Every one of is a unique little snowflake–or so we’re often told. I actually think this is rather true, to be honest. People are different, and sometimes that just means you can’t see eye to eye. It’s what you do with that problem that really defines you in my book.

One recurring–and infuriating–situation that I have faced is the ‘This is just how I am, you have to accept it.’ Yes I have babbled about this before. It’s such a pointless thing to say. If you are a certain way and another person you have a relationship with is a conflicting way then you can do one of two things: choose the relationship or choose your way. Of course it depends on how you feel about said relationship, and this is where unique snowflake comes in, in some way, because there are people who react to wanting the former option by behaving like they want the latter option. But I digress. My point is, this came up again recently in a huge fight I had with Lithium. And I’m glad to say I have finally graduated to the stage where I say ‘Oh yeah? You’re just like that? I’m just like this. Why should I accept you if you won’t accept me?’ instead of fizzling out in a tiny, sad whimper of capitulation. Thankfully, like all our fights, this one only got us to a place of better understanding, and we both agreed we chose the relationship, and needed to find a way to work it out.

A more (or less, depending on how you see it) meta version of this dilemma is addressed in this cool article that talks about applying game theory to marriage. When I first read it, I thought it was spot on, even when extended to non marital relationships. It really only works if you both vote black* each time, because that’s the only way you’re both going to win long term, and any relationship is long term. But then it struck me this morning that it’s not necessarily that simple. In every relationship, you can’t always play black. Everyone has to play red once in a while. It’s the understanding that we’ll come back to black, or yes this time you’ve played red but there will be a time I’ll play red that keeps the balance going.

The OA has been flaking on me hugely lately. I have a history of letting people flake on me a lot, and not just lying down and taking it, but going after them to ask them to walk all over me. I have always held that one has to be understanding etc., but I do have to admit I’ve taken it rather far in my life. I always play black; I always choose the relationship. And really, I’ve been the person bruised and battered at the end of it, knowing that it was at least half my own fault! Because the other person knows they can just play red and it’ll be fine; I won’t retaliate; I’ll always play black.

Now the OA has excellent reasons to be flaky, and I both know and understand these reasons. I also sympathise with his situation deeply and want to do anything I can to ease it. All of this is exacerbated, d-uh, by the FEELINGS. This last episode, however, something snapped. There was a huge argument with Lithium on the tell or not tell thing, with him going all I am going to knock some sense into him, if you don’t tell him I will, etc. Once that was sorted, I suddenly realised that I have been playing black so much with the OA that no wonder he feels he doesn’t owe me any blacks, even if unconsciously. I do think a lot of this is unconscious for most people–if you know that when you screw up you will be forgiven after maybe some teasing or a talking-to and all you need to do is apologise and promise to be better, eventually you stop noticing the times you screw up.

Now I have often tried to be a person who plays red, and it has never worked, simply because it’s not in my nature. But I’m beginning to think that maybe I can compromise and learn to play the occasional red. So I have decided to choose myself this time, despite the sympathy and FEELINGS, despite the fact that I know he can’t help it. Because I can’t help it either. And if we are to survive as friends then he is going to have to learn to let me play red once in a while. So here I go, playing red. Wish me luck!

*For lazy people who didn’t read the article ahem, here is the relevant quote:

He has the group do an exercise based on game theory called Red/Black. The rules are explained to the group as a whole; the objective is to get the most points for your team. Then the group is divided into two, one side going downstairs and the other side staying upstairs. For 16 times, you can either vote Red or vote Black. Points are garnered in this way.

Vote Red; if the other side votes Red:  you get 0 pts, the other side gets 0 pts

Vote Red, if the other side votes Black: you get 30 pts, the other side gets 0 pts

Vote Black, if the other side votes Red: you get 0 pts, the other side gets 30 pts

Vote Black, if the other side votes Black: you get 15 pts, the other side gets 15 pts

Ready, GO!! At first, it’s a no-brainer — vote Red! The groups experiment with their vote in order to learn the psychology of the other side. Often both sides vote Red at first. Self-preservation rules the day, but nobody wins much.

But then, maybe the upstairs side votes Black. Downstairs, much cheering and rejoicing is heard against their Red vote. Another Black versus Red vote — downstairs continues to cheer. If the upstairs continues with a black vote in the face of a red vote, the downstairs starts to ponder what is happening.

The folks upstairs are idiots, they theorize. The folks upstairs are sacrificial, they wonder. The folks upstairs are sending a message, they conclude.

The folks upstairs have decided that their TEAM is both sides. The only way for all of them to have the most points is for both sides to vote Black. The only way to send the message is to continue to vote Black.