Mental Health Advice: Dr. Darcy Smith

Ask a mental health professional the difficult questions

Dear Dr. Darcy:

Everyone keeps telling me that I need to play games in order to date successfully, but I’m so over the game-playing! I feel like I’m too old, and I just want to be honest about my feelings when I have them. Is it really necessary to be unavailable and not return a text the minute you get it?

—Do I Need Game?


Dear Game:

Yes. It is. I’ll explain it from a human behavioral standpoint. People have a series of basic needs, but I won’t go into each with you. Instead, I’ll focus on the one that’s relevant to dating: Excitement. We all have a need for excitement, particularly early on in a relationship. Excitement is what turns us on. It’s why we like surprises, why we like variety, why we crave new clothing and different foods. We’re hardwired for it, and the idea that people rail against it is as ridiculous as railing against any other basic need. Want to find a partner? Stop complaining about things that will never change—like people’s attraction to excitement.

Let me tell you about excitement’s flip side: Certainty. Certainty is another basic human need. But like any great recipe, this ingredient needs to be added at the right time. Add certainty too early in a relationship and I promise you, it will kill the excitement, thus killing the attraction. You admittedly hate games, so you probably value certainty over excitement. Nothing’s wrong with that. Understand, though, that you’re in the minority, and if you don’t pace your need for certainty by giving your partner some excitement, you’ll never last long enough for an attachment to form. Why? Because those who love excitement will move on to someone who can make their heart beat a little faster; someone who consumes their thoughts throughout the day.

So now that I’ve made my case for why you need game, let me send you off with a little challenge: Don’t text back immediately. Let her wait an hour. And don’t do this consistently because then it becomes predictable (predictability equals certainty). Pick a restaurant on your own—everything doesn’t have to be a diplomatic collaboration. Choose a sexy place over a convenient location. Pay the bill when she goes to the bathroom, even if it’s her turn. And sometimes the best thing you can do at the end of a date is resist the temptation to go back to her place. Foreplay starts in her head. That’s why game is so important.

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