There was an episode of “How I Met Your Mother” a while back that discussed how in every relationship, there is the Reacher and the Settler. The Reacher is at the top of the step ladder reaching for someone above him/her and The Settler has basically plopped down in his/her chair and grabbed the nearest hand. In this episode, everybody wanted to believe they were the Settler, of course.
There are a couple distinctions of Reacher vs. Settler:
1) Physical Attraction. Sometimes it’s pretty obvious which one is the better looking one. In this case, it’s easy to say that the ugly one is reaching for the pretty one.
2) Status. Most easily measured by money and career advancement. But of course there’s pedigree, assets, property, and other material goods.
3) Personality. We’ve all met the couple where one person is witty and funny and the counterpart is dry and boring. We don’t know what they talk about when alone, but the sex must be good?
4) Mental. The last 3 categories are all perceived qualities; however, there’s the internal mental aspect as well. How we perceive ourselves. Despite any inadequacies in physical attraction, status, or personality, a person could still mentally feel that they are in fact The Settler.
From my observations, what keeps two people interested is the seesawing effect of the Reacher vs. Settler dynamic. Let’s say you want to take me on a date. When you ask me out, it already puts me as the Settler and you, the Reacher. I assume you’re asking me out because you find me attractive, possibly more attractive than you. On our date, I may find a superior quality in you (you’re more outgoing than me or you own property, I don’t) and now I decide that I am the Reacher and you are the Settler. I try a little harder, maybe flirt more, communicate more in between dates, and overall show more excitement. You’ve inspired me to reach up to your level. Then, the next time we meet, you find something superior in me (I’ve taken up a sport you’ve never tried. I travel on my own and you never have). Again, we’ve shifted the dynamic and now I’ve inspired you to try new things. And what will keep us growing as a potential couple is this constant shifting dynamic, and that we’re inspired to one-up each other. A little healthy competition, if you will.
So you’ve all had dates that went nowhere when you thought it started off really well. That is probably because you started in the Reacher position and never shifted over to Settler. Either the girl was totally out of your league (where she is superior to you in all above 4 categories), or she just didn’t see anything in you that inspired her to give up her Settler status.
At the end of the day, it’s also about your internal Reacher vs. Settler. Be confident enough to know that you are the Settler for someone but also be humble enough to know someone will inspire you to reach for them.