“Co-dependency is using a relationship to fill a bottomless void due to not feeling whole and loved as an individual. It’s not the need to be loved that’s the issue; it’s the inability to love one’s self that causes the dysfunction.”
~ Graham White
Do you ever find yourself wondering whether your feelings towards a man are because you genuinely like him or because of the attention that he is giving you?
To start, it helps to know that women want to feel loved and to feel like they are a priority to the man in their life.
This is essential for them to feel emotionally connected in a relationship. Women are attracted to loyalty.
In the dating phase of a relationship, if the man you are dating is pursuing you and giving you attention, it feels good and it can trigger an emotional connection.
We sometimes refer to this as the romantic love stage of the relationship. This is when we have all of those feel good hormones rushing through our bodies helping us to bond to the other person.
This can feel amazing and it is no wonder we can easily get swept up in these emotions and feelings.
I like to tell my clients to enjoy these feelings and follow their heart but be sure to take your brain with you!
This is where you must know what is important to you in a relationship besides the emotional connection you are feeling.
Enjoy these feelings but also spend some time getting to know the other person.
What are their values, their goals, and their interests? Learn more about their personality and what kind of person they are.
As you learn more about them, does what you are learning match with what you desire from a relationship and a partner?
If it does not, it is time to move on because these feelings you are feeling in the beginning will not last if your relationship requirements are not met.
If you find that you have enough in common, then enjoy the feelings and move ahead with the relationship.
Always remember to date with your heart but take your head with you.
Lori Ann Davis, MA, CRS, CRC — www.lorianndavis.com
When it comes to this dilemma of wondering if you’re genuinely interested in someone or just liking the attention you’re receiving from them, there are two key questions that I recommend you ask yourself to help you find clarity.
1. How often am I initiating conversations/plans? How often do I want to?
As women, we are socialized to be passive (unfortunately). We are taught and shown from an early age that when it comes to romantic relationships, our role is to be the pursued rather than the pursuer. This is an outdated idea that a lot of men and women still believe or do almost without thinking.
If you’re receiving a lot of attention from someone, it can be easy to fall into a pattern of not doing any work yourself to keep the relationship going – he may be doing it all!
If you truly have feelings for this guy, you’ll find yourself wanting to text him good morning first or wanting to plan a date for the two of you.
This isn’t a competition – this just shows that you’re wanting to have equal give and take in the relationship so that one of you isn’t doing all the work. If you feel fine with him doing all the work and you don’t want to take the lead every once in a while, that may be a sign you’re in it for the attention rather than for him.
2. How compatible are we?
We’re not going to be compatible with everyone. If you’re sensing within yourself that you and this guy have a lot of differences but you want to give the relationship a chance anyways, it may indicate that you’re in it for the attention. Your family and friends will also likely let you know if they see this guy as actually being a potential match or if they see him as being more of a temporary interest.
A real relationship is based on more than just how often you talk, how many gifts you’re given, or where you go on dates.
Really look to see if this is a guy you would choose out of a line up of other men because of who he is and how who he is matches up with who you are. If the two of you are too different, it won’t work, no matter how much attention he’s giving you.
Michelle Henderson, MA, LMHC – www.nextchapter-counseling.com
Discerning whether you really like someone or if you just like the attention they are giving you will require some honesty and soul-searching on your part.
When you really like someone, you will prioritize him and show him respect and thoughtfulness.
You will start to think about a future together and have a desire for the relationship to progress. Really liking someone is a phenomenon that doesn’t happen every day. When it does happen, it is special, and you will know it. If you are lucky enough to have met someone you really like, nurture the relationship and give it a chance to blossom.
If you just like someone because you’re getting attention, ask yourself why you need the attention.
- Do you have deficits from your childhood because you did not receive the attention you needed from your parents?
- Do you have self-esteem issues?
- Are you looking for validation from other people rather than building your own identity and life?
- Are you selfish or narcissistic?
The answers to these questions will tell you about areas where you need to grow.
Be honest with yourself and give yourself a chance to use this situation in order to become a better version of yourself. Every situation that we encounter has the potential to move us forward and to teach us about ourselves, the world, and other people.
Anita Gadhia-Smith, PsyD, LCSW-C, LICSW – www.drgadhiasmith.com
What type of glasses are you wearing in your relationship right now? Rose-colored or clear?
The lens we have on to view our relationship is very important to identify.
It’s normal to start off your relationship with rose-colored glasses. This is the optimistic stage of your relationship or the honeymoon stage.
Everything feels great, you are having lots of fun, you feel someone is interested in you and wants to get to know you and the feeling is mutual.
We all experience it in the beginning of our relationships and then at some point we switch to clear-glasses and are able to see a more rounded view of our relationship.
The clear-glass view is the realistic view of your relationship.
It’s the view that while there are great moments there are also hard moments. Moments of feeling very connected and moments of feeling disconnected. Lots of fun and energetic moments and lots of boring and less than ideal moments.
What glasses are you wearing?
If you’re wearing the rose-colored glasses, it’s possible you might be in the mode of enjoying the attention, but maybe not genuinely interested in the man you are seeing.
Put on your clear-glasses and evaluate your feelings.
- Is this someone you want to spend the majority of your time with-good and bad moments?
- Is this someone who you allow to know you in-depthly or only the best parts of yourself?
- Do you care to know this individual in-depthly as well?
If you answer yes to these questions, then you most likely like him and want to move past the honeymoon stage.
If you answer no to these questions, then you may only be interested in him for the attention he gives you.
One thing to remember is that it is okay to like someone and not want to pursue more with them.
These experiences help us distinguish which relationships we want more from. Dating gives us knowledge and feedback for ourselves on what we are looking for and needing in a relationship.
