It’s funny- I didn’t even know what a zero sum game was until recently…and now I’m obsessed with the term and how it can apply to life.
The definition of a zero sum game can be found all over the internet, but it took me awhile to really GET the phrase. I put a definition link above and you can also find official and very thorough definitions here and here and here.
But if you don’t feel like clicking those links, here’s my definition: A zero sum game basically means that in order for one person to win, the other MUST lose. Tennis is a great example of a zero sum game. If Federer won a match against Djokovoch, Djokovich HAS TO lose. If Djokovich won a game against Federer, Federer MUST lose.
But can the zero sum game definition be used in the dating world? If I’m dating you, and I really like you, and you decide not to date me anymore and ghost after 4 dates (remind me to one day write another post all about ghosting), it seems possible that I have lost this round of dating you, and you have won. If I start dating a new person and he falls for me, but I suddenly feel that he and I are not working well together, so I stop seeing him and make him sad, then it seems I have won this dating round, and he has lost.
In a zero sum game, there are a finite number of prizes. So if there is only one prize and two players, only one person can win the prize. The other person, therefore loses the prize. My prize win (+1) plus your prize loss (-1) equals zero.
+1 + -1 = 0 And that is where the phrase ZERO sum game comes from.
If dating was a zero sum game, we can maybe define the winner’s prize as walking away with an uncracked heart, plus a moderately peaceful (perhaps even relieved), mental state. The loser, therefore, CANNOT get the uncracked heart and peaceful outlook- the winner already took that. In a zero sum dating game, the loser ends up with no prize, or a negative prize: broken heart and saddened mental state.
I think dating CAN be zero sum, but it actually never has to be.Interestingly enough, though I’ve gone on what seems like an inordinate amount of dates in the past few months, with possibly enough material for my own comedy show, I don’t think that dating has to ever be a zero sum game. And the trick to stopping that loser/winner zero sum game from playing out in the dating world is simple:
- Change the prize
Perhaps your prizes from dating are:
a) Getting a relationship ….or
b) Meeting someone who will fulfill your every dream ….or
c) Getting out of dating someone you don’t like in the most peaceful, easy way possible, YAY!
I think the prizes can instead be something like
a) Getting to know and understand a new person better ….or
b) Getting to know and understand yourself better …..or
c) Getting to know about new things and places you never knew about before
…and you will always automatically win.
In this way, even if and when you stop dating someone, and even if your heart is breaking and you can’t stop eating ice cream iand crying in front of your television, you still win. Even if you just ran away and hope to never see your date again as long as you live, you still win. You learned about yourself, you learned about another person (good or bad, it still counts as knowledge). Hopefully you even discovered a new place.
And if the other person had the same prizes, defined above, as you, they will also win! That means there will suddenly be more than one prize to go around in the dating game, thus turning dating into a positive sum game!
Much of life isn’t a zero sum game. We don’t need others to lose in order for us to win. In dating, as in finding happiness, as in friendship, as in love, multiple people can win at the same time. It can all become a multiplier game instead.
Just make sure you choose the right prizes.