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How to Stop Being Desperate for a Relationship or Sex?

February 10, 2024

No one wants to seem desperate, especially to someone we might want to date. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to control our feelings or hide the fact that we feel anxious about being alone.

Let’s look at why you might feel desperate for sex, love, and affection and how you can deal with those feelings in a healthy way.

Key Takeaways

  • It’s completely normal to want love and affection in your life
  • Lots of factors can make that normal need feel even more intense and desperate
  • Learning to love and trust yourself can make it easier to deal with being single
  • Don’t try to rush finding “the one”

What Makes Someone Desperate for Love and Affection?

1. You’re afraid of being alone

One of the biggest reasons that people become desperate for love and affection is that they’re afraid of being alone.[1] You might be worried about being alone in the short term or be haunted by the thought of facing old age without a life partner.

2. There’s a social expectation on you to couple up

Families can also make it much more difficult for you to deal with being single. There can be a strong social expectation that everyone wants to form a monogamous relationship and, often, have children.[2]

These social expectations can put you under increased pressure to find a partner, especially if you’re reaching the age where the people around you are having children.

3. You struggle with low self-esteem

Low self-esteem can also make you more vulnerable to feeling desperate for a relationship.[3] When you struggle with your self-esteem, it can feel easier to reach out to someone else and hope that they will prove to you that you’re worthy of love. 

4. It feels as though you’re running out of time to find a partner

Sad woman by the beach

It can easily feel as though there’s a limited amount of time available for you to find your life partner. If everyone around you is coupled up, it’s natural to worry about whether you’re missing your opportunity. 

The more you feel as though time is running out, the more desperate you’re going to feel.

5. You have an anxious attachment style

People with an anxious attachment style often find themselves becoming more desperate for romantic love than those with other attachment styles.[4] This is because an anxious attachment style leaves you feeling insecure and scared of rejection.

6. You need validation that you are worthy of love

Another factor that can make you feel more desperate for a partner is when you don’t feel entirely sure that you’re worthy of love. This could be because you didn’t receive enough affection and love as a child or following a past abusive relationship.

7. You’re struggling to deal with a major loss or rejection

Lonely woman on a swing

People are also more prone to desperation in their romantic relationships when they’re struggling to deal with other serious emotional struggles in their lives. This is especially true if you’ve recently experienced the death of someone close to you or a traumatic breakup.

8. You believe that happiness only comes from romantic love

Another risk factor for becoming desperate in your relationships is if you believe that romantic love is the only route to happiness in your life. There are many different things that bring us joy and happiness. Any of these can give our lives meaning.

If you are fixated on romantic love to give your life meaning, you will probably be more desperate than if you look for a wider range of sources of happiness.

9. You see a normal need as desperation

The final thing to consider when you’re trying to understand why you feel so desperate for romantic love and affection is whether you’re actually being too hard on yourself

If you naturally have high expectations of yourself, you might be interpreting a perfectly normal desire for connection and closeness as weakness and desperation. It’s ok to be kind to yourself and accept your needs as normal and reasonable.

How to Stop Being Desperate

1. Understand where your need comes from

The first step toward not being desperate is to understand where your personal need for connection and affection comes from. Taking the time to evaluate whether it’s a perfectly normal, healthy need or a sign of a deeper problem will guide your next steps.

Look through the list of reasons above and think to yourself about whether there are any other things that are going on for you. If any of the causes really resonate with you, focus on resolving those first.

2. Work towards being comfortable alone

Woman's hand stretched out

When you start to feel desperate for a relationship, it can seem as though everyone’s queueing up to tell you that you “just need to learn to be ok with being alone.” The fact that it’s true doesn’t make that advice any more helpful or less patronizing.

I don’t want to join that chorus. Being told to “just” be comfortable spending time alone doesn’t make sense. When you feel lonely, being alone isn’t something that you can just tell yourself to look forward to. That’s unrealistic and unhelpful.

Instead of trying to force yourself to feel something inauthentic, focus on taking small steps to make the time you spend alone more meaningful and enjoyable. Look for small positives. Rather than telling yourself you have to love being alone, start aiming for just being ok with it.

3. Practice having (and enforcing) your own boundaries

One of the biggest dangers of feeling desperate is that you allow others to trample all over your boundaries… or even fail to set them at all. Working on your boundaries can help to counteract this damage, but it can also make you feel less desperate in the first place.[5]

Again, it can take time to get used to enforcing your boundaries. Be kind to yourself as you start. Think carefully about how you want and expect to be treated and decide what kind of behavior you’re not willing to put up with.

