Ulysses is battling limerence. In his case, limerence is proving a barrier to the natural expression of his feelings:
I’ve been struggling to get close enough of my LO to disclose my feelings to her, but limerence is making me too anxious to be able to make it in a “normal” way.
This is a common paradox of limerence: the LO becomes such an important and desirable person in your life that you become hopelessly inhibited and clumsy whenever you have a chance to talk to them. The stakes seem so incredibly high that you are paralysed by the fear of making a wrong move and ruining your chances. This is obviously most frustrating when you think you may actually have a credible chance:
I’m sure she showed some interest signals, but I got trapped in the flirting game, so I never asked her out, and she might well have gotten tired of waiting for a move of mine, too.
This hesitation, and the inability to maintain enough emotional equilibrium to just interact naturally with LO, becomes a self-defeating cycle.
The same pattern of failure happens again: I get too excited and anxious and it just backfires, eventually.
But, Ulysses has started to live more purposefully. At a recent party, his current LO was there with another date, who seemed to be going out of his way to make some sort of alpha display to Ulysses that he was The Man. Ulysses handled the situation decisively.
As soon as I saw he was trying to make me jealous I took action, stood up and went to another table from where it would be difficult both for him to catch my attention and also for me to see LO with him.
The party went well, and with a curious twist…
The interesting part is that LO kind of got what was happening from my behaviour, and started trying to making eye contact with me, but I kept my focus on the other people with whom I was in the new table, and I didn’t allow myself to give my attention to LO neither with what she was doing. In the end she started trying to participate in a conversation I was having with another girl…
Now, limerents are famous for over-interpreting subtle signs and body language of LOs as super meaningful, so it’s worth being a bit cautious about reading the runes, but there does seem to be enough evidence to suggest that Ulysses’ LO could be interested in a romantic connection. He’ll never know without asking, though, and that’s the heart of his dilemma.
Most people have a sort of intuitive sense that romance has the quality of a dance. We talk about “moves”, and timing, and that there is a window of opportunity in which the potential dance partners are sort of sizing each other up and wondering if they feel like taking to the floor.
Carrying on the metaphor, limerence has made Ulysses’ legs go wobbly, and his confidence falter, and he’s worried he’s lost the rhythm and made too many missteps. It seems like his window of opportunity is closing.
More positively, he has gained a lot from this last experience, in that it’s made him more self-aware and purposeful:
I can still keep putting the effort to apply what I have learned to become each time a better version of the person I’ve came to be.
But. But. But. Is it ever really too late?
I wonder if I just give up on this and put an end in this LE, or if I let things happen the way they should; that is, she’s still not officially in a relationship with that creepy guy either. If I could just end the LE, so that I could somehow have a normal interaction with her, probably I would have better chances to get her to like me back than with this madness of limerence backing fire and destroying any hopes I could have to get what I want.
So the question for the wisdom of the crowd: “Should Ulysses use this experience as a life lesson that prepares him well for the future when he meets a new LO, or should he apply that lesson right now and disclose his feelings to his current LO?”
Here are my thoughts:
1) It seems implausible – and counterproductive – to try and end the limerence feelings for LO before declaring your romantic interest. A better goal is to turn down the volume enough to stabilise your emotions when the big moment of declaration comes. Limerence is very good for pair bonding, and mutual limerence feels terrific. Harnessed by self-discipline, it can be a powerful and thrilling part of life. There could be turmoil ahead if LO is a non-limerent, and/or when your limerence begins to wane, but that is the point at which you get to learn if the relationship has a chance of maturing into something deeper and more meaningful. The most important factor in navigating all of this is self-awareness. Knowing that your limerence is an internal emotional storm that you are trying to regulate makes it more manageable than truly believing that LO is some kind of angel who is unapproachable because they are so wonderful.
It’s like that aphorism about fear: feel the limerence, but act normally anyway.
