Study Says People Who Like to Play 'Hard-to-Get' May Be Secretly Insecure

Do you enjoy the chase?
by Mylene Mendoza   |  Sep 2, 2020
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When it comes to relationships, do you feel like you're someone who easily falls in love or are you the type who plays hard-to-get to make sure your potential SO is the one? Well, according to research, whether we play hard-to-get or not can actually be influenced by our childhood.

study authored by Omri Gillath and Jeffery Bowen and published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences looked into whether gender and attachment style of a person is associated with their "romantic aloofness."

Attachment styles

Attachment styles are often observed as early as childhood but is said to bear an influence on your relationships even in adulthood. The theory came from a procedure known as The Strange Situation created by Mary Ainsworth which observed children's behaviors when they are left by their primary caregivers and when they are reunited with them. Through this, they were able to identify three main attachment styles: secure and insecure, further classified as insecure-avoidant and insecure-ambivalent.


In particular, those with insecure-ambivalent attachment are often seen as distrustful but also more "clingy" to their attachment figures. Those with insecure-avoidant attachment, on the other hand, are often more withdrawn and emotionally distant from their attachment figures. People with this attachment style are often reluctant of developing a close bond with other people or may feel emotionally distant.

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Playing hard-to-get as self-protection

The study found that women and people with an insecure-avoidant attachment style were more likely to play hard-to-get in a relationship, while men and people with insecure-ambivalent attachment style are the ones who are more likely to pursue those who are playing hard-to-get. "We're not saying it's good or it's bad, but for some people these strategies are working," says author Gillath. "It helps people create relationships and get partners they want. But who's doing it and what are the outcomes? These people are usually insecure people -- and their relationships are often ones that won't last long or will be dissatisfying." 


The authors further elaborated and explained that people with insecure attachment styles use the hard-to-get ploy as a way to "self-protect" in a relationship. "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."


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Mylene Mendoza
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