Q&A with Geoff: Why Do People Want What They Can’t Have?

q&a with geoff Jan 17, 2024


Why do people (men and women both) in relationships typically want what they don't have, and when they have it they do not want it anymore? Is it the hunt? Is it the thrill of the kill? Is it the chase? Or, is that just a person who does not know what they really want? I know that some people have commitment issues and are runners when they get into a relationship, but people fight so hard for something and then at the turn of a switch are willing to throw it all away. This makes no sense to me. 


You’re right that it doesn’t make much sense when this happens. While there are probably as many reasons as there are situations, I’ve seen a few patterns over the years that might explain why people sabotage what they say they want. Even though there might be explanations, it still doesn’t make it any easier to suddenly lose a relationship. 

First, I’ve observed that most of the relationship stories told in movies, songs, and books overly focus on starting the relationship but fail to model how to keep a relationship going. In other words, they show the easy part. 

New relationships are full of excitement, novelty, and uncertainty. These qualities produce infatuation and passion, which are essential for the formation of a bond. However, they’re terrible substitutes for the long-term qualities of commitment, sacrifice, compassion, and understanding. When the chase and acquisition phase of relationships is celebrated, it downplays the subsequent effort required to maintain them. This can create a misconception that excitement and novelty equate to love, overshadowing the reality of what true intimacy requires. Once the newness of the relationship wears off, many people seek out the next relationship thinking that intensity is the same as intimacy. 

I realize that stories about long-term commitment and sacrifice don’t always make very good Hollywood blockbusters. However, I think that only showing panicked lovers chasing departing taxis in the rain doesn’t give us a good sense of what real love and commitment looks like. 

Some people have commitment issues because of previous relationship losses, such as betrayal, abuse, and other traumas. These are serious and real issues that prevent injured people from forming and maintaining new bonds. If you or someone you love has been deeply injured in a previous relationship, seek the help you need to heal, so you don’t transfer those wounded reflexes into the next relationship.

Other reasons for an inability to commit can also include addiction, selfishness, laziness, emotional dishonesty, and other relationship-killers. As painful as it seems, if you’re dating someone and they suddenly disappear on you without explanation, see if you can re-engage them to talk about what happened. If they avoid the discussion, let them go. Commitment and fidelity are a two-way street. One person cannot do all of the work for two. Healthy relationships are comprised of two people who are actively working to care for the comfort and well-being of the other person. 

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