Q&A from “Hard-To-Get? Mating-Centrism and Other Pitfalls of Early Dating”

Wise Readers,

Do all men live in hierarchy—seeking status and needing cues of elusiveness to emotionally connect?  Are some guys scared off or disgusted by women who are hard-to-get?  What happens if you’ve got dates with two different guys on a weekend—and they ask what you’re doing when not with them?  Is H2G the same thing as Being A Bitch?  Is it possible to be *too* hard-to-get?  And what if you want to learn to be H2G—but aren’t sure you can?  Read on!

Cheers, Duana

Q&A from “Hard-To-Get?  Mating-Centrism and Other Pitfalls of Early Dating”

This is eye opening for me. I have been divorced for 11 years and who knows? Maybe I will date again and when I do, the competition will be on. I want to go about it wisely and truly appreciate your advice. Thank you, Duana!

November 2, 2009 | Karen Emerson


Hi, Karen, Thank you and you’re welcome. One of the things I’ve seen much too often with my women clients is giving signals of easy access and low status. The older the women, the more they have tended to do this, often voicing their concern as, “If I don’t (become exclusive, have sex by the third date, fill-in-the-blank), he’ll leave.” It’s as inaccurate as high-school girls who think they’ve got to sleep with a guy to keep him…and unfortunately, it’s about as emotionally painful, from what I can observe.

Recent research by David Buss and others shows that men who are playing the field and have no intention of committing will indeed dump women who demonstrate appropriate sexual restraint (emotional restraint is fine with them, lol). However, that same research shows that the men who are interested in long-term relationships are not only not put-off—they’re often intrigued and see the woman as higher-status, more desirable as a life partner, and more inclined to be faithful. Bonus? The more “work” they do to woo and win a woman’s heart and other parts, the more they infer and actually feel love for that woman. It’s a win-win where everyone comes out ahead. Well…everyone but the players. November 2, 2009 | Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.

Here’s a question for ya: What about men who don’t exist in a hierarchy? I am sure your research is correct and that most men do hold such a world view. Your premise is that men will react this way because of such, however, it begs the question what percentage of men exist in a hierarchy? Also, is the hierarchical view related to one’s ego? Are there cultures where all or nearly all men are hierarchical (American men?), and others where only a small percentage are (Vietnamese for example) this way?

All of the above to say that I don’t like the one size fits all reaction, even though I think it will probably apply well to a significantly large part of the American population. Frankly, it seems counterintuitive as people like to be liked, and therefore, will like those who like them more. To argue the opposite is to argue men are more like dogs … wait a minute … that makes more sense. Nevermind, you are right. Carry on! Love the articles. Would love to see you write something like the penis size article, but on boobs instead. Specifically, what is with the 40-somethings increase in breast augmentation - even in a bad economy?

November 2, 2009 | Dog Lover


Dear Dog Lover, LOL! Well, you’ve given me an opportunity to re-state an important aspect of Love Science (and all social science): It tells you what most people do/feel most of the time, but it’s not a crystal ball. Nothing is ever going to tell what all the people do all of the time—nothing reputable, anyway.

So—Yes, most men exist and live and breathe in hierarchy. There are exceptions, doubtless. But women tend to ignore, eschew and otherwise avoid the exceptions. It’s not the way to bet on anyone who actually had the gumption and ambition and ego to ask you out.

As for whether there is a noted pattern to the exceptions: I don’t know (gasp!). However, looking at this from an evolutionary standpoint, it’s reasonable to assert that most men everywhere have inherited the hierarchy mindset, and it’s behaviorally very clear. Other aspects of our psychology have strong evidence of having been inherited (such as the preference for fats and sweets; women’s preference for signs of commitment, provision and protection; and men’s preference for signs of youth and beauty that connote fertility). It is a small step to assert that if women have chosen men for millenia based on the males’ ability to provide and protect (as indeed has occurred), then men all over the globe will be quite aware of where they stand relative to other men. Indeed, the existing science shows that every culture contains a hierarchy where men strive to best other men and gain access to the most beautiful mates. Some strive with spears, others with computer software, others with “chick magnet” cars…but strive they do. And must. Women demand it.

As for breast augmentation…that will have to wait for another column. Thank you for the great idea!

November 2, 2009 | Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.


