Why do we always want what we can’t have?

It’s one of those universal conundrums. When we have easy access to something, we can’t help but get used to it. Maybe even get bored of it. Give someone a hundred days of sunshine and the first time they really appreciate it is the day it finally rains. We take things for granted. It’s something that permeates every facet of human existence, from wealth to friendships, from health to technology. Everything. I sometimes thing of the internet as a good example. Right now, at the touch of your fingertips, you have the ability to search for practically any piece of information from the entire span or recorded history. Any book, any fact, any obscure piece of history. You can watch Muhammad Ali beat Sonny Liston or listen to Kennedy give his inauguration speech. You can explore space, research the beginnings of creation, learn about evolution or just download a Marvel comic. Everything, it’s all there. And yet, how many times have you been bored, sat in front of a computer or been on your phone, and not been able to think of anything to look for. Contemplate that for a second. You can literally look for everything and yet you can’t think of absolutely anything! But that’s what happens. Whether on a grand scale or with something small like not phoning a grandparent to say hello, as a species we are just notorious for not appreciating what we have until we don’t have it any more.

Relationships are no different. Whether it’s casual sex, dating or a full blown love affair, we find it hard to fully comprehend how much we want something while we have access to it. It’s a terrible irony really. All these clichés about not knowing what you have until it’s gone are famous for a reason. So what is it about the unobtainable that makes us so desperate to get our hands on someone that we once had easy access to? I personally think there are three reasons that explain this behaviour.

So now you have the realisation that you want them back made worse by the fact that you can’t have them.

One reason is that you realised you fucked up in letting it go in the first place. You have this amazing person but because you are with them you can’t fully appreciate it. You get used to them and stop doing all the things you used to do to make them feel special. The relationship becomes routine and all of sudden you’re thinking ‘I kinda miss being single’ and start to emotionally detach from the relationship. Once the separation has happened and there is some distance between the two of you, you begin to miss them. Time smoothes over the cracks and you remember how amazing the person actually is. This is sometimes exacerbated by going on some bad dates that highlight how stupid you were to ever take your partner for granted. Now you realise your error, you want the person back. Maybe they feel the same way. But this is about what we can’t have. So maybe they have moved on. You hurt them bad and they are so done with your shit. So now you have the realisation that you want them back made worse by the fact that you can’t have them. This can turn into a really unhealthy desire because it becomes easy to obsess and spend a lot of time trying to get someone back that doesn’t want you anymore. Which of course only makes you want them even more. Then you try and get them back which most likely only serves to make you look desperate which in turn makes you even less appealing. You can see how this can go on and on. It’s not the one. Not at all. So in essence in this scenario, we want what we can’t have because we realise it was what was best for us all along.

The next reason is that we don’t want someone else to have it. Basically it’s jealousy mixed with ego. You don’t really want them, but you can’t stand the thought of someone else having them. If they came running to you and said they wanted to rekindle the romance, you would have zero interest, but because they’re now potentially interested in someone else, you suddenly have to have them back. This kind of envy can be all consuming. You see them as yours, and whereas if you stood back and thought about it logically you would know that it’s just your pride fucking with you and that you’re not actually bothered about them, instead the reality of your indifference towards them is replaced by this non sensical fabrication that you mistake for genuine desire. This only ends one way. Badly. Either for you, or for them. I mean if you can’t get them back, you end up chasing something, probably to an unhealthy degree, that you didn’t even really want in the first place. And if you do get them back, you’ll quickly realise that you didn’t want them, end up chucking them again and therefore hurting them for the second time and you will have ruined whatever chance they had with the new person. The video below from an episode of scrubs illustrates this perfectly.

‘it doesn’t matter who it is, every girl is someone that some guy is bored of fucking.’

The final reason is what I think underpins a lot of why we do the things we do when playing this here game. We love a challenge. I remember years ago, some guy I knew said to me ‘it doesn’t matter who it is, every girl is someone that some guy is bored of fucking.’ This can obviously apply to guys as well. Some of this crosses over to the above point. You might want someone back because you think you can’t have them, not because you really want them. But this kind of desire is based firmly in ego. You want to conquer. If something is unobtainable, you have to attain it. It matters not that once you do you probably won’t want it anymore. In ex lovers this manifests much the way I explained above, but when it comes to sex, it’s the most base form of lust that drives us. It’s primal. You want to get your hands on someone. Beyond that there may not be a plan at all. You just know that you want this person in a primitive and animalistic way and the fact you can’t have them drives you crazy. This kind of desire is powerful because there is no emotion involved, no past experience and it may not even be about physical compatibility. What I mean by this is that you might have access to any number of people who are exactly what you’d normally look for from an aesthetics standpoint, and this unobtainable person might not fit this criteria in the slightest. But the intangible barrier of non possession means you can’t think about anything but getting that one person and having crazy hot sex with them. If you manage it, you probably lose interest unless during the lust you built up a genuine desire as oppose to one based simply on satisfying your ego. Either way this part of desire is what the game is based on and what makes it so much fun. Whatever the situation, the challenge and thrill of the chase is an age old human trait that goes back to our evolutionary beginnings. In essence, we want what we can’t have because deep down we want to be able to have everything.

At the end of the day, we are ruled by our desires. Power of will and social constraints may dictate that we resist them, but it doesn’t change the fact that when it comes to love and lust, we will always feel compelled to crave the one person we can’t have. The question is how do we handle it when we finally get them? Or perhaps more importantly, what do we do if we don’t?