Relationships Through the Eyes of Psychology: Should You Be Playing Hard to Get If You Want Him to Fall in Love?

“There are some you date, and some you marry.” Probably everybody has heard that one. The trouble is that once you’re ready to take the plunge from one level of a relationship to a higher one, it’s often less about chemistry and more about how you play your proverbial cards. Unfortunately, this is often where advice conflicts. You can either play “hard to get” or be more direct with the desire and ultimate intent.

So, which approach holds more promise for success? Or “how do you know if he is thinking about me?”

Mom Was Right

Mom was right. Playing hard to get is an excellent strategy for getting him interested in you. And although her advice to play hard to get was based more on solid research than on her intuition, experts agree that playing hard to get works better than the more direct approach. In fact, studies show that even a person who is on the receiving end of another person’s aloof and supposed indifferent demeanor, desire increases, sometimes exponentially. That does not always mean, however, that playing hard to get is always the best strategy. Stated simply, sometimes such a strategy can backfire.

Research Indicators

Researchers eventually determined that what was once a sure bet that playing hard to get was a good approach, could have the reverse effect on some personality types. Further, research showed that while some people increase their feelings of “wanting,” at the same time “liking,” which meant that although love might increase for their aloof person, the same pursuer often experienced diminished feelings of “like” towards the same person. This theory made researchers determine that the “playing hard to get” approach would only work with people who were already couples, who were committed and invested in a relationship. Anyone who wasn’t already committed to a relationship would not respond to the “playing hard to get approach” or any other.

Based on the results of a study done at Hong Kong University, researchers came to two conclusions:

  1. Regardless of the approach used by parties in a relationship, whether “easy to get” or “hard to get,” the net effect can lead to the opposite in emotions and in the long term of a relationship.

People who acted as if they were more engaged and interested in a relationship were perceived as being more likeable and positive, although those who acted like they are more aloof and uninterested in a relationship were perceived as more desirable and interesting.

  1. Playing hard to get only works when someone is at least a little interested in you.

Study participants who were already engaged in a relationship did express more interest in another person who played hard to get. Those who were not already in a committed relationship, at least to some degree, found another party more interesting if they played easier to get. Evidence showed that when interest was already present, the hard to get approach worked, but it was not able to grow something from nothing.

What Does This Mean for You?

The research evidence shows that playing hard to get can be a useful strategy under the circumstances. The research shows that when a partner is interested in a potential relationship playing hard to get is a reliable strategy for developing a relationship. Further, the research suggests that the other party will most likely find you to be nice and likeable. They might not be passionate about the relationship yet, but chances are good that those feelings will come. In a situation like this, a bit of playing hard to get might increase their perception of you as a lover and encourage them to pursue you. This is like the old idea of the “forbidden fruit,” something they want even more because they have difficulty getting it.

When a partner is interested in a relationship with you, playing hard to get probably won’t work. In these situations, you are asking someone else to work harder at getting something they have no interest in pursuing or receiving. In these cases, it might work better for a person like this to try being more straightforward, pleasant, and agreeable, which will probably increase their liking of you.

As a last resort, if you are still determined to pursue a person who seems to be uninterested in a relationship with you, you could try the following suggestions:

  • Make yourself more mentally and physically attractive. Nobody likes someone who they perceive as being less than intelligent and physically unattractive.
  • Start conversations with confidence and assertiveness. Speak up! If you have something to say to a potential partner, say it. They might have been waiting for you to start a conversation with them.
  • Use accidental and social touching as a method to break the ice or encourage discussion. Remember the old trick about a lady dropping her hanky for him to pick up and return? It’s the same idea. Once you have broken the ice or dropped your hanky, you now have something to talk about, even if it is just a hanky.
  • Acknowledge and reward your potential partner’s positive behaviors. If he responds to your initiative to start a conversation, acknowledge it and encourage him to engage more.
  • Make being with you fun and interesting. Nobody wants to be with someone they find dull and uninteresting. When you return an acknowledgement that you are fun to be with chances are good that the relationship will grow.

Playing the hard to get card can be an effective method of developing a relationship that might lack “umph.” Fortunately, if research is correct, if the other party is interested in a relationship with you, playing hard to get can work, and even speed up their desire for you. If this approach doesn’t work initially, however, take heart. It might very well work for you if you continue to pursue it or do so further down the road.

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