Is “playing hard to get” just a game?

"I'll Give You the Moon and the Stars" by Mimi Stuart ©

“I’ll Give You the Moon and the Stars”
by Mimi Stuart ©

If you find yourself frequently pursuing intimacy and wondering why the person you’re pursuing seems to back away, your friends may give you advice to “play hard to get.” But perhaps you don’t want to play games and be inauthentic within your relationship. You would rather be honest about your strong feelings, even though you are pushing the other person away.

Is “playing hard to get” inauthentic?

Life is a series of adventures, misadventures, and adjustments. One of the adjustments a pursuer needs to make is to resist the conspicuous chase that too frequently ends in disappointment.

At first it may feel like a pretense to try changing your inclination to pursue. It may feel inauthentic to pursue other interests and have fun with other friends when all you want to do is spend every minute with the person you’re pursuing. Yet ultimately you may find the distractions and separation rewarding. In the end it will make YOU more interesting to the target of your affection.

It can be difficult to develop a new quality and try a new approach. It is normal to feel awkward and fake. For instance, saying “no” feels inauthentic when you are just learning to set boundaries. Similarly, not always saying “yes” to the person you’re pursuing may feel inauthentic while you are learning to seek balance in your relationship. Yet eventually this approach will feel natural and will serve to make you more desirable.

“Playing hard to get” may feel inauthentic. Becoming more independent may also feel awkward but it is not a game.

Fostering desire

Desire only flourishes when people maintain their own independent life, spark, and activities. When one person waits slavishly for the other’s attention, the other person loses interest because there’s no more challenge in the relationship.

Ideally you should engage in the relationship enough so that your partner will want to engage with you but remain occupied and independent enough so that he or she will want to KEEP pursuing you. This balance will enhance his or her appreciation for you and the desire to continue the pursuit of you.

So focus on your goal and not your immediate impulse. Your goal is to be in a relationship with someone who respects and desires you. By learning to allow for a little separateness and mystery you can create the groundwork for mutual desire, romance and intimacy.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “I always fall madly in love; we do everything together; and then, out of the blue, I get dumped.”

Read “I often feel depressed, anxious and desperate when my girlfriend is not giving me enough attention. For example, if she takes too long to reply to my text messages or is not very affectionate.”

Posted in Intimacy, Relationship Skills | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The psychological habit that is as unhealthy as smoking: Rumination.

"Allegretto" by Mimi Stuart Live the Life you Desire

“Allegretto” by Mimi Stuart ©


Have you spent too many sleepless nights or distressing days dwelling on bad feelings and experiences of the past? Rumination is the compulsive focusing on causes and consequences of your distress. While worry focuses on potential bad events in the future, rumination focuses on past and current failures, disappointment, or suffering.

Rumination interferes with the confidence you need to problem-solve and move forward in your life in a positive way. Moreover, ongoing repetitive circular thinking about failures and distress often leads to depression as well as addictions.


The solution is to learn to notice each time you start ruminating. Then immediately distract yourself with a healthy activity for at least two minutes. Only two minutes of distraction will stop you from ruminating. You may have to do this countless times a day when you first start, but if you keep it up, your ruminating will diminish and then disappear.

Depending on your personality, effective distraction may have to involve your mind, your body, or both. Think of a mental or physical activity that is engaging enough to distract you.

Here are some examples:

• Organize papers or your accounting.

• Read a book.

• Do fifty sit ups.

• Clean your house while listening to your favorite music.

• Call a friend.

• Do a sport or take a walk while listening to a book on tape.

• Do an interactive video or game, such as a language or geography game, or lumosity.

• Clear clutter, focusing on what should be thrown out or where to put things.

• Catch up on social media or emails.

• Plan a dinner party or a trip.

Remember that you only need to distract yourself for two minutes. But if you distract yourself with something positive or productive many times a day, you’ll also have accomplished something worthwhile in the meantime. You’ll be better read, in better shape, caught up with friends, and you will have a cleaner house. These small satisfactions will also help you to stop ruminating about past negative events.

If you don’t have two minutes to spare, consider doing what a friend of mine did during a painful break up to keep her from dwelling in negative thinking. She wore a rubber band around her wrist and snapped it each time she started to ruminate about the past or worry about the future. Her wrist turned red, but her emotional health remained stable and empowered despite the losses and transition she faced.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “Fear of failure: ‘I’m worried about failing.’”

