Your Call: How Can She Tell If a Guy Is Playing Games?

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We get a lot of advice questions coming in at EMandLO.com, but sadly, we just can’t answer them all. Which is why, once a week, we turn to you to decide how best to advise a reader. Make your call on the letter below by leaving your advice in the comments section. 

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Dear Em & Lo,

How can I tell if a guy is looking for something serious or is just playing games? I meet a lot of men who tell me one thing and do another and it’s very frustrating because I am ready to settle down and don’t have time for all the games. What signs do I need to be on the lookout for so I don’t waste my time?

– Scrambled

What should Scrambled do? Let her know in the comments below.

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  1. If he is telling you one thing and doing another, he is most likely playing games. I have dated “players”, and actually enjoy it when I’m not looking for anything serious. Here are some signs that he is playing games:

    1. He acts differently toward you when you are alone than when you are around other people

    2. He sometimes seems to have a different personality around other people…and not because he is just more comfortable with you

    3. He’ll text/call you and be very friendly, but when you text/call him, he isn’t always in the mood to talk

    4. He doesn’t want to introduce to you his friends or family

    5. He jokes a lot…he never seems to tell the truth about things in his life. He might not even want to talk about what he did that day, as simple as that should be.

    6. He casually mentions girls he’s dated in the past…there seem to be a lot

    7. He seems too into you too quickly. He hardly knows you but he talks like you’re the greatest thing ever

    8. He talks a lot about how beautiful you are/how pretty your eyes are/how you look good in heels, etc. A man who is is serious about you will compliment you, but he’s more into your personality and intellect than your body.

  2. I would add that men who are serious about relationships usually have a certain amount of transparency. They let you meet friends or family without it being a big production. They share details of their day or their nights out. They call/ text when they say they will and return your calls in a reasonable amount of time. If a man is veiled in secrecy, it’s probably because he is playing games. Or, a spy. But I’d put my money on the former.

    The main thing I would suggest is to listen to your gut. If you feel like he is playing you, he probably is. You should just be straightforward and ask. Also, actions speak louder than words so judge him by his behavior not just what he tells you.

  3. What figleaf said. Also – online dating! You can put out there, right from the get-go, exactly what you’re looking for. Yes, you might still get contacted by men who aren’t looking for the same thing, but it will filter out a considerable number of them.

    1. OMG! How untrue! I’m sure not everyone is 100% (or even close to) being honest on an online dating site. These days, I,personally, would NOT use these sites. Anybody can be WHO they WANT to be ” behind closed doors ” so to say! If people have a hard time with knowing if guys are “for real” or just “players in person, Why would they trust someone ” behind “closed door” (so to say??

  4. I’m going to turn this around and ask what signs are you showing that you’re serious?

    I’m actually fairly certain most men, at least the ones past maybe age 23, are able to tell when they’re serious or playing, but it’s kind of a two way street.

    Put another way, while it’s a cliche that all women are looking for husbands and all men are looking for attachment-free sex each myth nevertheless has an impact on the ways heteros perceive each other. Suspicion and, as you say, impatience results. As does the perceived need for “Kremlinology” style analysis of what one’s prospective partners “really” want.

    The most “extreme” example of a woman I know who took the “no, really, looking for a husband to settle down with” approach ought to be pretty instructive. Many years ago, after my all-through-college fiance broke our engagement to move out of state with another woman I found myself suddenly very much, and very unwillingly, “on the market.”

    This woman called me up about a week after word got out of our breakup. She said “I’ll be blunt. I’m looking for a husband. You’re able to commit. I think we should go out.”

    It didn’t work out with us. I mean, hello, a week out of a long-term relationship that at least I had been committed to isn’t the best timing even for the most compatible people.

    But having made up her mind to be direct she didn’t take my rejection to heart. Or in fact anyone else’s rejection. And I’ve got to say that it wasn’t really that much longer before she met, and married, an amazingly compatible man who was also ready to marry.

    The point of my very-long ramble? Don’t do Kremlinology. Ask! Tell. And dear heavenly days don’t play games yourself. It’s not a “loss” if someone says he’s not interested. Nor, I might add, is it a sign that someone’s “just playing” if he takes a pass (instead of making one.) If you’re serious, and not interested in playing around, be serious.

    It’s a very good way to find men who feel the same way you do. And with any luck you’ll get along great. And with luck you’ll both have exactly the relationship you both say you want.

    Good luck.


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