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How to Tell She’s Playing Hard to Get and What You Should Do

In today’s post we are going to talk about how to tell if a woman is playing hard to get and what to do if she is.

Most women grew up with magazines that gave out bad dating advice. A single magazine cover would be devoted to how to entice a partner and then keep them interested.

Playing hard to get is one of the techniques that has managed to stick around over the years.

It’s been so normalized that most of us simply accept it as a natural part of dating rather than questioning the advisability of running away from the partner we’ve hoped to attract.

Honestly, this technique contributes to much of the frustration and misunderstanding in dating.

Instead of saying what we want and need and having that honesty reciprocated, we have an entire society that’s been tricked into thinking the only way to be seen as valuable is to play games to seem as unavailable as possible.

Cue the frustration! 

How to Tell She’s Playing Hard to Get: 7 Clear Signs, According to a Former Therapist

You might wonder how to tell when she’s playing hard to get and when she’s communicating her disinterest. Here are seven signs to look out for that indicate she’s playing hard to get but actually likes you.

Why listen to me? I was a master’s level licensed therapist. I worked with couples and individuals and specialized in trauma recovery and relationships. I now write content about dating, love, self-improvement and psychology. My work has been featured on large publications such as Elite Daily, Your Tango, Positively Positive, Mamamia, and The Good Men Project.

1. She Runs Hot and Cold

One of the most common signs she’s playing hard to get is she will run hot and cold with you.

One minute, she’s acting as though she’s seriously interested in you, and in the next, she’s pulled away and seems distant.

You might wonder if she’s lost interest, but the second you think that way, it seems like she starts paying attention to you again. 

You never know from one moment to the next how she’ll treat you. For some people who have been taught this is the correct way to date, you might take her hot and cold behavior as a sign to work harder for her affection.

For others, this inconsistency can be a serious turn-off. 

2. She’s Rarely the First to Reach Out

In this relationship, you’re the one who has to call, text, or initiate contact first. She’s rarely the first to reach out. You seem to be doing the majority of the work to maintain the connection while she enjoys the benefits. 

This behavior can make you wonder if she’s even interested in you, but all the other signs point to her attraction and engagement.

While she’s not as engaged in the interaction as you are, she’s not disengaged either. You still have hope that she’s into you but is just going through the motions to keep your interest by playing hard to get. 

3. She Emphasizes Her Busy Schedule

One of the signs she’s playing hard to get is she often emphasizes just how busy she is every day.

She never responds to a date request immediately; she needs to see what’s going on that day.

She’s got a full plate, and you wonder if she has room for you on it. 

You were probably attracted to the fact that she’s independent and has a full life, but it might annoy you when you want her to be more available.

It’s possible that her life is as busy as she says, but it’s also possible that she doesn’t want you to get the impression that she’s too available for you for fear that you’ll lose interest in her.

She might have less to do. But she may also think that making you wait is her best bet to keep your interest. 

Photo by Morgan Sessions on Unsplash

4. She Takes Longer to Text Back Than You Do

You’ll notice that she’s not the first to text, and she also takes a lot longer to text back than you do. Her responses are rarely immediate even when you know she’s available to answer.

It’s possible that she is overthinking the interaction before responding, but it’s equally likely that she learned that this technique is effective in keeping your interest. 

5. She’s Noncommittal About Future Plans

Another sign that she’s playing hard to get even though she likes you is that she’s noncommittal about future plans.

She rarely gives you a yes or no answer, and you might feel like she’s blowing you off. It could be that she’s reluctant to plan too far into the future, but it’s also possible that she doesn’t want to come across as too available. 

She might tell you that she’ll let you know later if that works for her — or something equally unenthusiastic.

You might not know how to take this, but you still have hope that if you put in enough effort, she’ll begin to reciprocate it. This might be true — but only if this is a technique she’s using and not her normal behavior. 

image of a blond woman reflected in the water, image in black and white
Photo: Ivan Dodig en Unsplash

6. She Tries to Make You Jealous

One of the clearest signs she’s playing hard to get is she will also do her level best to make you jealous.

She’s going to let you know when she’s dating other people, tell you when someone is flirting with her, or flirt with others in front of you.

She might be trying to assess your interest by seeing if you get jealous. 

It’s also possible that she’s trying to show you that she has other options.

This may be a way for her to appear less available to you and in high demand in the dating world. She assumes that if you really like her, you’ll step up your effort and show her. 

7. She’s More Engaged When You Make More of an Effort

You’ve likely noticed that she’s more engaged in the relationship when you make more of an effort. While this can be a sign that she’s playing hard to get, this is also true for nearly any relationship.

People appreciate effort, and it’s usually rewarded with reciprocity when the other person likes you. 

If she seems to tune into you more when you’ve shown effort, you need to ask if you’re willing to continue that level of effort or if you’re only doing it to engage her interests.

The truth is that increasing effort to engage her affections has a name, too — love-bombing. If you’re not going to keep up that effort in the relationship, you’re not being genuine.

She might be playing games to keep your attention, but if you only bring the effort at the start of the relationship, you might be surprised to realize that you’re playing games, too. 

What You Should Do If She’s Playing Hard to Get

According to research, playing hard to get often works. There are reasons for this. If you’re playing hard to get, you might act more confident and seem more interesting to a potential partner. It might also make you seem like a highly desirable person to date. 

