And the Winner of the Evan Marc Katz Philosophy 101 Writing Contest Is…

…Mr_Right, who sent me something very astute on New Years Eve. While his initial premise, “People are inherently selfish when it comes to dating and relationships” isn’t exactly an opinion, his written response to this premise, explaining why selfishness is bad for relationships, is a keeper. It’s not highbrow, but it’s wise, and it deserves to have a broader platform. So, without further ado, your winner, Mr_Right…

When the movie “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” came out, my fiancée asked (dragged) me to go watch it with her. I found myself enjoying the movie far more than I thought I would. There was a line in this movie though that really struck a chord. In it, the main character is espousing on relationships, and he says “The power in all relationships lies with whoever cares less.”

It’s saying if you want to be in control of your relationship, don’t care about your relationship, or care less than your partner. And in a way, it’s true. Think about it. If the woman starts caring less and less while the guy is still at the same level, she’ll have the control in the relationship, directing the flow of it, or even ending it altogether. Or, take “The Rules”, which are designed to keep the woman in control. Does “Don’t call him and rarely return his phone calls” sound like it’s designed to benefit the relationship, or does it benefit the woman who doesn’t call? You could even reverse the roles and have a situation where the man is not emotionally available and the woman stays with him for far longer than she should, simply because she cares more than he does.

Even when dating, people are selfish. To an extent, you have to be. “Look out for number one.” “Guard your heart.” “Here’s the list of requirements my partner MUST have.” And so forth.

It’s only by being selfless in a relationship that it can achieve its highest potential.

There are quite a few problems with this though. Relationships are based on trust, understanding, respect, and love. Being selfish is not one of the foundations of a relationship. It’s only by being selfless in a relationship that it can achieve its highest potential. And to get there, it’s only by being selfless and open when dating that you can get to a relationship.

I’m not talking about being so giving and selfless that you become a doormat, nor am I talking about forcing yourself to care more than your feelings allow. Everything, from dating to relationships, needs time to grow and evolve.

If you like someone, then you should be open and receptive toward them. It’s about showing that you care about them, from small gestures like holding hands and funny text messages, to larger gestures like meeting friends and family, and saying “I love you”. It’s about being selfless and allowing yourself to be open to others.

I remember something that happened on the second date with my fiancee. It was the day before Valentines Day, and I figured that after a great first date (don’t knock Olive Garden, it’s classy yet inexpensive, AND they have great breadsticks), we would spend the evening walking around the mall, having dinner, and checking out a movie. After having Mexican food (which I secretly despise, yet sacrifices have to be made on second dates, especially when your date loves Mexican food), we walked around the mall. About halfway, I said “Hey, I notice your hand is free”, and she grinned widely and grabbed my hand. You couldn’t wipe the smiles off both our faces for the rest of the night. That small gesture of grabbing my hand made the evening for me, and changed my thinking about her to “this one is a keeper.”

That small gesture of grabbing my hand made the evening for me, and changed my thinking about her to “this one is a keeper.”

The final part of the quote goes “Someone once told me that the power in all relationships lies with whomever cares less, and he was right. But power isn’t happiness, and I think that maybe happiness comes from caring more about people rather than less…”

In the movie, the main character realizes that to be happy – truly happy – he needs to start caring more about others than himself. That’s a lesson that all of us can take to heart.

Join our conversation (32 Comments).
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  1. 1

    Mr. Right… you just gave me goosebumps. Sounds like you “get it” — and now you’ve got it. Much happiness to both you and your fiancee, you are both keepers!

  2. 2
    Deanna McNeil

    Well said, well said.

