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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Exeter chapter.

If you’ve been on the relationship side of any social media (especially Tik Tok), you’ve probably seen the phrase ‘if he wanted to, he would’. This is usually targeted towards women in straight relationships and refers to the man’s actions in the relationship. It proposes that if a man is not doing certain things, he does not want to. This includes getting her flowers, planning dates, or even just calling her spontaneously. This is posited as the most important relationship advice one could ever receive, but there are nuances to it that are not covered in the simple phrase. On top of that, this phrase can be extremely harmful to relationships.

If you are in the talking stage, or trying to see if a man is interested in you, this can be good advice! If someone wants to be with you, they should take at least some initiative. This is especially true if you two are just ‘talking’ and you are trying to figure out if they want more. If they do, they should do something. However, this phrase also puts all the pressure on the other person. If you expect everyone you are interested in to make the first move, you might miss out on meeting and dating some wonderful people. Most people will be nervous, and maybe they’re also thinking about whether you like them as well. Casting a blanket statement such as ‘if he wanted to, he would’ over every crush and interaction you have can leave you lonely.

In a relationship, this phrase can be the most damaging. Expecting your boyfriend to do everything on his own puts pressure on him, especially since it almost takes you as the girlfriend out of the equation. Men are not mind-readers, and every woman is different. Maybe his ex-girlfriend didn’t like flowers, or maybe he isn’t sure what kind of dates you want to go on. Expecting your boyfriend to do everything without you asking him is closing off what should be an open line of communication. This can lead to unhappiness in both parties. He may feel lost in what you want, and you may feel like he doesn’t care enough about you. The phrase should be ‘if he knows you want it, he should do it’. Once you communicate your hopes that he will plan a date or send you flowers, he should! If he doesn’t do it after he knows, then you might have a problem.

All in all, the phrase ‘if he wanted to, he would’ is problematic when used as a blanket statement over any relationship. Not every couple is the same, but every relationship should have strong communication. Expecting the man in the relationship to magically know what his girlfriend wants will ultimately hurt both the relationship and feelings. Communicate with your partner, see if they listen, and go from there. 

I'm studying English and Film at Exeter. In my free time, I like to read fantasy books, write short stories, and scroll through Pinterest.