You ever take a walk late at night through a casino? As you pass the tables filled with those doggedly optimistic gamblers (the ones in town for a conference), mixed in with some hard-living regulars, and of course, some young drunks, you can watch those late night dreamers hump on Lady Luck’s leg hoping for that one big payout. Each has this twinkle of desperation in their eye. Late at night, it’s far easier to see how casinos are only in business because people are stupid. I’m not being judgmental. I’m including myself. I’ve been that dude at the tables, the one who’s suddenly found religion and is asking favors of his newly fostered faith, hoping like hell… to get a four! The point is we’re all kinda stupid. We’re all easy to trick. And it’s because we’re hopeful. It’s what pushed humans to cross great oceans and set foot on the moon. There’s a bold optimism that resides in each of us. And things like casinos, and doomed love affairs, exist because of our ignorant optimism.
The last time I was in a casino, I realized the gamblers, staying in the game despite the losses or the time, reminded me of someone with a crush. They’re both after that supergood feeling. Gamblers have the same twinkle of desperation in their eye as an unrequited lover. And I know that look. I’ve seen it in the mirror. There I was, drunkenly stumbling through a casino, and it was suddenly as obvious as all the blinking neon: some people are like gambling and that’s why we’re suckers for their love.
I told myself not to chase her because somehow I instinctively knew I’d lose myself. You know the drill. Everyone will tell you how long distance relationships never work. The chances of it working are like… hitting the million-dollar jackpot on a slot machine. But I was still willing to risk my heart to heartbreak if it meant I had a chance I could win hers. You might say that’s a sucker’s bet. Well, I’ve never argued with anyone who called me a sucker. And so, I bet on technology. It’s always a high risk/high reward bet to say the least. Just ask the guy who owns Friendster.
You and I, we live with a certain modern irony, one that confuses our hearts and minds. Thanks to techno-digital weirdness, we’re all easier to find, easier to follow, easier to know from a distance. And in our newly connected world you can grow confused by a false sense of proximity because your digital life feels so very similar to what happens in real life, at least, in terms of how it makes you feel. You know there is a distance, but your awareness of it is intellectual. The way the person you’re interacting with makes you feel is entirely emotional. All your heart knows is it feels close to someone, even though they may be thousands and thousands of miles away. We may be stupid at times. But our hearts can’t think at all.
Our hearts only know how we feel- they don’t think about what’s providing those feelings. It could be a love letter, a dedication on the radio, a long distance phone call, or a surprise Facebook message, they’re all the same to the heart. When you reach across the world on the internet and exchange love messages your heart will respond as if they were from your next-door neighbor. Now, your mind knows the difference. Hers certainly did. Our digital divide was too great for her. She needed someone she could touch, smell and kiss. She never forgot that we couldn’t take a walk together on the internet. Which is funny because I was the romantic, the one with the hungry heart. I didn’t care what my mind said. I could only hear my heart. She was the one who saw our love story had little chance, and thus, remained more rationally engaged. I was the love-struck gambler. She was the casino.
A real gambling junkie is a cautionary tale that shows how someone gets strung out on the winning, and how they ignore the losing part of the cycle. Every win triggers cascading waves of pleasure, rippling endorphin rushes, and the sort of psychological highs that maybe only astronauts and lovers understand. All those little wins along the way keep them at the table. And just like them you gamble on love and chase loses always imagining how it’s just a matter of time until you win big. And then one day, like a gambling junkie, you look around and see you have little or nothing left to gamble. You have nothing to show for it. You’re still holding onto that same hope of a jackpot, you’re still holding out for your beloved. Well, my friend, maybe it’s time to leave the casino.
If you wanna know how to free yourself from someone who makes you feel like some desperate gambler… it’s not as hard as it seems. But you’re right. It is hard. It will hurt. Good news is, once it hurts, you start to feel better, eventually.
First, you must step outside yourself and gain some perspective. It’s critical you see what you’re doing. If you watched a friend, roommate, coworker or family member do what you’re doing, you’d most likely say something. Well, what would you say? Whatever that is – say it to a mirror reflection of you. Stare yourself deep in the eyes. And say it every day you have to until you finally hear your own words. Tell yourself you need to move on. You deserve better. You deserve something real. And then listen to yourself.
