In the game of modern dating, the prevalent rule seems to be “whoever cares less, wins.” The underlying premise of this notion is that nobody wants to be the one who is more interested because the person who cares less has all the power. After all, as Penny Lane says in Almost Famous, “If you never take it seriously, you never get hurt.” It is, in a way, the ultimate form of self-preservation.
What started off as a rule to follow when dating or starting a relationship has turned into an entirely separate game in and of itself. The Game of Caring Less is why we send text messages few and far between despite wanting otherwise, and why our response time has to equal or exceed the time it took for us to receive the last message. It’s why we act busier than we really are and pretend to be disinterested, so as not to seem too eager or show that we care “too much.” Because no one wants to be the pathetic “loser” who caught deeper feelings or became more invested. And no one wants to be the person who ends up sadder when things don’t work out because not only are your feelings hurt, now your ego and pride are, too. The idea is ‘I cared less about the relationship, I cared less about you, I hurt less, and as a result, I win.’
Except, what exactly are we winning? The fact that we didn’t allow ourselves to experience the full range of emotions we possibly could have? The fact that we were disingenuous to how we really felt? The reality is that truly opening yourself up to someone means putting down your walls and revealing your weaknesses. The strongest women are not those who always “win” by denying their feelings in order to uphold an image of strength, but those who can be vulnerable and honest despite the possibility of rejection and pain. Sure, in the moment, it may feel as though you “lost” because you cared more for the other person and invested more of your feelings. And as someone who loves and thrives on winning, it’s a hard pill to swallow. But are we ever losing if we care too much or too deeply? And if we are denying ourselves the opportunity to truly feel, are we ever really winning?