  3. 3
    Warm Heart

    Amen! This came at a time when I thought maybe my approach was not the right one. Thanks for the validation 🙂

  4. 4

    Evan you chose the right person to win the contest. Wow! Funny I saw that movie and caught that same exact line. Going through my
    divorce then is when I realized why things (even though I was still
    trying) weren’t working. Ouch…owww. Man it was like a nice glass of ice water on the face. Knowledge is power. Had to resolve myself to that line…who cares the least is the one with the most power. So sad though. Mr Right Congratulations as HR Goddess said. You won the contest and have figured out what to do with
    that line….become a better person in a relationship! Happy Days
    to you and your fiancee…luckeeeee.

  5. 5

    I agree – when it comes to ‘dating’ people are guarded and selfish. The sad thing is that anyone can literally be taught to become this way after one too many disappointments in love. I will tell you from experience that closing off the heart doesn’t work at all! Having read ‘The Rules’ and being completely put off by it, I agree that dating ‘strategies’ that originate in the need to maintain the upper hand in a relationship are counterproductive. It puts us in a position where we cannot be with someone we truly feel love for. A big part of love is that willingness to be vulnerable.

  6. 6

    Mr. Right does have a wonderful outlook on relationships, but he did carefully state the other person ‘should be open and receptive’. Evan, one piece of advice you give is that early in a relationship a woman should do nothing. Mr. Right was elated for his girl to take his hand on the second date and show a genuine interest. Would Mr. Right pursue her if she had called a few times before the second date or would she had come off as needy? I agree that after a few dates exchanging funny texts, calling to see how his day was are caring gestures. But when can a woman truly start showing she cares without appearing as needy or trying to direct the relationship?

  7. 7

    Well said!

  8. 8

    This is a wonderful essay, though something tells me that Mr. Right and his fiancee clicked right from the beginning, 😉 making it easier to be selfless, like going for Mexican which he doesn’t like. No type of a successful relationship has being selfish as part of the mix. Thanks for sharing.

  9. 9

    Fiery, that’s exactly what I was thinking but couldn’t really articulate. We women, it seems, have to walk an ever-shifting and impossibly fine line between being needy, weepy marriage traps and coldhearted, disinterested, too-good-for-you bitches.
    There are men who don’t take such a narrow view, but it seems that all the ones I know who would let a woman just do what came naturally, because they are decent, non-neurotic guys, are –like Mr. Right–married or getting married. The ones who are left seem to either only be looking for booty calls/sugar mamas, or are so (whatever) that they take the way you tie your shoes as some sort of sign as to whether they should be with you. One actually said something to me like, “I heard the way you were telling my mom that my sister’s wedding pictures were really pretty. I just wanted to let you know I heard that, and I don’t think I want to pursue anything like that yet.”
    Huh?! We’d been together a month!

  10. 10

    Mr Right, I like it!

  11. 11

    The thing that is important I think is that he STARTED the relationship being selfless…not guarding his heart, no games. The mexican food is an example. I think men are wired to be this way and if it’s OK for them to be this way they will… good men at least. We men, in the end, just want you happy ladies, and if eating a type of food makes you happy, then we’ll sacrifice! It’s really not that big of a deal. We’re big enough to do that. Notice how when he approached it selflessly (by eating food that wouldn’t be his first pick), she did something selfless back that made him happy…she held his hand..again, not the biggest deal ever. But look what happened…they both had smiles on their faces they couldn’t wipe off! That’s pretty cool.

  12. 12

    Mr. Right, this is a completely heartwarming story. Pleasing your gal with the type of food she likes is sweet of you. The story of grabbing your hand is sweet of her. Your interpretation of the movie’s quote is sweet too.

    And yes, no knocking Olive Garden! I’m surrounded by elites who think that it’s obligatory to act like they hate Olive Garden just because it’s a chain (and therefore must be evil)… but I love the bottomless soups and salads and bread and tasty pastas.

  13. 13
    Karl R

    My current relationship is wonderful. Neither of us is afraid to show that we care about the other one because neither one of us is trying to have the power or be in control.

    Why do you need power or control in a relationship? You would need it if the other person was trying to do things that you didn’t like. But why would you want to be in that kind of relationship? You would also need power or control if you were trying to do things that the other person didn’t like. But why would someone want to be in that kind of relationship with you?

