By: Patrick King, #1 Amazon best-selling author and dating coach

Raise your hand if you’re a fan of first dates. 

First dates that we’re actually excited about are typically a source of constant anxiety and nerves… and not for no reason.

The most likely scenario is a couple of hours of disjointed “What about you”s and forced laughter. And they have cilantro stuck between their front teeth.

But what about when we find someone that we actually hit it off with? She’s smart, charming, and actually shares your admittedly sick sense of humor. You have the same background, values, and you’ve never felt so comfortable with someone so quickly.

No games, you decide! You’ve wasted too much of your life strategizing and you’re just going to be straightforward with how you feel about her.

You text back and forth trying to arrange date number 2 and make very clear that you are reserving all of your nights for her. You reply to her texts within seconds of getting them, and tell her how you can see her getting along with your mother. You generally hold nothing back from her.

She quickly becomes unresponsive… and you even more quickly realize you should have played it a lot cooler.

Games, dating, and the reality of it all.

(The irony shouldn’t be lost here that TDR is named after one of most maligned games of all time – the three day texting/calling rule.)

Games are something that everyone claims to hate partaking in while dating. They are usually described as manipulative, dishonest, unnecessary, and generally beneath people.

Yet we instinctually don’t shower people with attention, make our true intentions known, or text people back immediately. We filter what we say about our feelings towards them, and don’t let our inner monologues see the light of day. We manipulate our availability and appear disinterested even when we’re not.

It’s because we (most of us, anyway) understand what drives basic human psychology, and what drives it definitely isn’t what’s easy and available. We strive for what’s unattainable, a challenge, intriguing, and mysterious, because that achievement is so much more fulfilling. When something is easily within our grasp, instead of basking in the triumph, we instantly think “Wait, is this even worth it if it’s so easy? Could I do better?” and we don’t want it anymore

Finally let’s be honest… despite how hard we try and how many attractive traits she might possess otherwise, it’s hard to not be repulsed when she starts blowing up our phone and asking to hang out every night.

So how much game playing is really optimal in dating… and should the answer be zero?

It’s a tough question to answer… but as I’ve told my clients, you can choose to date one of two ways: successfully by playing the requisite amount of games, or unsuccessfully by being completely yourself.

We recognize that challenge and intrigue drives attraction for others, and this can’t help but inform our decisions on how to act while dating. When phrased as thus, we can frame it much more positively as just being intelligent with how much to divulge about yourself as opposed to acting manipulative. Don’t blow up her phone. Don’t always be the one to initiate conversations. Don’t contact her three times in a row. Where’s the game playing in that?

The problem is, keeping up any sort of artificial appearance about our availability and interest can last only so long until it becomes transparent and tiring.

A larger part of the formula to winning at dating is to realize that we actually play games to cultivate the image that we are a high-value person – after all, isn’t that what being busy and engaged signals?

So instead of spending time brainstorming how to make yourself seem too busy to dote on and smother someone… channel that energy into actually becoming that high-value person. The type who actually needs to wait hours to text back because he’s so occupied. The type who truly only has 3 free nights in the next 2 weeks. And so on. When you’re engaged, you become absolutely engaging.

While you’re on the path to becoming that guy, here are three simple guidelines to projecting that image honestly:

  1. Show her only the middle 80% of the standardized bell curve of attention – avoid the urge to smother and the opposite urge to be extremely aloof and distant.
  2. Propose specific times and locations instead of admitting that you are amazingly available for when you get together so that you not only appear decisive, but busy and engaged.
  3. Match her intervals on how often she replies and contacts you instead of waiting arbitrary amounts of time.

Games to maximize attraction aren’t per se wrong or dishonest, and in the short term they can actually work sometimes. But it’s a matter of asking why you need to artificially make yourself appear one way instead of actually being that person.

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