A particularly unhappy Reddit post (link below) brought out a host of men describing the “placeholder” relationship. This is a relationship where a man gets involved with a woman, spends his time and resources helping her and then she bails out when she finds herself with another man, or safely in school, or at a more stable job. Basically, the man serves as a place holder in the woman’s life until something better – not necessarily a man, but usually – comes along.
The placeholder relationship is the result of two things – the white knight impulse and naiveté about selfish women. The impulse to help is strong in men. That impulse can be too easily exploited. Men must be keenly aware of just how much they are helping.
The big red flag is the lack of reciprocity in her actual efforts to the problem at hand. Sure the sex might be great but if she’s not helping herself with the problem and relying on the man too much, it stinks of placeholder relationship and outright exploitation.
Another red flag is her ability to organize outside help such as friends and family. If the man is her sole source of help, that speaks to anti-social behaviors such as selfishness and possibly narcissism (Cluster B! link below). A resourceful girl is instantly recognizable and that quality is a very good thing. She has a support network and isn’t too proud to ask them for help.
There are two solutions for avoiding the placeholder relationship –
1. You do the placeholding. While caddish, it does serve to keep your heart intact until you can be absolutely sure of the woman you are seeing.
2. Test her by not white knighting her. If she bolts when you (politely) decline to help all the time, then you’ve figured out her ulterior motive even if she might not be fully aware of her own ulterior motive.
Some will argue that all relationships between men and women are merely placeholder relationships. I can certainly see the validly of that given both genders financial independence and no-fault divorce. But the single life holds little appeal for so many that a coupled-up lifestyle is the ongoing social trend.