I’m sure you’ve heard this advice before. Maybe from an aunt, your mother, or a grandmother — or maybe even from someone your own age. For some reason, one of the worst pieces of dating advice is one one that’s stood the test of time: If you like someone, you should play hard to get.
No, no you really, really shouldn’t.
For someone reason, this idea of playing hard to get hasn’t just permeated our dating culture, it’s helped shape it. A woman, coy and aloof, doesn’t rebuke a man’s attention—instead she just ignores it completely. The man, driven wild by her apathy, pursues her aggressively. Suddenly, the big reveal — she was interested all along! True love blooms!
It sounds pretty gross, right? That’s because it is. Here’s why playing hard to get isn't a good idea.
It’s Straight Up Game-Playing
Playing hard to get is, essentially, lying. You really like someone, but instead you tell them that you're not interested — the opposite of the truth. You lie. And when has it ever been a good idea to start a relationship off on a lie? If you start by playing hard to get, there’s no reason that your partner should ever trust you.
Even more than that, playing hard to get treats your relationship like a game. A romance blossoming between two people should be built on mutually sharing, communication, and being vulnerable to one another — it should be something that you create together. It should be something authentic. Playing hard to get and swapping barbed insults might be entertaining in a Shakespearean comedy, but it’s a hollow, if not destructive, foundation on which to build a relationship.
It’s Another Way We Tell Women To Minimize Their Feelings
Playing hard to get is theoretically relationship advice — something that’s meant to help you, ultimately, get what you want. And maybe when a friend or aunt tells you to do it, they do genuinely have your best interest at heart. But it's hard to ignore the fact that telling a woman to pretend she’s not interested feels like another way of suffocating and silencing her. It says, “Your emotions aren’t meant to be shown, your feelings shouldn’t be voiced. Be quiet — that’s when a man will want you.” Buried in the ‘playing hard to get’ advice is a really old-fashioned, misogynistic message.
Instead, why not find someone who likes you for speaking your mind? When you don’t play hard to get, when you own your emotions and you communicate them in a grown-up way, you can find someone who likes you for you — for your honesty, maturity, and candor. Dating advice shouldn’t just be about finding a partner, it should be about finding the right partner, someone who’s going to value being with you in all of your glory. So be honest, be direct, be open. Feel confident in your feelings — and empowered enough to share them. If someone doesn’t like that, then they’re just not the right person for you.
It Promotes Rape Culture
It’s true. Sure, it’s one of those pieces of advice that’s been banging around for so long that it’s easy to write it off as “quaint” or “old-fashioned," but playing hard to get actually reinforces a much more sinister mentality. Playing hard to get perpetuates an idea that when a woman says "no" she means "yes" — one of the foundations of rape culture. Telling a woman to hide her feelings only to reveal them later is incredibly damaging — for young women and for young men. We want to teach young people that "no" means "no" and "yes" means "yes" — in a romantic setting and in a sexual one. Doing anything else is a huge disservice — and potentially very dangerous.
Instead, let’s embrace enthusiastic consent — in romantic pursuits as much as anything else. Not playing hard to get, especially at a young age, means engaging in tricky conversations about feelings and emotions. It means being open and navigating difficult territory. It means, ultimately, becoming better communicators and better partners — and isn’t that ultimately what we want for the next generation? If so, then we have to start by setting the example — and handing it down.
When someone tells you to “play hard to get” — maybe even if you’ve suggested it yourself — they probably didn't have any ill-intent in mind. It feels like it should be harmless advice, even good advice — it’s been around for so long, after all. But the truth is, there’s a lot that's problematic and downright dangerous about encouraging women to play hard to get and teaching men that women like to play hard to get. So instead, let’s promote candor, courage, and respect for each other’s emotions — and a world where we all know that “no” never means “yes.”