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A Healthy Relationship Is Not A Game

I was up late one night recently and ended up watching a re-run of Felicity, when, in my insomnia, I noticed something about relationships. Felicity followed her obsession, Ben, to New York, and she ended up following him for four years. In the end, she went back to Palo Alto instead of following him to Arizona, and as a nice twist would have it, Ben ended up in Palo Alto, and all was well with the happy couple. After all those years of following Ben, Felicity finally let go and pursued what she really wanted. When she stopped following him, he turned around and followed her instead. This may seem like a game, and let’s be honest: It’s a T.V. show, and what are we doing taking advice from television? But I think there’s something valuable to be learned here.

And what would that be? you might ask. I think it could serve as a reminder that our relationships may not be as healthy as they could be. Does anyone remember the tragic relationship book The Rules that was the death of what many hoped would be healthy relationships? Suddenly, it was not only okay but expected that women play games with men if they wanted to realize any hope of snagging “the one.”

Don’t accept a weekend date after Wednesday … Don’t call him. Let him call you. Why can’t a woman accept a date whenever she feels like it? And what’s wrong with an occasional phone call? While it might make a woman look desperate if she’s free on Thursday to have dinner on Saturday, it’s absolutely ludicrous for her to turn someone down because of “the rules” and only further the annoying game playing.

Game playing does not foster healthy and open communication and therefore cannot produce a lasting and beneficial relationship. If we will stop playing games and quit trying to be “hard to get,” I think we will allow ourselves more freedom to be who we really are without the protective armor of game-playing to hide behind. If you want to call someone, you should feel the freedom to call. Don’t “test” someone to see if he or she is interested enough and will break down and call you. Where’s the honesty, the trust, the security in that tactic?

On the flipside, balance is crucial. We need to know when to give someone much-needed space. Calling 12 times a day and leaving needy-sounding voicemails is not a sign of a healthy and balanced relationship that has staying power. Having self-confidence and satisfaction as an individual and not as just half a pair of a couple is essential in creating an attitude of healthy interdependence instead of leech-like co-dependence (and will drastically reduce the number of needy phone calls).

Taking another page from Felicity (I know you’re saying, “Enough with the melodramatic sappy television!” but really, there’s something to be analyzed here—stick with me), things worked out in the end when Felicity let go of her romantic ideal of following Ben to New York and “snagging her man.” She traded her stalker-esque capabilities for a dream of her own: pursuing med school. And that’s when things finally worked out for the happy television couple.

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Sure, all of our lives cannot (and sometimes thankfully do not) mirror television, but we can still take to heart that it is essential that we find our own identities apart from those of other human beings. If we attach ourselves too closely to others, we are bound to find ourselves lost (and most likely hurting) if they leave us and we haven’t taken the time to figure out who we really are. We need to take a moment and figure out what it is we want out of life and pursue that regardless of how close it may or may not lead us to “the one” or the person we think is “the one.”

[Dottie Hutcherson is a senior studying English and writing at Indiana Wesleyan University. When she can’t sleep at night, she too often turns to reruns of sappy television programming. But she says it really lulls her to sleep, so cut her some slack.].

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