What is the idiom/proverb for the following?

the more you pressure someone they will run away from committing/engaging"

This is attributed to a girlfriend and boyfriend, parent and child, teachers and students.

This reminds me of a non-related, but similar analogy:

the more you ban things the more they will be inquisitive to indulge in it.

Does this also have a common idiom or proverb, or do they sound different principally?

  • 2
    You're asking for TWO idioms/proverbs so please make sure your question title matches your request.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 13, 2018 at 11:59
  • The two concepts are of course different,you can't have an aphorism that means people will be deterred by something and attracted to something at the same time.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 13, 2018 at 12:02
  • From "Wayne's World" - Garth: Uhm, Wayne? What do you do if every time you see this one incredible woman, you think you're gonna hurl? Wayne Campbell: I say hurl. If you blow chunks and she comes back, she's yours. But if you spew and she bolts, then it was never meant to be. Apr 14, 2018 at 2:41
  • It's called Don't stuff beans up your nose :)
    – Andrew T.
    Apr 14, 2018 at 5:02
  • Like sand through an hourglass, so are the days of our lives. Apr 14, 2018 at 7:30

6 Answers 6


In addition to the other answers, I want to add the Streisand Effect, even though it is not a complete answer to your question.

The concept is named for an attempt by singer and actress Barbara Streisand to have an aerial photograph of her property removed from a database being used for erosion research. Prior to this, only the researchers even cared about the database, but after her request was publicized, suddenly everyone wanted to know about it. The photo she wanted removed was instead copied to other places and viewed by many.

The idea is that if information is out there where anyone can get it, people generally tend to ignore it. But as soon as people are made aware that someone wants to hide or suppress the information, they have an instant desire to have that information. The linked Wikipedia article lists several other examples, and also links to the underlying psychological phenomenon.


Forbidden fruit is the sweetest.

It refers to the story in the Bible in which God tells Adam and Eve not to eat the forbidden fruit, but they are tempted and do so anyway. So, the proverb means that people are drawn to things that they are forbidden from doing or having.

Note that this proverb is for the second part of your idiom/proverb request. It's not about the situation when somebody is under pressure and trying to wriggle out of an engagement.

  • I was about to answer your post on patient/patient and you deleted it, presumably because of a down-vote. The answer is interesting and I have voted to un-delete your question. If you pose the question again I will up-vote it and answer it. Regards.
    – Nigel J
    May 25, 2018 at 16:05
  • @NigelJ Thank you! You are right, I deleted the question because I thought it was really bad. But I've just asked it again - english.stackexchange.com/questions/447814/patient-patient. I'll be grateful for your answer!
    – Enguroo
    May 26, 2018 at 5:38

"The more you tighten your grip the more they will slip through your fingers"

Maybe not quite what you're looking for, as it's more about management than about relationships; might apply to teachers and students fairly well, but not your other examples.

  • 1
    That is a good answer and it's a phrase that I've been aware of long before Star Wars Apr 14, 2018 at 13:32
  • I'm pretty sure it predates Star Wars, but my search didn't find any older occurrences - probably a combination of search bubbling and scarcity of things that predate the internet being available on it. If anyone can provide an older reference I'd welcome that contribution. Apr 14, 2018 at 14:46
  • 1
    @Rahul - You're insulting my hokey religion. This is the quote you're looking for.
    – Mazura
    Apr 14, 2018 at 15:07
  • @Rahul Why not? Don't they reach enough people? Apr 14, 2018 at 16:13

We have lots of sayings somehow related to this. "Let them come to you." "If you love it, let it go." "Playing hard to get" "People want what they can't have." "Never run after a man/woman or a bus. There will always be another one."

  • 2
    +1 upon adding citations to each
    – lbf
    Apr 13, 2018 at 12:50
  • Thanks, @lbf, but I surprisingly couldn't find all of these in real references, but I included some links to show that they are all either famous quotes or cliches. I would have expected Cambridge to have all of them. Sad. Apr 14, 2018 at 15:16
  • Hahaha, I like that there is "... or a bus" in that sentence. True for both, but the two concepts seem so far apart (yet, maybe, they aren't actually)!
    – thymaro
    Apr 15, 2018 at 11:07

Here is a quote which comes to mind: If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they're yours; if they don't they never were." (https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/richard_bach_136009). Certainly it isn't an exact match; however it's in the general realm. A single word might be 'repellent' (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/repellent).

  • 1
    Please include the quote as well as the URL, both to provide more direct value and in case the contents of the URL change or disappear.
    – arp
    Apr 13, 2018 at 15:35

Softly, softly, catchee monkey.

This looks to be an good explanation of this expression's meaning and origin: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-sof2.htm

  • Could you try providing some explanation of the idiom? I can see that it sort of fits for the question, but I had to look it up.
    – Dispenser
    Apr 13, 2018 at 16:57
  • 1
    The idea is not to upset the target. So for example in sales when trying to sell a costly item you would not start by discussing its price. Instead you go on about its value, what it can do for you, etc. Only when the prospect has grown enthusiastic do you reveal the price. Similarly, when a man sees someone he thinks might make a good wife he should not start by waving his genitals at her (as a general rule).
    – Aethelbald
    Apr 13, 2018 at 17:08
  • 2
    I mean you want to explain this in the answer. Give some sort of source too if possible.
    – Dispenser
    Apr 13, 2018 at 17:10
  • 1
    +1 for the link, although the author seems determined to show that the "catchee" part originated from pidgin speakers, and unwilling to consider that Britons could just as well have added it to exaggerate pidgin speakers' speech. Apr 15, 2018 at 7:52

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