Flirting is commonplace. Some people proudly proclaim themselves shameless flirts. They flirt with everyone; nothing personal. Flirting is most often described as “harmless fun”. Where seen as negative, it’s often framed in terms of leading people on unfairly, of overpromising, and embarrassing the flirted-with by misleading them into expecting more. Sometimes, it’s actively promoted as a positive and life-affirming skill that everyone should cultivate.
Flirting is also a dragnet for limerents. [Fair warning: this post is likely to be a bit humourless].
Now, like most people, I do like a good flirt. It does feel good to flatter yourself, and someone else, with a bit of a sparkle and some cheeky banter. As the School of Life video suggests, many people (*raises hand*) do like it when the person they are talking with communicates, in a slantwise way, that they would quite like to have sex with you if circumstances were different and they weren’t already committed. But, one of the most important lessons I have learned in life is not to assume that my experience as a middle-class, middle-aged man is representative of the experiences of all people and should therefore be adopted as a general policy. For example, one of the reasons that I would enjoy a flirty woman letting me know they would like to have sex with me, is that it happens very rarely. The novelty of the experience is part of the charm. If, in contrast, I had to live with a basic background level of continual reminders that other people wanted to have sex with me, the charm may tarnish somewhat. Also, you know, context is quite important.
From the perspective of a limerent, flirting isn’t harmless fun. “Intent isn’t magic” is a phrase that is bandied around a lot at the moment, and this is a good example of its aptness. A non-limerent may think that meaningless flirting is wonderful life-affirming stuff – just a little innocent buzz to help them on their way – but to a nucleating limerent it’s a sign of reciprocation. And that means, it could be a prelude to a period of intense and life-negating obsession. The flirt may not have intended for the flirtee to interpret the flirting as an actual move, but it turns out that people aren’t psychic. If you come on to someone in what you think is a sophisticated and nuanced way, carefully balancing hints of your attraction against clear statements as to how attached you are to your SO, you may be intending to say “I am a good flirt. I like you, I think you’re attractive, and I want you to know that, but I don’t intend to have sex with you for complicated reasons unrelated to your inherent attractiveness.” It’s not really their fault if they instead hear “I want you, but my SO is a barrier.” The whole premise of “good flirting” is that you can accurately predict the mental state of someone that you presumably don’t know very well (we rarely flirt with old friends). I’m sure that will end brilliantly.
As I said at the outset: a bit humourless. I admit I am conflicted about this one myself. In an ideal world, everyone should be wonderfully enlightened and emotionally resilient and take flirting in a positive and light-hearted way. People shouldn’t worry that smiling at someone they like might inadvertently set them off into a painful limerent spiral. But the dismissive claim that flirting is harmless really pisses me off. What people mean when they say that is “I want to do it, so I want to think it’s harmless”. It isn’t, always. Sometimes it’s playing with fire, and that’s because it’s playing with other people’s feelings.
And while we’re attacking flirting, let’s not forget the unsophisticated flirts. God knows, they are the majority. Flirting here is not meant as a beneficent gesture of admiration, it’s a play. It’s a way of gauging interest, while having plausible deniability that anything more was intended. And some people (perhaps, especially, non-limerents) have learned that it is an effective dragnet for catching limerents. Send out signals of interest and reciprocation, and sometimes you can snare a nucleating limerent. The real sociopaths have also learned that once they’ve charmed a limerent, their new piece of ass seems to have an inordinate attachment to them, and can be readily manipulated by a bit of uncertainty – such as flirting with other people in front of them. Power trip.
Flirting can be good, can be carefully and safely executed, and can be a positive experience for both parties. But it requires both parties to be playing nicely, and to be robust enough to weather the potential emotional consequences of things going a bit wrong. So, is there a way of spotting “good flirting” as a recipient, and spotting safe people to flirt with? Well, from the perspective of a limerent, it’s incredibly risky to flirt with someone that you’ve felt the glimmer for, unless you are willing to either get-it-on with the potential LO (and are therefore flirting with meaning), or deal with the consequences of a slide down the slippery slope into reverie. Similarly, if someone starts flirting with you – and you are likely to have to interact with that person in the future – be attentive to the little hints as to the kind of flirt they are. Do they flirt with everyone? If so, they are either a bit socially heedless, or actively seeking narcissistic supply.
Either way, be aware that this is not someone whose reciprocation is a sign that they have particularly connected with you, for your particular merits. Also, this is someone that is likely to play havoc with your limerent uncertainty, as they merrily sparkle at all-comers, even in your company.
Alternatively, is this somebody that is normally a fairly undemonstrative person, who happens to light up when talking with you, and is showing signs of anxiety and/or arousal? (These could be: fidgeting with hair or jewelry, alternating between prolonged eye contact and looking anywhere but at you, laughing nervously, voice shaking, etc.) If so, you may be flirting with a limerent. Tread carefully.
