Have you ever been “healthily in love”? Have you ever been in a romantic relationship that was not dysfunctional? Meaning, were there no games being played?
When I was in college, I had friends with whom I would come up with strategies, devices, schemes, plots, and plans to get and keep a relationship. Here’s a sample of how one of our many conversations on the topic of love would go:
“Girl, don’t call him! He’ll think you’re desperate. Let him call you. This is how it works. First, he calls you once, and then you let your voicemail pick up. Check his message and see if he sounds angry that you didn’t answer or if he sounds okay. If he sounds angry, then use that against him. Make it seem like you might be out somewhere with another guy. That’ll keep him in check. After he calls the second time, answer sounding calmly…”
There were so many tricks just to talk to the guy you love! I read a book by my favorite author – Dr. Henry Cloud – in which he said that adults ought to approach dating kind of like how children do in elementary school. He said that when two kids like each other, they don’t go about playing mind games to keep the “ball in their court”. They just let their feelings be known. Of course, little kids aren’t really in love, but they go about it the right, healthy, and nondysfunctional way. They get a piece of paper and write, “I like you. Do you like me? Check YES or NO. If the girl checks yes, they smile and hold hands. Simple as that. Both are happy for two weeks until the break up. Then they get over it quickly and start the process over again. When kids do this, it’s just practice for when they get older whether they know it or not, but adults should do this for serious.
Instead of doing the simple thing which is just admitting to a person that you like him or her and then seeing if the feelings are mutual, adults play this strange game instead:
A girl named Lisa sees a guy she likes at a party. She goes to the restroom to check her make-up and outfit. She flirts with his friend while giving the guy she’s actually interested in a glance every once and a while to see if he’s looking. Her friends told her in the restroom that guys are competitive and that if she flirts with his best friend, then he’ll compete for her. She thinks, “Jealousy is the way to a man’s heart.”
A guy named Mark sees a girl he thinks he might be interested in at work. He acts super-disinterested so that she will want him. His buddies told him in the break room that women love men that don’t show interest in them. He makes sure never to smile around her so that she won’t think he likes her. He thinks, “Lack of interest is the way to a woman’s heart.”
Ciara has a boyfriend that he has been dating for a year and a half. She ignores the phone half of the time he calls even though she’s been waiting for him to call. Her friends told her that men love women who are busy and not desperate, so she plays games by ignoring his calls. She figures, “Withholding communication is the way to a man’s heart.”
Now who in the world said that the way to a genuine, sincere (and if you’re a Christian – GODLY) relationship was jealousy, disinterest, and withholding of communication? Actually, to have a genuine, sincere relationship, just the opposite is the case!
Mind games in relationships do serve their purpose at times, however. And it is this: they serve the purpose of making unappealing people appear appealing. If your personality or attitude or perspective on love is unappealing or unattractive, mind games will temporarily make your personality, attitude or perspective on love appealing. For example, suppose you are desperate for connection with the guy you are dating. But suppose your friends tell you that women who call their man too often are unattractive. So if your group of friends tell you to call only once a day and then not to answer the phone the first three times he calls so as to make yourself appear busy and preoccupied, then for you to do what your friends suggest is to be playing a mind game. But it DID serve its purpose because it prevented you from running him off by appearing needy or too available. BUT BUT BUT if you ARE naturally a needy person, it will come out eventually. He WILL find out that you are needy or not that busy eventually!
So why postpone the inevitable?
When you play mind games like this, it’s proof that you are probably not ready for a relationship. If you have to manipulate your actions and words to get someone to like you or to stay with you, then you are being deceitful. Correction: the person is not actually dating YOU, but they are dating the fake mask of who you present to the world. And you will be found out eventually. You might be able to fool someone for 3 months, but if you are truly a desperate person or whatever else type of person that you play games to conceal, it will come out eventually. You can’t hide desperation in a 30 year marriage! And if your flaws are very serious, it may cause the person you are with to break up with or divorce you no matter how long the relationship has been going on for.
If you start building a relationship on a shaky foundation that is composed of games, then the more you build on the foundation, the harder and uglier the fall will be. What if I tried building the Sears Tower on a Jenga block foundation? It won’t last long. And if you happen to be more deceptive and sneakier than the average chick, you might get a few years down the road; but eventually your true nature will come out. Doesn’t it make more sense just to work on self before you get into a relationship?
Desperation/neediness/clinginess/insecurity can and probably should all be fixed while one is single. So many people have the biggest issues but yet want to wait until they get a girlfriend or boyfriend to fix themselves. Fix you now! And typically, if you’re the kind of person who plays a lot of mind games in love relationships, you will attract someone who is just as superficial. Here’s a very exaggerated example to get the point across:
If you’re a mind reader who can read people’s minds easily and everyone knows about this gift of yours, you will not be approached by ANY person who plays mind games in romantic relationships. They will fear that you will find out about all their schemes. But if you play mind games and know of a guy who is superficial and fake, you might pursue him because you know that he is not looking for a genuine, real relationship. Real recognizes real, and I think fake can also recognize fake!
