In 2012, I went on a dating frenzy. As a part of my New Year's resolution that year, I decided that 2012 was going to be my year to meet the love of my life. I knew — or assumed — that this meant I had to date a lot. And, by extension, I also thought that it meant I had to play the game just right.
I bought and read many how-to-hook-a-man books and advice columns about the "simplicity" of men versus the "complexity" of women (yes, they do exist.). Why? Our culture puts pressure on all of us to figure out the "right way" to do everything — whether it be the right way to eat, exercise, be productive, or find the partner of our dreams. The problem is that this way of thinking perpetuates all of the dating games we know (and probably don't like).
Well, as a perfectionist and rule-abider, I took my studies very seriously, always making sure to count the minutes before responding to a text and to keep my guard up a bit on the first few dates; I'm ashamed to admit that I even practiced the aloof pout a few times. You never want to really show someone you're interested in how you're feeling, right?
Wrong (I know this NOW). Ultimately, I was so far removed from my real self during my dates that my search for love felt way more exhausting than fulfilling. I felt inauthentic and depleted, certainly not the ingredients for finding love. I was going about dating all wrong because I was putting my trust in strategy and tactics — keeping my guard up, in other words — rather than letting my real self shine.
Here's the core of the issue and why following such advice won't attract the love you really want: dating rules force you to navigate your search for love stubbornly by building a persona — or a surface-self, an ego-driven way of existing in the world. They imply that you showing up authentically won't be good enough, so you must hide behind the defense of dating strategies. These rules implicitly tell you that there is some unknown "perfect" way of presenting yourself to the world.
But that is a myth, and a dangerous one. This myth buries your true essence, and you come to associate your deep emotions, desires and ways of being with some level of shame. We fear that if we drop the games and "let it all hang out," our real selves might not be enough, or sometimes we even fear that our truth will scare the other person away.
When we search for love this way, we end up attracting people who aren't our right match because we are pretending to be someone we are not; therefore we draw in people who match the game we are playing on the surface rather than those who match who we really are.
Worse yet, sometimes we lose ourselves in the games, turning into some twisted-pretzel version of our beautiful-but-sometimes-messy self.
Following the rules will leads to disconnect between two dating partners, whether it is relatively immediately or eventually. Entering into a relationship as a result of "rule following" will most likely lead to a relationship built on a foundation of guardedness. There will be pre-built walls between the two people involved, which will only cause tension to grow when the time arrives to reveal more of our authentic selves to the other person.
So, if you have been a serial game-player, how do you date a different way? Try doing the opposite of what you've been doing if your actions were game-driven. When you hesitate to respond to a text or answer a call too quickly so as not to seem desperate, text back write away or pick up the phone. Tell your date you're nervous. Expose one of your "uglies" on the first or second date — just put it out there and see what happens.
Here's the truth: as members of this sometimes so messy human race, we all want to be loved for all of our beauty but even more for our messy. Drop the rules. Share what is messy. Find love for who you truly are. You deserve it.