Like anything, ultimately it’s a cost-benefit decision that depends on context and mood. Deciding whether or not to flirt is best done from a position of self-awareness about your own emotional landscape, coupled with the certainty that you cannot predict how the other person will react and that it’s foolish to blame them for not reading your mind and guessing your intent.
So. Flirting. It’s complicated for limerents.
“Flirting here is not meant as a beneficent gesture of admiration, it’s a play. It’s a way of gauging interest, while having plausible deniability that anything more was intended. ”
I have to admit that I’m guilty of this one, especially with women I’ve seen a hint of glimmer with. The thing is, I tend to use it as a kind of threat assessment. If they respond, they may be a threat and I need to watch out. If they don’t, they’re not a threat.
With LO #4, I’d already assessed her as non-threatening based on we were both in relationships, we’d never actually met, and we were geographically separated. I would say we bantered more than flirted. What I didn’t realize was that it was leading me into an emotional affair. I met 2/3 of the criteria for one and I think the only reason it wasn’t more was because of the geographical separation. I’d like to think that if I had actual contact, I’d have identified her as a threat earlier.
Since I’ve been on the site and things are making sense, I encountered a PLO. I’ve known this woman for about 10 years and I see her several times/year professionally. She has the glimmer and is a former “damsel in distress.” The only thing better than a damsel in distress is a former one. When she took the conversation into a direction that fed the glimmer, this time I recognized it and didn’t go along. It will be interesting to see if it happens the next I see her.
Yeah, it’s fascinating isn’t it, when you can get to that stage of observing your own reactions, and recognise the limerence patterns kicking in? Very useful for taking action early to stop the slide.
I also met up with my last LO recently, because of work. It was fine, but it’s got me wondering again if it’s ever possible to get over an LO fully without consummation. That glimmer is always there, waiting to be reignited.
I think you can get over them without consummation. But, it depends on where you draw the line between a PLO and an actual LO. It may also depend on things like the duration of the LE and how it ended. If the ending was one-sided, it might be harder. If the parting was mutual, it might be easier. Also, I think disclosure might affect it. If you disclosed, there’s far less reason to hang on.
LO #3 removed the uncertainty early on extinguishing the LE. She could have been a clone of LO #2 but she offered no hope. I was limerent but she didn’t play along. So, was she a PLO or a real LO?
With LO #4, working with the therapist identified the nature of my attraction to her. Once I understood that, the glimmer faded. She’s still an attractive, intelligent, charming woman with a delightfully snarky sense of humor but I’m not available and I know what drew me to her.
Were that to change, maybe the glimmer would return but I think I know too much now for that to happen.
Interesting to categorise as “PLO” (potential limerent object?). That’s what I mean about can you ever get over an LO? I agree that becoming non-limerent for LO is definitely possible (see posts ad nauseum!) but the idea is that the potential for slipping back into limerence is always there. Does the glimmer reveal a fundamental emotional/psychological complementarity that can be managed, but not eliminated? An LO can shift to PLO status, but not a neutral friend or acquaintance.
I read an article that said if you have to put up boundaries, alter your feelings, or at some level want something more, it’s not a platonic relationship.
For me, once that djinni was out of the bottle, I couldn’t be a neutral friend or acquaintance with an LO. The shields would always have to be up. When I look at my life, the only woman friend I really have is the wife of my best friend. I’ve known them for decades. There are a number of people I regularly play golf with and grab a beer with. None of them are women.
When we were first married, LO #3, who might be classified as a nascent LO in one of the other blogs, wanted to socialize with my wife and I as a couple with her new husband. When I told my wife we’d been invited to a party, she asked, “Did you ever sleep with her?” I said, “No.” (true) My wife said, “OK, then.”
Can the glimmer be managed but not eliminated? When I look at my LOs, I’d have to say the answer is “Yes, it can be managed but not eliminated.” I still am interested in what the LOs I’ve known are up to but I have no desire to re-engage any of them. I have no place for them in my life but they all had an effect on me. I’m curious as to how they fared.
I think it would be lovely if all flirting was saved for ones very own SO or if one is not attached, someone with real potential to be a SO.
Flirting is like a a knife, when used properly can be quite useful (for example, making SO feel desirable) but when used improperly can cause emotional wounds that can take years to heal and often leave ugly scars.
James Afourkeeff says
I love your knife analogy jaideux, it is spot on! I might extend the analogy with water or fire, things that are vital to life, but can obviously kill you if you don’t respect them.
James Afourkeeff says
This post cuts straight to heart of my particular experience with limerence, but before I begin, there are specific details that apply to me, individually, that may not apply to other limerents:
• I am single, never married, and have no children.
• I have never consummated a single satisfying relationship, to date.
