the whole of the male sex collectively
writhes in agony at its own terribly-set precedent coming back to haunt
it - and bit it right in the ass. Bad precedent is the unadulterated
Finding yourself in a relationship where you're doing all of the work
Being endlessly browbeaten by an overly dramatic girlfriend
Losing a woman's respect and attraction in any kind of relationship
Some time back, I posted the article about operant conditioning here, and how this kind of relationship training and management is used for guiding and directing your relationships in the directions you want them to go.
We also discussed briefly in that article how incorrect use of operant conditioning actually reinforces and encourages bad behavior that is destructive to the relationship and harmful to both the man's and the woman’s levels of happiness and contentedness within it.
An understanding of operant conditioning - basically, that how you respond to good, bad, and neutral behavior from someone who's a part of your life influences how likely you are to see that behavior again, and how often, and how much it escalates - is necessary for an understanding of precedent: that what came before influences what is to come again.
And you will find that in your relationships, if you are perceptive enough, you can all but tell the future, simply by putting a microscope over the past - your past, your girlfriends' pasts, and the pasts you've shared together.
You can also determine the future, by building the kind of past precedent necessary to have the kind of future relationship you want, all by doing the right things now.
Yet, you'll find most people are not willing to do this, because a little more pain now for a lot more happiness later is a bargain 99% of people are unwilling to make.
It's my experience that most people don't think too much about the past and its influence on the future; nor do they consider the future consequences of their actions now. They instead seem to be primarily focused on achieving emotional rewards in the present moment (a present-focused time orientation), with little thought given to what implications those actions might have for times yet to come.
Take the example of a guy who introduces his girlfriend to hard drugs, because he's a party guy, and he thinks it'd be a lot of fun if his girl partied right along with him. At first she's reserved; she doesn't want to. He bugs her about doing it for months; finally, she relents, because she loves him, and she wants to make him happy.
Then, she gets hooked. She starts to become addicted. The drugs take over the part of her brain that her relationships with friends, family... and even he... used to occupy.
One day, her boyfriend's supply dries up, because his dealer gets arrested, and he finds out she's been giving another guy sex in exchange for more drugs. He's crestfallen; his world has broken apart. He loved her; how could she do this to him?
But it's not some great mystery. The seeds of her eventual actions were planted all the way back when he got her onto drugs in the first place. The mistake he made was not looking ahead into the future and saying, "What do the girls I know who are hooked on hard drugs tend to do? Okay, so if I get MY girl onto drugs, what's SHE liable to do?"
Precedent is exactly like this. It is about determining the path your relationship will go down; very often, small things that seem harmless or meaningless now open you up to great potential benefits or colossal potential harm a little later on down the road.
We Learn Through Precedent
Let's say you start dating a new girl. It's only been a few months, and you're not exactly sure where you stand with her. You've been seeing another girl, but you're feeling a little bit guilty about it... what if you're hurting the girl you're seeing more regularly?
One day she's over at your apartment, and you get a text message on your phone, which she picks up and reads. "Claire says she can't meet you for dinner tomorrow," she says, handing you the phone. She then continues on with normal conversation as if she hasn't given Claire a second thought, and the rest of your evening with her proceeds as usual.
She doesn't even care! you think. It's like a load off your shoulders - and now you both appreciate her a lot more... and feel a lot more emboldened to go do whatever you want with Claire.
Here, your girlfriend has set some very clear precedent for you - she's shown you she's indifferent to you meeting up with other women, and implied it's not remotely a big deal for you. You interpret that as her express approval to date around as much as you want.
This kind of precedent also has effects on subsequent relationships; let's imagine it's two years later now, and you're dating entirely different people. Another girl is over at your apartment, and another girl you're seeing texts you that she won't be able to make dinner tomorrow.
This time, though, the girl at your apartment erupts into drama and outrage. "Who the hell is Sophia?" she demands.
Now, this kicks into gear a lot of interesting effects, precedent-wise:
First, it probably insults you - you're used to have a lot more leeway with your dating life. Your previous girlfriends didn't act like this - who the hell is this girl to demand you curtail your dating and limit yourself only to her?
Next, if you like her, it has a chilling effect on the dating you do with other women - you'll be less motivated to date other women, feeling less moral certitude that doing so is ethically correct and unharmful of a girl you care about, and may force you to decide then and there if you're going to go monogamous; break up with the girl; or possibly turn to lies, deceit, or obfuscation about your extra-relationship dalliances
Finally, whether you continue seeing other women or not, this eruption sets a precedent now where you begin concealing things from your girlfriend in order to avoid having drama erupt with her again - and things you might have freely discussed with previous girlfriends will be terra incognita with her
All these are largely unconscious responses. They're pure emotional conditioning resulting from the treatment and responses you receive from the girl in reaction to your actions and behavior.