Try not to beat yourself up for not wanting more and learn what you need for the relationship you want to take deeper.
Rachel Elder, LMHC, MHP – www.rachel-elder.com
- Where do your feelings towards a man come from?
- Do you genuinely like him for who he is or is it because of the attention he’s giving you?
- How can you separate the two?
With almost all situations, we have two motives: a) personal benefit or protection of self and b) desire to protect or benefit someone else.
The same is true for men. Often, we’re aware of only one of those factors and the other operates in our subconscious.
Parsing out the two heavily depends on our ability to recognize and name both our conscious and hidden motivations because we are driven by both aspects…and we need both for a complete picture.
Genuinely liking the person you’re attracted to leads to a fulfilling relationship.
However, I’ve met way too many women who say they love their mate but don’t like him. Relationship satisfaction requires both.
Enjoying being around a human, sharing common interests, and appreciating qualities of your partner is critical.
Negative thoughts and feelings about your partner kills desire for romance.
However, when starved for attention and acceptance, we can fall into the trap of misinterpreting the meaning of a man’s actions.
This can be dangerous, especially if the guy is very possessive, wants to spend every waking moment with you, and the relationship progresses too fast.
When infatuated, that’s normal, but if the man is insecure about his ability to hold on to you, it’s easy to confuse that possessiveness as caring.
It feels great at first for someone to be so doting. At that point it’s easy to ignore friends and family at the start of a new relationship. Despite how alluring all the attention is, it may be misinterpreted as genuine love.
Boa constrictors can be genuine in their hugs too, until they squeeze the life out of you.
That’s what eventually happens with a man whose possessiveness continues in a long-term relationship.
While you can’t make him feel more secure about you, you can examine your own feelings and work on developing more confidence in yourself.
If you feel insecure, your radar will draw in someone else just as insecure, but it will manifest in a very different way.
That’s why we don’t see the problem until well into the relationship.
So be courageous.
Take a close look at all your feelings about an individual. What are the positive characteristics that you like? Name every trait you can think of.
If you need help in identifying desirable long-term relationship characteristics, refer to Chapter 17, “Ideal Relationships,” in my book, Unstuck Move from Powerless to empowered in Your Relationships.
You can use that list to assess how you and your partner rate on each of the characteristics. Once you’ve rated them, you can work on improving in weak areas.
The more you develop clarity on the type of person you’re looking for, the greater the chances that you’ll seek out and attract the kind of man you really want.
Charlene Benson, LPC, CSAT, CMAT – www.bensontherapist.com
I think that this is a question where the answer becomes clearer over time.
Maybe in the beginning you are enjoying the attention. Is that a bad thing?
Only if you don’t like him. And if you didn’t like him, you wouldn’t be asking the question.
I’m trying to give you permission to enjoy the attention.
Isn’t that one of the things we seek and enjoy when we’re dating someone?
You don’t have to decide how MUCH you like him as long as you are enjoying yourself and being honest.
It’s never okay to lead him on or mislead him. Even if he is clearly more into you and has told you how much he is into you, that doesn’t obligate you to anything. You’re just dating him, right?
So, what if he wants to talk about being exclusive? Do you like him enough to not want to see anyone else?
That’s really all you need to decide.
Make a list of the top five things you are looking to get out of being in a relationship.
Isn’t one of them companionship? And isn’t having someone pay attention to you part of companionship? You don’t have to feel bad because you like that.
My sense is that the real question here is really, Do I like him enough?
Enough for what? I think that the answer is enough to want to spend time with him. Until you don’t. And you will know what you are no longer interested in spending time with him.
In the meantime, take the pressure off of yourself for enjoying the attention, as long as you are also enjoying him.
Ellen Hartson, LISW – www.ellenhartson.com
He puts you on a pedestal and showers you with attention, and you love it! But do you have enough interest in him to form a mutual love relationship?
Being attentive may be the way a man tries to win or keep your love.
The attention he gives may be in the form of eye gazing, compliments, physical affection, quality time, acts of service, attentiveness to details, or gifts.
As a result, you may find that you are beginning to develop feelings for him.
Eventually a strong bond between you and your male partner may arise from receiving attention and attentiveness, especially if you have never received the needed attention from previous partners or from your family of origin.
Being able to provide a woman with the attention that she craves can be an essential part of a satisfying relationship.
For a relationship to be healthy, however, it has to develop and deepen beyond the idealization or pleasing phase.
Your partner also needs attention, and you both have the need to be accepted for your true selves, including your vulnerabilities.
Therefore, it is important to reflect on whether you feel strongly enough about your partner to reciprocate his love and maintain an interest in him, even when he is not meeting your need for attention.
You may want to ask yourself the following questions to determine whether you are truly interested in him, or if your interest is more contingent on the attention you have been receiving.
- What do you like about that man who is expressing interest in you?
- What moments do you feel most connected to your partner?
- What happens when you do not receive the attention from him?
- Do you have interest in reciprocating attention in the relationship?
- How do you show your partner that you care for him?
- Do you both share more vulnerable feelings with each other, about life stressors and/or about how the relationship affects each of you?
- Are you interested in understanding your partner’s emotions and needs?
- Do you have common interests and/or goals?
The answers to these questions may help you determine whether you are developing a deeper interest in your partner.
In some cases, loving feelings toward him have developed because it has felt so good and important to receive his attention in the relationship.
Perhaps he has already learned to speak your love language!
However, for a lasting bond of love and affection to be maintained, it will be important for both you and your partner to communicate with each other about the types of attention that each of you responds to the most.
Your mutual interest and attunement to each other’s needs can create the foundation of trust and safety for both of you to become your true selves.
Jennifer Rubolino, EdD, LMHC – www.drjenniferrubolino.com
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