2) You may have missed the window of opportunity, but you’ll never know unless you find out. It’s fine to make the purposeful decision to walk away and seek romance elsewhere, but it’s definitely better if that decision is made because you feel the time is no longer right. In contrast, fear of embarrassment is not a purposeful reason. Embarrassment is unavoidable when taking romantic risks – the secret is that you get to decide how you process that embarrassment when it comes.
Worst case scenario: she rejects you rudely, laughs about it with other people, and avoids you thereafter. Well, there are lots of lessons to take from that hypothetical scenario, but the principal one would be that she has poor character and you dodged a bullet.
3) You are actually in a win-win situation. The decision to leave this LE (and LO) behind, learn about yourself, live more purposefully, and act more quickly and decisively the next time you meet someone attractive, is one option. And that’s a great prospect, actually.
Disclosing to LO and being rejected is another possibility, and obviously a more painful outcome, but it is also a tidy ending to the LE. You took a courageous decision and it didn’t work out, but that’s how romance goes most of the time.
Finally, you could disclose, and she could reciprocate. Then you are off on a whole new adventure.
My summary, therefore, is that the decision you take is far less important than how and why you take it. There are good outcomes to all possibilities, but the way to secure those outcomes is to act with courage and purpose. Decide what your goals are right now (ending the limerence or finding out how LO feels about you?), what you want to work on most (self-improvement or romance?), and whether the experiences you’ve had with LO so far are a drama you are happy to walk away from, or the prelude to a second act in which you take centre stage.
Those are my thoughts, and I’m quietly pleased that I made it all the way to the end without any lazy allusions to Ulysses resisting the siren-song!
Now, over to the LwL council of elders…
Ulysses (Latin variant of Odysseus) was married to Penelope. Why not choose Achilles? At least he was single.
In this case, as he is presented as single, he should screw his courage to the sticking-place and at least ask her out on a date. If she says “no” and “I have a boyfriend” (points at undeserving troglodyte) at least you know she has integrity. She may say yes and that she is still dating the field. Which wasn’t unheard of that long ago. Serial monogamy is fine but so is straight up DATING without it being an implied committment. This applies to all singles.
If you want a warranty, buy a toaster. If you want a solid relationship someday, you have to risk getting turned down. This also applies to both genders. I asked out young men too and some said no, others said yes. When I was growing up that was still fairly unusual.
I didn’t pick the pseudonym this time, Lee!
But the heart of this dilemma is how to manage the limerence well enough to be able to nonchalantly ask out LO. I think Ulysses is wondering if he has to beat the limerence first, or maybe only try and date women he is not limerent for…
Is this the same Ulysses that posted in “The Glimmer Givers?” If so, there’s some indication his LO may not be playing a straight game. If that’s the case, he’s on a different playing field than what this blog covers.
It also relates to the pathways in “The Definition of Limerence.” You don’t know what path it may take you down until you take the first step. If it’s the same Ulysses and she’s the same LO, he may be dealing with a Narc and a Narc is not the kind of LO you want to ask this question of.
Well, if she isn’t a game-playing troll at heart, he should at least ask her out. If she is a “creep” (I had a different word in mind), then he may learn the hard way when she stomps on his heart with her red or black high-heeled shoes on her way to meet a more useful companion. Not everything or everyone who glitters or glimmers is gold.
Good luck, Ulysses. Consider using beeswax to stuff your ears if you learn she isn’t a particularly honest person.
Yes, Dr L is right. My struggles with limerence is that it makes me feel too much pressure and anxiety around LO. If it was not for limerence I would be able to talk to LOs as I talk to any other human being. I just feel it never works; all LE come and go the same way, with LO always getting to intimidating to me while I’m trying to asses my chances with her. Then when I think I’m getting enough courage and I make my mind up to go and tell her, then she starts backing off. I think she may be a limerent too, because she shows some signs of distress also when she sees I’m looking at her some times. But it only happens if I avoid looking at her much of the time. If I show too much attention she looses interest, but when I avoid giving attention to her I ts like as if she acts the same way as I do and starts craving my attention. I sometimes wonder if I’m some kind of LO to her also, because if it’s so this would explain too many things.
