Do You Treat Dating as a Game?


Dating is a game.” This is a reference I’ve seen many seduction trainers, dating coaches, and friends use.

While I have never thought much about this reference in the past, immersing into the dating world in the past few weeks has made me consider it in much depth.

Why Dating is Like a Game

I can totally understand the constant references of dating as a game in the seduction and dating world. When dating…

  • …you are a player in a world of possibilities, where the possibilities are up to you.
  • …there is a “playing” field — the single ladies and guys.  (Some people’s playing field extends to even non-singles, but that’s not the point of today’s article.)
  • …you have to consciously deliberate what to do to achieve your desired outcome.
  • different things can unfold depending on the actions you take at each turn.
  • …you can achieve different endings depending on the path you select.
  • …sometimes there is competition along the way (other date candidates for the other party) whom you have to “outlast” in order to secure the “victory.”
  • …there is a “prize” at the end of the journey (depending on what you are looking for, it could be a long-term loving relationship, a fling, or a one-night stand).

Why Dating is NOT Like a Game

However, at the same time, dating isn’t a game. For…

  • …you aren’t dealing with fake characters — you are dealing with real-life people with real emotions.
  • …you aren’t in the game just to “play” (or at least, I hope that’s not the case) — there is something you hope to get out of this experience, be it self-awareness, love, self-development, or companionship.
  • …(I hope) you are not doing this to win some “prize” — you are in it because you want to get a meaningful relationship with someone you like.

When Approaching Dating as a Game Backfires: A Real-Life Story

Here’s a real-life dating story of my good friend, Jane* (not real name). This story shares Jane’s dating experience with a guy, John* (not real name as well), how she approached it as a game thinking that it would help her win him over, and how it blew up in her face at the end of it.

About four years ago, Jane sought out online dating to look for a long-term relationship partner. Jane had been in various relationships which ended for one reason or another. After much dating, Jane was ready to look for a serious, long-term relationship and perhaps settle down. She was 31 then.

After a few months of meeting incompatible matches on and feeling exasperated with dating in general, Jane received a message from John one day on Match. At this point, Jane was open to giving any good quality prospect a shot, for she was tired of dates that went nowhere. From his profile, John seemed like a cool guy, so Jane thought, “Hey, why not just meet him and see how this goes?” (FYI, John was 39 then.)

So they met for their first date. Within minutes of seeing each other, the chemistry was instant. At the end of the date, Jane was eager to see John again. They then met for a second date, which led on to a third date, fourth date, fifth date, and more.

Jane liked John a lot. She felt that John could very well be the one for her. Not wanting to “mess” this one shot with him, Jane sought the advice of her good friend, A, an active dater, on how she should approach this budding “relationship” (they were still not an official couple) and to maximize the chances of it working out.

  • Jane: Hey A, so there’s this guy I really like. *proceeds to share about John* What should I do to make sure that this works out?
  • A: Jane, whatever you do, do NOT give him any personal information. Say whatever you want, but don’t tell him the things that he wants to hear. This will keep him interested.
  • Jane: Oh really?
  • A: Yes, just play it cool the whole time. Whenever he asks you personal questions, tell him something else. It is about preserving your mystery and allure.

Oh, okay, Jane thought. She heeded A’s advice and did just that. She played it cool, withheld her true self, and never showed much of her real thoughts and emotions. If John ever asked Jane deep, personal questions to know her better, Jane would dance around the situation and respond with something else instead.

Two months passed. Jane and John were still dating each other, just non-exclusively. On the surface, it seemed that A’s advice was working. John and Jane were meeting on a regular basis — sometimes once a week, sometimes several times a week.

One fine week, Jane had an upcoming date with John. She was looking forward to seeing him again. On the night before the date itself, Jane received a call from John. Excited to see him calling, she answered it.

  • John: Hey Jane? 
  • Jane: Hey John! :)
  • John: Hey. Listen, I was thinking — I think we should cancel the date tomorrow and stop seeing each other.
  • Jane: … … Wha…what?
    John: You know, we have been seeing each other for two months by now. I think you are a really great person, I’m really attracted to you, and I really like you a lot.

    However, I’m looking for a deeper relationship and it doesn’t feel like you are looking for the same. You seem shallow and superficial and it feels like you are playing around and not looking for something serious or deep. I think it’s better than we end it here rather than continue this any further, since it doesn’t feel like things are going anywhere.

Appalled, Jane gaped and sat in total silence.

For she is anything BUT shallow, superficial, or looking for something that isn’t serious or deep.

No, you are getting it ALL WRONG!!!! I’m EMOTIONAL! I cry all the times at the movies! I’m looking for something serious and deep! I want to settle down and be with someone one day! You are getting it all wrong! I’m not what you think I am!!!!” These thoughts SCREAMED in Jane’s head.

