While the general consensus still seems to be that men are from Mars and women are from Venus (remember that?), in reality, we’re not all that different. We did, however, grow up in different cultures, which informs our behavior today when it comes to things like how good we are at asserting what we want and actually going out and getting it. Guys do play hard to get just like women do. However, they won’t express those desires in the same way and it makes them difficult to spot.
- They want you to come to them. Guys are just like any other socialized animal. They want attention. That’s something we share with them. Everyone wants to feel good and know that they’re important in another person’s life. We all know the pain of unrequited love. You can only fall in love with the wrong person so many times. We want to feel like we’re in the right place and have our affections returned to us with interest. It isn’t vain and it isn’t shallow. You’re just kidding yourself if you don’t find jealousy attractive for the same reasons that you want someone to chase you. It’s a compliment and a public demonstration that you’re worth caring about. It also shows that they’re committed to you. There’s value in security.
- They want to feel powerful. Sometimes, guys play hard to get because they want to influence the power dynamic in the relationship. I know there are traditional power frameworks within heterosexual relationships, but that is changing more and more by the day. It’s more of a power struggle. That’s why some guys will try to play up to the ‘mysterious loner’ stereotype to check that you will take that step towards them. It’s a gesture of fake confidence that betrays a lack of self-esteem. It also shows that they don’t trust words and need actions as proof.
- Control is important. Some people won’t commit to a relationship until the other person has shown their cards. They believe that because they themselves know how they feel about the other person, all they need to do is wait for confirmation on the other side. However, this leads to a lot of waiting around and wasted time. It gives the other person no agency and can be a form of manipulation. If you are invested in a relationship, you should be willing to take the risk and put yourself out there. Not just your partner.
- Toxic masculinity. When guys play hard to get it’s probably the result of some buried or self-aware form of toxic masculinity. He fears expressing his emotions in a clear and vulnerable way because he is scared about being emasculated. Society has coded emotional expressiveness as a less legitimate masculine identity. Lots of men fear it for these reasons. It isn’t an excuse for ignoring you, but it’s a lot to unpack when you are constantly told you should be the Big Bad Breadwinner and never break from that persona.
- Guys can still relearn a lot about toxic masculinity. Some guys will be willing to relearn these aspects of their life, though. No one wants to constantly chase someone. It stops being fun when they just take you for granted. When that happens, sit your guy down and talk to him. Get to the bottom of why he needs the emotional buffer.
- They’re complex creatures. Hey, women are more than dresses and make-up, and to suggest otherwise would be reductive and misogynistic. We must treat men with the same open values in return. Guys have lots of different, unexpected, contradictory impulses, motivations, and goals. If you’re confused, don’t presume to know them perfectly. Just ask.
- They want to be loved as you do. Why should guys not get pampered and treated like kings? You would expect the same. Check-in with them and you might find that playing hard to get is a defense mechanism or a cry for more attention. Listen to them.
- They want to feel desirable. Everyone should. We’re all worthy individuals, single or as a couple. He might just be unpacking those feelings. No emotion is permanent and he will go on his own journey. If it’s meant to be, he’ll come back to you.
Don’t panic when a guy plays hard to get. He might not be a player. Know your worth and stop when it stops being fun, but if he wants time and space, give that to him.