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Wellness > Sex + Relationships

Why “If They Wanted To, They Would” Is Not Empowering

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at West Chester chapter.

As young people navigating complicated relationships or situationships, “if they wanted to, they would” is undoubtedly the phrase we are told the most. It’s something often expressed by well-meaning friends and pink flashy infographics on social media, or by powerful-sounding songs on the radio – and it’s grating.

Now, listen: I’m not here to completely invalidate the phrase because, after all, valuable connections should be built on reciprocation and us as adults should take action to show we care. If someone is not providing what you want, need, and deserve, it is an issue. Everyone deserves something nourishing. However, in terms of budding connections, with this refrain you should keep a few things in mind: 

You aren’t naive. Cut yourself some slack.

You aren’t naive for getting to know someone more and not jumping to a conclusion based on external pressure – if that’s a crime, arrest me. I often feel humiliated when I’m in the early stages of talking to a guy and a friend tells me that if he hasn’t done x, y, and z, he wants nothing to do with me and I should just move on. While this is meant to be tough love, being told to wait or give up early on sucks. That’s why the phrase isn’t as empowering as it intends to be. Since when was “wait or don’t wait” the mantra we should follow when trying to foster worthwhile connections?

everyone has their Problems.

Mental health does not discriminate, and us as living, breathing humans have all not done something we wanted to because we were too anxious or depressed to. This absolutely doesn’t mean we should let people use mental illness as excuses for treating others badly. However, it’s such a cliche thing to say, but you truly do never know what someone else is going through. Jumping to the conclusion of “if they wanted to, they would” tends to invalidate those struggling with anxiety or depression. So don’t be hard on yourself thinking that one person doesn’t want to be there for you – it’s not all black and white. 

prioritize what you want!

In dating and in casual conversation, it’s important to recognize that people are inevitably going to be how you didn’t expect them to be, for better or for worse. For instance, that guy you just started talking to ends up being dry over text. That itself doesn’t mean he’s uninterested, and while it might be a factor for you that affects compatibility, it could very well mean he’s just introverted or nervous. Mind you, it’s not wrong if you find these to be fundamental differences that don’t align with what you want. After all, it’s better to understand what you personally want and act accordingly instead of just adhering to the principle of “if he wanted to, he would”. That way, you won’t live in waiting for a grand gesture that may never come and you’re instead making a proactive decision based on what you know. 

Think of what you already know about people and interaction. Trust that.

What helps me most is remembering that some of the best people I know in life are the DRIEST texters, to bounce off of my previously given example. I remember texting my best friend in the early stages of our friendship and getting hit with a “k.” in response to something I said. I instantly thought they were being short with me, and my anxiety convinced me they hated me. Then, as I got to know them, I realized that it was just how they texted – not at all a reflection of how they felt about me! This someone ended up being a close, loyal friend I could have the best in-person conversations with. While there are more complexities and nuances with romantic interactions, this still holds true. Taking a chance and getting to know someone, regardless of what the outcome is, truly feels more empowering than instantly believing everything that doesn’t happen is your fault or a reflection of you. It is undeniably difficult at times, but by adopting this mindset I learn what I value in others without feeling as though every disappointment or bump in the road is a reflection of my character. 

In Conclusion… these roadblocks teach us what we want.

Instead of saying, “if they wanted to, they would,” an alternative phrase would be, “if they’re not giving you what you deserve or treating you right, it isn’t worth your time”. Or even “if you know what you want, trust yourself and you will make it happen one way or another.” These phrases are longer and a lot less snappy, but they are far more empowering and self-actualizing. Even just adopting the mentality that every lack of reciprocation you may experience isn’t a reflection of your character will make you an exponentially wiser person.

Cassidy Komar

West Chester '26

Cassidy Komar is the co-senior editor and writer for Her Campus at West Chester University. She is a Secondary English Education major from Havertown, Pennsylvania. Her articles range from commentaries on music to satirical pieces about girlhood. She is a member of the Kappa Delta sorority at West Chester and loves spending time with her sisters. Outside of school, she loves going to concerts, shopping, and going to the beach.