A curious thing about obsession is that it sometimes sets in with hardly any encouragement. Occasionally, the people who occupy our minds are not the people we know well, but mysterious individuals who burst into our lives for a short period and then move on just as quickly.
This “tantalizing stranger” effect can be most powerful if we dated them briefly, and so felt the frisson of romantic excitement, but it didn’t end up going anywhere. At its worst, this infatuation with an elusive date can transition to becoming limerence.
The psychology of becoming infatuated with a casual date links into some deep drives around uncertainty, insecurity and attachment. The main factors that make it difficult to get over someone you barely dated are frustration over not knowing why it went wrong, the unfulfilled promise of idealised romance, and a sense of unfinished business.
How these particular psychological triggers affect you will relate to your own attachment style, but that is not the whole story. There are fundamental features of neuroscience at work too.
Of course, an important aspect of why it’s hard to get over someone you dated briefly is that rejection always hurts. But, usually we’re able to let go, and accept that it just didn’t work out for whatever reason, instead of having a life altering obsession. So what is it about some people that makes them so mentally sticky?
1. Unusual charisma
Some people just really shine for us. There is just something about them that connects with something in you. When it comes to limerence, I call this phenomenon “the glimmer”. Some aspect of their personality, appearance, mannerisms – or even scent – matches some internal, subconscious pattern in you that triggers your neural reward circuits and gets you excited and aroused.
What it is that you are responding to will be idiosyncratic, and buried in lots of deep psychology, but the key thing is that you sense their romantic potency, and respond accordingly.
That initial moment of subconscious recognition is followed by a period of reinforcement. Because they are all exciting and glimmery, you seek more of their company. If they are rewarding to be around, you want them even more. If you go on a date, you have that delicious excitement of the early discovery period with someone who most definitely causes a spark for you.
It’s heady stuff.
2. Unpredictable rewards
A curious quirk of human psychology is that not all rewards are equal. They are all exciting at first, but if a reward is predictable, it starts to lose its power to motivate. You want it less, because you know you can get it. In contrast, intermittent, unpredictable rewards are addictive.
If a good date is followed by a period of silence, we wonder what’s going on. Maybe another date is arranged, but then they cancel. But then you bump into them by chance and they seem really friendly and into you again, and you hook up. Perhaps then they promise to call and don’t. And they sometimes like your tweets, but then other times ignore you when you DM them.
This kind of experience really does a number on your psychology. Intermittent reward schedules are used by gambling companies to keep punters hooked. Experimental psychologists have sent pigeons nuts by giving rewards out randomly.
Beware of people who act like human slot machines.
3. Loss aversion
Romantic rejection is part of life. There’s really no escaping it, even for people who are blessed with good looks, charm and riches. The rest of us have to deal with it even more often, which isn’t great for the confidence.
Rejection obviously taps into our insecurities, and the hardest form to cope with is someone who showed some interest – enough to go on a date – but then pulled away. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that once they got to know us, they were put off. That’s pretty demoralising, but it also nags at us. What is it they didn’t like? Have they judged us fairly? Why were they put off? Could we have done something differently?
Those sorts of thoughts can become intrusive, and keep the person who provoked them central in your mind.
Another powerful psychological effect that may be in play is loss aversion. Humans feel much more emotional anxiety about the prospect of losing something we value, than we feel excitement about gaining something new. If you ask someone to stake $100 on a coin toss, the prize would need to be a lot higher than $101 for them to take the bet. Everyone has their own mental “weighting” about how much more you would need to gain before the prospect of winning is alluring enough to risk the money in your pocket.
A similar factor may apply to a date that you thought had gone well, but then peters out. It feels like you are losing something that you really valued (a potential romantic partner is a very powerful attractor) and that causes anxiety about loss. It’s harder to let go of a prize you feel is close, but slipping away, than one you never really had a chance of attaining.
Put together, this “partial acceptance followed by rejection” is a lot harder to forget about than a simple, blunt, “No.”
4. Unfinished business
Finally, the unifying force behind all of these factors is uncertainty.
The experience of getting excited about someone, having a promising start, but then finding yourself adrift in a sea of uncertainty is like an itch you can’t scratch. It’s unfinished business, and that takes up a lot more mental bandwidth than simple disappointment.
