From time to time I hear from people who are experiencing the symptoms of limerence for someone they are not sexually attracted to.
For many people this can be a confusing experience. Is it really possible to become infatuated with someone in a platonic way? Well, the evidence certainly suggests it is, but as with most complex human emotions, it gets complicated.
Platonic infatuation can be thought of as uncontrollable feelings of attraction to another person, but without the desire to form a romantic or sexual bond. It might manifest as feelings of giddy elation from being with them, an overwhelming desire to bond with them emotionally, and to share intimate thoughts and feelings. You may also feel anxiety about how they perceive you, and an intense concern about whether they feel a similar strong emotional connection to you.
Examples would be infatuation for a charismatic mentor, a close friend who does not match your sexual orientation, or some sort of surrogate parental figure who provides emotional support without provoking romantic desire.
The complications come from making sense of what those feelings mean. Usually, infatuation is closely interlinked with romantic desire. Limerence is a drive to form a pair bond, and that can obviously be fruitful from an evolutionary perspective.
So, how do you make sense of infatuation for someone who is not a potential mate? What’s going on in that case? Why are they so appealing in every way but the carnal?
Well, there are lots of potential explanations, but before we dive into that, we should probably acknowledge the fact that sometimes the desire to form a non-romantic bond is a form of bargaining. Sometimes a platonic relationship is sought as a consolation prize because you cannot get what you really want.
Distinguishing between all these possibilities depends on a good understanding of your drives and motivations, and a healthy dose of self honesty.
Let’s work through some scenarios.
Infatuation for someone charismatic
There are some people who just have magnetic appeal.
It’s fascinating to read accounts of what it’s like to spend time with a celebrity and observe the people who interact with them. For example, Mark Manson talked about what it was like working with Will Smith on his biography, and how the psychology of celebrity changed his own perception of human behaviour:
“To see the reactions on people’s faces, the ear-to-ear smiles and irrational shrieks of excitement, the way grown men stammer and giggle like school girls, how some people spontaneously burst into tears. And then, a moment later, they all become embarrassed as they realize that their reaction was completely involuntary.”
Now, many of those people may well have been sexually attracted to Will Smith – they are only flesh and blood, after all – but the larger point is that being infatuated and being starstruck have some similarities, but also important differences.
That kind of charisma can be electric, and it isn’t only big celebrities that have it. Receiving attention from someone charismatic can trigger all sorts of enlivening emotions, but it isn’t always associated with erotic or romantic feelings. It is entirely possible to become besotted with someone that makes you feel special, without turning you on.
Human psychology being what it is, though, things can often get muddled.
Becoming infatuated with someone is a rare and wondrous thing for most people. It follows that every time it happens, you are changed by the experience.
A consequence of becoming infatuated with someone who isn’t a romantic “match” is that you may start to question your old certainties.
Having the kind of obsessive thoughts and feelings that you have only ever previously experienced for potential sexual partners may make you wonder about your “true” orientation. If a heterosexual woman finds herself infatuated with her female boss, does that mean she is, in fact, not exclusively heterosexual? If a homosexual man feels an amazing emotional connection to a woman, does that mean he’s bi?
Another complication is recreational sex. The Ancient Greeks called this ludus, we might call it a booty-call. If you really like someone, and willingly engage in recreational sex with them, but don’t feel crazy lust for them… well, what exactly is that relationship?
I once heard from a man in his twenties who was engaged, but had become infatuated with his future mother-in-law. He was bewitched by her vivacity, her aura of stylish sophistication, and her charismatic personality. He was actually in love with her daughter, but she seemed to have an irresistible pull on his attention.
As a heterosexual man, the idea of sex with her was not unpleasant, but he did not really desire her erotically (beyond the background rumbling of libido that most straight men have to learn to live with if they want to be functional members of society). But he was trapped in an obsession, and becoming frantic – wanting to marry his lover but knowing that it would also bind him to her glamorous mother.
Infatuation comes with all sorts of psychological tangles built in. What do you trust more – the previous experiences that have shaped your romantic life, or the powerfully overwhelming attraction to someone who inexplicably contravenes your sexual preferences?
When the different forms of love are not neatly aligned, it is hard to process what infatuation means.
Another straightforward explanation for platonic limerence is that it’s the only form of infatuation you experience. For asexuals, or aromantics, the feelings of infatuation always lack the element of physical desire.
Asexuals certainly experience limerence, becoming obsessively infatuated with people, craving their company, craving emotional connection, craving reciprocation. They just aren’t interested in the sexual aspect of the relationship – beyond the extent that it helps secure bonding.
Infatuation in this case could be described as platonic, but perhaps not in the truest sense of an unselfish and healthy attachment. It would be chaste, but may have some of the darker shadows of limerence in terms of secrecy, jealous, and desire for exclusivity.
We don’t tend to be possessive of platonic friends, or feel hurt when they form a romantic relationship with someone else. Asexual limerence is rarely so selfless.
Platonic love as a last resort
The last scenario, which is probably the commonest, is where an infatuation is platonic because a romantic relationship is not possible. You might be striving for a platonic ideal, but only because you are kidding yourself.
There might be many reasons why this circumstance arises. There could be barriers in the way, or your idol might have made clear their lack of interest. You might be too insecure to make a move, and so hesitate and linger in the hinterland of frustrated desire – agonising, but safely familiar.
Often, limerents accept the reality that they cannot have their heart’s desire, but then try to make a platonic connection work in the hope that it will offer some consolation. They might convince themselves that the thing they really care about is the friendship – or the emotional sustenance of their limerent object’s company – and decide they don’t want to throw that good away just because they can’t get a hold of their feelings.
This is a form of bargaining. You quiet the insistent cries of the limerent brain with reassurances that you will still be with them, even if in a diminished way. Some go so far as to declare, Lancelot-like, that they will devote themselves to their limerent object in a spiritual way, unsullied by carnal lusts.
This is not a sincere way to live.
Sorting this all out
OK, so platonic infatuation is clearly a psychological muddle. How do you find a way through it?
Well, step one is to be honest with yourself about what you really want. If you are romantically attracted to the person you are infatuated with, trying to convince your subconscious that you are not is a tall order. Plus, it’s a surefire way of getting stuck in limerence limbo.
Next, if you really are sure that you are not attracted to them in that way, it’s time to start trying to understand what it is about them that is so beguiling. This is where a bit of self analysis will serve you well. Can you identify the emotional need that they are fulfilling for you?
Infatuation is not a neutral thing. Emotions that powerful occur when we uncover something profound that is lurking in our personal history. The best response is to stop, listen carefully to what your subconscious is trying to communicate, learn more about your deep drives, and then respond purposefully.
Platonic infatuations do happen, but they are generally deeper than simply being bedazzled by a glamorous friend. If you experience that strong an attachment to someone you don’t want to pair bond with, it’s worth taking it as a cue to inspect your psychological architecture.
You might find some important insights hidden in the corners.
“Infatuation is not a neutral thing.”
Hm. Great topic. And it highlights just how complicated human beings and human relationships can sometimes be…
To be completely honest, while I was immersed in limerence, I didn’t really consciously view what was going on through a sexual/romantic lens. The “repressed eros” analysis came years after the event. To me, at the time, it was pure person addiction. I wanted the person, their focus, their attention, their favour, their respect, their druglike presence, etc. I believed at the time my feelings were platonic.
I wanted them to notice me, think about me, feel the same way about me and with the same intensity. I wanted to be mirrored. I wanted emotional intensity. I wanted to be recognised by LO and by other people as a “special person” in LO’s life. I wanted to spend a bit more time in my intoxicated stupor.
Interestingly enough, I never felt particularly jealous of the women my LOs eventually paired with. I didn’t see them as rivals, strictly speaking. I thought that maybe we could just occupy different emotional niches in LO’s life… I don’t think the women felt the same way – at least not once they went from being girlfriends to being wives. Wives have different expectations to girlfriends.