And despite the fact that we all have them and all do them, we mostly never bother to control for them. Isn't that unusual...
You've Been Setting Terrible Precedent
If you're like most guys, and you run your relationship without an eye toward precedent, that doesn't mean you're not setting any precedent - you still are.
Everything you do with a girlfriend sets precedent.
Yet, if you've been taking "shortcuts" to do things like alleviate drama or wiggle more easily out of tough situations, you've probably been setting the worst kind of precedent you can, without even being aware you were doing it.
I'll give you a bunch of examples in the next section of all the terrible ways guys set bad precedent in their relationships, but I want to really drive this point home:
Unless you are an incredibly naturally strong, composed man who is ALWAYS on "strong mode", you set some really bad precedent at least SOME of the time.
The reason this is so is that when you are weak - even for just one moment; even in just a mildly compromising situation - what you communicate to a girlfriend is, "I can be gotten this way - you just have to find the right angle and stick the right rib."
And especially if you're younger or less experienced at relationships or dating women who are more dominant, outgoing, dynamic, or just generally more of a handful than you're used to dating, you can expect to find yourself cast back into situations every now and again that you just aren't sure how to deal with - and it's at those moments that you're most vulnerable to slipping up and setting terrible precedent for the remainder of your relationship.
You've probably already guessed it, but everything on this website is designed to help you set good precedent with the women in your life. It's based around always being strong, always being attractive, and always being sexual.
If you follow this material - really follow it, and implement it, and become it - you don't need to worry so much about precedent, because you'll naturally set good precedent.
That said, an awareness of precedent is a necessity to keep your eye on the ball, especially in moments of stress, duress, and emotional turmoil... which are the moments when you're most likely to break ranks and set bad precedent.
Before we go over the mandates of good precedent though, I want to give you a number of examples of the most common ways men set bad precedent - so you can recognize these when you see them (or feel them coming on), and get out of dodge before they happen to you.
Bad Precedent Men Set
By and large, the ways men set bad precedent are the same whether the women they're setting it with are prospective lovers that they have yet to sleep with, or long-time lovers they've been in relationships with for years or decades.
There are a few forms of precedent-setting that are uniquely reserved for romantic relationships, and I'll cover those next; first, I want to start out with the most common sort - the sort you can run into with any woman you interact with.
Universal Bad Precedent
Here are the most common things a man can do to set bad precedent with any woman:
Move slowly with her. Hesitate and fail to move fast, and you've just communicated a wealth of bad things about yourself: you are fearful, you are uncertain, you are unreliable, and you are unmanly. Women want men who seize what they want, act with clarity and certainty of purpose, and lead strongly. Prior to sex, this means approaching a girl, inviting her home or asking her out if you can't pull her then, setting up a date with her, taking her out, and sleeping with her all at a firm, expeditious pace. If you need to stretch that out over several dates, that's fine, so long as you're not taking too long or acting uncertain (and so long as you're not missing escalation windows).
In a relationship, this can again be hesitancy about sex (nothing worse than being in a relationship with a girl and being afraid to make a move), but it can also be about a lot of other things - like making a decision, for instance, or stepping up to help her when you know she needs help and helping her is the right call. Move slow here, and you set the precedent of being fearful, unreliable (in a bad way), and not someone she can count on to satisfy her emotional, relationship, and sexual needs.
Be overly helpful. We just mentioned moving too slow to help a girlfriend who legitimately needs help as setting bad precedent, but much of the time women ask for your help they don't legitimately need it - they just want to get you into the habit of doing favors for them and playing errand boy... because men often do for them, and, heck, if YOU could get someone running around doing stuff for you instead of you having to do it yourself, why wouldn't you? Unfortunately, women do not respect men who do this for them - they view them as supplicating, and weak. And they also view men who are eager to help as falling into that vein ever after, too - once you are an overprovider of help, value, or good feelings, this will always be expected of you - and you will never command a woman's full respect.
Be indiscreet or judgmental. Women's reputations are of the utmost importance to them, and if you're a reputation or judgment risk to a woman even once, or communicate anything that paints you as a probable one, you set the precedent that you're going to be indiscreet, and she will give you only the most sanitized, angelic version of her life and times from that point forward (and appear for all the world to be the consummate "good girl" - heck, they probably invented the term for this saint of a woman!). You can forget about discreet sex, or anything other than a very long, extended, traditional courtship if you're not together with her yet, or the most virginal "I'm not like that" version of herself presented before your eyes if you're already sexual - experimental sex is out; "good girls" like her don't do that.