But research also shows that this only works with some people, and it only works at the beginning of relationships.

Over time, the efficacy wears off.

In other words, people get really tired of partners who run hot and cold and seem disinterested half the time.

People might find that attractive in the beginning, but they’ll want more security in the relationship as time goes on. 

There are other factors that influence who’s playing hard to get and who this technique might attract. There are some things you can do once you understand that she’s engaging in this popular dating behavior. 

Understand Her Attachment Style

You might be surprised to learn that your relational attachment style influences if you’ll play hard to get — and if you’ll find that this technique is attractive to you.

People who have avoidant attachment are likely to play hard to get as a defense mechanism to avoid getting too close or attached to anyone.

People with an anxious attachment style are more likely to pursue people who play hard to get because they’re accustomed to the inconsistency of parental relationships.

Insecure people might use this technique as a way of protecting themselves from rejection — real or perceived.

A bit about attachment style

Keep in mind that a person with any attachment style is still capable of maintaining a relationship, but avoidant, anxious, and disorganized attachment styles all present challenges in relationships.

Avoidantly attached partners tend to both crave and fear intimacy, which can make it seem like they’re playing hard to get when they’re simply battling their nervous systems to find stability in the relationship.

Anxiously attached partners need plenty of reassurance and can seem pursuant as a result when they just want to know that their partner reciprocates their affections.

Disorganized types have a little avoidance and anxiety thrown in for good measure and can run hot and cold in relationships.

We all want to be securely attached — trusting of ourselves and our partners, comfortable in the relationship, and safe. But for those of us who didn’t grow up with this attachment style, we have to learn it as adults.

If you think her behavior is linked to her attachment style, what you certainly don’t want to do is say that. Instead, you can learn more about her attachment style and how to best interact with a partner who has it.

Avoidants often need space while anxious partners need more closeness. If you can figure out what they need, you might be able to have some compassion for her their reactions.

Consider Her Maturity Level

Playing hard to get might be attachment styles in play, but it’s also possible that she’s just immature. Immaturity can have potential partners playing games instead of communicating directly.

She might want a relationship with you but hope you’ll be the one to say it first, but it’s also possible that she doesn’t know what she wants.

If that’s the case, you’ve got to decide if you’re comfortable waiting around while she figures it out.

Immature partners can gain maturity through relationships, but that’s not always the case. If she doesn’t communicate in healthy ways, playing hard to get is just one example of her inability to appropriately manage adult relationships.

You can confront her on her hot and cold behavior, but expect an immature partner to respond poorly if and when you do.

Consider Your Own Behavior

You might also want to consider if she’s mirroring your behavior. She might be reflecting back the energy you’re putting into the relationship.

If you run hot and cold with her, she might mirror this inconsistency. If you only seem engaged some of the time, she might be only expending as much effort as necessary to communicate with you. 

Is your own behavior encouraging game playing? Do you only show interest when someone else appears unavailable? It’s possible that you’re the problem, and she’s just the one reflecting it back to you.

Be Willing to Walk Away (And Mean It)

If after analyzing the situation you realize she’s just immature and she denies her behavior, consider walking away and dating someone worth your time. As simple as that.

Life is already complicated, so why dating someone immature? You deserve peace of mind, my friend. And you have control over who you choose to date, so the best thing you can do is choose an emotionally mature person.

When She’s Not Playing 

It’s also possible that she’s not playing hard to get. She is hard to get; she might have a busy, independent life that doesn’t have space for a partner who isn’t willing to step it up and be a full partner in her life.

She might not be trying to win your affection and attention.

In fact, she might be showing you that she needs a partner who puts in the effort because she doesn’t have time to babysit you while you figure out how to date a successful woman. 

It’s also possible that she is not playing because she doesn’t feel interested. It’s entirely possible that she’s being polite to you but trying not to encourage your interests.

That might seem hot and cold to you, but are you misinterpreting her good manners as romantic interest?

Women are taught that being polite is a survival skill. Consider if you’re respecting her boundaries or if you’re pursuing her when she has given no indication she is into you at all. 

In Conclusion

Playing hard to get has been around for a long time — long before the advent of dating apps and social media platforms. It was common to find this advice in magazines and dating blogs.

The idea behind it is that people won’t even show their interest in you if you seem too available.

But here’s a novel idea: Be available.

If you want to connect and build a relationship with someone, let them know that’s what you want.

The best relationship advice

The best relationship advice I ever got was from relationship coach and writer Treva Brandon Scharf. She told me that dating profiles and approaches to dating in general should be as specific as possible.

Let people know what you want, and you’re going to eliminate potential partners who don’t want the same thing and attract the ones who do.

That might seem simplistic, but how many of us actually follow this advice? Often, dating profiles aren’t specific at all.

It’s like we’re trying to spread the net as wide as possible even though we’re not going to be interested in everyone we catch. It wastes our time — and theirs.

Instead, we can be clear, honest, and direct about our desires and interests and let it take the time it takes to find someone who reciprocates those interests. 

Playing hard to get is bad advice. It works sometimes because people have attachment issues and insecurity.

But it isn’t healthy, and it’s not the best way to make a genuine connection. 

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Photo by Morgan Sessions on Unsplash

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