“Do I like him or the attention?” I wish I had asked myself this question when my first boyfriend, Beanbag (don’t ask why I called him that), asked me to go out with him. Because that relationship ended in disaster. Three long years, on and off, and yet I had no idea why I was with him.
Possibly peer pressure. You see, all my friends had partners. But another reason could be that he appeared keener to be with me than I was to be with him. He made me feel wanted, which suggests more insecurity issues than I thought I had. But that’s not the point.
The point is I stayed in the relationship, even though it didn’t do anything for me. I’m not proud of it, for I wasted three years of my life and his. He was too sweet but not really what I wanted. I would avoid his calls, could remember nothing of our conversations the day after, and worst of all, I didn’t have the guts to tell him. It was far too easy to let him comfort me on a bad day, and conveniently forget him on a good day. I know, I was horrible, but I never asked myself, “Do I really like him or just the attention?”
Interest Versus Attention
Like every human, we all have a fundamental need for attention. When you get attention, all the right circuits glow in your brain and you feel wonderful. But the amount of attention you need before your brain is finally happy depends upon how secure you are as a person. This is ultimately a result of the conditioning in childhood and adolescent years. So, when you’re insecure or something of a narcissist, you’re likely to like people who like you back.
My story is not uncommon. People do go to great lengths to get a guy’s attention and this attention-seeking behavior often makes others roll their eyes. The Internet is full of Google searches of:
“Do I like him or do I like the attention?”
“Do I like him or the idea of him?”
“I don’t know if I like him”
Trouble is, sometimes it is difficult to tell if one is in a relationship because they’re genuinely interested in their partner or the attention their partner bestows on them. There is a scientific explanation for that. Research has suggested two main reasons for people to form close relationships: proximity and similarity, and to maintain that relationship: reciprocity and self-disclosure.
This means people who are physically close to each other and have similar interests are more likely to form a bond. And romantic feelings are invoked in this bond when one person reciprocates the attention they receive from the other. In simple words, if you see someone every day, who is somewhat similar to you, there’s a great chance you’d fall for them if you think they’d fall for you too. Therefore, it’s quite easy to confuse the need for attention with interest if you’re a low-esteem soul like me.
Now, I’m not calling anyone a narcissist here for confusing the need for attention with being interested. While exposing a narcissist, we notice many other nuances that are not found in your average attention-seeker. However, this discussion is limited to the ‘interest vs attention’ conundrum. So, if after reading my story, you’re beginning to question, “Do I really like him or just the attention?”, then you’re in the right place.
Do I Like Him Or The Attention? Important Signs To Know For Sure
It’s not difficult to give someone attention in a relationship, but sometimes it can be overpowering for one person. Being with someone for the attention they give you instead of being with them due to genuine affection, is not just unfair to your partner who might have romantic feelings for you. It is also unfair to yourself as you are devoiding yourself of a chance to find the right person for yourself. You’re also ignoring the deep-seated issues in your psyche which are responsible for such behavior. To find the answer to “Do I like him or do I like the attention?”, you need to think about the following questions, and answer honestly:
1. Who initiates contact more?
On an average day, does he call you more often than you do? Does he initiate a conversation or text more often than you do? How large is this difference? It’s certainly one of the indicators of who is keener to communicate in the relationship.
Related Reading: Are You Unknowingly Flirting? How To Know?
2. Do I ignore him for everyone?
Do you often let his calls go to voicemail, or avoid them under some pretext? Do you return these calls afterward? Do you find yourself ignoring his calls for everyone under the sun? Do you ignore him if you are busy doing things like reading or watching Netflix? Do you think about what he thinks (or how he feels) when you ignore him? If you are fine ignoring the love of your life for colleagues you talk to twice a year, or the guy from the deli, then you know what to say to “Do I like him or the attention?”
3. Are my conversations uni-directional?
When you talk, who is the subject of your conversations the majority of the time? Are most of your conversations complaints you have about other people that you are venting to him? How often does he talk about himself? If the conversations feature primarily you as the active speaker and him as the listener, it’s a sign he is single in the relationship.
