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He's just definitely that into you
April 9, 2014 1:48 PM   Subscribe

What does healthy requited love look like? How do I know if a person Likes Me Back?

I have a history of falling for people who are unavailable. Whether that's awkward unrequited crushes, "he's just not that into you", casual sex gone wrong, or people who are emotionally withholding and constantly running hot and cold before ultimately settling on "I love you, but I'm not in love with you."

Because of that, I'm having a really hard time setting a baseline for what The Opposite Of That looks like.

Obviously, there are easy things like "returns your calls", "initiates hangouts", "introduces you to their friends". But I feel like actually participating in the relationship is a bare minimum, not the only sign you need that it's smooth sailing ahead.

On the other side, female friends have asked me things like "does he dote on you?", and I've got plenty of examples of couples in my life who go in for big gestures, or who are always super shmoopy together, or who otherwise show their feelings in really big, obvious ways. But I've never been a huge romantic, and a lot of that stuff either turns me off or is just way outside my expectations of normal behavior.

What does a relationship where someone Is That Into You look like? Am I wrong about not expecting grand romantic gestures? How do you know when someone really likes you? On the flip side, are there specific ways that you show your partner that you care for them?
posted by Sara C. to Human Relations (31 answers total) 79 users marked this as a favorite
 
What does a relationship where someone Is That Into You look like?

Their level of engagement (in terms of behavior and emotional displays) is comparable to your own, give or take a little here and there, and this balance does not appear to be causing any problems (in other words, keeping up that level of emotional engagement does not seem to be taking a toll on them).

Am I wrong about not expecting grand romantic gestures?

You are not wrong to have whatever expectations (or wants) you have. Just remember to communicate those expectations and desires to whomever you're dating. If you're not a big romantic, someone else might not be, either, and that might work fine for both of you. But again, communicate.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:56 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


I'm in the same boat with not feeling comfortable with BIG ROMANTIC GESTURES. Luckily my SO feels the same way. For us it's mostly about the day-to-day--cooking dinner for each other, kissing each other goodbye, snuggling, thinking about the other whenever we're making plans, saying I love you. The bigger things are about sharing vulnerabilities, being willing to be honest even when it hurts, being able to express emotions that we maybe hide from other people, being patient and kind to each other. When you write it out, it sounds simple, but there it is. Good luck to you.
posted by Calicatt at 1:57 PM on April 9 [16 favorites]


I'm not super romantic either, I think most things are really cheesy. I appreciate when a guy does something romantic that fits my personality. For example, a guy I dated dug his Super NES out of his mom's attic because he knew I liked old school video games.
posted by radioamy at 2:01 PM on April 9


Grand Romantic Gestures should be reserved for people who appreciate giving and receiving Grand Romantic Gestures. Given the choice between having my name written in the sky, and being presented with an unexpected cheeseburger, I'll take the cheeseburger.

I think your friends have something with the "does he dote on you" thing, but it's more subtle than that. It's just about going out of your way, however much or little (and keeping in mind your and their boundaries) to make sure the other person is doing well to the extent that they're willing to let another person make things well for them.

There's lots of small ways to show you care if you're the sort of person (and are with the sort of person) who appreciates such small ways. Are you out somewhere and see a small thing they might like? Buy the thing and give it to them when you see them. Do they look nice today? Compliment them. Did they have a rough day? Invite them to complain about it or come up with a distraction (depending on how they prefer to deal with rough days.) Are you getting up to pour yourself a drink or a snack? "Hey, you want anything from the kitchen?" Did they do something they're proud of? Be proud of them too, and say so.

These small, seemingly trivial things, when done honestly and consistently, build up into a healthy and supportive relationship where you have one another's back and you're emotionally present and available.
posted by griphus at 2:09 PM on April 9 [44 favorites]


I have the same problems as you, so I can't comment on signs someone is *actually* into you.

But when it comes to grand gestures or romanticism, the only thing that matters is what you're comfortable with and what type of relationship you're happiest in.

Have you read "The Five Love Languages?" This book details various love languages and how different types of people show affection, and has actual scenarios that illustrate what the gestures can look like. For example, the author mentions that some people don't show affection by grand romantic gestures but by wanting to spend a lot of time together.

The examples are mostly long-term/married couples but I found the information helpful still.
posted by Autumn at 2:09 PM on April 9


Obviously, there are easy things like "returns your calls", "initiates hangouts", "introduces you to their friends".

