Relationships are all about winning

A Machiavellian guide to dating

Dating is the ultimate competition, a dog-eat-dog race to see who’ll come out trumps in the battle for self-worth and self-esteem between two partners (rivals) eager to get as much sex and commitment out of each other as possible without compromising too much in return. Whereas sports generally test a competitor’s talent under pressure and their ability to perform a certain regimented task within carefully delineated parameters, the relationship is an ultimate challenge without any set rules of conduct that pits a person’s very being and dignity against that of another. In a relationship, you’re not just being judged on how good a runner or swimmer or strategist you are, you’re being judged on how good a human being you are and whether you’re good enough to create new human beings with.

In a relationship, it’s the entire person being put to the test, your whole character, your whole personality, the whole gamut of qualities that make you who you are and that determine your worth not only in the eyes of your partner/rival but in the recognition to be gained by those around you – and not least of all by the partnerivals you’ve defeated in previous relationships, who usually end up being obsessed with the partnerival they lost to, sometimes for the rest of their lives. At stake in the merciless relationship contest is more than a check or a trophy or a ranking. At stake is the chance to procreate and attain a meaningful and loving companionship for life, and, most importantly, gain a solid reputation in your extended circle of acquaintances as a relationship-winner. That’s why it’s important to defeat your partnerival. The more you win and the more teary-eyed exes you leave behind choking on your libidinous contrail, broken and defeated and humiliated, the more people will admire you.

Winning a relationship isn’t easy, of course, but if you know certain tricks and stick to them, you stand a good chance of victory. And for ultimate victory, you have to start strategizing early. The key is to keep in mind one basic rule: always make it look like you’re into your partnerival a little less than they’re into you. After all, liking someone is to show a weakness, to make it seem like you need that person because they make you feel good about yourself. But when you look like you don’t like the person as much as they like you, it means you’re not as needy as that person is, and thus are stronger, better, more dignified than your partnerival, since you’re obviously more secure in your sense of self-love. This means that when push comes to shove, your partnerival knows that you’d have fewer scruples about walking away than they would, and thus you both know that you would be willing to compromise less for the sake of making the relationship work than they would. Since you’ll both be aware of this unspoken dynamic, you will generally get your way more than your partnerival will, and by giving away less, so you’ll always stay one step ahead.

By seeming less into your partnerival than they are into you, you gain some important leverage when the inevitable fights and discord set in as you both get more and more bored with each other over time, and increasingly eager to look for excuses to call it quits and date other people (this being the inevitable fate of any relationship). To win a relationship is therefore crucial in terms of being able to move on and date other people so as to get more notches on your relationship belt. That’s why when you're dating someone, you should always do so with future dates and partnerivals in mind. After all, a loser is always insecure and lacking in self-confidence – and with a handicap like that, you have no business entering into a new relationship contest. You have to get a lot of victories to become a relationship blackbelt because if there’s one thing a potential partnerival seeks it’s a challenge; the challenge of engaging and then either defeating or conquering the best of the best, the one no-one else has conquered until then: the ultimate 20-wins-and-above-notch relationship blackbelt.

We can call the rule of less-liking ‘one-downmanship’, viz. to be one tier below your partnerival in terms of how much you like each other (but no more, because if you’re two-downing or more your partnerival will bail early, seeing not enough respect and affection from you to even consider continuing and thus calling it off prematurely which gives your partnerival an early win - or at best a stalemate - thereby leaving you licking the wounds of your misplaced strategizing). It’s important to start this one-downing early on, because eventually your relationship is going to hit the love-declaration stage. Once an ‘I love you’ has been thrown out there, things will never be the same again. So you have to be prepared early on, and consistency is crucial.

The ‘I love you’ stage is critical. Whoever declares this foolhardy statement first (usually the female who needs stability, security and commitment for the sake of her future offspring who are always foremost in her mind) is in serious danger of losing the relationship unless they are confident enough in its reciprocation. And even then they’re still taking a big risk simply by being the first to proclaim it. This is why it’s always best never to tell a partnerival that you love them, even – and especially – if you actually do love them. In fact, it’s just best to try and avoid falling in love altogether since it’s an enormous inconvenience and probably overall the single greatest hindrance to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Plus it’s known as a gateway emotion to jealousy, depression, self-contempt, ridicule, humiliation, anger, heartache, and a host of other annoying things life is best lived without. So try and date partnerivals you’re not in love with, since the one-downmanship will be that much easier to carry out.