• I am currently 54, and my first LE occurred at age 4 (in preschool).
• I am strongly suspected of being a high-functioning autistic, and as a result –
• I have an exceptional autobiographical memory
I should first point out that not all flirts make me limerent. Sometimes flirting can be repulsive; it totally depends on their approach and who it is coming from!
In my introductory post, on “Resolving to recover”, I kind of dropped a ham-handed bomb in the middle of a thoughtful conversation. My last LE ended in TOTAL humiliation because I disclosed: I lost my job, I lost all of the friends I made at work, I lost my income, I lost my health insurance, and above all, I lost a lot of my self confidence – not to mention my LO. How do things like this keep happening to me?
As a limerent, I have always avoided flirting myself, because I am acutely aware that I could give others the wrong impression. There is no doubt in my mind that I project a propensity for limerence onto others – which is probably why I am so devastated and confused when a LO shows such “strong interest” (reciprocation), and then, inexplicably, turns it off like flipping off a light switch!
“. . . one of the reasons that I would enjoy a flirty woman letting me know they would like to have sex with me, is that it happens very rarely.”
Or . . . past life events have led me to believe that I am basically unattractive to everyone, let alone to attractive members of the opposite sex. So when a bona fide LO lands in my life like and exploding meteorite, I am totally amenable to anything that I perceive they may want – and that is a monumental understatement.
“If you come on to someone in what you think is a sophisticated and nuanced way, carefully balancing hints of your attraction against clear statements as to how attached you are to your SO, you may be intending to say ‘I am a good flirt. I like you, I think you’re attractive, and I want you to know that, but I don’t intend to have sex with you for complicated reasons unrelated to your inherent attractiveness.’ It’s not really their fault if they instead hear ‘I want you, but my SO is a barrier.’”
So . . . what if LO is telling one or your good friends that she is “separated and seeking a divorce”, and openly complaining to everyone that works with us, that she is in an unsatisfying and abusive marriage . . . but she seems to be too ashamed to tell me? I took this to be indirect communication.
I may have been partly responsible for initiating my last LE myself. LO was a new low level manager I had definitely “noticed”, but had seen only very briefly twice before; she could have easily been a TV or magazine model. Early on, one day, I saw her when I was passing through a workspace, and I spontaneously and unintentionally gave her a big smile, which is something I almost never do to anyone! Next time I saw her, she just stood there and leered at me with this big beaming lascivious grin, which I was totally unprepared for. I think even a nonlimerent would have been emotionally ambushed if this happened to them.
“If someone starts flirting with you – and you are likely to have to interact with that person in the future – be attentive to the little hints as to the kind of flirt they are.”
It wasn’t until I was hopelessly hooked that I saw LO displaying dalliance with just about everybody; she was apparently on some kind of manic high. It was reminiscent of the kind of manic highs that I displayed in my youth when I came into contact with someone very interesting to me. (At the time, I thought it was because of me; and to this day, I cannot objectively rule it out. Something obviously changed between then and the day I disclosed.) It was about four months after LO started work at our store that it was announced that our current supervisor of our little department was leaving the job and would be replaced by, gulp, HER! Once she took over the department, her flirting calmed down somewhat. At least she wasn’t looking me straight in the eye and squeezing her boobs together with her arms, and moaning like she was starting to orgasm, as she passed me in the back hallway anymore – shock, anyone?
One of the good things about being an INTP is that I don’t see when people are flirting. I cannot understand or observe it. As far as my mind knows, no-one, not even my wife, has ever flirted with me. Nor have I flirted.
Like, I read plenty about it, but it’s invisible to me.
Dr. L this is one of the most eye popping, knock me on my ass posts on the entire blog, in my opinion. I don’t know how I ever missed it before now. So much truth. For instance:
“If you come on to someone in what you think is a sophisticated and nuanced way, carefully balancing hints of your attraction against clear statements as to how attached you are to your SO, you may be intending to say “I am a good flirt. I like you, I think you’re attractive, and I want you to know that, but I don’t intend to have sex with you for complicated reasons unrelated to your inherent attractiveness.” It’s not really their fault if they instead hear “I want you, but my SO is a barrier.”
Sadly, I heard the latter when my glimmer experience first occurred, sort of like a distress signal. Why couldn’t I have just seen it was the former?
A question I am wrestling with, and which relates somewhat to Scharnhorst’s comment (and article he references about platonic friendship), is this: why are some people (read: my LO) so goddamn comfortable with barriers? And more importantly, my am I suddenly so willing to remove or ignore those barriers? I say that because I am happily married nearly 20 years and now suddenly I find myself shockingly willing to totally betray my SO if only LO would go along. Alas, she is just a flirt I suppose. But a flirt who admitted attraction to me after I disclosed. But make no mistake she is the one who is halting things from moving further. I am “flirting with meaning” I guess. I get that she is not limerent so she doesn’t experience the depth of what I’m feeling. But how can she sit there and flirt, knowing how I feel, and just be so comfortable pretending and playing games? Please help me understand this. I have been tortured for weeks with this one question. What makes some people comfortable with barriers and others not, in the context of flirting?