That's, like, 80% of it.
posted by Melismata at 2:10 PM on April 9 [17 favorites]


I love my partner for a lot of reasons, but a big one is that he gets up when I do in the mornings just to sit with me for a few minutes before I have to rush to work. Most days, he'll even start the water for my tea and pack my lunch for me. He doesn't have to, but he'll do it anyway because he knows I appreciate it.

Big, romantic gestures seem like an anxiety-inducing headache to me. I find them wasteful and messy and embarrassing! So, to me, a good relationship involves communication! That's number one.

I'd rather have someone who listens instead of somebody who showers me with lots and lots of stuff. But hey, this is what works for me! Some people are the other way around, and well, that's them.

I'm an anxiety-riddled ball on some days, and he is on others, and we just sort of understand where the other one is coming from on those days and push forward. But because we talk about it, we can focus on dealing with the anxiety, and not taking it too personally.

So, basically the trick is figure out what works for you and what's your personal baseline for a good relationship. Then, don't settle for anything below that. Really. Don't.
posted by PearlRose at 2:15 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


Am I wrong about not expecting grand romantic gestures? How do you know when someone really likes you?

Nah, you're fine. I think that is part of the "good fit" aspect of a good relationship. That you feel like your partner is trying to do things for The Real You and not the idealized you or some media version of you who is not you. Some people have a hard time understanding that everyone doesn't like the same things they do, so a question like "Does he dote on you?" becomes nonsensical if you wouldn't really like it if he did, so who cares. Once you get to a baseline level of participating, as you say, I think the Into You aspect is a lot more shown by how they actually interact with you as you see yourself.

My general litmus is whether they sort of listen and adjust. So if there's some gesture (grand romantic or otherwise) that they are clearly making and I said "Hey that was really nice but next time let's _____________" and next time they've remembered that and actually done something different and not plodded ahead with their own view of me that isn't the same as my own version of me, that's less great.

So for me personally, I'm really into a lot of communication (texts, emails, phone calls, hangout time) with my guy. I think he cares less about that sort of thing, doesn't feel less attached to me if we're not in constant communication. But he knows I like it and so even though it's not natural for him, he tries to be accommodating. At the same time, he's not subsuming himself, becoming different to become more like me, he's just adjusting so the parts of our life that we live together are agreeable to both of us. I do the same for him in other ways.
posted by jessamyn at 2:15 PM on April 9 [15 favorites]


This varies widely - even in my lifetime, I've had folks who showed they like me with words and others with actions. There's no one script. There's a book called the Five Love Languages that is recommended here a lot that I recommend as well.

Figuring out how you love and need to be loved is a very important part of the process. It will help you find a compatible partner. For me, I like someone who is reliable, which is why the "calls when they say they will" and "picks up milk on the way home" gestures are more than just functional for me. Lots would find that boring, but that's fine because they aren't me.
posted by rutabega at 2:15 PM on April 9


I'm familiar with the Love Languages concept, and in fact that's one angle of why I'm concerned about this sort of thing. Hand in hand with the fact that I tend to chase people who are unavailable, my biggest Love Language is physical touch. This is probably a factor in the number of relationships I've been in where I thought things were going great, but my partner was not really interested in anything beyond sex.

I'm also a big fan of "acts of service", but it's easy to see someone cooking you dinner as an "act of service" when the reality is that they'd be making dinner whether you were there or not.

It seems to me that it's easier to get a good sense of this stuff if you happen to have more of the "giving gifts" or "verbal affirmation" love languages.
posted by Sara C. at 2:17 PM on April 9


They pay attention to you and see you and try to respond to that version of you, not some version they have made up in their head.

Also they treat everyone well. If a person treats you well but other people poorly they will also treat you poorly eventually.
posted by fshgrl at 2:23 PM on April 9 [19 favorites]


In addition to the "obvious" things listed above, I would say vulnerability is a good sign. Does it seem like he's willing to let you see his faults? Admit that he was wrong about something?

Like having a bad day, and saying so, confident that he doesn't need to fake a good mood just to keep things running smoothly. Really trusting and loving someone means that you don't have to hide things like that. Things can run "smoothly" even if they're not perfect.
posted by General Tonic at 2:24 PM on April 9 [10 favorites]


I'm generally a non-romantic person, but my partner is. I stretch myself a bit to be romantic for him, and he appreciates it when I do.

