A lot of us go to great lengths to ensure that in our relationships, we don’t appear too desperate. But what exactly does that mean?

Source: Relativity Media. “Dude, she’s totally real!”


I’ve been in a number of conversations recently where the topic of expressing interest has come up. A lot of them have come up due to the rising number of relationships starting or developing in my friendship groups. Who should go first – should it always be the guy, or is the girl allowed to express what she’s feeling too? How strong do you come on? Do you put it all out there in the open, or do you “play the game” and be a lot more subtle or indirect in your approach?

One expression that repeatedly comes up in these discussions is the comment, “well, I don’t want to appear too desperate”. It’s usually a comment that a number of the women I know tend more towards using, but there are a fair share of men out there who have thrown that phrase around too. If you’re interested in someone or even if you would just like to get to know someone better, there are a million and one opinions on the best approach. And yet no matter the approach, this concern is one that is featured prominently in the thoughts of those considering the area of romance in their lives.

So I thought it’d be worth having an exploratory look at this idea and just have a look at some things in an online setting. Can’t really promise any answers or anything like that, but just have a few thoughts on what it is to deal with this concern.

Coming across too desperate

I think it’s worth defining what “coming across desperate” really means. Usually it translates to coming on too strong. We all know those stories (sometimes firsthand) of where the guy or the girl on the first date are already naming their potential first and secondborn children, discussing reception locations, and pulling out those three little words before dessert has been served. We also know what the reaction on the other side of the table is – bewilderment, feeling overwhelmed when you thought you were just hanging out or taking it slow, and wanting to jump out the nearest window to avoid having to go along any further with the night.

Another take on it is being seen as a needy person. Whether it be your emotional or physical needs or the things you’d like to see in a relationship, people bring up the phrase when they would like to exercise caution in revealing all those things all at once. How many boyfriends you did or didn’t have, how many ex-girlfriends who cheated on you or didn’t care for you the way you needed. All those really big heart things that need to just stay close to your chest, otherwise the other person is just going to see the word “Desperate” in bright flashing lights.

We don’t want someone else to make us their whole world necessarily. Like if the relationship didn’t start or didn’t work out down the track, we’d want to know that this person won’t end up necking themselves in the rejection of their desperate bleeding heart. And yet a lot of us are also looking for someone to do things that resemble just that – to put us first, to invest in us, to consider our emotions and seek our best.

Is it a bad thing?

Here’s where I wanted to do some exploring on the issue. Because I think all of us have been conditioned and told that it’s definitely a very, very bad thing to be seen as being desperate. And yet what is often unaddressed by much of the writing on the topic (at least in my opinion) is dealing with the real emotions that are driving you towards putting yourself forward in the first place.

Where it comes from

I think there are a few sources to consider in the drive we feel towards those sensations of “desperation”. One is that maybe we don’t have a lot going for us in our lives, and maybe we’re not actually entirely sure what we’re supposed to be doing. One thought that sits in the back of the mind is that the addition of a partner will make your life better – provide you new opportunities, some happiness, and maybe give you a bit more of a sense of purpose or direction. That’s a lot of pressure to put on someone else. If this is our primary driving force in pursuing relationships, we are definitely going to leave people feeling pretty overwhelmed in our approach. And even if it isn’t revealed in our approach, perhaps this is the source of the internal pressure we feel.

On the other side, I think it’s actually very true that the addition of a partner can grow your life. I was recently at a joint birthday for two of my friends who got married a few years ago, and their coming together has definitely given them both strength and influence beyond their own lives, as well as exciting new opportunities as they enter things beyond “me” and reach out together from a place of “we”. Perhaps there are some things you are called to do that you can’t achieve on your own.

This would especially be the case if you have a desire to be a mother, a father, a husband, or a wife. Those things by definition require the involvement of another. Multiplication takes two. I think the person you marry is an very important part of your direction in life, and such a massive consideration.

But if the other person is to be the sole source of my happiness and the only contributor to our sense of purpose, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. They can never fully be all the things we need all the time.

Invest in friends

Sometimes when people look for a partner, it’s a heavier thought because we actually have no real close friends or encouraging voices in our lives. Your desire for someone is made more intimidating and more of a massive concern because there is actually no one that we’re spending time with in a real way, no one that we’re really opening up to, and no one that we allow close enough to know what’s going on.

Ah, but one day, this magic person will do all those things for you!

Not quite.

Once again, that’s a massive weight to put on someone else. Not only do they have to be your friend and partner just from their own life, but they also have to somehow have to make up for the gaping void you have in your life due to the absence of anyone else. They have to be your best male friend and your best female friend and make up for all the lost time in your life.

We were made for relationship, but let’s never neglect the importance of friends.

And if you’re not good at friendship, chances are you won’t do be very good at marriage. Such an important area to make sure we do well.

The desires of our heart and the fear around them

I think ultimately the statement comes from two places. One is wisdom. I think it is wise to actually ensure we’re not laying it on so much the other person can’t breathe. Most of us have been in situations where we’ve seen someone act way too desperate and scared us or someone we knew away. That’s why some of the considerations above are important for us to keep in mind.

Unfortunately, the other one is fear.

Where you couldn’t let someone know you were interested in them because you “don’t want to come across too desperate”. Where you’re held back from asking someone about exploring the possibility of the two of you, or just even to spend more time together or to go grab dinner or hang out with a group of your friends. It’s written off before it’s even given a chance to be mentioned or explored. Or perhaps you’ll just leave it in Lala Land until one day the door is finally closed, but you never really said or did anything about it.

I think that the desire for partnership can be quite a powerful and burning desire in our hearts. Maybe that’s why we don’t always like talking about it at length. Maybe that’s why we’re afraid of being perceived as desperate, because maybe that desire really is something that is very, very important to you. Maybe that’s why we’re afraid to bring it up and potentially receive “no” for an answer.

I love that before any other institution was formed – before government, before clubs, before societies, even before the church – there was the family. There is something powerful and beautiful in people coming together.

And I think that thought speaks to the deepest part of who we are. It brings up every insecurity, every thought about our future, everything we really desire in our lives. That’s often why it is such a difficult, sometimes painful, and always powerful topic in our lives. Some of my favourite things about relationships really are that it speaks of our identity and sense of belonging, it highlights our need for love, it shows us who God really is (that’s actually my favourite one), and it shows us how much greater we are as a team.

So there are just some thoughts on the issue of appearing desperate in the realm of dating. I know it’s not really as pointed or conclusive as some of my other posts maybe, but I’ve just talked with so many different men and women about it recently, I just had to put something up about it. I love hearing how these posts get people talking and thinking about some of the bigger areas of their lives and that a lot of these topics hit home with a lot of people around the world.

So over to you – what are your thoughts on appearing desperate? How much is too much? Is it it a good or a bad thing to be upfront? Share your thoughts in the boxes below.

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