If boundaries feel relatively new to you, it can be helpful to think about how you treat others. If you treat others well, that’s a good guide to the kind of treatment you should be able to expect from others as well.

Having these boundaries can help improve your self-esteem and self-worth, which also makes it less likely that you’ll feel desperate.

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4. Keep finding new people

One of the things that make us feel more desperate is when we start to believe that we have a limited pool of people who will care about us or offer us affection. When we keep meeting new people, it’s easier to remember that the world is full of wonderful people we just haven’t met yet.

Look for opportunities to connect with new people, especially those with different backgrounds and life experiences from you. Try not to focus on finding someone new to date or who you’re sexually attracted to. Instead, think about making new friends and social connections to begin with. This reduces the pressure.

5. Try giving others space to avoid fear

We can seem (and feel) desperate when we cling on to other people. We feel as though we need to continuously pull on them emotionally to keep them close to us. Practice giving the people you love freedom and space. In most cases, this will actually improve the nature of your relationships.

This is especially true if you typically date people with an avoidant attachment style. Someone with an avoidant attachment style will usually pull away when you try to become emotionally closer.[6] Giving them more space can help you feel more secure and loved because he stays close and affectionate.

6. Pause looking for love while you deal with existing problems

If you know that you’re struggling with feeling desperate, it might be a good idea to take some time out from dating while you deal with it. Trying to date can be a distraction whereas taking a deliberate break can actually make you feel less lonely.

Being lonely when you’re trying to find a partner feels like a personal rejection, even when it isn’t. When you make a deliberate decision to avoid romance for a period, you’re taking back control. This can help you to avoid feeling rejected, even if it doesn’t make you much less lonely. 

7. Open up about your feelings

Talking about how lonely you feel can help you feel more connected to other people. It can also help to remove some of the stigma and shame you feel about being lonely or desperate for love.

Feeling lonely is isolating. This makes it a vicious circle. The more lonely you feel, the more you struggle to be open about how you feel, which makes you feel even more lonely. Breaking that cycle takes courage, but it can be done.

This doesn’t mean that you should announce to everyone how lonely you are or drunk-cry on someone’s shoulder about how much you hate being single and how desperately you want a partner. That’s just going to make you look more desperate and probably make you feel worse rather than better.

Instead, talk to someone you trust in a one-on-one conversation. Explain that you’re feeling lonely. Be honest that you know they can’t fix it, but you just wanted to open up about how you’re feeling and how difficult you’re finding things. This kind of honest conversation and support can make a huge difference.

8. Look for other forms of love

Our culture prioritizes romantic love above all else, but there are lots of other forms of love that can be just as important. Try to focus on the other kinds of important love you have in your life to remind yourself that you are a wonderful person and worthy of love.

It’s important not to stray into “toxic positivity” here.[7] This isn’t about suppressing your negative feelings. Instead, try to accept that it hurts that you don’t have a romantic partner but add in the feelings of love, support, connection, and affection that you get from close friendships and family relationships.

9. Use social media with caution

Social media was apparently supposed to help us all to feel more connected to each other. Research suggests that it often achieves the exact opposite.[8]

One of the worst uses of social media is when you feed your obsessions by ‘stalking’ someone you’re romantically attracted to. Constantly seeing their image and reading what they say about their life is rarely going to help you to feel better about yourself or your life.

Try being really honest with yourself about how social media makes you feel. If you’re not sure, consider trying a social media ‘detox’ for a few days, or even a week. Block or mute people who don’t leave you feeling good about yourself. 

10. Do things you can be proud of

Think carefully about how you’re spending your free time. Are you waiting around hoping to find someone to share your life with and create something meaningful, or are you building a meaningful life by yourself?

Doing things that give your life meaning and that you’re proud of is great for your mental health overall and it’s even more important to help you stop being desperate for a partner. Think hard to find some meaningful goals that will make you proud.

These might include your work, volunteering, or fitness goals. Having something to focus on aside from your loneliness can help you to relax and feel more satisfied with your life as it is.

11. Practice dating casually

One of the problems of feeling desperate for a relationship is that it puts a lot of pressure on every date you go on. Rather than going on a date to meet your soulmate, why not try dating to have a good time and enjoy a conversation with someone new?

Dating casually is a difficult skill to master. One strategy that can be helpful is to arrange dates with people who aren’t your normal ‘type’. 

I’m not suggesting going on a date with someone you know you’ll never have any feelings for. That feels slightly dishonest to me. Instead, I’m suggesting that you find someone you’re not immediately swooning over. Maybe he doesn’t tick all of your boxes, but he might be fun to get to know.

