Some people have all the luck. You know the ones, always seem to have someone on their arm. Sometimes several someones at once (probably not literally). Although they appear outwardly normal, there’s something magnetic about them that draws people in. The sort of people that have Intrigues.
One might call it charisma. Whatever It is, they seem to have it. The X factor.
As ever, we’ll look at this from the perspective of limerence, so our definition of the X factor is going to be “able to provoke limerence in many people.” Can we figure out, from what we know about limerence, why some people may be especially addictive?
Probably not, but here’s a few unsubstantiated theories that seem truthy!
1) They play the numbers game
Some people love to flirt. They sparkle at everyone. This could be innocent, but could also be due to narcissitic tendencies. Either way, a consequence of this is that they basically trawl for limerents. Anyone vulnerable to their charms gets captured by their flirtation carpet-bombing and duped into thinking that reciprocation has occurred. Possibly not even duped. Within this framework there’s plenty of scope for the broad-spectrum LO to be equally indiscriminate sexually, further snaring the limerent into nucleation.
So, these folks appear to have amazing powers of charisma, but are actually playing a high volume/ low conversation rate game. Anyone who has fallen for one of these players knows the heartache of being limerent for a narrow-margins romance speculator. Exclusivity is a hopeless dream.
2) They are human slot machines
I’ve written before about the power of intermittent rewards. We’re hardwired for this. Gambling companies understand it beautifully and optimise their slot machines to time payouts and losses just right to keep us hooked. The uncertainty of intermittent reward is a major part of limerence. Do they like me? Sometimes it’s wonderful and they are loving and flirty and seem to be enraptured with me. Other times they are aloof. Cold even. They can make me feel elated and devastated. What do they want?
In popular vernacular, this is the “treat ’em mean keep ’em keen” strategy, and it works a treat with unsuspecting limerents. For those that want to arm themselves against it: the most effective hook for gamblers is to give a big win in the early stages of interest, and then to progressively increase the time to the next payout (and decrease its size), but keeping a semi-random element to it to prevent a pattern being recognised. With limerence, this would be a period of love-bombing at the start of an affair, followed by progressive decreases in the time and attention given once the limerent is hooked, but with occasional, unpredictable, grand gestures to keep you off balance.
I’m not saying this is all some awful plan and the world is full of limerence predators – often it is just subconscious learned behaviour on the LO’s part too. But that’s not much consolation if it’s your heart they’re breaking.
3) They are archetypes
We all have certain personal triggers that determine who we become limerent for and how frequently. These may well be determined in childhood or adolescence and so non-trivial to uncover in adulthood. However, it doesn’t seem much of a stretch to assume that many of us will have triggers in common; that we will respond to common cues. Some people may exhibit these cues in abundance. There may be a class of “limerence archetypes” that are psychologically attractive to many people because they represent a behavioural or physical type that is evocative of the Ideal Mate.
Us limerent moths circle these blessed/cursed souls relentlessly, drawn inexorably towards their archetypal flame.
4) They are just inherently gorgeous and good.
Finally, there may be some people who are LO’s because of their overwhelming goodness. It would be nice to think so. I wish you all the luck in the world in finding one!
Oooooh this is a good post. My last LO was all of these things…just showering everyone in his path and even off the beaten track with so much thoughtfulness and generosity and complements….strangers would melt within minutes when his fixed his gaze upon them and turned on the charm. I always thought “But I really don’t mind as I am the special and favorite one and all of his grand gestures and gifts and daily calls prove that! “. Turns out, not so much. He had a favorites that were even more favorite than me.
(How can it be?)
(How ever did he find the time?)
When you realize you are one of many, and not even at the top of the list, you are stunned, and it kind of knocks the wind out of you.
How true these words of Dr. L :
“I’m not saying this is all some awful plan and the world is full of limerence predators – often it is just subconscious learned behaviour on the LO’s part too. But that’s not much consolation if it’s your heart they’re breaking.”