This principle is sometimes known as the Zeigarnik effect, where an unfinished task is remembered more than a finished task. It’s as though there is some mental tension that builds up, which is dissipated only once the task is completed. Until that can happen, the incompleteness takes up cognitive space.
At a more emotional level, it’s about the desire for closure. It’s hard to move on when you don’t feel as though the prospect of being with them was properly settled. They offer unfulfilled promise. You got just enough positive feedback to start constructing an imaginary version of what they could offer, and having that burgeoning fantasy frustrated is distressing. Even worse, there is nothing you can really do to change things, without coming across as needy and unstable.
Unfortunately, the combination of rewarding fantasies and frustrating realities can trap you in a mental spiral of obsessive thoughts. And that can make it very difficult to get over the person who triggered it.
How to get over someone
One of the reasons why it is useful to understand how the experience of romantic uncertainty can feed into fundamental aspects of psychology and neuroscience is that it helps make sense of the obsession.
The reason you are hung up on them is not actually about them. It’s about how the circumstances of your experience with them triggered thought loops in you. It’s happening in your head – they, as an actual distinct person, are somewhat incidental to the process once it’s started.
One of the clues to this is that if you only briefly dated, you haven’t had enough time to actually get to know them. So, your vision of them is mostly constructed by filling in the gaps from your own imagination. Sure, they make you feel good, and excited and aroused, but it’s not really them as unique individuals, so much as the fantasy version of them that is really good at pushing your buttons.
This might seem like an artificial distinction, but the reason it’s useful is the shift in mindset towards realising they are not part of the solution to your problem. Closure is an illusion. If they are no longer actively seeking your company, you are going to have to finish the unfinished business yourself.
You are not missing out on a tantalizing prize, you are caught in an emotionally destabilising situation driven by uncertainty. The way out of that situation is to accept the fact that the one thing you can control is your own internal world, and start to move away from analysing what went wrong and towards what purposeful lessons you can learn from the experience.
That is the best way to make your future life better.
Why wasn’t I good enough for them?
“What is it they didn’t like?”
We might not know the specifics, but it’s pretty obvious that we didn’t glimmer for them the way they glimmered for us, which is a horrible thing to have to accept. But there’s not much you can do about it.
How well written and incredibly accurate this all is! The images are hilarious!
My Mum used to advise me regarding romantic issues : “You are too available”. (Mum had way more game than me).
Ex-LO used to tell me how appreciative he was that I was so responsive and communicative and reliable and dependable. He just loved that about me! (Insert eye roll).
I had no knowledge of the intermittent reward concept but can’t help wondering if there is any value in incorporating that strategy in future relationship opportunities. It just seems so calculating and manipulative…. but it sure worked on me. (Would it work for me?.) I have always prided myself on my honesty and transparency and sincerity… but perhaps those qualities have historically killed my glimmer.
And closure? For me “giving up” is agony but the only thing that leads to mental freedom. And firm NC throws away the key once the door is closed. And even years later… not allowing the fond reminiscing of the “good times” as it’s a slippery slope…..
“I had no knowledge of the intermittent reward concept but can’t help wondering if there is any value in incorporating that strategy in future relationship opportunities. It just seems so calculating and manipulative….”
I think it can. I mean, subtlety. Guy texts you the day after a first date to go on another date and your respond, just not immediately (within reason. I mean hours, not days.) Or he asks you out for a Friday and you say yes, you’d like to go but you’re busy Friday and can go Saturday. You’re making it clear you are interested but that you have a life, too. You just aren’t handing the whole kit and caboodle over immediately. Have you ever had a guy make it obvious he was all in within the first week or two? Got your number and called you every day, right way, or texted every day, several times a day? Did it not put you off a little bit? It’s the same concept. I think that’s what your mom was saying. Too available.
Well said Marcia. Using self restraint may help beat the odds and help a good thing to grow properly. For the record though, I never did initiate contact…he did every day, often several times a day and also planned outings and adventures and meet ups with his family. When I didn’t hear from him I quietly and what I thought was with great dignity just waited for his contact which was never far off. Until he ran off into the sunset with a bride.