Act careless with emotions. It only takes one or two slipups in this department to send most women spiraling into a permanent auto-rejection from which you will never see them recover with you. If a girl you're trying to sleep with is behaving aloof, making her jealous with a little preselection goes a long way, but ignoring her once she's interested again and continuing to flirt with one girl after another quickly sets the precedent that you are an insensitive prick who's going to run slipshod over her heart - and tank whatever trust she had for you down to zero. That same thing can do a number on girlfriends of yours, as can too many nights at the club with the boys, or implying she's just another girl to you. Make it clear she's nothing special, and even if you change your ways later, by then it's going to be too late; the stage is set, and she thinks of you the way she thinks of you. You're fighting precedent now.
Seem controlling or insecure. You're angry she was talking to some other guy? Bad move, smoove. You look weak, frightened, and threatened by other men's sexual power over her. Guess where that puts you...? Yeah - deep into bad precedent land. Any efforts you make to try showing her how laid back, nonplussed, and unintimidated you are by other men in the future will just be seen as posing, and she's always going to know exactly what button to push any time she wants you to react a certain way - or any time she decides she needs to get even with you for something you may have done.
Reward bad behavior. She pulls away? You chase. Bad precedent. Lots of guys do this though, over and over... and if you do, she'll know right away you're one of them. Want to change your tune later and act hard to get? She ain't buying it; the precedent is set, and she knows you're the chaser. Or, she flakes on a date you set, and you text her happy and friendly the next day as if nothing happened? You're her texting buddy, and the precedent of her doing whatever she wants and you just taking it is set.
Flip-flopping on decisions. Reversing yourself on a whim does not look good for leadership or dominance, and does not inspire faith in said leadership or much of a desire to comply with your requests for investment. Why would you want to do what someone is asking you to do one minute, when he's likely to change what he's asking for the next? You wouldn't. This one is somewhat more recoverable from than the other forms of bad precedent, as soon as you can clearly show you've got your act together and especially if you can explain why you were wishy-washy before and no longer are now, but it's still better to not have to deal with than to have to.
Bad Precedent in Sexual Relationships
Each of these can be interpreted as an extension of one of the precedents the above, but because you may not think of them specifically, I feel they're worth listing out here:
Drama = capitulation. If she causes drama and you break, fold, submit, apologize, or capitulate, unless you did something wrong but manly (i.e., you can own up to it and admit you did wrong without looking weak for either admitting that you did it or realizing it was a mistake - most mistakes are not in this category, though), you are setting the precedent that all she needs to do to get you to backpedal is break out the drama guns - and you'd best prepare yourself for an ever-increasing amount of relationship drama anytime she doesn't get her way. She's found a method that works with you: abuse = reward.
Drama = sex. One of the scourges of the relationship boards on the now-defunct Fastseduction boards was the intractable belief among the posters there that the ideal way of dealing with drama was to give women sex. While they were correct in deducing that 90% of drama happens because your woman is horny and/or needs to feel dominated and reassured that you care about her, and that sex almost always resolves drama on the spot, they weren't thinking precedent - and what happened, across the board so far as I could tell, was exactly what I repeatedly warned them would happen - they trained their women to become drama queens who flew into dramatic rages any time they wanted sex. The men conditioned their girlfriends and lovers to know that causing high drama for their men = great, passionate makeup sex and good feelings. If you don't like being slapped in the face with tumultuous drama day in and day out, this probably isn't the kind of precedent you want to be setting.
More invested than she is. Men chase sex, women chase relationships. That's the general "way of things" in the mating game. A woman who chases after sex with a man looks desperate... and a man who chases after commitment with a woman does, too. Don't set the precedent of investing yourself emotionally into a relationship with a woman more heavily than she's invested herself; you're only setting up bad precedent where she expects you to pursue her, convince her, try to win her over, and dote on her, while she gets to call the shots and determine the pace things move at all but unilaterally. Not ideal.
How to Set Good Precedent
For what should be obvious reasons, all the GOOD precedent you'll set will be the exact opposite of that bad precedent we just talked about.
Here's what that looks like:
Move fast with her. Don't dawdle, delay, act uncertain, miss escalation windows, or let attraction expire. Let the uncertain men do those things. Set the precedent that you take action when action is needed, and allow her to relax around you and trust in your guidance, instincts, and leadership.
Decline to over-invest. If she truly needs your help, of course, or if you can help at very little or zero cost in energy or convenience to yourself (like, say, handing her a napkin from the napkin box sitting right in front of you), by all means - help her out. Most of the time women are asking for your help though, you can dismiss this, or offer other solutions. She doesn't have money for a drink? Order her a water and throw a lime in so it looks nice. She needs help moving apartments (and you're not sleeping together)? Offer to call the movers for her. Don't be afraid to be an asshole sometimes... especially if she's asking for something that feels like a little bit more than you should be giving her at this stage of things.