However, in recovering from limerence, I’ve found it hugely helpful to sexualise my relationships with past LOs and view everything through a comically exaggerated sexual/romantic filter. By exaggerating the sexual/romantic dimension of limerence, I can almost successfully argue myself out of limerence for a particular person. I.e. I’m not the sort of person he’d ever wish to pair-bond with, therefore, limerence for him is a waste of time. (Rejection by default).
At least one of my straight male LOs never felt or expressed any awkwardness around me – which, in hindsight, I find extremely odd. Clearly, as far as he was concerned, I wasn’t giving off a creepy vibe or anything. I believe our “friendship”, such as it was, ended because he got married and his wife took over his social calendar. If she found some way to airbrush me discreetly out their lives, she did me a favour in the long run. Gotta admire a woman with finesse.
I have discovered that so many people I know act in ways that are contrary to their real and/or stated sexual orientation, that I’ve given up trying to figure people out from behavioural cues alone. Straight men keep trying to be friends with me. I used to discourage them, because I thought it was inappropriate. I didn’t want to risk painful rejection. But It would appear most people don’t feel uncomfortable around me. Now I’m going with the “be guardedly friendly and super-respectful to everyone” approach. Mainstream society has reclaimed me as one of their own … how embarrassing! I can’t even be an outcast these days…
I think Dorothy Tennov herself mentioned that limerence usually only presents a problem to the limerent’s LO. (And we could add disgruntled SOs to that list).
I see how charisma could in theory inspire cases of platonic limerence. I was reading some articles about a church in Australia, which apparently owes much of its success to its practice of hiring exciting, dynamic pastors. (A practice that may change due to a spate of recent scandals). People respond to charisma it seems much more than they would to educational attainments or good character. Charisma is real and charismatic people can wield real power over others simply by being their charismatic selves.
I have a hard time, though, sometimes deciding whether a given person has charisma or not. Charisma strikes me as a very subjective quality. I guess the majority of public figures such as entertainers would have high levels of charisma. It’s part of their job description. I wonder if they ever list it on their resumes? 😛
My latest LE was Platonic out of necessity in the sense that, despite my hopes, I wasn’t considered a to-be romantic partner.
Oh, wait: aren’t the majority of LE’s Platonic in general in the sense that the limerent wants everything to evolve but the carefully chosen, Unavailable LO is unable/unwilling to satisfy them?
In other words, isn’t “Platonic” a synonym for an uncertain “no” on LO’s part in several cases?
I probably think so because I know the beauty and the pain of one-sided Platonic love. I guess one of the worst forms of self-deceit was when I used to convince myself that the glimmer I had experienced with LO must have meant there were mutual Platonic feelings. That is when I inevitably got caught in the downward spiral of limerence with all its ruminations, over-analysis and emotional pain.
Limerence to me is always libido driven, no matter how I try to explain it in noble/asexual terms. The kind of obsession when the thought (not even the presence) of LO turns me on. I’m sure it has to do with some intimacy issues, although it’s not clear to me how.
I also have the suspicion that any asexual hero worship/limerence is thoroughly sexual in its origin but supressed/concealed in a smart way, subconsciously.
Fun fact: as I’ve written, my latest LE was Platonic, too, which I found thoroughly tormenting. However, through compulsive daydreaming, I learnt so much about (my own) sexuality that I emerged from it in a much more educated/mature state than before.
As if we had been lovers with LO, so to speak. Almost. 🙂
Advanced level Limerence Weirdness, I know.
Limerent Emeritus says
Knowledge is where you find it.
Limerent Emeritus says
Song of the Blog: “I’ve Gotta Be Me” Sammy Davis Jr (1968)
“There are some people who just have magnetic appeal.”
I totally believe this. I knew who Sammy Davis, Jr. was. I love this song and several of his other works. I liked him as an actor. He would do a lot of fund raising telethons. I thought in those he came across as overly animated and artificial.
My last date with LO #2 was at the Rat Pack Concert in Seattle in March, 1988. Sammy Davis live was a phenomenal thing to watch. The man could work a room like no one I’d ever seen. We’re talking the Seattle Coliseum and not some small, intimate club somewhere. I liked him better Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin.
There were thousands of people in the place and it was like he was speaking to us all individually.
On a limerence related note, this song is how I saw my life until I met LO #2. I know I say a lot of negative things about her and I think she deserves them. But, that women turned my life around for the better.
She passed me off to another woman but my life began when I met her.
Once more, my experience slips into these categories.
Initially it was all about the beauty and yes the brains, but she seems somewhat magnetic too. Things did not progress in this department but certainly, cannot shake off a feeling of what might have been, from a platonic standpoint!
Think she is fairly good fun…or can be as well as rather deep, but the fact that she may or may not be leading a double life, as I said elsewhere quite a dichotomous individual.
All my proto-limerent experiences were non sexual. Can’t even imagine otherwise.
“All my proto-limerent experiences were non sexual. Can’t even imagine otherwise.”
Well, despite being a gay man as an adult, when I was in early adolescence, I liked a girl I sat next to in my Maths class so much that I couldn’t look at her and couldn’t talk to her. I believed, rightly or wrongly, she felt the same way about me. That’s my proto-limerent experience…
It wasn’t really sexual. It was being so hyper-aroused around someone that I couldn’t function socially when they were in the same room. But it was immensely exciting, too, and I imagined at the time that’s what adult romantic attraction is like.
I was almost relieved when she eventually went off and sat next to one of her girlfriends instead of me. (It was the teacher who sat us together originally due to our similar academic aptitudes). Close proximity to her was nerve-wracking. 😛
Wow, this resonates!
The constant and maticulous analysis of every smile, look and interaction, yet the thought of sexually consummating the bond (and thus a physical affair) appeals very little.
I could fantasise and imagine spending endless hours chatting, laughing, even sharing life together, but the thrill of sex with LO never arrives – you could even say it tarnishes the purity of the illusion.
The limerant experience goes much deeper than a crush or a sexual fantasy. It can be a feeling not easily explained or understood, such is the beauty and the mystery of the human mind.
If Limerence at its heart is Person Addiction, then perhaps sexual attraction is only a part of its pull.
“I could fantasise and imagine spending endless hours chatting, laughing, even sharing life together, but the thrill of sex with LO never arrives – you could even say it tarnishes the purity of the illusion.
The limerant experience goes much deeper than a crush or a sexual fantasy. It can be a feeling not easily explained or understood, such is the beauty and the mystery of the human mind.”
What you write here resonates with me. ..
I know, intellectually, that limerence MUST have an unconscious sexual component. (Or, at least, I’ve known this ever since devouring Tennov’s book). To understand what I’m feeling, I’ve had to “reverse-engineer” the situation. I.e. I’m acting like X, and feeling like Z, so I must be feeling Y. However, at the time of limerence itself, the emotional aspect felt so much stronger than the sexual aspect.
Limerence motivated me to try to “get in touch” with my sexuality, because I actually hoped that a clear grasp of my own sexuality would provide a way out of the crazy-making labyrinth of limerence. I.e. knowledge is power. It’s almost as if as long as I remained stuck in limerence, I couldn’t fully comprehend my own sexuality or anyone else’s. I could only guess at these things…
In other words, I always suspected something erotic was going on, because the jealousy and intensity, etc, doesn’t really feel quite normal. But it’s not a conventional desire for sexual activity or even a regular dating relationship. Limerents might even feel a degree of disgust when offered traditional romance by a well-meaning prospective partner. (Usually not one’s LO).
I don’t know if this will make sense to anyone. It seems some limerents can be much more aware of, and comfortable with, the sexual angle of their limerence. For me, the emotional intensity dwarfed the physical attraction, and yet the emotional intensity was synonymous with physical attraction. The appeal of the person (LO) seemed to be so much greater than their body. There’s a huge psychological dimension to limerence. I don’t really know how to explain it…
I also understand why some limerent sufferers might want to resist the “person addiction” explanation, regardless of its helpfulness or accuracy, because that too feels reductive in the same way “sexual repression” seems reductive. Limerents want so much more than an expression of casual sexual interest from their LOs.