4. When do I seek him?
Do you seek conversation with him only when you need comfort, for example, after a blow at work or to discuss general frustrations of your life? Do you seek conversations with him when something makes you happy? Do you seek him if he is not in a good place? Do you try to find out if he needs comfort from you? These will answer your question, “Do I like him or the attention?”
5. How much do I know about him?
How well do you know your partner? Not talking about birthdays, what do you know about his childhood? Can you tell a thing about him that nobody else knows? Do you know what will upset him immediately and why? Do you know what his mechanism is to deal with the things that upset him? In contrast to this, how much does he know about you? This is an eye-opener and indicates who the narcissist is in the relationship.
6. Do I think about other men?
Do you fantasize about someone else while in bed with your partner? Do you try to get another guy’s attention even though you’re in a monogamous relationship? Do you imagine extravagant scenarios where your partner is dead and you can connect with the new guy over your grief for your dead partner? If he is disposable enough that you can fantasize about other men over his death, then you need to end this sham that you call a relationship.
7. If he stops paying attention, would I care?
Million-dollar question. If out of the blue, he decides he is sick of your selfishness and doesn’t want to follow you around like a lost puppy anymore, would you care? Or would you keep living your life the way you were, because he never really mattered? If this is true for you, then attention is the answer to “Do I like him or the attention?”. Impassivity is not a sign of true love.
8. Do I like him or the idea of him?
Do you often imagine your guy behaving in a manner that is completely different from how he is? Do you often seek to change things about his personality? This happened a lot to me. I hated Beanbag for being too laid-back and wanted him to be more decisive and in control, which is why I named him Beanbag. I often pushed him for not being how the heroes of my books were, an alpha male. It was just impossible for me to accept him the way he was. Yet, I didn’t break up with him because he was always there for me.
Related Reading: 35 Cute Ways To Say I Like You Over Text
9. Final question: Do I like him or the attention?
Using the questionnaire above, you can infer if you are in a relationship for attention or for love. You should also consider if your need for attention can create relationship insecurity for you in your future relationships. Think:
- Are you a narcissist?: Narcissism is a result of conditioning in the early formative years of a person, where a person may develop attention issues for not getting enough attention as a child. Does this describe you? Do you feel like you are constantly begging for attention?
- Do you have insecurity issues?: Do you crave validation from everyone around you? Do you have low self-esteem in general, and often undermine yourself? Do you also seem to have a pattern of comparing your life with others?
- Do you need help?: If you feel that any of the above is true for you, and if it’s begun to affect your life in ways that you can’t handle anymore, then you can get in touch with Bonobology’s panel of expert counselors for your issues
Being in love is a great feeling. But being in love is often more complicated than it appears. And the question “Do I like him or the attention?” can reveal a great deal about a person. When you are with someone because of your inherent need for attention, it affects both of you. The relationship that you share is not built on love that can sustain over time, but over a demand-supply equation that both of you are somehow making work. It’s only a matter of time before it all breaks apart.
The question, “Do I like him or the idea of him?” may often present itself to you. Think about whether you would be happy in a relationship with someone else. This will tell you if it’s truly the relationship or the person that brings you joy. If you’re comfortable in a relationship but not in love, then you don’t really like him.
Blame it on your deep-rooted psychological issues or modern multi-option culture or past relationship trauma, it can often be difficult to decide on anything – including a partner. Top it with the anxiety of getting into a relationship, trying to get the guy’s attention, and dreading the opinions of your friends – all of these factors can make it difficult to decide if you like someone. But when you do like someone, the answer to “Do I like him or the attention?” is never attention.
It’s possible to like someone but not want to date them. It’s called a platonic relationship and doesn’t require any physical intimacy to form a relationship. Or maybe you can’t decide about this guy and keep thinking to yourself, “I don’t know if I like him”. In such a case, it is always good to wait, instead of hurrying into a relationship.