B – I don’t I think I have an answer but just a theory. I think some people use barriers as safety nets to flirt, they know they can throw innuendos across the bow , get a little tingle and not be held accountable.
My LO is a big flirt, he loves playing with words and dropping light hearted innuendos throughout his conversation with anyone in our friendship group. With me he always amped up the innuendo because he would generally get a response from me, if he over stepped my boundaries I would just blush and he’d smirk and push harder but as I got to know him better I’d answer back which usually resulted in a verbal ping-pong match. Later on in our “friendship” he’d add “looks” to his repertoire which I’d label as non verbal flirting, catching my eye often and smiling even if we were on opposite ends of the room, holding my gaze, staring intently at my face while I talked to someone else (that used to really make me feel uncomfortable), letting his eyes wander over my body. I think the barriers of our mutual SOs made him comfortable and daring because he knew I’d never act on the attraction, he was safe and he got a naughty thrill as reward. He enjoyed making me squirm and the sexual chemistry between us at times was so intense that I’ve had people ask me if there was something going on between us.
Like you I was prepared to chuck my 20 + marriage under the bus for a roll in the hay with him but he resisted going that extra step and I wasn’t willing to over step that final boundary. I am not sure what would’ve happened had I flung myself in his arms, I am assuming rejection? He probably would’ve pretended that I’d misunderstood? I’ll never know and I’ll never ask.
In the end his SO put a stop to all the shenanigans and we are N/C like two naughty reprimanded school kids who are no longer allowed to play together.
B, I think some people have empathy and self – awareness and don’t toy with others feelings for sport. Others don’t care if they ultimately cause pain by their mixed signals (flirting). They lack the compassion chip, the ability to imagine how they are making other people feel and the long term suffering they may cause and if it is indeed an act of disloyalty to their spouse. They think it’s fun, and it makes them feel good, and that’s all they really care about.
I get that for some LOs, but she really REALLY seems to be a genuine, compassionate person. She cares about other people and doesn’t seem narcissistic at all to me. Those last two words being operative I know. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong in my LE induced fog. Is there another explanation I wonder for LOs who don’t fit the narcissist mold? And why I am I so suddenly willing to cast barriers aside (or ignore them)? Is it because I am now in midlife? I’ve flirted before in my married life but it never resulted in actually desiring an extramarital affair, with feelings of rejection/no self worth if I don’t get to have it.
Vicarious Limerent says
I think it just has to do with people’s moral code. Some people have stronger moral fibre than others. Nevertheless, I don’t think mildly flirtatious behaviour is all that bad, even in a committed relationship. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be attractive and being attracted to others. As the saying goes, “I’m married, not dead.”
@B, “Sadly, I heard the latter when my glimmer experience first occurred, sort of like a distress signal. Why couldn’t I have just seen it was the former?” Would you say the difference between the former and the latter is sort of: “I want you but I’m choosing not to cross barriers” vs. “I want you but I can’t cross barriers”?
“What makes some people comfortable with barriers and others not, in the context of flirting?” I guess that’s exactly the difference between a limerent and a non-limerent? She doesn’t know how it feels to be limerent. But I believe, as Jaideux wrote, if you told her how you feel, she should stop the flirting.
@Lee-Anne: so beautifully described. “I am not sure what would’ve happened had I flung myself in his arms, I am assuming rejection? He probably would’ve pretended that I’d misunderstood? I’ll never know and I’ll never ask.” OUCH! I’ll frame that one to shake me awake from daydreaming…
“Would you say the difference between the former and the latter is sort of: “I want you but I’m choosing not to cross barriers” vs. “I want you but I can’t cross barriers”?”
The ‘former’ in the blog post to me sounds like, “I want you and I am conflicted and I can’t deal with that conflict because I love my SO, so rather than torture myself, I’m choosing not to cross barriers.”
The ‘latter’ is, I suppose, “I want you, but not that much; my SO barrier means I have no feelings like that for anyone else and you should have known that; you are just a friend to me who happens to be attractive.”
The latter fits nicely into the discussion of “why wasn’t I good enough” that Dr. L wrote about several weeks ago. I constantly beat myself up over this. Why wasn’t I good enough to get LO to make a terrible decision to betray her SO? God that’s so messed up.
I heard it as the former because what I want more than anything (even more than an affair), is to be understood by LO. I want her to share these same limerent feelings. I want a partner in my misery. I can’t tell anyone, least of all SO. I just want reassurance that LO is struggling with her feelings as I am.
