4 Reasons We Want Someone We Can’t Have

Most of us have experienced a burning desire for the one person who is simply out of reach, the one person you just can’t have.

Maybe it’s because that person is taken; perhaps because that person is very difficult to conquer.

Or maybe that person just doesn’t reciprocate our feelings.

The fact is, despite all this rejection, the more we are rejected, the more we want that person.

Then comes the very important question: why?

Why when we can’t have someone, do we want even more?

Why do we neglect other suitable partners, who may be more readily available and potentially better for us, in favor of someone who is just out of reach?

The answers boil down to the dynamics of the human mind, with four specific principles at play:

1. Vanity

I’m not talking about the “Don’t I look amazing in this sparkly dress?” vanity type.

I mean the kind of vanity that pertains to one’s self-image and is intrinsically linked to our sense of self-worth.

We, as human beings, are conceited by our very nature.

We all like to feel special, attractive, and important, as it all increases our pride, confidence, and self-image.

Nobody wants to feel powerless, uninteresting, or unable to affect people.

The same applies to the burning desire for that person you can’t conquer.

The fact that you want him or her but can’t have her is a blow to your personal vanity.

With personal vanity wounded, your mind will try to regain its own sense of self-worth.

It does this by pressing you to get what did the damage in the first place, which in this case is the person you can’t have.

Pursuing this person more aggressively is likely to drive them further away from you, hurting your personal vanity even more and making you want them even more.

2. Scarcity

Our minds value things without our realizing it, and there are forces at work that determine the value of a certain thing (or a certain person).

These forces are called supply and demand.

Yes, it may seem strange to use a basic principle of economics to try to explain the inner workings of the human mind, but let me elaborate.

Something low in demand but high in supply is seen as less valuable; whereas something high in demand but low in supply is seen as more valuable.

The same applies to us humans when we value objects, experiences, and even people.

If a person’s availability is restricted and we want the person’s time (whether in person, over the phone, via text, etc.), we have a demand for the person and they are in short supply.

This makes the person more valuable to us, which in turn makes us want the person more because we see them as more valued.

The truth is that, in cases where we want someone, the more restricted and scarce he is for us, the more we want him.

It’s the essence of why those who are hardest to get can be more attractive to others.

3. Desire

Desire is a double-edged sword.

We desire others according to our personal tastes, experiences, and preferences, but desire also has a social element.

We tend to desire even more those who are desired by others.

The same goes for objects and things.

For example, if you are looking for a restaurant, you would probably choose one with more people seated, as opposed to one with no one at all.

This is due to social approval.

If someone desires something, our mind tells us that it might have a quality that might interest us, which we find intriguing.

So if other people also want the person you want, it will make you want them even more.

This also has an explanation rooted in jealousy.

If someone wants what we want, it can trigger our natural competitiveness in order to take someone seriously.

This goes back to both vanity and scarcity.

Being with that desirable person will increase self-esteem; it feeds our personal vanity and the desire to be on behalf of someone we hold dear.

4. Overinvestment

One of the principles our minds work by is reciprocity.

If we do something for someone, we unconsciously expect that person to do something for us in return.

If someone does something for us, most of us feel compelled to reciprocate by doing something more or less of equal value in return.

When we invest time in someone, we unconsciously expect a return for the time we have given.

If you add other things to the mix – favors, dinners, etc. – our level of investment will become higher, and the unconscious expectation of a higher return.

The less the person gives back, the more time we tend to invest trying to get them to give back.

This makes us more invested and raises our unconscious expectations of some sort of return from that person.

So when we can’t have the person we want, we tend to invest a lot in trying to have them.

The more we invest, and the less the person gives back, the more we want the person because we invest a lot.

Annoyingly, investing a lot of time and energy in someone without the person wanting it often pushes them away.

So when you want someone you just can’t have, it’s best to relax, take a step back and not invest so much in someone (as hard as that is).