Single Life
People ignore their crushes when they're afraid of rejection.

An Expert Explains Why Some People Ignore Their Crushes

It's not you, it's them.

by Sean Abrams and Emma Glassman-Hughes
Originally Published: 
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The world is a cruel, cruel place. Just because you like someone doesn't mean they'll like you back. But what if you’re absolutely sure this person is into you and they’re just not showing it? If you’ve been stressed while looking for signs he’s pretending not to like you, you are not alone. It’s a tricky thing to suss out. Plenty of people have a history of ignoring their crushes for a whole slew of reasons ranging from the totally benign to the manipulative and cruel. You may even be guilty of ignoring someone you are attracted to yourself.

Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Toronto-based sexologist and host of the Sex With Dr. Jess podcast, says that when a guy ignores you but secretly likes you, or when a girl tries to play it cool but she actually is developing feelings, it could be because they get a kick out of leaving you hanging. “Some people ignore their crushes because they’re playing games. And that doesn’t create a good basis for any type of relationship — from the casual to the long-term,” she tells Elite Daily. “Playing games by ignoring someone you like is untoward and manipulative, and it often results in misunderstanding and hurt feelings.”

But not everyone is ignoring someone they’re attracted to just to get inside their head. For a lot of people, it’s about deeper insecurities.

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In the eyes of many an admirer, potential rejection is the ultimate terror. It’s not uncommon for someone to hold back their emotions until they have firm confirmation that the person they’re interested in feels the same way they do. In their minds, it’s easier to ignore someone they’re attracted to than to go out on a limb and risk being struck down.

Nathaniel*, a 24-year-old based in Brooklyn, says he’s guilty of ignoring people he likes because sometimes it’s just easier that way. “I think that I've ignored a crush in order to avoid any sort of... pain or discomfort? It’s easier to preemptively cut it off than to face potential rejection,” he tells Elite Daily.

Yara*, a 25-year-old in Manhattan, is also guilty of exhibiting this exact behavior. “For me it’s half nerves and half wanting to appear cool,” she tells Elite Daily. “It makes me feel somehow desirable for being a little aloof. There’s also the fear of, ‘Oh god, how stupid will I look if I show that I care and they don’t reciprocate?’”

While Yara and Nathaniel are certainly not unique for ignoring their crushes, they both see some value in amending their approaches. For Nathaniel, giving his crushes the cold shoulder was a calling-card of his former high school self. Now that he’s grown up, he doesn’t feel the pull to employ the tactic. “It was the move in high school,” he says. “Not so much ‘ignoring’... more like recognizing a crush, deciding to not act on it, and then mildly going out of my way to not work on a class project with said individual. But now I think I’ve learned to be a little more forthcoming.”

Yara adds that, after a few too many instances of missing out on something great, she’s realized that ignoring her crushes doesn’t work for her. “I’ve lost out on several opportunities where folks later told me they had been interested but had backed off because they assumed I wasn’t,” Yara says. “It’s the curse of having grown up in the manic-pixie dream girl/chill girl era.”

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But being straightforward with a crush can be really intimidating. Plenty of people aren’t quite sure how to process their attraction to another person — particularly if it’s a crush on a friend or someone with whom they share an existing relationship that could be tainted by romance — and so they keep their feelings to themselves instead of opening the can of worms that goes along with divulging their desires. “Some people ignore crushes because they don’t know how to approach them,” Dr. O’Reilly adds.

Guess what, though? That doesn’t mean the relationship is moot. If you have feelings for someone and you think they might reciprocate, Dr. O’Reilly encourages you to take charge of the situation instead of waiting around for them to make the first move. “If you think someone likes you and is ignoring you, if you like them too, go ahead and approach them,” she tells Elite Daily.

People ignore their crushes for all sorts of reasons. It’s OK to be nervous about confessing your love to someone, especially if you’re not sure how they’re going to take the news. The name of the game when it comes to ignoring or being honest with crushes? It’s cool to care. Also, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. And whatever other motivational poster you want to add to the mix.

*Names have been changed


Dr. Jess O’Reilly, sexologist and host of Sex With Dr. Jess

Editor's Note: This story has been updated by Elite Daily Staff.

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