Be discreet and don't judge. Simple enough. Communicate discretion, and that you are a guy who prioritizes reputation management for both her and yourself. And even when she tells you about that double-penetration she's been fantasizing about ever since seeing a porno about it on her ex-boyfriend's computer, don't blink; just stay non-judgmental, and maybe ask her if that's an invitation.
Take care of her emotions. That doesn't mean you need to be a cheesy nice guy, but it does mean you need to be sensitive to your attainability levels, and how high or low these are for her. If she starts feeling like you're out of reach and she can't get what she wants with you, you've got a problem - so don't let her feel that way.
Be relaxed and secure in the face of competition. Other men are trying to get her? No problem. Just stay chill. Read up on beating male competition, of course; but most of the time, if your fundamentals are tight, and your way with women is tight, you're not going to have anything to worry about... other men simply are not much of a legitimate threat. Leave the worrying to the guys whose girls are talking to you. And besides, if worst comes to worst and she does in fact leave you for someone else - well, she's not the only fish in the sea, now, is she?
Cool off around bad behavior. Don't reward, and usually don't punish (but, see that article on operant conditioning to know when to do what for sure); instead, when girls are behaving badly around you... just calmly dial back your interest and effort levels. Punish bad behavior not by getting upset, but by becoming disinterested. Women thrive on attention; there is no greater punishment for most women than giving them less. They notice... trust me. And most of the time, they respond loudly and clearly (on their best behavior this time, too).
Stick to your decisions. If you make a decision, see it through. If you must change, give a good reason for it, and, where practical, either involve her in the decision as well, OR impulsively lead to something you proclaim is more interesting. e.g., let's say you tell her you want to get crab cakes, and she says "okay", and the two of you start walking to a seafood restaurant; you then get a sudden craving for croissants instead. If you pass by a croissant restaurant on the way, you can say, "Whoa, croissants - I changed my mind, I want croissants! Do you want croissants?" and you'll be dandy.
Remain calm but resolute in the face of drama. If you're new to relationships, this can seem hard to do, but drama DOES blow over... and it's much, much, much better to make important decisions when calm than when under extreme emotional pressure from a dramatic girlfriend. Let the drama blow over with plenty of "I understand"s and repeating back to her in calmer words what she's telling you the problem is, or, if it's a serious relationship and she's really freaking out, you can take some of the stronger drama-fighting measures we talked about in the operant conditioning article. Just make sure you put off ALL changes or decisions about ANYTHING until AFTER the drama is over. The heat of the moment is nearly always a terrible time to do anything other than capitulate; heat folds metal, it doesn't strengthen it.
Ban sex after drama. Most couples follow up drama with hot makeup sex. Big no-no here. You can be very clear about it with her when she starts getting all affectionate after the drama has passed: "I don't want us to sleep together now, because it's going to condition your subconscious to associate drama with hot sex, which means anytime you start feeling horny your subconscious is going to say, 'Go make your boyfriend's life miserable!' and you will comply, and our relationship is just going to get increasingly tense and probably break." Just reinforce this idea any time she begs, pleads, or seduces after drama, and put off sex until the next morning. The next day is fine; just no sex on the day of. Don't train her to make your life suck just because she wants to get laid.
Always be a little bit less invested than she is. Too much less, and she'll auto-reject because it'll feel like you don't care about her; and if you're the same or more invested than she is, it'll feel like you're "equal partners" (decidedly un-sexy) or that you're chasing after the relationship with her and she's the one who's on the fence. Instead, be a bit less invested, and let her chase after you a bit in the relationship - she will enjoy the relationship a whole lot more, and so too will you.
All is Precedent
You're setting precedent all the time with everything you do. Trying to fix bad precedent by building good precedent on top of it is a little like trying to fix a bad foundation for your home by building a better building on top of the bad foundation. The building might be nice, but there's still a lot of crummy construction holding it up underneath.
It's better to just not set bad precedent in the first place.
So, be mindful of what you're saying, doing, and communicating - especially between the lines. Your actions and behavior mean more than you think - they influence not just your present with another person, but your future, too.
Because we're not interacting with strangers - we're interacting with people who know us, who come to expect certain things from us, and who come to view us - and what they can and cannot get away with with us, and what our expectations are of them - in a certain light.
Keep this always in mind, and always have a half an eye turned toward precedent, and you won't much have to worry about it.
You'll only worry about it then and there, in the moment - and maybe suffer a little bit longer in the present to do things more correctly and avoid setting yourself up for future failure - and then the moment will be past, and you'll be back to enjoying yourself.
Only, the precedent you'll have set will be good - instead of bad.
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