Let’s face it: coming on to someone too eagerly is hardly a tried-and-true way to find a lasting mate. That’s why you’ve got to inject a little mystery and intrigue in your early courtship. That’s right, I’m talking about making your pursuers work a little. After all, we appreciate the things we earn more than the things we’re handed. So make your prospective partner win your affection the old-fashioned way: by earning it.
With that in mind, here are five rules for keeping the thrill of the chase going and getting past the first few dates with someone new:
Rule #1: Keep yourself busy, but don’t be too hard to catch. “If you want to get a fish to bite your lure, you have to keep it moving enough to be interesting but not so fast as to be too hard to catch,” says North Carolina fly-fishing guide Captain Gordon Churchill. “The erratic retrieve is usually best. The darting action of a lure in the hands of a skilled angler is usually hard to resist for a hungry fish... and then you’ve got what you were fishing for.”
Rule #2: Keep some secrets until you and your date know each other better and have built up mutual trust. “I used to blurt out every minute detail about myself in the first email or phone call with a new crush,” says Mariel Johnson of Bradenton, FL. “Since I’d tell them everything up front, they didn’t need to ask me out to really get to know me.” Bad strategy! Now, Mariel metes out important details piecemeal so the men she’s interested in have more reasons to stay interested in her — and keeps her datebook full.
Caution: This is not our way of saying that you should lie or omit important information when getting to know a potential love interest. Just be more thoughtful about what to say and when and how you should share it (i.e., wait until some time after date #3 to share anything embarrassing or that could put the kibosh on your budding romance).
Rule #3: If you’re looking for a serious relationship, don’t date just anyone out of boredom... instead, play to win. “Don’t be shy and don’t be a passive player,” advises Isabelle “No Mercy” Mercier, who plays on the World Poker Tour. “Show your strength.” If you’re playing to win, you’ll put off a vibe that you’re looking only for partners serious about building a committed relationship, and that you’re not going to get into the dating game with them if the stakes aren’t high. “If you have doubts or aren’t sure about why you decided to play this round, don’t play it,” warns Mercier.
Rule #4: Be only slightly accessible in the beginning so you don’t come off as clingy or socially inept to your date. “I make it a point to never be too available during the early stages of any relationship,” says Jimmy Morey of Seattle. “I don’t want anyone to think I’ve got nothing better to do, even when I actually don’t. This makes my dates feel like they’d better work hard to get — and keep — my attention.”
Caution: You can take this tactic too far. Your goal is to appear active and in demand rather than aloof or uninterested, so try to strike a reasonable balance.
Rule #5: Be alluring, but not overtly sexual. “My grandma always said, ‘Don’t give it away when he’s perfectly willing to earn it,’” says Belinda Sue Montgomery of Little Rock, AR. “I totally agree! I like to dress up and look nice, but it’s strictly a ‘look, don’t touch’ situation until I’m sure he’s interested in more than just what’s on the surface.”
Playing hard to get isn’t actually that difficult, but it’s not a game for the faint of heart because the stakes can sometimes be high. By following these five handy rules, however, you’ll be able to fascinate your date and keep his or her attention focused on learning more about you. Just remember not to overplay your hand, or else your date could mistake your mysteriously cool attitude for signs of romantic disinterest. Just remember: In the dating game, nobody wins when hearts get broken!
Margot Carmichael Lester, a freelance writer based in North Carolina, has never mastered the art of playing hard to get — but she landed the big fish anyway!