Required Dislosure: Some of the links in this site are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.

The Good News About Dating as a Grown-Up

Take heart-you aren’t the only one who hates dating games. Your Boomer peers are fed up, too. Like them, you have learned to be more straightforward, and get to the point. You know that life is short and games take time.

Yet, even the most evolved Boomers run into situations where a dating game seems useful. Just as you have reevaluated other habits, now is a good time to sort out what is salvageable about dating games and what you have no use for. Let’s take a look.

The Message Game

This is a game more in the sense of a fun activity, and there is much to be said for it. Getting advance information on someone’s feelings for you, and vice versa, protects the ego as matches are made. I include the Message Game here because communication occurs indirectly and, if overused, the game can become a substitute for direct communication. (I remember being asked out via my girlfriend!) When this happens, facing your date can actually become more difficult and awkward.

If the Message Game worked well for you, a dating service may provide you similar advantages. The service does the “who likes who” research by matching profiles, and you can be assured that your date is looking for someone like you. Just as you would be reluctant to send a friend you didn’t trust to gather information on your desired date’s feelings, you want to feel in good hands with your dating service.

If you hated message-passing and who-likes-who intrigue, you can choose to bypass the game and find out for yourself. You’ll save time, avoid the distortion that can happen as messages are passed, and may just turn on your potential date with your boldness. After all, you’re no longer confined to a school environment where messages fly whether you like it or not.

Hard To Get

The Hard To Get game is a lot of work because it requires you to act in opposition to your own feelings. You are probably busy enough to want to avoid this extra effort. And, if you’ve been making headway toward that thing we call authenticity, playing a game may feel like a setback.

But what do you do when you start to feel devalued or neglected by the person you’re after? Or if your date is acting too cocky or in control of the relationship? For now, let’s extract what is good about the Hard To Get game-the part about valuing yourself. Thankfully, you don’t have to disguise your feelings to pull this off.

Valuing yourself means seeing your time and company as valuable and worthy of good treatment. Valuing yourself means carrying an attitude that “I am good for you,” and expecting that others want to be around you. Now maybe you don’t always feel this way, so if you have to do some acting, here’s a good place to start. Acting as if you are valuable begins to instill that believe in you-others are prompted to treat you well, you feel more valued, and so on.

Carrying yourself with a sense of value is different than playing Hard To Get because you remain free to express your desires. Instead of gaining power by denying what you want, you express your power by asserting what you want. You can say “I want to be with you” in a way that communicates “aren’t you lucky?” And when you think of it, who isn’t lucky to be the recipient of desire?

The Jealousy Game

This game is related to Hard To Get, in that you are trying to increase your value in someone else’s eyes. Think about why you might want to make your date jealous. You probably want to keep him or her from feeling too comfortable in the relationship; to remind your date that you could make another choice.

The awareness that you could make another choice can be a benefit. It is a way to avoid settling for treatment you dislike or a relationship that doesn’t excite you. Being aware of the options can help you notice what behaviors you like and don’t like.

This can be helpful information for the relationship you’re in, or possibly a clue that you want to get out. What distinguishes this attitude from a game is that you are focusing on your desires, rather than on an attempt to manipulate your partner.

Chase and Conquer

Although this game is most associated with men, any of us who have witnessed a Beatle’s concert know that women can play, too. The fun of the chase game is in the pursuit itself. Whether we are screaming for a blown kiss at a concert or going after someone who seems inaccessible, part of the allure is in the challenge.

This game matches up well with “hard to get.” The tougher the resistance, the stronger the pursuit. Yet, when the conquest is made and the date begins responding, the satisfaction gives way to the desire for a new challenge. A new chase begins.

While the chase can be thrilling, it is a very one-sided thrill. If we go from one chase to another, we exercise our power to attract someone, but don’t allow ourselves to have someone. And we don’t allow ourselves to take in the desire of another. In a way, we keep ourselves hungry without allowing ourselves to be fed. While we act confident, we don’t acknowledge our fear of truly having what we desire.

Yet, the willingness to go after what we want is an asset as we date. We’ve all heard stories about how persistence paid off: The “you want to date me” attitude of the chaser eventually sunk in, the reluctant party went out with the pursuer, and was conquered-for good! If we can allow ourselves to go after the relationships we desire-and enjoy them, too, chase can be even more fun.

Mind Reading

The wish to have your mind read is tied to the desire to be taken care of. There’s actually nothing wrong with this desire. The only problem with the Mind Reading game is that it so often fails. The part of the Mind Reading game we can pay attention to is our wishes. What is it you are hoping he or she will do for you? If you’re expecting to be disappointed about something, what wish is behind that feeling?

If we can read our own minds, make our own wishes conscious and then start to communicate them more directly, we are much more likely to get what we’re hoping for. A friend of mine shared a great way to help her partner select gifts for her: “I just go around to a bunch of stores, pick out what I like, leave the information at the sales counter, and tell him the stores to visit. Last time I did that, he got everything I had selected!”

Honesty Is an Aphrodisiac

The need to play games comes out of a fear of honesty and its implications. We make all kinds of contortions to work around the truth. Throwing out a line somehow feels safer than honestly sharing, “I’d like to get to know you.” Yet lines and games are often transparent.

Telling the truth can be not only refreshing, but sexy. And being honest reveals confidence. Even when you admit feeling awkward, you are more likely to come off as charming than foolish. You also give permission for your partner to be real.

When we recite lines or play old games, we are hiding. If you want someone to like you, reveal yourself. The more you are able to use your own voice, the more life and energy will come through. Notice how you respond to the person in the room who cuts through the b.s.-I usually wish I were the one who had spoken up! Truth is a great turn-on. Practice saying it like it is. Admit what sucks. Start by being more truthful with yourself, and more open with your friends.

We all have to identify our own style of engaging with others. If a game works for you, it might just fit your way of flirting. If coy and seductive is your ace in the hole (no pun intended), then use it! Just know that you have options-and the choice is yours.

Friendship First

My best romance was one that started out as a friendship. In fact, my friend was dating someone else when we met. After kissing his date goodbye, he would come over to my dorm room and we would sit up and talk philosophy, religion, or whatever was on our minds. Although we were attracted to each other, there was no pressure and we could be real together.

It was a year before we started dating, and by that time we had developed both an attachment and a backlog of sexual tension. The first kiss was amazing… I digress. My point is: One way to avoid dating games altogether is to start as friends.

Imagine yourself looking for a friend to hang out with rather than a lover to date. Doesn’t that feel different? With a “date” you think of dressing up and inventing clever conversation-and playing games. With a friend, you can let down your hair, have fun, and be real. Just this subtle shift in attitude can be a great asset as you meet people. Beyond that, there is no better basis for a relationship than a true friendship.

© Laurie A. Helgoe

Boomer's Guide to Dating Again Excerpted by permission from Boomer’s Guide to Dating (Again), published February, 2004, by Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

About the Author: Laurie A. Helgoe, Ph.D., has practiced and taught as a clinical psychologist for 13 years. She has focused her practice on helping clients thrive in the intimate space of relationships. She has motivated many boomer-aged singles to engage in the dating process, and has received many wedding invitations as a result. Her article on how couples negotiate individual desires, “The Good Fight,” is used as a teaching tool for therapists and individuals.