Dating is often referred to as a game. And if you see marriage, children, and happily ever after as the end goal, then that game can feel like a computer game, made up of various different levels.
I spent three years on the first level. The first year or so, I ran up against dead end after dead end, struggling to progress to the next level, but desperate to get there. Finally I began to embrace my single status, and properly enjoy the game, making the most of the first level. I explored the various avenues. The dating websites, apps, and singles events. I made a few mistakes along the way, and progressed with a couple of leads, only for them to turn out to be dead ends.
And then in October last year, finally properly understanding the blueprint of Level One, I met a guy who I was happy to progress to Level Two of the game with …. The New Relationship. Because Level Two is no longer in single player mode!
Don’t be fooled into thinking the game stops when you leave Level One. The New Relationship is just stage two of a far longer game. And the level isn’t without its own ups and downs, pitfalls and dead ends. Much like a video game, this second level is very different to its first, and there are a whole load of things to acclimatise to.
So what are the changes I’m noticing, as I begin Level Two with my new gaming partner, The Rugby Boy? There are big differences between being in a relationship to being single. A number of them are obvious. They’re the things singletons crave, and the reasons we actively seek out relationships. But there are also other aspects of life in a new relationship, which you don’t necessarily appreciate. Or you forget, if you’ve spent a while back on Level One.
They’re a part of our lives which we take for granted. People who actively define and complement the person we are. Who we surround ourselves says a lot about the person we are, as well as the person we aspire to be. And so the friend hurdle is one not to be overlooked. In order for a relationship to have any legs, your friends need to get on with your partner, and you need to get on with his or her friends. In the early stages of a relationship, you’re introduced to more and more people who mean something to your partner, and these people will help you colour between the lines of the picture you’re forming. Our perceptions of people begin as a clean slate, and are built on in a number of ways, and seeing them surrounded by their close friends and family is a good way to get to know that person more and really understand each other.
In Level Two, your time is no longer your own. If you stay on Level One too long, it can be easy to become selfish with your time. You don’t have to think of anyone else when you make plans, and you can run your life to your own internal clock. When I was single, I often went to bed as late as 3 or 4am. I was freelancing at the time, so the only person governing how I ran my day was me. Now, I’m sharing a bed with a man who gets up at 6.30am. I find myself shaping my day around someone else, and compromising on things. A few months ago, I would have happily travelled the world all year, with very little time back home. Now there’s someone I want to spend my spare time with, there’s another factor to consider when work takes me abroad.
If you truly let someone into your life, then they will occupy physical space in your world. And leave traces of their occupation, even when they’re not around! I’ve lived on my own for three years now. My flat looks exactly how I want it to look. For three years, every decision has been made by me, and every mess has been made by me! If the flat is untidy, it’s my fault. If there’s washing up, I created it. If I run out of something, it’s because I used the last of it. Letting someone else into your world means relinquishing responsibility for some of these things, but still sometimes dealing with the consequences! The Level Two version of me cleans up mess I didn’t make. She washes up dishes and cups that weren’t hers, and replaces stuff she didn’t use. Equally, in Level Two, there’s someone else in my personal space. He might clean up mess in different way to me, put the dishes away differently, or replace things with slightly different products or versions. It’s not necessarily a burden, it’s just an adaptation, and one which you have to be prepared to make when you bring someone into your world. If you’ve been single a long time, it’s easy to become set in your ways. To like your cushions a certain way, or only buy one brand of toilet paper! The more of your life you choose to share with someone, the more you have to understand compromise. What is important? What are your life deal-breakers? Does something really matter?
Level One of the Dating Game is not without a fear of rejection. It’s the reason we all find it so hard. We put our feelings on the line, with the potential to be crushed by a virtual stranger. We derive our self-worth and our identities from the responses of others, often without understanding the whole story. The issue with Level One, is we open ourselves up to being rejected repeatedly, and by a large number of people. It’s one of the most crippling pitfalls of the Dating stage.
Having escaped the initial rejection of others, and found a partner for Level Two, the New Relationship stage of the game comes with a different form of rejection. A more personal, direct potential rejection, from someone who knows you intimately, and who you have invested time and emotion in. It’s the risk we all have to take when we agree to go out with someone. They might break up with us. But then equally, they run the gauntlet at the same time. We have the power to dump them too. Level One sees us second-guessing initial encounters with people. How have we portrayed ourselves? Did they see the real ‘me’? Level Two sees us work out how much to give of ourselves. How quickly do we fall? It’s a gamble. The harder we fall, the better the potential for Level Three onwards … but by falling too hard, we risk a rather painful return to Level One.
On the New Relationship Level, this can be the toughest part to crack. How much communication is too much? How much of yourself should you share, and at what stage? Personally, I’ve always been an open book, and am renowned for laying my cards on the table extremely early, often to my detriment. But part of me knows, this is how I am, and the kind of relationship I need. I need someone who is open and honest with me, in part because previous boyfriends have been neither open nor honest with me. The key is working out what to share, and when.
Wish me luck with Level Two … so far I’m rather enjoying the new stage of the game!
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx