Why Having a Crush Is Good for You

Embarrassing fantasy relationships play an important evolutionary role

Sarah Griffiths
Published in
5 min readDec 3, 2018


Photo by Leonardo Sanches on Unsplash

WWe’ve all played the lead role in a teen drama laden with angst, sweaty palms, a racing heart, and an inability to concentrate on anything or anyone else but the object of our desire. And just as every Hollywood scenario depicts, crushes can be excruciatingly embarrassing in high school, but can also affect us in adulthood. So it might seem difficult to imagine that all this cringe-worthy behavior has a purpose and is actually good for us — at least most of the time.

Adults can also be taken unaware when cupid strikes, suddenly becoming self-conscious around someone attractive at work or swooning over a celebrity, even when they’re happily married. Why this happens is a bit of a mystery. “Crushes have more to do with fantasy than with reality,” psychologist and author Dr. Carl Pickhardt has written. “They tell much more about the admirer than the admired.”

In its purest sense, a crush is a form of parasocial relationship; a one-sided relationship where you have feelings for someone else but those feelings are not reciprocated, according to Dr. Anna Machin, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Oxford’s Department of Experimental Psychology. “The research into the…