“Using self restraint may help beat the odds and help a good thing to grow properly. ”
That is exactly what it is — self-restraint. Admittedly, hard to do when you really like someone, and he’s calling and your heart is soaring and all you want to do is pick up the phone. Right. that. second. 🙂 But I don’t trust a guy who comes at me like a freight train immediately. He has no self-restraint. No ability to understand how his behavior may be coming off to the other person. You may feel all in; you just don’t want to act like it within hours of meeting someone.
I was just thinking … A great book to read is “The Art of Seduction” by Robert Greene. It’s not a how-to book about how to seduce someone physically but mentally. The first half talks about the greatest seducers in history and their type (Marilyn Monroe, a siren; Josephine Bonaparte, a coquette; Rudolph Valentino, a dandy). Then you pick the type you are and implement a plan with the second half of the book. It’s all psychological, and its fascinating. He talks about how people are inherently perverse and are excited not by an easy conquest but by one that they cannot possess in full.
Yeah, I think this is the key. The limerent fireworks are fantastic and all, but best enjoyed privately, rather than shared too soon.
I cringe a bit now at the memory of earnestly sharing how powerful my feelings were, in the mistaken belief it would delight, rather than spook, an LO. She didn’t need to know that so early on, but I was labouring under the false belief that because reciprocation of limerence was what I wanted more than anything, it must be what she would want too.
A bit of prudent restraint is rarely a mistake.
Limerent Emeritus says
I have “The Art of Seduction.” I never finished it. I made it about 1/3 of the way through and never picked it up again. It’s on my shelf at work if I ever want to read it at lunch.
I don’t remember a single thing from it.
You missed a great book. It talks about how the two key ingredients needed for any successful seduction (and by that I mean getting someone hooked on you) are excitement and confusion, which pretty much defines limerence.
Limerent Emeritus says
I’ll take your word for it.
I was reading it after 25 years of marriage and wasn’t trying to seduce anyone. I already knew what worked on the only woman that matters.
If I ever go back on the market, I might look at it again.
So, which one are you? Maybe, I’ll read that chapter the next time I’m in the office.
Probably a mixture of the warm coquette and the masculine dandy. This book fascinated me when I read it several years ago. I should probably reread it to prepare when I meet another potential. 🙂 “The great seducers do not offer the mild pleasures that society condones. They touch a person’s unconscious, those repressed desires that cry for our liberation.” How could you put this down?
Limerent Emeritus says
That book came up in a discussion thread on how to identify Cluster B PDs when dating. I remember it tilting towards Narcs and Sociopaths. But, it’s been years since I read any of it.
During the low point in my marriage, I was doing a lot of research into why LO might have been the way she was. I read a lot of things in those days.
Some people liked it, I didn’t find anything useful in it.
Are you implementing anything you learned in it? If so, how’s it working out?
I knew a young woman in grad school that took her dating strategies from “Ally McBeal .” Seriously.
They didn’t work any better for her than they did for Ally
Limerent Emeritus says
Now that about it, I remember why I didn’t like the book.
I saw it like this:
Seduction is manipulation for a specific purpose. It’s not about romance, it’s about power and control. The seducer isn’t doing it for the seductee’s benefit, it’s an ego trip for them.
If you like somebody and they like you, you don’t have to seduce them. It just happens.
“If you like somebody and they like you, you don’t have to seduce them. It just happens.”
That’s true, but you can kill attraction by being overly eager and/or too aggressive, so the book has some valuable advice on how that behavior is anti-seductive. Also, there is something appealing about flipping the script and being the aggressor/seducer instead of waiting around like a passive flower to be picked, which is sometimes how it feels if you’re a woman. And on the flip side of that, being seduced by someone who’s maybe like a Rhett Butler type, what I would call a “professional,” someone with a way with women, as the character describes himself. I don’t think I’ve ever had the that experience, although at my age it’s probably unlikely.
Limerent Emeritus says
My father trained me in traditional romance. He was the quintessential man of the early 60s. Think “Mad Men.” He taught things like candlelight dinners, soft music, a fire, decent liquor, a clean bathroom and a well made bed. The bathroom, he said, was really important. He taught me etiquette. Holding doors, pushing in her chair, standing if she went to powder room. He said that it all added up. I picked up most of the stuff but I was anywhere near being outside the first standard deviation when it came to applying it.
