This Is How To Play The Relationship Game Without Getting Crushed

Love has the potential to produce massive pain or pleasure.

We risk the pain in the hopes of gaining that pleasure but most of the time, it all goes awry.

I can’t guarantee you’ll never feel the pain, but I can help you feel a lot less of it but teaching you a few valuable skills that will help you navigate through the often overwhelming dating waters without being crushed or defeated. And actually, this mindset shift may even help you get exactly what it is you want (it did for me, as you’ll learn later in this article!).

A little while back I met up with some girlfriends to catch up. I love meeting up with my single girlfriends because: A) As a mom, I don’t get as much adult interaction as I crave! And B) I get a lot of new material, let’s be honest!

Basically, one of my friends met a guy and they hit it off. The catch is that he lives in a different country. After they parted ways they continued to stay in touch and had regular Skype dates. Eventually, they planned a weekend where they would meet up in person. Everything went great, their connection was strong, but on the flight home my friend started to panic.

She was terrified that things were going too well and what if something went wrong? What if he stopped liking her? What if the distance became too much? What if he started pulling away? And he didn’t even mention when they would see each other again, that’s a bad sign! Oh no, it must mean he doesn’t want to see her again, that he isn’t serious, that she’s going to get hurt. And if she gets hurt again, then what will she do?

This is basically what flooded her mind for the entire six-hour flight.

Now onto another friend. She met a guy online a while back and two weeks later they were boyfriend/girlfriend. I was concerned about the pace of the relationship, but she seemed happy so I let it be. And she was so happy.

He was everything she has ever wanted and she really thought this was it. Now you can imagine her utter shock when after four months of dating bliss he showed up one day and dumped her. It seemed they were in two completely different relationships. In hers, she was happy and everything was great and she had never been treated so well by a guy. In his, he was unhappy and felt unappreciated and resented her for various things. She had no idea he was feeling any of this, and she is not an oblivious person!

She was absolutely beyond repair distraught for many months.

But time marched on and she started to bounce back, but not really. She was still thinking about her ex and couldn’t let it go. Then suddenly he was back in the picture.

They started seeing each other again but weren’t “official.” This went on for several months and she was really frustrated. It was especially surprising given how quick he was to call her his girlfriend the first time around. Then one day our other good friend came across him on a dating app and my friend totally freaked. It was clear that he wasn’t in it, that he wasn’t serious, that he had some major issues to deal with.

The red flags were there all along, and if it wasn’t apparent to her, I pointed them all out after the first time they broke up! I saw right through her ex from the beginning. It’s not that I didn’t think he was a good guy, I’m sure he could be, but he was a flagrant damage case. He had way too many issues and until he solves them, he will never be able to be in a relationship. Period.

She knew all this, but she still went back, and she got hurt all over again.

When we were having our catch up, she expressed frustration with herself for not being over it by now (this was a few months after their second breakup). Why was it still bothering her? Why couldn’t she let it go? Why does she still think about him?

It was pretty obvious to me what the problem was in both of these scenarios, even though the situations are vastly different. It’s something I write about a lot.

Both girls attached way too much to the outcome. They invested in fantasy futures and put too much weight in their investment.

Now it was perfectly clear in my mind, but when I said this to them they were both a little confused. What do you mean? How can you not invest?

Let’s break it down further.

For the first friend, my advice was simple: she needed to gain control over her thoughts. She needed to say to herself: I am fine, everything is OK. I was OK before I met this guy and I’ll be fine if things don’t work out.

What she was doing is the opposite. She was getting overly invested in a  relationship that didn’t even exist just yet. She was making herself feel like the world was going to end if she didn’t hear from him again, or if things didn’t work out. Notice I say making herself feel. This was entirely her doing, he did nothing to create such panic and fear within her. When she heard me say this, she eased up a lot. “Wow, you’re right. I’ll be FINE!”

Onto the next. So this is something I’ve done and many of you have done.

You meet a great guy—finally—and you get really excited. And it’s not like you’re delusional, he’s really into you too! Everything is great! You’re official, you meet the parents, you share your deep thoughts and feelings, it’s all great. But then it all goes wildly off track. It happens so fast you don’t even realize what just happened. You try to ignore the red flags because you need this to work. You don’t want to start all over again, to go back out there and sift through all the losers to find that one gem who might have potential. You already found him and you won’t let this go!

But sometimes you don’t have a choice. He lets go and you can’t do anything about it.

What you need to do, especially in an early relationship when you don’t really know the other person, is mentally keep your options open. I did this with my husband because I had been hurt so many times before and I didn’t want to mess this up. After our first date, it was clear this was something. But I wasn’t going to allow myself to be swept away into fantasy land.

Instead, I told myself that yes, I was excited and wow, we have such a strong connection, and woah, I can’t believe our date was almost eight hours long … and it would be great if this works out, it would be so romantic especially since we dated in high-school and he was my first love … but if it doesn’t work out I WILL BE FINE.

Before we went out on our first date I was casually talking to two other guys who were interested in dating me.

One of them lived in another state and we had been trying to work out the logistics, the other had been traveling a lot and was finally getting settled back in. Before I could go out with either of them I went on a date with my husband.

While I wanted to call it off with the other two, I didn’t. Even though I didn’t think either was right for me, I let myself envision a possible future with both. I didn’t attach to any particular outcome. Either I would end up with my high school sweetheart, and aw how sweet that would be?! Or I would end up with the guy who lives down south, and that would be cool! Or maybe I would end up with bachelor number 3 who lives a few blocks away from me and also traveled to Italy over the summer and was there at the exact same time as me and what a crazy coincidence! Or I’ll end up single for longer and that’s not so bad! I honestly loved being single, I had a blast and would have been fine staying that way.

I knew no matter what, I would be OK. Everything would be OK. I didn’t get so caught up in possible future scenarios, I entertained the various ways things could go down, and I was happy with all the possible outcomes. And because I wasn’t worried about the future, I could enjoy the present. A few weeks into dating my husband, things were getting serious (as they say, when you know you know!) and I never went out with the other guys.

Throughout the relationship, I made an effort to just enjoy it and not freak myself out over the prospect of things not working out. I decided not to solve any problems until there were problems to solve and fortunately, things worked out pretty nicely.

So that’s how it’s done. That’s what I mean when I say don’t attach to the outcome, don’t engage in a fantasy future, just be present.

That’s how to enjoy dating and relationships without becoming jaded or desperate or a battered shell of your former self. It’s about taking control over your thoughts and learning to be OK and to trust the timing of your life. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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