Agree. I think reminding yourself and your partner that you are attractive to others and they the same means you see them through another’ s eyes and you don’ t take them for granted. In fact I think it s key to a long lasting relationship. It s also an ego boost and makes you feel sexy which you bring back to your couple and your love making. Flirting with other people as long as your partner feels safe you won ‘ t act on it and you are not embarrassing them is definitely great for a couple. Esther Perel wrote about this at length in ‘ the state of affairs’.
Miss Anon says
B, based on your later comment are you saying your intent would be something ‘extra’ to your marriage? Maybe your LO is genuine as you say and is interested but doesn’t want to go further because she will get hurt (you don’t seem to have any intention to end your relationship to try a new one) and doesn’t want to do the wrong thing. In a way I am replying because your comment reminded me of my LO. My feelings were genuine and so I still trying to get over it.. but maybe you can learn from my mistakes, where it became disclosures not just flirting anymore.
I’ve never thought of it like that. Thank you. Yes, when I say extramarital affair, I mean an elicit, sexual relationship with someone other than my SO. And I could only admit that to the anonymity of this community. But i do love my SO and have a great marriage, despite that admission above that I’m sure makes me look like a total asshole. LO told me she is happy in her marriage too. But I see what you’re saying about her not wanting to get hurt because she knows deep down I would never leave my SO and family for her, which is true.
By the way, when i disclosed to LO, one of the things she said was that it was a mutual crush but that neither of us should ruin our lives over it. I envy her ability to be rational.
If your LO is a non limerent then she can probably enjoy flirting with you when you’re together, but then forget all about you when home with her SO. She may have an ability to compartmentalise her life that limerents just don’t have. We get home and ruminate, take it out on the SO, kids etc.
To them flirting is a nice harmless activity, something to alleviate the humdrum of life and they probably assume everyone else feels the same way. If they are of good character they would be appalled if they knew the effect it had on us limerents. If they are narcissistic, then probably not….
B – “I just want reassurance that LO is struggling with her feelings as I am.”
I totally get what you mean, wouldn’t it be nice if we had a dial we could turn so that LO could feel our level of rejection and hurt. And that’s the crux of your problem isn’t it, you disclosed, she affirmed she felt the same, however while she happily skipped away with her emotions intact while still giving you the “come on” you are left behind with the emotional fall out. I get why you are angry, I feel the same towards my LO, why is it so easy for him to walk away while I am a blubbering mess. To be honest, I don’t know what he’s feeling, perhaps his feelings are equally strong for me and to make sure he’s not tempted he’s gone N/C, or his SO could’ve given him an ultimatum, get rid of her or else, but it could also be “meh, it was fun while it lasted, now she’s getting a bit too attached I best let it go”.
I wish I knew, but part of me doesn’t want to know.
In my fantasy world I would’ve loved LO to ambush me after N/C and declare he has feelings for me and can’t stay away but has to for his family’s sake.
But we all know that will never happen.
Song of the Day: “Go To The Mirror” – The Who (1969)
You may have to change the gender for your LO.
“I often wonder what (s)he is feeling
Has (s)he ever heard a word I’ve said?
Look at him (her) in the mirror dreaming
What is happening in his (her) head?
What is happening in his (her) head
Ooooh I wish I knew, I wish I knew”
Yes I wish there was a dial. Or better yet an LED billboard over her head that would show me anytime what she is feeling about me. The thing you said about wishing you knew but part of you not wanting to know — I know Dr L has written before that being comfortable with the not knowing is one of the keys to beating limerence. I think about that all the time. I still suck at it.
Your last sentence- why won’t it? Why do we all know that? I also dwell on something else Dr L says: affairs are a thing. Divorce is a thing. I get to a place sometimes where I’m actually jealous of other people’s lives falling apart. Why should they get to taste the affair poison and I can’t? Why is it impossible that your LO won’t ever come back and profess his feelings? Or my LO doing the same? How do all these other people out there have affairs? Luck? BS.
Thank you for understanding.
Scharnhorst- that’s a very apt song of the day!!!
B – “Why is it impossible that your LO won’t ever come back and profess his feelings?”
Because it would mean that he has no integrity or family values, the two non physical things I find most attractive about him. If he were to profess his feelings I would be torn, one part of me would be euphoric that I finally got reciprocation while the other part of me would be disappointed that he broke the trust of his SO to confess feelings to me he has no business confessing to me.
It’s that inner struggle that keeps me in limerence orbit for him, the fight between my own moral compass and what I want. The urge to break the morality code and throw caution to the wind is very strong for me on some days, almost like a strong magnet, but my fear of rejection by LO or reciprocation is what stops me from acting out.
I guess it’s what stops my life from turning into an irreversible train wreck.
