Whoever coined this phrase was right – it seems to me that love can often be a little like warfare. There are rules of engagement and there are those who choose to play by them, and those who don’t.
I’ve been wondering about playing by the rules recently, though. Because the girls who don’t are the girls who win, or at least they’re playing by a different set of rules to me.
So, for example, there’s a rule that if:
a guy has a girlfriend
OR your friend is interested
OR your friend is his ex
OR your friend fancied him, and he wasn’t interested
he’s off limits.
BUT there are other women who assert that, quite literally, until a guy is married, he is fair game. ‘That is the whole point of courting,’ said a friend of mine. ‘You’re meant to be trying people out, and if you meet someone you like more while you’re dating someone else, then you end it with that person and move on.’
It sounded a bit brutal to me, as someone who has been very loyal to womankind as a whole, and has never tried to ‘steal’ someone else’s boyfriend from them, and as someone who has experienced the slightly-too-swift-moving-on of a previous boyfriend onto the next girlfriend. It hurts – why would I ever do that to someone else?
And yet… all is fair.
Guys don’t play by those rules – it’s all ‘may the best man win’ for them.
For example, a friend of mine got a wonderfully long email from her Spanish teacher last week, in which he declared undying love and his overwhelming desire to share everything about himself with her because she is so attractive, clever and ‘delicious’. He sent it knowing full well she is in a long-term relationship with her boyfriend who she lives with.
Still, he put it out there. She might be unhappy and looking for a way out. She might find him overwhelmingly attractive and want to leap out of her settled relationship and into his manly hispanic arms.
As it was, she found it mildly amusing, slightly awkward and quite a bit annoying that now she’d have to find a new Spanish teacher.
But girls… if we do something like that then we’re being disloyal to our fellow women, giving the guys space to be bandits, and generally playing dirty.
I’m going to put it out there that after thirty years I’ve changed my mind about this. Maybe when we were teenagers we needed strict rules to help us play nicely. But we’re grown ups now and we make our choices and deal with the consequences. Let’s not assume that all men will be unable to resist the urge to cheat.
Instead of believing all men are bandits, I choose to believe they can act honourably. And instead of calling the girls who haven’t played by my rules nasty, I’ll believe the best.
And if I can’t believe the best, then it’s still true, whether I like it or not, that all is fair in love and war.