Single Life
Girl drinking coffee leaving someone on read over text.

Leaving Someone On Read Can Do More Harm Than Good

It could be a red flag about you.

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Have you ever watched the show The Good Place? In it, both heaven and hell are custom-made to best reward or punish you. If the afterlife is anything like that, my personal bad place is just a phone screen with all my texts marked read — and maybe the occasional disappearing typing bubble. If you’ve ever been left on read (or you’ve ever left someone on read), you know that not answering messages is a real strategy people use when dating. But does keeping someone on read even work? And does doing it make you, well, kind of a jerk? Because if you've ever been left on read, you know how much it can suck.

In case you’re not up to speed on the lingo, leaving someone “on read” is when someone keeps their "read" receipts turned on in their iMessage and purposefully doesn't answer a crush's texts, so the sender knows it’s been read and the recipient hasn't replied. The whole point is to make the sender wonder why they were left on read. “Humans seek resolution and clarity," Susan Winter, relationship expert, love coach, and author of Breakup Triage: The Cure for Heartache tells Elite Daily. "The partner who creates tension sets up a situation where you won't know where you stand. Yes or no? In or out? Do they like me? This dating game keeps one's prey on guard and insecure.” It's a weird power game, but chances are you’ve been on one or both sides of it before.

Even if it’s not the best feeling to be waiting on a reply, there is some value in seeming a bit unavailable and mysterious. For one thing, it keeps you from coming across as too “eager” and will rule out anyone who isn't willing to do a little work to win you over. But does it actually make the object of your affections want you more? To answer that, I reached out to the experts. Here's their take on why, (spoiler alert!) yes, it can work, but why it may not be worth it.

Leaving Someone On Read Creates Tension
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Leaving someone on read works in the same way that old-school playing hard to get worked — by creating tension through withholding, Winter explains. It also works, she says, by making the person waiting on the response feel a bit more vulnerable and insecure, which “activates their desire for acceptance,” says Winter. “It creates incentive for the non-priority person to work at becoming a priority. Yes, it's a game. And yes, our ego tends to jump in and want to play in order to win.”

It Can Also Be Highly Manipulative

While it might be effective in drawing someone in and holding their attention, John Keegan, dating coach and creator of The Awakened Lifestyle, explains that leaving someone on read can cause unintended consequences.

“Keeping your text 'on read' message is a manipulative tactic used to get people to feel off-center," Keegan tells Elite Daily. "When someone's doing that on purpose, it's because they're manipulative.” He adds that it can even lead to obsession.

“It's also a sign that something is unhealthy in the relationship between you and the other person," Keegan says. "It means you don't feel there's a balanced back-and-forth flow. If you find yourself checking [if they’ve read your text] over and over, you need to get a grip and focus on something else in your life.”

But Does Leaving Someone On Read Actually Work?
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Online dating can be hard. With all the games and ghosting so much ghosting — sometimes you might feel like you need a tiny advantage. So, despite being a bit shady, both experts agreed that leaving someone on read can definitely work to make you seem more desirable — but it can be a mixed bag further down the line.

Keegan explains that, as a seduction strategy, keeping someone on read can work. However, it can also appear like a red flag about you. “What it tells you about the person who’s doing it is that they’re trying to control you — they're trying to have power,” Keegan explains.

And while it can be effective early on, Winter warns the real problem is what leaving someone on read means for the relationship down the road, because “[in the] short term, the one who uses 'on read' feels powerful and in charge. They feel they have the other person where they want them; weak, insecure, and struggling for approval. In the long run, no healthy relationship can be formed from a polluted foundation. Game gets game. Real gets real.” She adds, “When you start with 'game', it's almost impossible to convert to 'real.’”

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Ultimately, yes, leaving someone on read “works” to make you seem more desirable. But it also comes with the potential for a ton of baggage, so proceed with caution.

Experts cited:

John Keegan, dating coach and creator of The Awakened Lifestyle

Susan Winter, relationship expert, love coach, and author of Breakup Triage: The Cure for Heartache