'Hardballing' Is the Gen Z Dating Trend That Seems, Dare We Say, Healthy

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It’s Thursday night. Your legs are shaved, your ‘90s blowout is flawless, and you’ve spent the last two hours watching ‘glowy makeup tutorials’ on YouTube. It’s time for another Hinge date. Then, just as you’re about to walk out the door, you get a text:

“So sorry to do this last minute, but I’m still drowning in work. Would you hate me if we reschedule?”

Naturally, your first reaction is: I am so over this shi*t. Yet, as you change into sweatpants and queue up Bridget Jones’s Diaryyou find yourself wondering, “What do I even want from a partner? And how do I find someone who's looking for the same thing?”

The beginning of a relationship—or even the first few dates—can feel like a game of hide and seek. You don't want to ‘find your person’ right away (because what’s the fun in that?). But after a while, the chase loses its appeal. Which begs the question, when is the right time to say what you're looking for in a relationship? In a dating culture that's wrought with ghosting and gaslighting, it's hard to take the plunge toward honesty. Well, it was—until the ‘hardballing’ trend came along.

What is ‘Hardballing’?

Originally coined by Logan Ury, director of relationship science at Hinge, “Hardballing is a new dating term that means someone is being clear about their expectations of a relationship, whether you want a serious long-term partnership or a casual fling.” In other words, hardballing—a product of intentional dating and slow dating—is a solution to post-pandemic dating fatigue. “A lot of what hardballing is is being upfront about what you want, and then asking the other person what they want, and hoping that you want the same thing…when two people actually say what they need to say it's so much more powerful than making assumptions,” Ury explains. 

Why is Gen Z embracing this dating trend?

Who better to teach us a lesson in raw, unfiltered honesty than a generation who signs their emails with “Hasta la pasta” and “Insert pleasantry here”? Indeed, Gen Z seems to be at the forefront of this trend where the #Hardballing hashtag is quickly gaining traction on TikTok. And it makes sense why Gen Z would adopt a more unvarnished dating mentality. After hours spent ‘in their heads’ during lockdown, twenty-somethings have realized that life’s too short for apathetic swipes and doomscrolling the dating apps. 

So, how do I hardball?

For some, hardballing means sparing yourself the agony of a situationship and saying, “Hey, I’m looking for something long-term” on the very first date. For others, it can be a warning that you’re “just looking for a good time” before you meet IRL. Either way, before you start bearing your soul, you want to make sure you’re absolutely clear on what you want from a relationship. “[Ask] yourself, what's going on for me right now? Do I want to be in a relationship? Am I looking for something fun? Do I have the time and energy to invest in a long-term partnership?” Ury suggests. Then, once you have all of your “relationship-ducks” in a row, you can start thinking about how you want to broach the conversation. 

Really, the idea behind hardballing someone is to reach a level of commitment that works for both people (or cut your losses while you’re ahead). “It's not a demand,” says Ury. And, in addition to sharing your expectations, you also want to create an opportunity for the person to be honest in return. Here’s an example: You’re on a first date with a guy and he mentions that he just got out of a long-term relationship. Instead of responding with the usual, “oh, what happened?” You can hardball him with: “I just got out of a serious relationship too…does that mean you’re also looking to keep things casual?” Not only does this let the guy know that you’re not interested in anything serious, but it allows him to respond honestly (now that you both have toxic ex’s to talk about). Ury says, “It's not a demand that they want the same things you do…it's [more] about how you present yourself and how you present the question.” 

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Assistant Editor

Sydney Meister is PureWow's Assistant Editor, covering everything from dating trends and relationship advice (here's looking at you, 'soonicorns') to interior design, beauty...