"I wish people would stop playing games when it comes to dating" is a phrase I've heard countless times.
There have been more than a few articles dedicated to why everyone should stop messing around when it comes to matters of the heart. The thing about this particular phenomenon, however, is no matter how hard we try, we will always play dating games.
It's simply a natural necessity in the dynamics of human attraction.
We have all felt the rush of getting to know someone new; a person to whom we are attracted who may also be attracted to us.
The feelings of intrigue, lust, uncertainty, anticipation, confusion and passion all mix to create the intoxicating cocktail of desire we call attraction (which some of us are addicted to).
A lot of these feelings elicit so-called "game playing" in dating and, indeed, some of them are a direct result of playing games.
Playing games in dating can be seen in instances, like not contacting your date for some time after meeting, not messaging back straight away in order not to seem desperate, or trying to make him or her jealous in order to make him or her like you more. The list goes on.
But, ultimately, games are naturally played in dating because attraction requires a combination of desire and uncertainty to exist.
The amount of these two factors also determines the intensity of the attraction.
The four following points offer an explanation as to why games will always be played in the dating arena:
At the risk of oversimplifying, in the initial stages of human attraction, there are two particular components that, once stirred, can increase attraction. Those two components are desire and confusion.
Desire and confusion lead to another large element: Intrigue. Intrigue must exist for humans to be attracted to one another, and it happens through a sense of mystery.
If someone possesses an element of mystery (certain aspects that arouse your curiosity), it creates intrigue and you'll naturally become interested in the person.
The enemy of mystery is too much information. If we know too much about a person too early, or if he or she reveals too much about him or herself too soon in the stages of attraction, the mystery can vanish and our intrigue can drop.
Therefore, our interest in the person can also diminish.
This is where games come into play. Whether consciously or unconsciously, most of us are aware of the above fact through dating experience.
Most of us know if we show too much of ourselves too early, there is a very real possibility the other party may get bored or not like what he or she sees. He or she can then become less interested.
Of course, most of us would prefer to think that wouldn’t happen, but the possibility of it is enough for us (or the other person) to play games in order to safeguard feelings.
Dating — or getting to know someone new in hopes of forming a relationship — holds a very high potential of making yourself vulnerable to someone else.
Relationships are built on trust, amongst other things, and the general aim of dating is to get into a relationship (there is the aim of sex, of course, but the same principles apply).
When getting into a relationship, we generally continue to share more and more about ourselves with another person.
We tell this person our desires, flaws, dreams, fears and insecurities. Naturally, opening up this much will include a sense of vulnerability because we're entrusting someone with our deeper emotions.
Dating is the first stage of revealing our emotions to someone else. At any level, it creates a sense of vulnerability, no matter how small.
Playing games is, in a sense, lessening one's level of potential vulnerability. If people don't know how we truly feel about them, there is a smaller chance of us getting hurt.
Keeping your emotional walls up is a form of self-preservation.
The reason why most of us feel we shouldn't be too vulnerable with another person is because we obviously don't want to get hurt.
If we open ourselves up people too soon and they don't like us for whatever reason, it can be a huge blow to our self-esteem, pride and vanity.
Wounds to personal vanity, pride and self-esteem can be long-lasting and building our vanity and confidence back up after that kind of blow can take a lot of time and effort.
In this sense, prevention is better than a cure. Preserving our senses of self-worth is an extremely important thing, and is done best by playing games during the initial stages of dating.
The Balance Of Power
As I stated earlier, desire is obviously of huge importance during the first stages of human attraction.
Confusion, however, is not usually associated with attraction. The reason confusion is so key is because of human power dynamics.
Dating is comprised of attraction, intrigue, lust, stomach butterflies and relationships are very much the same, with the addition of trust, security, openness, etc.
Both, however, share another common factor: The balance of power.
For a good dating (and relationship) dynamic, both people should hold roughly the same amount of power.
If one side has more power (e.g. if one person exposed to the other he or she is very interested and his or her interest won't wane), it shifts this balance to the other person.
Now, he or she has the power to decide how the situation can play out.
In this example, the person who now has more power can get bored more easily because the other person has offered up too much information.
It has reduced his or her mysteriousness and, ultimately, reduced the intrigue of the other person.
Now, the first person will be more invested because he or she has revealed more about him or herself and has opened up in terms of vulnerability.
The other person now has more power, less intrigue and the ability to choose what will happen next.
This is another rather important reason game playing exists. It will, indeed, continue to exist in dating dynamics as long as humans have insecurities and vulnerabilities.
Keeping oneself guarded by playing games is often a response to past experiences, and unfortunately, it’s a vicious cycle.
If someone has experienced it, he or she will guard him or herself against the next dating encounter, and that will rub off onto the other person as well.
Having said all this, dating is supposed to be fun, and it is. Games will always be played because they're part of the whole experience.
If everyone said exactly what they were thinking all the time, there would be no intrigue, no mystery and, therefore, no excitement. Dating would be downright boring.
So, be aware: The ups and downs of attraction are part of what make dating fun. Enjoy meeting that new person!