Here are some other rules of thumb for winning a relationship:

Have cooler friends than your partnerival
Always come up trumps in the Cool Friends category. Whoever has the most and coolest friends is always going to be in the driver’s seat, because you’ll mostly end up hanging out with your own friends with a clear conscience. But every time you hang out with your partnerival’s less cool friends, your partnerival will feel a little guilty that they’re subjecting you to them - which can work to your advantage, because you know that your partnerival is feeling a degree of gratitude toward you for putting up with them even though they know you'd rather be somewhere - anywhere - else. Your sacrifice will be rewarded. NOTE: It’s important NOT to ever complain about your partnerival’s friends otherwise you will have leveled the playing field by giving your partnerival the chance to use the “well, I go out with YOUR friends” line, which is a trap, because it’s assumed that your friends are all equals, and so you can’t argue against that without stating the unspoken secret understanding between you two, which is that your friends are cooler and better than your partnerival’s. But of course, that is NEVER to be said until the end of the relationship when you’re breaking up. In fact the only time the truth will ever be said in a relationship is when breaking up.

Be thinner than your partnerival
Self-esteem is a key factor in a relationship, and nothing helps the self-esteem more than being thin, especially being thinner than your partnerival. This is another one of those unspoken and secret bits of knowledge shared by all but which remains unsayable. People will notice that your partnerival is fatter than you, and your partnerival will also notice this fact and the fact that people can notice this fact, and so you will both be aware that you’re better than your partnerival. If your partnerival – in their insecurity – should ask the standard “do you think I’m fat?” question, just smile and say “no, you’re fine” and give your fat partnerival a condescending hug as you emit cutesy pampering noises interlaced with pet names, like you would do if you were handling a chubby little baby or a puppy. This will increase their insecurity and make them even more dependent and desperate for your support, recognition, respect, and comfort. That means you’ve just pulled ahead of your partnerival and are in the driver’s seat.

Make your partnerival think that something might happen between you and your partnerival’s best friend if the right (or wrong) opportunity should present itself
You have to keep your partnerival on their toes, and nothing makes a partnerival more insecure than an implied attraction between you and your partnerival’s best friend. Because our best friends are usually those whom we admire the most and whom we want to associate with and be associated with the most, they are also by that fact the people we are capable of being jealous and envious of the most. And so we always instinctively and fearfully wonder if the person we’re dating is not also – or rather – attracted to our best friend. This attraction is natural, as they are usually spending a lot of time around each other through you, and there is a total lack of tension since there is officially no chance of their being sexually involved, which makes their interaction that much more sincere, open and comfortable. This situation naturally creates a perfect environment for sexual innuendo and even some slightly physical horseplay and joking that insinuates that they might hook up behind your back, beneath which lies a grain of truth and an overwhelming unspoken “what if?”. So it’s best to exploit this situation to your benefit, but without seeming too obvious about it of course (because that would make you a bit of a creep). This will keep your partnerival on their toes, prevent them from ever taking you for granted, and let it be known that they have to keep working hard at making this relationship work if they want any hope of staying in contention, let alone winning it in the end. Ideally, you should bring it to the point where your partnerival actually has to say something embarrassing to you out of desperation and jealousy, like “you don’t like my friend, do you?”

Win the jealousy game against your partnerival
When one of the partnerivals senses that the other’s interest in them is flagging, that partnerival will bring up the jealousy test. This will involve the partnerival flirtatiously speaking to someone of the opposite sex – usually an ex of theirs – while you’re right there. The message of course is “Look, you’d better start stepping up to the plate and realize what you’ve got before you lose it.” Here’s what you do: call their bluff and act even more disinterested. If your partnerival is sincere in their fondness for you they will feel guilty that maybe they are pushing you away with their attempt at making you jealous, which is never what they intended, and so they make it up to you with all the more affection and fawning, which wins you some crucial points and puts you ahead early in the relationship. On the other hand, if they decide to call your bluff of their bluff so that they don’t feel (or at least act) guilty as they continue their flirtation and act as disinterested as you act in a drawn out battle of don’t-care attrition, then they’re not worth the effort, and you two are not meant to be together. You both just take the stalemate and end the relationship. You don’t win, but you at least don’t lose either.

