Even with all we know about relationships these days, there seems to be a lot of confusion when it comes to the “chase” and how that differs from “playing games.” There also seems to be dissent regarding whether or not this chase is necessary or obsolete and how to do it right. Well, confusion be gone – it’s time to end the debate once and for all. Yes, the chase is important, no, it’s not the same as playing games, and there is one basic principle you need to know to understand how it’s done.
Back in the ‘90s, a book came along that revolutionized the dating world. Even if you’ve never read it (which I personally haven’t), you’ve heard about it and you know its contents well. It was called “The Rules” and it was hailed as the ultimate guide to getting a guy, preferably with an engagement ring in hand.
The book was filled with all sorts of silly rules (as the title aptly suggests): always end the date first, don’t accept a Saturday date if he asks after Wednesday, wait at least three dates before having sex, and on and on. This book divided the female population into two groups: those who lived by it (dubbed “Rules Girls”) and those who wanted to see it burned and never spoken of again. (Side note: We cover this topic, and all your other burning questions, in our e-book. Check it out: “He’s Not That Complicated: How to Crack a Man’s Romantic Code to Get the Relationship You Want.”)
Years after the Rules craze, there was a major backlash against game-playing. Adding fuel to the fire were the countless guys who came forward to declare how much they detest game playing. Suddenly, being branded a game-player became the ultimate insult.
As a result, being open and honest with your feelings became all the rage. You like a guy? Tell him! Be forward, go hit on that guy at the bar, take a man out to dinner and foot the entire bill! How liberating is this?!
That was all well and good, but you know what happened? All those men blabbering on about their hatred of “games” found themselves with a case of foot-in-mouth. Their only motivation for removing said foot was to run away from their girlfriends and their newfound penchants for laying it all out on the table.
While not as intense as it was years ago, the game-playing backlash is still present. I see readers lashing out in comments and responding angrily to my emails on the Dating Decoder list anytime Eric or I indicate altering a behavior in order to have greater success in a relationship. (Now mind you, by altering a behavior we mean not waiting by the phone for him to call and not canceling plans when he decides he wants to see you, not making your life all about him.)
There is a middle ground between manipulating your behavior to land a man and being open and available to the point of transparency. (Just to set the record straight, I certainly am not a Rules Girl – I’m a “be a confident, independent, happy with him or without him kind of girl” girl. The problem with following a set of rules is you can’t keep up the charade forever and eventually your true self will be revealed.)
I know women don’t like to hear this, but men love a challenge. Plain and simple. You’re not playing games by making him pursue you. You’re forcing him to realize your value. Everyone values that which they have to work hard to achieve; that is a known fact that applies to all areas of life.
When we invest in something, we value it more
When you bend over backward to please a man, you’re not really placing a high value on yourself and he doesn’t really have to do much work to land you.
When a guy has you and gets to keep you without really putting in much effort, your stock inevitably goes down in his mind. At this point, you may notice that he starts pulling away until he eventually pulls a swift Houdini on you, vanishing into the abyss without even uttering “abracadabra” to give you some warning!
While guys enjoy the pursuit, they hate it when you act in a way that is deliberately trying to get them to chase you. That’s just manipulative and no one likes that. And to be clear, that is not what I’m talking about here.
I am not saying get him to pursue you by acting unavailable, I’m saying actually be unavailable. By that, I mean fill your life with fun, meaningful activities. And do not cancel any of these fun, meaningful activities just because he calls and wants to see you. When you have a fulfilling life of your own that exists completely separate from him, you will automatically be seen as having great value.
When your happiness is rooted in all sorts of things, not just him, you will never have to watch what you say or do for fear of coming off as needy because you will never be needy.
I met this guy years ago, let’s call him Craig. He was a bartender at a restaurant I used to frequent and after several flirty exchanges, he finally asked for my number. On the night of our first date, I had to delay our meeting time by a few hours because I forgot I was supposed to be having dinner with some friends. When I eventually met up with Craig at the bar, the first thing he said after our friendly hellos and my apology for changing things around last minute was: “I like that you didn’t cancel on your friends. It shows a lot about you and made me even more excited to see you.”
I was off to a great start, but that didn’t last. Since Craig and I lived somewhat of a distance away (maybe about 40 minutes) I went out of my way to see him when it was convenient for him. There were forces working against us and I didn’t want to make things worse by being unaccommodating. My schedule was more flexible than his so it made sense that I should work around his schedule, right?
While in theory that makes sense, in reality, Craig started pulling away more and more. The frequency of calls and texts declined…he was always “too busy” to hang out…he stopped initiating contact (but would always respond when I reached out to him, acting nice and normal like always)… Eventually, I stopped reaching out because it was starting to make me feel like an idiot…and he was never to be heard from again.
I dated many, many guys after Craig and let me tell you, whenever I’ve been overly available I went through that same cycle. They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If this is true, those men in the white coats should have been on me like white on rice. The problem is I hadn’t worked on myself. I had a very needy mindset and I derived way too much of my self-worth from how men responded to be. This is not what confidence looks like. (To know what it does look like, check out this article: 10 Things Confident People Do Differently in Dating and Relationships.)
It took a long time to realize I needed to stop prioritizing guys above myself, at least until he started treating me like a priority. When you are overly accommodating to him then he doesn’t feel a real push or motivation to step up and invest in you. It’s like working on a project without a deadline. You know you can get to it at any time so you don’t really feel an urgency. When you are so desperate for his approval and so accommodating to his schedule, then he doesn’t feel a need to step up or lock you down because…why should he?
What it really comes down to is being a woman who values herself and is confident in who she is. When you are this person, you won’t have to “play games” and will naturally activate a man’s natural desire to pursue. Since you are living your life and aren’t relying on his approval to make you happy, he automatically steps up and tries to carve space for himself in your life.
Intentionally manipulating a guy or playing games will always backfire because no guy wants to feel like he’s being yanked along on a destination-less journey. Plus, he’ll be able to see right through what you’re doing and it will come across as desperate, which is the ultimate turnoff. The chase creates the illusion of chemistry, not a real connection. A man can sense when you’re making him chase you, and if you keep it up you’ll succeed in one thing: chasing him away. So yes you want men to pursue you, and if you are confident this will naturally happen, but you don’t want to intentionally get him to chase you because this is just neediness all dressed up.
When you are truly confident and independent, he won’t take you for granted, he won’t vanish for days at a time, he won’t tell you he “doesn’t want a relationship” and continue treating you as girlfriend anyway – instead, he will lock it down because he’ll be too scared someone else will snatch you up if he doesn’t! You’re the prize, you’re the catch, you’re the most amazing girl to ever give him the time of day, your time is precious and he will do whatever he has to in order to make sure he gets to stay in your charmed world.
I hope this sheds some light on the whole game conundrum. So go out there and do your thing, be happy without him (whether him is in the picture or not), and let him be the icing on your perfect cake, rather than the flour, the eggs, the sugar and whatever other ingredients go into making a cake!
– SABRINA ALEXIS