If I Play Hard to Get, Will He Come Around?

Image courtesy of Wikihow (click to learn how they advise playing hard to get)

Image courtesy of Wikihow (click to learn how they advise playing hard to get)

Q. After dating this guy for a month, I asked him where we stood, and he said somewhere between casual and exclusive. I was okay with that, but after three months I called it off. I wanted more. Then I started initiating hangouts, and sometimes we had sex. I thought if I reminded him of how charming and fun I was, he would come around. But I’m tired of the FWB thing. I suggested we just be friends. Anytime we hang out he wants sex and I always say no. Then he shoots me texts and I initiate again, and the cycle continues. Is this helping me get him back (playing hard to get) or just annoying to him?   –Ms. C.

Dear Ms. C,

I have bad news for you: You’re no closer to getting what you want from this man. You are out treading water in romantically ambiguous waters with no shoreline in sight. You think by flailing harder you’ll get somewhere. But you will not. Not like this.

I say this because I KNOW those waters. I have spent some time paddling around there myself. I have done that whole, hey let me remind you of how cool I am and maybe you’ll decide to be with me. Except this never, ever works.

The reason is this: You’re not in control. You gave it up when you started initiating after calling it off, effectively teaching him not to believe anything you say or do, in the blind hope that he’ll come to his senses and commit to you. While you’re thinking he may change his mind, he’s thinking you’ll change yours—and while he hasn’t, you have. Because you keep showing up.

The only person you’re playing hard to get with is yourself, because you keep denying what you want, and pretending you’re ok with less.

Essentially, you’re acting like the hot apps platter that gets passed around the room. Every time you get to him, you hope he’ll sample from the tray—which he does. Only you’re hoping if you give him enough samples, he’ll follow you around. But no one follows the hot apps platter around; it comes to you. You’ve shown him that he doesn’t have to do anything or take any action whatsoever, because sooner or later, the platter will happen by again, he’ll surely help himself to whatever’s on offer.

You're not a party platter. So stop acting like one. (Courtesy of Jerry's Seafood)

You’re not a party platter. So stop acting like one. (Courtesy of Jerry’s Seafood)

You can’t get the three-course meal you want because you’re acting like an hors d’oeuvre.

Look, you say he’s a nice, funny guy with whom you click, and you want to be with him. He isn’t the problem here. He’s just some dude, taking what he can get from nice girls he kinda likes.

The problem is that you have not committed to what you want, and you’re not being honest about it. You don’t want him as a friend. You want him as your boyfriend. You’re settling for what you can get, and that puts you in a very weak position. This is going nowhere productive. (By the way, what does “somewhere between casual and exclusive” mean? You’re either one or the other. There is no gradient.)

In my very popular post about Having the Talk, I say that the one who asks first loses—especially in something so new. You jumped the gun asking for security so early on, and I would have encouraged you to let it ride a bit. After anywhere from 3 to 6 months of dating, when you’re getting some momentum, yes, then it’s the time to say, “Here’s what I want.” And if that person cannot or will not deliver on it, then it’s time to say goodbye.

You asked early, said what you wanted, then proceeded to show him that you were not to be taken at your word. Take him at his word: He doesn’t want anything serious!

Hard to get someone to chase you when you’re busy chasing them. You have demonstrated you are willing to settle for what he’ll give you–a friendly hangout, or whatever. And so he will always try to get what he wants: Sex without strings.  Sure, he likes you. But he doesn’t love you. You know this.

I would cease all communication, and never reach out to him again. I wouldn’t respond when he writes or texts. It’s time for you to stand by what it is you really want. You owe yourself that. You owe him nothing. Unfriend, unfollow, see ya later. No good can come of this.

If he all of a sudden comes to life and demands to know why you’re not responding, then you tell him, “I’m not interested in spending time with people I’m not serious about.” Bang. End of story. If he wants to be taken seriously, he has your number.

I know it’s a heartbreak; you were really trying to give it a chance. But you also weren’t being honest with yourself or him in thought or deed. You don’t need him as “just a friend.” To my mind, someone who’s flaky, noncommittal, lazy, and only wants what’s delivered to him not only makes for a lousy boyfriend, but a lousy friend.

You do not need friends like this in your life. You do not need men like this in your life. You deserve above all to have someone who’s hungry for more, and will chase you down with unrelenting fervor to make it happen.