Loved every word of this, especially your suggestion of what Suzy should say. So I have a question regarding the following scenario…

I have dates with two different men—one on Friday, the other on Saturday. I am out with each of them for the first time, so there is no issue of exclusivity. We’re just having a good time. But let’s say that my Saturday man asks what I did on Friday.

If I directly tell him that I was out on a date, is that too harsh?

Or do I simply say that I “went to dinner”, without sharing the “who” that took me out.

Considering this is a first (or even second) date, how would I answer this man’s question to show him that I’m high-status and dating around, without being “in-his-face” about it?

November 2, 2009 | Taylor


Taylor, Well you hot thang, you! Two dates in one weekend. You are turning some heads!

As for the What-To-Say-When-Men-Ask-Questions-That-Are-None-Of-Their-Darn-Business, repeat after me:

“I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”


“Oh, you don’t want to hear about the competition!”

Seriously, if said with a smile and goodwill, you can just not answer the question. Or, you can answer it: “Ummm, actually, I was on a date.” Letting men know you’re in demand is not a bad thing—just don’t be a heel about it (but in your example, the guy did Ask. So, you can Tell.).

What *not* to do, ever, is to indicate that the other man is no threat; that you weren’t doing anything; or that you were out with friends/hanging at your apartment/washing your hair. Either tell the truth that you were seeing someone else, or let him know very sweetly and flirtatiously that what you do with your time is absolutely none of his business…yet. If a particular man wins your heart, and gives you his, then he’ll eventually have a right to know all about your activities.

Until then, you’re a free agent and a fine catch who has not yet been caught. Be wonderful, be sweet, but continue with your own life until someone great works his way into it. Anything less—and you’ll wind up with someone who can’t or won’t work with you in the long-term. And who wants that?

November 2, 2009 | Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.

 Dog Lover, just one more thing: You are right that “people like to be liked and therefore will like people who like them.” It’s very important for Ms. Hard-To-Get to express clearly that she is enjoying herself; that she likes the company of this particular man; and that she’s had a good time getting to know him, if that’s true (if not, why is she dating him?). Being H2G is *not* about Being A Bitch….the opposite, actually. It’s about having self-esteem, a full life, and enough chutzpah not to be an ankle-weight to some poor guy who barely knows you and is in all likelihood not ready to pick out china patterns, lol. Sweet is the order of the day—Clingy is out.

Another way to say it? There’s Never Been A Perfume Called “Desperation”. And there never will be!

November 2, 2009 | Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.


So I read the article but I dont think it helped my situation much. See the guy I was telling you about used to work with me and we are kind of like friends. We joke and talk when we can on the job. On the last day of the job I gave my phone # to the people I know overthere, and he was one of them.
The next day he starts to text me alot. He doesnt make any sort of “I like you statmenets” though he does flirt and texts me even when he is out partying.
I kinda like him, but I always mess things up so I wanted to know how can I be hard to get cause I’m not easy but I’m sometimes too hard to get and I drive guys away. so any suggestions?

November 3, 2009 | Silvana


Hi, Silvana, Thanks for writing. It is possible to be excessively H2G (hard to get); very limited research suggests that highly, highly selective individuals can be perceived as snobbish and therefore undesirable. So—even though you’ve not specifically said what you might have done to be too H2G, for now, let’s assume that you are being too H2G; it is possible.

Some excessively H2G behaviors would be:
—not smiling at men/the man you like. Smiling is the single-biggest cue to openness and liking—and liking begets liking.
—Never responding to any of his texts, calls, emails, letters…and not telling him why (“Oh, hey, I got your call, but I’m a bit old-fashioned about calling guys” is so much better than Dead Silence on the topic. This is *not* about games; it’s about not being a burden).
—Failing to show pleasure at the things a specific man does, such as where he takes you, how much you’re enjoying his company, and what you like about him.
—Failing to laugh at a man’s jokes; men tend to define a woman’s good sense of humor quite literally as the ability to sense *his* humor!
—Consistently taking a cold tone when you can’t be available. There is a world of difference between “Oh, I wish I could go out with you Saturday, but I’m already doing something” said in a wistful tone, and the very same thing said with a note of detachment, aloofness, or even malice.

If you are being open, kind, genuine, and likeable, then maintaining some boundaries is good for everyone (except maybe for the Players), and I doubt you are driving interested men away. On the other hand, you are very likely to drive away men who just wanted a quick score.

