As I sit down to write this article, I can’t help but laugh, but also have compassion. Laugh at the absurdity of the games people play—not only while dating, but life in general. When life is viewed as one large chess board with all the pieces available to shift in ways that seem most beneficial for the player, it actually becomes way too much work. With lots of manipulation, tricks, and lack of trust for others and one’s self, it’s the player who actually loses in the end. Sooner or later, he/she will will get tired of keeping up appearances, will meet their match and get outwitted, and perhaps even have a self-realization that encourages positive self-growth and change for the better. “Navigating” life alongside others with ease rather than devising unnecessary complications through misguided perceptions is a choice one can make when deciding to exist authentically or behind a metaphorical avatar. If you are the “player” or the “pawn” in the dating game, the playing field is now level.
1.) Stop playing. Really, just stop.
It doesn’t matter which side of the “board” you fall on. If both individuals make mature and conscious decisions to put down the sparing gloves, remove the protective gear, and encourage each other to show up with ease rather than anxiety, then the process of dating and getting to know one another truly reveals each person. The “rules” are constructs that don’t have any place in creating the possibility of a long lasting relationship with someone. If anything, such games, tests, and traps can cause more harm, frustration, and discomfort for both individuals involved and perhaps what could be “something” turns into absolutely “nothing”. If the pawn is aware that he/she is being played, simply stop engaging. That’s the winning move that preserves self-integrity, self worth, and provides freedom to meet someone else that has more to offer.
2.) Learn to differentiate between the thrill of the chase and the harm of mind games.
Tag, hide and seek, and peek-a-boo can all be played with a friendly spirit. It’s a great challenge for the captor to take hold of his/her person of interest and afterwards feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment for his/her efforts. But when it becomes manhunt, war, or surprise attacks of sabotage it’s not fun—it’s simply scary. In traditional courtship through modern dating, the chase is what actually creates mystery, excitement, flirtation, and a sense of working towards a well deserved prize. The prize can range from a first date to a committed relationship as both parties evaluate each other’s interests, needs, and enjoy the process of making decisions to spend time together—short or long term. But when mind games of delayed calls/texts, blowing hot and cold, disappearing and returning, or making someone “prove” themselves in ways that more demeaning rather than supportive, this is just outright childish and can even be cruel. When approaching any type of interpersonal relationship—especially while dating, it’s remembering to treat others with respect on a human level. If at all either party involved is left feeling disrespected, time to take the high road and have the foresight to surrender—white flag waving. It’s not a sign of defeat, but actually one of inner strength and self-protection.
3.) A team effort: “in it to win it” is the basis of a prized experience together.
The player always has the opportunity to change his/her ways and decide to stop the games for one of two reasons. 1.) Either he/she has found the “person” to make them stop playing and they are ready to move in forward motion. 2.) Having human decency to let someone go and not use them for ill intention when in all sincerity there is no interest in getting to know them further. This in turn frees both parties up to find people that are better well suited. As for the pawn, there are also two options. 1.) To take yourself out of the game because the “player” is simply using and mistreating you—it’s not going to change if you “stick around” and give them exactly what they want while you gain nothing but hurt. 2.) Put your cards out on the table. Express your interest in knowing each other and/or growing a relationship and realize that in fact you are the champion because you are coming from a place of honesty. If the “player” feels inclined to open up and responds in kind, then you took a great risk. If in fact they respond on the contrary, you have your answer and can walk away victorious for not being further duped. It’s a win-win.