I think that gets at an important part of a good relationship: do you want to meet the needs of the other person, and do they work to meet yours?

Second big part: does he (and you) picture your future together? I don't mean church bells and babies after a few dates, but in a more general sense. Lets say he's casually thinking about the next vacation he wants to take, does he assume you're invited and coming along with him?

Biggest, final part: can you actually have meaningful conversations together? Conversations about tough things, emotional subjects? Can you have a fight and talk it out?
posted by fontophilic at 2:27 PM on April 9 [5 favorites]


Obviously, there are easy things like "returns your calls", "initiates hangouts", "introduces you to their friends". But I feel like actually participating in the relationship is a bare minimum

I mean, yes, it's sort of the bare minimum? But it's also not something a person is going to bother with for very long, if they aren't actually that into you.

But someone who's into you will be trying. They will be doing things that indicate they want this relationship to continue. They might be doing it WRONG in your opinion--but if all you want to know is, "do they like me?" then the important signal is the trying.

Whether or not cooking dinner is an "act of service" for them, the fact that they want you around when it isn't a friday night funtimes kind of thing...that is often an indicator of genuine interest.

What you have to learn to parse in the cooking-dinner hypothetical is: "does this person actively want me here, or is this person simply not irritated that I am here?" There are lots of cues for this--were you invited over or was it more, "you can hang around I guess?" Are they engaged with you while they are cooking, or is it clear you're just watching their regular routine?

Do they remember things? Do they ever express an insight about you? Again, seems real basic, but...People who aren't that into you just really won't bother.
posted by like_a_friend at 2:30 PM on April 9 [21 favorites]


This is probably a factor in the number of relationships I've been in where I thought things were going great, but my partner was not really interested in anything beyond sex.

The easy way to filter these people out is to not have sex with them for awhile. Double or triple the number of dates you currently wait before having sex.

I'm also a big fan of "acts of service", but it's easy to see someone cooking you dinner as an "act of service" when the reality is that they'd be making dinner whether you were there or not.

Well, yeah, they'd still need to eat either way, but they want to eat with you. Also, not all acts of service are going to be pleasant for the actor. If someone is happy to come out in the rain and change your tire, then they definitely like you back.
posted by desjardins at 2:30 PM on April 9 [3 favorites]


This is something I've heard echoed from many of my married friends: when I met my partner, it was easy.

Part of that was, as you've mentioned, he returned my text messages. He called back. He made plans with me and didn't cancel them. He introduced me to his friends. He invited me to stay over. He wanted to stay over at my place. He told me about his ex-girlfriends when I asked, but didn't act weird about it. When I asked him if he wanted to be exclusive, he agreed, with no angsting. He told me he loved me within a normal amount of time. I always got the sense that he wanted to spend time with me - I never felt like a burden or an annoyance - but I also never felt, in the early stages of the relationship, like he *needed* me. He seemed like a basically happy person, whom I made even happier.

You say that kind of stuff is the "bare minimum," but somehow all of the dating I'd done before him had caught on the skids of that ought-to-be-easy stuff. For quite a while, after I met my now-fiance, I wondered if something was missing, because I was so used to that intense push-pull of unreliable guys. When a guy who hardly ever texts you back finally does, there's a little rush. When a guy who always texts you back texts you back, there's not the same kind of thrill, and if you're too caught up in the habit of dating shitheels, you can mistake that for a lack of romance, but it's not. The real stuff comes later - and can be hard- but those first few months - heck, the first year or so - it shouldn't be a struggle. It doesn't have to be a roller coaster. It should be fun, and it should feel good, but it doesn't need to be something you Obsess Over Every Single Minute. Given that this person is going to your life partner, they shouldn't stop your life in its tracks. They should fit into it.

