Monday, January 30, 2012

Much Too Much: How to Lose a Game Without Even Playing

In my second year of university, the boys who lived next door to us watched "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" on a frequent basis. (Either they REALLY liked the film, or it was their "go-to" movie to watch when they had a girl over. For the record, my friends "go-to" was Mighty Ducks---I mean how OBVIOUS IS THAT?) I'm pretty sure that, hearing it played through the wall over a dozen times in one month, I have the entire film memorized. (For those of you who haven't seen it, the story is that a playboy makes a bet with his friends that he can make a girl fall in love with him in two weeks and a girl is writing an article about the "don'ts" of a relationship and does everything wrong to "lose" him but since they're unknowingly paired with each other, a romantic comedy ensues.)

The premise of the film is interesting because when we first meet someone and get together with them, there are all of these "rules" on how we should play it, how we should or shouldn't act. We play these games for a while until the true colors of our personality come out but, by then, we hope that the person we're involved with likes us enough to overlook these idiosyncrasies that make us who we are. I've always been EXCELLENT at the initial meetings---luring someone into being interested in me is like second nature, and once I'm in a relationship, I'm also great: easy going, no games, relatively undemanding and a great person to date. But it's that in-between stage, the grey area that I, and a lot of others, seem to have trouble with. (I'm awkward and often times I do "the wrong thing" in this stage. I'm not going to get into anecdotes but if you've dated me, you know what I am referring to. However, I'm lucky, I tend to find guys who overlook my classic behavior, or seem to know that it's just a result of the insecurity that being in-limbo brings) We meet someone we like, so how do we go from the first spark to a relationship? Here are, in no particular order, some relationship killers.

1. Over Exposure: We're always told to leave one wanting more. But that is SO HARD when you are excited by someone. You want to hang out with them and talk to them as much as you can, because it's fun and it makes you feel butterflies. However, this is bad to do, because then the mystery starts to disappear, and things go from being exciting to being mundane.

2. Over Communicating: People are so different in the way they communicate, some are attached to their mobile device (me!) and some don't look at their phone for days. If two opposites meet then it's easy for things to go from delightful to dismal in the blink of an eye. I tend to message a lot, to everyone, and those who know me know that this is an intricate part of who I am, but when faced with a new person what do I do? Do I hold back and ease them into it? (That kind of feels like false advertising?) Or do I just be myself and potentially overwhelm someone? The "right" answer is the former, to pace oneself and "play it cool" ---the attractive person you met may lose sight of what they thought was great about you with your over-exuberant communicating. They'll go from being excited to hear from you to being annoyed, or worse, stalked.

3. Over Sharing: When you like someone, you want to know them and you want them to know you, but you can't just tell them everything, because where's the fun in that? As difficult as it may be to hold back on your life story and past, it is imperative to practice discretion. As the relationship progresses, these things will emerge take a deep breathe and save the tell-alls for your friends. Oh and, probably better to not share with them that you've told your mom/best friend/coworkers about them. (My NYC friends and I used to have a rule, which I probably shouldn't share but will anyway. The rule is: "It's ok to be crazy, but don't be crazy to the person you're crazy over. Act out to your friends. They already know and love you. plus, they can remind you that you're, BEING CRAZY")

4/4.5. Over Analyzing/Complicating: I think this is more of a female trait then men. Maybe it's because by definition, women are more complex and men tend to be simple (generalization) so we, as women, want to know what things MEAN. "He said he wants to hang out...does he really mean it?" "He said, 'sounds good', what does that mean?" Often times, it probably means: he wants to hang out with you or that it sounds good, but when we like someone, we lose sight of the rational and logical. I know I don't sit around trying to decode messages from my friends so why do it for a love interest? Doing so only drives us a bit insane, and results in more erratic behavior that can be perceived as crazy or annoying. We spend so much time analyzing that we forget to be ourselves, which is a shame, because who we are is what the person liked to begin with.

5. Over-Defining: While the initial first weeks of a new thing can be the most exciting they can also be the most stressful, because we want to know where the other person stands, if they're on the same page. There are several ways to do this: Ask (which will often scare the person) Play games (which will annoy the person and exhaust you) or nothing (and see what happens.) The last one is the best option for sure, but it's not really that easy, because if we really like someone, we want to know what they think of us, how they feel. So we try and define it to give us some sense of security and understanding, we devise ways to figure things out rather than just letting them happen, and enjoying it for what it is. Talking about feelings and what you are too soon will (most likely) RUIN the relationship. The fact is, if someone is into you, it's obvious. The way they interact and behave with you will demonstrate that. In fact, I think seeing how someone treats you is a much bigger indicator than hearing them tell you how much they like you. Resist the urge to get the definition, resist the urge to find out if they're dating/hooking up with other people. Chances are, if they like you, they're probably not, and all of this will be revealed in a more time appropriate moment, or it'll unfold naturally.

6. Over Inclusiveness: When I'm in a serious relationship, I tend to keep a lot of the details private. I believe, as we should, that relationships are between two people. This isn't saying that I never tell my friends anything, but for the most part, I value the sanctity of what's between me and this other person. However, in the "getting to know you" phase, friends are crucial, who else can we bounce ideas off of, or go to for advice? Since we don't know what's going on we turn to a third party to help decipher. Relying on friends is great, but should be done with caution. Our friends aren't really a part of the situation, and while they (should) have our best interests at heart, can lead us astray with presumptions and preconceived notions. This can really only be helpful if the friend knows both parties involved, but then it's unfair to put them in that position.

