When I was younger, as in just five years ago, I used to play by “The Rules“. As I’ve gotten wiser, happier, and more confident I have stopped. I don’t pretend to be busy or not desperate — I am busy and I’m not desperate. I don’t refuse to call/email/text guys back because I want to make them sweat. If I can get back to them, I do. If I can’t, I still do, but later. Sometimes I get busy and sometimes don’t feel like typing/texting/calling and so it takes a little longer to get back to them. And, sometimes I’m totally in the mood to chat and I will. I don’t think my day is a failure when no one reaches out to me. The difference between having a full life and being happy with yourself and not having a full life and being unhappy with yourself is huge and it shows, and obviously, one attracts good men and the other does not. Faking it causes anxiety and you never know when to stop, so often your attempts at playing hard-to-get backfire. Just being yourself and doing what you want to do and what’s right in that moment feels pretty amazing. There is a certain sense of freedom in not worrying and wondering if X guy would be more into me if I just hadn’t texted him back so soon or if I had written an email a little differently.
My friends play a lot of games and it drives me up a friggin’ wall. We’ll be at lunch, and the guy du jour will text something like, “Hey, what’s up?” Wide-eyed, she’ll look at me and say, “OMG, what should I do? Text? No? Wait? Yes? What should I say?!?!” Obviously my answer is “Why are you texting HIM when I’M RIGHT HERE and we’re supposed to be having lunch and conversation?” Isn’t the point of “The Rules” to be too busy being fabulous and doing other amazing things to care about the guy?
Of course my friends will look at me like I’m so funny (when I’m totally being serious — put the fucking phone away!) and then decide to “make him wait” so that he wonders what she’s doing and in turn will want to marry her right away. Unless the guy is Mr. Co-dependent, he’s going to get back to his wanking off, football game, napping, etc. and not even notice if you text him five minutes or five hours later. Meanwhile, my friend is sweating bullets. Ten agonizing minutes later, she texts back. It takes five minutes to text, delete, text, delete, ask me a million questions, text, delete, send. Then she watches her cell phone like her life depends on it. If he does not text back within five minutes she thinks it’s over because she waited too long to text him back or what she said wasn’t witty/cute/charming/funny/smart enough or she sounded bitchy. Then she’s sad, until he texts again and now things are all better. Rinse, repeat.
Sometimes the games become completely ridiculous. I have an insecure friend with an insecure boyfriend. She was wondering about his faithfulness so she told him that her ex-flame wants her back and basically, he’d better mind his Ps and Qs because she has other options if he doesn’t. If a guy said that to me, I’d tell him his other option just became his only option. If I was already insecure, I’d probably be sure to have other options, too. I also have friends who purposefully don’t email/text/call guys back or who stay out late (especially if she knows the guy might stop by or drive by to check on her – creepy!) just to make him wonder what she’s doing. And then she spends all night wondering what he’s thinking anyway and stressing out about it and then on her way home she drives by his house to see what he’s doing and if there is another car there. Wow . . . sounds exhausting, humiliating, and miserable!
The friends I have who do this are generally insecure and feel that they need to play games in order to attract and keep a partner. Plus, many of them, while great people, do not have a lot of hobbies or big goals in life. The game-playing distresses them quite a bit, but when they aren’t playing games, they come across as desperate and needy because in many cases they are. Either way, they are constantly questioning themselves and every move they make while trying to read into everything their partner says and does, too. When they date “normal” guys without major insecurities, it doesn’t last. The insecure men they date end up playing into the games and the relationship crashes and burns in a very tight timeframe, but always with lots of drama. And, when things go wrong or seem to be going wrong, there are the long talks and blah, blah, blah.
I’m not saying I’ve never fallen victim to this. I have. And, it’s a miserable way of life that I hope I never fall prey to again. I’m not sure that my game-playing has ever resulted in anything good, but during the times when my life has been full and I’ve been happy, good things have happened. I’m also aware that right now, I am not looking for a relationship and I am emotionally unavailable. So, it’s easy for me to be casual and have fun, to not worry or sweat the details. But, I’m also busy, I have priorities, and there are things outside of relationships that make me feel happy and fulfilled. I don’t depend on anyone else for anything. The men in my life are just the icing on the cake. And, for the first time in my life, I have great relationships and friendships with these men and they are a source of happiness in my life versus anxiety, and I think I am a source of happiness in theirs. Yes, they are getting “free sex” (another game people play and by the way, I’m getting free sex, too), but no one says they have to contact me and ask me about other things going on in my life, buy me thoughtful gifts, email me while on vacation in other countries, or hang out with me for several hours after sex to talk. And, trust me, these guys can (and do) get sex elsewhere. When there is anxiety, it’s when I’m feeling down or insecure for some reason, because old habits die hard.
So, my advice to my friends when they are obsessing over their boyfriends and dates is to get a life. Literally. When you are busy and you love yourself and have things going on in your life outside of boys and relationships, you are a happier, healthier, better person. When you are a happier, healthier, better person, you attract similar mates. And, when you’re both in a good place, your relationship can be that much better. My only regret is that it took me this long to figure it out.