When I was little I would play cards with my Gram for hours. We once played a game of Crazy Eights that lasted three hours because neither one of us would admit defeat. She taught me a love of games. With that, I think, came a bit of a love of winning. Because she taught me not to give up.The story of dating games is a tired and common one. And I can’t even begin to count the number of times I have uttered the phrase “I do not play games” in reference to my dating life. And I believe that is true. Sometimes, though, it is really impossible to ignore the game-like properties of dating.
After a particularly unfortunate date last month that involved some odd lies about nose jobs and other plastic surgery my suitor had in store for himself, I suggested to friends that there should be some sort of “flag on the play” you can throw out on a date when something really ridiculous happens. You would get to throw the flag out and the date would be over immediately without either side having to explain themselves. The game/date would be over. Just like that. [I don’t think that’s entirely how flags work in real sporting events but you get the idea.] My list of dates where I wish I could have had this option is one full of both hilarity and shock.
And when it comes to dating and games, I would be flat out lying if I didn’t admit that, at times, I become entirely caught up with winning the dating game. What my prize is I’m hoping for, well, I’m not actually completely sure.
I just wrote all about the addiction of online dating and sometimes I wonder if I get a bit addicted to the idea of “winning” in dating. I become focused on winning someone’s affection. Winning at getting them to like me. Winning at the flirty texting game. Winning at the witty email game. Winning at being the fun and laid back woman game. Winning at being uncomplicated. Winning at being different than anyone else they’ve ever dated game. Winning at not losing my cool. Winning at not letting someone see they’ve hurt me. And because I am stubborn and hate the feeling of giving up, I will play past the point of even knowing what I’m trying to win. And if I even want to. A friend once said to me, “I don’t even think you like him, I think you just want to win.”
When you look up the definition of “winning” there is no mention of control. But in my mind, that is often what it means for me in the context of dating. Control. That somehow if I win at the game, I have control. And if I have control, how could I ever get hurt? How could I ever be vulnerable? How could I ever lose? If I have control, I get to keep my head up high. I get to say that no one got in enough to hurt me. To make me vulnerable. To get that power and control over me.
My friends and family who are in stable and healthy relationships would and do tell me that when I meet the right person, it won’t be about winning. It won’t be about games. That that is how I will know. I won’t feel like I have to doublethink every move I make in the hopes of winning. Because it won’t be a prize I’m getting. It won’t be a trophy or a victory.
I’m trying to learn to let go of wanting to win. Of needing to be in control. I’m trying to learn that it’s ok to be hurt. It’s ok to be vulnerable. That no one is judging me.
And it’s ok to walk away. It’s ok to throw a flag on the play of a game I’m only having with myself.