Do we have to play games to make it work?
Long dinner dates, conversations about your family and talking about your aspirations are just some parts of dating. For some, this can be a fun experience. For others, it may be anxiety-filled with a possibility of rejection and the night ending with you at home alone debriefing your friends over a tub of Haagen Dazs ice-cream. After much consoling, your friends reassure you that you were too good for him/her. Your friends help you rationalize away common sense using excuses such as: they’re not ready for a relationship and there are plenty of fish in the sea. In no time, your self-esteem recovers for a second go at it. However, this time you have a plan. Forget being genuine and sending clear messages that you are interested. If you play aloof, you’ll never feel rejected because if he responds, then he likes you more than you like him and that’s never a bad position to be in. If he doesn’t like you well then ….you didn’t really like him in the first place and that’s why you screened his calls twice before you picked up. After all, isn’t it a common belief that men like the chase and women love to be chased? So do these games really work and what are the rules of dating?
My male friends and acquaintances have flooded me with advice about dating and specific rules and regulations to stand by to ensure success in getting a date. Here are some of their rules: 1. Don’t be afraid to ask a guy out because guys like a woman who takes charge. It catches their attention when you do something outside of the norm. 2. If you give him your number and he calls you that night, it’s a booty call. He is also unlikely to call the next day because he doesn’t want to seem desperate. He will usually call on day three. 3. When he calls or texts, do not reply right away because then he will know you really like him and that you’re too eager. Wait for a day before you reply to him. Let him chase you. 4. Don’t tell him too much about your successes if you’re a women. If you are significantly more successful than he is, you may scare him away because he doesn’t want to feel inferior to you.
This sounds like a lot of work just to hear someone say, “I like you.” I’m sure many of us have used some of these rules only to find that when the chase is gone so are they! It’s difficult to build a genuine connection with someone based on a staged interaction. By subscribing to these rules, we may be laying the foundation for how we communicate with our partner. This means that instead of telling your partner how you feel, you begin to establish a type of communication that is unclear. Partners then begin to behave in ways that is targeted towards eliciting a certain response from their partner indirectly rather than communicating their needs directly. Remember that your partner does not know what you’re thinking. They can simply do the best they can with the information they have and that can lead to wrong guesses at times. It’s uncomfortable and scary to step into the unknown and put yourself out there because it’s unpredictable. It also takes time to find someone who complements you and we should manage our expectations of what dating means.
Ultimately, each couple begins to establish their own rules and boundaries within their relationship. However, these boundaries were often developed collaboratively through time rather than superimposed by a standard set by someone else. The truth is, many of us subscribe to these rules because dating is difficult and this gives us a false sense of control. When someone does not call you back, you can see it as a failure to form a connection you wanted or a success towards finding another connection you want. When you change the way you see things, the world begins to look different.
Amy Yew is a researcher and therapist. Tell us what you think and submit any questions you have to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also tweet your thoughts on Twitter @AmyYew.