At 18, I thought he was an idiot. I told him none of that stuff would work on any girl I was dating. At 21, I thought that maybe he wasn’t exactly an idiot. At 25, I thought that maybe he was on to something. At 30, I thought the man was a genius.
What I discovered was it was largely unappreciated by women of the time. They had never been wooed by someone who knew what they were doing. I know LO #2 hadn’t. She told me that I was the first person to ever pursue her. In a way, that made things easier. Any number divided by a smaller number is large. Since she had no expectations, anything I did that she liked yielded a big result. That applied pretty much across the board.
I remember we were on a double date with her visiting friend and one my shipmates. I had a tape of crooners, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jerry Vale, Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole, and few others. I put it on and LO #2 asked, “What’s that?” Her friend said, “That’s necking music.” She got it.
My wife had never been wooed until I came along. But, she was 23 and I snagged her two years out of college. It didn’t take her long to grow to like it.
I never got close enough to LO #4 to really tell but I think she had a romantic streak in her a mile wide. She said a few things that gave me that vibe. I don’t think anyone had ever tapped into it. But, I think she would have responded to it. In spades. The only way to find that out would have been to test it and that would have been a disaster.
At some point, I’ll try to pass on a few things to my son but I suspect he’ll find it useless. My bet is few of the mothers of women he’ll date would remember it, let alone the women. Their grandmothers might. As a Gen Z, romance is a foreign concept to him.
I think wooing is great. It’s certainly nice to have a man make an effort. To actually pick up the phone (a novel concept today!) and call and have a plan for the date (versus “What do you want to do?”). A man who leads is very sexy, even if that sounds really retrograde today. But I guess what I meant by a man who “knows what he’s doing” is one you take one look at and can tell women are drawn to him because to hang out with him is not only fun but .. really hot. 🙂
Limerent Emeritus says
“I meant by a man who “knows what he’s doing” is one you take one look at and can tell women are drawn to him because to hang out with him is not only fun but .. really hot. 🙂”
I get it. I never was that guy. I knew a few of them and, sometimes, I envied them. But, that would never be me. Sometimes, it was fun to fly wingman for them. I remember a delightful evening talking to the wingwoman (?) while the two principles engaged in the dogfight. As I remember, it was a pretty snarky conversation. It’s kind of hard to accept that you’ll never be Michael Jordan to anybody. The very best you can aspire to is maybe Scotty Pippen.
Yet, I did ok for myself. LO #2 was a trophy girlfriend and a professional asset. I married a trophy wife but by then, I wasn’t in circles where I was judged by the company I kept.
Then, again, I had a trophy mother. My father appeared to have marginal judgment when it came to women but he had a good eye for them and knew a lot about them. You wouldn’t think it would matter to a little kid to have all the other kids in the neighborhood think your mother was the prettiest. But, they did and I liked it.
I think I met one guy like that. We went out a couple of times when I was in my 20s. He took me to a strip club on one of the dates. It was a dare. 🙂 And then we went out a couple of times when I was in my 30s. I cancelled the last date we had at the last minute. I’m not sure why. Maybe I was still stewing about our history (which I won’t go into). He was definitely a nice-looking man though hardly the hottest I’ve ever seen. I don’t get the desire for the trophy thing, tbh. I guess it’s the female equivalent of wanting to date a man who’s really successful, which is not my thing.
“My Mum used to advise me regarding romantic issues : “You are too available”. (Mum had way more game than me).”
@Jaideux. That’s hilarious. First big belly laugh of the day! 🙂
Sammy, I am so glad to make you laugh! This was truly the only relationship advice she gave me as she was usually quite self-preoccupied ..and to think I never even implemented the one gem she shared….
it seemed she couldn’t possibly be right….but here we are on LwL and sure enough….
I think using intermittent reward could work as a manipulation method, but it would a) depend on your LO being really into you too (so your intermittent availability was sufficiently rewarding) and b) you being able to suspend your moral compass.
Probably not the most promising foundation for a relationship either… 🙂
True, true…what was I thinking! Seems I was wandering off of purposeful living path there for a moment….hypervigilant shields in place, commander!
Limerent Emeritus says
Clip of the Day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWnTY7OVU8w – “Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan
Charge the phasers and photon torpedoes while you’re at it.
Some people deserve to be blown to bits in space.