So true. Heart is broken and shields now up. I shall never, ever fall under the spell of one these types again! (Hopefully).
I am a case study in this post DrL. Oddly enough, I didn’t pay much attention to this particular blog item when I first started coming here, but it’s the one that seems to describe my experience most accurately. Maybe there was never any real reciprocation after all. Ouch.
I recently started some therapy, and the concept of “love addiction” came up, and how rumination can sometimes be a self soothing mechanism or coping strategy. She recommended the book: Facing Love Addiction by Pia Mellody.
catcity13 I am sure there was some reciprocation….I really feel that most LO’s know what they are doing on some level, and as we are addicted to them, they are addicted to the idea of us being addicted to them and want to keep us addicted as long as it is convenient for them. And plus, we are likable people! 🙂
It’s probably not a conscious evil plan they have, it’s subconscious….but they refuse to really think about how their cruel behavior is hurting anyone, after all, we seem so happy and smiley when with them! So it’s must be ok!
My LO recently complained to a mutual friend about the fact that I had gone NC. He said “What have I done wrong”?
Giant eye roll.
I hope therapy is helping you and please share what you learn!
My Limerent Brain Is An Idiot says
“Giant eye roll.”
Jaideaux, if you’re as funny/interesting in person as you are in blog posts, I’m glad that I don’t have to deal with you face-to-face.
One LO is enough for this lifetime.
Even my idiot limerent brain isn’t THAT big of an idiot.
Awww MLBI, thanks! 🙂
But evidently I am not or my ‘former’ LO would have been limerent for me, which would deactivate MY limerence more than likely and then I could become a free agent! Wait…I actually am a free agent! (Repeats to self over and over).
“My LO recently complained to a mutual friend about the fact that I had gone NC. He said “What have I done wrong”?”
You are one of his Ego Chow dispensers and he has noticed that he isn’t getting as many daily kibbles.
I have no doubt that you are High Quality Kibble – no cheap filler! So be more discerning. He is all about quantity, not quality. Screw that noise.
Lee, I just love your sensible and unsentimental posts. You balance us raving lunatic limerents out quite nicely! I am proud to tell you I have been NC now for about 3 months (ignoring calls and texts) and today got a text hoping I ‘am well’. I haven’t responded and think it’s best I do not.
I wish I could take credit for it. I shameless stole that from Chump Lady.
So glad you’re resisting the siren song.
@Lee. I just love the concepts of “ego chow dispensers” and “High Quality Kibble” as you use them here! Genius! 🙂
Limerent Limerick says
Hey Dr. L,
This is a great post, so terrifyingly and yet reassuringly accurate. I’m currently struggling with someone who definitely ticks the second box regarding the intermittent reward thing, and it’s pretty brutal. He’s got me tied up in knots, and my heart has been breaking since he started to withdraw several months ago after an initial period of love bombing. And yet, occasionally I will receive some poetic text wishing me eternal peace and serenity, usually right as Im in the midst of stewing over the fact that he hasn’t responded to my text from 3 days ago.
Why does he do it? I’m interested by what you say, that this could be subconscious learning on the LO’s part…care to comment on what they have actually “learned” here? What’s their subconscious game?
I can’t decide whether to feel sorry for or envious of people who have this need/ability to seduce everyone they encounter. I’m quality over quantity, but he seems to be just the opposite. But I’m not sure he’s really happy living that way…
You should read this… https://pairedlife.com/dating/intermittentreinforcement
Wow. That’s like a manipulation how to manual!
I guess Lucy decided to use her knowledge of neuroscience in a slightly different way to me!
My Limerent Brain Is An Idiot says
Yeah, that’s some next-level toxicity there. I’d be so frustrated if I was with somebody who was doing that intentionally to me so that I’d be kept constantly off-balance.
I know it’s a bit uncomforting to read if you’ve been the other person!