There is another possibility for why you might be passed up by some men when you’ve got appropriate boundaries: Beauty. Ironically, you can be Too Beautiful for a long-term relationship with some men (not nearly all men—just some). Historically and today, it’s typical that people who stay together are a good match on physical attractiveness. The 10’s go with the 10’s, the 8’s with the 8’s, and so on. A man who ignores this fact is likely to get cheated on or dumped, or both, *unless* he has resources that compensate for his lack of great looks; men have an emotional understanding of this dynamic. So, if This Is You, O Gorgeous One, and you’re eliminating the short-term gamers with your boundaries—then the guys who are in it for the long haul need to either be wealthy or beautiful to have a very young, gorgeous You.

In which case—hold out for a match!

November 3, 2009 | Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.


NOW I get it…why guys are so “into” boobs…it’s an evolutionary thing, indicating a woman is fertile and able to nurse healthy babies. What a revelation.

On the main topic….took me back a bit, given my age. I am outgoing and friendly…always enjoyed flirting. But I grew up in a time period when there were “good girls” and “bad girls”, so the sexual aspect of dating was not quite the same as it is in today’s culture. I was definitely known as a “good girl”. Ergo, I was probably H2G. One boyfriend in high school was so possessive and insecure, he did not want me to smile or visit with anyone, even my girlfriends. All attention on HIM. I moved on after high school, but for years he held me on a pedestal…no one could measure up. He connected with me at a difficult time in his life, and I realized his attachment to me was an attachment to a Symbol of Something Good. His third marriage has proved to be successful, and he fathered a child while in his late 50’s. My point…even though this relationship encompasses other issues, I was worth holding onto in his eyes, most likely, because I possessed LOADS of self-esteem. And being a “flirtatious good girl” sent the jerks on their way, thank goodness.

You know, Duana, that I am married to an adorable Guy. Cute as a button as a teen, before I knew him. Always liked the girls, always had a girlfriend. Excellent athlete. Loads of self-esteem. Mischievous. But basically a quiet, shy introverted guy with a Heart of Gold. He was dumped on a couple of times, by the two girls with whom he was most serious. So when I spied him, the one who had to Work Hard to get a date was moi. DEFINITELY not H2G. He told me later of the “rumors” about me at work…that I was a round-heel…because I was so flirtatious, danced down the halls, etc. So he was nervous about asking for a date…thought he might not “measure up” (reference to the penis size article). It took me 6 months to get a date with this man. And the Rest is History.

I must think some more about our relationship, our dating strategy, our “mating psychology” to define our situation. I always thought it was just Fate. If you get my drift…

November 4, 2009 | Carmen


Hi, Carmen, your relationship is enviable, and whatever you did so as to have it, Good Job. There is no advice that is universally applicable; the happiest marriage I know is between two people who knew each other for a decade before She proposed to He, with scarcely a courtship in sight.

 That said—being E2G is not the way to play the odds, and as I’ll cover in a future column, women in particular need to say Yes to permanence *only* with a man who proves he adores her in our society—reasons coming in That Issue!

Moreover, I’ll bet you were H2G in some very important ways with your sweetie pie. Namely, I’ll bet you didn’t go straight to bed with him, and I’ll bet he was not permitted even one minute of taking you for granted. (It probably didn’t even cross his mind. Women’s good self-esteem connotes high-status, and it has a way of creating that dynamic.)

Finally, as regards breast size: I’ll do an article on that, but for now, let me observe that the most important aspect of a woman’s physique, from worldwide data, is how her waist and hips are proportioned relative to one another. There are cultures where breast size is unimportant; cultures where breasts are not viewed as erotic in any way; and cultures where specific sizes (not necessarily large) hold, um, sway. :)

November 4, 2009 | Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.


