How often have you heard (or expressed) sentiments like these: “If he would simply stop and get to know me he would like me,” or “Maybe I should call him again. He’s probably playing hard to get.” But when is enough enough? When is it time to stop pursuing your person of interest?
A beautiful woman in her mid-30s recently told me about her interest in a guy who had not returned her calls. She said she really liked him and believed that he was worth getting to know, she was unwilling to give up on gaining his attention (even after leaving four messages). But she also did not want to appear to be a stalker, or over-zealous. In the movies, that would make her quirky and romantic, and she would probably get the guy by the end; in real life, however, her interest may be wondering, “Why can’t she take a hint?”
And you don’t want to be a stalker. It’s embarrassing, and we devalue ourselves by chasing people who have made their disinterest clear, which is terrible for self-esteem. In some ways, the question becomes: How would I like to be treated? I have certain ways that I want to be treated, and standards for how I’m willing to conduct myself. One of these standards is that I’m not going to chase someone who doesn’t want me – or who is consistently playing hard to get. I am a guy. I grew up learning how to be rejected. If my interest isn’t returned pretty quickly, I move on.
I once took out a very attractive woman who was clearly accustomed to being pursued. I had no problem with participating in that dance for a short time. But when it became crystal clear to me that she knew I was interested but was still playing a game, I called and said, “I have asked you to hang out a few times now, so it is clear that I am interested in you. This is my last request. If you decide you want to hang out with me in the future, you are welcome to give me a call, and we can see what I am up to then.”
I wasn’t playing hard to get; in fact, I was refusing to play this game. I respected myself and valued my own happiness too much – and
she respected that. She called me a couple months later, and a relationship ensued.
If you are pursuing someone, your first job (your only job other than giving him/her an opportunity to get to know you) is to make your interest clear. Sometimes, that interest can be relayed with a glance or a smile; sometimes it requires an overt statement of interest. If you’re just not sure he/she knows (i.e., “I know he hasn’t called me back after my first four tries, but I saw the way he looked at me, so I’ll just call one more time”), ameliorate any lingering doubt by overtly saying “I am interested in you.” Sure, putting yourself out there may be uncomfortable, and you may get rejected. But is rejection as embarrassing as shamelessly chasing love interests until they have to tell you stop? I don’t think so.
Once you have made your intentions clear, you can cease to interject energy into the creation of a relationship with that person. You’ve done your part; the ball is in his/her court now. And if your romantic interest does not want to play, you can get easily get another ball – and another partner. To pursue any further action borders on becoming a nuisance, which is the first stop on the road to stalkerdom.
Remember, ask yourself how you would like to be treated, but this time not as the pursuer. What if you were the other person? I bet you’d want to be treated in a similar manner. And I hope you’d appreciate the person who put his/her cards on the table and accepted your answer with dignity.