Treat Them Mean, Keep Them Keen - A Dangerous Game!

Last updated by Katie M.

You see a man regularly, you end up falling in love, and you tell yourself that you’ll make the relationship official. But the opposite happens as he distances himself! You chase him, and he runs away from you even more. In the end, you give up and who comes running back? The guy who’s realized you’re fed up with playing cat and mouse. This is the “Treat them mean, keep them keen!” game 🙃. I’ve experienced it in some of my relationships and I can now say that it's a dangerous game! Let me explain.

Treat Them Mean, Keep Them Keen - A Dangerous Game!

What is meant by treat them mean keep them keen?

The idea that we can fall even more in love when we're mistreated in love is a complex, multifactorial phenomenon. Here are a few possible explanations:

  • The power of uncertainty: When we're mistreated or fail to receive consistent affection and attention, it creates uncertainty in the relationship. This uncertainty can lead to increased emotional arousal and an obsessive fixation on the abuser. Some may confuse these feelings of uncertainty and excitement with love, which can lead them to become even more attached to the person.
  • The desire for validation and love: People who have had unsatisfying or abusive love experiences may feel a strong desire for validation and love. When someone offers them moments of tenderness or affection, however infrequent, it can create an emotional dependency. This need for validation and love can lead them to cling to the relationship and develop more intense feelings, even in an abusive context.

Love shouldn’t be a power struggle

The main problem with this game is that it’s a power struggle 😥. At one moment, we’re dominated, at the next, we’re dominant. For many people, seduction is a game played like this, but it’s unhealthy. When you date someone, the goal isn’t to establish domination. You shouldn’t believe all the coaches who sell this as something positive 👎. A healthy relationship is based around communication and actively listening to the other person.

💬 My testimonial:

For a long time I was single, but that didn’t stop me from going on dates and seeing men. Among my dates, I came across individuals who shunned me after a few weeks of love bombingThis made me dependent, and my self-confidence went downhill. I questioned myself, although I wasn’t the problem, they were! Once I let go, they came back like flowers. Sometimes I played the game, running away from them in turn, but one day I said stop because this isn’t the kind of relationship I wanted. Running away is a behavior that’s now one of my red flags 🚩!

The reasons for escaping

For the person running away, there are obviously reasons. Even if, I find it childish not to have the courage to tell the truth and run away. If someone runs away from us, it’s probably because:

  • He doesn’t know what he wants,
  • He’s indifferent / he doesn’t value us enough,
  • He doesn’t have enough feelings,
  • He’s scared of commitment,
  • He feels pressured by our feelings.

The person you’re dating is allowed not to have feelings. However, running away and leaving the other person in a state of incomprehension, or even ghosting, means you have a rather low level of empathy.

One-night stand

👉 “Yes, but what if we just want a one-night stand” 👀? You show your hand clearly to avoid any misunderstandings or the other person getting attached. You also need to realize that not everyone works in the same way, so you need to take the time to explain your vision of things.

Escaping or creating dependence

The main problem with running away is that it will set up an emotional dependency. Once you notice this mechanism, it will be impossible to have a fulfilling and caring relationship. Indeed, for a romantic relationship to work, it shouldn’t be a power struggle. Running away means putting yourself first, while flattering your ego when you see that the other person is looking to see you again. You neglect the fact that this creates a deep imbalance and that one of you is suffering, which is why this mechanism can be described as a dangerous game.

⚠️ When someone does this consciously, it can come close to the behavior of a narcissistic pervert who wants to have a hold on the other person. This game can be one of the mechanisms for manipulation! It makes us fragile as we depend on the other person to feel good, and we only live through their eyes. It’s vital that you get out of this power struggle and don’t use it yourself 🤕.

How to stop the “treat them mean, keep them keen”?

I would say stop the relationship immediately, but that’s easier said than done, especially when you have feelings for that person. It’s important to be aware of this unhealthy mechanism, and it’s usually those around you who point out that it’s not normal. Personally, it was my friends who told me that I didn’t deserve to be treated like that, it was like a bucket of cold water on my head 😱!

Putting communication back at the heart of things

Now, should we reverse the situation and run away ourselves 🧐? Well no, otherwise we’re carrying on with the game. We’ll also be waiting for the other person to come back to us, while pretending that we’re not interested. On the contrary, I think that the best way to stop this is to communicate. Indeed, I always say that communication solves a lot of problems, and it’s true!

You shouldn’t hesitate to express your emotions to the other person: “Your behavior is hurting me, I don’t want this kind of relationship”. This can help the other person take a stock of their behavior and understand why they acted like that.

Self-confidence and limits

Now that you’ve expressed yourself, you’re entitled to distance yourself. You’ve broken the mechanism of the game by saying out loud what was wrong. What you need now is to take care of yourself. As I said, it may have an impact on your self-confidence, even make you afraid of loving. Indeed, being the victim of such behavior can leave traumas, so you should take the time to rebuild yourself and rediscover your self-confidence. If not, you continually risk being in imbalanced relationships and getting bogged down in suffering.

Editor’s note: I don’t play anymore!

This old technique is still talked about, but remember that it won’t do you any good. If you start on this basis, don’t expect anything solid for your relationship. You’ve understood that it’s a kind of psychological game and to escape it you just have to stop playing, no more treating them mean, keeping them keen… However, this is much easier said than done, especially when feelings are involved! If your romantic relationships are complicated, if the same patterns keep repeating themselves, then it’s important to contact a psychologist in order to understand what’s going on and how to implement new habits for a happier emotional life.

🤗 Understanding yourself, accepting yourself, being happy... It’s here and now!

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Article presented by Katie M.

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Wengood's favorite tunes 🎵

Wengood's playlist


  1. Only LoveBen Howard
  2. Invalid date
  3. Fix YouColdplay
  4. Beautiful DayU2
  5. Thinking out LoudEd Sheeran
  6. White FlagDido
  7. Lay Me DownSam Smith
  8. Nine Million BicyclesKatie Melua
  9. Put Your Records OnCorinne Bailey Rae
  10. Summertime SadnessLana Del Rey
  11. Imagine - Remastered 2010John Lennon
  12. Shake It OutFlorence + The Machine
  13. Space Oddity - Love You Til Tuesday versionDavid Bowie
  14. What A Wonderful WorldLouis Armstrong
  15. With Or Without YouU2
  16. HelloAdele
  17. Don't Stop Me NowQueen
  18. Skinny LoveBirdy
  19. WingsBirdy
  20. Californian SoilLondon Grammar

How to detect a narcissist?

How to detect a narcissist?

"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken." 

- Oscar Wilde