It’s all about survival of the fitest isn’t it Duana ? In this case, emotionally” fit. A “fit” person is secure and believe they are worthy of love and respect. Where, as the unfit are needy and feel undeserving- which I hate to say but I believe is self-fullfling. It’s no different than the dynamics of male and females courting in the animal world. Some beat their chest while others sport their colorful plumage and the ladies decide who gets the love and who doesn’t . Some poeple say “i don’t want to play games” but it’s not a game as much as it is a dance that is steeped in evolution as well as emotions during which you are setting boundaries, showing what you have to bring to the table and developing a relationship. Ask any guy who he’d rather pursue-a woman who is totally availibility asap or one that challenges him. He is a hunter….. afterall. (I need spell checking)

November 4, 2009 | Tina Pepi  


LOL, Tina! Well, you’ve got a good point or three. Whenever people point to H2G as a game, I point to the rest of the natural world and say anything this universal to one species is better-labeled a Mating Ritual. Our particular mating ritual is for men to maintain the right of pursuit, and women to maintain the right of refusal. Now, we’re much more adept at using and mis-using culture, personal experience, and reasoning to adapt to a given situation—including the courtship dance—than the rest of the Wild Kingdom. But many a relationship has been derailed by early miscues: The woman who actually is high-status but does not know how to communicate it, or follows bad advice to pursue men; the man who is sincere about finding a relationship, but won’t put himself up for the hunt (and the potential rejection); the folks who hold out for someone much higher in desirability than they themselves are…

 In my opinion, then, a lot of people who really are desirable are now acting on cultural advice that is contrary to our inherited mating ritual, and hence, our psychological cues to Love. In that sense, although The Ritual used to be about the Fittest, now it’s often obscured by messages that cloud the issue. Thanks for writing—hope to hear more from you soon.

November 4, 2009 | Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.



We had talked about some of these things before, but your article synthesizes them in a very powerful way. Essentially, I now realize I have pretty much broken each of your “rules” repeatedly over the years and that this is quite possibly why I am single/never-married at 40. This makes me sad—I wish I understood these things sooner! But it’s never too late to learn, so I shall try.

On the other hand, I’m not in total agreement with the “evidence” you mention regarding a woman having children being a negative, as I have a remarkable number of guy friends who were single/no kids and married divorced women who already had children. The guys were all close friends and none of them even once expressed doubt about whether they wanted to date/marry a woman who already had kids. Maybe they didn’t tell anyone of their doubts, or maybe they told someone other than me, but even if they had them, they overcame them and married the women rather quickly after meeting. Maybe these friends are the rare exceptions, but that’s my experience, for what it’s worth.

November 4, 2009 | A good (but anonymous) friend of Duana’s


Dear anonymous friend (I can’t guess who you are and it’s driving me crazy, btway): It’s never too late to learn. I broke most of the “rules” at various points before I got nerdily fascinated by Love Science and began running “experiments” on myself…then eventually helped others and launched this column in the hopes that nobody has to grope about in the dark anymore—metaphorically speaking, of course.

It can help you to feel better about learning new behaviors if you keep these things in mind:
—Change is difficult and usually takes vigilance and time;
—You can do this. Almost anyone can, with enough vigilance and time;
—You don’t have to do things perfectly to see an improvement in your lovelife. Think batting averages… do the “right stuff” as much as you can, and let go of the fouls with a sigh and a smile.

As for the statement regarding how men view other men’s children: Sadly, this generalization holds true in many a study and from many perspectives that I frankly don’t want to go into here because it’s very depressing. But you are emphatically correct that there are so many exceptions. I suspect that many of these exceptions occur when a woman is H2G/high-status enough that the man overcomes any perception of negatives and feels grateful and happy to be allowed to be fully present in a particular Wonder(ful) Woman’s and her kids’ lives.

So, repeat the mantra: “Science says what happens to most of the people most of the time—not what happens to all the people all the time.” Be a “rule-follower” where it makes sense for you—and throw out the dire stats and become an exception where you must. Oddly, it often turns out that doing the former results in the latter happy outcome. May it be thus for you.

November 4, 2009 | Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.


So many possible things to say, so little time to type.

I’ve got a cool friend named Temple Grandin, and she has a cool book called _Animals in Translation_. That’s not a random plug — it’s important.

One issue she discusses in the book is how human society co-evolved with the domestication of the dog. Fossil and other archaological evidence tells us that before we had dogs as pets or as hunting assistants, we lived in relatively loose societies with much more primate-like social structures. Sure, there were alphas, but there was no tight, carefully defined hierarchy.

Enter the dog. We domesticated dogs, and as we did we took on the dog’s way of being. Wild canines — wolves — hunt in clearly defined groups with clearly defined roles, performing complicated manuevers to separate out and kill specific members of herds. Each wolf absolutely knows it’s job, the alpha leads, and it goes like clockwork. We humans still don’t understand how the wolves communicate and coordinate each dog’s role and activities to work as a team.