Q: What’s the one indisputable aspect of the death penalty?
A: It’s 100% effective against recidivism.
With the last LO I certainly tried to moderate my availability. Not only was I pretty useless at it, but he was well… Gameplaying or not just intermittently available in a much more sustained sense.
The whole thing drove me crazy. When LO who’s not been in touch for a week suggests meeting on Friday its almost impossible to risk the ‘another night’ tactic.
Non LOs less of a problem. I’m quite capable of managing my emotions around them.
Tragically I’m just to obviously enamored around LOs to play it successfully cool.
“Tragically I’m just to obviously enamored around LOs to play it successfully cool.”
It can be hard because you think they’ll slip through your hands if you don’t jump when they call. But if that’s the case, is there that much going on to begin with? Idk. Intermittent flakes can be deceiving because when they are consistent for a bit, you’re tricked into thinking things are going to change. But they don’t. There’s an improvement for a while, but then things goes right back to where they were. I just try to think that there’s someone else they are prioritizing, someone else they are getting back to right away, but it isn’t me, which usually feels like I dropped a piano on myself, but it’s the truth. You have to decide how much you want to invest in someone who is breadcrumbing you.
Limerent Emeritus says
Clip of the Day: Wile E Coyote Best Moments 1
You can skip to 6:22 but the best one is the Harpoon Gun at 2:28.
Limerent Emeritus says
Make that 2:49 for the Harpoon Gun.
I’m wondering if anyone else has watched the Netflix series “Sex/Life.” It’s cliché-ridden and laughable in parts, but it does hit on “limerenty” topics. Thirty-something woman puts career on hold to raise her kids in the suburbs. She starts reminiscing about her wilder, more exciting 20s. Thinks back to her ex, with whom she had this great sex (of course ) but a lousy relationship (whereas the relationship with her husband is stable but a bit dull). And in a complete plot contrivance, she runs into the ex and he wants her back (irl, there’s no way he’d be available). Anyway, for limerents who start obsessing over an ex, is it a yearning for a different time in one’s life where one felt more alive and was having more fun? I was having a lot more fun in my 20s, although I don’t have any interest in reconnecting with LOs from my 20s.
“Are you implementing anything you learned in it? If so, how’s it working out?”
I don’t know how to answer that. I work from home and have been trapped in my apartment for the better part of 16 months. I’d have to get into the headspace of meeting someone new and even thinking about seduction. But I think there is something to be said for revealing one’s interest, slowly, over time. I remember a guy I sweating years ago who finally asked my number. And he called me that night, the next night, the next night … yet get where I’m going . By the time we went on the date, my interest level had really dropped. There was nothing left to anticipate; I knew what he was going to do before he even did it.
“just seems so calculating and manipulative…. but it sure worked on me. (Would it work for me?.) I have always prided myself on my honesty and transparency and sincerity… but perhaps those qualities have historically killed my glimmer”.
This made me a little teary, Jaideux. So many times, too, I’ve been advised to be more strategic, less available…How does one change their fundamental character?
There will always be consequences to our choices, but we know, as we mature, there are many other forces at play,in the unfolding of our journey. It isn’t a flaw to be open-hearted. Be yourself – I can’t say for certain, but that may bring less regret.
I agree…I don’t think I will seek to determine my fundamental character that I hav e spent a lifetime honing to become a person that strives to live by the Golden Rule….but as Marcia says perhaps be a little more subtle, set some boundaries, and not hand over my entire heart in the first week 🙂
Limerent Emeritus says
Song of the Day (Redux): “Just One Look” Lulu And The Luvvers (1965)
“….but as Marcia says perhaps be a little more subtle, set some boundaries, and not hand over my entire heart in the first week 🙂”
C’mon, Jaideaux…Where’s the fun in that? Why wait a week when you can start immediately?
Somewhere back in the early blogs, there was a great discussion about “coup de foudre.” I think Anonymous Limerent started it.
It’s only happened to me once back in college. I was gone the first time I saw her. I think we went out exactly twice. It ended when her then BF, now husband, came to my door and threatened me. I might have challenged him for her but she backed him up so there was no point.
Her loss, LE!
