No More Games

No More Games

by Thao Nguyen

When we dream of romance, we probably dream of getting swept up with emotions, being treated like kings or queens, and being in a constant state of giddiness. Maybe we don’t expect the fairy tales we grew up with, but we do hope for something out of a romantic comedy, where the mishaps and misunderstandings are funnier than they are painful.

We probably aren’t daydreaming about getting left on read, being strung along, or feeling constant anxiety and confusion. But a quick look at my own (very limited) dating history, a survey of my friends, and countless screenshots and memes on the internet, show that more often than not, modern dating looks a lot more like tactical warfare than a movie with Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey.

Dating, talking, hanging out, whatever you want to call the time before a couple becomes official, is wrought with games. Sure, some couples may find it easy to get together, but their counterparts--the people who have to second guess every move, the ones who are afraid to “catch feelings”--are the ones who need help.

But before reading on, let’s listen to the sweet, sweet words of the Backstreet Boys.

That’s right. Howie D and the boys have been telling us since 1996 that it’s not okay to play games.

If the person you’re “dating” takes four hours to respond to your text, don’t purposefully wait four hours and one minute to respond.

If the person you’re “dating” is only a backup to someone else, don’t string them along.

If the person you’re “dating” isn’t someone you’re actually interested in, don’t ghost them.

If the person you’re “dating” is someone you really have feelings for, don’t hide them.

I’m not going to lie. I’m guilty of doing these things, and they made me feel terrible about myself. In fact, carrying out these actions actually felt worse than being on the receiving end. And believe me, I’ve been on the receiving end more times than I’d like to admit. That being said, I tried to justify my own game playing, saying that I was protecting my pride, I was trying to spare their feelings, I was avoiding being vulnerable. But we all know that isn’t true.

Purposefully waiting to text someone back isn’t protecting pride, it’s being petty.

Stringing someone along or ghosting them isn’t sparing their feelings, it’s being selfish and immature.

Hiding your true feelings isn’t avoiding vulnerability, it’s being overly guarded.

Be yourself and be honest. I made it a priority to be honest in all of my potential relationships, and though it’s been hard, at the end of the day, I can look in the mirror and say that I’m not ashamed of the things I’ve done to the guys I’ve talked to. When I receive a text and I have time to respond, I respond. I don’t overthink it and become paranoid that they’ll think I’m too eager by texting right away. If there is someone I’m not really interested in, I let them know, in the nicest way possible. I don’t want them thinking there is hope and leave them wondering for weeks where they went wrong. When there is someone I’m genuinely interested in, I’m open about it. I’d rather see if it’s mutual than wait miserably for weeks and months for him to bring it up first.

Yes, doing all of these things can be pretty difficult. But doesn’t it make more sense to start out a potential relationship with authenticity and honesty than with games and manipulation? Because even if things eventually do lead to an “official” relationship, who’s to say the games will end? Chances are, you’ll be left wondering if there is really enough trust on either end to keep things going. So do the heavy lifting now, and reap the rewards later on.

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