At some point, you’ve most likely found yourself in the throes of an utterly confusing and frustrating dating game: When you and your date have a great time in-person but a lack of digital communication leaves you feeling uncertain, totally hooked, and wanting more. They may be slow to text you back or ignore you altogether, but it only makes you more interested. As it turns out, there’s a scientific name for this exact dilemma: intermittent reinforcement, and it may explain why this particular game can be so insanely frustrating, as MindBodyGreen reports.
Clinical psychologist Jennifer Taitz says that people are more attracted to this kind of behavior than to someone who is consistently available. “There’s something about not knowing when we’ll receive the next reward (or text) that makes us stay focused and excited. Inconsistency keeps us trying and hopeful,” Taitz writes in her book How to Be Single and Happy. It seems that playing hard to get may have some merit after all, but it can be difficult to discern whether or not you’re interested in someone or just addicted to the chase.
To figure out your true feelings, happiness coach Jillian Turecki suggests asking yourself why you’re so interested in someone who doesn’t seem to be invested in you. There could be a number of reasons that explain your date’s behavior, but Turecki warns, “don’t invest in someone who is not investing in you. I promise you that there are way more fish in the sea.”
In this situation, matchmaker Sameera Sullivan suggests a more up-front approach. When it feels like you’re suddenly no longer hearing from someone you’ve been seeing (or if you think you’re being ghosted), she suggests calling or texting them. Say something along the lines of, “I’m sensing some confusion/distance from you, which is totally fine. But I’m going to take a little space because I don’t want to get any closer to someone who doesn’t know what they want.”