Be smarter than your partnerival
Knowledge is power, and that was never truer than in a relationship. Simply put, if your partnerival feels dumber than you, they will feel inferior to you, and that’s great in terms of giving you extra points on the path to victory. TIP: If you don’t have time to actually read books and do proper research, then at least develop some superficial smartness through the Internet. For example, you can become Google-savvy and Wiki-smart. Do browses for quick and easy information that can pass for genuine knowledge, especially useful in smart emailing/facebooking/skypeing/chatting/smsing/forum-writing. When actually with your partnerival in person or among people, use silence to convey a false sense of wisdom and maturity. Make sure always to have a disinterested and self-confident expression on your face when being silent. The aim is to seem like you don’t want to stoop down to the level of conversation being conducted, and thus avoid revealing that you’re actually pretty stupid yourself and are out of your depth in terms of the topic of debate going on around you.

Make your compliments to your partnerival slightly insulting
Throw out the occasional “You look great today!” or “You’re really good at charades!”. When your partnerival responds with a “Don’t I look good everyday?” or “You don’t think I’m good at anything else but charades?” give a flippant guffaw followed by a patronizing hug and an emphatic (but not totally sincere) “of COURSE you are”, that still keeps the doubt in your partnerival’s mind along with a level of insecurity that can continue feeding their sense of inferiority and lack of self-confidence, all of which can be conveniently exploited by you at will. For practice, try this out on your younger sibling.

Make your partnerival emotionally dependent on you, and use that dependence as leverage in the relationship
The more secure your partnerival is in terms of family and friends, the less dependent they will be on your companionship. That’s why it’s important to find a needy and emotionally imbalanced partnerival, so that they will be all the more dependent on you. If you are a girl, this is your chance to make your boyfriend dependent on your maternality, and if you are a guy, this is the chance to make your girlfriend dependent on your strong, take-charge paternalism. Besides, emotionally and familially unbalanced partnerivals make for great bedfellows since they compensate their lack of family security with an overabundance of clingy affection to their partnerival, often to the point of self-degradation, which of course makes for great sex. NOTE: Such partnerivals are partially psychotic, and so even though you’re pretty much assured of winning this relationship, you also have a tough winning process (viz. ‘break up’) ahead of you. We’re talking harassment through phone calls, unexpected house visits where your partnerival “happened to be in the neighborhood”, attempts at forcing their way back into having sex with you, threatening suicide, and boiling your pet bunny rabbit.

Listen to the songs your partnerival sings to themselves when around you
Nobody really tells each other sincerely and honestly and openly what they really feel, because the feeling usually never lives up to the displays of affection that keep a relationship going. You’ll be kissing and holding hands and walking in a park with your partnerival’s head on your shoulders while in your mind you’ll be wondering if your partnerival’s ass is too big and whether they’re not a little too loud and obnoxious when they drink too much around your friends. That’s why it’s important to pay attention when your partnerival sings songs to themselves around you. What happens is your partnerival will be thinking stuff about you or the relationship which they know is potentially hurtful and not to be spoken out loud, but that suppressed thought often triggers the memory of a song with similar words to the thought that one is suppressing. For example, if your partnerival is thinking ‘It’s over’, they might start nervously (but seemingly nonchalantly) singing, whistling, or humming Roxette’s ‘It must have been love / but it’s over now’, or if your partnerival is thinking ‘I have to get out of here’ they might start singing the Beatles’ ‘Get back / get back / get back to where you once belong’ or perhaps The Animals' ‘We gotta get out of this place / if it’s the last thing we ever do’, etc. So pay attention to your partnerival’s parapraxical unconscious utterings and be prepared to take the initiative in either dumping them first (if you think it unsalvageable) or at least staying one step ahead by anticipating their next move. Also, if your partnerival actually does sing a song - any song - by Roxette without any hint of irony, that means that you should dump them right there anyway because of their terrible taste in music.