I have to confess, I was in a situation where I started a new job and there was this one guy (knew it all, a bit condescending to others, and fairly rude) and I consciously decided not to answer or behave like he was used to based on his behavior. I was as “rude and condescending” in a way that it raised his interest (not in a romantic kind of way). Also, he wasn’t used to be spoken to like this by a woman. I started to realize that it worked and in chats and emails I really did change sentences to something I wouldn’t usually say and consciously changed it to something self-centered and putting myself on a pedestal. I did raise his interest as far as he actually wanted to start to coach me professionally. We do have a good working relationship now (and of course nothing romantically intended ever on both sides). What I am trying to say is that I really realized and first hand noticed how I had to change my behavior and see what effect it immediately had and that was a very interesting “case” for me.
If one reads the comments following the article, Lucy admits the advice in her article is sort of tongue-in-cheek and intended for serially-unlucky-in-love daters. She concedes extreme hot-and-cold behaviour is pathological.
Hence, I don’t think Lucy means to advocate outright manipulation in her article. I think she’s simply saying don’t be a doormat, and your connections with other people will prosper. Don’t be the one who’s always sitting by the phone. A little bit of coolness/aloofness means people will respect your contribution, etc. But don’t go overboard with the coolness because that turns people off, too. 🤔
Having said that, I can see how the advice Lucy gives in this article might induce limerence in someone who is super-sensitive to emotional cues from a given person, but, then again, they’d have to be drawn to the unpredictable person to begin with. So anyone who takes Lucy’s advice, tongue-in-cheek or not, is walking a pretty fine line in my opinion. What Lucy advocates surely works in practical terms, but it opens up a huge can of worms in ethical terms.
I think the article does encourage game-playing just a little bit. And I’m too old to play games. If I have to pretend to be an enthralling person to catch a partner or enchant a friend, does that mean I have to pretend to be an enthralling person for the next thirty years to keep said partner or to continue enchanting said friend? What if they see through my enthralling, enchanting act some day? 😆
This is the problem with mind games. Even if mind games are successful in the short term, they’re unsustainable in the long term. No one can pretend to be alluring and mysterious forever. At some point, “everyday Sammy” will emerge and all bets with be off! 😉
My LO probably did have all the traits Lucy mentions. It made him very alluring. However, it did not reflect well on his overall character. I want to be remembered for my character and not my charm – or, preferably, for BOTH my character and my charm. 😜
Wow, that made me angry! It absolutely depicts patterns of my LO’s behavior. I wish I never needed to delve into the field of human behavior. Life is sometimes better when you are ignorant. Hopefully this will serve as additional ammo for NC.
Shari Schreiber says, “This behavior is driven by a subconscious determination to maintain inequity within all our relationships, for the one who needs the least is always the one in power.” (https://sharischreiber.com/do-you-love-to-be-needed/)
Most people can’t consciously pull off what Lucy describes unless they’re either really good. And to be really good, you probably have to tilt toward sociopathy. That degree of conscious manipulation takes work. You have to plan it out and even worse, you have to enjoy it. Lucy appears to.
“While I would never advocate being malicious, occasionally being a little colder than what feels natural ensures that someone never stops respecting you or appreciating their time with you.” It’s comforting she’s not into torturing you while making you dance. While LO #2 showed a lot of these symptoms, I never detected the faintest hint of malice or vindictiveness in her. The therapist said that was an indicator of a PD.
There are a lot of really smart people on submarines. They can get really bored. We used to screw with people’s head’s for sport. Some people were so vulnerable we’d tag them as off limits. I can teach Advanced Gaslighting. If they got to you, they won. If you foiled them or got to them, you won. But, we all knew who was in on the game and who wasn’t.
Further down, Lucy says, ” Love bombing someone vulnerable before suddenly withdrawing and becoming distant is a surefire way to trigger addiction.” To be fair, the love bombing sister-in-law of my coworked I tangled with had no idea if I was vulnerable. But, again, if you know they’re vulnerable and you exploit them, what does that say about you?
Let’s hope Fred’s MPDG doesn’t read that article.
