I went out for a friend’s birthday party and sat next to one of my college friends who just moved in with her boyfriend. She noticed as soon as her relationship became serious men started hitting on her with much more frequency than when she was single.
“A guy with a man bun came up to me the other night and said, ‘I want to marry you,’” my friend said. “I just stared at him. And then one of my friend’s chimed in, ‘Sorry! She just moved in with her boyfriend.’ I didn’t know how to react. Where were all of these guys when I was single?”
I’ve long wondered the same thing. Why does it appear that people are more attracted to you when you’re in a relationship? Can people actually sense when you’re no longer available? It’s not like you’re wearing a T-shirt that says TAKEN in large print or are participating in a stoplight party wearing a red, yellow, or green bracelet on your wrist depending on whether you’re taken (red), in a complicated situation (yellow), or single (green). You’re just going about your business and now people are expressing interest in you and you’re wondering what’s different. You’re in a relationship, so that’s what’s different. Therefore, when you’re in a relationship, people must be more attracted to you. Right?
“I think you are interpreting information incorrectly,” Neil Rosenthal, a licensed marriage and family therapist, relationship expert, and author of the book, Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Keeping the Flame Alive, said. “You’re not more attractive when you’re taken. I think that’s a perception rather than a truth.”
Anytime I’ve settled down with someone, I feel as if every girl in the bar now likes me though. I notice myself noticing other people and think, Of course, now that I’m in a relationship, all of them women in the bar are interested in me. I know it’s ridiculous that all of the women in the bar would be interested, but think it anyway.
Rosenthal did acknowledge some people are attracted to others in relationships and only want casual, no strings attached encounters, which is why sites like Ashley Madison exist. However, he said the majority of people who are looking for a traditional relationship aren’t more attracted to you when you’re in a relationship. You’re just more aware since you’re questioning your relationship and wondering if you’re missing out on anything now that you’ve declared your intent to be faithful to only one person.
“When people consciously forsake others, they’ll notice others more and go, ‘Oh, wow, she’s hot’ or ‘He’s really good looking,’” Rosenthal said. “It’s the grass is greener syndrome. I think you settle, commit, and are happy with somebody. Then you start looking at others and wonder, ‘Did I make the right call?’”
But how do you explain the people who didn’t show you the time of day when you were single, but come out of the woodwork and flirt once they find out you’re in a relationship?
“There’s also a component of people who had you on their radar, but were waiting for you to make a move,” Rosenthal said. “When they heard you’re taken, they’re hoping that you will put them on your radar and they’ll be next in line.”
If that’s the case, how do you know if the person who was waiting for you to make the move is genuinely interested or just not wanting to miss out on something that he or she could have had, but no longer can? Isn’t it human nature for people to want what they can’t have?
“I think people misuse the term ‘human nature,’” Rosenthal said. “Drive for survival, touch, to be cared for, to be longed for, that’s human nature. Human nature is much more basic than wanting what you can’t have.”
So, what’s a guy or a gal in a committed relationship to do then? Whether other people are actually interested in you or not, you’re perceiving it that way. Do you end your relationship when you start noticing others or is that a normal reaction?
“Truthfully, I think you can be attracted to multiple people, but loyal to one,” Rosenthal said. “You just don’t respond to desire or interest.”