Another way of thinking about it is this. I think real romantic love - as opposed to flings and crushes - has a lot in common with the other kinds of love in your life: the love of your family, the love of your friends. If you can recognize love in the rest of your life, you should be able to recognize it in a relationship. Most of my unreliable crushes did NOT act like my friends: they caused me a lot of pain, I couldn't trust them, they condescended to me, they weren't honest with me, and when I was around them, I acted like a shitty, weird version of myself. They were also, as people, very different not only from me, but from my friends and my family. Different kinds of jobs, different educational backgrounds, different value systems, different outlooks on life. I'm not saying you have to marry your identical twin, but my current partner fits into my life. He makes sense there. My family and my friends like him, and although, obviously, our relationship is unique in a million ways, in a large part, he treats me the way they do: with affection, care, honesty, and respect.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 2:52 PM on April 9 [141 favorites]


For your example - sure, they're making dinner anyway. But have they maybe noticed that you said you liked (or didn't like) some particular food, and then they incorporate (or remove) that so you'll enjoy the meal? Or do they ask you what you'd like when they're thinking about what to prepare? Maybe even quietly start keeping in stock a favorite snack, beverage, etc.? There are lots of levels of 'acts of service' between 'I do what I'm doing anyway and if you enjoy it that's cool' and 'I make grand romantic gestures that are totally uncomfortable for you.'

A lot of what I do when I like someone is simply...reallly listening, and observing, and being present when we're together. And then showing that by asking later in the week how that work thing went, or bringing a snack for them when I went into the kitchen to get one for myself, or noticing and complimenting that the sweater they're wearing is a really great color on them, or whatever.

On the physical touch front, are you getting types of physical affection that aren't intended as lead-up to sex? Like, a quick hug, a pat on the arm, a hair-stroking, snuggling up to watch a movie, etc.? If your person is a physical touch person too, that might differentiate them a bit from a physical-touch-strictly-to-get-to-the-sex person.
posted by Stacey at 2:55 PM on April 9 [2 favorites]


Here are things that I'd experienced but forgotten and am remembering again, so they surprise me. The person gets excited about your goals and successes, and practically and emotionally supports you in these where they can, way more than your friends do. ("Isn't today the day you've got to submit your thing?" "How did the thing go??" "Let's celebrate!"). Is emotionally available and/or offers problem-solving support on yukky days spontaneously, no request required. They pick up on how you're doing, and care about you feeling good, or commiserating, whatever. Not that they're psychic, and of course communication is important, but they're tuned in and invested. Notices and appreciates your strengths, even things you're not aware of. Checks in, with emails and texts. Shares things (articles, books, art) they think you'd appreciate, and, they're kind of on the ball about their guesses.

If it's a male partner (given you're a woman) - laughs at your jokes and respects your arguments, instead of competing with you. (According to Studies, some/many men struggle with appreciating funny women. I know from your posts you're funny and smart. These might be things that come up. I don't know about you, but I've been in a debate or two with partners, and it's no fun at all when it feels like wrestling. It doesn't have to.)

Related - in terms of good partner traits, I now like gentleness. (I used to be drawn to arrogance, which seemed to go hand in hand with intelligence and wit. Well, it's only a certain kind of humour that benefits from cruelty, and there are people out there who are so smart they know they don't have to use their sharpness in a martial capacity. They know when and how to use their tools. Maybe, then, it's really emotional competence and flexibility, as well as gentleness.)

Doing all the above for the other is good. I'm not always so great at thoughtful gifts and the like, which I have a feeling might be seen by some as slightly suss in a woman. However, I willingly participate in traditionally 'feminine' acts of service through the provision of carefully prepared roasted meats and/or light desserts, hair-cutting, and neck rubs, occasionally.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:15 PM on April 9 [18 favorites]


For me, the biggest difference was how pleasantly boring the relationship was.
With the aloof type of guy I sometimes used to go for, there was always the question of where we stood and if we will have plans for the weekend and OMG did I screw the whole thing up with that ambiguous email...etc.
With my husband, even from the start, it was clear that he was just kinda going to be there, and be reliable. And that I didn't need to freak out about things.
No drama, nothing serious to navigate.

I didn't have a great answer when people asked me how things were going at first because it felt very different and just kind of normal and unremarkable. But that in itself was remarkable. Similar to what someone above said, it was like asking me how things were going with one of my close friends...good, fine, boring, stable, nice. Not much to report, just solid.
posted by rmless at 4:52 PM on April 9 [6 favorites]


The following items are not Grand Gestures, but they reaffirm my relationship because they are based on his knowledge of me. Love is customized.

His hatred for mushrooms is as legendary as my love for them, and this year he keeps buying portobello mushrooms and frying them for me on Saturday mornings as a surprise breakfast. When we started dating, he brought me egg tarts because he knew I was a fan.

He holds my hand when we walk together. He touches my hair. When I am sitting in bed alone, he brings me a cat.

If I'm not in the mood, he doesn't pressure or sulk. There is no penalty.