Oh, geez, Lucy’s essay makes my head and heart hurt. And leads me to appreciate all the more, and like new,
my kind, stable, rock-solid, predictable and fully committed SO.
I think a good way to strengthen ourselves against manipulators, and to reduce the temptation to manipulate others ourselves, is simply to practice not being emotionally needy. Because I think what drives manipulators abs their victims is different forms of emotional neediness. Better to free oneself from it altogether.
Mark Manson has a good essay where he makes the case that not being emotionally needy is the one essential quality to attract a good partner and maintain a healthy relationship. I’m content to leave the euphoric thrill-seeking to others. Give me to delightful peace and quiet of committed love, and call it boring if you will — I’ll be to happy to hear you.
Wow, I had so many typos in my post on emotional neediness. I must have been eager to get that up there!
Here is the link to the essay I mention by Mark Manson:
I must admit I LOL’d when I read that Scharnholst. And that the MPDG label stuck. Unfortunately it looks like my LO not only has read the article, she may have helped Lucy write it.
Intermittent reinforcement is used by casinos ALL THE TIME. People who are particularly susceptible to addiction only need a “win” between 8 – 15% of the time and (this is key for driving profits), the win doesn’t need to offset the losses.
For those who have SO’s, you may have done the same thing to them as discussed within the article (I’m guessing as CIT has the site blocked). Otherwise, your SO’s would have pulled the plug on the relationship when your minds were so clearly not present in the far-less-pleasant world of a real relationship.
Anonymous Limerent says
That article worried me to begin with; just last year I constantly exhibited the first two methods. However, after reading all of it, I’m worried for a different reason; I’m now the opposite. Submissive and non-dominant, so apparently unlikeable.
Does that mean I have to employ some of these methods to make my friends like me more? Or would that make me a bad person? I know one of them actually ‘favour’ me…
Maybe if I gain better, more satisfying friendships my LE will go away.
I’d speculate that it’s an unhealthy habit they’ve developed, just like limerence is for us. They get a psychological boost from knowing people are attracted to them, and feel discomfort when the interest starts to wane, so they reach out again and fluff their target a bit to re-engage them. Narcissistic supply, basically. They don’t want any commitment or relationship, they just want the dopamine hit of having people hooked.
7 Lessons to Learn From Limerence (Unrequited Love)
“Let me clarify with the following example: you may know someone who, despite not being particularly vivacious or attractive, always seems to always be in a satisfying romantic relationship. Their success is not down to luck, but rather, a result of the fact that they a). do not crave rare, deep connections, or even know to look for them and b). do not have any detrimental self-beliefs regarding their ability to attract their ideal partner. They simply expect to be with someone mellow and trustworthy, and emit this assumption with their body language and communication until it naturally comes to pass.
It is perfectly fine to realize that you need deeper romantic bonds and more mental stimulation than your friends, as this still leaves you with an abundance of people to meet and date.”
What a nasty piece of work.
People SHE deems less attractive or less vivacious people do not crave deep connections, or know to look for them? They only ever want someone mellow and trustworthy? They’re not bright enough to want more? They’re simply not bright?
She may have read this blog too.
“Even if committed to living purposefully, your neural makeup will always steer you towards seeking out ‘special’, enthralling folk.”
You don’t have to be gnostic to be a good limerent but it helps. True limerence shouldn’t be wasted on lesser mortals….
Okay, I got the message.
Limerent Limerick says
P.s. – I’m struck by the quality of the writing and obviously above average intelligence exhibited by members of this community in the comments of these blog posts…it almost makes me think there may be a higher incidence of limerence amongst folks with a high iq…got any stats on that one? 😋 Or maybe it’s just that smart limerents enjoy reading your blog…
Well… us limerents do tend to have very rich imaginations 🙂
Self-serving conclusions aside, I think one of the best things about the online world is that people who want to think deeply about important things can find the nourishment and community they need.
My Limerent Brain Is An Idiot says
I think this blog draws people who are introspective and self-aware enough to recognize they have a problem and are looking for a way out of their painful LE. Then DrL’s excellent writing and humor provides genuine help. The final step is to post something to contribute to the community or get assistance.
