Flowers, love letters, phone calls and serenades — we all want them, but do we ever ask? Graphic by Anna Gritzenbach.
ANNA GRITZENBACH | OPINION COLUMNIST | email@example.com
Picture this. You’ve been talking to someone for a month but they only respond to you once a day, at 11 p.m., with a half-face Snapchat picture. Maybe, if you’re lucky, he asks you a question “wyd?” Even the most verbose person cannot make a fruitful conversation bloom from that text.
Your friend, who has been in a loving relationship with their long-distance girlfriend of two years, tells you that “if they wanted to, they would,” citing how her girlfriend sends her flowers once a month and calls her almost every night.
You stop talking to this person after hearing this since they aren’t calling you every night and they aren’t buying you flowers every month, without telling them why.
“If they wanted to, they would:” We’ve all heard it. Most love it. Many don’t fully understand its overgeneralizing nature.
I have most frequently heard this phrase being used on TikTok. It is so easy to, especially online, dismiss the fact that other users are cognizant human beings. Now, add facilitating relationships and dating via social media to that mix and you have a masterpiece of detachment and yearning.
To most, “if they wanted to, they would” means that if the person you are talking to really likes you, they will put in the effort. To me, the phrase completely disregards the fact that the individual has their own life, priorities and conflicts going on. While there is something to be said about the concept of putting in the effort to ensure that the other person feels appreciated, we often hone in exclusively on others’ shortcomings while ignoring the justifications we allot for ourselves.
One of the most obvious positives of using this phrase is that it raises the expectations that you hold yourself and your partner — or potential partner — to. It enables the justification that you deserve to be treated differently and allows you to move on to bigger and better things.
This concept can also help identify potentially one-sided relationships. It prompts us to think about our relationships and how we are treating each other, for better or worse.
I do think that this phrase holds more truth when it comes to relationships. When it is applied to situationships it can become very anxiety-inducing and overall unhealthy for both parties involved.
Though there are some potential positives, they are not outweighed by the negatives of this idea. The complete disregard of other factors in another person’s life is extremely problematic. It’s easy to get tunnel vision when you’re really into someone. We forget that they don’t only exist to pay attention to us.
First-year arts administration major Oli Barnett brings up the ableism within the phrase — you never know what is going on in another person’s world.
“The phrase is kind of conflicting because I’m in what’s considered an inter-abled relationship, so I have a disability and my partner doesn’t,” Barnett said. “It’s hard to have those expectations of ‘if they wanted to, they would,’ because I don’t always have the physical ability to do so or the mental capacity to do so.”
Actions — or lack thereof — are never as simple as black and white. You never know what’s going on in another person’s life. “If he wanted to, he would” but maybe not all the time.
As college students, we’re all hellishly busy. Whether it’s work, a club meeting, athletics, class, homework or keeping up with your social life, we’re pretty much always doing something. So, why doesn’t that apply to the person you’re talking to?
The main issue I have with using the phrase “if they wanted to, they would” is that it excuses letting go of the reins and pinning all fault on the other person. A relationship is a two-way street, and if both people aren’t contributing, it will go into shambles. When saying “if they wanted to, they would,” it puts all responsibility of communication and coordination on the other person, oftentimes with no communication of that expectation.
First-year art history major Tessa Specchio brings up how this idea doesn’t allow the person any agency in a talking stage or situationship.
“If you believe that [if they wanted to, they would], then that’s gonna make you freak out,” Specchio said. “It takes away any kind of ownership and responsibility and control over the idea of a relationship starting because it completely puts the burden on the other person.”
Specchio brings up a really valid point: many of us are anxious and don’t want to make the first move, especially when we aren’t sure that the person is into us. I am quite an anxious person, and when there isn’t a form of validation, I get worried.
When it comes to a relationship, romantic or not, communication is key. This phrase excuses all lack of communication on one side of the relationship, permitting one person to hold the other to expectations that have not been communicated.
Expectations in a relationship are very important, don’t get me wrong, they just need to be communicated with the other person. It’s also vital that you hold yourself to your own expectations.
In other words, have a relationship standard for yourself.
First-year arts administration major Maddie Hurst prioritizes protecting her own power and person, not feeling the need to overexert herself in a relationship.
“If you feel like you have to do anything above who you are as a person, [then] that person is not doing their job to support you,” Hurst said.
One of the most important forms of love is not with a romantic partner but with yourself. Self-love is hard, and it changes all the time. When you embrace self-love, it is much easier to build a relationship on the mutual understanding that you each have your own life, and want to include the other in that world. When the right romantic partner comes along — if that’s what you’re into — you don’t have to rely on that person to complete you. That’s not what a relationship should be in the first place.
The idea of “if they wanted to, they would” simply doesn’t work with that foundation. It completely disregards the fact that each person has their own things going on. It leaves so many things up to the other person, without telling them that they are expected to do those things.
“If they wanted to, they would” — maybe.
If you wanted to, would you?