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Miss Information

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"I seem to only like the chase. What do I do?"

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Dear Miss Information,

I seem to only like the chase. I will be interested in a guy until he expresses interest in me. I flirt often and don't hide the way I feel towards other people. For that, I've come to realize that I will chase a man until he is interested in me, then I will give him the cold shoulder and act like I never liked him in the first place.

In reality, I don't believe I ever truly liked the other person, but instead just wanted to get them to like me. I've never dated anyone or hooked up with anyone, and I really don't understand why I act this way. I can see it's wrong and that I shouldn't act the way I do, but that doesn't seem to stop me from doing it all over again.

Please tell me what I should do.

—Dog Chasing Cars

Dear Dog Chasing Cars:

When you are in a relationship for the chase, you relate to the other person more as a chess piece—I'll call the hypothetical guy "Rook"—than a person. (Do you like how I managed to make flirtation unsexy? Well, stick around! I've got some fascinating thoughts on steel forging you'll love!) When you pursue exclusively flirtation and chase, you're really in it for the chemical-dump that happens in your brain: you seek attention, get attention, and get to tally up another win for the ol' charm and ego. The Rook in this situation is just a means to that end. They make a move, you make a move, and eventually you flip the board and go home to high-five a mirror.

Wanting a relationship, on the other hand, requires a more complex emotional process. You have to be able to consider the other person as a person, with their own feelings and experience and perspective worth respecting. (Do you like how I managed to make relationships sound as dry as 18th century treatise-drawing? I'm on a roll.) It's messier, harder business, but the rewards outweigh the effort.

I don't believe you're the callous, love-em-and-leave-em type, though, Dogs, as evidenced by the fact that you wrote this letter at all. I don't think you're so much flawed or incapable of affection as you are afraid. Entering into a new relationship or hooking up with someone for the first time is terrifying business. Of course it's easier to play flighty and hard-to-get than to try and suffer indignity. And I can promise you there will be plenty of indignity. The indignity means you're doing it right. Don't stay in the shallow end where it is safe. You need to wade out sooner or later.

The way out of your isolation is just to try. When you feel that familiar "he likes me" repulsion kick in, fight back—recognize it as a voice of panic or fear, not as actual disdain. And continue giving the guy a chance. Get to know him as a person, so he is no longer a Rook. Maybe you'll hit it off, maybe you won't. But connecting to anyone as a peer and a human is the first, necessary step toward more fulfilling relationships.

As far as pragmatic, first-timer's nerves strategies, I'm going to open this up to our wise readership. Commenters, what tips do you have for jumping the "I've never done this before" hurdles?