So there’s a lot of smart, reflective people in the ‘commentariat’ who have one part of their brain working quite well–it’s just the other part of their brain which is a completely moronic idiot.
Hello, MLBI. Right on, well said! So nice to ‘see’ you again. Hope you are doing well.
Yeah, my limerent brain is still a completely moronic idiot too, but I’m managing gradually to reduce the scope of its influence so that it’s less likely to wreck my life.
I’m really interested in exploring this idea of the “career LO” for want of a better term. Yes, being charming and attractive may attract admirers in droves. But to be a career LO, I think you have to have a real comfort level with people, especially the potentially annoying people who become limerent for you. (Sorry, guys! Let me play Devil’s advocate here for a minute).
Tennov wrote in her book that the limerent’s obsession can feel oppressive to the the person on the receiving end (LO). Limerence makes LO self-conscious about how they walk, talk, interact, etc. Obviously, if someone is limerent, they’re watching LO like a hawk. They want to know their feelings are returned. Any LO must feel slightly uneasy about this “focus”. I’m not talking about stalking. That’s been covered in other articles. Just an off-putting amount of attention.
A person who becomes LO for many people must by definition really like people and be incredibly tolerant of other people’s foibles. Socially anxious people won’t become career LOs. I suppose the real question I’m asking is: “How do they do it?” and “What do they get out of it?” Are some career LOs actually pretty uncomfortable in that role and yet they don’t know how to cultivate the kind of equality-based friendships they’d enjoy? Is it a kind of “Christ” archetype?
I’ve met very charming people who weren’t narcissistic. Quite the opposite. I think there are some LOs out there who really struggle knowing how to connect with people in a healthy way. They don’t want adulation. They just want real friends and somehow get stuck with a bunch of overzealous “fans” instead. Maybe these people are “good” but I doubt they’re happy.
I think people with the X factor, apart from those in showbiz, are UNLUCKY. I’d hate to have so much charisma that I couldn’t get any peace/time to myself, etc. And yes, I’m thinking of a former LO of mine when I write this. (Oh gosh. How things have changed. Do I actually pity her now?)
I also think Theory 2, “Human Slot Machine”, describes modern dating practices fairly well i.e. three months of love-bombing followed by abrupt withdrawal. It’s a miracle we’re not all limerents for somebody!!
Another thought. I think maybe career LOs WANT to be good people. Only they get it wrong – so very wrong. The noble intent is there but the performance is off.
IDK. Bing Crosby. He was like the daddy at a Christmas dinner. NOT a sexy man. 🙂
I’m feeling a wee bit inspired today, so I’d like to revisit the theme of limerence and archetypes and see how it relates to my past LO (Straight Boy) and my current LO (Gay Boy).
I’ve reached the conclusion my Straight Boy LE was all about integrating my Father Archetype. This really shouldn’t come as any surprise. Dad and LO#1 had similar colouring, similar build, similar features and even shared the same profession. (Both engineers!) Basically, I fell in love with the “shadow” of my own father and everything he represented for me (masculinity, stability, etc). My father doesn’t have strikingly large hands, but they must have seemed large to me as a child (at least compared to my own).
I think, during the course of LE, I was trying to work out why my father didn’t love me enough. Or why his love didn’t feel real. Of course, intellectually, I know my father loves me. I’ve asked him directly, and he insists he adores me. I believe him. But, as a child, I had issues with him not being demonstrative enough and showing his love. Fathers can feel very distant indeed to insecure offspring.
I think my current LO (Gay Boy), despite being a biological male, is activating my Mother Archetype, now I’ve sent my Father Archetype packing. Or, rather, he’s activating a whole suit of archetypes that in my imagination read as “feminine”. (I.e. he’s Mother, Queen, High Priestess, and Witch just as past LO Straight Boy was Father, Teacher, Protector, Provider).
