Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Waiting Too Long, and Leaping Too Fast: How Scarcity Can Drive Your Relationships

Patience is often considered a "virtue." And in many cases, it is exactly what is called for, and that includes relationships. How often have you done something within the context of a relationship, out of a desire to blunt some anxiety, anger, frustration, fear, confusion, or to simply get an answer or confirmation about something from your partner? People do it all the time, and it's our impatience with the uncertainty of life that drives much of this behavior.

However, sometimes we mistake being patient with a form of waiting built on hopes that are, in the end not realistic or healthy.

Have you ever waited for someone you wanted to be with who, for whatever reason, couldn't really be with you at that time?

I certainly have. More times than I wish to admit. Waited for the woman who was trying to get out of her current "bad" relationship. Waited for the woman who liked me, but "wasn't sure" she wanted more. Waited for the woman who "loved spending time with me," but was too busy to call or write more than once every two or three weeks, when a moment of passing fancy occurred.

In the end, all of these women exited my life. Up until a few years ago, it was always I that was left waiting, until the realization occurred that she wasn't going to come back (in any favorable way at least). It's only been recently that I have learned how to break through that habit of waiting and hoping, actually choose to recognize unhealthy situations, and then walk away on my own.

Consider this, from a post on the blog Baggage Reclaim:

Waiting around says “I don’t consider myself a valuable, worthwhile enough person to go and live my life without this person who doesn’t actually want me or the relationship I want with them. I’d rather fanny away my life and time that I don’t value hoping they’ll see the light because I don’t believe I can do better plus I’d rather avoid feeling ‘full’ rejection at any costs”.

Waiting around says “I have nothing better to do with my time”.

Waiting says “You’re free to reject me and come and go whenever they you like”.

Waiting says “I’m an option for you whenever you feel like it”.

That fear that so and so might be my "last opportunity" or "best opportunity" for a great love relationship was something that gripped me for years. Even though I'm fairly young (35), fairly good looking, and in possession of other attractive traits - somehow, I was still convinced I might screw up the "only chance." The fierceness of scarcity, which dominates our entire economic system, also bleeds into nearly every aspect of our social lives. If you don't act now, you might not get it. is one mantra. You better hold on to whatever you have for dear life. being the other. Coupled together, they twist us all around, squeezing the life out of our intelligence and warping our emotional responses.

When I look at it, two two phrases sum up the dominate themes of my relationship history.

I have held on for dear life to relationships that were already dead or were never really alive to begin with.

And I have also "acted now" by rushing into things, or by rejecting women who didn't quickly "seem to be the right one."

Think about it. If your worried you might "loose out" on one of the "few opportunities" if you move on too quickly, you'll hang onto some shred of that connection for as long as possible.

And if you're hooked into the scarcity model from the other side, you're gonna rush to reject anyone who might end up blocking you from those "few opportunities." It's like going clothes shopping, where you grab half a dozen shirts, try them on, and then dump all of them because there are another two dozen more out there that just might "fit better."

I'm being hard on myself here in some respects. I don't always act out of these patterns, and I have had plenty of healthy experiences with women I have dated.

However, it's difficult to ignore how much of an impact the constellations of scarcity have had on my dating and relationship history. And I know I'm not alone.


  1. Nope. Not alone.

    There is another, perhaps even more extreme reaction/"strategy" (though I think it can hardly be called a "strategy") coming out of a scarcity model: Simply adopting the belief that the whole dating business is futile and avoiding it altogether; or, a near relation of the former, being so caught up in a dream of the "right" relationship that one just never "shits or gets off the pot"—never even takes the first step of asking someone out.

    I've been very attached to both of these slight-variant models for the last few years. I'll take your idea into consideration, and pay attention to see if a "scarcity model" is one primary feeder of those (re)actions, and whether, with mindfulness of these patterns, I can choose new behaviors and new paradigms for viewing this wonderful, wacky human world we have.

    Good little article, Nathan! Even though I personally don't read blogs much (yet), keep it up!

  2. Hey Matt,

    Thanks for the comment. Yes, total avoidance and a sense of futility definitely fit in here. I have operated from there at times as well, although for me, it tends to not last very long. A few days. Weeks. Maybe a month or so at most.


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