As Tennov herself said, there’s nothing quite like limerence!! Is there any other human experience that is so darn difficult to put into words? It does feel so pure and beautiful and overwhelming. Person addiction? I’m not sure. Sexual repression? Who knows? A drug high? Definitely. 😛
Perhaps we’re addicted to the high of ‘chemistry’ ‘sexual tension’ ‘electricity’ that couples feel when they first meet, rather than wanting full blown physical intmacy.
Because of barriers and the reluctance to breach them, the relationship never crystallises and the desires are never consummated. This leaves a sort of ‘faux bond’ in a permanent state of ‘new relationship energy’.
This creates the reward loop and seemingly, the longer this cycle continues the less chance (or risk) of it going further.
It’s a ‘masked dance’ – without ever truly seeing (or knowing) the person behind it.
An ideal relationship on the face of it, all the excitement and thrills without the flaws or commitment – this is the illusion, this is addiction, not love.
so insightful. Love all these comments. Probably got closest to the core of the problem in this thread and the post above.
I sometimes think I am prone to limerence because I subconsciously resist the concept of manageable, ordinary love as I am convinced that LOVE is supposed to be extraordinary. All capital letters. In my deepest imagination, love must be so exceptional, in fact, that it’s OK if it’s almost unbearable. And THAT has to do with intimacy issues and self-confidence, self-love, even.
Love is distanced from me this way, it is decided from the very beginning of the LE that mutual consummation is not achievable (since LO is unavailable etc.) but I let my brain play nasty games with me and sort of agree to the whole experience to remain Platonic. (And THAT has to do with intimacy issues etc.)
What is sadly ironic is that limerence usually hits the worst when there is a (suppressed) lack of something within us: that of sexual satisfaction, shared goals, long term prospects with a partner, you name it. So, it might seem it is out of the blue, some ethereal phenomenon but it never really is.
“I sometimes think I am prone to limerence because I subconsciously resist the concept of manageable, ordinary love as I am convinced that LOVE is supposed to be extraordinary.”
I am the same way. I often watch long-term couples and think … Huh. That looks kind of dull.
For me, I remain interested in an LO if I can’t quite get my hands on him. I don’ t mean that it’s not consummated sexually but that he maybe wants to stay an FWB or casual. Then I’m still yearning and pining, and the internal conflict keeps it going. I had one LO who wanted the whole nine — to move in together, get married, etc,. and my interest plummeted very quickly.
perceiving the boredom of long term relationships: same here. At the same time I crave that security, of course.
Btw I sometimes play the mental game I call “What if I weren’t limerent” – and I guess I should play it much more often, like, every day.
It’s awful how deeply affectionate I can still feel about LO. When I play the game, I know this “connection” is mystified and imaginary.
The game also makes me look at some of the innocent and mentally beneficial things I used to enjoy in the past, and makes me sober enough to realize the amount of time I’ve wasted on these absurd, made up stories, i.e., my LE’s.
In the future, I might try to look at potential partners, let alone select them, as if I wasn’t limerent. I don’t know how much happiness that could bring, though.
“In the future, I might try to look at potential partners, let alone select them, as if I wasn’t limerent. ”
I have tried to do that. As much as I can imagine how a non-limerent dates. I have read that a woman should accept a date with a man if no warning bells go off (meaning she feels neutral and it could grow into something). I’ve tried that but usually have to force myself to go on the day of the date. So I’ve tried filtering for a mid-level interest (versus crazy-level of limerent interest), (the last guy I dated started off like this) but even with that level of initial interest, I have found the my “picker” is off, for lack for a better description. Even the mid-level people are people I should away from. I’m not sure where that leaves me, other than to retrain my brain to find consistent, safe, non-morally dubious appealing. 🙂
Allie 1 says
Fascinating insights! I agree that sexual pull is only a part of an LE. I suspect that the degree of sexual desire one experiences in limerence is highly individual to both the limerent and the LO/LE. For example, different cultures and upbringings impose different attitudes to sex (some very negative) which are bound to follow through into our limerent desires – guilt and shame are such powerful mind influencers.
My fantasies vary – they can be very pure and sweetly romantic, or passionately sexual and or just conversational. So for me, limerence is a blend of all my relationship desires. The theme that consistently runs through all my reveries, both physical and non, is the sense of mutual connection – is that not what we all ultimately want? To connect with them at the deepest level and be adored by LO above anyone else? To be validated and have our ubiquitous human sense of aloneness removed in one delightful swoop.
I am a bit influenced by having had limerence sex so I know it can be fantastic, or it can be rubbish – all depends on the degree of reciprocation and connection with the LO. But when it is good, it can be so earth shatteringly intensely good.. that is one of the many things that keeps me stuck in limerence limbo.. what I would give to experience that again this lifetime. Not that I am having a mid-life crisis or anything 🙂
“To connect with them at the deepest level and be adored by LO above anyone else? To be validated and have our ubiquitous human sense of aloneness removed in one delightful swoop.”
Yes, but I guess I never expected an LO to do that. I just wanted this delicious internal conflict and a lot of heat.
“I am a bit influenced by having had limerence sex so I know it can be fantastic, or it can be rubbish – all depends on the degree of reciprocation and connection with the LO.”
I think it really depends on if you like what they do. Do you like what they say or do to get you the room (the seduction) and what they do once you get in the room (the physical part of it)?
“But when it is good, it can be so earth shatteringly intensely good.. that is one of the many things that keeps me stuck in limerence limbo.. what I would give to experience that again this lifetime.”
Allie, I relate to this so much and don’t know if that makes me happy or sad. My mutual LE ended in a spectacular disaster emotionally and reestablishing contact with LO would only ruin my life, but when my manipulative limerent brain is trying to seek its drug again, it reminds me of how earth shattering the sexual connection was for both of us. It is really difficult and almost embarrassing to put into words, and in any case I don’t think it can be described – you have either experienced that or you haven’t, and when you have you just know …
I have no intention of giving in to the limerent urge because I understand how toxic the situation is, and I will keep LO in my past. But I have a real fear that I will compare all subsequent partners to what I experienced with him, and that only something like that (don’t know if I will find it again?) will ever be satisfying physically for me at the start of a relationship. Not a great thought for my recovery.
“The theme that consistently runs through all my reveries, both physical and non, is the sense of mutual connection – is that not what we all ultimately want? To connect with them at the deepest level and be adored by LO above anyone else? To be validated and have our ubiquitous human sense of aloneness removed in one delightful swoop.”
I can relate to what you’ve said here, and I think you’ve said it really well. My limerent reveries were also about wanting some form of emotional recognition I guess and the human desire to connect … on an almost existential level?
The problem is I don’t think my LO had the same underlying drive for recognition and connection I did, so I guess we were the opposite of spiritually aligned. We were spiritually mismatched!!
I’m not sure, in hindsight, why I wanted someone who was unavailable. Not unavailable in the sense of having a partner. But unavailable in the sense his personality doesn’t have the same intense drive/desire to connect with others as mine. He wasn’t an intense person. He was a infuriatingly chilled-out person, relaxed about everything except perhaps work. It definitely seems like a case of opposite temperaments attracting.
I suppose, for me, on some subconscious level, winning over an avoidant personality would have been a real coup. I.e. “Look at me. I’m so charming, even Mr Absent-Minded thinks I’m irresistible and can’t stay away!” Maybe I wanted to monopolise my dad’s attention as a child and that desire was transferred onto a romantic object as an adult? 😛
The tragedy is sometimes LO really did seem to be interested. But his interest was fickle. The intermittent-rewards delivery schedule must have be perfect to get me hooked – just enough, and also never quite enough.
Allie 1 says
“The intermittent-rewards delivery schedule must have be perfect to get me hooked – just enough, and also never quite enough.”
Great point….I think that is the crux of many LE’s. It is not them, and really not us, nor any special alchemy between us – it is mostly just how their intermittent signals are delivered that gets us hooked.
“… it is mostly just how their intermittent signals are delivered that gets us hooked.”
