How Do You Know If You Like Someone Or It’s Something Else?

Updated October 5, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Romantic feelings are difficult to explore. Sometimes you just aren't sure if you're interested in another person. How can you tell? What should you be feeling? How do you know if you like someone? But you can save yourself part of the confusion by taking in some advice from those who have been through it already.

How Do You Know If You Like Someone Or Just The Attention They Give You?

For some people, especially young people, a relationship is more about their own feelings than the other person. For these people, getting into a relationship can be an escape for loneliness or feeling uncomfortable being alone. But that spells trouble for long-term relationship stability.

If you choose to be in a relationship with someone only because they like you, but you have not explored your feelings about them, you will likely end up with a resentful partner down the road. They may feel uncared for, since you’re mainly in it for your own benefit. You may also experience wandering thoughts or regrets over lost opportunities for a more fitting match. Yes, having a partner's attention is a wonderful feeling. That being said, you really need to ask yourself if you actually like the person, or you are just enjoying the feeling of them liking you. The feeling of you liking them too will last longer and ameliorate feelings of loneliness much more fully than a one-sided partnership.

Consider whether you display any of these signs that you're just in it for the attention and not genuine interest in your feelings, thoughts, or time with this person:

  • You never initiate conversations or texts. Instead, they are always the one to contact you.
  • You often feel like responding to them is an obligation and not something you’re excited to do.
  • They always make plans for the two of you. You don’t initiate hanging out or help develop date ideas they bring forward.
  • You rarely think of them when they aren't around.

On the other hand, if you're displaying the opposite of these behaviors, then it's a good sign that you are infatuated. You probably like someone for more than just their attention if you think of them all the time, even when they aren't around. If you ask them to do things on the weekend, and you initiate conversations because you are thinking about them, you’re very likely having strong feelings about them.

How Do You Know If You Like The Idea Of Someone Or The Idea Of Them?

Occasionally we project our desires onto other people, whether we mean to or not. This can happen in relationships too. We may meet someone who we are initially attracted to, and we want them to be the person who fulfills all our desires. So, we ignore any indicators that they are not. We may also place expectations on them that we don’t communicate, and so feel disappointed when they don’t live up to our dream. We don't get to know who they actually are. This is a sure way to leave you both feeling confused or worse.

This situation can happen more easily if a lot of your relationship has been online. Whether you’re long distance or you met on a dating app, it can be tempting to fill in the blanks with your perfect partner. It can also be common for those who are getting over a past breakup. You may project ideal qualities onto this new partner based off of the strengths or shortcomings of the last, never taking in this entirely new person in front of you. Getting caught up in your imagination and leaving the present moment with this new person can make things feel overwhelming or scary, as you leave reality and come back feeling disappointed, confused, or hurt.

They say love is blind, but that doesn't mean you have to actively blind yourself to what kind of a person your partner is. Maybe they are kind and generous and funny, but not right for you. That's okay, and the best thing is to admit that to yourself and to them. This can be hard in the beginning of a new relationship when you aren't really sure what the other person's true self is like. To prevent yourself from ending up in a situation both of you wish had gone differently, consider following these tips:

  • Actively listen when the other person talks about their life and interests. Ask questions about how they feel, more than just how they think. This will help you get to know what goes on inside their head. You can assess compatibility and just, in general, how much you’re interested in getting to know them deeper.
  • Keep yourself interested in learning more about their life and habits even after the beginning stage of your relationship. People show more of themselves with time, so don’t cut yourself off from that wealth of information about them.
  • Pay attention to what they're not saying. A lot of communication is in tone and body language. If they say a song sounds all right but they avoid eye contact and their tone isn't enthusiastic, then they're probably just trying to avoid a conflict about music taste. Paying attention to these deeper signals can help you communicate more clearly in return and better sense out what the root of your partner’s concern or issue is.

The Idea Of Being In Love

Many people can be drawn in by the idea of being in love. It can feel especially enticing in late adolescence when movies are telling you that you should be finding love at the football game. Love happens at any time and stage in love, often when you least expect it. Trust that your partner is out there. It may take a few tries with some other people, but all those experiences are learning opportunities preparing you to be the partner your ideal partner needs and wants.

When you try and make a relationship work with someone you don’t really click with just because they have feelings for you, you’re likely wasting your time and theirs. They deserve someone who cares and loves them, more than someone who is just using them for their attention.

If you find yourself on the other side of the situation, you deserve that partner who will actively make time to hang out with you and listen to you. If you find yourself acting outside of your usual behaviors or trying to pick up a new hobby that you don't really enjoy just to impress them, then you may be hanging on to hope for a relationship. and not actually hope for a relationship with this particular person. You don’t have to change yourself or your life just for one person’s attention.

Finding The Right Person

Self-esteem issues can make it difficult for you to wait for the right person. It can feel more immediately comforting to find someone right now who fulfills some of your needs, if you can’t find someone who can fill all of them. Instead, you may feel inclined to stay with the first person to give you the kind of attention you are looking for. The attention may feel good at first, but it's also a good way to find yourself in a really bad relationship where you receive very little of the things you really need. If you find yourself falling into this behavior as a pattern, it could be time to talk with a therapist and better understand where this behavior is coming from. You’ll also learn some tools to cope with the uncomfortable feels that come up.

Therapy Can Help

Learn to find your self-worth and have patience for finding a compatible partner with the help of a professional therapist. A study from 2009 found that couples who attended a relationship education program and received tools for expressing their emotions and problem solving felt those effects for up to four years. These couples also reported stronger communication and more similar values. While couple’s therapy is geared toward people already committed to a partner, single people can also benefit from a therapist focusing on relationship issues. You’ll work together to define what you’re looking for.

Pursuing a therapist to help you with dating or asking these big questions about what you’re looking for in a partner can feel scary. It may feel like you have a lot of explaining to do of who you are and what your past has been. A therapist is confidential and willing to listen to the whole story. Choosing to attend therapy online can make it easier to say those vulnerable things to someone, even if for the first time. An online therapist can also be there when you need them, whether in a moment of crisis or when you need a confidence boost. You can hear from BetterHelp users below on their experience.

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“I've been working with Rachel for 4 months and she has helped me make tremendous progress. I have appreciated her focus on identifying childhood trauma and unhealthy patterns in my relationships. She is very intentional in her practice and extremely knowledgeable. She listens, takes notes and encourages me along the way. I never feel judged or uncomfortable being vulnerable with her. The homework she prescribes reinforces our therapy work and the goals I've identified. I highly recommend working with Rachel to help you get to a place of healing and self love.”

“Susan is compassionate, understanding, and very easy to talk to, even about very difficult topics. She listens without judgment and helps me better understand myself and my relationships. She is great about pointing out my strengths and encouraging me to be kinder to myself, which has helped me develop my self esteem. I always feel heard and respected during our sessions. Susan is wonderful!”

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