It is said that the game of love is everyone’s favorite game, and yet even with all the new technologies designed to help us connect, more and more people are opting out of the game, preferring to live alone, rather than to risk another bad relationship outcome. This preference reflects a deep change in our collective human psyche, for it used to be that what lovers feared most was loneliness. Now, being caught in a static or unsatisfying relationship is even more troubling. Wanting to be together, to build a family, is no longer enough.
Just in the last couple of weeks, I have spoken with several people who have expressed this sentiment. When I pressed the point and asked if they were to meet a compatible, kind and intelligent partner, would they truly feel like there wasn’t room in their life to accommodate them. There was a brief pause, and then a, I’m not sure was as close as they would come to an opening. Our modern age has made it is easier to be passionate and maintain passion about a pet or a favorite sports team rather than a lover. What has happened to the game of love?
Memories of childhood games on late summer evenings remind me of what the game of love once meant to us. As kids we understood that it was the play that mattered. Winning and losing reflected their respective original meanings, which were “to desire and to be set free.” Playing capture the flag in the dwindling light of the sky or a full neighborhood game of hide and seek was an apprenticeship in freedom. Pretending was rich with excitement, as we all shared in the wonder of not knowing the outcome. And yet we all knew that no victory was ever final, there was always tomorrow night.
Lovers in the past shared one secret; they knew that it wasn’t about winning or losing, it was the play that was essential. Playing allows us to experience freedom from duty and necessity. It is a primary condition of creativity and allows us the self-conscious delight of living out alternative realities. It is what makes us so deeply human.
Nowhere does this ring more true, than in our most intimate moments. Adding playfulness to sexual desire invites new friends into the bedroom: imagination and fantasy. Invite these allies to any passionate encounter with an openness to play, a willingness to pretend, and the freedom to live in the wonder of not knowing the outcome. Saying yes to this game of love keeps life fresh and while it offers no guarantees of long-term winning, it does promise to share glimpses of what we all desire most of the magical influence of love.
Rewarding our instinct to love creates the self-confidence to transform a private secret to a public force with the power to renew life and transmute human defects into lovable qualities. We are, after all, most lovable when we love. Playing this game doesn’t guarantee a life without bruises or the happily ever after story that we all long for. It will, however teach you about all the many ways you can love, and love again.