Why Playing Games With Someone New Will Only End In A Dating Disaster

by Ashley McGrath

"Never double text him, ever. He'll answer the first one if he actually wants to talk to you."

"Don't text him back right away, either. You'll come off as overly eager."

"Also, never promise him you'll try to meet him out. Always make him come to you."

"If he gets jealous when you talk to other guys, then you know he's totally into you."

I can keep going, but I think you get my point. What we have here are a few of the very well-known rules so many women are dutifully following in order to win the affection of a man.

I won't lie. I used to think all of this was crap. Until very recently, I neither practiced nor tolerated this type of behavior.

These “rules” of dating seemed so ridiculous, and I never understood why my girlfriends would follow them so religiously. It felt like a game everyone else seemed to be playing, for reasons I didn't understand.

I had many other things that occupied my time: working, running, cooking, studying and going out with my friends. So, the idea of having to follow a set of rules in order to get the attention of a guy didn't feel like something I needed to waste my energy on.

When it came to men, I found it was easiest to just be straightforward about whether or not I liked them. If we did become "involved" and he decided to act like a dick, or felt the need to try to make me jealous at any point, we were done.

I really only had one rule that I followed: If I see you blatantly hitting on another woman in front of me, you can bet your ass that it's over between us. This rule pretty much covered everything from the casual hookup to full-blown dating. The idea of jealousy and playing hard to get seemed exhausting, and frankly, kind of pointless. It was nothing but a means to an inevitably disastrous end.

It wasn't until I moved to a new city after graduating college that I got my first taste of how sad our dating culture is. Call me naïve. I would 100 percent agree with you. I'd spent 22 years living in a fantasy world where I was always in total control of the role a man was playing in my life, and I liked it that way.

Little did I know, I was about to drown in a pool of men who not only lived to play this "dating game," but also played to win. These men worked their asses off to win my affection. But when they finally did, they realized the game was over. There was nothing left in it for them.

Here are four examples of Millennial daters:

1. The Sociopath

This was the man I fell in love with within days of moving to my new city. He suffered severely from “wants what he can't have” syndrome.

Basically, he only seemed to desperately want to talk to me when I tried blocking him. Otherwise, I was a burden.

2. The Rebound

This was the man I used to distract myself from the sociopath after we broke up. He once told me it was only OK for us to kiss in public if he was the one to initiate it. Otherwise, I was rather unappealing.

3. The Serial Dater

This was the man who was way too good to be true. He seemed to say all the right things, until he realized there was another woman out there who he thought was a better “fit” for him.

Apparently, their love for each other was simply uncontrollable, and he couldn't bear spending another day without her.

4. The Entertainer

This was the man who was very talented at juggling two to three women per week. Turns out, I was his choice for Wednesdays and Fridays: on a good week, that is.

Though they all seemed very different at first, it didn't take me long to realize they were all really good at being predictable. These men (and the very short relationships I had with each of them) are the epitome of all the things that are wrong with our dating culture.

All of them pursued me: hard. This made it easy for me to quickly fall for them, as I relished in the feeling of having a man want to win me over so badly. But when I finally opened up and made myself vulnerable to them, they suddenly lost interest. They left me standing helpless, heartbroken and desperately seeking answers about everything that had gone wrong.

According to these men, however, the answer was quite simple: We were never that serious. Which means that, no matter how badly each of them had screwed up, it wasn't that big of a deal. Technically, they didn't lie or cheat.

So, not only was it wrong of me to be upset that it was over, but it also meant it was OK for all of them to selfishly ask me if we could “stay friends.” Um, no.

These are the types of men who call women things like “crazy” or “needy.” They throw a negative stigma around the word “emotional,” as if showing vulnerability is the equivalent of putting a ring on our finger after only a few months of dating. They call us "dramatic" when we get upset with them for not opening up to us. Most likely, they also still regularly talk to an ex. (This is, perhaps, the most telltale sign that a man has shallow intentions for trying to win you over.)

These are the men who don't want a companion; they want a challenge. They're the ones who not-so-secretly love that you didn't really like them at first. They want you more when you don't answer their texts right away. They hate how upset it makes them when you're too “busy” to go out with them on a Friday night.

