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13 July 2020

Playing hard to get? These types of people might be into that

The attachment style you learnt as a child could predict whether or not you're likely to 'play games' in romantic relationships as an adult.

  • Our attachment style can predict whether we like to 'play games' while dating.
  • Women were more likely to play 'hard to get'.
  • But men - when nudged towards avoidant attachment-style - tended be the ones who like being chased.

Being aloof in relationships might just be your parents' fault.

Whether you like playing hard to get, or love the thrill of the chase, it could all boil down to how attached you are to those who raised you.

A new study published in the Personality and Individual Differences journal looked at how our attachment style and gender might influence our propensity to make it difficult for potential partners to engage with us, or pursue them in return.

Attachment theory initially focused on how infants interact with their caregivers depending on their perceptions of love and attention received, according to Professor R Chris Fraley from the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois. 

There are three main attachment styles:

READ: Occasional snorer? Silence your snore, save your romance

infographic

(Infographic: Gabi Zietsman)

Eventually, the theory evolved from infancy to adult romantic relationships, where the way we were taught love as an infant stayed with us into adulthood. 

Predictability

In four studies with 906 participants, researchers posited that these attachment styles can predict our preferred dating strategies. Those with an avoidant style and women tended to be more likely to play hard to get, while those with an anxiety style and men were far more likely to give chase. 

Participants that were more secure in themselves didn't partake in these games, either way. 

Researchers went further though and gave nudges towards avoidance and anxiety in controlled environments - heterosexual men tended to play more hard to get in the avoidant scenario, while both genders tended to chase in the anxiety scenario regardless of gender. 

READ: How a happy relationship can help your health

Other reasons also at play

The results however also noted that there can be various reasons for making it more difficult for potential partners to build intimacy, which can depend on personal experiences, especially early in life.

“Sometimes, it’s not so much about the relationship but about helping people to stay in control,” says co-writer Omri Gillath from the University of Kansas.

“Some people are behaving in such a way because they’re terrified. They can’t trust anyone - and they’re doing whatever they can to protect themselves from getting hurt again. So, for them, it’s not ‘playing'. This is not a game for them but a way to protect themselves and to verify people out there are serious and are going to be reliable mates.”

Other reasons could be more sinister, as a means of manipulation of a potential partner. 

Desirable partner

Another study published earlier in June in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships provided another reason why people were attracted to those that string them along.

Their results indicated that the value of a potential partner was linked to how easy they were, and by playing hard to get their ranking increased in the eyes of those who pursued them. 

But safe to say - we all hate being left on read.

ALSO READ: How our brains map relationships and loneliness

 
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