Well, it would be nice if one of you would simply ask the other out on a date already. A concert, fishing, hiking, dancing, go to a county or state fair – anything to take action and end the angst.
I’m sure this is why limerent to non-limerent relationships are hard going on both partners. They drive each other mad with frustration at the other’s apparently irrational behaviour.
But, yeah, gotta agree. Purposeful action solves most problems.
Ok I shall weigh in. What harm is there to very playfully and confidently asking LO out in a gentle way “hey would you like to grab a coffee sometime?” (Or something more original). Once when I was on a date I ran into a friend who had a guy friend with her. The guy friend and I chatted easily and at the end of the convo he said in front of the date! “I think you are an interesting person. Let’s do something someday”. I wasn’t sure what he meant by that but I liked it! Kind of ambiguous yet bold! Was he interested romantically?? If he would have ever properly asked me out after that encounter I might have accepted but shortly afterwards he ended up dating someone else and marrying and we all now cross paths occasionally and it’s all good… but my point is that he wasn’t so serious that now it’s awkward but back then had I really really been into him he made me feel like I could take a reciprocal step forward in the mating dance. (I really wasn’t that into him but would have given him a chance had he followed up).
So I think Ulysses should take a first step but in a light and graceful way. And if it’s not reciprocated at all he should not allow himself to languish in the Evil Friend Zone. Make a quick and classy exit if absolutely no positive response to the undramatic yet investigative Move. You can resist the siren song and yet nonchalantly display some interest Ulysses!
Anonymous Limerent says
“Decide how you process that embarrassment”.
Some people just can’t choose the way they process embarrassment; it depends on your personality. If Ulysses is socially secure (more or less so) he may be able to brush off embarrassment and say it was a funny story he’ll laugh about someday. However, if (like me) he is not so secure, he may see a potentially life-destroying outcome to hus situation, even though it may not be THAT bad, from an outside perspective. But to home, it could be soul-crushing in the way that he may have friends who would continue that embarrassment for a while to come and throw him somewhat into disrepute.
It is not immediately clear what type of person Ulysses is, but I’m going to assume he’s not as bold as his mythology-based pseudonym would suggest. It’s really entirely up to his personality and social security as to how he imagines it would play out, and whether or not he chooses to disclose.
I can’t really give any real advice here, just a sort of meta-analysis.
Different personality types certainly have an easier or harder time of it. But, the vast majority of people cope with embarrassment by accepting it and pushing on through the discomfort. It is a skill you can learn through practice, and curiously enough, that robs the embarrassment of a lot of its power.
I’m not downplaying the pain. I’m just saying that the only way to beat the pain is to confront it. If you spend your life avoiding embarrassment it will gain more and more power over you.
There is even a school of thought that you should regularly invite embarrassment so you can discipline yourself against it. Like: lie down in the middle of a public space, and whenever strangers ask if you’re OK, say “fine, just resting”. Or deliberately strike up conversations with strangers in which you share something intensely personal. Or ask for a discount in a shop. Or sing on the bus.
Those ideas have always seemed a bit inconsiderate of strangers to me, but the premise is sound. Embarrassment is a major barrier to life success, and can be beaten with training.
It is refreshing to read about single (or at least unmarried) limerence. It gives me hope about legitimate romance and potential long-term relationships developing from it instead of in so many cases (including my own) where there is cheating, or the chance of cheating.
It’s important to remember that limerence is a reaction that causes us to perceive things inaccurately, including how we see ourselves. Assessments need to be made about character and not feelings. I know that it is difficult to step back and see the LO and yourself realistically, but there is no other way to snap back into reality and act normal. Trust me, I know what a goofball I become around my LO and I don’t even want a relationship with him! When I think about him any more I have to make sure I see him as a human with flaws and not the person I made up.