    FierySaggGirl asked: (#6)
    “when can a woman truly start showing she cares without appearing as needy or trying to direct the relationship?”

    At the beginning of a relationship, I tend to think of it in terms of “demonstrating my interest” instead of “showing I care.” How much can someone care for a person they barely know?

    I’m willing to demonstrate a little bit more interest than the other person (provided I feel it). If the other person is demonstrates a similar level of interest, then I can step it up a little further. If they demonstrate more interest than I did, I’m free to step it up beyond them (provided I feel it). If they pull back, I pull back as well.

    The “strategy” of demonstrating less interest has one obvious and fatal flaw. What happens if both people follow it? Within a short period of time, they both come across as disinterested, and the relationship never goes anywhere. Neither person benefits.

  14. 14

    @ # 13
    Sounds like mirroring to me!:)

  15. 15

    Thanks guys!
    @6 Would I have pursued her if she had called a few times before the second date? We were doing dates on the weekend due to her schedule, and she did call twice during the week, and that was wonderful that she did call. I viewed that as another sign that she was interested, and I think that was important to me, for a woman to show that she was interested (My philosophy was that I’d rather date someone who was interested vs someone who was standoffish or unclear). I mean, it’s just a phone call, not a 15 page email.
    Though really, we had a fantastic first date, and I had asked her out again at the end of it, and she said yes, so that was great. Yeah, I would have pursued her had she not called, but it just added more brownie points that she did call and did show her interest.
    @8 We did click right from the beginning, though I admit I was quite a bit more into her than she was me at the beginning. My first reaction was “WOW!!!”, and her first reaction was “tall, handsome, but a little dorky… I dunno”. It took a bit of time for her to warm up, there wasn’t a moment like the hand holding incident for her. She took more time in making her decision, though I knew right away. 🙂
    @11 Yeah, we were walking the mall, and came across the Mexican place, and her eyes lit up and she said “Oooooh, Mexican! I haven’t had Mexican food in ages!” I clearly had to make the right choice there. 🙂
    I wasn’t a fan of the food, but it did have great atmosphere, kind of dark with dim lighting, and latin music playing, so that was cool.

  16. 16

    InaccessibleRail #9

    Sadly, I must agree with you.

    Mr_Right, you sound like a very well-adjusted, nice guy. Congrats!

  17. 17

    Awesome. Gratz on your engagement Mr Right!!

  18. 18

    The story is sweet.

    However, I can’t say that I have met any guy who has showed me to be truly self-less. Even when the guys are just acquintances/friends…if they don’t consider a particular girl as one of the potential girlfriend (or possible future girlfriend if the current one doesn’t work out), she basically gets ignored. Never given the time of the day. Well, just my observation.

  19. 19

    @Mr. Right #15- Which Mexican place was this?

  20. 20


    For every picky male, there is an equally picky female. This morning for example, I was watching a famous talk show and this 40 year old woman wanted to be set up on a date. One of her DEAL BREAKERS and I am very serious is that she did not want to date a man who drinks from straws! Why that crazy requirement, you ask? Because her father told her than John Wayne never drank from a straw. This woman was blonde, thin, beautiful, active, and successful — exactly what every man wants right? But based on her demeanor and long list of requirements, my boyfriend said, “God, I bet she would be hell to live with!” Unfortunately, for that woman, a lot of men must be responding to her the way my boyfriend did.

    I just wish that we (and I include myself) would stop making this dating a battle of the sexes. Both sexes are equally engaged in behavior that can be crazy, illogical, petty, counter-productive and just down right silly. As I have said before, no gender has the market cornered on that behavior. The only think we can do, as Evan has said over and over, is make certain that we ourselves are not engaging in option limiting behavior EVEN if the people we are trying to date are.

    The one question I do have for Mr Right is what is the line between being selfless and a doormat?

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