Yup, and I would add to that the would-be limerent must be in a “state of readiness” to experience limerence for someone. All the biological and psychological ducks have to be lined up in a neat little row! Although this “state of readiness” likely isn’t conscious or deliberate on the part of the limerent. 😛
Hi Dr. L, you *might* find this interesting, so I thought I’d share. I’ve been interested in the relationship between limerence and “aromanticism”.
I’ve found that some in the aromantic community have speculated that the idea of “non-limerents” might be a precursor to “aromantic”:
A lot people have written about the fact that they identify as aromantic *because* they do not experience or understand limerence:
But upon further reading, I don’t think identifying as “aromantic” is limited only to not experiencing limerence: it’s a lot more complicated than that, but I think being non-limerent possibly constitutes a huge part of it. (When people describe what it is like being aromantic, but not asexual, it reminds me a lot of what you wrote about non-limerents in “The Two Tribes”.)
I’ve not heard aromantic compared to non-limerent before, T. Doesn’t seem a natural fit to me, but always interesting to learn more.
Hmmm, based on how you used the term “aromantic” in your blog post, I think you were referring to the earlier understanding of it (i.e. a subset of asexual). Nowadays, people in the aromantic community view it as a separate concept from asexuality. They say aromantic is someone who doesn’t experience “romantic attraction”, but to be honest, there is no satisfying definition of what “romantic attraction” means, so I don’t fully understand this concept.
However, what was interesting about the separation of the two concepts were the discussions from people who say they are aromantic but *not* asexual. They sound a lot like non-limerents.
Here are some examples.
Just sharing because I thought it was all rather interesting!
Allie 1 says
T, what you are saying makes complete sense to me when using the Tennov definition of “non-limerent” i.e. someone that does not experience “falling in love” (defined as the early euphoric & enraptured phase of a romantic relationship that precedes the deeper affectional bonded form of love). Sounds a lot like this definition of “aromantic” to me.
LwL’s use off the term non-limerent is different – it generally refers to someone that may well fall in love but does not suffer the obsessive compulsive addiction that us limerent’s do. They may or may not be “aromantic”.
Allie, that makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the clarification! I had been thinking of Tennov’s definition and not the LwL one. I hadn’t quite realized that LwL was using the word a little differently, so thanks for pointing that out!
Limerent Emeritus says
Article of the Day (redux): https://thoughtcatalog.com/christopher-lai/2015/12/can-a-man-and-a-woman-really-have-a-platonic-relationship/
I like this article. I quoted part of it in my goodbye to LO #4.
I’m not sure I understand what is meant by “platonic relationship”. My friends (typically male friends) use it to indicate lack of sexual relations. But based on how it is used in this article, I guess the author meant lack of sexual attraction?
you’re right about both interpretations, I think. As my comments show, I also use the first definition of Platonic you described, which, in my experience, often means that there may be strong, one-sided or even mutual desire but no acting upon it.
I was meaning platonic in the classic sense of Plato’s “ideal” love relationship (which would be free of sexual urges). The concept was about transcending material desires.
Nowadays of course – as you say – it can be used to mean just “a friend I am not having sex with”, without any context like whether you actually want to have sex with them, but can’t.
So, platonic infatuation in the truest sense is obsessive attachment to someone you don’t feel erotic desire for.
The distinction between “lack of sexual relations” and “lack of sexual attraction” is a really valuable one to make I think.
Where things get murky is … when someone’s not fully aware of their sexual attraction to someone. I.e. when someone is struggling to understand and define their own feelings, and are not sure whether their feelings for a given person are platonic (lack of sexual attraction) or romantic (presence of sexual attraction but lack of sexual relations).
Some people might switch from platonic to romantic feelings for someone after learning that the other person likes them in a romantic way. But I guess that’s not “platonic infatuation” in the sense this article uses it.
You remark helps to clarify things, T. Thanks.
there’s a famous witty quote by a writer in my country, which goes
“Can genuine friendship exist between man and woman; and if yes, then why not.”
I’m still trying to wrap my head intellectually around limerence. It seems to me that in limerence one takes a completely ordinary human being i.e. someone who is an ordinary human being to pretty much everyone else in his/her life, and turns them into something fantastic, fabulous, exotic, unreal, more-than-human.
I think in most non-limerent romances, no matter how romantic it is, deification of the partner just doesn’t happen. Non-limerent relationships I think are really driven by a laidback interest in companionship. Of course there’s physical attraction, but it’s not all-consuming can’t-get-them-out-of-my-head weirdness. There’s a boost in energy, but this boost in energy drops off after a couple of months, and people focus again on their careers and families and hobbies.
I think non-limerent lovers never lose sight of their “chosen person” as a human being. and there’s something really grounding about that.
I’m coming out of limerence pretty fast at the moment, like the end of a dream, and everything in my world looks different. People look different. I can look straight at attractive men, see their features clearly, etc, and there’s no awe. I can talk to my hot male barista friend, and I don’t feel nervous or euphoric or desperate. It doesn’t matter to me if he doesn’t like me back. Who cares?
Post-limerence, everything is … just different somehow..
The enchantment process really takes place inside our own brains. And one day the enchantment lifts, and we wonder, “Gee. What was all that about?”
I can at last understand why some people insist sexual orientation is a choice. If you’re non-limerent, then I guess you really do get to choose somewhat-ish. I mean, you don’t feel driven by mysterious forces to be with one specific person and it’s not the end of the world if that one specific person is utterly indifferent.
“And one day the enchantment lifts, and we wonder, “Gee. What was all that about?” ” @Sammy …. Yes.. exactly.
A while back when i was in the thick of limerence, I had written a list on my phone of all the things I loved about my LO. There were like 15 characteristics in there, all glowing. Now I am in recovery, and coincidentally I stumbled upon this note last week. I was genuinely shocked when I re-read it that that is how I saw him, because at least half of those traits (I now realize, after the fog has lifted) are simply not true, and he has an abundance of dodgy ones in their place. I’m not trying to devalue LO, he is a decent person in many ways, but it is shocking how much our perceptions are fundamentally altered by limerence.
“A while back when i was in the thick of limerence, I had written a list on my phone of all the things I loved about my LO. There were like 15 characteristics in there, all glowing.”
Yes, I remember doing something like that. Endlessly enumerating the positive traits of LO, and dwelling on them, and getting a weird kind of high out of dwelling on all his wonderful traits in the privacy of my own brain.
In some ways, I think these lists are sweet. However, these lists can also carry us further and further away from reality and everyday concerns.
Lovesickness, for sure… 😛
Limerent Emeritus says
Welcome to the club!
“The enchantment process really takes place inside our own brains. And one day the enchantment lifts, and we wonder, “Gee. What was all that about?”
Or, as Jeno Leno put it to Hugh Grant after Grant was arrested for receiving oral sex from a prostitute, “What the hell were you thinking?” Oh, his girlfriend at the time was actress Elizabeth Hurley.
Clip of the Day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrJ2jc6qfzA
There’s more to the interview in other clips.
I’m assuming Grant did it for the thrill and the risk.
Limerent Emeritus says
If you watch the entire interview, he talks about it.
He doesn’t have a good explanation aside from a momentary monumental lapse in judgement.
As women go, it’s hard to beat Elizabeth Hurley.
But, people do incredibly dumb things all the time.
You can’t take the interview seriously. It was a carefully orchestrated PR stunt. People were horrified and he wanted to make sure he still had a career.
And why is Hurley being hot the reason he shouldn’t have done it? So if she was frumpy, it would have been ok? Seems kind of shallow.
Limerent Emeritus says
“So if she was frumpy, it would have been ok? Seems kind of shallow.”
Not ok at all. I’ve heard a lot of plausible explanations for infidelity over the years but I’ve never heard a valid excuse for infidelity. Infidelity is a conscious decision. Bill Clinton’s mental gymnastics on it were nothing short of phenomenal.
The point in bringing up Elizabeth Hurley was Grant couldn’t come up with a plausible explanation let alone an attempt at an excuse.
I can explain my LE/EA with LO #4 but I can’t justify it.
