Modern dating has proven to be confusing to everyone. Rules that guided our behavior no longer apply. All the factors surrounding how we meet, date and mate have changed. In a time of no rules, what’s the right (and wrong) approach to take when meeting a prospective partner?

The wrong approach would be to use a fixed, outmoded formula. Traditional rules instructed us to exude self-confidence and power. These were the hallmarks of attraction. Women were to present themselves as a prized goddess, managing the numerous men in pursuit of her heart. Men were to have the smoothness of James Bond, sleeping their way through a sea of willing women. For those of us who’re neither a deity nor James Bond, how do we date in the real world?

When prefab images hide our unique qualities no meaningful connections can be made. Here’s why dating “wrong” is right:

Love creates love.

What would happen if we entered the dating scene with the goal of being open? Wouldn’t naked honesty look needy, naive and set us up as prey for someone’s game? Fears such as these tell us that this type of behavior is far too vulnerable for us to risk. It would be an invitation to break our hearts. Isn’t this wrong?

No. It’s right.

The presence of love is what catalyzes the greatest possibility for love’s return. Contrary to antiquated dating advice, it’s in the act of being open that we find our greatest power and sense of allure.

All humans seek to love and be loved in return. Yet in the world of dating we’re advised to enter with our guard intact. As we seek meaningful connection with another, we’re prompted to exclude our greatest asset. The cardboard cutout image of the person we’d like to be seems far superior to that of who we are. To be confident is to appear casual. To be powerful is to appear aloof. But in truth, it’s the opposite approach that holds the greatest potential to activate a positive response in our partner.

Love creates love. The power of the open heart is unrivaled in its affect. Intentional vulnerability is so rare these days that all resistance bows in respect. The ease and confidence in being open activates a feeling a safety within our partner. That sense of security is what permits affection to be returned in kind.

Real gets real. Game gets game.

When we start with game there’s no turning back. You can’t switch the formula mid-stream. And though honesty may seem to work against getting our needs met, the use of games and manipulation guarantee a negative outcome for both parties.

If you doubt this concept, ask any fisherman. The type of bait selected directly determines the type of fish it attracts. If you want to draw in a person who’s real, be real yourself.

Honesty creates intimacy. Intimacy creates love. If you want a meaningful connection, show up as yourself.

Play your own hand.

If you’ve ever been caught up in the frenzy of someone else’s game, you know its anxiety and drama. We slip into their game the moment we stop “playing our own hand.” Drama isn’t love. It’s a game for control that has no winners.

In the twists and turns of this power play both participants embark upon a wild “cat and mouse” chase. The insecurity, the questions, who’s the cat and who’s the mouse… Neither knows where they stand and both are too afraid to ask.

How can we break out of this cycle? The first person to speak their truth ends the game. Honesty is the only card that trumps game.

Playing your own hand means showing up as yourself and giving honest responses. It means living by your own code of truth and integrity. It means calling it like you see it, and seeing it for what it is. This approach to dating provides a basis for exploration and discovery. Two real people are free to merge and create a rewarding outcome.

We’re living in a world where the old rules have failed us. In the gap of no-rules dating we have an incredible opportunity. We’re free to craft a new version of rules that resonate with who we are and the evolving world in which we live.