It drives them crazy when you flirt with them all night, but ditch them after a few drinks to talk to another guy at the bar. They're excited by how difficult it is to get your attention. They turn you into something that needs to be figured out, and eventually won over.

Now, the men aren't the only culprits here. You ladies know how fascinated these men are with women who are hard to get. Therefore, you truly believe that the only way for you to win him over is by playing him back.

So, you consciously wait those extra hours to answer him, and you try to come off as mysterious in your responses. You hold him at a distance, until he's practically begging you to meet up with him. You flirt with him all night, but you know you can't go home with him because he'll think you're easy. So, you leave him to flirt with another guy.

If he gets jealous, that means he really wants you. You keep playing him, using every trick in the book to make him want you more.

You become so obsessed with trying keep his attention that you don't realize you've stopped acting like yourself in a sad attempt to make sure he stays interested. Now, this game doesn't last forever. Eventually, you both have played each other long enough that a so-called “relationship” has started to evolve.

You go out on dates occasionally, but most of your quality time takes place drunk at the bar, in the company of a large group of friends. You text and Snapchat each other during the day now. But after a few weeks of this, things start feeling a little off or forced.

Most likely, one (or maybe even both) of you will get a sinking feeling in your stomach that you're settling for the other person. You can't walk away though because you've already put so much time and energy into this. Giving up this late in the game feels like quitting: or worse, losing.

So, the nervous energy starts to grow between the two of you as you slowly start to realize that this relationship likely has no future. But you're both stubborn and a little sentimental, so you revert back to the game-playing that brought you together in the first place. You hope it will stimulate all that excitement you felt at the beginning, and not make you feel like it was all a waste of time.

But constantly playing a game where you put pride and ego up against love and sex will only lead to destruction and pain. This is not just the pain of inevitably losing this person from your life. It's also the pain of realizing you completely lost sight of yourself along the way.

My fellow Millennials, we can do better than this. We exist in a culture where we see catching feelings as a weakness. We're told that emotions are things we need keep to ourselves because too much emotion scares people away.

We enter these sad excuses for relationships that are being built off lies and deception, creating a foundation that is bound to fall apart the second anyone tries to challenge its strength. We shouldn't tolerate this game.

But instead, we're letting it define us as a generation. We're losing faith in each other's ability to be honest and truthful, and we're slowly forgetting what it's like to trust people.

We shouldn't fear commitment. It's human nature to want to connect and eventually settle down with another person. But instead, so many of us are running from dating labels like they're the plague, and we're constantly worrying that getting tied down means we could be missing out on the next best thing.

These relationships we're creating are not built to last. They're only further damaging how we define ourselves, and how deserving we think we are of someone else's love. We are all capable of rising above this petty game of constantly trying to one-up one another.

We have to trust ourselves and accept that being alone from time to time is our heart's way of healing. We must realize that boredom is healthy, and that we have to fall back in love with ourselves before we can expect anyone else to fall in love with us. Once we realize this, the relationship that follows will make all those times we felt rejected or not good enough seem like nothing but short detours on the road that will eventually lead us to the person who will truly be worthy of our time and effort.

Being with this person will feel effortless, and the relationship will come naturally to both of you. It won't constantly make you question your feelings or emotions. It will help embrace them. There won't be winners and losers. There will be equals.

There won't be manipulation. There will be genuine honesty and open communication. There won't be that lingering feeling of desperation. There will be feelings of comfort and satisfaction.

The person worth keeping around won't question who you are. He or she won't take advantage of you, and he or she will earn your trust, fair and square. He or she will reciprocate your honesty, and will appreciate your efforts to communicate what you want and need from him or her.

This relationship will give us strength, and it will leave us feeling far more fulfilled than winning the shallow affection of someone who enjoys playing silly dating games. Believe it or not, this person does exist. He or she is out there waiting to meet you, trust you and shamelessly catch feelings for you.

This person won't have patience for games because your honest affection will be enough to satisfy him or her for the long haul. There is no future for the dating game, so let's stop giving one another a reason to play. Win or lose, every game is going to end eventually.