Do we really need to be in a relationship with someone we are limerent for? Is that a requirement for us to think that we are with the right person? Can we be attracted to someone on a deeper level to begin with and bi-pass that awkward state of existence? I think it is more important to share core values, interests, beliefs, etc. and that is what makes a relationship last. After all, if you are a lifetime limerent (like me) you know most limerent experiences don’t amount to anything but wasted energy and anxiety. Or maybe that is just me. I’m an awkward introvert who doesn’t trust people so I have limited relationships on all levels.
It is hard to tell who the game players are. You have to be diligent about working on yourself. What do you have to offer YOU? What can you bring to a relationship? What evidence do you have about who your LO really is from their behavior, interests, or actions (that they didn’t have an awareness of you witnessing in case they are trying to manipulate you by putting on a show)? People show you who they are. Don’t guess with emotions as a guide.
A lot of times it isn’t just the dopamine that keeps us hooked. It is the hope that we have good judgment, or that we didn’t invest so much of ourselves in someone for no purpose.
Ulysses could question the LO on how deep her involvement is with her date from the party and lead the conversation from there. He could confess that he wanted to ask her out based on what she says. That is pretty direct and bold but at least he would have some idea where things stood.
“if you are a lifetime limerent (like me) you know most limerent experiences don’t amount to anything but wasted energy and anxiety. ”
That’s true for me too.
Now, about asking her out, I’m growing more and more into that direction, but at the same time I am keeping a foot behind because she looks like less and less committed as time goes on. Also there’s at least two other guys I know who are interested in her too, and they are not limerents. They are capable of just being themselves around her, and she is very comfortable with at least one of them. The other guy which was talked about in the post is a serial dater, and she has already turned him down as it looks like. This is madness, man! I wouldn’t like to do this, almost like a teenager stalking his “crush” to check if she likes someone else, but as you might know limerence has this trait of exclusivity. So, what I am doing right now is basically trying to understand if she’s into this other guy. As Dr L has quoted in the post, I think I may have crossed beyond my window of opportunity with LO, and that’s why I don’t think it’s a good idea to ask her out right now. I should probably have done so around a month earlier, when she was displaying plenty of positive signals, flirting with me and so on. But I didn’t make a move, and I don’t understand really why. Limerence confuses me to the much extreme. It’s just hopeless. I bet LO will find the love she deserves, be it either me or someone else. What I will likely never understand is if this lost chance was because of me, or because of limerence or, still, because LO was never really interested.
To give you more hope for the future I will tell you about my “happy ending”. I was married before but miserably unhappy. Bi-polar ex-husband and completely selfish. I became limerent for my SO, left my ex, and was living alone, waiting for the timing to be right with LO, and trying to be happy alone. I was not about to enter another relationship in a hurry. The timing did work out. We started out as friends doing things together, which led to dating. We have been together for 18 years. It hasn’t been perfect but it is a much deeper love than that giddy euphoria mixed with petrified anxiety that it started out as.
Sometimes you have to go about things “outside the box” to be comfortable making a move. Since I was so nervous with him in person I sent him something through the mail even though we lived about 5 minutes apart. It was something personal from something we did together as friends. He told me later that it was special to him and it helped him to know that I was the one for him.
Maybe this LE experience is about to expire and the next one will come about with more clarity and ease and the future will be bright for you!
Two points I need to make:
1. Our limerence for each other made us tip toe around each other for years, which caused a lot of problems. We didn’t want to shatter our illusions. We had to work through that.
2. The only reason I have an LO now is because I was/ am going through a mid-life crisis and I created this to escape my job related issues, other life disappointments, and fears about the future. Limerence is a terrible “coping” mechanism. I am working on these issues now.
“We didn’t want to shatter our illusions.“
There’s wisdom in this you’ve just said. Even though it’s an illusion, we still want to keep it up. If I don’t ask her out I won’t know how she feels, and this keeps the illusion. On the other hand, if do ask her out, no matter what she answers, the illusion will end either because she drops the propose or because she accepts it. This illusion is a terrible place to be in, and it’s like a black or white outcome. There’s no gray in between. Lose all or win it all? Try and find out.
