playing hard-to-get vs. being hard-to-get

People struggle with the conflict between not “playing games” and not “being too eager”: the two mortal sins of the dating world. But there is a simple way to avoid both: get a life.

I hate seeing people struggle with this issue. I’ve talked to people in their early 20’s and people in their late 60’s and everything in between, and it’s an issue that never seems to go away. If they are actively out on the “dating scene” and trying to cultivate new romantic relationships, they all are victims of the same dilemma.

Lemma 1: You should never play games. You should be honest and up-front, and you should never be manipulative. Being manipulative is not making an honest connection, and if the other people realizes they are being manipulated it will likely end the relationship right then and there. Simply “be yourself” and be honest with your communications.

Lemma 2: You should never appear overly-eager and suffocate the other person. You need to allow them to reach out to you, to miss you, and to play their own role in the dating dance. Other people want and (emotionally) need an opportunity to miss you and reach out to you, and they cannot if you always do it first, or if you are instantly available every time they reach out to you. If you are always in their face, then over time it can become annoying and will be a total turn-off.

That’s the dilemma.

The reason it is a dilemma is that if  you really-really-really like the person you are getting to know, then you are thinking about them all the time. Your instinct will be to include them in everything that you do. With today’s technology, making instant communication so easy no matter where you are, the temptation to send a text every 10 minutes can feel almost overpowering. It’s a standard symptom of  feeling that “head-over-heals” for someone.

So I hear people say: “I don’t want to suffocate them, but I don’t want to play games. I feel like it’s either one or the other… what do I do?”

The answer is simple, and it has nothing to do with them. It has to do with you.

You quite simply need to have more going on in your life.

Read a book. Get a hobby. Call your best friend to go to a sports bar or a museum. Go work out.

It doesn’t really matter what it is, but go and actually engage in an activity.

The simple fact is, if you are able to call your head-over-heals love interest so many times that it might annoy them, chances are you are sitting on your ass and not actually involved in your own life.  If you really can pick up the phone on the first ring every time they call, there is a good chance you’re not making the best use of your time.

Go do something.



One of the things that is attractive about a person who isn’t calling you all of the time, or picking up the phone every time you call, is that it means that the other person is an interesting person who is engaged in activities.  It means that the other person is involved in life.  It means that they will have something to tell you the next time you ask them: “What have you been up to?”

If all you do all day is sit around waiting to talk to this other person, what will you have to say when that person asks: “What have you been up do?”  Basically you will have to resort to the lamest and most UN-attractive answer in the entire history of all dating: “Nothing”.



I think one of the most dysfunctional things a person can do when dating is to “play hard to get”. There are tons of “advice” columns out there that tell people to play hard to get, and every single one of them is completely and dangerously wrong.

Playing hard to get is dishonest. It violates Lemma #1.

So don’t ever play hard to get: be hard to get.

Don’t pretend to be too busy to pick up the phone on the first ring: actually be too busy to pick up the phone on the first ring.

Don’t sit around waiting for two days to call the person back: actually be doing something completely active and enthralling for two days before you call them back.


That way, when you call back, and the person asks, “What have you been up to?” you will actually have something interesting to say.

Not hard to get.