Read “Regret: ‘I shouldn’t have yelled at my friend.’”

Read “’I don’t have time for this huge project.’ Ten minutes: One box, one call, one block.”

Posted in Attitude, Happiness | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What to do when people gossip about you.

"Approach - Rory McIlroy" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Approach – Rory McIlroy” by Mimi Stuart ©

“I see people gossiping about me, but then they are nice to me as if I don’t know what’s going on. They are such hypocrites, it’s depressing. Being confrontational hasn’t worked.”

Rise above the fray. Don’t allow yourself to dwell on the petty gossip that many people participate in.

People often gossip out of boredom or envy. Thus, Oscar Wilde said, The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

There are situations in life such as this where you must create a mental barrier around your feelings. If you become confrontational, fearful, or humiliated by gossip, you increase your vulnerability and give those who gossip power over you. Ignore them and you take away their power. Don’t be hostile, but don’t allow yourself to dwell on what they are saying.

Focus on more positive, interesting people and activities. There are many people in this world who have adequate self-worth and are too busy living their lives to have any time or desire for malicious gossip. Keep your eye out for these people and find some activities that you are passionate about.

If you have to engage with people who are prone to gossip, maintain a casual, even somewhat friendly but unconcerned attitude. Convey a lack of interest in what they are talking about, but avoid acting superior. Thus, you will maintain your dignity and inner strength without giving up your power or provoking more hostility.

Above all, the best way to stay above the banality of scandal-mongering is to maintain a sense of humor, as expressed by Vanna Bonta’s attitude:

Gossip can be entertaining: occasionally, I’ve heard the most fascinating things about myself I never knew.


by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Watch “How to Respond to Malicious Gossip.”

Watch “Why do People Gossip and When is it Malicious?”

Posted in Attitude, Relationship Skills | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Privacy vs. Secrecy: “My husband has blocked me from his facebook and other social media accounts.”

"Marilyn Silver Screen" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Marilyn Silver Screen” by Mimi Stuart ©

“My husband has blocked me from his facebook and other social media accounts. He told me firmly that he will not negotiate about protecting his privacy. It’s his private life. The things that he talks about with his friends and whom he talks to are his private domain. His phone, computer and social media and his online attachments are his private world.”

Privacy and secrecy in a relationship

Your husband is trying to defend secrecy, not privacy. There is a clear distinction between privacy and secrecy in an intimate and shared relationship such as a marriage. Secrecy will ultimately destroy your relationship and your marriage.


Individuals should maintain respect for each other’s privacy, such as having personal space alone or writing a journal, for example. This differs from furtive relationships and behavior that may impact the primary relationship.


Secrecy and marriage are fundamentally incompatible. When there is no trust, there is no commitment to the relationship. Trust has to be earned, not blindly given.

Keeping secrets and having outside, off-the-radar relationships – male or female – undermine the primary relationship. Even if these relationships are “only” online or emotional relationships, they will still undermine your primary relationship if they remain secret or if they become energetically more powerful than the primary relationship.


Trust has to be earned by transparency, honesty, and considerate behavior. When you decide to marry someone, you decide that your primary emotional and physical relationship is with your spouse. You decide to live your lives together and give up some of your freedom. You make this choice because the payoff is a loving, trusting relationship.

It is important to have your own individual pursuits and friends, but not if they are secretive in any way. Each individual should try to flourish as an individual while being considerate, truthful, and open to his or her partner. Secrecy and marriage are incompatible. However, flourishing as an individual and having a good marriage are not incompatible.

If you want a great marriage, you will not want to put your spouse in a position where he or she has to play detective and is otherwise restricted from any aspect of your life. If you want a loving, fulfilling relationship, you will not want to block each other from social networks or have secret passwords to hide things from each other. Instead you will behave in a way that promotes the trust and the love you share.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “Creating Trust: ‘Don’t you trust me? Despite my faults, you know I love you.’”

Read “Can I trust you?”

Posted in Intimacy | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“I often feel depressed, anxious and desperate when my girlfriend is not giving me enough attention. For example, if she takes too long to reply to my text messages or is not very affectionate.”

"Rocket Man" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Rocket Man” by Mimi Stuart ©


People who need attention or validation in order to feel secure must step back and learn to cope with that longing without acting on it. Otherwise they create a vicious cycle that will ultimately backfire. The more desperate and insecure you become, the less likely you are to be validated by others or to get the attention you crave.

