Playing hard to get is one of the oldest dating tricks, for sure, but whether it works or not depends on the person. This is because some people may enjoy the thrill of the chase but others prioritize honesty. A new study determined who is playing hard to get (HtG) and who are attracted by such ploy.
Attachment avoidance linked with playing hard to get
Jeffrey D. Bowen from John Hopkins University and Omri Gillath from the University of Kansas shared that HtG has received less attention as a research topic. In 2013, HtG was conceptualized as a mating strategy. Across four studies involving 906 participants, Bowen and Gillath examined the predictive and causal associations between attachment style and HtG strategies.
They found that attachment style shapes and predicts HtG behavior, especially among insecurely attached individuals. Insecure attachment is a relationship style where the bond is contaminated by fear. Most psychologists believe that insecure attachment is formed in early childhood as the first few bonds during childhood are the foundation of the types of relationships that we form later on in life. There are three insecure patterns, namely avoidant, ambivalent, and disorganized. Avoidant people have difficulty reaching for others and they shun intimacy. Those with an ambivalent pattern of insecurity are viewed as needy or clingy as they often require much reassurance and validation from others. On the other hand, the disorganized pattern is usually a product of extreme inconsistency or trauma during childhood.
Who plays HtG and who finds it attractive?
The new study found that people who have higher attachment avoidance are the ones who play HtG more. Meanwhile, people higher on attachment anxiety pursue HtG more. The authors said via Science Daily that avoidant and anxious attachment styles manage their psychological vulnerabilities. It also sheds light on how people’s behavior in search of partners and mates is rooted in their early life experiences. Those with an insecure attachment style play HtG or chase a potential mate that is aloof to them. They find these efficient for securing romantic relationships, intimacy, and sex.
The authors don’t mean the behavior is good or bad, but that that strategy is working for some but not all. American fashion and entertainment magazine Cosmopolitan even interviewed some guys to know how they think when women play hard to get. A married man answered that back when he was dating, he was “fine” with the idea as it helped him know right away that the woman is mature enough to be in a relationship. Another man answered that if the woman is actively making it difficult for him to date her, then he will just find someone else.
Why some find HtG a terrible idea
“If you act uninterested, I move on, not try harder,” another guy said. One guy likewise answered, “You don’t have to use sales tricks for me to value you.” Dating coach Erika Ettin, who is the founder of dating site A Little Nudge, also told Business Insider that it is not a good idea to hide your feelings from a new partner or date. If you cannot meet up with someone or are busy, that is one thing. However, playing with another person’s feelings because you believe it gives you the upper hand is just a waste of time.
Ettin added that yes, to some people, playing hard to get may make a person desirable in the short term. It may sound counter-intuitive, but those who have an avoidant attachment style are people who enjoy closeness on their terms. They act very self-sufficient so they pursue people who appear disinterested.
The daily also highlighted the norm of reciprocity. It means that people tend to like those who like them and dislike those who don’t. This is why playing hard to get may appear to others that you don’t like them. In a survey conducted by database company Statista among 1,500 single Americans, some 40% of men and 52% of women said that they become upset with someone they were dating because the person took too long to respond to a text message they sent.
When playing hard to get increases romantic attraction
Yet, humans also love winning. In another study that appeared in the American Psychological Association, the authors mentioned that playing hard to get can increase the romantic attraction of another. They wanted to prove that they can have the person whom they have been chasing. It fuels their desire to win. Sadly, some realize that they didn’t like the person that much once they already “get” them.
Survival instinct instead of a romantic strategy
Bowen and Gillath emphasized that those with insecure attachment styles, chasing an aloof potential partner, or playing HtG are efficient approaches to secure intimacy. They went on to say that HtG can also sometimes be a survival instinct rather than a romantic strategy. It helps people to stay in control. Some are behaving that way because they feel terrified. They are doing it to protect themselves because they cannot trust anyone. On their part, they are not “playing” but are only protecting themselves. They want to verify those who are serious with them and will be reliable mates.
Statista shares that some 51% of Americans who are married are happy with their current relationship on a scale of 1 (not happy at all) to 10 (very happy). About 44% of those in a relationship said they are very happy while 31% prefer not to answer.
Gillath said that since the relationship has two sides, it may have some push and pull. There are bonds where one partner wants it less while the other wants it more. The person who is less invested in the relationship has more power over it. In friendship, for instance, the one who has more control and power in the relationship is the person who has other friends and who believes that the other need their friendship. The one who is more desperate in the friendship will have less power and will likely pursue the other.
In terms of attracting someone, creating a balance is important. Being selective is okay, but should not be done excessively. It shows that you are not dismissing every option but you are also not giving everyone a chance.