The post describes the mental self-imprisonment I’ve been suffering from so accurately that I will allow myself to deal with my own limerence further on, although…
Recently, I have been wondering whether being part of the valuable discussion here was merely another form of obsessing over my limerence and, within that, fundamentally,
Which is something I want to avoid.
(Confessions of an overthinker by definition.)
My newest question is: if this was not love, and I’ve come to understand that, then what IS love? I mean, how will I recognize the kind of romantic attraction I can rely on? Can I induce the sane form of love in someone and am I capable of picking someone available who can make me happy?
It’s difficult to find an answer because obviously, I don’t speak that love language, I never have (due to my particular attachment style, I guess).
Those “normal” candidates are not even seen on my radar. I seem not to value the readily available happiness they can offer.
Fun fact: when all hope was lost in my last LE, I was crying while telling a friend on the phone about LO, adding that “I don’t even like them that much” – meaning I could see LO’s shortcomings pretty clearly even then but by that time I had been trapped in the “what if”, no closure, unfinished business game again – – and LO surely ticked all those boxes as well (sending me nuts as a pigeon).
I can relate so much. This reminds me of the list DrL compiled a couple of months ago about symptoms limerents experience in the proximity of LO.
I acted so needy and clingy and embarrassed that I surprised even myself but couldn’t stop it in their presence. As if some inner force or higher power had told me to act out and behave in a flirtatious or extraordinary way. It was physiological as well as neural.
As it is said in BBC Sherlock: “Your pupils are dilated. Your pulse is elevated.” Soo, you’re interested ronantically.
Hahahaha I love that episode of Sherlock. We are so transparent to LO’s. They love to know they dilate our pupils too, I think.
I tend to look at works of art differently now that I’m aware of limerent phrasing and sensations. Some of them express limerent highs and miseries just perfectly.
I think that episode is so remarkable because Sherlock demonstrates the scientific approach and also proves how intellect cannot override attraction.
“I acted so needy and clingy and embarrassed that I surprised even myself but couldn’t stop it in their presence. As if some inner force or higher power had told me to act out and behave in a flirtatious or extraordinary way. It was physiological as well as neural.”
@J79. You say this so well – I’m sure many people can relate. It is as if some mystical force is urging us to connect with an LO when they’re around, get a reaction from them, check to see whether he/she “is still into us”, etc. (This mystical force seemingly driving our actions from outside is an illusion, of course, but it feels real in the moment). Very embarrassing when attempts to connect fall flat, too.
Limerent Emeritus says
The contemporary term for this type of relationship is an “Almost.” Funny how someone my age would know that, let alone seemingly end up in one with LO #4.
You almost had a relationship. The term can apply to the relationship or the person. It may or may not be an LO. I suspect limerents may be more prone to “Almost” relationships and I suspect an “Almost” relationship is harder on limerents.
If you head over to http://www.thoughtcatalog.com/reel and search for “Almost Relationships,” you get a lot of hits. Here’s one of them: https://thoughtcatalog.com/holly-riordan/2019/09/you-didnt-date-but-that-doesnt-mean-it-wasnt-real/
Vicarious Limerent says
I am surprised no one else picked up on this. When I read this post, I thought exactly the same thing. The concept of being someone’s “almost” is a big thing these days. The idea is that the person can still be an important part of your life, despite an actual relationship never fully taking hold. I like the idea that just because nothing really happened in terms of a relationship and the person has basically rejected you doesn’t mean they didn’t feel something for you at some point and there wasn’t a spark. It can feel very real and is a legitimate loss to grieve (not quite like an actual relationship, but still something that offered hope, excitement and promise that was unexpectedly taken away).
It has been a long time since I’ve had an “almost” (I’m married), but I am reminded of the situation with my LO #1 and my brother in-law. There was definitely a spark between the two of them, but ultimately he decided he wasn’t interested in her. Sure, if things were different, I would have been interested in her for myself, but I really liked her as a human being and wanted the best for her even if I couldn’t be with her. In some ways, I felt hurt and annoyed on her behalf when he wouldn’t go for it with her. Yet, I know there was something there between them the night they met (it felt special and magical at the time, despite none of that magic being directed towards me). For sure, he was her “almost.”
