So, Do You 'Test' the People You Date?

You know, like to see if they're into you enough to get jealous, or something petty like that? I do -- or I have -- but I'm reading a book that's making me feel way less bad about it.

Mar 23, 2014 at 3:00pm | Leave a comment

I can't lie, and I can't say I'm proud of this. But … when it comes to relationships, I've been known to be a test-y sort.

Not "test-y" like "bitchy," and definitely not "teste" like "TESTES" (ew). TEST-Y. Example: Let's say I've been dating a dude for a few months. I'm starting to really like him, but his feelings for me remain frustratingly unclear, either because the asshole doesn't have any, or because he's bad at expressing them, or because he's simply ... not sure.

When I start feeling that sickly familiar, gnawing fear in my belly -- that desperate "oh shit I LIKE THIS GUY but I have ABSOLUTELY ZERO GOD-FORSAKEN IDEA if he likes me back" thing -- instead of putting on my big-girl jeans and simply asking what his deal is (direct communication = certain emotional death, obvs), I half-consciously devise some dumb little psychological ploy so he can adequately prove he gives a shit. (Like, say, dropping the name of a new guy friend, or purposely failing to respond to his text to see if he'll take the initiative to get in touch again.)

image

This is not a test. OK, it so is.


I realize this is exceptionally petty and childish, and I REALLY wish I could pat myself on the back and smile condescendingly down upon you while I squeal about how, being in my late 30s, I'm finally waaaaaaay above it all. But ... no. Part of my annoying emotional deal is that I've always fallen hardest for guys who were ambivalent about me, guys who send mixed signals up the wazoo -- the ones who seem to know, like magic, exactly how to stoke my insecurities, which then triggers my urge to "test."

But those tests never truly help me feel more secure in any legit or long-term way. I might get a momentary hit of relief if the guy texts me again or whatever, but, as noted in this Daily Mail piece, "Driven by insecurity and a craving for some type of love declaration, [test-ers] inevitably end up achieving the opposite. They create even more insecurity because it’s hit or miss whether your partner knows the ‘correct’ response."

The reality, of course, is that we shouldn't NEED petty ploys or weird traps to know whether someone is into us. Generally speaking, people make it clear when they're into you. If they're sending mixed signals, their feelings are, most likely, mixed -- right?

Interestingly enough, a book I'm reading right now touches on all this, and in some ways it kind of stresses the opposite! The book is called Attached, by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller, and according to it, there are three adult attachment types when it comes to relationships: Secure, Anxious, and Avoidant. (You can determine your type here.)

Secures are, yes, SECURE -- they're steady and healthy when it comes to love. They crave intimacy and know how to sustain it. They're willing and able to both give and receive love, freely and generously, without a lot of drama or neurosis. They're the healthy, awesome partners we're supposed to find and settle down with -- the keepers.

The Anxious attachment type (like me, thanks), make up about 20 percent of the population, and we can get a little nutso when it comes to love, especially when we're not getting our needs met. We tend to over-focus on our relationships, to ruminate and analyze every detail, looking for clues that our partner is going to bail or doesn't love us enough. We're on a constant quest for reassurance -- we're ANXIOUS, man-- and that quest is rarely sated by the partners we're most drawn to: Avoidants, who can be wishy-washy and difficult to pin down.

This constant drive for reassurance also causes us Anxious sorts to, yeah, TEST our partners -- the author calls this "Protest Behavior" -- by playing games and pulling all that unsavory stuff I mentioned above (ignoring their calls, trying to make them jealous, etc).

Can I explain the weird rush of comfort I got from reading all that when I first read all that a few days ago? I know it's not, like, curing cancer, and it overlaps with some theories about love addiction. But still -- I felt like I finally I have an explanation (whether it's scientifically legit is anyone's guess) for my seriously painful lifelong penchant for unavailable men, obsessive relationships, and silly tests! I'm not crazy, I'm just the Anxious attachment type!!!

Oh, and a bit more about the Avoidant type, which makes up about 25 percent of people: Avoidants are conflicted about their desire to be in a relationship; though most of them DO ultimately want love and companionship (most of us do, yah?), they fear losing their independence. So in relationships they tend to send a lot of mind-boggling mixed signals and infuriating push-and-pulls. Even when they're dating someone they love.

That, too, was new information for me. I always assumed the ambivalent / Avoidant men of my past were acting sketch because they just weren't that into me.

OK, enough of my rambling about attachment crap. TELL ME NOW -- how have you "tested" your partners? Have you read Attached? What's your type?

I'm on Twitter here.