Asking For A Friend: Why do I only want people I can't have?

Asking For A Friend is the series where we answer the questions you don’t want to ask.

Romeo and Juliet, Allie and Noah, Kate Sharma and Anthony Bridgerton – what is it about unrequited love that we just can’t get enough of?

All the best love stories seem to involve some kind of hurdle: an unapproving parent, one or both parties already being in a relationship, being from different worlds (or rival families). 

These are the exciting love stories, the ones with twists and turns and life-changing decisions, the one’s where you never know what will happen next — so there’s no surprise these love stories are the ones we most often see acted out on screen.

But in real life, wanting something you can’t have kind of sucks. So why is it so addictive?

‘Our brains are wired to seek novelty and excitement, and this can extend to romantic attraction,’ explains relationship hypnotherapist Dipti Tait.

‘When someone appears unattainable, their mysterious and challenging nature triggers a heightened sense of reward in the brain. 

‘This is reminiscent of the brain’s response to unpredictability, which releases dopamine.

‘The brain’s dopamine response can create an addictive pattern, where the person becomes reliant on the thrill of pursuing someone unattainable, despite the toll it takes on their emotional wellbeing.’

When we find someone we can have, we already know how the story goes. There’s no back and forth, up and down — the dopamine is less intense because the high highs aren’t coupled with low lows. It’s more of a steady burn. 

Dipti also says that what we’re searching for in a romantic relationship could link back to our childhoods.

‘The brain’s reward system can be influenced by past experiences, including early attachment patterns and past relationships,’ says Dipti.

‘If someone grew up in an environment where love and attention were inconsistent or conditional, they might develop a pattern of seeking out unattainable partners as a way to replicate those early experiences and try to “win” affection.’

The problem with going for people you know you can’t have is that you very rarely get them. Flirting with, or even pursuing a relationship with someone who is already taken might feel good for a while, but the chances of it ending well or unlikely.

The same goes for when you know someone isn’t right for you. Eventually you need to accept the fact that the relationship won’t go anywhere.

‘Constantly pursuing unattainable partners can lead to negative effects on mental health,’ says Dipti.

‘The repeated cycle of longing and disappointment can result in feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.’ 

Is this all too relatable? Don’t worry, it is possible to break the cycle, you just need to put in some work.

Practice self-awareness and challenge your thoughts

‘Recognising the pattern is the first step,’ says Dipti.

‘Reflect on past relationships and patterns to understand why you might be drawn to unattainable partners.’

Once you uncover those reasons, work to challenge these views around love and relationship.

For example, says Dipti, ‘our brain sometimes convinces us that only the unattainable is valuable.’

Dipti says: ‘Challenge these thoughts and remind yourself of the potential for a healthy and fulfilling relationship with someone who is available.’

Focus on personal growth and try therapy

‘If you are to challenge those deep beliefs and stories that are influencing your behaviour, you need to shift your focus from the pursuit of others to your own self improvement’, says Dipti.

Engage in activities that bring you joy and build your self-confidence and consider giving therapy a go.

‘Professional help from a behavioural hypnotherapist can provide insight into the underlying causes of this pattern and offer strategies to break free from it.

‘Remember that change takes time, but with commitment and effort, breaking the cycle permanently is possible.’

Set boundaries and seek healthy relationships

Finally, make sure to surround yourself with people who support and value you and try to seek relationships with people who are attainable.

‘Engage in relationships that are mutually fulfilling and where emotional availability is present,’ says Dipti.

‘Learn to establish and maintain healthy boundaries in relationships, too.
‘This can help prevent getting trapped in the cycle of seeking validation from unattainable partners.’

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing [email protected].

Source: Read Full Article