We got dogs, then we got ORGANIZED. You can’t build pyramids or even accumulate food through agriculture and storage without a clearly defined hierarchy and clearly defined jobs.

We as a species are now, very recently, exploring the idea that “all men (and women) are created equal.” By which we do not mean everybody does the same thing or gets the same share: we mean that all individuals have equal human worth and that you get to be an alpha by being smart, useful, and working hard, not by birth.

So our whole darn species has depended entirely on adopting a dog-like hierarchy to be able to adapt to living in harsh climes, develop agriculture, have people who could teach the young to gather and store food, create language, have stuff like the arts (which require us to pay money to sustain dedicated artists who serve no practical use) and otherwise assign different people to different roles in the whole instead of everyone basically doing the same thing ini parallel. Gorillas all build their nests to sleep in — there are no dedicated “nest builders” or “food gatherers” for the group.

For capitalism to be successful at all, you need hierarchy and assigned roles. For socialism to work, you need hierarchy and assigned roles. Same for democracy and monarchy and oligarchy and corporacracy.

So why, oh why, do we not get that we live in a de facto complex hierarchy? Why do we believe some men are “not part of the hierarchy?” And why do we believe we can just leave our primate and canine double heritage behind and all be even all of the time when we date?

Neither men nor women can suddenly decide to pretend that we are decended from a different kind of animal. We are decended from primates who took on and embraced the canine social structures. Anyone who didn’t function as both a primate (check into the mating status stuff there) and within a canine paradigm did not survive.

All of our ancestry is tied up in this dual heritage. Live with it.

BTW, I have a super husband who is awesome. He’s tall, handsome, has killer blue eyes and smells good. And I always was and always have been H2G. Not playing, not rude, not a snob, just NOT INTERESTED in giving it up to some guy who was not totally into me FIRST.

Heck, I wouldn’t even sleep with a guy who didn’t have employable skills. I have believed for a long time that on principle one should never sleep with a guy who did not (1) have the ability to support any young that resulted and (2) have traits that absolutely *should* be passed on to the next generation.

I don’t have kids; I don’t want kids. I just believe that the “should he breed?” standard is the minimum you need to apply. Call it my tribute to my primitive ancestry.

Oh, also, if you hold out for a husband who thinks flannel nighties are sexy, you will always be cozy in the winter. Not an evolutionaty thing, not a scientific thing, just a friendly hint from Greystoke’s Mom to you. You’re welcome.

November 4, 2009 | Greystoke’s Mom


Dear Greystoke’s Mom: All perfectly said—thanks for the history, the reference, and the personal application. Nothing to add, except that I wish all women possessed the common sense, self-esteem and high standards you espoused to choose a spouse.

Temple Grandin rocks, by the way :). She’s a truly Big Thinker who has changed animals’ lives (and the manner of their death) for the better. How cool that you and she are friends.

November 5, 2009 | Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.


Tendency to believe that relationships are more intimate than they actually are may suggest something the therapist may want to work on with the client.

November 7, 2009 | Igor Pavlov


Hi, Pavlov, Many counselors are helping women with normal issues of dating, and the the mating-centrism error is so common even in normal new relationships, perhaps women can help themselves (and their therapists can assist) if they only understand that men’s mating psychology differs in some normative ways from ours. Our current culture tells women (and men) a number of incorrect things regarding human mating psychology—and women’s psychology often finds being overly friendly and attached to be quite a comfortable thing.

Said another way, many emotionally healthy women would recoil from anyone who was stand-offish with them—so they feel very awkward about being hard-to-get and having appropriate boundaries, especially given dominant cultural teachings that indicate we should all be Totally Open & Trusting & Available from the first Hello. We women tend to fear that being even slightly elusive will make a man decide in favor of someone else, because that’s how we would feel about a man who announced his dating of others, acted H2G, and generally seemed hesitant about us; it’s also why women have a tough time getting it that men who sleep with one woman don’t necessarily intend fidelity unless they have specifically Said So. (Caveat: Interestingly, once a man is fully committed to another woman, then other women do see him as more attractive…but that’s Another Column…)

November 8, 2009 | Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.


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