Answer by Dan Holliday:
We fall in love with someone because of how they make us feel about ourselves. Love is selfish like that. It’s why we keep going back to those who once used to make us feel good in our skin, in our bodies and our faces. When someone makes us feel funny, smart, attractive, talented, desirable we innately fall in love with them. This is true of friendship as well.
Think of the first moments of lust (this applies, but less “flutteringly” to friendship) when the relationship was new and wonderful. You likely felt sexy. You likely felt valuable. Beautiful. Intelligent. Interesting. Funny. [insert good thing here] When once-great relationships turn bad, but the people keep trying to “make it work” and one keeps running back to the other, they are chasing a high not unlike chasing a coke high (for those of you who don’t know, the first one or two lines of cocaine is something like bliss without compare; each line thereafter is steadily less and less until you’re basically “chasing a memory” of the high; desperate to get it back).
That’s love. So, if you’re ever wondering why your relationship with your partner isn’t where it should be: remember that when people feel good about themselves, they’ll likely reciprocate it. Make that person feel like they did when you first fell in love. NOW, you might be chasing a dream and XYZ may have moved on, but if there’s still love in your relationship and hope for a future between both of you, if you make your significant other fall in love with her/himself FIRST, then you’ll get them to fall in love with you again. (and I know this from experience: I Love you Rick).
The strongest way to endear yourself to someone is to express a need for their help and to make them feel needed. The greatest way to build a friendship is to accept what a person can give and demand that they give it (within reason). This is complicated because this little bit of heuristics seems like it should be well known and well understood. But we get it wrong so often.
Parable of Jimmy: Back when I went to church, I had a buddy named “Jimmy”. He was desperate for friendship to the point where he insisted on paying for everything. It was always Jimmy’s treat. It was always Jimmy who paid. I’m not a cheapie but this man would wrangle a bill out of your hand. Jimmy had no friends. People kept away from Jimmy. Jimmy was also a very nice guy. Smart. Deep. But Jimmy never let anybody pay.
Why does that drive people away? Because people need to contribute. What we contribute to our relationships tells us we’re essential and that we have worth. If people won’t allow you to contribute to the relationship within the range of your ability, then they are essentially (and subconsciously) saying: “You are impotent. You are worthless. You have nothing of value to me. I don’t really need you.”
Parable of Ricky: My boyfriend has been in school for fucking EVER. Jeezis Christ I just want him to be done. For all of our 7 years, I’ve paid the bills, he’s studied. Praise Vishnu he’s nearing the end of the tunnel. Anyhoo, about a year and a half ago, he started getting depressed. Yes, he knew that I wanted him to graduate, but I didn’t beat him up over “taking” my larges.
Nevertheless, Rick admitted that he couldn’t do it anymore. That he didn’t know what to do because he felt like a user and that he wasn’t needed. I remembered this lesson and the next day, somewhat authoritatively, told Rick how he would “earn his keep”. His job was to do the laundry and clean the entire house every Tuesday. The whole thing. Every single last bit of it. Two bathrooms. Two bedrooms. Three kitty litter boxes. The floors. The furniture. Everything. I established (a significantly over-valued) worth of the effort at $200 a week (some maids cost $50 an hour so it may not be off by too much).
By expressing my constant need of him to contribute in this way, it took the annoying pressure off me and by sticking with the very REAL fact that we each contributed to the relationship, it went a HUGE distance to making him feel valued and needed in our house.
Parable of Pam: My step-mother brought a previously created son to our family. We enjoy the same first name. My little brother Dan is the sibling I’m closest to. We have the same political outlook. Same intellectual slant. Same obsession with movies. He’s almost exactly 10 years younger than me. So I get to be the older, wiser brother.
My brother’s bio-father is a wealthy man. Pam is not. Dan is her only bio-son. There’s a connection there that cannot be ignored or disrespected. We have a very close family, but when a kid was carried in your womb for 9 months and squeezed out of your nether regions, I expect a bonding that is not the same as everywhere else.
My brother didn’t get why bragging about what his dad had bought him (“He’s taking us on vacation to XYZ”) hurt my step mother. Moreover, what Pam has to contribute to him — her unending love, devotion, willingness to do anything for him and her wisdom — was “all” she had (and that’s a lot). But for my brother, he wasn’t understanding why he needed to take what my step-mother could give and why, when he rejected it, he hurt her beyond comprehension.
I explained to him the above points (about needing to be needed; needing to contribute) and informed him: “When your mother calls and offers unsolicited advice. Take it. Thank her for it. Tell her how much it helps. Lie through your fucking goddamned teeth you ungrateful bastard!!!” Continuing, “Furthermore, telling your mother you love her is insignificant compared to telling your mother that you need her help. The moment we ask a person for help within their talents and abilities, we reaffirm their skill, power and contribution to your life. Once every few weeks, pick up the phone, call Pam and even if it ain’t true, say, ‘Mom, I need your advice. . . .’ and try to take the advice. That’s what she has to give and you need to take it or you’re telling her she’s not needed and cannot contribute anything of value to your life. That’s devastating for any relationship but especially for a parent.”
So to recap:
- Make a person fall in love with themselves and they’ll fall in love with you.
- Take what a person offers, at least occasionally, to tell them they have value.
- Allow a person to contribute within their skills and abilities to let them know they are needed and a part of your family.
- Ask a person for help to reaffirm their self worth and to endear yourself to them.
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