7/7.5. Over-Eagerness& Over-Planning: Being constantly available is a turn off, people like to feel like they've accomplished something, and if you don't make them work for it, they get bored. Most people enjoy a little bit of a challenge. I'm not suggesting that you intentionally blow someone off (that's rude) but making them a priority right away is never a good thing. Keep your life the same as it was before, but make room for them when there is. When first involved with someone, we do like to imagine certain scenarios with them: nights out, weekends away, trips etc but we shouldn't put too much weight or hope into these things. You can't meet someone and expect that in a month they'll want to go on a camping weekend with you. If, after a few weeks of hanging out, you then suggest it, they'll probably be more receptive, but if they're not then they're not. It's better to assume that they're not and be pleasantly surprised than hurt and disappointed. The latter is an irrational response and they're likely to be turned off by it and scared that things are moving too quickly/are too serious. If you have dinner plans with a friend but your person of interest asks you out, don't rearrange your friend time. Go to dinner. Don't spend the whole night texting. Having a life is sexy.

8. Over-Idealism: When liking someone, we see the good, we get our hopes up. I'm not saying that we should all be cynics because that negative vibe is easily picked up and not exactly compelling, but please be realistic. As stated above, if someone likes you, you'll know. They should make it fairly obvious. If you feel like you are the only one putting in effort or caring then you probably are. Be realistic, don't look at it over-analytically. A good trick is to pretend your circumstance is that of a friends, and imagine they are telling you about it. What advice would you give them? Ok good, now follow it.

9. Over-Reacting: We tend to be more hypersensitive regarding a love interest. We take what they say and do much more seriously than we should and what was probably intended by them. Our overreaction to basically nothing serves as a massive repellent. Relax, and ask yourself how you'd feel if the same thing came from a friend of yours. If you'd still be upset/freaked out/confused, then fair enough, act on it. If not, then weigh that heavily.

10. Over-Apathy: I know I've spent the past nine definitions saying that we're supposed to be normal and play it cool but there is an extent to that as well. We can't let the person feel like we're not interested or don't care. If we do that than any (normal) person will lose interest and stop contacting us. We have to make sure the person knows that we care and are into them, just without being overwhelming. Also, over-apathy sets precedents for other behavior. I have known people who told their love interest "I don't care if you see other people" but as time went on, started caring. Or they always cared, but wanted to seem cool but the other person didn't see it like that, they took it to mean that they actually didn't care. Don't say anything you don't mean (LYING IS BAD), don't purposely seem disinterested (there is a huge difference between genuinely busy and not interested) Find a balance of maintaining your life and sense of dignity but making the other person feel special and important.

The way you play it can make or break a connection. Though as I said, my awkwardness in the middle stages should've ruined a good thing but didn't. I guess the truth is, that if you really like someone, or see potential... these things really won't matter. Personally, I don't really like games, though there was a time I was a master at them. I stopped playing them a while ago, and have had great success relationship wise, but still though, I wonder if perhaps there's something to be said for them.

Oh and, drunk dials/texts/emails. Never good. Ever. Even in a committed relationship (I think every guy I've ever dated is screaming "HYPOCRITE!" right now, but really, I've gotten much better. My last boyfriend basically broke me of that habit, simply because I liked him enough to stop)

Authors Note: I've been writing a lot about relationships recently, which some of you have been a big fan of (yay) but some have sent me messages reminding me that this is a blog about Vietnam. To the latter, I see your point, kind of. However, my blog is about life, not only in Vietnam, but in general. While I do have things to write about (Christmas and New Years travels and Tet, which I will get to within the next few weeks) I can't keep writing about motorbike accidents or shock and awe that I encounter because, as I've said before, these things are ingrained in my daily life, they're as routine as say, going to the supermarket (which as we know in Vietnam is actually an adventure in its own right)

In fact, if one thing has been made so abundantly clear from all of my living experiences it's that human nature doesn't change. From the Queen of England to a street child in a tiny Cambodian village, we as people, have the same needs, and fundamentally the same wants. Aside from the obvious, food, shelter, health etc, people are driven by passion and emotion-whether it be for their job, their religion, their country, or another person-I haven't come across someone yet who doesn't covet something, who doesn't search for security and stability and want to love and be loved. As vast as the range of people are, it is humbling to remember that we are all basically the same.

So, while this isn't a relationship blog, I've been writing about relationships, because they're a big part of the my life, and big part of most peoples. I find them fascinating. For those of you who agree, I'm glad. For those who don't, just skip the posts about them and read the ones about Vietnam and travel (upcoming: different opportunities, Mui Ne, Saigon, Sri Lanka)

(Thanks DH for the conversation over disgusting instant noodles that resulted in the idea for this post.)


  1. Well said. Whenever I'm beckoned for relationship wisdom (and often when I'm not), I say, "Let them know you're interested but that your world won't crumble if the feelings aren't returned." Easier said than done sometimes, but I think it's getting at a lot of what you were saying.

  2. simple in theory, not so easy in execution. probably why my relationships end up being so wonderful and why I stay friends with my exes. The worst is usually in the beginning, everything from there is a cakewalk.