He texts me when he sees something funny. He texts me when someone pisses him off. He texts me when he's bored. He texts me links to things he knows I'm nerdy about.

He listens to me go on about people he doesn't know without complaining. He draws cards for me with hilariously bad illustrations and the sweetest words.

He leaves me be when I'm introverted but notices when I'm too quiet and asks me what's wrong. When I have a song stuck in my head, he sings the Meow Mix song ("what? I'm helping!").

He tells me later if it turns out I was right about something. He feels safe with me.

He mocks Valentine's Day with me. He tells me he loves me 15 times a day.
posted by heatherann at 6:13 PM on April 9 [19 favorites]


Lot of great answers here. I'll add: you feel like the best version of yourself when you're with them. You're comfortable, sexy, happy, funny, smart, insightful, kind. You don't feel awkward or stressed or effortful. Can there be blips? Yes, once or twice, none of us are perfect and we all blunder sometimes, but they should be recognizable as blips -- they should surprise you, because ordinarily things are easy, fun, and clear.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:36 PM on April 9 [3 favorites]


I'm a big fan of John Gotman's research. It resonates with what I have experienced and what I have observed.

http://www.nytimes.com/1985/04/16/science/marriage-research-reveals-ingredients-of-happiness.html

John Gottman http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Gottman has done a lot of research, and has recommendations on what makes a marriage successful. or not. http://www.gottman.com/research/

Success:
http://www.camft.org/ScriptContent/Professional_Ex/Articles/GottmanApproach.htm
http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/01/08/7-research-based-principles-for-making-marriage-work/

or not:
http://www.nytimes.com/1992/08/11/science/to-predict-divorce-ask-125-questionshtml
http://www.gottmancouplesretreats.com/about/relationships-dysfunctional-divorce-predictors.aspx
http://www.andersoncooper.com/2012/04/17/dr-gottman-four-negative-patterns-that-predict-divorce/

Capital L love is really fun - that excited passionate feeling is awesome. Maybe what you really want, though, is a successful relationship. A lot of it comes down to the presence of respect, sharing, and being really nice to each other, and the absence of disrespect, criticism, contempt, stonewalling defensiveness, lying, etc.
posted by theora55 at 7:10 PM on April 9 [3 favorites]


This is my perhaps simplistic analogy for this. I think it's like when you meet a friend at a restaurant for drinks and dinner, and order your first drink while you're still chatting.

In my view, you should get your drink right before you start wondering where it might be. If you and your friend have a break in conversation and you're like, "hey, where's my drink?" then something's wrong and the waitstaff hasn't been attentive enough, possibly forgot, is backed up in the kitchen, etc. Ideally, it should just appear, not immediately but like a beat before you start thinking about how you'd like it right about now.

I think it's like this in relationships - you should get the grand gesture or the nudge or the "how're you doing" (dependent on the stage of the relationship) right before you even start to wonder where it is.

I guess this is another way of saying "it should be easy" but I actually think relationships can be difficult in all sorts of ways but still work. I also don't mean to equate a relationship, which should be equal, with a service relationship. Just for me personally, if I'm wondering "where my drink is" with a guy I know it's not working for me. Also I try to make sure he's getting the same attention from me.
posted by sweetkid at 9:52 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


I chortled when i saw the "That's, like, 80% of it" comment above, because something about the premise of this question feels off to me. It's like asking "what should a painting of a forrest look like". You'll get a range of generic widely applicable answers, and a range of answers specific to the person replying... but both of those categories will leave out a lot of things that you personally might find appealing, and may also include some stuff you don't really care for. Basically, you're taking the temperature of public opinion on something that's largely a matter of personal opinion.

I get it, i mean, i think things like this a lot in many aspects of life. It's understandable to do a sanity-check once in a while.

But i guess, where i'm going with this, is that establishing a list of things to look for like this only feels useful insofar as really blatantly obvious disrespectful or signs-of-abuser stuff if your gauges were miscalibrated for that. Much further than that and i can't help but feel that you're just a hairs width from The Rules territory, and down that road lies madness.

I guess i'm just saying this because my partner and i both regularly end up exhibiting red flags i see in these threads. Several other close friends of mine too.

So yea, mine would be that they do something offputting or upsetting. Maybe it even makes you angry, but you either explain it away to yourself or it doesn't seem like that big of a deal an hour or two later because the positive far outweighs the negative. Feeling that way about conflicts, issues, really awkward moments, whatever and having that feeling reciprocated is probably the biggest thing for me.

