If they wanted to, would they?

A letter of acceptance to those of us who think with our heads rather than our heads

Annabel Hogg
15th March 2022
Image: IMDb
“If they wanted to, they would”. It’s a phrase heard all the time. I have used it on many occasions to reassure myself or my friends that the person of interest is not worth crying over. But, on reflection, I think this phrase is an unfair condemnation and one that could harm blossoming romances.

I must say that I think this is slightly different in long-term relationships. If your partner is showing you zero attention and never arranges to see you, it’s probably fitting to say that if they wanted to, they would. However, don’t let your friends tell you to dump your partner of three years because they didn’t respond to one text on a night out. There are a million and one reasons why that might be the case and you could lose the love of a lifetime by jumping to conclusions.

However, for the purposes of this article, I’m mainly referring to potential relationships - the idea that if you want to be with someone, you will make that known and make it happen. Now I’m not suggesting that many of us suffer from the star-crossed lovers trope and can’t be together because we’re living in our own versions of 'Romeo and Juliet'. But, as someone who is never able to properly talk about their feelings - I’m testament to the idea that even if they want to, they might not.

It seems unfair to hold other people to this standard of always acting as they want to when I fail to meet it 99% of the time

I don’t think I’ve ever soberly texted someone new, I’m usually paralytically drunk and even then, it’s usually a case of friends stealing the phone and doing it for me. Even when I’ve established a friendship with someone and know that they enjoy talking to me, my finger tends to hover over the send button for a good few minutes before hitting it. It seems unfair to hold other people to this standard of always acting as they want to when I fail to meet it 99% of the time.

Of course, the simple answer to why we’re so scared of acting as we wish to is the fear of rejection. And I think, to some extent, that this is true. Being rejected, especially when it’s not a casual ask on tinder but something far more sincere, is hard and can end up terminating friendships. However, there are also so many other reasons why someone might refrain from being with you even if that’s what they want.

Love cannot conquer all, and to believe it can is to diminish the feelings of those who are simply trying to do the right thing, not the romantic thing

It takes a lot for me, as a renowned romantic, to admit that sometimes romance is hindered by logic. It’s even harder for me to agree that sometimes, this is okay. There’s the possibility that the person you’re interested in is moving away and doesn’t want to commit to long distance. You could be co-workers scared of mixing professional and personal. They could value you so much as a friend that the potential reality of losing you just isn’t worth the risk. There are a multitude of reasons why someone might not act the way they wish to, and to condemn this with such a widespread statement is reductive and ignores all complexities. Love cannot conquer all, and to believe so is to diminish the feelings of those who are simply trying to do the right thing, not the romantic thing.

It's probably no more comforting to think that your feelings are requited but not acted on than it is to be flat-out rejected. In fact, it’s arguably worse. I would rather hear that someone just doesn’t see me that way than have my life dictated by external forces. That’s where the ‘right person, wrong time’ trope comes in, and it’s the saddest one of all.  

Anyone who knows me will be shocked at the un-sparkly tone of this article, so I must conclude by saying that I do genuinely believe that if they want to, one day they might. Right now is not the be-all and end all and if there are obstacles in the way, they might just clear – it’s not all doom and gloom.

But right now, don’t presume that someone doesn’t feel the way you do, it could be that at this very minute their finger is hovering over a send button – maybe one day it will be pressed.

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AUTHOR: Annabel Hogg
she/her| second year english literature student| relationships sub-editor 21/22

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