We’ve all been there. Limerence is nucleating, and you are getting the euphoric thrill of connection with a new person. They are rapidly becoming your LO, and you are trying to gauge the degree of reciprocation. Every word, action, smile, laugh – all of it is fodder for your attempts to read their feelings for you.
It can go two ways.
OK, four at most, but two important ways.
1) They like you too.
Now begins the dance. How much do you push? You’re a limerent, so romantic restraint is not in your nature, but the world is also full of non-limerents and so you don’t want to blow it with being too keen. In fact, given the path to limerence, overkeenness would kill that too. So, you do enough to show interest, but not so much that they are spooked by your intensity. It’s a delicate balance, and if you play it too cool, you risk them misreading you. Too much deliberation, and you might start to lose their good opinion. What to do?
2) They don’t like you like that.
No spark. Which means, no glimmer, which means no mutual limerence for you. Drat. But they want to be friends, and you do get on well…
It’s tough to handle the early stages of limerence. In both these scenarios, there is the risk that you will miss your window of opportunity, and instead end up in the Dreaded Friendzone.
What is the friendzone? It’s the term people use to describe their inability to manage their romantic lives purposefully.
OK, that sounds harsh.
But it is true.
For a limerent, the friendzone (“real” definition here) is an absurd place to be. If you have felt the glimmer for someone and then settled into a prolonged friendship with them you are basically an addict who thinks they can get away with irregularly sampling their drug of choice on someone else’s schedule without craving more. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you cannot be an authentic friend to an LO. You are too invested, and there is an asymmetry in desire that is dishonest to conceal. You know what limerence feels like, and you know that it cannot be gently cultivated over a prolonged period by cleverly demonstrating your virtue as a worthwhile friend. It doesn’t work like that.
Now, some people could rightly protest that their LO initially seemed really keen, and then, once the limerent was hooked, seemed to cool, and act a bit weird. But by now you are hooked, and they really seem to like you as a friend. I mean, they’re hugging you and telling you how sensitive you are and gratefully accepting favours. You can’t read the mixed messages!
Yeah – I think you can read those messages, actually, and they say that your friend is pretty manipulative and is stringing you along for those favours (or for shits and giggles). We could get into a discussion about narcissism, and if you were really hurting, you might start to judge large numbers of other humans with similar features to your LO (based on e.g. the anatomical configuration of their genitalia) as being temperamentally manipulative and narcissistic. But deep down, you probably know that what’s happened is you’ve become limerent for someone who is actually quite selfish and unpleasant.
How to avoid the friendzone
Given how tricky it is to find the perfect game plan to avoid relegation to the friendzone, what can be done to avoid it? Happily, it’s really simple (but not necessarily easy):
Don’t play games.
Seriously. If you have feelings for somebody, tell them. You don’t need to be all gushing and romantic. I caution against the use of mood music. Just be straightforward and honest. Your heart will be hammering like a bastard, but you know who never ends up in the friendzone? The person that, once they’ve realised they’re feeling the glimmer, just outright says something like “You know LO, you’re pretty dazzling. I’d like to be more than friends with you.”
A quick, direct route to discover if case 1 or case 2 applies. Then you can decide what to do next. And whatever it is, do it with the same purpose as everything else in your life.