Sometimes first and second dates need a gentle push in the right direction. What better way to get there than a relating game? Fire away (and have fun)!
This article is to be the first in a series exploring ways we can introduce games, or intentional relating practices, in our dates to bring in new elements of fun, connection, authenticity, vulnerability, and intimacy.
To me, dating—particularly first and second dates—are some of the most enjoyable experiences, but I also understand that for many people dates—and particularly the first and second ones—can be terrifying and intimidating. There are so many potential pressures, assumptions, and expectations that can be brought into a date that can cause strained and awkward interactions. We may be trying to appear our best for the other person, even to the point of somewhat hiding who we really are—which is always going to lead to problems. Generally, our authentic self is what the people who are really right for us are going to be attracted to; so, giving space for both our date and ourselves to bring that out early on is going to allow us to quickly see what the possibilities are between us.
Before we go too much further into these games though, I would like to define what I consider a “date.” To me, a date is nothing more than an intentional meeting between two individuals with the potential for romance. A date is like an inquiry, it is a question that asks “what could we explore or be together?”; and when we can hold that inquiry in spaciousness, openness, and curiosity, without attachment to a specific outcome, then we have the chance to enjoy the dance of unveiling ourselves to each other. It is at this point—after relaxing into the acknowledgment that we are here on this date simply to get to know each other more—we can bring in a few intentional relational practices or games.
The first game in this series that I would like to introduce is called “Curiosity.”
Curiosity is a simple game, and really only an extension of what occurs organically on a date when we are naturally curious about the person we are with… we tend to ask them questions to understand their world a little more. Don’t let the simplicity fool you, as the depth that can be created by putting this intentional structure in place can be profound.
With Curiosity, we take this impulse to learn about each other and make it intentional and explicit, which allows us to increase the amount of vulnerability arising in the space between us. Vulnerability is an interesting phenomena, as there is so much energy contained within the experience of sharing ourselves that for many, it’s uncomfortable and easier to avoid. That energy, however, when we allow it to be there, when we move toward it and feel it, and share anyway is what provides the space for real intimacy to develop. I don’t think intimacy can be truly felt without vulnerability; and so, the more we are willing to be vulnerable, the more potential we also have to experience intimacy with another.
We play Curiosity by first introducing it to our date. For me, I’ve done a lot of work to cultivate my curiosity, so I tend to already be asking questions, even somewhat edgy questions, from very early on. I often play this game when I notice that my date is a little shy in asking questions herself, yet seems to want to. By introducing the space for her to ask whatever she wants within the context of a game often brings more ease and relaxation into the whole process.
So, at some point during our date, we might ask the other if they want to play a game with us. Most people perk up at the idea of a game because it usually means fun is to be had. Explain that this is a relating game and the only intent is as an opportunity for us to get to know each other more, this is the context of the game. Making context explicit in dating—and anything we do—is a powerful way to create trust through transparent action.
How to Play
The rules of the game are simple.
One person is to ask the questions and the other is to answer. They aren’t obligated to answer, answer fully or even answer truthfully; just like in all life, they have a choice. This choice and how willing they and we are to be vulnerable and open is of course going to play a significant role on where any future relationship may develop.
Play for 5 or 10 minutes each. Having a time set, and even using a phone as a countdown timer, is a good idea. This sets parameters around the game—without which, it may either collapse before finished and both people have had their turn, or go on for too long to the point of strain and discomfort.
In this time, the person asking the questions can ask whatever they want; the possibility here is for the questioner to also play with their vulnerability in asking questions they may feel a little shy or uncomfortable to normally ask. Being within the construct of a game is a fun opportunity to push those edges just a little bit and expand our capacity to be with the intense sensations of vulnerability and intimacy.
The other guideline I recommend for the questioner is to follow a thread of curiosity. See if you can feel in your body a sense of wanting to know, and what it is you might want to know. Allow their answers to guide your next questions, rather than having a stock list of questions you might think are interesting to know. Sometimes even the strangest questions, when they come from a place of genuine interest, can open and reveal a conversation so much more than the standard questions like “what is your passion?” and so on. In that guiding, see if there is a thread to follow into the other person.
In my experience, when I discover a thread, there is a subtle yearning to follow it deeper and deeper into this other being as their world starts to unfold right in front of me through their expression. Make sure to listen fully and with your whole body; allow yourself to notice any impact in your body, yet don’t get fixated on it for now (we will play with this impact in another game in the series). A key point in this kind of listening is to let go of yourself for the duration of your time as questioner. This means not to ask or listen from a place of relating anything they say back to your own experience. Don’t be think about the time the same thing happened to you, or how you agree or disagree with what they are saying, and so on. All of this can come in the debrief or later in conversation. For now, just use this time as an opportunity to really learn and experience who this other person is.
After the allocated time has passed, allow the questions to drop away. Before switching, take a bit of time to debrief. Allow the person being asked the questions to share how that experience was for them—what questions they enjoyed being asked and what questions felt uncomfortable or challenging. For the person asking the questions, it is valuable to reflect back to your date by sharing the moment when you felt most impacted or closest or drawn to them, and also, what is it you learned about this other person.
Switch roles and enjoy.
Set the context by introducing the game and its rules.
Set the timeframe (5 or 10 minutes each side) and whether you will use a phone as a countdown timer.
Choose who will ask questions first.
Questioner asks questions only for the allocated time; receiver answers in whatever way they feel inclined to, including asking to pass on any question they don’t want to answer.
When time is up, debrief the round. The following sentence stems can also be used:
For receiver: “The questions I most enjoyed answering were _____”
“The questions I found most challenging were ______”
For questioner: “When I felt most impacted/close/drawn with you was ______”
“Something I have learnt about you is ________”
Switch roles and finish the game.
About the Author
Damien Bohler: Damien is a global nomad attempting to live life fully with a free and open heart. He is intensely curious about the intricacies inherent in the worlds of relating, permaculture and spirituality. You can often find him wandering around barefoot in nature or up a tree, usually somewhere where it is warm. Damien is well versed with travels into the darker side of human emotion and the depths of emotional discomfort. Through his struggles he has cultivated a strong sense of empathy and ability to be unconditionally with others in their feelings, whatever they are. He is inspired about the possibilities of human maturity and the potential we have to truly support, encourage, inspire and be with each other in the amazing uniqueness we all have to offer.
You can be his friend on Facebook, follow progress on his upcoming book focusing on developing a sophisticated and evolutionary approach to relating to each other and the world at large, entitled “Evolutionary Relating” and read his other writings.