“I’m done playing games,” a frustrated and tired college student exclaims over ice cream. With tears streaming down his or her face and what feels like a broken heart, dozens of men and women have expressed an abject hatred for failed communication in relationships.
In some way, relationships, in any sense of the word, involve playing a game. Whether it be subtly mentioning fake romantic partners in hopes of inciting jealousy or analyzing a vague text with the tenacity of an NSA agent, many aspects of game-playing remain necessary in the preliminary stages of love. In my experience, it all chalks up to some kind of strange chess match of who will fall in love first? While I remain an avid player of “The Game” and advocate for its necessary evil, it has come to my attention that the greatest indicator of a master player is knowing when to stop playing and when it is appropriate to be direct with a possible partner.
The nuanced concept of the infamous game can essentially be broken down into every interaction that one has with someone that they are interested in. “The Game” involves evocative glances across a room, lingering eye contact, purposefully vague texts and strategized interactions.
It is considered “The Game” until the precise moment that both participants are metaphorically cuffed to each other in the form of a committed relationship.
As much as we would all like to say trust and intimacy are the foundation of a relationship, it remains a hard pill to swallow that it is actually the meticulous mind game of getting another individual to fall in love with you.
Though “The Game” remains integral in the formation of a relationship, part of playing is knowing when to stop and just be real with a person.
It is important to note that, although "The Game" gets a bad rap, there are a lot of people, myself included, who love it. The thrill of the chase and the excitement of not knowing what another person is thinking serves as a fun pastime for some individuals.
People with raging intimacy issues like me thrive in the tumultuous war zone of singledom that acts as the stage for the infamous game of love. The malleability of chaos and the predictability of people act as buffers between us and our attempts at forming ties with romantic interests. We never have to get close to our opponents because we are playing “The Game” against them on unequal playing fields, and that is a comfortable position for people terrified of closeness.
However, when players become teammates, and when the objective is no longer to exploit the other’s vulnerabilities, both players need to drop the uniform and stop playing against each other.
“The Game” serves a purpose in the preliminary rounds of a relationship, but, once that relationship is established, there is no point in playing. In a sense, you win. You’ve achieved closeness and intimacy with someone who loves you. If a person continues to approach the relationship with a competitive mentality, it will corrode the very structure that formed the relationship in the first place.
Reading the signs and being sensitive to your partner is essential to moving out of the stage where “The Game” is necessary. While there is no instruction manual on how to play “The Game” or how to stop it, any interaction with romantic intent requires a level of self-awareness. The best way to decide when to stop playing “The Game” is to ask whether or not it impedes effective communication between you and someone you care about.
Approaching a random person in your class is very different when real feelings are on the line. The involvement of feelings also tends to be a decent indicator of when to stop playing. Directness and effective communication have an important role to play, and, while that role isn’t present in the beginning stages of a relationship, those values are paramount to the warm, mushy stability of a healthy couple.
I can admit that I have a plethora of emotional issues that affect my love life, but I am slowly realizing when it is important to give up “The Game.” While it is normal for flighty college students to float from relationship to relationship and play one person after another, it is important for us to be real with each other when we genuinely care about a person.
We all know how scary vulnerability is, and playing “The Game” is an effective tool to put space between you and your feelings. However, we owe it to ourselves and to our future romantic partner to recognize when it is time to drop the act, put down the chess pieces and simply be real with each other.