Dating: Perceived Value and the Danger of "Tunnel Vision"

By Diana Illingworth

You’ve met a guy. You’ve spent some time with him and realized you like him. But even though you’ve flirted with him and he’s flirted with you, you’re not sure about how he feels. So, you spend the next few weeks jumping into every opportunity to see him, analyzing every interaction and trying to find out if he likes you back.

Suddenly, he starts giving mixed signals, and even though you were sure he flirted in the beginning, you start thinking he might be losing interest. You realize you’ve already told your friends about him and stalked him on social media. Could you have jinxed the relationship for showing too much interest too quickly?

It can be frustrating when several people whom you’re not attracted to tell you they like you, but the one person you want pays no attention to you. If only your crush had the same taste as the others, right? Sometimes he does, but you might be showing him a different version of you.

When our crushes are around, we’re hyperaware of our behavior and might filter some aspects of our personality to fit whatever we think they like. On the contrary, when we’re not seeking somebody’s approval, we’re carefree and unapologetically ourselves, which appeals to many.

Attraction is based on much more than looks, common interests and conversational chemistry. Human dynamics coach Matthew Hussey made me aware of a crucial factor that can make or break relationships. He calls it “perceived value.”

Consciously or not, we assign some value to every person we interact with. We think people are of high value when we find them interesting, invest our time in them and prioritize them over other things and people in our lives.

The danger of having “tunnel vision” when we like someone is that, while we cling to the idea of being with that person only, we might stop generating opportunities to meet other people and neglect our non-dating-related hobbies that make us feel attractive.

If your crush notices you’re not seeing other people because you’re holding out for him, you give him the power to keep you hanging for as long as he needs to make up his mind. Occasionally, he might tease you or flirt with you just enough to give you that little bit of hope to keep you waiting through the next day, week or month when he’ll ignore you.

When we put our crushes on an imaginary pedestal and spend most of our time wondering whether they like us back or how to make them like us back, we’re acting as if we’re of lower value than them. People can sense this, and it’s usually a turn off because they’re looking for their equal: someone who will challenge them rather than just follow them around. Attention we’ve earned is more valuable to us than attention someone gave to us because they wanted or needed to.

So, what should you do? The key is not to stop liking your crush, but to stop caring whether he likes you back. Should you refrain from going out with him tonight even if you have no other plans just to pretend like you’re interesting? Not necessarily. But make plans that don’t involve him tomorrow and the day after. Be interesting; don’t just pretend. Show him there are other things and people in your life that you prioritize over him, and he’ll see the challenge.

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