In a last ditch effort to salvage the situation, Jane, without even thinking, started pouring her heart out to John over the phone. In between sobs and tears, she explained the reasoning behind her evasive behavior in the past two months. She related the advice her friend, A, had given her, and the rationale behind it. She explained that she had been intentionally holding her true self back because she liked him a lot and she thought that was the right thing to do.

Throughout her explanation, Jane was crying (to quote her) “hysterically,” in a way she had never cried before in front of someone else, much less someone whom she had barely known for two months. To her, this was her one chance to get things right. John could well be the guy for her! Forget embarrassment — that was the last thing on her mind. All she was thinking was how to salvage the situation — if it could even be salvaged to begin with.

John was quiet throughout the entire outburst as he listened to what Jane had to say. At the end of it, John said, “Hey Jane, you know what? Forget what I said just now. Let’s keep the dinner plans tomorrow and meet as we had agreed. I’m sorry that I made you so upset. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow. :) “

The next day, Jane and John met.

On that same day, they officially became a couple and agreed to be exclusive to each other.

Today, they are married, just had their first baby, and are more in love than they have ever been. Both John and Jane are among my circle of close friends today and I’m so proud to know them.

(If you must know, Jane’s friend, A, who gave Jane those “tactics,” remains single as of today.)

Rationale Behind Seduction “Tactics”

You know, I totally get the rationale behind such seduction and dating tactics. Let’s take for example, the following tactics that many seduction and dating books, trainers, and coaches usually teach girls:

  • Do NOT accept a guy’s invitation for a weekend date if he asks you out after Wednesday (or X day). — To let the guy know that you have your personal agenda and you will not going to be available just because he wants to meet you. If he wants to date you, he needs to factor into account your agenda, respect your time, and give you due notice before each date.
  • Do NOT reveal too much information to a guy; deliberately withhold information from him.  — Oversharing can lead to fatigue and wear out, especially if both of you just met.
  • Do EVERYTHING you can to make the guy interested in you.  — Every guy can be a potential partner, so it’s better to maximize your chances by maximizing his initial interest in you. You can decide later if you like this guy enough to continue seeing him or not.
  • Play hard to get; it will make you more desirable and appreciated.  — People tend not to appreciate things that are easily “obtainable.” By “playing hard to get,” you send the message that you are valuable and you have to be “earned.”
  • Don’t respond to texts and emails right away; take your time to revert.  — See #1. Part of having your own agenda in life.
  • Respond to texts and emails with at least the same delay as the time the guy took to respond. — To mirror the guy’s efforts. He has to learn that if he wants you to respond faster or commit more into the “relationship,” he will need to put in more effort.
  • Let the guy chase and woo you; you shouldn’t do anything, otherwise you’ll come across as too easy.   — To let the guy know that he has to “earn” you if he wants to be with you; you are not going to make yourself available without a proper “chase.”

…and so on. For guys, you would have your own set of tactics in approaching and handling girls which would each have its rationale as well.

Why Tactics that Look Upon Dating as a “Game” are Pointless

These seduction and dating tactics have their merits; they really do. I have no doubt that there are girls who get marvelous results from applying said tactics, just as there are guys who successfully win the hearts of ladies from sticking to the rules of the seduction and dating book.

For these guys and girls, they might have had huge difficulty in dating prior to learning said rules. For these guys and girls, these approaches might have saved their dating lives and helped them to find their special someones in the sea of singles.

However, I personally feel that these tactics are fundamentally flawed, for two reasons.

Firstly, seduction tactics (not all, but many) tend to be fear-based in nature.

Why is that? Because they focus on lower-level actions to draw attention and elicit interest rather than a heart-level connection. They also often involve manipulation and ingenuity to a certain extent (e.g. intentionally hiding emotions to make the other party like you more and saying things you think the other party wants to hear vs. what you really feel).

People who utilize seduction tactics often do so because they like to be in control; much of what seduction is about is about control and maintaining the upper hand over the other person (the person you are trying to seduce). These are already fear-based feelings in themselves.

Long-term PE readers should know where I stand on fear-based approaches by now. When you use fear-based tactics, you are only going to attract fear-based people at the end of the day. Read: 10 Steps To Attract Authentic Love

Secondly, in employing these fear-based tactics, you self-sabotage yourself. Because not only would you attract the fear-based people, you keep out genuine daters — the ones you are truly looking for.

I once had a friend who told me to approach dating like it was a game. “It’s all about seduction and intrigue,” she said. “Your job is to do whatever it takes to entice the other party and keep them wanting more. When you successfully do that and become a couple, that’s when you have succeeded in the game.”

“Hmm, okay,” I thought. I shared this tip with two of my close friends, who have been together for over eight years and are in a committed, loving, relationship (they just had a baby!). One of them, P, said, “Celes, I don’t know about this. I don’t think you should necessarily approach dating like it is a game. There are really serious people out there who date to be in a serious relationship; they don’t see dating as a game, and neither do they approach it like a game.” His implicit message was that seduction techniques would fail on me with these people, and I should no sooner drop the notion.

