The Caring Less Game

Let’s talk about the Game Where You Pretend You Care Less, explained succinctly by Thought Catalog: “The person who cares less has all the power. Nobody wants to be the one who’s more interested.” Is it just me, or does this game *suck*?

I know, as a long time player, that it doesn’t always feel like a choice, and that not playing can be incredibly painful. But I also know what it’s like to be on the other side, to have the sinking feeling that you don’t care for someone quite the way they care for you, and to have that make you wonder what’s wrong with you and why you can’t just be happy. It makes you feel like you don’t deserve this person’s care and affection. And it doesn’t make you feel powerful, unless you’re a special kind of manipulative narcissist. Quite the opposite; when you like someone more than they like you, at least you’re aware and you can decide what to do. Often you don’t wish you liked the other person less; feeling love is it’s own kind of beautiful thing, desirable in its own right.

When it’s the opposite, it’s always felt to me like everything would be better if they just didn’t like me quite so much, and yet I am powerless to make that happen. It feels like it’s my fault that everything is going wrong and that the relationship, romantic or otherwise, is inevitably going to fall apart. Worst of all, I become increasingly uncomfortable just being in their presence, no matter how much I care for them, because the sheer weight of their liking me more than I like them is overwhelming. And that discomfort morphs into pain, which begins to hurt them, and then we are both hurting, and damaged, and why couldn’t I have just liked them more?

Which is all to say that a relationship where there is this kind of asymmetry of feeling isn’t a relationship with unequal power, unless one or more people are using that asymmetry to make power plays, which is a case of abuse, not someone losing the Caring Less Game. It feels like unequal power to the person who feels that they care more, because they are hoping and pining and the other person seems just fine. But that person doesn’t feel thrilled and in control as a result, as you imagine they will from the other side, at least not in my experience. They are just as likely to feel frustrated and unhappy. There’s no winning this Game. No one ever wins.

Which means that the view of relationships as being one where you win the game by caring less is terrible. It undermines our ability to empathize with both sides of a difficult situation, and also normalizes a very unpleasant dynamic. Certainly, there are times when it’s reasonable not to want to overwhelm or scare someone (such as at the beginning of a relationship), or respect their wish for something less emotionally intense, but those are clear exceptions to what sometimes feels like the crushing nonchalance with which this Game is accepted as normal.

Instead of constantly playing the Caring Less Game as if it were the price of admission to a romantic relationship, it might be better if we took it as a bad sign, and looked instead for people who were head over heels for us, and we for them, and no one afraid to say so.

What are other people’s experiences with this dynamic? How has playing or not playing the game affected your relationships?


7 thoughts on “The Caring Less Game

  1. Anonymous says:

    it sucks

  2. littlepinkelephant says:

    yeah it sucks. usually im the person who cares much but pretend to care less because from my experiences people care less about me, than i care about them.. i mean, i think im basically a person who feel everything deeply so if there is a connection i cant care little..but i dont blame others,i think.^^” my problem is that when i met someone and for a time both of us seems to be interested the same about each other but then as we spent many time away from each other i still feel that im finally at a state where i could be freely and open with this person and think it could become a friendship but the other seems less interested in me not that wouldnt care at all, but like the connection was broken somehow and the volume of it would went down.. and on this stage i dont know how to act couse i still like this person, and i can make hardly friends an my only friends are living in an other city than me..:/

  3. Daniel says:

    I care more, and I lose.

  4. Me says:

    i’m the person caring more and it sucks because you just feel you are not enough and the other person doesn’t care. . . I think both parts should care the same amount or almoust equal amount for the relationship to work properly.

  5. Jason says:

    Always cared more always lost as a result hugely.

  6. Ross D says:

    Sadly, this seems to be a game my spouse and I both play. She feels threatened by other females and my flirty personality (which I admit sometimes can be a little much even though I’m keenly aware and protective of not damaging our relationship).

    Then she goes into “self protection mode” where I am instantly compartmentalized and she focuses all of her attention and emotions toward the step kids and anything else that is not… well, me. She’s fantastic at this ability. I know she loves me… know she’s faithful… but she doesn’t or rarely initiates touch, sex, eye contact… etc..

    I suck at this game but my pride gets the best of me and I retaliate. I’ll do stupid moves like remove likes from her Facebook page… not text her at all during my day. Avoid eye contact… pretty much do everything I perceive her to be doing to me. So, in short, I’m a child and selfish because I want to show her how it feels in a futile attempt to change her behavior.

    All the while, I hurt her… fuel her insecurities & drive her further into her emotional castle. I usually budge first and she eventually lowers her walls and we have an amazing high (love high) together before the whole process becomes rebooted over again.

    So, during these valleys, the anxiety is pretty bad. I definitely feel expendable to her. She has the kids to retreat to. I’m working on finding a healthy balance where I can remain an adult…continue to show irrational love even during bad times. However, I’m also working to cut my emotional dependence to her to where I don’t obsess over trying to be a mirror to her to show her how much it hurts. I am vividly aware the mirror method is poison to the marriage.

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