Students engage in battle of relationship wits
There are more players on the Syracuse University hill than one might think. Though they might not be ardent athletes or crafty video gamers, they are competitors of a very different breed – each and every student who has dealt with feelings of attraction or desire. Known as ‘playing mind games’ or simply ‘the game,’ it is a war not of weapons, but of wits. It is an existential game of people chess that pits would-be lovers against one another in an all-out battle royale to determine power.
‘It’s a power struggle,’ said Cory Bythrow, a freshman political science and Spanish major. ‘It’s a constant battle to see who wears the pants in the relationship’
Each step is carefully calculated, with entire responses to conversations already played out 10 steps ahead of time. The art of verbal foreplay is a minefield full of potential traps and pitfalls that can cause unwanted release of information. Every facial gesture is scrutinized and word choice analyzed in order to determine the other’s real emotions.
‘It’s a defense mechanism’ said Jen McHenry, a junior policy studies and public relations major. ‘If you get the other to reveal their true feelings first, you aren’t putting yourself out there.’
Phone/Instant Messenger: Bythrow has seen first hand gameplay tactics used on a technological level. Making it seem as though the other person is busy is a primary strategy used. ‘When you are on the phone with someone, say things like, ‘I gotta go,’ or ‘I’m at a party,” Bythrow said, ‘The key is to make them feel like you’ve moved on.’
Another forum in which the game is played has sprung about due to the explosion of AOL Instant Messenger. Ambiguous away messages have become the new way to tell someone something, without really telling them. Many students know their exes compulsively check each others’ away messages, and use this to their advantage. By leaving away messages with hearts or names, they are able to convey that they have moved on, when that is not necessarily the case, Bythrow said.
Flirting with others: A key component to gaining the upper hand when playing the game is to make it seem like one is desired by others. The reason for this is two-fold; first, one can gain useful information by gauging the reaction of the intended jealous. Secondly, by making it seem like the person is wanted, the intended victim is left to ponder why the person doesn’t want his or her ex as well.
‘My ex-boyfriend claimed he had sex with nine other girls after we broke up in an attempt to get a reaction out of me,’ said Meghan Forsberg, a freshman pre-dentistry major. However, Forsburg’s ex’s efforts were in vain, as she found a boyfriend within a week of their breakup simply to upset him. ‘I knew that it bothered him,’ Forsburg said ‘We’d talk on the phone and he’d keep mentioning it, which meant that he was jealous.’
Acting Uninterested/ Picking fights to provoke a reaction: It is often said that there is a fine line between love and hate. Passion comes in many forms; and as such through anger one can often find out exactly what somebody else thinks about him or her. Call it anything from ‘word vomit’ to Freudian slips; anyone who has ever engaged in an argument knows that once the flood gates open, there is no closing them. ‘People pick fights to find out other things,’ said Jackie Wittlin, a freshman marketing major. ‘If they are mad about one thing, everything else they are upset with will come out.’
Sometimes, however, when desperation to discover someone’s true feelings becomes too great, drastic measures are taken. Forsburg knows the after-effects of this situation all too well. ‘A friend of mine’s boyfriend broke up with her and she became really depressed. In order to find out if he still had feelings for her, she told him she was pregnant.’ Forsburg said.
Getting Even: For many students, relationships are often bitter affairs. One or both parties are hurt and resentment gets in the way of any reconciliation. While some feelings may linger, there are other times when ‘the game’ is employed to get plain and simple revenge. Using these tactics, it is hard to rekindle a romance when the bridge has been burned to the point of kindling. Apparently, a good way to do this is to tell the person you have a sexually transmitted disease. This was the case when an ex-mate of Forsburg’s discovered that she had let it slip to others that he was bad in bed. In retaliation, he told their friends that he had an STD, and that she probably had contracted it too. In reality, the misguided lover did not in fact have an STD, but did it to instigate a reaction and to get revenge, Forsburg said.
Acting Interested/ Stringing Along: Yet another way in which the game is played is the exact opposite of ignoring. This method involves acting overly interested in order to garner a band of followers, never really disclosing to whom the true affection really belongs. The very definition of the term ‘player,’ this individual plays for the chase, the thrill of the hunt.
Freshman Michele Vanderhoff has been victim to this kind of game playing. The Arts and Sciences student had hung out with a guy friend quite frequently. The two spoke on the phone, went on dates and were often together; all clues Vanderhoff took to mean they were headed into a relationship. However, the love train ground to a halt when her beau told Vanderhoff he was not interested in a girlfriend. ‘What was so bad about it was that it was totally out of the blue,’ said Vanderhoff. ‘He was telling me how happy he was to have me, then the next night, done. Why do people have to play games? If you like someone so much and have a good time with them, why can’t you be with them?’
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