Even if you do receive validation in this situation, it’s likely to be out of a sense of pity or guilt rather than freely given.

Thus, for your own well-being, you need to resist the urge to pursue validation from your girlfriend. Avoid the use of manipulation, guilt, pleading and covert reciprocal bargains, such as the unstated, “I’ll flatter you if you flatter me.”


People differ in how effusive they are in emails, texts, and on the phone. There is no correct way to be. Accept your girlfriend for who she is, and give her positive feedback when she is more affectionate or attentive in her texts to you.

When dealing with feelings of anxiety and desperation, remind yourself to resist acting on those feelings in order to avoid pushing her away.

Do something interesting

Instead of getting angry at her or sending a needy text, find other things to do during those moments of anxiety that will make you a more whole and interesting person. Once you focus on another engaging activity you will feel less anxiety. Moreover, you will become more interesting and desirable to her and others around you.

Decide what activities you will do when you feel lonely or insecure–read a book, learn a language, go for a run or a walk, play the guitar, write poetry, watch Ted Talks, or the like. Find a few interesting things to do and then develop the willpower and self-discipline to do them, instead of letting your anxiety and anger get the better of you.

It may be hard at first, and then it will become easier because you will enjoy doing your own thing. The result will be a more interesting, confident, and well-rounded person, who will be more desirable to be with. The bonus will be increased interest and attention from your girlfriend.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “I end up arguing with him because he’s usually too busy working to talk.”

Read “Does she like me? She doesn’t text me like she did at the beginning.”

Posted in Intimacy | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Misinformation about Covert vs. Classic Narcissists

"The Stuff of Dreams  Apollo 11" by Mimi Stuart ©

“The Stuff of Dreams Apollo 11″
by Mimi Stuart ©

GUEST AUTHOR Sam Vaknin writes:

Contrary to misinformation spread by “experts” online, covert narcissists are not cunning and manipulative. Classic narcissists are: they often disguise their true nature effectively, knowingly, and intentionally. They are persistent actors with great thespian skills. Not so the covert narcissist: he suppresses his true nature because he lacks the confidence to assert it. His is not a premeditated choice: can’t help but shy away. The covert narcissist is his own worst critic.

Inverted narcissists are covert narcissists. They are self-centred, sensitive, vulnerable, and defensive, or hostile, and paranoid. They harbour grandiose fantasies and have a strong sense of entitlement. They tend to exploit other, albeit stealthily and subtly. Covert narcissists are aware of their innate limitations and shortcomings and, therefore, constantly fret and stress over their inability to fulfil their unrealistic dreams and expectations. They avoid recognition, competition, and the limelight for fear of being exposed as frauds or failures. They are ostentatiously modest.

Covert narcissists often feel guilty over and ashamed of their socially-impermissible aggressive urges and desires. Consequently, they are shy and unassertive and intensely self-critical (perfectionist). This inner conflict between an overwhelming sense of worthlessness and a grandiose False Self results in mood and anxiety disorders. They team up with classic narcissists (see below), but, in secret, resent and envy them.

Compare the classic narcissist to the covert narcissist is this table (Cooper and Akhtar, 1989):

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 12.54.46 PM

The Inverted Narcissist is a co-dependent who depends exclusively on narcissists (narcissist-co-dependent). If you are living with a narcissist, have a relationship with one, if you are married to one, if you are working with a narcissist, etc. it does NOT mean that you are an inverted narcissist.

To “qualify” as an inverted narcissist, you must CRAVE to be in a relationship with a narcissist, regardless of any abuse inflicted on you by him/her. You must ACTIVELY seek relationships with narcissists and ONLY with narcissists, no matter what your (bitter and traumatic) past experience has been. You must feel EMPTY and UNHAPPY in relationships with ANY OTHER kind of person. Only then, and if you satisfy the other diagnostic criteria of a Dependent Personality Disorder, can you be safely labelled an “inverted narcissist”.

by Guest Author Sam Vaknin — the author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited” and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101. Visit Sam’s Web site.

Read Sam Vaknin’s “One partner loves to love, the other loves to be loved.”

Read Dr. Alison Poulsen’s“Seven Points to Dealing with a Narcissist.”

Posted in Personality Traits, Vaknin, Sam PhD, Visiting Authors | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments