Playing Hard To Get Might Be The Sure-Fire Way To Attract An Avoidant Partner

Playing hard to get: If it's not the oldest dating trick in the book, it might feel like it. Playing hard to get is exactly what it sounds like; it's when, while beginning to date someone, you make it difficult for them to know and understand your feelings. For example, if they ask you on a date, instead of saying yes, you might say no, or say yes — but cancel at the last minute. Or you might flirt with your romantic interest outrageously one night, and then act cold towards them the very next. It might even be something as simple as taking 48 hours to answer a text — and when you do, only provide a short answer.

While this might sound more exhausting than, say, being honest about your feelings, there are some who believe that "playing hard to get" can make you seem more in demand, and thus, more of interest to your romantic partner (via Psychology Today). It also tests the interest level of those pursuing you; that if they keep at it despite your mixed signals, they must really like you.

According to Harry Reis, a psychology professor at University of Rochester, who conducted a study around the dynamics of mating rituals, "Playing hard to get makes it seem as if you are more in demand — we call that having higher mate value." But he concedes, "If playing hard to get makes you seem disinterested or will backfire" (via University of Rochester News Center).

Why you might want to re-think playing hard to get

Like Harry Reis said, playing hard to get is a fine line to walk. While you might not want to seem too eager (which of course, can be a turn off), playing hard to get might quickly derail a potential love interest — particularly if you're looking for something long-term. According to Dr. Mairi Macleod, an evolutionary biologist who studies the science of attraction, "Showing that you have other options suggests you are confident and have high mate value, which might make you seem more attractive, but likely only in the short term" (via Cosmopolitan). So, if you're only seeking a casual hookup — by all means, leave that booty call on read.

According to one study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, if you're looking to build something more sustainable with someone, playing hot and cold can increase your potential mate's interest but simultaneously grow their disdain. Macleod continues to explain that playing games will only in turn attract others who play games — people who have avoidant attachment styles instead of secure ones.

Those who are securely attached "tend to hold out for the right partner, and they don't play games — nor do they appreciate those who do," Macleod said. "If you pretend that you are happy to be casual and unattainable, then you'll most likely attract an avoidant person, and then when you decide you do want to reveal that you'd like a committed relationship, they'll be running fast in the other direction."

More on what 'avoidant attachment' means

It probably feels like every time you open TikTok these days, someone is talking about the various attachment styles. But what are they exactly? Attachment theory was initially created by John Bowlby, a British psychologist, and later expanded upon by Mary Ainsworth, as well as by Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller, who wrote the book "Attached." Per Levine and Heller, there are three types of attachment styles, or, "Manners in which people perceive and respond to intimacy in romantic relationships, which parallel those found in children." These three attachment styles are secure attachment style, anxious attachment style, and avoidant attachment style. Those who are securely attached are comfortable with intimacy and feel confident both alone and in relationships, whereas those who are anxious struggle with and doubt their partner's commitment. And those who are avoidant are afraid of letting others get too close to them.

"Commonly, people with avoidant attachment don't prioritize partnership in their life," Carolina Pataky, sex therapist and founder of South Florida's Love Discovery Institute, told Women's Health. "They are individuals who retract, hide, and refuse to communicate their emotions, and who often feel uncomfortable when someone else seeks out emotional, physical, or other forms of intimacy."

So, for those of you not looking to attract people terrified of intimacy, maybe think twice before playing hard to get.