Vicarious Limerent says
@ Lee-Anne: I have very similar feelings about my LO. One of the things I really like about her is her decency and morality. I am not a cheater and she is not a homewrecker. If I thought there was a chance she would entertain having an affair, I would think much less highly of her. Even if she threw herself at me, I would have to refuse her (although it would take every ounce of willpower I have). One of the major differences between me and many other commenters on here with SOs is I have a strained marriage that I am not sure is going to work out (although I do love my wife). I can’t imagine feeling the pangs of limerence and the sense of pining away for someone while in a completely happy, healthy, committed relationship. While I would never cheat on my wife, all bets are off if we ever formally separated. Rightly or wrongly, I would make a beeline for my LO if that ever happened after a pretty short period of time (provided she was still available and was able to see my brother in-law just isn’t into her). The thing is my wife actually knows this (which can’t be a pleasant thought for her). Still, my wife and I are really going to try to work things out. She has agreed to counselling, although she really firmly believes the problem is mine and only mine (she doesn’t seem to get that marriage counselling isn’t necessarily about laying fault or blame and that she hasn’t been perfect either).
@Lee-Anne’s March 21 comment,
That makes sense. I wonder if my disclosure had that effect on LO. Maybe things would have played out differently had I kept my mouth shut and we just continued to slowly, steadily get closer and more familiar with each other with our flirting. Maybe we would have organically gotten to the point of an EA or PA by now. But I wouldn’t have lasted that long. I was boiling over with emotions and thought I was actually losing my sanity. That’s why I disclosed. Maybe that killed whatever possibility there was in LO’s mind that there might one day be something between us. She lost respect for me. Now I’m just a morally-compromised guy to her who she used to find attractive, but now I’m just icky. And perhaps she is a narcissist after all, by continuing to keep me around to boost her own self-esteem because she knows I’m helplessly infatuated with her. Time and again I have tried to back off, signaling to her that I have decided to move on. She has such power over me though. I hate this so much.
There’s also the factor that unspoken feelings have all this latent potential, and some LOs like the mystery – it adds a fantasy element to things. It’s gratifying to have a “backup option” limerent interested in them, but once a declaration has been made, the LO now has a problem to deal with rather than an ego-flattering Secret Understanding.
In a previous post I called these folks the “need plausible deniability LOs”. Once you make them acknowledge what’s going on, they withdraw.
B, Lee-Ann…am enjoying your discussion as can relate so much. Thinking around the uncertainty drives me crazy!
In my rare lucid moments, I just decide to make my truth the following: 1) LO really likes me 2) He wants his SO NOT me hence he ignores, avoids or is cool/distant with me a lot 3) But he really likes me so he doesn’t really want me off his radar completely and occasionally his resolve weakens and he gives in to his desire for my attention. I do the same so this just makes him human and certainly not a narcissist or lacking in moral fibre.
I try to explain away all LO behaviour to fit this model and this approach seems to prevent too many reactive downers. My recovery challenge therefore is to accept his rejection, respect his choices (no. 2 above), and follow his example by pursuing my own recovery, but with compassion not anger.
Saying that, in my many more less-than-lucid moments, I desperately want to charm & corrupt him utterly and for us both to decide “bah…who needs integrity anyway!” 🙂
I think if he disclosed to me, I wouldn’t think at all badly of him to be honest.
B, you disclosing just took the uncertainty for her away and sort of forced her to face the reality of that. She could no longer pretend that you’re just a nice friendly guy with no feelings for her. Disclosing made that black and white.
I don’t think you’d have eased into an EA or PA without disclosing. She would have just kept you on the hook, justifying it to herself that there’s nothing there, nothing for her to worry. So don’t beat yourself up over having disclosed. And that also doesn’t mean that she thinks badly of you. All you did was give it to her black in white that you have feelings for her. That’s all.
Yep, the “needs plausible deniability LO” is my LO exactly. Scary accurate in fact. I still recall that blog post. Very well written.
”you disclosing just took the uncertainty for her away and sort of forced her to face the reality of that.”
I think you’re exactly right. Do you remember months ago a comment I made about giving my LO gifts and she eventually told me that although she likes them that I had to stop because it was getting “too scary?” I struggled with that (Thinking I had come off as a creep or something) and I recall you tried to help me understand maybe what she meant. I think the quote above fits nicely with that. After disclosure things were weird for a while but slowly started getting friendly and flirty again. I think the gift giving thing sort of meant that she was being forced to face that reality again and she wasn’t comfortable with that. I think that’s basically what you told me then and what you’re saying now.
If I’m a creep to her, why doesn’t she just run away, report me, etc? She has done nothing of the sort. I think she just has better self awareness than I. She knows how far she can let herself get before things are out of control. I envy that. I passed that point long ago.
