Playing Hard To Get Could Be Intervening In Your Chance For A Mature Relationship

Wait three days before texting back, don't accept more than one day per week, and avoid saying "I love you" first. Among many, many more tidbits of advice, the premise of playing hard to get is an age-old dating game that is exactly what its namesake implies: a game. If you want to have a mature relationship, taking games out of the equation is the quickest and most effective way to pave the road to healthy communication and building a relationship with a foundation of trust, transparency, and honesty.

A 2020 study from the University of Rochester examined the mating strategy and effectiveness of playing hard to get. Researchers looked at how humans are drawn to people who show us affection and acceptance because being embraced by another person reduces anxiety and fear over being rejected. The principle is a term from psychology called "reciprocity of attraction" and is based on mutual acceptance of one another. Results from the study determined that the best approach to dating someone new is a watered-down version of playing hard to get, where you get to know the other person gradually and share parts of your life with them over time, as opposed to all at once. However, human beings inherently want to be accepted, and having a mature relationship is based on reciprocity, transparency, and trust that neither partner will be rejected. After you've gradually gotten to know each other, here's how to toss out the game of playing hard to get.

Mature relationships are built on trust

When you play hard to get by keeping your distance from someone new, or from a partner with whom you're in an established relationship, it can send mixed messages. Sometimes, playing hard to get might even be confused with being ghosted.Quite frankly, anyone seeking a mature relationship probably doesn't have the energy to give to someone who ghosts them. Mature adults who prioritize emotional intelligence and offer respect to others are likely to be transparent and honest with the people they date, even letting someone know that you aren't interested in a second date is awkward or uncomfortable. While ghosting might be the easy way out, it can have negative consequences. 

A 2021 study published by the American Psychological Association calls ghosting the act of disappearing in a social media age that allows for a clash between anonymity and hypervisibility. When ghosting occurs, the ghostee is likely to feel anxious, rejected, and both their confidence and perception of self-worth can decrease, while the person who perpetuates the ghosting is subject to feelings of guilt that may later impact future dating interactions. Instead of keeping your distance or waiting a week to text back, start the relationship with a foundation of trust and acceptance.

Trust in mature relationships is created by honestly expressing your feelings, following through on your promises, and actively listening to the needs of the other person. Slow things down and don't rush to make commitments you can't genuinely keep.

Practice habits that cultivate acceptance

It's unlikely that anyone actually enjoys being rejected, much less ghosted. Playing hard to get can come across as ghosting or as a frustrating game with push-and-pull dynamics that lead to a lot of uncertainty and anxiety about impending rejection. Going back to basics, people want to be accepted and loved for who they are. When building a relationship, let the other person know you respect them and you're genuinely interested in getting to know them by initiating and encouraging active listening skills. The Center for Creative Leadership reports that active listening can create psychological safety in an interpersonal relationship because each person feels heard, respected, and accepted. To be an effective active listener, try to incorporate attentive efforts to hear what the other person is saying, digest what they've said, and then reflect it back to them to let them know that you've understood what they've shared with you. A core principle of active listening is the withholding of judgment as a person speaks, and intentionally asking for clarity before forming an opinion about what they've said. This fosters trust, acceptance, and feelings of being safe around one another.

Remember that respecting and loving another person first requires you to cultivate self-respect and self-love. Like putting your oxygen mask on first, you can't truly care for someone else unless you first care for yourself. Showing up as your authentic self allows you to find a partner who can return your mature respect and acceptance.

Enjoy your time together

Strategizing ways to play hard to get can be exhausting. Rather than spending your time deliberately waiting to respond or putting effort into being distant from someone you had fun going on a date with, lean into the positive enjoyment of spending time with someone you like. Obviously, if you didn't enjoy going on a date with someone, let them know respectfully that you don't think it's a good match. Just like you shouldn't invest your time in planning how long you should wait before returning a text, don't invest your energy with someone whose company you don't enjoy, which isn't fair to either person. The key to mature communication is always being transparent and honest about how you feel.

When you toss dating games out the window, you can actually enjoy spending time with someone whose company you really like. If you prioritize spending time with someone you feel comfortable around, you're both probably going to feel happier than if you spent your time playing hard to get. Enjoying time with someone, whether it's a first date or a long-term partner, should be rooted in gratitude. Practicing gratitude, whether you have a gratitude journal or simply take a moment to reflect on how much you enjoy someone's company, can actually reduce toxic emotions and improve your mental wellness, says UC Berkeley's Greater Good Magazine. Trust that gratitude, transparency, honesty, respect, and acceptance will have better results than playing hard to get.