I used to think the key to knowing a guy cared about me was how jealous he would get over another dude. Most likely, watching too many fairytales – coupled with my bizarre obsession with duels – was the cause of this highly misinformed theory.
I mean, let's be honest: Challenging someone to a duel does sound pretty badass, minus the whole actually then having to fight to the death.
But it would be fun to go down singing like Hamilton. (He actually did that, right?)
The truth is, I've been drawn in an embarrassing number of times to a mediocre boyfriend who was only on his best behavior when he was at the risk of being dethroned. I have an impressive ability to always date jerks who only give me scraps of attention when their egos are bruised.
So, I learned to create drama.
He doesn't call for three days? No problem: Just flirt with someone new, and casually mention it the next time you talk. Suddenly, he's begging you to come over.
He suggests you're too clingy and wants an open relationship? Sure: Just go on a date 15 minutes later, and suddenly, he feels badly about his attitude.
It works, but it sucks. It's clearly not about your value as a friend or partner; it's about competition.
It's about being someone's property.
The real problem is I – like many women – have gotten hooked onto this fucked up thinking. If a guy doesn't get jealous, I think he's not attracted to me. If he doesn't swoop in like Prince Charming, I clearly don't matter.
It's just not true.
So lately, I've been relearning the signs of a dude showing he cares.
My conclusion is, it's about fighting FOR you... not OVER YOU. But trust me: My definition of fighting for you is not what you'd expect.
I'm talking about fighting for you as a person, as a partner and most importantly, as a friend.
I'm not talking about begging you to stay together or wooing you with flowers and presents. It's not about chasing you down at the airport and asking you not to go. (Although, I would kinda like that to happen to me just once because I want my life to be a rom com.)
Fighting for you daily means showing you you're valued, and actually listening to what you're concerned about. I recently had a good friend help me realize this, and I'm very grateful for the lesson.
During the course of our very new friendship – which started with a swipe and some making out – I've already tried at least three times to dramatically sabotage things. It's hard for me to get rid of the notion that a guy won't just walk away when he gets bored.
So, I like to protect myself and beat him to the punch.
I'm learning I don't have to do that with this guy, and I'm hopeful there are others out there like him.
He cares about me. If I get upset, he calls. He tells me I'm being a weirdo, but he also listens to what's bothering me and talks it out. It's refreshing.
So, when I recently tried to end our friendship for like the zillionth time (because I was having a bad day), he could have just called quits.
I mean, who does that?
Me. I do that.
In today's online dating culture, many men jump ship when a girl gets too emotional. Instead of running, though, he did the weirdest thing: He fought for me.
Not dramatically, but calmly and logically. By the time we were done talking it all out, he was making fun of me... and I didn't feel crazy anymore.
What really separates him from the other guys, though, is I know he does this for all the women in his life, no matter whether they're friends or something more.
Because to him, it's not a gimmick or a game: It's just showing the people in his life they're valued. He just cares.
"I'm not going to let you fade away. So deal with it." That's what he said to me, and I won't forget it because truthfully, I've never even had a boyfriend say that to me. I only hope I can be as good of a friend to him.
Sometimes, we get so caught up in what else could be out there – a hotter guy, a cooler friend – we forget about loyalty.
We forget people are flawed. They will get upset and will let us down. But the right ones are sure as hell worth fighting for.
So, the next time you feel the urge to make a boyfriend (or even a friend) jealous, stop and think about whether or not he is someone who will fight to have you in his life in any capacity.
If you know he isn't, then make him jealous by walking out the door. And if you know he is, then quit the games because you've found someone who really values you.
And that's a pretty awesome feeling.