  1. Soledad Garcia
    Soledad Garcia12-15-2013

    I have already been impressed by many of your articles Ms Trespicio (and it’s a little bit harder to impress a woman in her late fifties…). Here once more is Intelligent advice that many women need but seldom find because it’s never as beautifully put into words. Many a mother, sister, aunt or friend will thank you for this inspirational article that they’ll be able to use to help someone they care about .

    • terri

      Why thank you. That is very kind of you to say and makes me thrilled to hear. You just made my day!

  2. mel

    well this was crazy timely! i have knowingly been stuck here and kicked myself repeatedly because of it. but i couldn’t stop. what is up with that!?!? then i wonder why and how i can still be single.
    you’re totally right…i haven’t committed to what i want.
    is this a worthiness/self esteem issue??

  3. Lucy

    Thank you, Terri. I had a situation similar. An ex got back in touch wanting to do friends with benefits but I didn’t take the bait. I’m considering whether or not to bite the bullet and unfriend. His interest in me slipped when I told him I only wanted to be friends. Initially I was prepared to be in-between casual and exclusive but he said he’d like to date me but would probably finish with me when he moved away or met someone he liked more. How am I supposed to date someone when there’s a determined end date put on it?

    • terri

      Wow. He said that?? I think this is a great idea for a longer piece–Dating with a Deadline. I am going to get cracking on that. But for now, ask yourself this: What do YOU get out of it, and what do you want? If you’re cool with dating him casually (while of course being open/allowed to see other people w/ greater sustainability), then sure. FWB it up. But you have to ask, why are you asking to be friends? You haven’t said what you want, only what he wants and what he’s doing. What do YOU get out of all this? If very little, I’d end it. Now.

      • Lucy

        Yes I already have ended it. I decided that in my heart I can’t do that. I can’t really date someone casually who I really like but who doesn’t like me back. I told him that if we started dating again, I’d want a slower pace because I wouldn’t just jump into bed with him. He wanted me to do all the running too. I told him that seemed like a raw deal and he said it’s not for him if I’m not willing to compromise haha. I don’t want to date too casually anymore but I don’t want to be very serious with someone either unless I meet someone I really like. I think continuing that with him would stop me from moving on and drag it on a bit. Although I’m only 24 and I don’t want to settle down just yet, I also don’t want to waste my time on hopeless men.

        Thank you for personal reply, Terri. I’m looking forward to reading your new post. I never know what my deadline should be. Currently dating a guy I just don’t seem to feel any chemistry with but he is such a good person. I don’t know if he can grow on me or not. I’m not sure I feel ‘it’ with him and when I kissed him, it didn’t feel right at all. I don’t think I’d want to get intimate with him without it feeling like a chore. I should probably end that now.

  4. Blackarachnia

    This really helped put things into perspective! Now I wasn’t plotting “playing hard to get” but was seeking a better understanding of my boyfriend’s er ex boyfriend’s break up letter. It was a short email, first paragraph stated he wasn’t sure if he could be in love with me. We had been together for 1 year, 3 months. At just under the year mark, I told him I love him. At the end of the email, ” Please try hard not to hate me, and try hard not to love me- that would make me like you more- Sounds strange? Yes it it is, and if it makes you feel any better, you are the only one that I responded to when I blocked alllllllll the numbers”

    Yes, he actually did say that. I thought, because he was such a busy person, that it was a good thing being available any time he picked (he was never unreasonable with the hours). But your wonderfully detailed post made me realise that I was too available. That I was letting him know you can walk all over me.

    Thank you, you have gave me great insight!

