'If He Wanted to, He Would' Is Ableist Relationship Advice
If you are active on social media, you have probably heard this relationship advice: "If he wanted to, he would." Although it is valid in some cases, it is also ableist. Read on to know more.
What Does 'If He Wanted to, He Would' Mean?
According to Glamour, it's shorthand for
"the idea that if a man is interested or wants to be with you, he'll figure a way to make it happen or show a woman. If he doesn't, the woman should move on. Because if he wanted to, he would."1
While its purpose is to help women stop dating men who treat them poorly or who treat them as an option instead of a priority, the statement is not inclusive. First, it is heteronormative as it only focuses on relationships between men and women. Next, it is gender-biased because it only showcases men as the perpetrators. Lastly, it fails to consider those of us who are neurodivergent and disabled.
Why Is It Ableist?
Since this blog focuses on mental health, I want to discuss the ableist aspect of this statement. Many mental illnesses prevent the affected persons from doing things they want to. As a person with depression and anxiety, I know how hard it is to initiate a conversation, be affectionate, ask for something I need, leave the house, plan fun activities, and so on. In general, abled people do not struggle with these things as much as disabled people.
Other mental health issues like low self-esteem, trauma, and overthinking can also prevent a person from doing something they truly want. And then, because of this catchy advice, said person comes across as inattentive, selfish, etc.
What Can We Say Instead?
We need to stop using this phrase as a stand-alone statement. It should be followed by a line like: "but they are probably going through something. Maybe I should check in on them to see if they are okay."
Or maybe we should just stop using this line because it is not inclusive and lacks nuance. The easier thing would be to stop expecting your partner to read your mind and have unrealistic expectations. Asking for what you want and need is the foundation of a healthy relationship. At the end of the day, humans are complex beings, and their actions cannot be summed up by a simple statement like "if he wanted to, he would." Let's stop using such blanket statements and remember that context is key.
Singer, J. (2022, June 23). ‘If He Wanted to, He Would’ Is Bad Relationship Advice. Glamour. https://www.glamour.com/story/if-he-wanted-to-he-would-dating-advice
Shaikh, M. (2023, April 5). 'If He Wanted to, He Would' Is Ableist Relationship Advice, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, December 1 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalhealthforthedigitalgeneration/2023/4/if-he-wanted-to-he-would-is-ableist-relationship-advice