Is “the dating game” a game worth playing?

Dating is like chess.

By no means is dating a game. It is not something played to accomplish, conquer or master. However, metaphors do wonders in explaining and helping people understand concepts. As you read this, please think about relationships you’ve seen or been in.

At this point, it’s essentially a social norm to date or be in a relationship for at least one part of your life. I’ve spoken to a lot of people about the societal pressure to date, and the response I get the most is,

“But people don’t really feel like they’ve been validated as a person unless they have someone else that can account for their worth.”

If you step back and take a look at the world, there is a huge emphasis on families and marriage, or at the very least, being in a relationship with someone. Imagine how all the single people feel. Not just the teenagers who aren’t in relationships, but the adults, 30, 40, 50, even 60 years old who aren’t in relationships. Some of them are independently minded, perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, and perfectly content with that. I mean, it is not as though they cannot become part of the dating game. You can easily ask someone out to dinner at work, perhaps a hobby or class outside of work, or perhaps someone known from university in the past. There are plenty of ways to meet people. Plus the online dating scene is now extremely advanced – there are dating sites specifically tailored to different people. Different cultural backgrounds, sexual orientations, even religions. Take this Muslim dating site for marriage for example. Everyone has the chance to find love. It just might not be the right time for everyone, and they might find they are happier on their own for the time being.

It’s okay to not be in a relationship.

Most people, though, will get into relationships. They will find themselves connecting with other people in various ways and getting to know themselves by the way they act around that other person.

I don’t know what train of thought led me to this conclusion, but the metaphor stands. Dating is essentially an incredibly intense version of a game of chess.

Let me explain.

First, you find someone and both of you agree to the challenge. This is an undefined time for most people, but I’d think of it as the point in time between when people first take interest in each other until someone makes the first move. The board is set, and it’s time to start the game.To play, moves are made and turns are taken.

You never really know what move the other person will make next, no matter how predictable you think they are, so you have to wait your turn and make your move to balance the game.

Your king represents your ego, your emotions, and various other vulnerabilities. Both kings are shielded by a row of pawns – all the small insecurities and inconveniences of life. Someone makes the first move, and their pawn is set forward. They put themselves forward and they risk a part of themselves in an effort to get closer to the other person.

The game progresses, and slowly, the pawns – the insecurities – are pushed aside one by one. Finally, all that is left are the two kings. The game ends in stalemate. You have nothing else to hide behind, and the other person can see you for everything you are and everything you are not. It’s at that point, when you exist as you are comfortable, you can be recognized by another person and can truly connect, heart to heart.

The Difference

What makes dating different from chess in this metaphor is that in chess, the end goal is a checkmate rather than a stalemate. During a checkmate, one person is trapped, vulnerable and powerless, and the other maintains their power. This lack of mutual vulnerability is proof of an imbalance in the relationship – and relationships are about sharing your life with someone, not giving it to them completely.

The End Game

Now as far as dating goes, there really should be no stalemate because both people should continue growing and changing as people while still accepting themselves and their partner. There may be an end point that people can see, an ideal that many strive to reach, but it is something that few, if any of us, can ever reach. If we reach that point, it means that we have no room for growth. Personally, I believe that everyone, regardless of how wonderful of a person you are, has room for growth and development, and I am certainly not an exception to that.

Please, recognize if you’re in a relationship that is leading to or has lead to a checkmate. If you find yourself unhappy about where you are, reconsider your relationship. Stay happy, but stay safe. Don’t stay in a relationship where you feel trapped or miserable because you feel bad leaving it. Be your own person, and feel free to share your life. Just make sure you don’t give someone else the power to control it completely.

Love yourself enough to know that you deserve wonderful things.

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