B, what kind of person “knows how far she can let herself get before things are out of control?”. This is premeditated act…teasing and toying with another persons fragile heart. Never envy such cruel behaviour! That’s what most limerents have about them, a sort of innocence and lack of contrived manipulation…we are kind of childlike that way…which makes us very vulnerable but also quite precious, in my opinion. I would never want to be so cold hearted that I would keep someone “on a string” for my own selfish reasons.
“Never envy such cruel behaviour! That’s what most limerents have about them, a sort of innocence and lack of contrived manipulation…we are kind of childlike that way…which makes us very vulnerable but also quite precious, in my opinion. I would never want to be so cold hearted that I would keep someone “on a string” for my own selfish reasons.”
@Jaideux. Thank you for writing this. I was feeling a little sad today, and this may me feel a lot better.
“That’s what most limerents have about them, a sort of innocence and lack of contrived manipulation…we are kind of childlike that way…which makes us very vulnerable but also quite precious, in my opinion.”
If that’s true, I’m in the minority. I’ve been told that I can be “irresistibly cute ” but never innocent or naive. A college friend said I was “…cold, calculating, mercenary, and possess low animal cunning.” My XO on the sub thought I’d make a great Weapons Officer. He said, “You have just enough sneaky son-of-a-bitch in you to shove a torpedo up someone’s a– and they’d never know what hit them.”
I had a very specific vulnerability that played out as limerence. Limerence isn’t why we behave like we do, limerence is more how we behave under certain circumstances. We’re limerents for one or more reasons.
Also, none of my LOs could be described as innocent or naive. They all seemed to have a pretty good sense of self and what they were doing, but maybe not why their doing it. It added to their appeal. I was attracted to the mildly personality disordered. They reminded me of my mother.
I wouldn’t describe myself as innocent but I am an idealist, and that fits in with limerence in that you idealize the LO and no one else will do. But within the LE … definitely capable of cunning behavior in order land the LO.
I just happened upon this comment thread today, as I rarely drop by here anymore. I noticed that my original comment above was one year ago today. Wow. That’s ironic, as I’m feeling a particular pull toward LO lately. I would say I’ve been out of my LE for a good 6 to 9 months, but I still see her every day.
We are talking more lately and being more friendly. No flirting necessarily, but it is definitely not just work-related talk. She actually brought up something the other day about something we used to do, probably more than a year ago. We would occasionally have a beer together in the office on Friday afternoons after most everyone else had left for the day, which I know is totally unprofessional and stupid. But I enjoyed it. She obviously did too, which is why she just recently brought it up in a “why don’t we do that anymore” kind of way.
I am fearing a relapse coming on but I am determined not to go back down that road. Life has been so healthy lately.
“I know is totally unprofessional and stupid. ”
But wasn’t that why it was fun? 🙂
Passion’s always half impossibility.
(Hat tip to Susan Werner, whose song St. Mary’s of Regret you might not want to play when thinking about an LO).
And impossibility fuels our longing, even for outcomes like affairs that we know are poison.
Clip of the Day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXhkRFCfz8k&list=PL_78XrcH0-YVHq5E4KACbviY5hOezHiiu&index=28 – “Ally McBeal” (1998)
In 1998, I was just starting my MBA program. The cadre was a mix of recent business school grads and mid-career managers. The 20-something women were talking about the show “Ally McBeal.”
To be able to participate in the conversations, I had my wife record it and we’d watch it later. It was hilarious but had a pathos about it. Given our age differences, I had a different perspective on it than she did.
One of the young women in class appeared to take her dating cues from Ally and was trying them on a guy in class. They were no more successful for her than they were for Ally. The guy said he couldn’t figure her out. I told him he should watch the show. A few weeks later, he said I was right. She flunked out of grad school so we never got to see how it all played out.
There are a lot of great clips but this one captures that.
I don’t think flirting always implies an interest in sex with the other party. In fact, I am very good at flirting with people I don’t want to have sex with. Now, when I got around any LO from my past, I become a drooling idiot — I got so nervous, my entire personality went out the window. Whereas the men I might flirt with — that’s just a pleasant exchange of energy, people I enjoy talking to but wouldn’t necessarily want more from even if they were available.
That is a sad truth for me also… I am incapable of flirting with someone I really like, a drooling idiot also sums me up pretty well when around my LO. I can of course flirt with someone I have little or no interest in. Bah!
“I can of course flirt with someone I have little or no interest in. Bah!”
And I stopped flirting with men I had no interest in. I was getting sexually propositioned, and I realized I’d taken it too far, and that is exactly what my LO was doing with me. He just flirted with me for attention. All these guys, including my LO, were married. In my mind, I equated their propositioning with something sleazy and my propositioning of my LO as something much more meaningful … because … they couldn’t begin to understand the depths of my feelings! But it was really all the same.