“The point in bringing up Elizabeth Hurley was Grant couldn’t come up with a plausible explanation let alone an attempt at an excuse.”
There probably isn’t one. Maybe he wanted a jolt of strange, maybe he had impulse control issues, maybe he’s selfish, maybe he felt trapped, maybe he likes sketchy situations. Could have been any number of reasons. Maybe Hurley wouldn’t … er .. do certain things in bed. (I’m sorry. I know that I’m killing the fantasy for you. 🙂 ) Who knows?
Limerent Emeritus says
For some people, sex in a public place is a turn-on. Considering what Grant reportedly got busted for, it wasn’t anything a lot of Johns don’t get busted for. Maybe he wanted to see how common people live.
Infidelity notwithstanding, I can see how someone with a reputation to protect and a healthy self-respect (e.g., Elizabeth Hurley) might find the risk unacceptable in a public setting.
My wife and I got rousted by a cop for steaming up the windows in a restaurant parking lot but nothing that would have gotten us arrested. The stairwell of a major hotel in a Seattle suburb at my wife’s best friend’s rehearsal dinner was a different story. Fortunately, security cameras weren’t a thing back then.
I don’t have a reputation to protect but getting busted by the cops could have cost me my security clearance and subsequently my job. That influenced my thinking even when infidelity wasn’t a consideration.
“For some people, sex in a public place is a turn-on. Considering what Grant reportedly got busted for, it wasn’t anything a lot of Johns don’t get busted for. ”
I meant the specific act he was paying for was maybe an act Hurley wouldn’t do. I can’t get too specific on here or Dr. L will bust me. 🙂 But let’s just say it doesn’t fit into Bill Clinton’s definite of sex.
And by sketchy, I meant that he was paying for it.
I’m always watching… 😉
This post really resonates with me. I have yet to meet somebody else that experiences limerence the same way I do.
I am a female and have experienced limerence since I was 5 years old. My sexual orientation is straight and always has been. However, my LO’s were always female teachers. There was never any sexual desires on my part, whatsoever. I remember always thinking that I just wanted to be their best friend and know everything about them. As I got older, the limerent tendencies intensified. For example, instead of just constantly thinking about my teachers as I did throughout elementary school, I started revolving my schedule, neglecting my friends, and getting to know as much as I possibly could about them. However, there were always boundaries, since I was the student and my LO was a teacher. It was completely one-sided and due to switching teachers each year, no contact, and no signs of hope, the limerent episodes often faded after the year was up.
My last teacher LO was over 15 years ago. Fast forward to present, I am limerent towards my mother-in-law. I have been with her son for over 12 years and married him 2 years ago. My relationship with my husband is amazing and he is the most incredible man. However, I have been limerent towards my mother-in-law for almost 4 years now and it has definitely taken a toll on my relationship with him and everybody else in my life. I disclosed to my husband about 3.5 years ago and he has been nothing but supportive. Unlike my teacher LO’s, there weren’t many boundaries between us. Therefore, we quickly became extremely close due to my limerent tendencies (spending as much time as possible with her, revolving my schedule around her, devoting so much of my time and energy to be with her, etc.) As our relationship progressed, she too, displayed limerent tendencies towards me. We are both very affectionate towards one another but in no way shape or form are they sexual. The affection and physical aspects of our relationship are based upon an emotional connection that we both feel. It seems that we both feel safe, at home, and at peace when we are together. It’s like we are both living in the limerent fantasy where there is no pain or sadness. I would even go one step further and say it’s almost like we both experience a profound regression when we are together.
While this has been occurring, we never vocalized these underlying feelings for one another. I think we both just “know” how the other person feels. I almost feel as if we’re in a “push and pull” dynamic that keeps the limerence fueled.
With all of that said, I think I am finally getting my life back and in control of who I am and where I want to go. Without going into further detail about my recovery, I do find that this platonic relationship between me and my mother-in-law stems from primitive unmet needs in childhood. I experienced a traumatic event when I was 13 months old that left me separated from my mother for a significant amount of time. As I grew up, I developed a preoccupied anxious attachment style. I believe that I became limerent towards my teachers to feel safe and secure while away from my mom. I believe that limerence occurred with my mother-in-law because she has fulfilled many unmet needs within me that were never met by my parental figure. I also believe that I fulfill many unmet needs within her, which is why we both find ourselves in this situation.
This post is just the surface of the “iceberg” into my limerent journey. I have done an extreme amount of inner work that has allowed me to become aware of my underlying subconscious needs and drives and truly get to know who I am.
If your infatuation with your mother-in-law isn’t sexual, and you both like each other and enjoy spending time together, is this infatuation really a problem?
I.e. does your limerence for your mother-in-law negatively impact your life and mental state? Because, as you say, it sounds like you have a very close relationship with her and it doesn’t sound like either your mother-in-law or your husband is upset by the intensity of the connection.
Do you see your limerence for these older female figures as a kind of separation anxiety that you want to overcome? Do you aspire to be more confidant and independent emotionally? Do you want to stop having limerences for older women, who might be some kind of maternal stand-ins for you?
Your feelings for your teachers do sound like they were rooted in unconscious feelings of anxiety and/or wanting to feel safe, rather than in sexual attraction.
“It’s like we are both living in the limerent fantasy where there is no pain or sadness. I would even go one step further and say it’s almost like we both experience a profound regression when we are together.”
That is profound stuff. Limerence as mutual pain relief almost?
Mary Lim says
“This post really resonates with me. I have yet to meet somebody else that experiences limerence the same way I do.”
@AnonyLimerence: I have been hoping for months to bump into someone on this website who experiences limerence the way I do. This post as well as your story really resonates with me. I would love to discuss this more with you in private if you feel like it? If so, feel free to ask Dr L for my email address.
Yes, I would absolutely love to discuss this further with you. I will contact Dr. L for your email address.
@anonylim I would love to discuss this with you as well, since your experience being limerent for female teachers and older female women is a mirror image of my experience. I’m completely lost about my current limerence and I think discussing this with you would help me. Please let me know if it’s possible on your end. I’ve included my email. Thank you
Cosmic Fireworks says
My experiences started around 9 and were for female teachers as well. (I’m female and bi.) Every year I’d find myself infatuated with another female teacher and it would lead to just the most incredible highs and feelings of safety. Mostly I just wanted them to care about me. By the time I was 12 or 13, I was fantasizing about being an alcoholic and them rescuing me. I thought they’d find me really cool to know I was a drinker. (In middle age, this seems like a super weird thought to me now.)
My latest LE was for a therapist and it has been by far the most damaging and long-lasting experience despite no contact. During the time I was seeing her, I felt like I was childlike, showing up in the therapy setting. I felt I couldn’t work at my job anymore. I started seeing another therapist just to deal with what was going on with the first one. The second one told me that now that I was aware of the pattern, it wouldn’t happen anymore. She was wrong. I’m now about 6 months past the last appointment with the therapist I am limerent for, and the feelings are just not going away. She infects my thoughts and dreams still.
Sometimes I think that the only thing that’ll make it go away, is another LO.
@Lexi Hi!! Yes, I would love to discuss this with you, as well! I don’t see your email but I will contact Dr. L. Thank you 🙂
@anonylim thank you so much!! email is [Edit: I’ve sent your email direct, Lexi – Dr L]
I’m aromantic & asexual, so my limerence consists of fantasies that I want my LO to be my best friend – I want to us to be very special to each other. Friendships tend to have more probability to last a lifetime, romantic relationships not that much. Even sexual attraction fades over time. So for me the best possible outcome is to be best friends, hang out, cuddle and tell each other how much we love each other as people. That this bond is the most intimate one. Telling each other things that we can’t tell other people/partner. We would go on adventurers only friends can experience together.
I have had friendships like the ones you are describing, minus the cuddling, which feels romantic to me. But they all eventually imploded, usually because the other person got a romantic partner or a major life change happened. I agree that friendships are more durable than romance, but most people don’t value them as much. Unless you can find an LO who’s also asexual/aromantic. I’m not, but when I had these friendships, they were more fulfilling than the sexual relationships I was having at the time.