Second, really see the person you’re crushing on. Just imagine them. They probably look great. Don’t they always look great? Now imagine their laugh. I bet you look forward to hearing them laugh. Let the music of their laughter echo in your mind’s ear. Now imagine how they smell. Can you smell their hair, their neck, the way the air takes on their aroma when they move past you? Why must they smell so irresistibly good? Now imagine their voice and how you love to hear them say… well, say just about anything. And then imagine them saying to you, “There’s no fucking way we are ever ending up together. It’s not happening.”
You have to be harsh with yourself because by now you’ve become well practiced at denying reality. You ignore negative signs and instead tightly focus on any shred of evidence that supports the conclusion one day you will be together. This is why there are no clocks in a casino. If they can keep you at the tables, eventually you will give back all of your winnings. The longer you stay the more you will lose. In your case, you’re losing time and opportunities. Every time you hold out for them in the future is another time you aren’t betting on yourself in the present.
If you need to know if it’s time to walk away, just ask yourself honestly: If I stopped doing what I’m doing to keep in contact would they care? Would they even notice? Would they ask me where I went? Would they ask me why I disappeared?
If you answered no (to any of these), then it’s time to admit that part of your desire may stem from the old adage: We all want what we can’t have. And I’m not talking about the economics of scarcity or the value of rare and exotic things. I mean the human being you long to hold. Wanting what you can’t have makes it harder to walk away. Especially, since you’re ignorantly optimistic. It feels impossible to stop wanting what you can’t have. But if you’re truly ready to sever your emotional attachment to someone you’re crushing on, try using slightly different language. It’ll make all the difference in the world if you try uttering this phrase: We all want… what we want.
You’re no longer a gambler hoping like hell to win big in the casino of love, chasing after what you can’t have. Instead, you’re like any person perusing the aisles of a supermarket picking out what looks good, what makes you happy, what seems satisfying, possibly even healthy, and what you know will make you feel good. No one goes to a grocery store to gamble (well, unless you live in Vegas).
It makes it far easier to walk away when it’s your decision. It minimizes your secret hopes for another chance in the future. If you listen to all that nonsense that – we all want what we can’t have – then some part of you will most likely always want them. If you flip it and say – you want what you want – that way you can change your mind about what you want. You can move on cleanly. You can even redefine who that person is in your life. Maybe they’ll become a friend. Maybe they’ll be an associate, or just a contact. Maybe you have to sever all ties and let them fade into your history. But it’s necessary you find a new role for them.
Love relationships aren’t like gambling, they shouldn’t feel like winning and losing. Loving someone means you want their happiness above your own. And it’s a healthy love when they want the same thing for you. Some of us overlook that half of the equation. We want them to be happy, so we stomach their slights, we overlook any questionable behavior, and we ignore what we don’t wish to see. That’s not holding someone else’s happiness above your own, that’s ignoring the truth to hold onto a fantasy.
You need to be first in your life. That way when someone truly special comes along, someone who cares deeply for you, someone who wants your happiness more than their own and you want their happiness more than your own, you create a balance of love. You have to have that symmetry of feeling. It takes many shapes and forms, but that’s what a super-powered partnership of twinned hearts looks like.
I was wrong about love. I just thought if I loved her, the rest would take care of itself.
But if you’re the only one keeping things going, you’re playing love just like a game. You’re a late night gambler who won’t leave the casino despite every indication it’s time to go. Love is simple. I guess you could say it’s like a child’s game of make-believe, it makes up its own rules, and there are no winners and losers because whoever is playing is already winning. The whole goal is to play. If you feel like a loser waiting to be a winner, it’s time for you to step away from the table. The sooner you do that, the sooner you might find someone who really wants to play and have fun with you. And when you find that someone you won’t believe you wasted so much time trying to win at something like love. Love doesn’t have winners and losers. It only has lovers.
Buy Zaron’s newest Thought Catalog Book here.