Just about every day I come across a post attempting to school men and women on the “rules of the game” as it relates to love, sex, marriage, and anything else concerning intimate relationships. As soon as I see the word “game,” I pretty much disregard the advice that follows, because if the author is looking at relationships as a game, their perspective is already off, and most likely their advice will be as well.
I get the metaphor. It’s applied in many different instances (like the game of life) but there is power in words and I believe if you look at relationships like a game, you are going to treat them like one.
The object of a game is to win. How can you go into something with two people with a mindset that only one of you will come out on top? You can argue that some people approach love as a team sport, but we all know that is idealistic and most likely nonexistent.
The whole idea behind approaching a relationship like a game is to ensure that you make the moves that ensure victory with the least fouls (hurts) on your end. But if before making every move you attempt to strategize and anticipate the other person’s position, aren’t you being untrue to yourself, in the sense that you aren’t revealing who you really are, just attempting to be the one who doesn’t lose by being too heavily invested?
Every step you take is about protecting yourself, which we are all guilty of in relationships because there’s a need to establish a comfortable level of disclosure, but at the same time, when deciding whether to pick up the phone and call the other person, or tell them that you miss them, or punish them for an indiscretion is more about proving who cares about the other more rather than getting to know or grow with one another, there is a serious problem.
A game approach is based all on assumptions of how one expects the other person to be—you anticipate the plays and create the proper defense—the figure of speech makes complete sense, if only relationships were that simple. In any sport or board game there are only a certain number of moves and the only facility involved is logic. Logic is usually the last mental faculty applied in relationships—emotions take over and emotions are messy, which is why no one wants to show their cards too early on so to speak.
There’s a reason that board games establish an age appropriate level for players—at some point you’re too old for them. The same is true in male-female interactions. There’s a time for playing around and there’s a time to get serious. The game perspective reeks of manipulation because the only needs that you have in mind are yours, and the person on the receiving end is most likely oblivious to this because the self-serving behavior is masked by the pretty façade of genuine interest.
If the interest truly is genuine, then the games have got to go. There is no set playbook for approaching a relationship because each person is bringing in a unique set of experiences. Most people like to call that baggage, but that term has a negative connotation. Not every life experience is bad and not every woman is going to take her past relationship out on you, nor is every man going to be like the last.
Assumptive behavior has no place in relationships. Red flags, signs, and intuition—yes, assumptions, no. Open your mouth and ask why someone is behaving the way that they are, don’t assume it’s because of this, that, or the third, and then pull out your rule book which tells you to respond in a particular way.
Open, honest, upfront communication is and always has been the key to a successful relationship, but if the goal isn’t to have a meaningful, open connection, then by all means, play on!