“So for me the best possible outcome is to be best friends, hang out, cuddle and tell each other how much we love each other as people. That this bond is the most intimate one. Telling each other things that we can’t tell other people/partner. We would go on adventurers only friends can experience together.”
When I was younger, I think I would describe what you describe here as friendship – the desire for a best friend. However, as I’ve grown older, I realise that for most people all the feelings and activities described fall under the heading of romance, or are generally seen as having romantic overtones/undertones… 😛
I think Western society would describe the kind of emotional involvement you seek as romantic, even though you and your friend may genuinely have no desire for genital contact with each other… 😊
Maybe, in the Victorian period, what you describe would be called “romantic friendship”. However, even romantic friendships of this era, usually same-sex, came with an inbuilt expiry date and were simply seen as emotional preparation or “practice” for the mature love of (heterosexual, reproductive) marriage.
I’m not saying you’re right. I’m not saying you’re wrong. Who knows? Maybe society is wrong. Maybe Western society no longer values deep friendships, and all one’s intimacy needs now have to be met through a single romantic relationship that is presumably sexual and preferably marital? Maybe rich and varied and meaningful friendships don’t exist anymore. Question: does emotional intensity have a place in friendship? Or are such friendships merely disguised romances or short-lived youthful deviations from the norm? 🤔
But I now think the desire to be special to someone, to sort of separate that cherished person from the herd and have them all to oneself, etc, falls under the rubric of “romance”. I think the impulse behind such feelings is romantic. I think anything you’re comfortable doing in front of your other friends probably is friendship. I think anything your other friends would tease you about doing and anything you want to keep hush-hush and to yourself is romantic. If you want to have some special secret bond with someone, according to conventional definitions of romance, that’s straying into romantic territory…
I had no desire for an overt sexual relationship with my LO. But I think I wanted him to think of me as I thought of him. I wanted to be on his mind, in other words. I wanted him to pick up on my subtle signs of interest (which he never did, thank God). I wanted the intense feelings reciprocated. I think limerence always has erotic undertones. These erotic undertones are inescapable, and they are what makes the bond exciting and addictive and transgressive and perhaps dangerous, and also generate many negative feelings such as guilt and shame and anxiety.
I think people like to pretend even to themselves that there’s nothing going on. And maybe there truly is nothing going on. (From the point of view of the non-reciprocating, oblivious LO, nothing is going on for sure). But I think limerents secretly wish something WAS going on with LO, and that’s not real friendship I’m afraid. That’s the unconscious desire for a romantic relationship with LO. 😛
As depressing as it sounds, maybe we’re supposed to find our platonic friends boring? If you think someone in your social circle is really boring, then congratulations – you’ve got yourself a real friend! Hang onto that one! 😉
I think the whole subject is confusing, though, because many many limerents would insist (and sincerely, I believe) that they never want to take their limerence “to the next level”. The limerence is this pure, otherworldly thing, etc, untainted by the appetites of the flesh. 😆 One’s limerent bond isn’t common and cliched and predictable like other people’s “vulgar relationships”, etc. Oh, gosh, no. 🙂
I am going to respectfully disagree with one element of your post. There are things you can tell a friend you cannot tell a romantic partner: details of your romantic and sexual past. I would guess that most people are doing heavy editing when discussing that topic with an SO. You have to; it would be cruel not to. Whereas with a close friend, you can get down and dirty with a LOT of detail. 🙂 I don’t know how straight men talk with each, but women get graphic. So did my gay male friends. 🙂
Limerent Emeritus says
“I don’t know how straight men talk with each, but women get graphic.”
I can only speak for myself but “locker room talk” wasn’t all that common. I was in the Navy on a submarine. We had communal and personal “porn lockers” but discussion about our respective sex lives was non-existent.
Subs have a small crew and we knew most of the wives and girlfriends. Maybe we had more respect for the women we were with so we didn’t talk about them and we didn’t think we had anything to prove to each other.
It’s like what DrL says elsewhere about purposeful living and the company you keep.
I’m talking about close friends, which I think a lot of straight men don’t have. I’m not talking about this stuff with randos at work. But with close friends, I can tell you, with some friends, the best sex they had, with whom, why it was hot, etc. With new people, the first question I usually got from my gay male friend was about size. His obsession, not mine. 🙂 Ah, good times, happy times.
“There are things you can tell a friend you cannot tell a romantic partner: details of your romantic and sexual past.”
That sounds reasonable to me. Close platonic friends are people you can turn to when you want a certain kind of emotional support. Or if you want to be completely transparent about your emotional self, without fear of social consequences/being judged. (Make sure those friends are trustworthy, though!) 😛
However, I guess women discuss their relationships in a lot more depth than men do. Just a hunch: men brush over the surface of their love lives, but don’t really go into details… If you’re the nosy type, you can probe for more information, like my sister does, but at some point it just feels like invading someone else’s privacy. No fun talking to someone who doesn’t want to share, or hasn’t got much of an emotional vocabulary, so revelations are slow and stilted. 😛
Actually, I may tell a lie. I find men, even straight men, are very interested in dissecting romantic relationships, but usually only AFTER said romantic relationship has failed completely, and they want to understand what went wrong. Maybe, for men, the grief and the pain doesn’t kick in until the loss is final? Men are very stoical in some ways…
My father used me as a sounding-board a couple of times. He mostly talked. I mostly listened. It seems, at some point, the woman (we’re talking girlfriends and not wives) decides the relationship is over and that’s it for the man. I think women have the final say on sex and women have the final say on relationships. And that’s fine. However, if some couples learnt to air their feelings to each other earlier on in the relationship, maybe some relationships – which aren’t seriously damaged or dysfunctional – could be salvaged.
The woman wants to know the man cares. The man does care, and demonstrates his caring through acts of service, but he plays his emotional cards too close to his chest, and the relationship falters. If straight men could learn to be more emotionally “visible” to their female partners, that would keep the “dream of romance” alive in the woman’s heart. It may also help the transition from “limerent mayhem” to “affectionate bonding/stable long-term future together”, in my opinion. Women, on the other hand, might have to “manage down” their emotional expectations in intimate relationships and realise love can be expressed non-verbally. 😛
There are some straight men who are great talkers about emotional stuff. I love listening to these men. Their conversations are so interesting and insightful. My late uncle was a talker; my father is (mostly) a closed book. 🙂
“However, I guess women discuss their relationships in a lot more depth than men do. Just a hunch: men brush over the surface of their love lives, but don’t really go into details… ”
I am talking about a private, personal conversation with a friend you’ve known for a while who knows all your stuff and you know all theirs. You may have one or two of those in the world. Yes, things can get graphic with those friends.
I love your sister. 🙂
“Actually, I may tell a lie. I find men, even straight men, are very interested in dissecting romantic relationships, but usually only AFTER said romantic relationship has failed completely …”
Yes, and ad nauseam, 30 years later.
“The woman wants to know the man cares. The man does care, and demonstrates his caring through acts of service”
I don’t understand acts of service. They just don’t mean much to me. But can you listen? Can you remember something I brought up that was important to me and ask me about it a week later, to see how things are going? (You’d be surprised how few people can do that.) Being seen and hear is huge. You do those two things, I’ll do whatever you want. 🙂
Limerent Emeritus says
“But can you listen? Can you remember something I brought up that was important to me and ask me about it a week later, to see how things are going? (You’d be surprised how few people can do that.) Being seen and hear is huge. You do those two things, I’ll do whatever you want. 🙂”
It’s easy to underestimate just how powerful that is. And, it doesn’t take all that much to pull off.
It’s scarily easy to form an attachment with someone who actively listens to you.
“It’s easy to underestimate just how powerful that is. And, it doesn’t take all that much to pull off.”
It is SO easy to do. And I don’t think it’s asking for too much but very people do it or even try, even if you express how important that is to you. I guess they don’t value it. One of the biggest gifts you can give someone is to show up in a way that means something to them. But most people provide the same kind of support to all the people in their lives.
