Photo: Tara Howard
Oh, the joys of dating. In case my sarcasm isn’t coming through, you should know I am not a fan of the dating game. Fortunately for me, my new, single relationship status happens to fall concurrent with a few of my closest girlfriends. After weeks of mutual support, situational over-analysis and unsatisfactory results on the dating scene, we came to realize that we were all falling into a typical romantic trap. We cast off the guys who pay us the attention we deserve and chase after that one who wouldn’t even notice if we fell off the face of the planet.
Lauren punctuated a five-year relationship with a tumultuous breakup and fell back into casual sex with an extremely handsome older man from her past. He swept her off her feet with hours of conversation and mind-blowing sex and then disappeared for days. Still, she let her mind wander to the land of what-ifs and happy endings with him and friend-zoned a few sweet guys clambering for her attention. Katherine chose to go the online dating route, and went on a few awkward first dates. One of her suitors was a sweet man in his early thirties, with a successful job and shy but attentive demeanor. Then an old flame found her dating profile and made a bold comeback into her life. She admitted that while she couldn’t remember the details of their relationship, she did know that what she left in the past should probably stay there. However, the excitement was addicting. She kept the new guy around to fan the flames of her ego while dealing with the complicated guy from her past.
That brings us to my situation. After kicking out my boyfriend of two years for cheating, I met someone I was not looking for – a tall, dark and complicated man who occupied my mind from the minute I met him. After an initial few weeks of long talks and great sex he became the epitome of aloofness, leaving me hanging for a week, sometimes two, before I would hear from him again. To his credit, he did tell me he wasn’t looking for a relationship.
But, we were so alike it was hard to ignore our chemistry, and he catered to my broken ego by letting me open up about my past, listening intently and remembering all I revealed to him. He was happy I came into his life and I was happy he stumbled into mine. I told myself after his initial warning of disinterest in a relationship up that I would not let my heart run away with thoughts of our happy future, but I did it anyway. I warded off many other suitors, some that have proven their loyalty to me and some that I know loved me. I went as far as to go on a few dates every time my guy pulled his disappearing act, but those guys never even saw the inside of my apartment. I had subconsciously made myself exclusive to the man that didn’t even bother contacting me regularly. I let other guys slip through my fingers because I was yearning for the excitement of my elusive catch. Why couldn’t I let myself move on when it was so clear that I would not become a priority in this man’s life?
One thing I noticed about this timeless dilemma is that we were all aware of what we were doing. We realized that we were chasing the wrong men, the ones who didn’t worry about losing us, while we neglected the ones who were concerned with keeping us. There was nothing we could do to stop ourselves from getting lost in the chase, and we had no idea why we played into the drama. We wanted to be desired, to be chased and to be wooed, but we were the ones pursuing men who were running away from us. If things were meant to work out with these guys, they would have by now. Instead, the romance was dying out and we refused to let it go.
Looking back, I think we all missed an important first step in forming a solid relationship. It is necessary to establish certain boundaries – lines set up to protect ourselves from games, walls we put in place to create expectations that men can strive to meet or walk away from. We let our loneliness and pain allow us to jump headfirst into the excitement of men who toyed with us, and the result was even more strife from being doubly rejected.
If we can momentarily clear our heads, take a step back, and determine exactly what it is we want – be it no-strings-attached sex, a casual dating partner or a serious, committed relationship – we can begin the game by letting the man involved know the rules. We need to establish the rules in the beginning instead of trying to figure them out as we go along; that is how men play, and we need to learn to take over the game.