The Dating Game
In the world of dating it can sometimes be tempting to play a game of withholding. Much dating lore encourages one to do such antics as "play hard to get" and "be dark and mysterious". The difficult thing about such behavior is that it doesn't help lay a foundation for a sustainable long-term relationship. If you are dating and looking for a long-term partner, it's critical that you not abide by dating lore.
Being direct about your feelings and needs with a date, gives you immediate information about how he or she will likely respond to you long term. For example, imagine you are dating someone and you both seem to be having a great time. You express something direct like, "I like you and would like to get to know you better. How about a hike tomorrow?". Your date looks away and begins to talk about work. You ask for a direct response and your date continues to talk about work. You now have some information.
Although you might have some jackals barking that you have just been rejected, if you keep your giraffe ears on you will get different information.
First, you notice that when you were direct she moved away from you (of course she is responding to her own feelings and needs). Second, you noticed a lack of willingness or ability to respond in a direct way. Third, you notice that her response conflicts with the warm smiles and eye contact you were getting earlier. The signals are mixed.
When you are standing firmly in the validity of your own feelings and needs rather than reacting to perceived rejection, you have the clarity to take in all this information and respond based on what truly works for you. Perhaps you have lots of energy to meet this behavior and perhaps you want to be with someone who can consistently respond in a direct way to you. The important thing is that you are choosing rather than reacting.
In a jackal reaction to the same behavior you might hear yourself saying something like, "I came on too strong. I need to back off and give her some space. Or He doesn't really like me, maybe if I was more…. he would like me."
Respecting your own feelings and needs while changing your behavior in order to be in harmony with the needs of others helps create a healthy interdependence. However, dismissing your feelings and needs, or seeing them as invalid because someone couldn't connect with them, or changing your appearance or behavior to win love, is a set up for an insecure and volatile relationship.
Most dating lore is a description of how to dance around reactive patterns or charm and seduce under false pretenses*. This won't serve you in finding the long-term partner of your dreams. A secure, honest, and respectful relationship begins with you. You can choose to honor your own feelings and needs and express them in a direct way with specific requests, while expecting the same of your partner.
This week notice if you are choosing to participate in the reactive dance by backing away from your feelings and needs, or playing hard to get, or trying to win love. Also notice when you stand firm in yourself even when you don't get the response for which you were hoping.
*For an incredible read on the reactive patterns of dating see: Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find and Keep Love.
by Amir Levine, Rachel S. F. Heller