The 4 Reasons We Chase People We Can’t Have
I’m not the first person to have gotten into a texting “relationship” with someone who lives hundreds (maybe even thousands) of miles away from me, and I certainly won’t be the last. Despite knowing that such a relationship is probably doomed from the start (because omg SO. MUCH. DISTANCE), why is it that we let ourselves get so involved in the first place? We know it isn’t going to end well, yet we carry on regardless. So what’s behind the reasons we chase people, especially people that we can’t even have?
I decided to find out because it happened to me. Yep, I started texting a guy who lived on the opposite side of a massive ocean. Eventually, we moved onto Skype. We got emotionally involved, and I began to miss him like crazy when he wasn’t online or texting back. I went to bed at night and looked through the texts we had sent that evening, checking to see if there were any signs that he really liked me.
(And, yes, also checking to see how funny I had been. As it often turned out, my cringe-worthy sense of humor was spot on!)
Why 24/7 Is So Dangerous?
The problems are obvious when a long distance relationship has your forms of communication limited to just instant messaging and Skype. Technically, you’re in 24-hour contact with them, which means you can get in touch whenever you want. This is kind of dangerous because it can cause you to say things that you should really have slept on. It also means that you spend so many hours flicking through your texts (as I did) to keep him or her close to you that it seems like they never leave your side.
Perhaps the worst thing about such a relationship is that you miss them like crazy when they’re not online or responding. You can’t just knock on their door to make sure they’re okay and not annoyed with you. All you can do is wait for their ‘last seen’ status on Facebook to change from ’12 hours’ ago to ‘just now’. The wait can often be unbearable, especially when you REALLY want to talk.
So why on earth do we put ourselves through such mental torture? Why do we want what we can’t have? Why can’t we just fall in love with the person across the road and not someone who lives in a picturesque village beneath a volcano? Here are a few reasons:
I’ll be honest about this. The boy I was texting 24/7 lived in a super cool city. Who hasn’t wanted to live in an amazing place that was fresh and alive? So when I got talking to him and he started sending my photos of his hometown, I started living vicariously through him. Talking to him transported me into an amazing, exotic new place that I was sharing with this awesome guy. I think this is the same for a lot of us. Online people offer us an escape, something different. It’s exciting!
2. Every Moment Is A Novelty
They don’t live anywhere near you, so you can’t see them very often. So… any time you get to have a proper conversation with them during their busy life is a gift – it’s a novelty. Moreover, you only get the good stuff. You don’t have to witness their annoying habits or their bad moods. The way they shuffle when they walk, chew their gum, leave banana peels and apple cores on their messy desk.
3. Because Our Imagination Is Awesome
Sure, that guy or girl who works at your local coffee shop might be brilliant, but you can’t see it. All you can see is the basic reality of their life. But that person you’re texting and have never met? They’re incredible – because this is how you’ve imagined them to be.
When you talk to someone online, you can’t see their flaws, or if you can, it’s easy to straight out ignore them. You don’t like to think that, away from their conversations with you, they might be as ordinary as the barista who served you coffee today. In your head, they’re so much more than that. You have idealized them way beyond any credible reality. Once you’ve done this, it can be very hard to rationally compare them with the people around you. Whereas the folk around you are normal and boring, the person online is fantastical and otherworldly.
4. You Don’t Have To Commit
You say to yourself that you want this person, even though you know that you probably can’t have them. And this is sort of a good thing because of all those complex commitment issues you have. Yes, I had these too. I got involved with a guy online and felt certain that I wanted him. But I also knew that there was absolutely no chance that I could realistically have him. It just wouldn’t work out. If he lived on my block and I knew there was a very strong possibility that we could get together? Yeah, I probably wouldn’t have gotten so close to him.
So what’s behind the real reasons we chase people? The truth is that we like the distance and the risk-free nature of long-distance relationships. Between the chance to escape into the dreamland of your make-believe walks through faraway places and the tendency to idealize our chosen crush, long-distance relationship are exciting and novel…and rarely, if ever, real.