Ryan Chartrand

It’s basketball season, and March Madness is on.

Now, I’m not about to go into detail about my picks for the Final Four. Don’t get me wrong; I love basketball in more than just a passing fashion. (Kudos to our teams, by the way!) But you can have a chat with our awesomely expert Mustang Daily sports editors if you have basketball on the brain.

Meanwhile, we can have a chat about another kind of game.

They call it “the game of love.” (I don’t know who “they” are, but I’ve always wondered about this nameless, faceless “they” who seem to know and “say” everything.) We tend to think of it as nothing but a metaphor, an abstraction; nevertheless, it’s a familiar saying.

For as many times as we’ve heard it used, it’s time to ask: what exactly is the game of love, and why is it called that?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (an English major’s best friend), a game is a diversion: an amusement; an entertainment; in short, something fun and enjoyable. Certainly, the “chase” part of the game of love can be one of most fun, best parts of a relationship.

There’s action, anticipation, and excitement for players, both the pursuer and the pursued. Literary romantic pursuits are portrayed as even more sport-like, where there’s a “hunter” and a “hunted.” (Think Cupid and his quiver of love-inducing arrows, which, by the way, hit you in the eyes, not the heart. Ask an English major sometime.)

This assumes, of course, the pursued/hunted want to be pursued/hunted. The chase is exciting because of the potential or promised reward after all the effort, and the expectation that all the effort will be worth it in the end.

The definition also deems a game “a contest”; that is, a competition.

As Cal Poly offspring, we’re competitive individuals by nature (after all, we had to fight tooth-and-nail against a flood of other stellar academic and extracurricular resumes to get in). We tend to think of competition as between two parties, struggling against each other for the win.

There are plenty of stories about two lovers vying for the affection of a particular beloved. While two buzzed buddies hitting on the same girl at the bar is a bit removed from two knights jousting for the honor of a lady, the same basic principle is there.

But the game of love isn’t quite as simple as “The Bachelor.”

In relationships, sometimes the most challenging competition is against oneself. We compete against our fears, impulses, and sometimes what we think is our better judgment, in making relationship-related decisions.

Maybe you shy away from new relationships because of a painful breakup. Maybe you recklessly jump from one relationship to another. Maybe there’s that one person who just won’t give you a chance.

Whatever the case, our personal natures and experiences affect the way we formulate a plan of attack. Sometimes they can be a weakness, and prevent us from moving forward. But if we don’t allow them to limit our perspectives, they can instead be advantageous, if we use them as tools in our repertoire.

Skill does have something to do with “winning” (which in this case means success in relationships), and there are two specific skills in reference here: that of learning from previous experiences, and of employing that learning in future decisions.

Naturally, in a game, you try out different tactics. If one doesn’t work, you try another one. If the defense puts the dampers on one play, you take a different approach. You go with the one that works best for you in a particular situation.

Strength also comes in when applying these skills to real-life situations. It isn’t easy to let go of the past, to admit you were mistaken, to dare step out of your comfort zone. But the only way to make a basket is to take a shot.

As for the “winner,” there are some who choose to label others as winners or losers. Some people think there’s a second place and third place, silver and bronze medals. Others believe it’s only the gold that counts.

But the “winner” in the game of love doesn’t beat out all the others for first place. You win by finding a relationship in which you can be yourself. By finding a significant other who you value, and who values you just as you are; and by finding a compatibility that encourages you both to develop your individual skill sets for the game of life.

In all this, we still haven’t pinpointed the object of the game, which is not as simple as merely “winning.” There’s much more to be had from the experience itself than just the victory of accomplishment. You learn from working things out yourself. No self-help book, no class – and no dating column – can teach you what you will learn from being out there.

All games have rules. The object of the game of love is figuring out how to play.

Sarah Carbonel is an English and psychology junior and Mustang Daily dating columnist.

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