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Why do singles find people in relationships so much more attractive than other singles? 

I love talking to married men. Ten minutes into a conversation with a guy I’ve never spoken to before, if I feel 100% comfortable, he hasn’t hit on me or commented on my physical appearance once, he’s been an incredible listener and he’s offered witty and insightful elements that have encouraged the conversation to flourish, I automatically assume he’s either married or in a very committed relationship. So far I’ve only been wrong once, and that incredible man is now my partner (so points for precognition). I love talking to married men for the same reason I love talking to gay men - we’re really talking. I don’t feel like I’m a fortress who’s security system is being secretly tested by ninjas while he distracts me with small talk. It’s just genuine conversation. Exchanging thoughts, opinions, ideas, experiences, jokes, and so on.I’ve always been respectful of other people’s relationships, but I can’t pretend that before I met my partner I never looked at some of these fabulous men and wondered why I never met someone like that who was actually available. For me, there was a predatory quality I found in single men and an indifference to platonic conversation that turned me off. But people in committed relationships were interested in nothing but platonic conversation with me and were therefore more attractive. I’m not the only one to ever feel this way. A lot of singles feel like they always fall for people who are already taken, and a lot of people in relationships feel like more people became attracted to them once they became committed than when they were single.But why is that? 

Are all the good ones taken?

One simple answer is that wonderful people are more desirable and naturally get swept up before the rest. I strongly disagree with this, though. Although there are definitely singles with characteristics that can restrict a person to the singe life (i.e.: stubbornness, selfishness, inability to compromise) there are many more singles that are wonderful people and would clearly be wonderful partners were they with someone they loved. Similarly, while there are definitely fabulous people in relationships, there are also people in relationships that are actually not so fabulous. 

I once met a guy with a group of friends who I thought was really great. We hit it off talking about our passions, where we wanted to go with our careers in the future, and then later in the evening some flirting started. It really felt like there was something there. And then he sheepishly mentioned his girlfriend. The thing was that he kept flirting, and even asked for my number, claiming that I would just be his “very beautiful friend.” ::Raises eyebrow::

So no, singles can’t be attracted to people in relationships simply because they’re taken, as being taken doesn’t automatically mean they’re in the top tier in terms of relationship material. 

Is it a forbidden fruit thing?

We’ve all heard it - people want what they can’t have. But why is that exactly?

Natalie Lue is a (fabulous) author and blogger that I follow, who believes that finding yourself attracted to unavailable people is actually a clue as to your own unavailability - that unavailability often being an umbrella term encompassing everything from trust issues and commitment issues to abandonment issues. Pia Melody, author of Facing Love Addiction also agrees that when you have unhealthy relationship patterns, you will be attracted to people who fit into and reinforce those patterns. But as you start to develop healthy habits you’ll notice that they type of person you’re attracted to changes. 

Could it be that singles who are attracted to people in relationships aren’t really unable to find other singles that they like, but rather are subconsciously ensuring their single status by only developing relationships that they know can’t really lead anywhere? This potential explanation would also explain why singles who are serial daters or vocally anti-commitment also somehow become “forbidden fruit”. 

Do some singles use relationship status as Yelp for dating?

Singles who really are looking for partners may have certain criteria that they’re after. Sweet, caring, good listener, generous, loyal, etc. Things is, these characteristics are easiest to see in people who are already involved. The guy who immediately mentions his girlfriend when you ask if that seat is taken is obviously loyal. The woman setting up a surprise for her unsuspecting boyfriend is obviously generous. The husband who can describe every detail of his wife’s work is obviously a great listener. And so on and so forth. 

But with singles, it’s hard to tell who they’ll be in relationships. You kind of have to wait and see. Some people are extremely thoughtful when it comes to friends and family, but have the tendency to take significant others for granted. Some people glitter and sparkle around strangers, hanging on their every word, but have trouble focusing on the people close to them as a consequence. For people who are wary of waiting for people to unfold in a relationship, it’s less scary to just observe a person who’s already in one.

This ends up being the dating version of Yelp. You use the relationship the person is already in as a vetting tool to see if they have the qualities you want in a partner of your own. The problem is, unless one of the qualities in your search criteria is “abandons relationship for any interested party who lays on lots of attention” you’re probably not getting reservations to that restaurant. 

Are people in relationships happier?

This one has always fascinated me, and I honestly think it might be a thing. Some say that people in (good) relationships tend to be more attractive, even at a glance, because they’re happy. 

When they walk, they’re smiling. Maybe they have a tender look in their eye when they check their phone. Maybe there’s a content aura to them, even if they’re sitting in a public place alone. Perhaps it’s that they’re in such good spirits when you talk to them, or that they tend to be optimistic and encouraging rather than pessimistic and prone to making bad situations worse. 

Those qualities all seem pretty attractive indeed!

Do people in relationships approach new friendships with less self interest?

I’ve heard the phrase “the best relationships start off as friendships” all the time. Mine sure did. And it makes sense. People want to get to know the person they end up dating, and they also want that person to get to know them. 

Remember when I said that single men turned me off when I was single, because they gave off a predatory vibe? What I meant by that, is that single men (especially on dates) only wanted to get to know me in a very specific way. Questions were always centered around the finish line. “So what are you looking for in a man?” “So how long do you usually wait before having sex with someone?” “So what was your last relationship like?” “How would you describe your sex drive?” Or comments that were clearly tactical. “I’d love to cook for you - you should come over some time.” “So if you want I can come over before hand so we can relax a little before we go out.” “I know this great little coffee shop right by my apartment.” “Do people compliment you a lot?” “I get so nervous around you, you’re so beautiful.” 

Relationship history interrogation, excessive complimenting and back-to-my-place battle ship is not a conversation! It’s awful. It’s more than just unattractive and boring. When you’re dating and that’s how things are going, it’s like you’re on the same date over and over and over again. It’s exhausting. 

Which is why talking to people who are already committed can be such a breath of fresh air. They not coming at the situation with an agenda, which leaves room for real conversation to blossom and true friendships to form. You actually learn about the other person. Their interests (besides you), their hobbies, their sense of humor. 

Overall, I think there are a lot of reasons that many singles may find people who are in relationships more attractive than other singles. I don’t think it’s purely about the relationship status in most cases, though. I think that already being involved and committed allows people to bypass superficial, sexual and goal oriented pursuits, and instead skip right to the genuine, interpersonal interactions that people looking to settle down are craving. Tie that in with a usually positive attitude and that’s a pretty attractive package deal.

But it’s nothing that single people can’t project as well! Some people already manage it whether they’re in relationships or not (romantic wink to my love).

So keep this in mind the next time you go on a date or meet someone new, and share this post with all the singles you know!

The dating pool should get more attractive in no time. ;)

x’s and many o’s,


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