Why playing hard to get could be the love strategy you need

Keeping a little distance and mystery can help when it comes to attracting and holding on to a love interest, a new study has found.

If you’ve met someone new and they’ve set your heart racing, don’t let them know just yet – because playing hard to get may increase your appeal, according to researchers.

A US and Israeli study found making the chase harder increases our desirability or “mate value”.

“People who are too easy to attract may be perceived as more desperate,” writes study co-author Gurit Birnbaum, a social psychologist at the Interdisciplinary Centre Herzliya.

“That makes them seem less valuable and appealing than those who do not make their romantic interest apparent right away.”

The study found a potential partner appears more valuable and sexually desirable when we have to make efforts to get their attention and interest. We’re also more likely to try to spend time with them again.

The appeal of being ‘hard to get’

“The things in life that are hard to get – the house with the beach view, the expensive car or great job – are seen as more valuable,” says relationship and dating coach Samantha Jayne.

“Playing hard to get creates uncertainty and mystery and suggests scarcity.

“Too much certainty is boring but when you pull back from someone, it creates a spark because most of us want what we can’t have and we love a challenge.”

Playing hard to get also takes confidence – another appealing trait.

“Confidence helps you set boundaries and standards and it highlights that you value yourself, which is also attractive to a partner,” says Samantha.

The risks of playing ‘hard to get’

But there’s a delicate balance between playing hard to get and appearing disinterested.

A potential partner needs to feel their efforts are going to be successful – eventually.

Playing hard to get can also attract someone who loves the chase and once they have you, they lose interest.

“Or someone who isn’t confident can see hard to get as rejection,” says Samantha.

“They may see you as being hard work when they want security and to know that you like them.

“They will find someone else who appears more interested because they don’t want to get their heart broken. So if you do play hard to get, you have to validate the other person and make them feel good.”

Tips for playing hard to get without too many games

  • Wait before you answer a text or email. It creates uncertainty – and relief when you respond.
  • “Don’t be too available – when setting up a date don’t say ‘any time this week is great’,” says Samantha. “Have plans – even if they are pretend.”
  • Match and mirror the other person’s behaviour. If they let an hour pass before answering your text, wait an hour and a little longer before responding.
  • “Ask the other person questions and when they reveal things about themselves, highlight common ground,” says Samantha. “If they step up and reveal more about themselves, you can too.”

Written by Sarah Marinos