I have been NC for over 18 months with LO #1, and I am no longer limerent for her, but the funny thing is I have some social situations coming up where I will be socializing with one (and possibly two) very close friends of hers (who I haven’t met just yet, although they are friends-of-a-friend). That will be very interesting indeed! I am NOT going to tell them I know LO #1, but I will acknowledge that I know her if they ask me about her (there is a chance that will happen because I am certain they know about the night with my BIL and my close involvement as well). The freaky thing is that LO #2 has now met and hung out with LO #1’s friends. It’s a small world!
“Yet, I know there was something there between them the night they met (it felt special and magical at the time, despite none of that magic being directed towards me). For sure, he was her “almost.””
I think those “almost” situations are very disappointing. If two people are both available and things don’t move forward, it’s because there wasn’t enough interest on at least one person’s part to kick it to the next level so that they got the number and picked up the phone. I’d rather have the person not be interested at all. That doesn’t get your hopes up.
Vicarious Limerent says
Yes, “almosts” can be very disappointing — heart-breaking even. In the case of my BIL and LO #1, the main barrier was distance, but I also think he became a bit shallow and full of himself at that point. I believe he was interested but maybe his friends convinced him she wasn’t worth pursuing given the long distances involved. At first, I just really liked LO #1 on my BIL’s behalf. I thought she was an absolute sweetheart. It was only when I realized he wasn’t going to go for it that I realized I was developing feelings for her myself.
You might find this post interesting: https://livingwithlimerence.com/case-study-lo-wanted-my-friend/#comment-12605
“It was only when I realized he wasn’t going to go for it that I realized I was developing feelings for her myself.”
My last LO was married, and although I sensed strong interest on his part, I have no actual proof of it. Would he have pursued me if he had been available? I’m not sure. I guess what I’m saying is, as a single woman, the “almosts” don’t mean anything to me. They used to, but my opinion on it has changed over the last few years.
“One of the clues to this is that if you only briefly dated, you haven’t had enough time to actually get to know them. So, your vision of them is mostly constructed by filling in the gaps from your own imagination. Sure, they make you feel good, and excited and aroused, but it’s not really them as unique individuals, so much as the fantasy version of them that is really good at pushing your buttons.”
The LO who has basically dominated my mental life and dwarfed all other LOs and potential LOs – I met him when I was 11 and only became limerent for him when we were both 17.
In other words, I knew him as a kid and I knew him as a teenager in school. He didn’t seem that remarkable initially. We were both in the “smart group”, and constantly came into casual contact because of that, but we weren’t bosom buddies. I guess I knew him and I didn’t know him, if that makes sense. There was enough not-knowing for my imagination to go to town “filling in the gaps”. Result: I somehow managed to build this young man into a glorious fantasy.
I think if I knew him properly, I wouldn’t fill in the gaps from my imagination and wouldn’t have become hooked. I must have constructed my golden fantasy of him from … what exactly? Bits and pieces of brief conversation? Brief interactions? Short and imperfect observations of him interacting with others? It’s painful to admit that I managed to squeeze so much juice out of so little fruit. In six years, he didn’t give me much to work with. My imagination is apparently overactive and did most of the work – a scary amount of work, actually. 😛
Well put, Sammy. Well put.
I need to admit to myself that originally, before my imaginative intervention, none of my LO’s had been that remarkable. But oh, were they the perfect starting points as semi-strangers I’d bumped into at just the perfect time!
When later I got into a re(a)lationship with some of them, I even started to feel resentful towards them after a while – as if, by being who they were, they had ruined my game of turning a human into something divine.
Also, during the most powerful LE’s I’ve experienced (prerequisite: enough unknown facts, i. e. gaps to fill!) I had this bothering thought that only I was insisting on something but with such desperate force the other party sort of, unwillingly joined for a while. As though I was holding something very fragile in the air.
This tension is addictive in itself.
Good article. I didn’t have any sort of date with my LO, but this still resonates. I only met him 3 times, so the bit about not knowing him is accurate. The only problem is it just makes me want to get to know him, even though it’s a bad idea! He’s married. Definitely this Zeigarnik Effect makes sense. At least I knew LO2 and he knew who I was!
Much as I am loathe to connect a song to the experience (as connected songs are a bad move), I find that the Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’ almost perfectly sums up the limerance quandry that I have gone through in the last 3 years.
Recovering now, mainly due to following the advice here, the experience has indeed been a ‘dark desert highway’ where I have had to face the ‘beast’.
