How do I make them fall in love with me? (a.k.a., 'Hope is the Bitch')

“How can I make the person I like like me back?”

The heartbreak in this question just kills me, and I can scarcely bring myself to respond, so hopeless is the answer.

But. It’s a useful illustration of the important concept of distance management, so let’s have a swing at it, eh?

ANSWER A (plausible but unlikely):

When you’re in proximity-seeking mode, your goal is to close the distance between you and your object of attachment – physical distance and emotional distance.

People have different needs in terms of emotional (and physical) space. As you’re closing the space, if the person feels you’ve moved too close, they’ll move away. If you keep closing the space, they’ll feel threatened and make LOTS of space.

Your best strategy, then, is stealthy encroachment, moving into their emotional world so gradually that they don’t notice the change.

To do this, you must first not make any requests that feel too demanding to the other person. To be safe, ask for nothing and give like it doesn’t cost you anything. What do you give? The stuff we give and receive in relationships. Briefly, give your attachment object unconditional positive regard, accepting even the not-so-good things about them; express appreciation for their best qualities; and create a sense of freedom, letting the attachment object be responsible for meeting their own needs.

Okay, so you’ve gotten closer. You’ve made yourself a valuable source of social resources. But no matter how close you get, you won’t have what you want until they start wanting to be near you.

To create that, withdraw some of the resources you’ve been lavishing on your attachment object. The hope is that they’ll notice the gap and come looking for you. That’s your in. Stay cool and give them what they were looking for.

Then… Lather, rinse, repeat, as they say.

I have to add that all of this is bound to be torturously painful to you, as you manage the separation anxiety of not having what you want and not being able to talk to your attachment object about your pain. You risk becoming a relationship bore, alienating friends with your incessant planning, obsessive rehashing of every interaction, and agonies over what punctuation to use in a text message, Tweet, or Facebook status update.

It’s also dangerous insofar as attachment blinds us to real and dangerous flaws in our attachment objects. “Unconditional positive regard” doesn’t mean forgiving someone who belittles you or makes you feel bad about yourself. An environment of freedom doesn’t mean your object doesn’t have to respect agreements they made with you about what you will or won’t do – like if you agree to be sexually exclusive and they cheat? That’s not freedom, that’s lying.

So.

ANSWER B (downer):\ You can’t. Your best strategy is to separate yourself entirely from your attachment object to break the attachment and move on with your life. It’s painful and slow and hope will rage against the dying of your love; hope is the real bitch in this scenario. Maybe, always maybe.

If you get really, really fucking lucky, you’ll catch your attachment object when they’re both on the rebound and ready for a relationship. Both those things need to be true. If just the former is true, you’ll get used. If just the latter is true, they won’t attach.

I know, see? It’s just one of the shittiest things that can happen in life.