Current LO has used some cosmetic treatments to enhance his beauty. This is not a turn-off. In fact, it plays heavily into the limerent fantasy I have of him. He reminds me (looks-wise) of Queen Nefertiti of Ancient Egypt. The Ancient Egyptians used kohl to protect their eyes from flies. LO has dark, thick, sooty lashes and eyebrows – I don’t know if it’s make-up or genetics. His skin is tan, his teeth artificially whitened. From certain angles, he’s exquisitely beautiful, some might say radiant. I’ve even brought a miniature bust of Nefertiti because of him.
LO has recently grown a beard. I told him I loved it. I lied. Actually, I hate the beard. He looks a tiny bit butch now and it’s harder to project the Queen-Mother-Witch-Goddess archetypes onto him. Still, there were female rulers such as Hatshepsut who adopted the pharaonic beard, so the fantasy isn’t entirely spoiled. This is a seemingly feminine archetype that can morph into a male one at the drop of a hat. LO embodies androgyny for me – he is BOTH man and woman.
I’m trying to come to terms with my biological mother’s charming-and-seductive-yet-volatile personality. Recently, I’ve decided she’s borderline rather than narcissistic. As a child, I was besotted with my mother. Many children (especially boys) are in love with their mothers. But my love for my mum went beyond mere affection. I was possessive of her. I didn’t mind my mother talking to my sisters – not at all. But I hated it when she spoke to little boys and girls in our neighbourhood who belonged to other mothers. How dare she fraternise with the emotional competition! Why couldn’t I have her all to myself, etc?
I have always complained about my mother having poor boundaries and treating me like a consort rather than a son (a common-enough event in families where one or both parents have a personality disorder). However, I realise I have often had poor boundaries too with my mother, and acted like her bodyguard. I haven’t been honest with myself about the true depths of my childhood infatuation with her. Great love can breed great hate, and hence the strange eruptions of misogyny I sometimes feel. I couldn’t possess this one beautiful woman, even though she called me “her angel” and said I was her favourite.
My mother is no Alpha Female, no queen. She’s actually quite needy, greedy and petulant. However, as a child, I perceived her as beautiful, enigmatic, glamorous, and all-powerful. She blew hot and cold. She could make you feel like a prince. She could make you feel like a god. She could make you feel like a piece of dirt under her feet mixed with chewing gum and cow dung. She could raise your self-esteem through the roof in a sentence and also decimate it. (My mother is very good at backhand compliments). Oh yes, she had power all right and she abused that power, perhaps without even realising that that was what she was doing.
Her favour was as fickle as the sun on an overcast day. It was impossible to stay in her good graces for more than a few blessed days. God knows I tried. I’m starting to see what a powerful spell my mother, as an attractive woman with borderline traits, could cast on a heterosexual man. The latter would be enchanted by her softer side and confused by her sudden coldness and fits of uncontrollable rage.
I think my current LO Gay Boy stares at me with my mother’s eyes. I can’t tell whether he desires me or whether he mocks me, or whether he at once desires me and mocks me. It’s my childhood all over again. It’s like I’ve tracked down the male incarnation of my mother. The chemistry between us is, well, “ancient”.
As a child, I drew hundreds of pictures of beautiful, aristocratic women wearing fabulous jewels and gorgeous gowns. The women were always powerful and always glamorous. My obsession with beautiful, powerful women confused my male peers. They couldn’t make heads or tails of it. In retrospect, I think what was going on was a fair bit of unconscious mother-worship/goddess-worship.
In light of my personal history, I think I understand my attraction to current LO a little better. It’s not him I need to sit down and have a talk with – it’s my mother.
If you’re going down that road, I recommend you read Shari Schreiber’s stuff. You used to be able to access everything for free but she tightened it up. Now, it costs $9.99 to access everything at https://sharischreiber.com/bpd-membership-articles/
It comes out to less than $0.50 an article. Even though I read them all when they were free, I paid to continue to access them.
Good luck! You could be at the beginning of a very interesting journey.