But this is a highly risky strategy. Your best bet is to hold back on exposing your vulnerability, keep up some sort of guard and continue to be mean. In this way, nothing too awful can happen to you. Suppose you are a very good-looking girl and have to beat off suitors with a stick.
It is likely that you will be even meaner than the average girl. The same goes for boys of course, but as we will see, the girl case is easier to comprehend. Why is this so? As a good-looking girl with many admirers, your job is to end up with the best suitor you can, in other words to sort the wheat from the chaff. Playing the mean strategy benefits you in many ways. Firstly, it eliminates all but the most committed — the others will simply give up if you keep rebuffing them and making them feel inadequate.
Secondly, it increases your perceived value. As we all know, anything you can get without effort or expense is barely worth having. The more you play hard to get, the greater the prize that your suitors perceive.
This is behind the wisdom of never sleeping with anyone on a first date. If you cave in that quickly, a lot of your mystery and perceived value evaporates and you risk being dumped. With greater value, you can aspire to better presents, more flowers, better meals and nicer weekends away. So long as you are mean and non-committal, you have no risk of getting hurt. This is, of course, the stuff of myth and fairy tale, wherein the Prince or suitor has to slay dragons, cut through thorns and perform countless other disagreeable tasks in order to win the Princess, whose only real obligation is to be beautiful.
Similarly, if you are a guy, you are at an initial disadvantage in that you are the one, in western society, who is supposed to be making the running, ie, increasing your vulnerability and risk of rejection by asking in the first place.
Back to our princess. Having discovered that playing hard to get is a winning strategy, you are faced with a problem. To get there, you have to eventually decide to be nice. When should you do this?
Clearly, when the suitor meets expectations. But this is very similar to the person holding shares which have appreciated in value. When do you cash in and sell? Might they not be worth more tomorrow? After all, no one is perfect, you hold all the cards, so why not wait for the real Prince Charming? Also, playing the mean strategy might become a force of habit. As we have seen, it works very well — up to a point - so you might develop behaviours — high maintenance behaviours, if you like — which become second nature.
As you put off showing your vulnerability, your armour might become like a second skin which you find very difficult to slough off at the opportune moment. All the above refers to a well-adjusted individual. After all, who is? Maybe, as a budding princess, you learned early in life that you only had to stamp your foot a bit and you got what you wanted. The mating game would only reinforce this conviction. There is also another difficulty with the changing the mean strategy into the nice one.
If you have adopted the mean strategy, then you have also already adopted a tactic of mendacity. Yet, at any rate. You hope he will decode your behaviour so that you can maintain your posture of relative indifference, and thus the upper hand and power in the relationship, whilst throwing him enough bones to keep him interested. What occurs if he takes your indifference at face value?
Well, he will probably either give in and leave you alone, but more likely — as he is smitten with you — he will start to adopt the mean strategy himself to avoid getting hurt any more, or out of a desire for revenge, in which case, your relationship is heading for the rocks.
Being less than honest destroys trust. You might even doubt those whose motives are honourable, because you figure that if you are lying, then they probably are too. The boy in such a game is, in fact, in a Catch situation. This is because, as a potential suitor, he has to show himself to be a powerful, manly individual who can take charge — this is one of the tests that the princess is setting him.
He looks weak, and possibly even needy. Indeed, neediness can arise in normally non-needy people who are very much in love when one partner continually inflicts the mean strategy on the other by withholding affection. This means that the boy is almost obliged to meet the mean strategy with the mean strategy at some point in time in order to avoid looking spineless.
If the girl does not flip quickly to the nice strategy at this point, things are not looking good. All this goes to help illustrate how it can be that there are lots of successful, interesting and good-looking people around who seem incapable of finding romantic happiness and a stable loving partner. As a consequence, they are unhappy and lonely. Being afraid of losing romantic games means that you have little possibility of really winning them in any meaningful way.
Naturally, all this is a law of averages and there are delightful, non-mean, wonderful-looking girls and boys, just as there are hideous specimens with nothing to recommend them who should be grateful for the slightest interest in themselves but who nonetheless behave in an appalling manner when there is any.