Win the victory
Even after you actually win the relationship, it’s important to “win the victory”, as it were. That means you have to continue playing the after-victory psychological war of words/gossip/rumors. Always seem like the magnanimous one, and always have only good things to say about your ex-partnerival – albeit with carefully hidden insults that should be crafted with enough subtlety to seem ingenuous and uncontrived, even natural. For example, you can say things like “I loved them as a person, and I stayed by their side, because I know they’ve been hurt a lot in the past, and they needed my support, even though I knew our relationship was over”, which makes your ex-partnerival look like an emotional needy mess and you like a benevolent and exceedingly attractive and desirable superhuman god/goddess. Winning the victory is crucial because you’re actually sowing the seeds of luring future partnerivals – which means winning more victories in the future, and continuing on the road to being a respectable and beloved member of society who is secure in the belief that the narcissism, vanity and self-love will be amply rewarded in return.

In the meantime, enjoy the dating game!

(If you'd like an example of the horrors of losing a relationship, then just read My Worst New Year's Eve Ever)


Writing with a baby in the house

I always thought that when I had a baby the first thing that would suffer was my writing. I like to get up early in the mornings to write, and then I try and write some more late at night before bed. The rest of the time I’m writing stuff for work, but it’s the kind of writing you have to do before you can make money writing the stuff you love to write. I can’t make money writing the stuff I love to write, obviously. I mean, who can? Maybe Salman Rushdie or Stephen King or whichever African writer won the Nobel last. The rest of us have to write insincere pap that’s basically just ill-concealed advertising written for some company or other to help them promote themselves and their products so they can make more money while they pay us a pittance, if they pay us at all. Writing is fun!

So naturally, when I had a baby, I thought this whole writing routine would be the first thing in my life to suffer, but I found that it’s possible to have a perfectly balanced writing schedule even with… just a second, I have to change a diaper. Okay I’m back, there was a lot of poop in that one. He’s now eight months old and he‘s been eating broccoli so… anyway, I don’t want to bore you with the details of my baby’s poop. I was saying that even with a baby in the house, my writing has… what’s that honey? Yes I think we do have those wet wipes. Yes yes, the organic ones we got from the farmer’s market… No, they were called Rawganics or something… Oh, I thought they were the ones we used for his bum… We use those for wiping his face and hands? Well, what’s the difference? These are more expensive? Okay, but so are the others I get from Mjet… no I’m not arguing with you, I’m just saying the others are just as expensive… Yes I get that we should be more frugal but… okay okay, I’m sorry… Okay, I’m sorry, my mistake. What do you mean I got the wrong diapers again? I got the ones with the giraffe that say "activ" and... oh right, these are midi number threes. We needed fours? Goddamn it. No I don't have the receipt. What do you mean why, because I don't keep receipts. Because it's not 1982! Okay, sorry for shouting. Wait I have to write something.

Where was I? Writing… yes, I like to write stories and poems and sometimes… what? No I haven’t seen his grey and white socks, can’t you just use another pair? What? Why does it matter if they match his outfit, he’s a baby… okay okay, sorry, I’ll look for them. Oh no, did he just wake up? Sure yeah, I’ll get his bath ready, but first let me just write something… No no, it won’t take long… yes I know you’re doing all the work and I should help out more, I just have to write one article… no, I’m not getting paid for it, it’s just for my blog… what do you mean that’s not really writing? Who reads it? Uh… nobody, I guess, but… okay okay, I’m running the bath now, hold on. Can you get the sponge? I don't have the sponge, you had the... oh wait, okay, I have the sponge.

Aah good, the little guy’s gone to sleep now so I can continue writing. I started writing this article about eight hours ago, so I may have lost the thread of it. What’s that? He just vomited? Okay wait, I’m bringing the paper towels. Just wait! What? The what? Where is that? No I still don’t know where that is… Which drawer is that? I said WHICH DRAWER? Okay found it, wait I have to wash it first… I didn’t wash it the last time we used it, that’s why. I know I should’ve. Why didn’t you? Okay I’m sorry, I know you’re under a lot of pressure… but just… I’m sorry, okay. Here, here you go. This is the wrong one? Oh, you meant the blue and white striped one with the elephant? Why didn't you say so? No you don't have to explain everything down to every detail, just the important details. I am paying attention. You said something about his bib. Okay wait… How about I hold him and you mop up the pee off the dresser.

Okay you know what I’m going tpo havehg to finish thjis article ttomorrow GODDAMN IT WHERE’S HIS FLUFFY TIGER?!