'A man I was dating suddenly disappeared. Then I learnt about the DENNIS dating strategy.'

You'd think as a serial dater (someone who spends the majority of her adult life dating different people), I'd constantly be upping my dating game, looking for the best strategies and hacks to make the hell that is dating into something... fun. And productive. And painless. 

And look. I usually tell myself that dating for 10 years has made me an expert in my field. Nothing surprises me anymore (and being a straight woman, a lot of men are full of surprises). 

But then, roughly once a year, there's a moment of shock and confusion where I find myself on the receiving end of a new dating strategy that completely changes the game and how I approach it. 

Watch: The horoscopes and virtual dating. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia. 

Around two years ago, I was dating a guy who ticked all the right boxes. He was kind, smart and funny. He was a little late on our first date because he was spending time with his grandmother at a nursing home (I know. DREAM MAN). At the time, I was dating for fun and definitely wasn’t looking for a relationship at all. 

We dated for about three months and naturally, I started to like him more and more. I deleted all my dating apps, I stopped seeing other people. I told my therapist about him.

He would constantly talk about our future together and told me he loved me. I wasn’t there yet, but he assured me I could say it when I was ready. 

Everything about our relationship was perfect. Well, almost perfect. During this time I had developed a condition called vaginismus. It’s when a woman's vaginal walls contract to such a small size, it makes penetrative sex very painful. 


My vaginismus at this time was moderate - I could have sex but I didn’t enjoy it. He knew this and was great about it. He didn’t want me to do anything I didn’t 100 per cent enjoy.

I now know that this is literally the bare minimum but at the time I was so swept up with this guy. 

I could tell that our lack of physical connection was straining our dating life. There were times where I wanted to talk to him and he was either busy with work or too tired to hang out. 

So we had sex. I didn’t like it but I was happy to make him happy. We spent the whole next day together, laughing, drinking wine and watching movies in bed. He told me that his feelings for me were so intense that he didn’t know how to handle them, which is why he had been distant in the past few weeks. 

Then... he ghosted me. 

I had left his apartment, and on the (one hour) train ride home I went to message him to thank him for the previous day and I couldn’t find his account. He had blocked me on every social media platform. 

I was absolutely destroyed. To this day, that event has greatly affected not only my dating life but my social life, because I have trouble trusting people. I just couldn’t believe what had happened. 

I put this experience behind me because not only was it extremely traumatic but I didn’t want to spend any more energy on people like that. 

Listen to Emily Vernem on the Undone, Mamamia's podcast for people in their 20s. Post continues below.

It wasn’t until I was scrolling through Reddit that I discovered the D.E.N.N.I.S system. 

The D.E.N.N.I.S system comes from the comedy show It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, where the character Dennis shows his friends how he can get women to fall in love with him so he can sleep with them and then never contact them again.

Sounds super disgusting, right? But to me, this dating system sounded very familiar. Here's how it works:

Demonstrate Value.

Show that you’re a valuable person by caring about other people. 

Nursing home brag? Check. 

Engage Physically.

Spend a lot of physical time together by going on dates, spending nights together, etc. 


Acted like my boyfriend for three months? Check.  

Nurture Dependence.

This is a pretty messed up step. The character in the show would prank call the girl he was dating, pretending to be an aggressive, angry neighbour. This caused the girl to rely on him and form an emotional dependency.

I don’t know if this gaslighting strategy ever happened so I’m going to say that pretending to love me for four months falls into this category. Check. 

Neglect emotionally.

Not being there when you’re needed. Causing the person to fall into emotional distress. 

Too busy with work? Too tired? Check. 

Inspire hope.

Talk about how they’ve always been afraid of love but now, they’re not afraid anymore and want to be with you.


And lastly, separate entirely.

Need I say more?


So now everything makes sense. Do I feel better about the situation now that I know this dating strategy exists? Definitely not. 

Am I going to avoid every man who is vulnerable with me and tells me he loves me? Probably. 

The last thing I want is for any other woman to go down this terrible dating path. But I also don’t want anyone to be afraid of love, because what kind of life is that? So if you’re dating someone and you’re seeing these trends emerge, don’t be scared, just be aware. 

And if he has a grandmother in a nursing home… Run. 

Want $100? Take our 5 minute survey for your chance to win.