The Thrill Of The Chase

No doubt about it, men get a rush out of pursuing women…but should women play hard to get? Here, experts and real guys weigh in.

By Elise Nersesian

sk the average woman if she likes to be pursued by a man, and the reply you’ll most likely receive is a resounding yes! Who doesn’t like to be called, romanced with flowers, and wined and dined? And most of the time, it’s easy for women to assume the role of the chasee because we assume that men enjoy doing the chasing. But… do they? We went in hot pursuit of the truth by grilling regular guys and relationship experts. What we uncovered may surprise you.

The Panelists:
Mike, 28, editor
Matt, 35, lawyer
Steve, 33, waiter
Ian Kerner, Ph.D., author of DSI: Date Scene Investigation
Helen Fisher, Ph.D., author of Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love

Do men really enjoy the thrill of the chase?

Steve: Absolutely, because when you finally get her, it’s a sense of accomplishment. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I believe men should do all the initiating—at least during the courtship phase. One time, a woman approached me at a party and asked me for my number. Admittedly, her confidence was attractive, but she also called to follow up and
Is it ever a good idea to avoid his calls?
even had our whole date planned! It was a turn-off because it felt like she was trying to woo me. It was a total role-reversal and, I have to admit, it didn’t make me feel very masculine.

Mike: Yes, because we like the idea of taking on a challenge. Guys are naturally competitive—even if we’re competing against ourselves. It’s fun to try to make a good impression, figure out if she likes you, and woo her. That said, the game can only go on for so long. If there’s no give and take, it becomes a chore, and it shows that the girl isn’t really into you.

Matt: Not always. I’m usually the one to initiate contact with a woman, but if she doesn’t reciprocate from the get-go, it can send the message that she doesn’t like me. She doesn’t necessarily need to ask me out; however, I want to know that she’s interested right off the bat before I invest anything in her. That means asking me questions about myself, smiling, and making eye contact.

Helen Fisher, Ph.D.: Some men love the chase, and others are turned off by it—it totally depends on a man’s personality, and how long the chase continues. In general, it’s human nature to enjoy mystery and the ego boost of landing a woman.

Why is the thrill of the chase so intoxicating to certain men?

Ian Kerner, Ph.D.: From an evolutionary perspective, the pursuit of sex stimulates the reward center in our brains. Pursuing a woman by buying her things or flirting increases levels of dopamine, a feel-good chemical that’s released when we do something pleasurable, like eat or have sex. Many men thrive off this feeling, so it’s easy to see why they do it so often.

Mike: It sounds silly, but chasing a girl can show you what you’re capable of. You meet someone and do everything you can to be with her. If it works, it’s a huge boost to the ego. There’s a sense of pride. If you’re chasing her for a one-night stand, that sense of pride is enough. But if you’re truly interested in her, nothing changes except you get all that garbage out of the way, and now you can really get to know each other.

Matt: I’d imagine that for some guys, the chase adds an element of excitement, but for me, that excitement comes from knowing the girl likes me. One time, I asked a woman out, and she sent me a text message a few days before our date saying that she was looking forward to seeing me. Her enthusiasm added more buzz to our date than any chase could provide.

Steve: Going after a woman gives you a sense of power because you’re controlling your fate. You’re making stuff happen. Men are aggressive. Why go against our natural instincts?

Are certain types of men especially drawn to the chase? And does this love of the chase wane as they age?

Dr. Fisher: Men who are natural-born risk-takers are going to be drawn to chasing a woman. The uncertainty of the chase feeds into their spontaneous, thrill-seeking nature. And this doesn’t lesson with age. A chaser at 21 is going to be a chaser at 51.

Dr. Kerner: Being a chaser has less to do with age and more to do with what type of person you are. Some people are serial daters—they date to get that rush of a new relationship, then move onto the next person as soon as that excitement wanes. And other men chase until they find a girl who makes them want to settle down.

Steve: I agree that there always has to be a sense of mystery in the beginning. But if I land a woman after chasing her, I won’t look elsewhere if I’m really interested in her. Love can reform a chaser!

Should a woman play hard to get? And if so, how?

Dr. Fisher: The trick is figuring out what type of man he is, and whether or not he’ll have the patience for your game. Once you have a gauge on what he can and can’t handle; adjust your behavior accordingly. What are his limits? Does he thrive off the chase? Do something like, call him twice in one day, then avoid his calls for 4 days. This type of uncertainty will drive him mad—in a good way.

Dr. Kerner: Playing hard to get — not being available every time he calls or waiting a while to return his calls — can definitely add excitement, as long as the game has limits. It’s important to remember that what keeps men interested in chasing is the possibility of
“ All those teasing gestures made it more satisfying when we finally got together.”
landing the girl. So when there’s no reward, it’s easy for the man to lose interest. A woman should consider the chase her advantage, understand that she has a powerful role in it, and use that time to hook him with her mind and personality.

Mike: Women should play this carefully because there’s a fine line between intriguing and giving the impression that you’re not interested in the guy. I dated one girl who waited a full day to call me back, returned my text messages hours later, even cancelled plans on me without any explanation. Sure, it made me curious as to whether or not she liked me and definitely made me think about her more often, but after a while, it became obvious that it was all part of her master plan to hook me. As a result, I lost interest and moved on.

Matt: After you’ve had one date with the girl and have a second one set up, that’s an obvious sign that you’re both interested in getting to know each other better, so why play games at that point? If you want to call him, pick up the phone. Any guy who’s turned off by a girl calling isn’t interested in her anyway, so she should find that out right off the bat with a phone call.

Steve: One woman I dated drove me absolutely crazy because she would cancel our plans a few days beforehand, only return my calls sometimes, and sent me sexy text messages before we even hooked up. Nothing over the top, but something along the lines of “Just got out of the shower—I’ll need another 30 minutes.” All those teasing gestures made it more satisfying when we finally got together.

Is it ever possible for a girl to hook guys who love the chase and get them to settle down? Or should a girl just call a chaser a chaser and look elsewhere?

Dr. Fisher: Pursue a chaser if you truly like him. If you he falls in love with you, you may be able to hook him long enough to settle down, as long as you know he’s always going to need to be stimulated with some form of mystery, and it’ll be your job to provide it. Whether it’s withholding details of your day and making him wonder what you’re up to or challenging him with your intellect, keeping him on his toes will keep things from being predictable. But when you’re dealing with a chaser, know your own limits. Give him three chances—not five.

Mike: It’s possible for a woman to hook a chaser, but why would they want to? For some guys, chasing a girl is like a drug—they do it to get their high and then move on to the next conquest. If he’s doing it for the chase, he’s just going to keep chasing behind your back, anyway.

Elise Nersesian has written for Redbook, Stuff, and other publications.
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