I’m going to do the opposite of listening here, and indulge in a little monologue – if you’ll forgive me. Talking to you has set off a whole chain of thoughts in my head, and I want to get it down before it’s lost. 😉
Specifically, you’ve helped me identify a deeply admirable trait of straight men that I’ve largely dismissed/overlooked in my life – acts of service. I think “acts of service” may be the primary way many straight men express love for their loved ones. This is even more true in cultures and generations where other expressions of love e.g. physical affection, flowery words, are frowned upon or considered taboo.
Unfortunately, straight men are so good at “acts of service” that men, women, and society itself have become de-sensitised to “acts of service” as an expression of love. I.e. we just take it for granted that men do acts of service, and stop seeing it as a powerful (and completely voluntary) expression of love. 😛
I think “acts of service” may even be an integral part of the “courtship dance” performed by the modern human male, if you want to get all anthropological about it. Thoughts? 😁
Let’s say there’s a single lady. This single lady knows a single man who performs an usually large number of “acts of service” for her. The lady may not think much about said acts of service. She might just assume it’s the guy’s personality. But guess what? The fact he performs so many acts of service for her is a subtle indication he actually likes her. And if she actually likes the guy in return, then he’s probably going to be very good husband material. (Kind, stable). She should definitely give him a chance, in my opinion. 😛
Now I’m going to attempt to answer Freud’s famous question: “What do women want?” Obviously, I’m not a woman, so I don’t have any insider knowledge. I only have my completely random INTJ hunches to guide me. In other words, feel free to shoot me down at any point and tell me I’m an idiot who doesn’t know what I’m talking about. 😉
None of the comments I make, by the way, should ever be taken as authoritative or the gospel truth. Sometimes, (oftentimes?), I have only a vague notion of what I’m talking about. I’m just following the flow of my thoughts out loud. My insights are never conclusive, in other words. My insights are always tentative and open to critique. However, I’m very invested in the generation of knowledge, so I feel it doesn’t matter if I give the wrong answers to questions, if these wrong answers are seen as part of some collective learning exercise. 👍
Basically, I want people to tell me when I’m wrong, and explain why they think I’m wrong, because even when people contradict me – as embarrassing as that is – it still leads to the generation of new ideas/theories/knowledge. I’m positively delighted if my wildly misguided answers help other people arrive at better answers. 😊
Getting stuff wrong is part of the learning process in my eyes, so I feel it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’m happy to be the “wrong answer man” in discussions, if only to advance the discussion in intriguing new directions, and open up new lines of inquiry. 😛
Back on topic: “What do women want?” (We are talking heterosexual women, of course – just your average hypothetical heterosexual woman looking for a relationship with a heterosexual man).
I believe that, yes, women do want the kind of guy mentioned above. Women do want the nice, kind, slightly dull but totally devoted “acts of service” guy. However, there’s a catch. Women also want the flashy, charming, good-looking, slightly sleazy guy. Does this mean every woman wants two husbands? No, not at all. I think women would like to have only one husband, only one boyfriend, only one man who embodies both types of male. 😛
The trouble is there are no men out there who embody both tropes. Straight men are either dull people-pleasers or flaky flirts. You can have one or the other. However, you cannot have both… 😉
It’s understandable why women would actually desire both male types. The sweet “acts of service” guy is the perfect long-term mate. The flashy charmer is the perfect short-term mate. Human women are genetically programmed to be sensitive to mating cues given off by both kinds of men. The charmer can’t give women stability, though, and the “acts of service” guy can’t give a woman excitement. It’s a catch-22, and everyone ends up getting hurt. 😉
I find I am often drawn to bisexual men. And bisexual women, to be perfectly honest. I don’t use the word “bisexual” to mean someone who has intimate relationships with both sexes. I use the word bisexual to mean someone who has an androgynous brain, someone who has an almost 50-50 balance of masculine and feminine traits in their personality, someone who possesses that endlessly fascinating psychological DUALITY. 😛
I think, when I was younger, out of respect for social norms, I tried to re-engineer my personality so it was an 80-20 split of masculine and feminine traits. (I tried to be 80 percent masculine and 20 percent feminine). Now, in my relative old age, I’m happy with a 51-49 percent split. (51 percent masculine and 49 percent feminine).
Technically, I’m still a man in my gender expression. The 51 percent masculinity pleases people in society who still think rigid gender roles are important, and makes my everyday life so much easier. However, by embracing much more of my feminine side, I feel a lot more comfortable in my own skin, and like I can “breathe”. I think men who embrace their feminine side have a lightness of being, a playfulness, a joy about them, which I like, a connectedness to self and nature and all living things. Perhaps the same could be said for women who learn to embrace their masculine qualities? 😛
I think straight men become alienated from an anima over time, although their feminine side may not have been strong to begin with. I think straight women often lose access to their animus, or masculine side, at some point. Maybe this is the mystery of romantic attraction? Discovering repressed aspects of the self in some beloved “other” who just shows up one day, and of course being given a golden opportunity to reintegrate said traits? 🤔
I don’t think “authenticity” is quitting one’s job and running off to be with LO, by the way. That’s the lazy way out, and a strictly temporary solution to the problem of identity confusion. I think “authenticity” is the self that emerges after wrestling long and hard with one’s inner demons and outgrowing emotional dependency on LO. 😛
” I think “acts of service” may be the primary way many straight men express love for their loved ones.”
But what if acts of service aren’t the way their loved ones RECEIVE love? I think there has to be some give and take. If one person expresses love through acts service, the other person should graciously accept those acts. But Acts of Service person has to be willing to also provide love in the way the other person receives it.
“Now I’m going to attempt to answer Freud’s famous question: “What do women want?” ”
This article gives the best explanation I’ve ever read for your question. And as you pointed out, the wants are contradictory.
“At the end of the day, the accumulating evidence appears to reveal a paradoxical element at the core of female desire, a tension between two conflicting motives. On the one hand is the desire for stability, intimacy, and security—picture the flame on the burner of a gas stove: controlled, utilitarian, domesticated, and good for making dinner. On the other hand is the need to feel totally, uncontrollably desired, the object of raw, primal lust—a house on fire.”
Limerent Emeritus says
I don’t think your ideas are wrong but I think you give people a lot more credit than they deserve. I’ve been around long enough to see a lot of long term relationships collapse decades into them.
In simple terms, they were dissatisfied with what they have and think something else will be better, at least they hope it will. FOMO caught up with them…in spades. The people I’ve talked to about it honestly don’t seem to have thought it through much, let alone to the degree many people on LwL have.
And, in my experience, it’s always been trading the stove flame for the house fire.
National Lampoon got it right when they said, “A walk through the ocean of most souls would scarcely get your feet wet.”
I have seen the opposite. As a general rule, people don’t leave. They just talk about leaving … for months or even years. And that’s where I think limerence walks in. It’s the Great Escape. Leaving is a lot of work, and there’s no guarantee things will be better on the other side.
If a person is single, the limerent is harming themselves by hiding out in limerence limbo land. But if they have an SO, the limerence hurts another person, which seems self-indulgent. To me, you plug back into what you have (and go NC and work on cutting off the limerence) or leave and go for what you think you want. I guess a third option would be to dabble in the limerence if the SO agrees, but … again … that would require action. And disclosing to the LO to see if he/she is on board with pursuing side options.
I am just thinking about how much time I’ve wasted being limerent. I’m a little disgusted with myself.
Limerent Emeritus says
“I am just thinking about how much time I’ve wasted being limerent. I’m a little disgusted with myself.”
That comes with the territory. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Speaking of limerent, self-indulgent behavior … the company I work for did something screwy yesterday. Screwy even by their standards, and about 3/4s of the way into my day, I said to myself, “That’s it! I’m going home.” And I did. Told them I was sick. They were miffed. We were inundated. And they are going to ding me on my bonus because that’s the kind of company they are. You say you are sick and they penalize you. But the “see ya, buy” exit felt so good. YOU DEAL WITH THIS CRAP. I’m OUTTA here. 🙂 I went to the grocery. Got some chips, watched my shows, took a nap, read my book. It was luscious. What is it about work that feels so confining? I’m pushing 50 and I still haven’t gotten my head around the fact that I have to work for a living. And limerence feels like breaking out of the chains!