I heard what P said, but never made a direct conclusion to the topic. Hearing Jane’s story a few weeks ago affirmed what P had said. It made me realize that while the popular approach in mainstream culture is to treat dating like it is a game, it doesn’t mean that it’s the right approach. It also made me realize that just because people think in a certain way doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the way to go. Sometimes it is well possible that these people are missing the point. It is also possible that I’m missing the point here too. The point is to reflect for yourself and go with the approach that works best for you.

The One Reason Why People See Dating as a “Game”

If you ask me, the whole “dating is a game” notion is really created to maximize people’s interest in you, to maximize your chances in dating, and at the end of it all — to keep yourself safe. To keep yourself from being vulnerable, from ever being hurt, from even having to put yourself out there to begin with.

And that’s fair. At the end of the day, no one wants to be hurt. Everyone really just wants to be safe from harm.

That’s why you have people approaching dating as a game or using gaming analogies in love — to take their emotions out of the equation and lessen their emotional investment. That’s why you have people who apply seduction tactics like there is no tomorrow — they want people to love (and like) them rather than put themselves out there to be loved and liked. That’s also why you have people who hesitate from dating and love — because they are afraid of taking the step forward and opening their heart to others.

And you know what? I say forget this tango you are trying to do with love, and put yourself out there to really love and be loved.

Because until you allow yourself to be vulnerable, open, and susceptible, you are never going to attract the kind of love you want — true, authentic love. Love that is real, unpretentious, unconditional, and nonjudgmental.

Forget fear of hurt, fear of humiliation, fear of being vulnerable, fear of being put down, or any other fear you may have. As long as you carry such fears with you, you will not attract the kind of (romantic) relationship that you really want.

How You Should Approach Dating Instead: 3 Tips

So what should you do, if not to treat dating as a game?

  1. Wear your heart on your sleeve. Be open about your intentions. Don’t withhold them.

    This means if you feel like going out with someone, simply let it be known to the person (vs. strategizing means and ways to get the person to go out with you). If you have positive feelings about someone, be upfront about those feelings — don’t feel like you need to conceal them.

    This doesn’t mean running around telling every person you like that you like him/her. No, that’s not necessarily the case (it depends on the context; sometimes it might not be appropriate). What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t withhold your feelings with the people you like. If you like the person, express it openly through your care and concern. You will find such an approach less taxing on your heart and soul as well.

  2. Be yourself. Don’t curb your opinions or modify your behavior just to fit someone else. Don’t behave in a certain way just because you think this is needed to make the other person like you. Don’t be in a hurry to show your lesser traits, but don’t behave in a way that is not in line with your true self.

    Be open to accommodate, but retain your core identity. If the person can’t take your usual mannerisms and persona, then what’s the point of putting up a charade?

    Related articles: Finding Your Inner Self and Why You Should Stop Comparing Yourself With Others (And 3 Steps To Do So) 

  3. Stop strategizing. Acquaint yourself with the basic dating etiquette in your culture (such as what you should do on your first date, how you should behave, and so on), and be conscious about your approach towards dating.

    However, stop approaching dating like it’s some strategy game. Always be aware that you are dealing with real people and real emotions, and everything you do affects these people as well. Be in tune with your real emotions, and react based on those emotions, rather than sticking to some elaborate stratagem designed to elicit certain responses. It’s about being earnest and authentic (see point #1).

Final Words

My point of this article isn’t to dispute that dating is like a game or dating can be seen as a game, but to emphasize that dating is not a game at the end of the day. Use analogies to your advantage, but don’t forget that at the end of the day, you are dealing with real people, real emotions, and that the whole point of your dating journey is really to seek out and be with someone that you love.

Remember that in love, it is about being authentic. This is the essence of my article on finding love: 10 Steps To Attract Authentic Love.

Like I shared in Do You Treat Dating as a Game?, I rather put myself out there, let my heart get sliced, diced, and handed to me on a platter, than to be evasive out of fear of getting hurt. It’s not like the latter approach has helped me at all. I have had my heart cut deep before — once during the G saga which I’ve written before on PE, and a couple of times in other situations. As heart wrenching as those incidents were, they aren’t going to stop me from loving openly and being earnest with my heart.

Ultimately, seduction tactics and the approach of seeing dating as a game (rather than what it really should be, a journey of love and discovery) are not going to bring me closer to my desired end vision of being with someone — being connected to my heart’s truest intentions and following what my heart says will. I’m ready for heartbreaks, unrequited interests, and possibly a fruitless journey at the end — but at least I know I have put my best self out there and I will not have any regret at the end of the day.

How About You?

I hope you found this piece useful. Chew on what I have shared here and consider the three tips with depth. They are very important IMO and are the three principles that I apply in my dating journey today.

Update 2013: About six months after I wrote this post, I found and got together with my true soulmate and husband. :) Read our love story here and head here for all my posts on finding love.

(Image: Pacman)