h2>Dating : Why Playing Hard To Get Attracts Assholes
I recently read a social media post asking women why they play hard to get. Some women make prospective partners “work” for their attention even when they may be interested in the person approaching them. This of course is nothing new. Many people accept this conventional wisdom as a best practice in dating. It is effective because it exploits a psychological principle that has been proven through sales strategies for over 100 years. This is the principle of scarcity and how it drives perceived value. I will explain this later.
What I’ve asked myself lately is how many people that enjoy “the chase” or “playing hard to get” actually question why they enjoy it? My best friend growing up was one of those that enjoyed investing time in girls that played hard to get. He went after the “hot girl” that everyone wanted. He often accomplished his goal. But once he was into a relationship, he became bored. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I now realize why he got so bored so quickly. He didn’t seek out partners because of what they had to offer in a relationship. He sought them because of the excitement of the challenge. Whether he consciously or subconsciously knew it, this was like a game for him with a reward system in place. And once the challenge was completed, like beating a video game, he moved on. I don’t think this mentality is much of a surprise to anyone these days. Most people have seen this behavior in the form of a friend or experienced it ourselves. But rather than seeking to understand, they label the person as a player or misogynist and some act like it was a complete surprise they turned out that way.
Most seem to agree they don’t like this behavior, but how many people are perpetuating and attracting it unknowingly? I read through the social media post reading different perspectives. Many females responded to the hard to get question with things like “because I am hard to get”. Others explained they do so because they know their self worth. They seem to overlook a key problem however. By playing hard to get you are merely giving into someone else’s fetish (a challenge) and confusing the people genuinely interested in you. To elaborate we will view two fictional but very realistic scenarios I’ve seen play out for friends.
Scenario 1: Person A that enjoys the chase
Courtship Stage: You’ve made person A really earn your attention. You ignored his texts for a few days and took your time to reply. You made him pay for each date. You were up front with him that you were casually dating. You made it known to him and others you didn’t plan on settling. This made him more eager to win you over. He saw other males as competition and he hates losing.To make sure he didn’t lose, he stepped up his game. He surprised you with flowers. He took you to the nicest restaurants. You were flattered and impressed. You felt so special. You decided this is the guy you want a relationship with. He knows how to treat a woman.
The relationship: The beginning of the relationship is amazing. Person A has received their temporary state of euphoria by winning the challenge they signed up for. They beat out the competition and that feels great. Unfortunately Person A does not understand how his own reward system works. He incorrectly thinks “winning” the competition was just the beginning of happiness and he will continue to be interested. But you’ve now let your guard down. You aren’t ignoring texts for days. You are fully available and invested in this new relationship. You aren’t a challenge.
The outcome: Person A becomes bored. Your attention is easy to get. He isn’t competing with other males so does not need to “one-up” them. An expensive dinner is no longer a jab at his opponents. You wonder what happened to Person A? He used to be so romantic! He was so thoughtful. Now he just seems complacent. He is NOT the person you thought he was. This is NOT the relationship you signed up for. But it actually is.
Scenario 2: Person B sees the value in you based on your qualities
Courtship: You treated person B the same as you treat person A while you dated them in parallel. Delaying text responses, dropping hints that you are seeing others and don’t want to settle. Person B really likes you. He says the right things. He compliments you on your intelligence and likes to hear about your career goals and family. When you talk he doesn’t just stare with a smile waiting for the pause to interject with something clever that makes him look smart. Instead he asks follow up questions. He makes you think about things you had not before. He seems really nice, but he does not see to be trying as hard as Person A. He doesn’t spend as much money on dates. He takes it more personal when you ignore texts and disconnects. How can he be a good boyfriend if he isn’t even into you as much as Person A?
The outcome: Person B wanted a close and intimate connection. He opened up and let his guard down. But he became confused when being ignored. He didn’t understand how a date could go so well only to be ignored when he texted. After one date he texted that it was the best date he had and couldn’t wait to see you again. Your read the text and thought it was cute but you aren’t ready to put your guard down. You want to play it cool. So you didn’t reply for a couple days. Person B comes to the conclusion you just aren’t into him as much as he is into you. He moves on. Good riddance you think, Person A seems to value you more, he is the one you will commit to.
Playing hard to get works for those that value the challenge of chasing another for their attention. This technique has been proven over and over through product marketing. Terms “limited edition” or “special batch” promote the idea of scarcity. Gems that are more valuable are not plentiful. When something is scarce it is more valuable. Playing hard to get is the concept of projecting that your time and attention is more limited than the average person. Some people are wired more so than others to seek these challenges. It could be ego, a competitive nature, status signaling or all of the above. But what it usually is not, is a genuine interest in YOU. There are exceptions to all rules. Of course a person that enjoys the chase may also find you interesting and enjoy your qualities. But identifying that becomes much more complicated than just identifying a person that is thoughtfully interested.
For people casually dating and enjoying dating multiple people with no intention to commit, playing hard to get may actually work for their ideal lifestyle. But for someone seeking a long term committed relationship, playing hard to get can be destructive and counter to the goal of finding a partner to be vulnerable with. What is scarce is rare and what is rare is valuable. This is true when it comes to art and other objects. But people aren’t objects. Women aren’t trophies or awards to be worn. So the principle of scarcity as applied through “playing hard to get” does to translate into meaningful relationships with vulnerability and emotional connections.
So if you knowingly enjoy the charade, enjoy. But for those that are looking to avoid this, the key is in the upfront courting phase and being open with each other. Ask questions about the prospective partners previous relationships. What was their longest relationship? What was their shortest relationship? How long has it been since their last relationship? Of course, don’t fire these off back to back like it is some sort of interrogation. Let them come out naturally in a contextual discussion. If you find someone holds tight to their past or is guarded, this may be a red flag in itself if you are seeking a vulnerable and transparent relationship.