A great secret of dating and marriage is that usually, Person A likes Person B more than Person B likes Person A. You can see this in action with my parrot and my dog, as she pursues him for snuggles and tries to get him to scratch her head. She is the Liker and he is the Liked. If you want to be happy in a relationship, figure out which one you are and whether it’s working for you.
I talked about this with a friend of mine who is a notorious flirt. Sometimes she shows me texts from various men who have been pursuing her for years, offering vacations and marriage proposals and dinners and gifts. She definitely prefers to be the Liked person in the relationship. Why settle for less?
This is the opposite extreme from all the lonely single people I know, rehashing entire conversations with their (usually single) friends. What does this mean? Does he like me??
As a married person, I remember those days, not fondly. If I want to know what my husband means by something, I just ask him. I know he likes me. I know if he wants to go out with me and I know what to read into a suggestion of lunch or a coffee date. The communication patterns of flirting and dating are nothing like friendship or marriage - they’re usually pursuer/distancer.
People like this pursuer/distancer thing for some reason, even though it doesn’t resemble any of their other relationships.
I think it has a little to do with aspiration. Single people can be really funny about this, with their little checklists. Basically we all want someone who is, in comparison to ourselves:
Easier to get along with
With more money,
A better cook
Who also loves cleaning and doing me favors
In what areas are we willing to tolerate being the “better” one? Why be “better” when that might mean we’re settling for less?
The trouble with that is that if everyone is always looking for a personality upgrade, social climbing by having Date 2.0, then everyone will always be chasing everyone else in circles.
It also means that searching for an upgrade means you will be the Liker, not the Liked.
As a (cisgender heteronormative monogamous) married person, I think it’s probably better for both parties when that relationship is as close to equal as possible. If not, at least in the current social norm, it’s probably better when it’s at least 51/49 in favor of the man feeling lucky, rather than the woman.
I spent my teenage years and much of my twenties feeling lovesick over someone or other. I had my share of unlucky suitors whom I rejected, because I wasn’t interested, but I didn’t like the idea that my crush might feel the same way about me. In college I finally realized there was a pattern at play, and I decided that I would be the decider, the dumper rather than the dumpee. I recognized how much energy I was wasting, chasing people who didn’t feel the spark. I didn’t want to have to coax someone into liking me, and I didn’t want to have to guess whether it was going anywhere. Clear signals or nothing.
All this came after a rough breakup that left me crying on the floor. Enough of that. I didn’t want to spend any more time crying into a carpet when there is plenty of love in the world for everyone.
Next? Next I got a boy who borrowed a cookbook to make me vegan chocolate chip cookies. I got a boyfriend who left a long handwritten love letter on my porch. Suddenly I found that I was only dating people who called, who showed up, who did me favors and brought me thoughtful gifts and cooked for me. I got a permanent upgrade to Liked.
It’s like flipping over a magnet.
I’m a nice person. I’m a giver. I’m the friend you trust to give your cat eye drops when you’re away. I’ve always done my part to bring whatever romance and fun that I can to my relationships. When I was younger, when I didn’t realize I was always the Liker, I just burned a lot of that energy on people who didn’t appreciate or necessarily even want this sort of thing from me. Better to share what I have with my friends and family - and volunteering in the community - than to use it up chasing some boy.
Some of this is Love Languages stuff and some of it isn’t. I’m a Quality Time person with a minor in Acts of Service, a trait that people seem to prefer in others rather than themselves. One of the reasons that my husband knew to woo me by doing things like installing a shower head or trimming my parrot’s nails is that I recognize Acts of Service for what they are. Give what you wish to receive. Also, praise whatever you want more of. This is a man who will never write a poem or a song about me, which is great, because I swore off musicians a long time ago. He does things that actually matter to me, not to some pop culture image.
The part that isn’t about Love Languages is the part about whether this person is the dating kind or the marrying kind.
The traits that make a fun boyfriend don’t always overlap very well with the traits that make a good husband. (Not sure about the girlfriend/wife thing). The early phase of dating someone new is not compatible with getting up early for a day job, keeping the fridge stocked, or getting laundry done. It’s a fantasy. You can’t keep mystery and familiarity together. The parts of a developing relationship that turn into reliability and solid communication tend to drive out the frisson of What Are We, Exactly?
I knew to marry my husband partly because I spent a lot of time figuring out what I would want in a long-term marriage. I also knew because by the time he proposed, we’d known each other for four years and we’d spent a year hashing it out. I knew enough to stop being the Liker and work toward something more balanced.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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