DateHacks: How to play the dating game – and win!

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eHarmony how to play the dating game

Dating expert Charly Lester shares her top tips for surviving the dating game – and coming out on top! 

It’s strange how popular the expression ‘dating game’ has become.  For the majority of daters, the hunt for love is a serious thing.  We devote time, money and our emotions to finding a partner.  So, how is that just a game?

In recent years, pick up artists have gamified the dating world, using social triggers, patterns of behaviour, and accepted sexual norms to encourage men to ‘play’ women.  Not to be outdone, the more widespread that pick up artistry has become, the more schools for women that have appeared, designed to play the men at their own game.

But putting casual flings to one side, how many of us genuinely want to see dating as a game?

Last summer I dated a guy who I knew from the start was ‘dangerous’!  We’d been set up by a mutual friend, who even used that word when she arranged the date.  In spite of the warnings, I went ahead and met him.  True to his reputation, my date picked me up on a Harley Davidson, refused to tell me any details of what he had planned, and during the date wouldn’t let me finish a single sentence.  The date went well and I managed to hold my own, but I had a feeling I that was the last I’d ever hear from him.

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Cue a well-timed text message, just an hour after the date ended.  “And you thought you’d never hear from me again!”  What proceeded were two of the most exciting, and yet frustrating, weeks of my dating life.  I sat with bated breath waiting for calls and text messages.  They came, but they never said completely what I wanted them to.  They were just enough of a tease to keep me interested, and yet never committed enough to secure a second date.

Eventually I just got bored, and stopped texting back.  Sure enough, when I stopped reacting, he stopped playing.  His little game of cat and mouse wasn’t fun any more – for either of us.

So how can you nail the dating game?

You definitely shouldn’t forget the game aspect of dating all together.  Because in reality, you need to treat dating like a hobby.  You’re using your precious spare time, and so it’s important that you enjoy yourself in the process.  Dating needs to feel more like a fun game than a job.  But the ‘game’ also needs to be on your terms.

1. Focus on activities and events that you want to do

In the early stages, make dating more about the activities you do than the person joining you.  Use your spare time in a way which is fun for you, regardless of how much you end up fancying the other person.

2. Don’t over-analyse messages

Hard as it may sound, don’t read too much into text messages.  Take communication on face value and set the same levels of expectation that you would on a friend.  If someone is interested in you, they will get in contact.  You shouldn’t have to chase him or her.  But if someone takes a few hours to reply to a message, remember they may not be permanently attached to their phone.  If a match is repeatedly non-committal, or you have to enlist a friend to decode their messages, they probably aren’t the right person for you.

3. Don’t expect exclusivity

These days, it’s very common that someone will be talking to more than one person at a time, and often people go on several first dates in the same week or month.  So never expect exclusivity, until you’ve had a conversation about it.

4. Take it one step at a time

If you’re looking for a long-term relationship, it can be easy to rush things and focus on the end game.  However, you need to remember that relationships develop slowly.  To start with, just focus on meeting new people.  Try not to read too much into the early stages or put too much pressure on yourself or the other person.  The more relaxed you appear, the more attractive an option you become.  Try to enjoy each stage of the relationship, rather than rushing commitment.

5. Focus on learning about yourself

One of the great parts of dating is how much you learn about yourself in the process.  Not only do you appreciate what traits you need and want in a partner, but you also have a rare opportunity to chat to complete strangers for a prolonged period of time.  As you showcase your best bits and chat about things you may not have discussed for years with your friends, it can be a great reminder of who you are and all you have to offer.

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6. Know when to take a break

Dating is a time-consuming, and emotionally involved process, so you need to appreciate when to give yourself a break.  Stepping away from dating for a few weeks or months isn’t a failure.  It’s a necessary part of the process, and will give you the enthusiasm and energy to re-enter the dating game with a smile on your face.

Charly Lester is one of Britain’s most recognised dating experts.  The founder of the UK Dating Awards, her blog 30 Dates is one of the most successful British dating blogs ever. The former Global Head of Dating at Time Out, Charly’s advice has appeared in most national newspapers, and she regularly appears on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.


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