Why We Want The Guy We Can’t Have

What is it that makes an unavailable guy so irresistible? Here are a few reasons why – and how you can stop wanting what you can’t have.

By Sydney Good4 min read
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I once had a friend tell me, “I don’t think you like him. I think you like the chase.”

I was appalled. I had just finished telling her about this guy I was in love with. To me, he had everything I wanted and more. Only, there was one tiny detail. I wasn’t dating him. And clearly (though I denied it at the time), he wasn’t interested.

Come to find out, this had been a pattern for me. My friend was spot on. I’d be interested in a guy, and then when I discovered he liked me back, it didn’t take long for me to lose feelings. And based on the conversations I’ve had with girlfriends, this sadly isn’t just a me problem. It even seems to be perpetuated in pop culture, which is known for pushing toxic relationships.

So, what’s so appealing about what we can’t have?

We Get a “Hit” from It

Psychology Today compares pursuing an unstable partner to a gambling addiction. This is for two reasons. One, we might have had success at some point, so we think we have a chance for a positive outcome, even if there have been countless negative ones. And two, the fact that we don’t know what to expect keeps us engaged. Both of these things leave us begging for more.

Now, the beginning of a relationship can have a bit of this element, too. There’s a natural push and shove as you’re both trying to figure out if you’re interested. Especially when you’re playing a little hard to get, it can make things exciting, and you’re both wanting more. But, there’s a healthy way and an unhealthy way to do it. The point of the little “dance” you do at the beginning is to develop a meaningful relationship. You shouldn’t be left wondering how he feels.

But for those of us who need the “hit” as a gambler, the moment we feel we’ve discovered what to expect, we’re quick to bail. And just as with a gambling addiction, it’s not easy to get out of the unhealthy pattern.

We Like To Fantasize

The thing is, we’re girls, and we love to fantasize. Especially if it’s about our Prince Charming, even if he isn’t Prince Charming.

PsychCentral explains, “Often when we want something or someone, we fantasize about it, bending it and twisting it into the thing or person we want. We begin to ascribe characteristics of value that may not be possessed by the person of interest.” In other words, this person becomes exactly who we want them to be in our head, even though it’s not reality. This allows us to forget about all the bad things about this person. But then, that only leaves room for their good qualities, even if those qualities aren’t real.

There’s no harm in dreaming up what you want in a man. But you have to make sure you’re being realistic and not wrongfully giving those attributes to someone who isn’t living up to them. 

We’re Insecure

You see, we may be suffering from some sort of insecurity, and whether consciously or not, that’s what’s keeping us from being in a healthy relationship.

WebMD defines insecurity as “a feeling of inadequacy (not being good enough) and uncertainty.” Some reasons that we’re insecure could be because of “a traumatic event, patterns of previous experience, social conditioning (learning rules by observing others), or local environments such as school, work, or home.”

But, WebMD goes on, “insecurity can have no definite, external cause. Instead, it can appear as a quirk of personality or brain chemistry.”

If you’re attracted to unavailable men, you’re likely unavailable yourself.

We can best describe many of our relationship insecurities through our attachment style. Those around us influence our attachment style; therefore, we can develop unhealthy mindsets about relationships, such as believing we are unworthy of love. Or, we think people don’t deserve our love. The important thing to remember, though, is that these insecurities are often false beliefs. But, we’ve been led to think they’re true because of how others have shaped us.

Whatever the case may be, it’s important to reflect so you can move toward being ready for the healthy relationship you deserve.

We’ve Been Hurt by a Past Relationship

Believe it or not, if you find yourself continuously drawn to unavailable people, most of the time, it’s not them, but it’s you

I know that sounds like a cop-out excuse of “It’s not you, it’s me" (George Costanza would be so proud). And frankly, the person you’re interested in might have their own issues that cause them to be unavailable. But think about it: Why are you drawn to these kinds of people? Could there be an old wound that you haven’t properly treated?

For example, Psychology Today says you may have had a past unstable relationship, such as with a family member. An unreliable parent or caregiver could have detrimental effects, which could cause you to be drawn to a similar type of relationship with others. Or, there’s a past breakup that you still need to process. These are painful situations, so you’ve closed yourself off, whether intentionally or not. You want to protect yourself, so you try to avoid a similar situation.

It makes sense that you wouldn’t want to experience that same hurt again. And so, that could be why you’re attracted to the unavailable.

How To Stop Wanting What You Can’t Have

Okay, so the real question is: How do we stop going after unavailable men?

To be honest, it won’t be an easy thing to do. It’ll take time and work. But if you want to find that lasting relationship you crave, it’s worth it. Here’s where you can start.

Recognize He’s Not Worth It

What makes it so hard to let go? You’re stuck on what he could have been, but not for who he truly is.

Of course, in our minds, he’s everything we want and more. When we’re creating the narrative, we can write the love story of a lifetime. He’s our dream guy. But realize this: It’s only a dream.

What makes it so hard to let go? You’re stuck on what he could have been, but not for who he truly is.

How can we bring ourselves to reality? Well, create two separate lists of the good and bad things about him, including how he made you feel, both good and bad. After that, the list will likely speak for itself.

Take Time To Reflect

The bottom line is, if you’re attracted to unavailable men, you’re likely unavailable yourself. I know what you’re thinking: “No way! I want to be in a relationship. How could I be unavailable?”

The truth is, relationships are scary. Commitment is scary. Vulnerability is scary. But if you’re closing your heart off because you’re afraid to get hurt, you could be missing out on something completely wonderful. 

Allow yourself time to reflect and identify why you’re unavailable. It can be painful, especially with the aforementioned reasons why you’re unavailable. If you need to, write about it. Talk about it with a trusted loved one. And if necessary, talk with a therapist. It’s when we face our issues head-on that we can finally start to heal. 

Learn from Your Experiences and Move On

Once you’ve started down the path to healing, it’s essential you realize this: You don’t deserve anything less than a guy who will value you and pursue you

If you find yourself frustrated with a guy because he keeps sending mixed signals, or you constantly have to make excuses for him – then that’s it. You shouldn’t have to be left wondering how he feels. You shouldn’t have to question your self-worth. There’s no need to keep putting up with that. Because there’s a guy out there who would be completely overjoyed to have you in his life, and he will treat you right. 

Then, start to think through what behaviors you’ve also noticed in emotionally unavailable people. That way, you know what signs to look out for.

Closing Thoughts

Oftentimes, the people we’re attracted to reflect our own relationship insecurities. That said, the unavailable man you’re wanting likely has a long list of problems that makes him worse off than you. But, even if he’s in desperate need of change, you can’t be the one to do it. So don’t fall into the trap that you’ll finally be the woman to change him. Because he won’t.

The people in our lives have an enormous impact on us, which is why who we surround ourselves with is so important. The bottom line is, though, the only person you can control is yourself. It's ultimately up to you if you want to improve things. And believe me, you’re worth the effort.

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