Another would be, how do they act when they've just had a terrible day and are exhausted? How do they act when a few days later, it's your turn for that? Do they act the way they wanted you to treat them? I have no idea how to articulate quite well enough how amazing of a tell this is. This kind of thing can shine through even the honeymoon, crazy braindrugshormones early period of a relationship. You might not actually read what the gauge is telling you, but it's a really really accurate awesome one.

As a closing note though, i guess another thing that bugs me about these sorts of things is that as an awkward nerdy internet person(and you post a lot, i've read a lot of your posts, you're an awkward internet nerdy person too! it's fine!) i just am not good at the kind of thing sweetkid was describing. I often end up dating people who fail at that kind of thing in a different way, and then it meshes together. If that type of "one beat before you're going umm where is it" thing is important to you, i think some introspection is in order as to whether you are good at sensing that sort of thing. I've definitely had some moments post-honeymoon period in a relationship where i had to have a discussion with someone about how that isn't something they really do, and that more heavy hinting is in order both directions. I don't know if it's social conditioning or disneys fault or what, but i think the number of people who expect that sort of thing are far larger than the number of people who actually sense it and do it. But who knows, maybe i'm just weird.
posted by emptythought at 4:45 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


My husband brought me home a bag of spinach the other day. He knew I was going to make myself some pizza for supper, and he knows that I love spinach on my pizza, so he just picked up some spinach as a surprise. That was such a kind and thoughtful thing. It showed that he was thinking of me, it showed that he knows my preferences, it showed that he likes to make me happy. Yes, the bag of spinach cost like 3$ but carried a lot more meaning than just a bag of spinach.

Our winter has been buckets of crappy. Cold cold cold and snowy. I often go to work before my husband, and one morning it was really awful and cold, and scraping my windshield was a nightmare. Before leaving I turned on my husbands car for him to warm it up and melt the ice so that he wouldn't have so difficult a time. It took me two seconds to do, but it saved my husband 10 minutes of misery.


I believe that a lot of love is shown in small acts like those. The small gestures are where its at. They are often don't take much time, don't cost much, and are easy to do. They aren't forced. They aren't planned out. The other person doesn't do it to get something in return. They are the kind things that a couple does for one another naturally, just because seeing our partner be happy is pretty awesome. And some of the small things my husband does for me that means a lot are often things he isn't even aware he is doing. Stuff like always giving me the spoon I like to eat desserts with, or surprising my husband with a giant beer.

Grand gestures can be really nice too but that depends upon the person.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:21 AM on April 10 [7 favorites]


So yea, mine would be that they do something offputting or upsetting. Maybe it even makes you angry, but you either explain it away to yourself or it doesn't seem like that big of a deal an hour or two later because the positive far outweighs the negative.

This really does a good job of articulating something I was mulling over last night. I was thinking about posting along the lines of, "in my own relationship, I just can't stay mad at him and that seems like something that hasn't happened before." I realized that in lots of my past relationships, I was kind of low-level angry at my partners MOST of the time. Not for no reason! They earned some anger, and one of them really did earn perpetual anger.

But now, even though my partner is just as human as they were, and does annoying human things, or thoughtless human things, I see them for what they are and not as some harbinger of doom, or whatnot. I don't know whether this is specifically because I love him, because I know he loves me, or because I'm just more of a grownup these days. But it's a good sign, overall.
posted by like_a_friend at 8:39 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


I am now in a healthy relationship of almost 2 1/2 years after a string of emotionally unavailable guys. Things that make it healthy and special:

- Like PuppetMcSockerson said, he will get me random things that he knows that I like. I gave up sweets for Lent and he randomly determined that I can still eat churros. We went to lunch the other day and I saw churros by the counter, but didn't get one. He got me one and hid it until the end of the meal as a surprise.

- He is willing to work on our relationship. He takes constructive criticism and brings things up when he's upset. He agreed to go to couples therapy with me.

- He knows what is important to me and doesn't fault me for it, even if he doesn't understand it.

- He respects me. He doesn't want to waste my time or make me do something that I don't want to do.

- He always reaches for my hand within 10 seconds of us walking out the door.
posted by anotheraccount at 8:48 AM on April 10


I, too, feel as though I am finally in another healthy relationship after a long marriage (which was good overall but ended due to my husband's alcoholism) and then shorter, rocky, unhealthy relationships with emotionally unavailable men that left me feeling depleted and anxious instead of supported and satisfied.

