You may not immediately look at a guy and think, “He’s playing hard to get.”

But guys play hard to get just as often as women do.

Only it’s called breadcrumbing, or benching, or stashing, or phubbing.

(Don’t know what these terms mean? I’ll tell you in a moment.)

That’s what playing hard to get looks like in the modern era:

Stringing you along, keeping you on the back burner, disappearing only to mysteriously reappear, or ignoring you in favor of his phone.

Why do men do it?

Aren’t men supposed to be the pursuers, rather than the ones distancing themselves?

A new peer-reviewed study from the University of Kansas unveiled the reasons that both genders play hard to get.

And what they discovered may make you think twice about dating a guy who makes it difficult for you to get close.

How Guys Play Hard to Get

Playing hard to get used to look like not accepting a weekend date before Wednesday, waiting a day before calling him back, and never letting him know you’re interested.

Today, an entire vocabulary has sprung up around the ways someone can push you away while pulling you in.

  • Breadcrumbing: He sends you flirty texts out of the blue to let you know he’s thinking of you… only to never follow through.
  • Benching: He might want you to be his #1 girlfriend, but right now he’s got you sitting on the bench, waiting to be called up.
  • Stashing: It seems like you’re in a relationship, but you haven’t met his friends or family, and he doesn’t tag you on social media. He’s keeping your relationship compartmentalized for a reason: because he doesn’t actually intend to make you part of his life.
  • Phubbing: Whenever you’re together, there’s a third party hogging his attention: his phone. “Phone snubbing” makes it obvious that the contacts on his phone are more interesting than you.

What these tactics have in common is the way they hold you at arm’s length, so you have to be the one pursuing him.

He never pushes you away so far that you think, “I’m done. This guy isn’t worth it.”

Instead, he’s figured out just how much he can keep you at a distance while also letting you believe you might have a future together.

Why Guys Play Hard to Get

A brand-new study found that playing hard to get is not just something women do. (Obviously!) It’s also something that people with an avoidant attachment style do.[1]

That’s a clue you don’t want to overlook, especially if your goal is a healthy, secure relationship.

Your attachment style refers to the quality of your emotional attachment in romantic relationships.

Do you tend to feel suffocated when the one you love gets too close? Then you might have an avoidant attachment style.

Do you tend to feel anxious when the one you love seems distant? Then you might have an anxious attachment style.

Or do you tend to trust in your love, so that you feel safe whether the one you love is close or far away? Then you might have a secure attachment style.

People with a secure attachment style tend to have the healthiest, happiest relationships. They’re comfortable with intimacy, and they don’t mind the occasional distance.

But a lot of tumultuous relationships have an avoidant-anxious pattern, where one person pushes the other away, while the other person desperately works to achieve closeness again.

This push-pull cycle creates a lot of drama and causes a great deal of distress.

Researchers have discovered that avoidant people tend to play hard to get, while anxious people find hard-to-get tactics irresistible.

Researchers even found that they could encourage men to play hard to get by priming them with feelings of avoidance.

When a man feels like he has to protect himself from being hurt, or when he feels the need to always be in control, he’s more likely to play hard to get.

What This Means for You

Securely attached folks don’t tend to play hard to get. They don’t tend to pursue people who are playing hard to get, either. Game-playing puts them off.

So if a man is stringing you along, or pulling away as soon as things get too intense, or giving you just enough interest to keep you hoping but not enough to get serious, call a spade a spade:

This guy is playing hard to get.

And it doesn’t bode well for his prospects as a healthy mate.

Avoidant guys are not the catch they appear.

Instead, look for secure guys: guys who display equal comfort with intimacy and distance. They love being close, but they like having their space, too. They say what they mean, and there’s no hidden subtext.

Love is a lot easier when you don’t have to play games!


[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0191886920301860

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