Greg Dinkin has some advice for men that does not involve games of control.
After years of studying the female psyche, Emory became a master of knowing what buttons to push to get a woman to fall for him. When he met Sonia, a 21-year-old model, I watched him in action. Keep in mind that Emory is 35, average-looking at best, stands 5’6” and squeaks by on a meager salary.
He read the book The Game by Neil Strauss, watched the films Swingers and The Tao of Steve, and learned that we pursue that which retreats from us. When we move towards someone, either physically (on the dance floor, for example) or by showering them with attention, they usually back up. When we move away, they maintain equilibrium by moving forward.
Most men would come on hard to Sonia, lavish her with compliments and wine-and-dine her. Emory did the opposite. He would “neg” her — a term popularized by Strauss — defined by UrbanDictionary.com as “A light insult wrapped in the package of a complement.” He would also ignore her calls and sometimes take weeks to respond to a text. The more he backed up, the more she wanted him.
Sure enough, after a few months of negs and head games, Sonia was all over him. And there Emory was, gloating in the thrill of landing a trophy woman, over whom he had complete control.
And there’s the key word: control. Strauss explains that men who learn these tricks neither love women nor hate women. They fear women. And in the absence of having self-worth, they resort to psychological tactics that play on women’s insecurities in order to gain control.
Two years later, I was hanging out with Emory and his phone rang. He saw it was Sonia and smugly hit decline. I asked why. “Gotta’ make her work for it, bro,” he said. “Can’t forget we pursue that which retreats from us.”
And there’s the rub: If you start with games and build a foundation based on psychological control, when will it stop? Two years into the relationship, Emory had yet to be his true self. While most of us get into a relationship to attain a sense of security, Emory’s very strategy was to keep Sonia feeling insecure. His tactics were all about control, and before you argue that they were “working,” you first have to question what “working” actually means.
You? Or Your Representative?
Author Paulo Coelho says that, “The strongest love is the love that can demonstrate its fragility.” The times I’ve felt most the most intimate connections with a woman were the times I allowed myself to be vulnerable. Most of us long for unconditional love, yet we’re so afraid of being judged that we don’t show our flaws.
The reason is fear. What if we show someone exactly who we are, warts and all, and they reject us? When you put yourself out there exactly as you are and get rejected, it hurts. That’s why we have learned so many ways to protect ourselves.
Comedian Chris Rock contends that for the first six months of a relationship, you are dating a person’s“representative.” After six months it’s impossible to keep up the act of being flawless and the true self is revealed. At that point, we pray that the person is so hooked on this perfect persona that they will accept our flaws.
The problem is that the other person may feel duped. You’ve created this expectation that you love to get up at sundown and go hiking when you really like to sleep till noon and binge-watch TV. So why didn’t you just say that right away? Fear was one reason. Another was that you were guessing what the other person wanted. What if she also loves to sleep in and was pretending as well? When you build a shaky foundation based on what you think the other person wants, you are both left questioning how to differentiate between the “person” and the “representative.”
Sex and relationship expert Reid Mihalko encourages us to tell people exactly who we are right away. If our goal is to be loved unconditionally, it’s only logical to be ourselves the minute we meet someone. Reid goes to an extreme and will say to someone he just meets, “”I don’t want to waste your time; so you should know upfront that I’m polyamorous and very promiscuous.” That turns a lot of people off and kills his chances with them. Which is his exact goal! He only wants to meet people who will love him for who he is, so it’s the perfect screening tool. It’s his ability to get past the fear of being rejected that frees him to speak and act with integrity.
If your goal is to rope in someone without creating intimacy, then go ahead and play games. As we learned from Emory and Sonia, these tactics can “work.” But if you want to connect with someone who loves you — the real you — unconditionally, let go of your fear of rejection and be yourself right away.
Vulnerability is a Privilege Reserved for a King
Years ago, after keeping an emotional distance from a former girlfriend, I eventually felt safe enough to open up. As I started to share, I could feel tears welling up. Taking my cue from generations of male conditioning, I shut down, afraid to show anything but strength.
I anticipated judgment, but when I looked at this beautiful woman, all I could see was profound love and respect. As I struggled to continue, she said, “Vulnerability is a privilege reserved for a king.”
When the tears poured down, I felt exposed and vulnerable. It was scary, but it was also liberating, since it was the first time I allowed myself to be seen. It was only later that I realized that the ability to be vulnerable, to listen, to share, and to open our hearts, not only makes us more of a man — it defines the art of masculinity.
A few years later, I went on a second date with a woman I was excited about. After a fantastic dinner, we walked out of the restaurant and people were smoking. I can’t stand smoke, and my date must have read my body language, because she said, “You don’t smoke, do you?” I said no, and asked if she did. She paused for a second — keep in mind she knows I’m a Health Coach — and said yes. I was more impressed by her honesty than I was turned off by this habit. I let her know I was okay with her lighting up, and she did.
Later that night, I felt nervous about playing guitar and singing in front of her. But that is what I love to do. If someone hates the sound of my voice (which has yet to be confused with Harry Connick, Jr.), there’s no way we’re a match. If she rejected me because of this, we would have saved time.
Remembering that vulnerability is a privilege reserved for a king, I overcame my fear and she sang along as I belted out a few favorites. She responded by sharing some of her favorite music, and by letting our guards down, we built trust and had a phenomenal night. It’s these little risks we take when we open up and let someone in that create intimacy. By being ourselves, we create a foundation of trust.
I understand that it can be hard to put ourselves out there, and the fear of rejection may lead us to put on an act. I’ve learned that it’s the surest way to waste time, keep emotional distance, and prevent us from finding the unconditional love we crave.
Even if Emory, the master of head games, is “with” a beautiful woman, he would be the first to tell you what it’s like to feel all alone. Meanwhile, the protagonists in The Game, Swingers, and The Tao of Steve landed their dream woman only when they stopped playing games and started being themselves. Sometimes the most clichéd endings resonate because they speak to what, deep-down, we truly crave.
What people want is the real you. And if others don’t love you as you are, why waste six months creating a façade? Our greatest fear and our greatest desire are one and the same: to be seen for who we are. The fear prevents us from showing our true selves. If we succumb to the fear, it also ensures that we’ll never be seen — or loved — for all of who we really are. That’s why the real sage is Dr. Seuss, who said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
Adapted from Greg Dinkin’s new book, The Leading Man on sale here.
Photo by Rich Grundy/flickr