These unavailable men were not bad people. They were truly wonderful individuals. But I couldn't be my true self around them, they didn't care about me as much as I cared about them, yadda yadda.

As I think someone mentioned upthread, my partner makes me want to be my best self when I'm around him. He claims I have a similar effect on him. Not a different self, but my best self.

I should note that I didn't fall in love with my boyfriend. There wasn't any classic kind of infatuation phase. (Not with my husband, either, and I was happily married for 15 + years.) So I was skeptical about the relationship. My bf fell for me first and I was honest with him. I told him I didn't know if I could ever love him.

But I kept seeing him because he did the important but not so common, not so easy things of not only returning my calls, texts and emails but also initiating them.

This is a big deal to me. I had my heart broken by a wonderful man who initiated exactly 12 emails over the course of a year. I, sadly, sent him hundreds (was I clueless? you betcha!), to which he responded less than half the time.

My bf quickly, happily introduced me to his friends. He did so with pride. Eventually I realised that I had a total jewel of a guy on my hands. He loved me, and he made it obvious. He drinks coffee; I drink tea. One tiny example: at some point black tea magically appeared in his kitchen and he just automatically made tea for me at breakfast.

His thoughtful attention and love just wore down my defences. I couldn't help but love him back. (He remembers the name of my home town. From one story. It's a tiny town nobody has ever heard of. WTF?) That alone wouldn't be enough but we also have complementary sexual energy and make each other laugh a lot.

My friends love this guy. One ex of mine, one of my best friends, took me aside and said, "If you ever decide to break up with this guy, please call me first so I can talk you out of it."

I used to have this idea that I needed to find someone to complete me. Then I met my bf and discovered a man who had a really great life. Like someone else upthread, my guy didn't need a partner to complete him. He was happy already. He had a full, delightful life. He wanted a partner but he was just fine without one.

He's been a great role model in that regard. I'm striving to build my own wonderful life that includes him but does not revolve around him. To echo others, relationships can be a struggle but they should not be a constant struggle. If you are walking on eggshells, if you diminish yourself in his/her presence, or feel less than, you are not in a healthy relationship.

Also, is your partner willing to do something for you that is not easy or fun? I had a difficult time letting myself be miserable or unhappy around my bf. He's told me several times that we are in this for the long haul. I don't have to hide my feelings or pretend to be happy when I am not. That's a huge thing for me.

Other people see a boring couple. I see a sexy, loving man who takes me as I am and who supports me emotionally as best he can. I try to do the same for him. He is the world's best boyfriend for me and I am a lucky gal!
posted by Bella Donna at 10:52 AM on April 10 [6 favorites]


Early on in my relationship, before the end of any overnight visit came, my now-husband set up the next time we'd see each other. It wasn't a big deal and wasn't overbearing, just, are you free Wednesday? Want to do something? It also very clearly communicated his interest.
posted by mchorn at 11:53 AM on April 10 [4 favorites]


They inconvenience themselves to help you and don't see if as thath much of an inconvenience - i.e. my car done broke and my boyfriend drove a 35 minutes to work each day and picked me up all but one day (due to his own work thing) but still made sure to check on me and make sure i got home ok. This was for 2.5 weeks, and out of the way driver for him, but to him it was just taking me to work and not some big inconvenient thing.

They loosen up around you from when you first met them. Poop jokes become acceptable.

They listen to what you say about you and what you do and remember it and can recall it in conversations later.

You don't make plans to hang with them. You together make plans to hang (with or without other friends).

They become your personal social wall - you see something cute / funny / wild and you send it / tell them about it and they "like" it and comment (i'm not talking about on facebook, i mean in real life, but this sort of thing mimics facebook and facebook scratches this itch for many a lonely isolated soul).
posted by WeekendJen at 12:20 PM on April 10


It seems to me that it's easier to get a good sense of this stuff if you happen to have more of the "giving gifts" or "verbal affirmation" love languages.

Nah. I've been dealing with a string of ones who say one thing but do another, and am trying to pay more attention to what they do in addition to the verbal affirmation part. The more nuanced examples of what good "acts of service" look like, that you've favorited above, are probably more useful than trying to change yourself around to respond to love languages that just aren't that important to you.
posted by eviemath at 12:52 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


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