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5 Ways Listening to This Common Dating Advice Can Backfire

This dating advice may be impacting your results in unexpected ways.

Key points

  • Some common dating advice can come with a hidden cost.
  • When offering dating advice, many people encourage playing manipulative games and acting in ways that are not aligned with their authentic self.
  • Research shows that approaching relationships with authenticity and honesty increases the likelihood of success.
Dean Drobot/Shutterstock
Dean Drobot/Shutterstock

If you’re struggling with a dating or relationship concern, chances are that you can easily seek advice from your friends or find advice from multiple sources with a simple Google search. Having access to a variety of perspectives can be helpful, but it can also come with a hidden cost.

Most common dating advice encourages people to play manipulative games and act in ways that are not aligned with their authentic selves. Research has shown that listening to this common dating advice can backfire, as studies have shown that approaching relationships with authenticity and being honest about how you feel vs. playing hard to get increases the likelihood of having a successful relationship.

When you play dating games, the focus is on whether the other person likes you and how you can maintain their interest. Listening to this advice often leads to more insecurity because now you’re calculating when to respond to texts, pretending you don’t have needs, and seething inside because you keep hoping the person you’re dating brings up an important conversation that’s been on your mind but they never do. This is not only exhausting, but it also creates a recipe for resentment and disappointment.

Additionally, when you play dating games the person you’re seeing isn’t getting to know the real you so doing so can create an additional level of insecurity because you don’t know if they would like the real you since you haven’t shown them your authentic self yet.

Playing dating games often results in disappointment in one’s dating experiences, remaining in relationships with people who one is not compatible with, and feelings of resentment or chronic frustration.

Below are some of the most common pieces of dating advice that can backfire and a different approach to consider instead:

1. You should play hard to get.

Playing it cool and pretending you don’t have interest in the other person won’t do you any favors. Even if it does work in the short term, it rarely does in the long term. Listening to this advice can backfire in a few ways:

  • You may end up attracting partners who prefer minimal contact and keeping others at arm’s length.
  • The person you’re interested in may assume you’re not interested and move on.

Research has demonstrated that if the person you are interested in appears uninterested, you may not find them as appealing. This result may in part be due to the perceived likelihood of experiencing rejection if you assume the other person isn’t interested in you.

Instead of playing hard to get, consider being honest about your interest in the other person. When you’re honest about your feelings, the right person for you will be on the same page. By practicing authenticity and vulnerability at a pace you’re comfortable with, you have more of a chance of developing a meaningful connection with someone who is getting to know the real you.

This doesn’t have to be some big declaration of feelings. Even telling your date you had a great time, you’re enjoying getting to know them, or you enjoy their company is a great start.

2. Don’t be too needy.

When you don’t voice your needs, you are missing out on a valuable opportunity to learn about how someone responds and whether they are compatible with you. So many people feel concern about voicing their needs and preferences because they fear the other person will respond poorly or won’t like them anymore.

Instead, consider the importance of recognizing your needs and having an honest conversation about them. If you voice your needs and don’t get the response you were hoping for, it provides you with valuable information that can save you time in the long run because this person is showing you that they are not capable of meeting your needs.

If you don’t voice your needs early on, you may find that you become more resentful over time because the person you’re with is not meeting them and they have no idea that you feel that way.

3. You should wait to respond based on however long the other person took to respond to you.

Following this advice often breeds more insecurity because there is an underlying fear that if you are yourself and act as you typically would, this person would not like you and get turned off.

Instead, consider answering the person you’re seeing when it feels natural for you to do so and you have the capacity to respond to them.

If someone gets turned off by you responding to their text message or call in a timely manner or more quickly than they responded to your message, it’s likely that even if you didn’t respond quickly, they would get turned off by something else you did if that’s all it takes for them to become disinterested. If the person you’re interested in loses interest because you are communicative and consistent, that tells you a lot about this person’s capacity to be in a relationship.

Let’s say you responded when you felt compelled to do so, and you notice the other person is pulling away and you assume they are doing so because you showed that you were interested in them. I would encourage you stop and ask yourself:

  • Is it possible something else is going on here and I’m misinterpreting their response because I feel anxious about my own?
  • If this person actually gets turned off by me responding to their text message or call in a timely manner, is this someone I really want to date and would feel comfortable with in the long run?

4. You shouldn’t be too available if they want to see you.

If someone asks you out and you want to go out with them, go for it.

By all means, don’t cancel your other plans for someone else but if you’re interested, give them an indication or let them know.

Again, a person who is emotionally available and interested in getting to know you better will not be turned off by your availability and interest in them.

5. Don’t ask to define the relationship — you don’t want to make them feel pressured or scare them away.

In the age of modern dating and apps, it’s unwise to assume that you’re exclusive with someone if it has never been explicitly discussed. Rather than wondering what they want and what they think of you, consider what you want and have a conversation to see if you’re on the same page. If you want to know where you stand, it’s important to have an honest discussion about it. If you’re concerned that you won’t get the answer you’re hoping for, consider the following questions:

  • What is the cost of me not having this conversation?
  • If everything stayed the same three months from now and I still haven’t brought up the conversation, how would I feel?
  • If I don’t have this conversation in the next month, how will that impact my mood and energy level?
  • How would I feel if I found out this person was dating other people?

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. This post is not intended to be a substitute for professional or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition or well-being.

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