In one of my first articles titled, Make Them Love You By Taking (Not Giving), I put forth a novel concept. As the title suggests, I found some evidence to support the notion that an investment of time and energy makes a giver more romantically attracted and committed to the receiver of their favors. Unless they are indeed grateful and appreciative, however, such favors may not have a positive effect on the feelings of the recipient too (much to the woe of many givers).
In a subsequent article, I also discussed how a partner withholding such investments is often a reason for their lack of commitment. Nevertheless, I still wanted to explore this idea more deeply and discover the underlying dynamics for this effect within relationships. So, I went back to the research…
Research on Projection of Responsiveness
Within the realm of established couples, researchers Lemay, Clark, and Feeney (2007) evaluated the effects of each individual’s responsiveness to the other on the emotions of both partners. Particularly, the researchers were interested how an individual’s responsiveness to a romantic partner’s needs might influence his/her emotions and perceptions of that partner. To do so, they conducted two studies with married couples, exploring how each actually responded to the needs of the other, the perceptions each held regarding the responsiveness of their partner, and each partner’s satisfaction with the relationship overall too.
Consistent with the previous work above, the findings of Lemay, Clark, and Feeney (2007) indicated that individuals who did more for a partner came to have more positive feelings about that partner. In fact, the more an individual did for a partner, the more they perceived that the other partner did for them too. This effect happened, even in instances when a partner was not really doing more for them.
Given that unique finding, the phenomenon has been called the Social Projection Model. That is because individuals “project” their own feelings and behaviors onto the perceptions of a partner (even when they are not accurate or reciprocated). Therefore, it appears that the more an individual GIVES to a partner, the more they LOVE their partner–no matter what the partner is actually doing in return.
How to Apply This in Your Love Life
To improve how a partner feels about you, get them to treat you well. While this may seem backwards, especially as we are told that feelings drive behavior, the results above would indicate the opposite is also true. A partner doesn’t just treat you well because they already feel positively toward you—they feel positively toward you when they treat you well too.
Given that, simply asking for favors or positive treatment often works. So, make small, quick requests and let their behavior do the rest. Specifically, it pays to focus on the following areas:
1) Favors: Asking favors of strangers and partners increases attraction. So, make sure you request them. Small things especially add up. Ask an attractive stranger to give you directions, watch your seat, or grab you a straw. Ask lovers to get you a soda, rub your back, or help you with a chore. The more they do for you, the more they will like you.
2) Verbal Behaviors: Expect and request positive treatment from others. When they are rude or harsh, ask them to change their tone and behavior. Be assertive on these points. Steer them in a positive direction. Ask them to say something good. Focus them on the positive. Even make a game out of it (tell them they have to start every topic with a positive statement about you). Remember, how they treat you sets the tone for how they feel about you. So, don’t settle for bad behavior!
3) Non-Verbal Behaviors: Arrange situations where dates or mates attend to you, get close, and make eye contact. Meet people in crowded places where they have to get close. Speak quietly, so they have to lean in to hear. Ask them to look at you when you talk. Request a hug or kiss. Find an excuse to get close and cuddly.
4) Choices: Finally, get others to choose you. Play a game with other couples and have them “pick” you for their team. Have them add you to their social networking site and later label you as a boyfriend/girlfriend. In established couples, make sure they ask you to accompany them to places. If they don’t, ask to go, then thank them for inviting you. Overall, find ways that they can pick you, choose you, and select you above all others.
© 2018 by Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D. All rights reserved.
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