As with many activities in life, the thrill of the dating game is often in the chase, not the capture. The destination may be intriguing, but it's the journey that keeps the interest level high. This is the basis of playing hard to get, a relationship tactic in which the pursuee deliberately holds the pursuer at bay in an effort to appear more alluring and selective. Playing hard to get is not the same as being hard to get, although the hapless victim of love may not realize it at the time.
Both men and women play a variation of this game while actively dating. Many men are taught to remain aloof whenever a woman flirts or shows definite interest. When a man plays hard to get, it is often a test to see how serious a woman is about him. If he doesn't return her phone calls for a few days but she continues to call, he knows she's still interested in him as a potential date. Men also do this in order to appear more confident and intriguing. Many women prefer to work on a challenging relationship than to settle for a man who is always accessible.
Women sometimes play hard to get as a screening device, especially when they encounter more than one suitor at a time. Each man may go home with her personal phone number, but she determines which calls she will return and when. One thing many women of dating age want to avoid is the appearance of desperation. By being less accessible, a woman establishes a sense of mystery about herself. If she returns all of her suitors' phone calls the next day, she may come across as too eager and too needy.
Playing hard to get can backfire if carried past a natural stopping point. The game is not called impossible to find, after all. Sooner or later, the pursuer and the pursuee must move on with their relationship or agree to drop the whole cat-and-mouse routine.
Using this tactic may work as a screening device or an integrity test, but eventually, an interested suitor needs some evidence of mutual attraction. At some point, the chase, exciting as it may have been, needs to become the beginning of a new romantic relationship. Playing hard to get has its place in the dating scene, but once the game is over, it's over. New relationships thrive on access and openness, not mixed signals.