They Say the Person Who Cares Less, Wins

a black and white photo of a chess board with pieces on it
Image by Leonid Mamchenkov / CC BY

It’s dating advice that I’ve probably gotten a thousand times. “Play it cool.”

Even if you like someone, even if you like them an awful lot, you’re supposed to downplay how much. Especially when that relationship is new.

I’ve heard it over and over again.

Furthermore, a lot of people say, ideally you’d be running away a little bit while doing so. For optimal results, they advise, try playing hard to get.

Ugh.

Suffice to say, I’m bad at following this advice.

Now, I don’t exactly rush into things headfirst. Instead, I do tend to move slowly these days, take my time, figure out if the other person will fit well into my (admittedly complicated) life and if I will fit well into theirs.

But I’m fairly forthright while doing so. I don’t downplay my actual interest. My girlfriend knows I had a crush on her for about seven years before we dated and that I didn’t make a move sooner because the timing was always wrong. And I didn’t think I was her type.

My husband did say “I love you” to me first. But I wasn’t coy about reciprocating. I said it back pretty soon after. And long before we were ever a Thing, I told him straight out that I thought he was cute and that I’d like to go to dinner with him when I was in town more often (at the time I was preparing for a cross country move to where he lived, for other reasons).

I let them both know where I stood. And I also let them know that place was one where I really cared about them a lot.

And even when I get into relationships, I’m the kind of person who isn’t shy about reminding my partners what I love about them.

They Say the Person Who Cares Less, Wins

I’ve noticed a lot of other people approaching relationships differently. And not only do they have a different approach, they actually advise other people to steer away from appearing too enamored, too attached, too invested.

Even better, they advise, try not to care so much in the first place.

They say that if you can help it, in any relationship you want to be the person who cares the least. Because the person who cares the least, wins.

When you become too attached, too invested, you give away your power. So try not to get too attached. And if you do get attached, never let your partner know.

I Dated People in the Past Who Were Playing These Games — and I Lost

I’m a super happy girl these days. Life is grand. I have a lot of people in my life who really get me. I have great friends, wonderful partners.

But it wasn’t always that way. And looking back at my love life, I can see what the advice givers are talking about. I did end up in situations where I openly adored someone who frankly didn’t seem to much care what I wanted. And I do find myself wondering if I’d “played the game” a little better if I could have changed that dynamic.

If I’d been purposely withholding affection and scaring my partner a little more by simulating insecure attachment, would they have tried harder to make me happy? Would they have made an effort instead of coasting along, safe and secure in the certain knowledge that I loved them?

Maybe. It’s entirely possible.

I honestly don’t know.

I Don’t Want to Win That Prize

But as interesting of an intellectual exercise as this is, I’m happy with the decisions I made. I’m glad to have spent my love life really, truly loving the people I was with. Embracing those feelings fully and being honest about them.

Sure, I could have played games. Could have tried to make myself not care so deeply. And could have denied it when my partner asked (and never volunteered affection).

I could have won the game by caring the least, sure (or at least played it harder). But what’s the point of winning a game like that? What would have been the prize?

Maybe you can finagle a passive-aggressive dynamic where you always have the upper hand via dishonesty and fostering detachment.

If you can commit to the lie hard enough, maybe you get a lovesick puppet out of the deal. A fleeting sense of superiority.

But really, what kind of prize is that anyway? Not a satisfying one long term. Being stuck with someone you don’t really care about. And who feels insecure and unloved all the damn time. That sounds pretty awful to me.

Me, I’ll stick to caring a lot and being obvious about it.

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Books by Page Turner:

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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