Jenny Block doubles down on the games people play when dating


It sounds really simple. And it is. And it isn’t. So many people wonder why they can’t meet someone great — someone smart and sweet and honest and funny and kind who they’re attracted to. I have a philosophy about that.

It’s all the games.

The thing is, even people who don’t think they’re playing games… are playing games. How do I know? Because I used to do it.

I’m not talking about anything devious — lying or playing people against each other. I’m not talking about pretending to be a totally different person. I’m talking about the games that most of us have learned to play that are likely the very things that are keeping us from finding the love and partnership for which we long.

Game No. 1: Mirroring. You meet someone and you find yourself saying, “Me too!” far too often. Sure, you do go to clubs occasionally. Yes, you have been to a raw food restaurant once. And, fine, you know a couple of lyrics from Annie. But emphatically claiming, “Me too!” to the possible love interest who spends every weekend on Oak Lawn, every other night at Be Raw, and all season at Dallas Theater Center is not the same as your monthly early night at the Round-Up, occasional take-out sushi and playing an orphan in your third grade musical. Be yourself. Your whole self. Who cares if it’s not who you imagine this person would fall for? What’s the point if you don’t actually have all the things in common that you claim to? Even if being honest can be embarrassing, better to get together based on the truth now then to break up because of all of the fibbing later.

Game No. 2: Posing. Even if it’s not about things the other person is into, recreating yourself in the image of what you think that person wants in a partner will get you in the same trouble as mirroring. Saying you love to take care of the house and hate to watch TV and run 25 miles a day is not a good idea when you’re more of a “let the dishes lie where they may, hit the sofa after work, don’t own running shoes” kind of person. You might be able to keep it up for a while. But at some point, the jig will be up … and then what? You’ll end up living a life you have no interest in; becoming resentful that your partner wants you to be someone you’re not (even though that’s what you put forth); and/or ending up with yet another break-up on your hands.

Game No. 3: Acting against your instincts. Call it intuition, desire, feelings, whatever you like. Too many of us think we don’t know what is best for us. We imagine ourselves too emotional, too available, too open, too whatever. We feel as if we have to act more aloof then our heart requests because otherwise no one will want us. The truth is that anyone who wants you more because you want them less is playing games, too. When you act against your feelings, you set yourself up for a relationship that may well fail you in terms of your heart’s desires. If you are actually emotional and mushy and open to love and want a partner who honors and respects that, you are unlikely to find it in someone who was attracted to your stance of indifference.

Starting to see a pattern here? The truth is that all three of these — and so many of the other games we play — are basically about lying about who we are, or at least hiding it, in an effort to be who you imagine someone wanting.

This behavior almost always results in disappointment — in yourself for lying and/or not living up to who you claimed you were and in your partner for not accepting who you are despite the fact that you basically sold the other person a false bill of goods.

When I swiped right on my now-fiancé and we first started talking, I was brutally honest. So honest that we joke about it now. I was insanely clear about what I did and did not want; about the kinds of things I liked and did not like; and about who I was (especially the parts that I imagined hard to put up with). I texted and called when I wanted to and as much as I wanted to. I asked when we could meet very soon after we matched because, well, I wanted to. I figured if she didn’t, she likely wasn’t the girl for me.

I even said, “I think I’m falling in love with you,” the second weekend we spent together. She still teases me about it. But I also know how much my exposing myself in such a raw way meant to her then and continues to mean to her.

It wasn’t easy. I had become so used to mirroring and posing and acting how I thought I was “supposed to,” that being real felt, well, fake. But it paid off. Big. Once we got serious, I didn’t have to hide the sweets or the reruns of Castle that I have probably have unhealthy attachments to. I didn’t have to participate in activities that were completely out of my wheelhouse. I didn’t have to refrain from being the mushy, teary, moody, anxious, nerdy, goofy girl who loves couture and to dance — but only to the music to music that I dig.

The point is, we’re all weird and the person who matches your weird is out there. I promise. But you’ll only find that special weirdo if you’re willing to let your true weird out to play.
Jenny Block is the author of the The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex by Jenny Block, foreword by Betty Dodson.
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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2016.