It’s high time you tested out a new dating philosophy.
If one of Jason Segel's seminal lines from 2002's Slackers — "You treat a hot girl like dirt, and she'll stick to you like glue.” — has served as your dating reference point, it’s high time someone told you to start watching better rom-coms and to overhaul your dating philosophy. Treating a woman like dirt, ignoring a guy to get him to notice you, showing indifference to a potential partner when they’re clearly and obviously interested in you — all behaviors employed in the name of playing hard to get — isn’t a successful dating “tactic,” it’s mean-spirited, a waste of time, and pretty disrespectful. But because so many people treat those first few dates (or first few months of dating) like a game where they think if they ignore him, treat her foolishly, or leave them on read for weeks at a time will only make them want you more, it can be tricky to determine whether or not this type of behavior is one you should recreate in your own dating life.
The short answer is simple: No, you shouldn’t. Psychotherapist Todd Baratz, who specializes in sex and relationships, takes it one step further, telling Elite Daily, “I would hope that people are not consciously playing hard to get.” But before you write off someone you’re dating or interested in dating for behavior you feel isn’t aligned with yours, Baratz warns that ignoring a person isn’t exactly a conscious choice someone is making to keep you guessing. “Many people struggle to connect, are distant, and [can be] avoidant of relationships. It’s something that plays out behaviorally as an expression of their unconscious avoidance of intimacy. If someone is purposefully playing hard to get, it’s likely they have received a horrible relational education from someone [or] somewhere.”
“The game of the ‘chase’ sounds fun,” says Dr. Martha Tara Lee, relationship counselor, clinical sexologist, author, and owner of Eros Coaching, “but this might not be what everybody is seeking.” She adds that “we associate [playing] games, chase, and passion with drama that we watch in dramas. In reality, mature and well adjusted relationships aren't dramatic in nature and don't play non-consensual games for the thrill of it.”
So if you aren’t in it just for the thrill of the “chase” and want to understand why he’s ignoring you, these expert-approved tips can help you better understand what’s going on and how to break the cycle in order to build strong relationships without all the guesswork.
What should you do if you’ve been dating someone and they start to ignore you?
Let's say you’re a month into dating someone and you feel like now she's ignoring you. Rather than ramping up the texts, maybe you usually get quiet and wait to see what her next move is. Baratz says instead of going quiet while you wait to hear back, “Have a conversation immediately.”
“Many people have fears in dating about [having] ‘the talk’ or having deep conversations about the relationship. Explore those fears,” he says, “because when you avoid conversations you are disconnecting from the relationship. It might be out of fear but the result is nonetheless a disconnection. Communicate on an ongoing basis about your relationship goals and what you want from your partner. If you notice them pulling away — do a quick check-in.” It’s never too soon to be open and honest about what you’re looking for in a partner, and if someone isn’t doing it for you, you have to be OK with telling them why.
However, Lee understands you might be waiting it out to see whether or not they’ve lost interest or figuring out what type of commitment they’re ready for. Regardless, you should remember someone ignoring you when you’re dating is “often not about you.” It can be completely overwhelming to believe it’s not you, it’s them, but Lee offers an alternative: “If they pull away, I might give them all the space in the world and [expect] the same [in return].” Your attitude should be to keep busy in your own life so that the person who’s ignoring you recognizes you too “have a full and fulfilling life.”
Do guys notice when you ignore them? Do they like it?
It’s heteronormative, stereotypical, and completely out of touch, but there is an idea floating around that guys “like it” when you ignore them, and ignoring them only makes you want them more. John Keegan, dating coach and founder of The Awakened Lifestyle, says this can actually, sometimes, be true, though it’s not just cis men who may feel this way. Partners may come back when you ignore them because it can feel as though “they've lost something they had.” But if you think this kind of relationship behavior is cute, Baratz couldn’t be any more clear: “NEVER PLAY HARD TO GET.” He adds this type of behavior is manipulation, and creates an unhealthy dynamic. You should always “respond to texts, schedule dates, and work on creating intimacy. Playing hard to get disrupts intimacy and trust. It creates anxiety and disconnection.”
Lee says your goal should be an equitable, balanced partnership that addresses and respects the needs of both partners. “Some people prefer partners who are independent so that they can be free to lead their own lives. It is unrealistic to think that you can enjoy the benefits of being in a relationship without give-and-take, and without factoring the needs, wants, and desires of your partner. In short, a relationship without expectations is desired, but is this one that fulfills all parties?”
If you can’t give your partner that kind of relationship, or they’re unable to offer you that kind of commitment, you need to ask yourself why you’re in this type of relationship and whether or not this is the type of dynamic you’re after. If the answer to either of those questions is no, you’ve got to do what’s best for you.
Is she ignoring me because she thinks I’m “needy”?
Baratz says being “needy” is a nonstarter. “Everyone is needy,” he says, and it’s true. He adds, “Not having needs is more problematic than having needs,” which is a relationship red flag you should be on high alert for. Pretending nothing ruffles your feathers, or that you’re down for whatever isn’t helping anyone — you should be up front, honest, and unabashed about what you expect. “Neediness,” Baratz says, “is not a thing” because “if you’re human and in a relationship you are inherently seeking need fulfillment. Let go of all of the BS you learned about neediness. Instead, develop a comfort level with having open and honest communication about your needs and wants in relationships.” If you aren’t in a place to discuss those needs, Baratz says you become the one who is disconnecting. You’re not giving your partner an honest chance to meet you where you’re at.
If a partner accuses you of being “needy” and then blames that behavior as a reason why they’re ignoring you or pulling away, Lee says her advice is this: “Reflect and check in [with] yourself.” Are your needs being acknowledged, heard, and responded to? Because these are needs, and not wants or desires, Lee says you need to understand “whether your partner is willing or able to fulfill them.” If they’re more interested in blaming or shaming you, it sounds like it’s time to move forward without them.
You shouldn't ignore guys you're into. As a matter of fact, you shouldn’t ignore anyone you’re into.
"I do not recommend women ignore men they're interested in. Absolutely not. If you really want to start a relationship off right, show that you're interested," says Keegan. "Don't play games. Once games begin, they never end and someone always loses in a game. In a relationship, we're looking for a win-win."
Baratz asks: “What's a healthy way to keep the spark and desire alive, especially when you're newly dating someone and not sure you want to fully commit yet?” And then he answers: “Have fun together. Talk about sex. Explore new things. Learn about each other’s history and background through meaningful dialogue.”
Additional reporting by Kylie McConville
Todd Baratz, certified sex therapist, licensed individual and couples psychotherapist, podcast host, and writer
Dr. Martha Tara Lee, relationship counselor, clinical sexologist, author, and owner of Eros Coaching
John Keegan, dating coach and founder of The Awakened Lifestyle
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