Why Guys Play Hard To Get (Or Make You Think They Do)

We asked men to share their thoughts.

man looking at camera playing hard to get in front of green background kiuikson / Shutterstock

When I first started dating I ached to be one of those girls who could play hard to get.

I couldn't believe how cool and collected — and seemingly disinterested — the popular girls were in all of the boys throwing themselves at their perfectly-pedicured feet.

As I grew up I realized that playing hard to get isn't cool — it's manipulative. It also perpetuates a lot of sexist thinking about women.


If I like you, I'm going to tell you that I like you. I won't pretend I don't.

Being upfront and direct works with men who are worthy of dating. When you put yourself out there honestly, directly, and, with a little bit of real personality, you get all the good that comes with that.

That doesn't mean that playing hard to get isn't a thing. It definitely is, and it works on some men. Thinking about this begs the question (or at least it did for me) ...

Do men play hard to get?

Of course, individuals are exactly that individual. But yes, there are times when men play hard to get with women.

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I outsourced my questions about this topic to a group of men who were more than happy to provide me with their answers on the subject.

Here's what they had to say about situations in which men play hard to get.

Why men play hard to get

1. He isn't really interested.

"If a guy is playing hard to get he isn't interested."

2. He is actually just oblivious.

"I never play hard to get, I am just oblivious to a lot of things."

3. He’s really busy. (No, really.)

"I don't do it intentionally, but it probably comes off like I am fairly often. I'm extremely busy during the week so it can take me hours to respond to texts at times, sometimes I just don't feel like going on a date so I'll cancel and chill with friends, etc. Most dudes don't play any games, because they don't want girls to play games with them. If a dude is playing games then chances are he does really well with women, because desperate guys generally view most game-playing as risky."


4. He wants to know how badly you want him.

"Sure. In lots of relationships. Sexual and otherwise. Makes people come at you harder. Let's you know if they really want you."

"Yeah I play hard to get sometimes, but honestly my last girlfriends had no real interest in me. They either just wanted a generic boyfriend or a friend with benefits who wouldn't stray. I guess I just want someone who actually is interested in me rather than interested in attention or sex. In my history, unfortunately, it seems they didn't really like me at all by the end. If you don't like me then what's the point? I know it's a terrible strategy but I'm sick of one-way conversations where I ask and they answer ... Does it matter who I am at all? Now if I am talking to a girl I'm interested in and I ask 'where do you work, what are your hobbies, goals, favorite beers, stories?' and they answer but ask nothing of me then I guess I'll just give up even if she's giving me the physical signals and laughing at my bad jokes. I don't want to be a generic funny, cute guy. I want to be myself."

5. He believes in equal opportunity.

"The only time I stop initiating is when it isn't mutual, in which case I distance myself a bit. If they don't initiate at least 40 percent of the time (rough number, just about equal with some elbow room), I assume they aren't interested and move on."

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Of course there were also some men who said they don't play hard to get.

Why men don't play hard to get

1. He doesn’t know how.

"We don't. We wouldn't even know we were being chased."



2. He used to, but he learned from his mistakes.

"I stopped doing that when I was a teenager when I realized the girls just stopped trying after a while. That's one thing women seem to be really good at, just moving on before they waste any more time."


"I did it once, the girl in question stopped flirting. Never did it again."

3. He's a traditionalist.

"Never. That's the woman's role."

4. He knows better.

"If I'm into you I'm into you. It's that simple: don't play games life's too short for stupid games."

"The friend zone and playing hard to get are the same thing. And I never heard a man play hard to get."

"Some guys might, but for most, it's a really, really terrible strategy. Even for women, it's really stupid."

"Never. It decreases my chances of getting laid."

"I have not, because I found the behavior emotionally dishonest and manipulative."

"Playing hard to get is ridiculous, it doesn't work and only makes people annoyed."


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How to know a guy is playing hard to get

You'll never know for sure if a guy is playing hard to get ;unless you ask. And if he, he may not give you an honest answer. But based on the responses of the guys I spoke with, the majority of men seem to think it's a waste of time.

If he does seem like he's playing hard to get, chances are, he's just got a lot going on and he's trying to manage everything that's already on his plate. It's easy for anyone to drop the ball here and there or lose track of time when their schedule is packed or they have a lot going on.

If he has issues with commitment, he's probably not going to change anytime soon, so you may want to simply move on.


If he really is playing hard to get, he probably isn't worth the chase.

RELATED: Why Men Run Hot And Cold — And What To Do About It

Rebecca Jane Stokes is a freelance writer and the former Senior Editor of Pop Culture at Newsweek with a passion for lifestyle, geek news, and true crime.