Is 'If He Wanted To, He Would' Good Relationship Advice? Experts Weigh In

Picture this: you had a date with a cute guy, and you're sure he'll ask you out for a second date. One week has passed, and there's no text from him. You decide to continue waiting, though you're anxious about it. Then, as you're mindlessly scrolling through your feeds, you stumble upon clip after clip of relationship gurus explaining your love life in hypothetical clauses: "If he wanted to go out with you, he would ask you out" or "If he wanted to be in a relationship with you, he wouldn't keep you guessing." It's like stepping into a quicksand of disappointing revelations. A hopeless romantic, you start to wonder if Facebook can really read minds or if it's the universe telling you your relationship is doomed by sending you these eerie suggestions.

If it's any consolation, the "if he wanted to, he would" is a trending point-of-view (POV) these days so there's no wonder you bump into many videos revolving around this empowering social media phrase on numerous social media platforms. What's interesting is that although they offer more assumptions than assertions and more rubbing salt in the wound than healing — they garner lots of likes and reposts. If we equate popularity to quality, does that mean "if he wanted to, he would" is good relationship advice? To find out, we spoke to dating clarity coach Kat Nieh and family and marriage therapist Lauren Cook-McKay from Divorce Answers for more clarity.

When it's a good piece of advice

The "if he wanted to, he would" advice is good and bad at the same time, says Kat Nieh. At one point, it's a great wake-up call for hopeless romantics because it can hit people in the feels and force them to put things into perspective. It encourages people, especially women, to not put their objects of interest on the pedestal and compromise for anything less than they deserve, Lauren Cook-McKay tells Glam. 

When we think the world of someone, we tend to make excuses for the person's behavior. "He doesn't have the bandwidth," "He's going through a rough patch," "He's just playing hard to get" — don't fool yourself by buying into these thoughts when your significant other doesn't show you the attention you deserve. 

When we are enamored of someone, we tend to lie to ourselves to validate our decision to stay in a relationship with the person simply because we dare not face reality. If you have to make excuses for your partner's behavior and these "if he wanted to, he would" pieces of advice hit home every time, chances are your relationship is destabilizing. But, like every piece of advice out there, this relationship advice is not 100% good and not applicable to every relationship.  

When it's a bad piece of advice

One obvious problem with this advice is that it "can perpetuate toxic expectations on men," Lauren Cook-McKay points out. The romantic notions that men should be the ones to do all the chasing and women should wait to be chased border on toxic masculinity. Why is it the guy always has to be the one to make the first move? For eons, society has placed unrealistic standards on men, making them feel like they have to act in a way that satisfies these traditional standards. And when women take the initiative, people call it unfeminine. These gender dynamics are largely irrelevant in modern dating. 

By the same token, this "if he wanted to, he would" advice also makes us put the onus on ourselves for all the wrong reasons. When a relationship guru says "if he wanted to, he would," what we hear is "How can you not get it? He doesn't want you. And it's all your fault." In other words, if this person is treating you badly, it's because you screwed up and you don't deserve any better. That sounds harsh, but that's what many of us think to ourselves when we hear those words. We women are wired to tie our self-worth with the way men treat us and forgo self-compassion. The next time a man treats you poorly, instead of telling yourself "Maybe something is wrong with me," say, "He screwed up because something's wrong with him."

You can't expect your partners to read your minds

This trending relationship advice also points to a common pain point in many relationships: we expect our partner to read our minds. "My question to you is... have you told him what you wanted or needed from him?" offers Kat Nieh. "If no, well, that's somewhere to start. If yes, were you specific about what exactly he needed to do in order to fulfill what you wanted?" Honest communication is the key to a healthy relationship. Vague information produces vague results.

Naturally, the way men and women process information and communication are very different. According to a study published in The Archives of Sexual Behavior, women have a tendency for vague judgments, while men tend to be more inclusive in their opinions. We understand that women want to talk about their needs with as much finesse as possible, but it's important to do so without ambiguity. You might reason that if your man loves you, he should understand your desires without you having to say a single word, but that's not how love works in real life. Some people prefer bottling up their emotions. Others like to wear their emotions on their sleeves. It takes two to tango, and when you and your partner have different communication styles, you should talk about them to at least make sure you two are on the same page. 

Set realistic expectations

If you've told your partner what you want and they can't see eye-to-eye with you, it's time to discuss the expectations you have for the relationship. Talking about what you disagree with helps you understand things from your partner's point of view while giving him a chance to meet your wants in an alternate way. For instance, you might be very much into public displays of affection, which is not your partner's cup of tea because he's an introvert. But he's keen to show his affection for you by doing the dishes and mowing the lawn. "Your request isn't a demand. Your request is a conversation to bring you closer as a couple," explains Kat Nieh.

Receiving honest feedback from your partner, on the other hand, helps both of you create a mutual understanding and maintain healthy boundaries. Mismatched expectations can result in a split. But if you want to be together, it means you'll have to reset your expectations to not set yourself up for disappointment.

At the end of the day, the "if he wanted to, he wouldn't" advice is not as simple as it sounds. Relationship dynamics are too complex to be summarized in a single clause. Not to mention, this phrase seems to refer to the psychology of heterosexual relationships only, which doesn't accurately reflect the dating landscape these days. Before taking this advice to heart, it's important to consider how relevant it is to the context and dynamics of each relationship.