“Now, when I got around any LO from my past, I become a drooling idiot — I got so nervous, my entire personality went out the window.”
“In my mind, I equated their propositioning with something sleazy and my propositioning of my LO as something much more meaningful … because … they couldn’t begin to understand the depths of my feelings!”
@Marcia. It’s really hard when you like someone and they don’t like you back and yet their behaviour (unhelpful flirting) does seem to encourage ongoing interest on your part. I guess that’s what this article is all about.
Thank goodness my main LO didn’t ask me for much of anything! How would I say no? 😛
“It’s really hard when you like someone and they don’t like you back and yet their behavior (unhelpful flirting) does seem to encourage ongoing interest on your part.”
I definitely think my last LO was interested, but I doubt the depth and extent of it even came close to my interest. And he was never going to do anything about it, anyway, so his interest, at the end of the day, meant nothing. For my birthday one year, all I wanted was for him to remember it, which he did. (It’s in the summer.) And having that wish granted, I got greedy for my Christmas wish … for him to show up at my apartment with a bow on his head and not much else … of course that never happened. 🙂
“I definitely think my last LO was interested, but I doubt the depth and extent of it even came close to my interest.”
@Marcia. Mismatched levels of interest. Got it.
“And having that wish granted, I got greedy for my Christmas wish … for him to show up at my apartment with a bow on his head and not much else … of course that never happened. 🙂”
That is too funny. But a gal is allowed to dream. 😛
Article of the Day; https://www.forbes.com/sites/russalanprince/2013/07/23/the-high-art-of-low-cunning/?sh=7e42527a7915
It’s not all that much of a stretch to apply this to flirting.
Thank you, Dr. L, for this excellent and timely post! I say this bc I’m recently divorced from a long marriage. Haven’t dated since the ’90s. I am in my 60s, but I look younger, and I believe I am attractive. However!! I was laying by the pool at my apt building a few months ago when the Door Dash guy walked by, looking for apt something or other. It was extremely warm outside and he was sweating. He was saying how he wanted to go swimming right then in the pool with me. This is a handsome guy in his 30s, tops. Me, not really thinking, was like, “Yeah, come swimming!” He said, “I’m off work in 20 minutes and I’ll be back to swim with a beautiful woman.” I was like “Cool!”, but I never thought he actually would come back. I left the pool area and went back to my place. I went to my yard to hang my towel up, and there he was turning the corner and saw the towel! I swear, I was scared when he was pounding on my door aggressively and then left a somewhat creepy note at my door with his #. Ugh!!
Believe it or not, I just moved to another apt. I have a landlady that I must say is kind of a druggie and old woman with no teeth, but I’ve lived here for over 20 years, and it is rural, so I guess I’m used to it. I had no idea that when I gave her the time of day when she would be WAITING for me to come home that I was encouraging obsession and limerence in someone I just wouldn’t have figured would begin texting aggressive texts at midnight. (She is the apt manager). Her message to me was: You all right???? I was concerned at first that someone was trying to break in. I replied “Yes, I’m fine. Are you okay?” bc she is toxic and had 3 truck tires slashed. Instead of replying to me, she instead texted: “You sure???” Run outside when I come home and block my entrance so I have to speak with her. She then phoned me a few hours later, and I let her know that she was making me feel uncomfortable and that I love men. I asked her to please stop noting my comings and goings and that she was the manager and that I am the tenant. Instead of denying her feelings or explaining her behavior, she ignored me.
Long story short, I have no idea what someone is thinking! I am warm and responsive and attractive….I think everyone is better than me and that no one is really attracted to me. But they are! I saw my own (projected) desperation of wanting this ray of sunshine to save me from my miserable existence! That was the vibe I have been getting from her. It’s like I can’t be myself bc I do have kind of a magnetic personality and I don’t want others to have limerence like I have spent every decade in since the 80s, at least some of the decade! Thanks
Most of what I read about flirting makes sense from a rational perspective, but unfortunately I am incapable of actually doing it. No matter what anyone tells me, I just cannot actually *express* interest in women I’m sexually attracted to so nothing ever happens. I have lots of male friends who like me, are very introverted and shy, etc., but most of them have been able to attract women on a sexual level. Despite much effort and numerous attempts however, I just can’t do it. I go out to the same places they do, talk to women (at least I try), but nothing ever happens. I‘ve asked my male and female friends what they think my problem(s) might be – they all say I need to actually express interest – but as much as I want to, I just can’t. There appears to be no remedy for this other than to accept, and learn to cope with, the fact that I will never experience authentic intimacy. And no, I won’t pay for it.
If you can’t flirt, then just be direct. Tell whatever woman you are talking to that you enjoyed meeting her and ask for her number.
Try to give her sincere compliments. If she is beautiful, tell her. Listen to her. Care about her feelings.