Limerent Emeritus says
“Screwy even by their standards, and about 3/4s of the way into my day, I said to myself, “That’s it! I’m going home.” And I did.”
I get that. I really do. I made the decision that I would never take a job that forced me to choose between it and my family, at least not in a way that I couldn’t handle.
As a civilian, if I decided to walk out or not show up the worst they could do is fire me. In the Navy, they could put me in jail or, at worst, they could shoot me.
“What is it about work that feels so confining? I’m pushing 50 and I still haven’t gotten my head around the fact that I have to work for a living. And limerence feels like breaking out of the chains!”
Work is confining. Even if you’re doing something you love, it’s still work. There are 6+ billion people on the planet and not one of them would say they want my job. One of the reasons I stayed in civil service after leaving the Navy was the idea that my livelihood was dependent on my actual productivity as opposed to my abilities to get up every morning and follow directions scared the living s–t out of me. It still does.
Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out how to get limerence to make me enough money to cover my green frees, let alone live off of. So far, playing “Straight Man” [in the comedic sense] to DrL doesn’t pay much.
Pre-Covid, I was on a plane. The Flight Attendant came down the aisle to collect the trash. I asked if there was a separate bag for recycling. She said that there wasn’t but they’d sort it out in the back. I asked if they really sorted out the recycling from the trash and she said that they did.
She said, “I’m living the dream.”
As we were deplaning, she was at the front. I told her, “Maybe the dream will get better.” She smiled.
Maybe yours will, too.
“Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out how to get limerence to make me enough money to cover my green frees, let alone live off of. So far, playing “Straight Man” [in the comedic sense] to DrL doesn’t pay much.”
So Dr. L’s the “funny” one? You two need to work on your sketches. 🙂
I guess I just feel that … that day I finally made my pass at my LO … that was as freeing as walking out of work yesterday … It was all this pent-up … I don’t know what. Fasten your seat belts, I’m coming at you! 🙂
“Maybe yours will, too.”
I have been working on a side hustle (what Dr. L would call “purposeful living”). It doesn’t feel as good as the early days of limerence but is better than falling down the rabbit hole of Youtube videos and endless Google searches.
Vicarious Limerent says
I’m really enjoying this “I hate my job” comments thread. I absolutely despise my job, and every day the company I work for sinks to a new level of “suck” I didn’t think was even possible. The jobk is boring, bureaucratic and soul-destroying, while the work gets constantly piled on with endless asinine make-work projects, constant reorganizations, new systems that don’t work and don’t talk to one another, offshoring, downsizing (usually involving people who are good at their jobs and actually know how to make things happen), little training, deskilling, putting us in bad situations with our customers and business partners and lack of any real role clarity. And the company keeps on wanting me to go in a direction I have no interest in for my career long-term. Yet the organization continues to win “best employer” awards. Yeah right!
I think there is a real theme here among limerents. Several people on the public blog and the private forum have commented that they hate their jobs/careers. Limerence can be a distraction and an escape not only from a bad relationship, but also from a bad job and career. I am determined to make 2022 the year I finally catch up at work and make a career change! Otherwise, this job will kill me. I hate it so much I can’t begin to describe it. I never signed up for this crap. I guess thinking about my LO is a nice distraction (funnily enough she works just a stone’s throw away from where I do, but I am not really in the office anymore due to COVID and working from home, which is yet another major dissatisfier).
Allie 1 says
Agree with Marcia a lot here. We all like to RECIEVE love in different ways. Physical affection, acts of service, emotional intimacy, sex, sweet words, listening, empathy, thoughtfulness, etc. And we all naturally GIVE love the same way we like to receive it, which is not necessarily the way our SO wants to receive it. My SO is a physical affection man. I am more acts of service/thoughtfulness and listening. Luckily we both know this about each other so it all works OK.
I reckon my LO is also an acts of service/thoughtfulness man. Sigh.
re: “What woman want”… aaargh! This kind of thinking (maybe irrationally) irritates the hell out of me. Women are not a separate species and they are all individuals with unique wants and needs. And they are the same ones that collective men have. Ugh, I hate classifying collections of people into identikit clones.
Allie 1 says
Sorry for being ranty. Am in a grumpy mood as have (mild) Covid currently. Have been isolating in a bedroom & home office since 25th December when I had first positive LTF. 5 more positive LTFs and 2 (false) negative PCRs later, I finally had a positive PCR yesterday!
Blue Ivy says
“This kind of thinking (maybe irrationally) irritates the hell out of me. Women are not a separate species and they are all individuals with unique wants and needs. And they are the same ones that collective men have. ”
What women want… is different things – depending on the unique individual each one is. As a collective? Same things that all humans want.
Blue Ivy says
Oh I love my job. My LO is my boss! 🙄🙂
Seriously, it does make the job a bit shinier, a bit more brightly colored. All the more so as I have suspected on-and-off reciprocal interest. For 2 years! Not LE level, just an affection.
Sigh.. it is quite exhausting actually. I would give anything to not have LE for the dude but it seems stuck in status quo.
Allie 1 says
Ditto to all of that Blue Ivy!
My LE is far less intense these days so live-able. With the right beliefs (thank you LwL), time can be a great LE healer.
Blue Ivy says
Hi Allie 1,
Soul sister! 🤗
I always enjoy your posts in LwL knowing from previous interactions that we are in similar boats.
How did you reduce the intensity for someone caring whom you interact with on a regular basis?
Allie 1 says
My LO has always tried to maintain professional boundaries between us and has not “emotionally leaked” for a while now. We are genuine friends but it now feels like more of a (deliberately) professional friendship than an personal one. I am focussing on all of that as a rejection and that it means he is past this now so it has become one-sided. I don’t always succeed in convincing myself and reverie is still frequent but it no longer gives me the buzz it used so limerent thoughts are far less compelling and distracting.
I would still much rather we had both surrendered to the feelings at least some degree (bad bad me!). But he is never going to do anything and I just need to keep telling myself that.
Kill the hope = gradually extinguish the LE.
Limerent Emeritus says
“It is SO easy to do.”
You may not even know what’s on their mind just that something is and all it takes is “Wanna talk about it?”
I asked LO #4 that question once. Her first response was “Maybe…”
A few hours later, I got a 3 page email from her.
Most people are dying for someone to listen. You just have to be careful because, if you are a good listener, the other person will sometimes take advantage of that and not reciprocate.
Limerent Emeritus says
” You just have to be careful because, if you are a good listener, the other person will sometimes take advantage of that and not reciprocate.”
That’s not always a bad thing.
If I learned one thing from LwL it’s not to pull strings I’m not willing to see unravel. Some questions are best left unasked and, if you insist on asking,
the best response you could get is,
“No, but thank you for asking.”
Well, what I meant was … at some point, you’re probably going to have something you want to talk about. It can’t always be you listening. The other person has to be willing to listen.
Also, I don’t want someone to FIX anything or DO anything. Just listen, maybe offer a few nuggets of wise counsel, and say “What a jerk!” at the right moments when I am talking about my boss or co-workers. 🙂 There is nothing more annoying than someone wanting to fix it and actually feeling like they have failed if they can’t fix it. Suddenly, the whole thing is about them. 🙂
Allie 1 says
So agree with this. Properly listening to someone, with no personal agenda or judgement, really tuning into them and their world… that is a beautiful gift we can all give to another if we try. Not always easy to do though. And so very rare to receive it.
“For asexuals, or aromantics, the feelings of infatuation always lack the element of physical desire.”
People often confuse ‘asexual’ and ‘aromantic’ as if they are the same thing. That appears to be happening here.
Not all aromantic people are also asexual. An allosexual, aromantic person might very well have an infatuation that includes physical desire while still not experiencing a desire for a romantic relationship. Be careful not to erase aromantic people by positioning aromanticism as a synonym for or elaboration on asexuality.