Most people who know me are aware that I have a rather high percentage of female friends. I chalk this up to either A) a curse, or B) a better-than-average understanding of women (or is it a higher tolerance?) after being raised by my mom, her twin and my grandmother, having grown up apart from my father. It is perhaps because of this that, while I think women are beautiful, I’m not blinded by it; I am able to look past that and communicate with them very well rather than objectifying them. In short, I have a bit more control over the one-track mind that we men are so famous for.  Not complete control, mind you, just a bit more than most.

As a consequence of this, I have the dubious honor of hearing more than my share of “girl talk” (or, what we men refer to as “complaining”). I’ve heard a lot in my life about how women feel they were blindsided, hornswaggled, shanghaied and otherwise deceived early on in relationships. Down the road, they simply can’t understand how they were so blind early on to the true character of their (at this point, probably ex) boyfriends… and generally come to me for advice on the matter. I’ve had this conversation so many times in an attempt to explain this courtship deception to women that I thought I’d write it down.

It’s important to understand the unique dynamics at play in a courtship, that the deception is simply human nature and that women are just as guilty as men in regard to this. The simple fact is that in the beginning, we are all very motivated to look and act our best – to make a good first impression. It’s also important to remember that this exceptional effort and behavior is focused upon one person alone. In this case, YOU.

Let’s set aside the fact that a man’s intentions tend to be far, ummm… simpler than a woman’s in regard to all this dating and courtship ritual. Again, this is instinctive and while it should be understood and controlled, it’s not cause for blame: nobody’s going to change nature by pointing fingers.

On to the main course in our meal and the source of the frustration women have with us: that we treat them like queens in the beginning of a relationship – as if they are perfect – then this treatment wanes over the course of time, until we’ve receded to the point of being our true selves. Sadly, this true self can descend to some pretty scary depths; even verbal and physical abuse. (Sidenote: women do this too. Trust me – your propensity for ferocity is far more apparent later on than it was in the beginning).

The question, then, is were there any visible signs early on? How could one know and avoid such a thing? Is it possible to avoid repeatedly dashing upon the relationship rocks? The answer is, not completely. One can, however, significantly improve their knowledge base and their odds of success by following what I refer to as The Waiter Principle.

You see, the mistake you’ve been making all along lie in that you were only keeping score of how he was treating you in the beginning. Of course he was treating you well. He was COURTING you! His very purpose and goal was to treat you as well as humanly possible so that he can have you. When one grasps the dynamics at play here, this is absolutely the worst area to grade someone in, as you’re going to severely overscore every man you meet (unless he’s a complete ass from day one, in which case there wouldn’t be a second date, anyway).

The Waiter Principle

When you begin dating, not only is he desperate to treat you like a queen, but you yourself are reciprocating, so pretty much everything you do is right. There’s no cause for contention and you won’t see his dark side. You’re on a pedestal. You’re living – quite blissfully – in a fairytale. Reality, however, always settles in eventually; law of nature.

The proper way to go about noticing his true self is to watch not how he treats you, but how he treats others. And definitely not when everything is going his way, but when things are NOT going his way. This is the core area upon which you want to focus, because this is exactly the same scenario that becomes a serious problem for you later on.

On those first dates, watch how he treats the waiter. Someone who is in a station beneath him. Watch whether he treats him/her with respect and as an equal. Pay particular attention to how he reacts when his order is wrong, his steak is overdone, etc. Does he remain kind and fair under less-than-optimal circumstances? Does he punish the waiter by verbally abusing him, cutting him down, by shorting his tip because the cook screwed up? (Don’t peek at the check; just observe.)  Can he laugh off tragedy together and move on, making the best of poor circumstances? Is he polite and respectful to people who he may not see as his equals, even when he’s not getting what he wants? These are the things you need to know.. and this is the best way to discover them when he’s got a vested interest in hiding them from you.

The fact is, someday you will be that bearer of bad news; that make of mistakes – the one who is not giving him exactly what he wants – and you will undoubtedly be treated in a very similar fashion to the waiter once that new car smell wears off of your relationship.

Sadly, women often do notice how, when their salad has the wrong dressing or their chicken is undercooked, the man “took charge and took care of it”, berating the help and getting her what she wanted… but completely miss the fact the someday, they’ll be the one in that hot seat. They mistake it for a strong and protective nature, the bad side of which couldn’t possibly be inflicted upon them. But it is, isn’t it? It nearly always is at some point… once the shoe is on the other foot and you don’t like it so much then. There are many things about a man’s character that might impress you, but don’t be so blind as to let this be one of them.

This principle can be applied to many service settings, of course. Just watch for when things aren’t going his way and how he treats the other party. This will tell you more about him than anything. It’s also important to note that since he’s on his best behavior, he may also be extra nice to the waiter early on… but if his treatment to waiters degrades over time, you should note it. Fact is, his treatment of them will reveal his true self long before he unleashes the whirlwind on you, so you will have some warning of your impending reality.

Ultimately, it’s up to you how you wish to be treated. Nobody wants a wimp or a doormat, but they sure don’t want to become someone’s punching bag, either. So, decide how you want to be treated… and look for a man who treats people other than you with kindness, decency and fairness, especially when things go wrong.