He who loves least has the most control.
Ordinarily, we don't think about relationships in terms of who loves whom the most. We might actually think that's kind of tacky or in bad taste. But that doesn't change reality. In most non-permanent relationships (and in all the ones that have entered my office), there is one partner who loves the other more.
Let me tell you a little tale and then tell you how this applies to fiction.
Beautiful guy (think Dennis Quaid), could have any girl he wants, calls me. At the time, I was the impressionable age of 22, he the revered age of 30. I was smitten, of course, and when I left my internship for Christmas break, we'd had 3 dates, one kiss, and the promise of, "I'll call you on Christmas Eve," for me to fly home with on cloud nine.
Christmas Eve came. And went. My high school friends had a get-together that I gladly forsook in preference to sitting by the phone. No ring came. I imagined him out with some other girl, flirting, exchanging gifts. After all, he was a smooth-talking older man. I knew lots of girls liked him...and he knew it too.
Something snapped inside me. I was angry for missing good fun and fellowship with my friends because of this guy's promise. Sure, it was my own fault for not having better boundaries and expectations, but I laid the blame squarely at his feet. When I returned to my internship, I was a new woman.
We saw each other at church, and instead of berating him for not calling (he had called Christmas Day, which according to him, was the more important day to call), I just smiled, nodded, and went on my way. Of course, he would have none of this. What, no fawning? No falling over myself to talk to him?
Was I happy with him? No. Not really. We were basically using each other at the time, and I'm thankful I've grown from the experience and matured in relationships in general. But by the time I left to go to seminary from that internship, several states away, the guy still called....actually told me one phone call that I was the "girl who got away."
What had changed? The pendulum had swung from him "loving least" to me loving least (although technically, it wasn't love). Man, did I have control or what! It was very empowering to know this guy was hung up on me. By acting like I basically didn't care, I wielded a power over him, as he wanted me to care. (Deep inside....he would never have admitted this.)
So think about your heroines, heroes, and villains who like the heroines and will never get her. If you have a designated pursuer (or perhaps the one who is first attracted to the other) then this person is the person who "loves the most." The reluctant participant who doesn't even want to be thrown into an acquaintanceship is the one who "loves the least."
There are certain, inherent traits the person who loves the most will probably feel:
The person who loves the most will either worry that they aren't attractive or charming enough to attract the other person in the first place, or that they aren't attractive of charming enough to keep the other person interested. Of course, this brings about lowered self-esteem and constant self-doubt.
We should be nodding our heads here, because we've all been here. The person who loves the most will be more likely to mistake an innocent touch, laugh, or phone call to be more. The mind plays havoc on someone who is already insecure, which is such a catch 22, because the person who loves least will only be driven further away with accusations.
This rational thought comes later, after the person who loves the most realizes that they put too many eggs in one basket and that basket is sinking. Usually, in terribly mismatched relationships, the person who loves the most made tons of compromises to their own integrity, whether it was lying about little preferences or being extremely tolerant of intolerant behavior on the part of the person who loves the least.
Q4U: I'm sure there are other traits of the person who loves the most that you can think of. What are they? (Come on, all you brokenhearted writers out there! I know you've got some insight.)
Q4U2: Anyone know where that proverb comes from?