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'The Player'

A sometimes-unfair label of men in the dating world.

Women in the dating world tend to use the term “player’ when referring to a man that lacks the ability or desire to make a commitment. Some of these men are assumed to be purely out for sex; some are considered commitment-phobic; and others are in temporarily suspended animation having re-entered the dating world a bit too early. Nevertheless, the online dating site profiles are fraught with some version of the following warning from women: “No players need apply—only those looking for a long-term relationship.”

Many female accusers have a legitimate beef—and nobody wants to be played. But I’ve found that the term player is also used far too often by controlling women who want to “control” the dating process. For example, a male client complained that he’s been called a player on a number of occasions—an accusation that angers and frustrates him. “I’m just dating,” he said. “Sure, on occasion I’ve slept with a couple of women with whom I chose not to commit to. What’s wrong with that? I’m looking for the right person and it’s going to take time. Not all of us are sexually compatible and this is a good thing to know before remarrying. A couple of these women have reamed me out for not warning them that I may not commit to them. How can I do that? I can’t predict the future. Besides, women have broken up with me without warning.” Yes, it’s all part of the process. And I would add that it also takes a bit of time for other relationship dynamics to surface and this may not happen before a couple engages in sex. Timing is everything.

To my client’s credit, I saw no indication of the “player gene” in his background. Most of his relationships were long-term, and he was able to hold a 20-year-marriage together without ever straying. Was he somewhat scared to remarry? Yes, but one can make a commitment without remarrying, or make a commitment and remarry at a more comfortable time for both parties.

In their defense, many of the women who use the term player have been traumatized by past relationship mishaps. Perhaps a husband cheated, or a long-term boyfriend abandoned them, or a man seen as having potential dropped them soon after sex. For this, they deserve empathy. But if they believe it is their right to control the dating process, they should seek counsel. It will do them no good to continue to righteously use the term player to cover up anger and pain. Rather, it will only anger and frustrate those they claim they are interested in attracting.

One last point: After previewing this post, a female colleague of mine agreed that women might use the term “player” too frequently, but she was quick to counter that men use the term “whore” too freely as well. To this, I say: "Touché."

More from Stephen J. Betchen D.S.W.
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More from Stephen J. Betchen D.S.W.
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