That may be true even if you do ask her out. Some people are unable or unwilling to communicate their feelings clearly, and you may get a confusing reply (like “I do like you, but things are complicated for me at the moment.”). Especially if the dynamic so far has been that she shows interest when you pull away, but then cools off when you are more direct. As Sharnhorst mentioned, this could indicate a degree of narcissism. But it could also just be that she is a single woman dating and is taking care about her own emotions and how much of herself she should reveal.
This is why I talk so much about focussing on what you can control and what you want your life to be like. A way of confronting ambiguity like that is to think: “I want to see whether a romantic relationship with LO would work, and I want my feelings and her feelings to be clear. So, anything less than enthusiastic interest from her is not good enough, and I will move on.”
Anonymous Limerent says
Perhaps an extreme example of miscommunication of feelings is that I think, if LO asked me out, I’d laugh and say no. I can’t know unless it happens, but I feel like that would probably be the case.
This blog post triggers a memory from when I just started working at a big corporation as a part time resource. There was a guy I fancied, a little bit higher up than I was, but still junior in the corporate sense. I liked him, he made my heart jump whenever he came by our desks and he came by to chat to the people around me quite often. I felt so junior, was super shy and didn’t dare to ask him for a coffee or anything else. He never did either. We went clubbing once with a whole bunch of us, I thought there was something there, but didn’t want to make a fool of myself so I never dared to make any kind of move. Eventually, I met my boyfriend (my now husband) and I basically introduced him to everyone as my bf at my 25th bday party. This other guy came as well (and it wasn’t anywhere near where he lived). A few months later my boss told me that he was very disappointed to see that I had a boyfriend. She said he liked me but was just too shy to ask me out, but thought that by coming to my bday party he would give me a sign. Well, it was too late. We never know what could have happened… but that’s ok. It just wasn’t meant to be. I moved countries shortly after and have never seen him in person again.
Sarah, yours a beautiful story. I like the way it shows I could be in a similar situation to yours at that time, such as reinforcement of hope. Thank you for sharing, it fits pretty well in this context. I’m also happy you turned out to find your SO, which is no doubt much more important than a LO.
You just never know what goes through the other persons head. If both of you are single and this could work out? Why not find out? At least you know.
In another situation, a work colleague of mine (we were both two young student resources at the company, both single) and I started hanging out. I enjoyed his company but I had no further feelings for him. One day, he disclosed his feelings for me by just taking the courage to kiss me. It was in a sweet kind of way, he even announced it too. Thinking about how much he must have thought that through and how much he must have pulled all his courage together…
Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same way about him and had to tell him that. But at least he knew and could stop the does she like me, does she not…
They say the pain of regret is worse than the pain of rejection. I believe that. But, as with most things, it comes with a few caveats. Regret may last a lifetime but it’s yours and rarely comes with humiliation. I wonder if my father had that in mind when he warned me, “Don’t fish in the company pond.” I think he learned that the hard way.
“Oh, when you were young
Did you question all the answers
Did you envy all the dancers who had all the nerve
Look around you now
You must go for what you wanted
Look at all my friends who did and got what they deserved”
What a great song! It really makes think more about life. Thanks for sharing 🙂
What an interesting post! I’ve long been speculating that the uncertainty originating from this kind of hesitation and inaction (and believing that “the dance” is how things are supposed to go) is one of the very ingredients of limerence, at least for me. In other words, that uncertainty not just leads down the red path  of limerence, but that it ignites the limerence in the first place.
To me, living a purposeful life includes acknowledging and voicing my needs (whenever appropriate; there are certainly boundaries). I believe that becoming more in touch with my needs and being candid about them – including choosing potential partners who also seek no-frills honesty – has made me much less susceptible to limerence in the first place. This was an eye-opening experience to me; as much as I enjoyed the thrills of limerence, I enjoy the absence of anxiety by not having to second-guess every small remark, smile, or gesture much more.