“Play it mean and keep them keen”. So says the dating advice that has been handed down from generation to generation. The psychological idea behind this old adage is one of scarcity increasing desirability; if your positive feedback and comments are rarer then the other person will crave them more, and will therefore work harder to earn it all.
Maybe in the past this approach worked. In the pre-internet days it was simply more difficult to meet large quantities of people to date, so arguably those same people were more willing to invest time and effort into making an early relationship work. They would put up with things that these days would be a no-go, working harder to earn a first, second, third and more chance to start building something more solid.
Times, however, have changed. In this day and age of swiping and instant connections with potentially millions of other people all looking for similar things, the power dynamic has utterly shifted. There is far less at risk for either party, far fewer reasons for someone to put up with things they don’t like and far more opportunity for them to simply walk away and find someone else.
This is why it is so perplexing and so frustrating when women (I know, I know, #NotAllWomen, and I’m sure men do this too, though I’ve no first-hand experience to compare it with) still insist on being the ones being chased. Assuming a position of power, they simply set their stalls out and expect those who are interested in them to do the overwhelming majority of the leg work.
Messages are left unread for hours or even days before short, matter-of-fact replies are sent. Questions are answered but never asked. Offers for meeting up are responded to but never offered. The traffic is all one way, meaning one party simply gets frustrated and moves on to other options.
This then causes confusion with the other person. Why would they change their mind after chasing them for so long? All things were responded to and answers were kept mysterious, surely that should just make them want to work even harder and appreciate the nuggets of positivity offered even more, right?
Only it doesn’t. It says to the guy “I am being polite and will respond, and will flirt enough to keep you on the end of a piece of strong but with no real intention of moving this forward”. It says “I believe I am better than you and deserve your efforts more than you deserve mine”. It says “We both know I could do and say almost anything to you and you’ll keep coming back for more as you’ll cling to the hope that there is still a chance”.
So guys move on. Guys (and I speak in truly astoundingly general terms of course and mostly from my own perspective) have no problem at all doing some of the chasing, perhaps even more of the chasing than the other person, but need encouragement if they are to keep on keeping on. Guys are happy to chase for as long as they feel they are likely to get close enough to those they are chasing to make it all worthwhile. Otherwise it’s better to save the energy and direct it elsewhere.
A little known fact, of course, is that guys like to be chased as well. It is a massive ego boost to be desired, so when a man feels like he is being chased by someone he is chasing himself it turns from a competition into a dance. It opens up a whole world of flirting and fun in a way that simply isn’t possible if the flirting is going only one way. In truth, one way flirting is nothing but creepy after all. Nothing makes a man feel more desirable than when it is clear he is desired, a situation which creates a self-reinforcing cycle of desirability.
This is not saying that anyone “deserves” a response in a certain way at a certain time, but when it is clear that there is the potential for a relationship yet things keep grinding to a halt it is worth calling this out. Those involved may well have no idea at all that their perception of what is likely to interest the object of their affections is actually doing the opposite.
If you like someone, tell them. Don’t wait for them to make all the moves, to message you or to arrange a date, especially if it’s not happening. If you like them, even being the person to simply message them to say “hey, how are you doing?” makes a big difference to their motivation levels. If they have drawn back then it’s probably because they’ve come to the conclusion that things are hopeless rather than that they’re not interested any more.
Hope is a powerful thing. Give a little hope to the world and it might just come right back at you.