  5. R

    What an honest answer and great piece of advice. I am actually in a similar situation only my problem is that i dated my boy for 5 years!! I then moved away for university and we fought more and more until he just “ended” things over a text because i was too depressed and crying all the time and he was just sick of us fighting… The relationship hadnt been good for a year. I admit. But he broke my heart! But we didnt really end. I thought we did but turns out he was just testing me or something… It wasnt the first time we fought and he stopped talking to me for a while, but it was the first time he said “it ‘s over”. So after crying my eyes of, i just found a “replacement” guy (really nothing serious, not love, just. Friend who listened to me cry and tried to cheer me up and well we ended up doing it)… Only when i saw my ex. 3 months later, i decided to be honest and tell him. He cried, screamed, was sad and angry that i was able to be with someone else after 5 years of only being with him and “so fast”. Eventually we stopped talking for a month then began again then screamed at each other then fought than stopped talking again…. (All this long distance). Until i decided to move BACK home. I miss him… I have been here for 2 months. We talked, he wants to take things slow, but i have anxiety attacks just thinking that i might loose him, he says he likes me a lot but he still cannot forget that story and doesnt know how to deal with it, and when i decided to be honest yesterday, he said that i was pressuring him.., i honestly dont know WHAT to do! We see each other once a week, we have fun, (we even did it a month ago once in a weak moment) but now he doesnt kiss me or anything and he goes out a lot with his guy friends and meets many new girls… But to ME he wont commit… He says “now that you are here, we have all our lives ahead of us”. I dont know if it means that he is mine and i am his for the rest of our lives, or that we will be draging this “friendship” for the rest of our lives. How to make him committ? Please help me. R

    • terri

      First mistake: Telling him you started seeing someone else. You did it under the guise of being “honest” but I don’t buy that kind of honesty. It’s painful and unnecessary. What you really were trying to do is make him jealous so he’d come running back. And you’re devastated b/c it had the opposite effect. He now hates you for it. Thing is, he probably also saw some other ladies, but he did the kinder thing and didn’t tell you about it. I’d put dollars to donuts that he DEF slept w/ some other ladies. He’s playing the guilt card w/ you to get you under his control.

      When he acted mad like that, then he put you in the position of being “sorry” and wanting him back, and now he has control–and he knows it. You’re worried about losing him, desperate to make him commit…and a man smells that desperation a million miles away. Now he’s going to make you pay for seeing someone else–even tho he ended it? Give me a break.

      I’d take the high road here and say, “You know, I understand you need your space and some time. I wish you the best!” and mean it. Don’t be coy, catty, or sly. You’re not “dragging” him thru your life. You have your whole life and probably lots of other relationships ahead of you–NONE of which are his business.

      You can’t make him do anytihng right now out of a place of need. So let it go. See other people. If you disengage in a kind, positive way, and he really does have feelings for you, trust me, he’ll be back. If not, you dodged a bullet, am I right?

      • R

        You are right. I know he can feel my despair and me wanting to be with him (i
        i even told him). When i told him i honestly wasnt tryin to make him jealous, I even cried when i did and so did he… I guess i just wanted to take that lie of my chest… And we are a very close couple, we tell each other everything… But the things got out of hand the last year and then i did that (he didnt while we were broken up, he swore on his sister and i believe it, but now i dont know…) I really regret that fling, I was weak at the time and needed someone. The problem with my ex is he says he didnt sleep with anyone but he did kiss many girls (he’s the kind of guy that doesnt like sleeping around and preferes a girlfriend, if that kind of a guy exists!)
        He is very sweet to me, he invites me to dinners, etc… But our relationship is strictly fun, no serious nor love things, and i dont know if it is because he is scared of getting hurt again, or bcs he is trying to punish me or because im being too easy… What should i do when he texts me how im doing and if i want to go out? Should i play hard to get so that he realizes something or should i be nice and honest or should i just forget him (thats not what i want, it has been my person for 5 years and we have fun and i missed him thats why i moved back home) i just want to turn things around you know. Thank you

        • R

          I want him to WANT me the way he did a year ago before all the fights. I want to have fun with him, i want him to love me again not just “like” me

  6. Tiffany

    Wow! I just took your advice as I was in the same situation. It hurts but I have to think of my needs first. Hopefully I will continue to heal. Will he reach out? Maybe……. Will I respond NO! I love myself and I’m gradually learning my worth.

  7. Tiffany

    I miss him a lot we were friends first. It’s hard to understand WHY he doesn’t want me. Every time I leave him he comes after me. It hurts him when I leave. I never call him nor contact him first. Neither one of us could walk away. I have to though because I want MORE! We loved to fight and make up. It’s damaging to your soul. He won’t ever know how much he hurt me. I’m determined to walk away for good.

    Part of me wishes he would call and say he missed me. Day 3 NC Rule I asked him for space and time MAYBE we can be friends @ a later time.

    Terri thank you for the truth! It hurts but you have helped me start HEALing. Ladies our bodies are a temple. Not just any man should be allowed to have us. LESSON LEARNED!

Leave a Reply

Current month ye@r day *