I always compare a genuine relationship to a mother and a child and also to God’s relationship with us. A child with a loving mother tells his mother everything about himself – good, bad, and ugly. For example, a toddler won’t mind telling Mommy that he peed in the bed or that he misses her. I saw the cutest YouTube video clip of this two or three year-old whose Mommy told him, “I love you!” The toddler responded with, “I love you too, Mommy, but ONLY when you give me cookies. (then he repeated) Only when you give me cookies.” The mother just laughed! And the toddler knew that Mommy’s affection and feelings for him wouldn’t change just because he loved her less than she loved him. Had the mother treated her baby as some of us treat(ed) people that we date(d), she would have said, “Well, I don’t love you either then! I was just saying what I thought I should say! I never loved you!” But because normal mothers and babies have genuine relationships, they don’t try to conceal true feelings to “keep the ball in their court”.
Unlike this loving mother, a mind-game-player won’t dare tell her boyfriend that she misses him for fear of him thinking he “has her on lock” or “has her sprung”. So she’ll dodge him and ignore phone calls and texts so that he can miss her and then tell her that he misses her first. That is not a genuine relationship; that is a series of “chess moves” being made to see who wins. Relationships are partnerships of two people who are on “Team Us”. They want the relationship to succeed and win; he is not looking for him to “win” and neither is she looking for her to “win”. They want the relationship to win. If you’re in a relationship for you to “win” at being in control because the other person likes you more than you like him or her, wouldn’t it make more sense for you to just be single? A houses divided against itself cannot stand. Who joins a team to win as an individual? Why don’t you just be YOU against every other wo(man) in the world that you can make like you more than you like them?
And when you compare this to God’s relationship to us, God has no problem with us knowing how much He loves us. When I think of how much God loves me, it is mind-boggling. And I also love that He doesn’t even think twice about letting me know it. He doesn’t go about heaven thinking, “Why, why, why did I write John 3:16 in the Bible?! Now all of the humans are going to think they “got me”. I should have left them wondering all their lives how much or even IF I love them!” NO! That’s not how my God works. He wants us to know every day of our lives how much we mean to Him. So how come in dating relationships, we play this game of “withhold the love”?
That’s one reason why I stopped reading the Cosmopolitan and Redbook magazine and Ivillage internet articles on dating and romantic love tips. Me and my friends would read them religiously because they taught us great manipulation techniques and were very interesting and entertaining. But as I got more mature and wiser, I realized that all they do is teach you how to plot and scheme. You can’t plot and scheme yourself into a good relationship just as you can’t plot and scheme yourself into a good afterlife. It’ll have to be genuine. The next person I date is going to see and know exactly how I feel about him, and he will let me know exactly how he feels about me. We’ll be like two kiddies who hold nothing back. That’s how Jesus loves me. He puts all the cards on the table. He lets me know that He loves me, that He wants a personal relationship with me, and that He wants to spend eternity with me. Jesus doesn’t care if I reject Him, laugh at Him for being so honest and vulnerable, tell all my friends that I “got him sprung”, or even if I say yes to a relationship with Him and then later leave Him for an idol or Satan or for atheism. The offer of a loving relationship still stands until the moment I breathe my dying breath (unless of course I have blasphemed the Holy Ghost or have a reprobate mind). That’s genuine relationship, baby!
And so it will be with the guy I next get into a relationship with. Even if he rejects my confessed feelings for him, even if he laughs at my honesty and vulnerability, even if he tells all his friends that he “got me sprung”, and even if he says yes to pursuing a serious relationship with me and then later decides to dump me for a girl named Becky or Tasha, I can rest assured knowing that my love was true because I chose not to play games. Of course, I wouldn’t offer my heart to a person who I know is not seriously interested in me because that would be foolish. The Bible says to protect our hearts with all diligence for out of it flows the issues of life. But if I know that someone with good character and good potential likes me and that I like him too, then I will take that risk.
The benefits of being in love are SO worth that risk of heartbreak. Life is short, so I want to love BIG. If the relationship you are in or are pursuing does not turn out as you had hoped, and your heart gets broken, God will fix it. He specializes in things like that. It’s not the end of the world; it happens to the best of us. So while you can, think positive about it, date genuinely, stop the games, and dare to love!
“Work like you don’t need the money, LOVE LIKE YOU’LL NEVER GET HURT, and dance like nobody’s watching.”