This has two benefits. Firstly, you know that it’s probably not going to go anywhere so you can relax and not feel desperate. Secondly, you’re getting to know a wider range of people. You might just be surprised by one of them.

12. Don’t change yourself to find a partner

A big risk of feeling desperate for love is that you’re tempted to change who you are to be more attractive to the person you’re interested in. Although it’s understandable, this isn’t a great idea. Trying to be someone you’re not is exhausting and demoralizing.

The chances are that this strategy won’t actually help you find a partner. Most people can tell when someone isn’t behaving authentically, and it’s a big turn-off. It’s really hard to trust someone who isn’t being themselves.

Even if you do find a partner this way, it’s probably not going to go well. Changing yourself to attract someone else usually leaves you feeling more isolated and alone because you feel as though even your partner doesn’t see the ‘real you’.

13. Learn to trust your own opinion

Lots of us look outside for validation. It’s easy to say that you should feel able to validate yourself, but that can be tricky to put into practice. Learning to trust your own opinion is a good step in the right direction.

Find opportunities to try someone new by yourself and make your own decisions and judgments without being swayed by other people. Try going to an art gallery or listening to a new band and making your own mind up about whether you like it. This is also a fantastic way to get to know yourself better.

14. Look for support if you struggle to be single

No one says that being single has to be easy. There are lots of negative consequences of being single, including more expensive housing or not getting a plus-one to important social events. But not being in a relationship shouldn’t feel scary or like it’s the end of the world.

If you struggle with being alone, it might be helpful to work with a therapist or relationship coach to work through what’s going on and to help you understand how this looks to others.

FAQs

Is attention-seeking a mental illness?

Attention-seeking isn’t a mental illness. In fact, it’s a completely normal reaction to feeling lonely, ignored, or isolated. That doesn’t mean that it’s always welcome. Lots of us are taught to ignore attention-seeking behavior. The healthiest option is to say “I’m feeling lonely” and then ask for what you need.

Is attention-seeking always wrong?

Attention-seeking behavior can sometimes be irritating to others, but it’s absolutely not always bad or wrong. Usually, people start attention-seeking when they’re in need of attention. It’s no different from asking someone for a sandwich when you’re hungry. Being honest about your need for attention is generally best.

What makes me seem desperate?

We seem desperate when we place responsibility for our happiness on someone else. This leads us to place unreasonable expectations on them. This includes texting too much to ‘force’ them to reply, making it difficult for them to leave events, or getting upset when they can’t spend time with us.

Conclusion

Wanting love, affection, and sex in your life is natural, but that doesn’t mean that you have to put up with always feeling desperate. Focus on yourself and your emotional connections to the people you care about to sustain you and help you avoid loneliness.

How have you coped with feeling desperate? Let me know in the comments. If you have friends who feel desperate for love and affection, suggest that they read this article to help them feel more comfortable with themselves.

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8 Sources:
  1. Sakman, E., Urganci, B., & Sevi, B. (2021). Your cheating heart is just afraid of ending up alone: Fear of being single mediates the relationship between attachment anxiety and infidelity. Personality and Individual Differences, 168, 110366. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2020.110366
  2. Gahran, A. (2017). Stepping off the relationship escalator : uncommon love and life. Off The Escalator Enterprises, Llc.
  3. Dunkley, D. M., Berg, J.-L., & Zuroff, D. C. (2012). The Role of Perfectionism in Daily Self-Esteem, Attachment, and Negative Affect. Journal of Personality, 80(3), 633–663. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6494.2011.00741.x
  4. Foster, J. D., Kernis, M. H., & Goldman, B. M. (2007). Linking adult attachment to self-esteem stability. Self and Identity, 6(1), 64–73. https://doi.org/10.1080/15298860600832139
  5. Whitfield, C. L. (2010). Boundaries and relationships : knowing, protecting, and enjoying the self. Health Communications, Inc.
  6. Feeney, J. A., & Noller, P. (1990). Attachment style as a predictor of adult romantic relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58(2), 281–291. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.58.2.281
  7. Upadhyay, I. S., Srivatsa, K. A., & Mamidi, R. (2022). Towards Toxic Positivity Detection. Proceedings of the Tenth International Workshop on Natural Language Processing for Social Media. https://doi.org/10.18653/v1/2022.socialnlp-1.7
  8. Hunt, M. G., Marx, R., Lipson, C., & Young, J. (2018). No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 37(10), 751–768. https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.2018.37.10.751
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