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The Price of Admission

To my shame, I have only just discovered Dan Savage. Dan is a sex columnist, a vocal proponent of LGBTQ+ rights in the US, voicing his advocacy through his column Savage Love and his podcast ‘The Savage Lovecast’, as well as many other things.

I found him through watching a panel discussion on relationships, and was struck by his phrase ‘the price of admission’. Dan puts it like this:

“You can’t have a long-term relationship with someone unless you’re willing to identify the prices of admission you’re willing to pay — and the ones you’re not. What are you willing to do, to give, in order to ride that ride.”

Really, it is best if you watch the man himself explaining it, which he does brilliantly here (5 mins 51 secs of fantastic wisdom, but heads-up, lots of F*** words involved) and also addresses these questions:

  • Is there such a thing as ‘the one’?
  • Is there such a thing as a perfect relationship?


I remember myself, being absolutely terrified of commitment. I had fears such as

  • ‘What if I ‘go off’ him?’
  • What if something happens (like, err, the passing of time) and changes his physical appearance dramatically?
  • What if I find something so annoying about him that I cannot move past?
  • What if we have an unresolved argument and I can’t just walk away?


I believed that on my wedding day I would be paying the ultimate price – my freedom. The freedom to change my mind, find someone else at some point down the line.

Fascinating when I look back, that these were all about me, and about him being the problem. No thought to him finding these things difficult about me.

Even more sobering that on return from our honeymoon I was diagnosed with a skin condition (Vitiligo) that affects my face, and the whole of my body, and that for the next 5 years I was diagnosed with a new auto-immune condition each year. I have had 8 surgeries since we met each other and he has been by my side through it all.

On top of this, I am rubbish at emptying the dishwasher in the mornings. It’s a thing. I never seem to have time before I go out, so all the dirty things get left out on the side for hours until he comes along and unloads. When it is his turn to be getting the kids out the door, he somehow seems to manage it. Every.Damn.Time.

I decided to open up about this topic on the price of admission. I asked him if he perceived there was a gap between the price he pays and the price I pay for admission into our relationship. This is a brave question to put out there people! I already felt prepared and can clearly see the HUGE STONKING GAP myself, so was ready for anything he had to say. He said that overall he feels we both pay a low to medium price together as we come from similar backgrounds and he perceived that that helped.

He said he did think there was a gap. A gap of 60/40 whereby he pays a little more because I am ‘quite exacting’. He observed that I look more inward at the details and small aspects of our relationship, whereby he doesn’t notice that stuff (he’s a fire personality type which might play into this – see previous blog) as he looks more on the external – the broad brush strokes of where we are headed, our shared values for life and how we live it through our actions. DAMN HIM FOR HIS MATURITY.

My perception was so different. I thought we were more like 80/20 with him paying more, and I had a huge list (obviously didn’t pull half of it out the bag, once I heard how little he noticed, I’m not THAT silly) that included a load of health-related shizzle that apparently never came into his head on the price he pays.

It was illuminating, and freeing. But then it got me thinking. With this knowledge and the understanding that we do both recognise the gap – do I now need to STEP UP MY GAME and where I can even out the price, should I try to do that? After some thought, I don’t think I SHOULD, but I think I COULD, and I think that would make him happy. Making the one you love happy is what it is all about isn’t it?

As I go through life and observe both my relationship but also those relationships around me, I have noticed something important. The price of admission seems to vary between partners. There are years ahead (or years behind) when the price swings up suddenly and unexpectedly for one partner in particular. The death of a loved one, a mid-life crisis, anxiety/depression, teenagers, a health problem. We have no idea which partner these things will affect, and when they will occur. What matters is that you are there – willing to pay a little more for those times.

The other thing I have observed is that, in most cases, ultimately it is us who is responsible for how our relationship goes. All too often blame is put onto ‘the partner’ for all sorts of things in the relationship which might not be working. This is touched on in our previous blog on irritating habits. I love Dan’s rule of no more than 5 things or you need to be seriously having a word with yourself. Mostly it is ALL ABOUT PERCEPTION. Start with yourself and see if that changes anything.

The irony of all my fears on my wedding day, and the experience of my subsequent marriage, is that I have never felt so free. Of course there are times of difficulty and even some really dark moments; but that’s something you commit to seeing through together. No one is perfect.

I love what Dan said at the end of the talk.

That’s the only way you become “the one” — it’s because somebody is willing to pretend you are. “The one” that they were waiting for, “the one” they wanted, their “one.” Because you’re not — nobody is. No two people are perfect for each other, ever, period — No two people are 100% sexually compatible, no two people are 100% emotionally compatible, no two people want the same things. And if you can’t reconcile yourself to that, you will have no relationships that last longer than two months.

And you know what? It’s not going to be their fault — it’s going to be your fault.


The only small thing I would like to add is about the analogy being around ‘price’. In its boldest sense, it’s saying ‘this costs me’. It smacks of consumerism – me, mine, what do I get/don’t get out of this relationship.

Our obsession with consumerism is a lot of what is wrong with this world (imho) and I think it’s damaging to bring it into a relationship. Maybe we could just look at changing the concept of ‘price’ for ‘grace’ or ‘forgiveness’ or even, dare I say it – ‘love’. 


Listen to Dan talk about the concept of a ‘price of admission’. Then one partner at a time ask consider these questions:

  • Do you think we pay a similar price of admission, or is there a difference?
  • What is your price of admission to be with me? Do you perceive it to be low, medium or high?
  • What do you think my price of admission is to be with you? Low, medium or high?
  • What do you perceive are the reasons these grades?
  • What is the reality of how each of you feel?
  • Is there anything that would help to even out the price of admission on both sides?

Susannah Baker

After giving up a senior nursing role spanning 14 years, and moving to Devon, Susannah is now the director of a holiday business; a founder and trustee of The Pickwell Foundation, a partner to Steve and a mum to two teenagers.

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