He doesn’t want you. He wants you to want him.

They aren’t the same thing.

I know that’s not the most sensitive way to say that, but sometimes it’s just true. Sometimes you realise it immediately, sometimes you realise it when he’s sleeping with some girl he met at a bar, sometimes it takes ages to dawn on you, creeping up slowly and crystallising while you wander home late one night, wrapped up against the cold.

Everyone likes to be liked. This goes for guys as much as it goes for us – sometimes they like to know that you like them, even if they have no intention of pursuing that avenue of action. I don’t even think they always do it intentionally – sometimes they are genuinely interested initially, creating at least some interest from you. Then they maintain that interest with sustained contact – lunch here, coffee there, “come over for dinner” from time-to-time. After that, all they really need to do is show you enough attention to keep you vaguely interested. That really isn’t all that much attention at all.

I’m talking from experience.

I’m generally a pretty tough nut to crack – I’m cynical. I have a bit of a once-bitten, twice-shy attitude to men. Why? Because I often end up in this situation: he doesn’t actually want me. He just wants me to want him. I become a person-shaped ego boost, responsible for affirming his ability to keep a girl interested (with minimum effort), and I never really recognise it until it’s too late.

Wandering home alone late last night, it dawned on me: drip-feeding you attention when you seem at risk of losing interest altogether – when you’re not making an effort to see him, when you haven’t called him, when he hasn’t seen you in a while – isn’t really him giving you attention, it’s him taking action to stop you losing interest. Not because he particularly values your company, but because he values your role in the preservation of his self esteem. That makes him sound calculated, I don’t actually think that he is. I just think that sometimes guys can’t separate you from the way it makes them feel to be liked. They’re not actively using you as a back up plan or leading you on, they’re just suspending you in the excitement and hopefulness of the beginning stages of what sometimes becomes a relationship. I confess that I have done the same to guys in the past (sorry!), but being on the receiving end puts everything in perspective a bit.

Here’s the message: you deserve better. You deserve better than a guy – intentionally or otherwise – just keeping you around because you make him feel good about himself. You deserve to get attention because he wants to make you feel good. All the time, not just when you’re at risk of losing interest. Once you realise that? You’re cured of being someones person-shaped self-esteem boost. Go forth and find someone that wants you.

Good luck.

– Liv