The feelings do go away, and I trust the song as a reminder of (1) where I was, (2) where I am through new found purpose and (3) where it could all drag me back to if a new ‘glimmer’ arises.
Let’s be careful out there…
Limerent Emeritus says
Article of the Day: https://thoughtcatalog.com/elizabeth-hansen/2021/07/processing-the-pain-of-only-ever-loving-someone-you-could-never-have/
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned from you, it is this: Even if the information hurts, there is a comfort in certainty.”
Pretty much sums it up.
Not sure where to put this, so I’ll start a new thread – the dubious value of “game” in dating relationships. My theory: Game and Limerence don’t mix. 😛
The biggest problem with game or “brushing up on one’s game” is that a limerent can play all the games they like with a non-limerent LO. The non-limerent LO will always win because the non-limerent LO is less invested. The limerent will always be more anxious, more interested, more willing to sacrifice, capitulate, etc.
I once read a book years ago. I think it was “The Rules” or “The New Rules”. It was a book that basically advised single women to be seemingly unavailable and mysterious to get a guy hooked e.g. act as if you have something else going on in your life even if you don’t. This approach might inspire limerence in limerence-prone guys because of the whole intermittent-rewards thing. But it wouldn’t work as desired on non-limerent males.
Pretending to be busy when one isn’t busy … that’s a slippery slope I think. One can’t fake life indefinitely. And how’s the lady going to occupy herself once she lands the guy, if the guy isn’t going to entertain her full-time? (She’s led him to believe she’s a very busy lady with real goals and important stuff to do, remember! She’s not sitting by the phone, waiting for him to call, etc). 😛
Mind games don’t work if only one person is playing mind games or if someone overplays their hand. I think lying (especially to oneself) always comes back to haunt one.
As for seduction, I think Australian feminist Germaine Greer (whose work I love, by the way) complained that she found (from her perspective as a heterosexual woman) that a lot of modern dating is just seduction. She would probably consider 60s-style chivalry as seduction, as opposed to real intimacy. I guess chivalry and appreciation of chivalry falls short, if one is looking for reciprocal limerence and reciprocal limerence doesn’t happen…
Under such circumstances, I think chivalry after a while would feel irritating to the female recipient. Chivalry is probably great, though, as a way for the sexes to connect and interact, if you take limerence out of the equation altogether, or if it’s cute feature of a relationship between two mutual limerents. Just a few thoughts from someone, um, outside the “heterosexual romantic marketplace”. 😛
“And how’s the lady going to occupy herself once she lands the guy, if the guy isn’t going to entertain her full-time? ”
Well, the idea is that she actually has a life, so she’s not lying when she says she has something to do. She’s not expecting him to entertain her full-time (and would be put off if he tried to).
“She would probably consider 60s-style chivalry as seduction, as opposed to real intimacy. ”
But do you see limerence as real intimacy? I don’t. I see it as romantic projection. So I think you can put limerence on the level of seduction or chivalry. It’s what you do before you get to real intimacy. (And I’m defining intimacy as really knowing someone and being vulnerable. Not having sex with them.)
This is why I’m so pro purposeful living. There’s no need for games and strategems if you’re busy getting on with your purposeful life.
Plus, as a general principle, if you play games, you’re likely to attract game players. And you can’t really complain…
Limerent Emeritus says
Song of the Day: “Let’s Dance” – David Bowie (19830
“There’s no need for games and strategems if you’re busy getting on with your purposeful life.”
Totally…but that’s one of those fundamentally true things that are of little practical value until you find the need for it. There are some fundamental truths that a lot of people don’t need but for the few that do, they’re pretty important. Like “Never break wind going down the hatch of a submarine.” Why? Because you stay in the cloud all the way down. Trust me on that one.
How many of us ever thought that one through in advance? Some things you inherently carry within you. Or, at least the seeds of them are already inside you. It’s not like one day you read about Integrity and tell yourself, “That’s pretty cool. I could use some of that.” And, voila! You find that you have it. It doesn’t work that way.
It’s true that people can change. For example, my integrity got better as I got older, but I think I had some to begin with. When LO #1 was cheating on her BF with me, I had no qualms then about doing it. I had questions about her but I owed him nothing and they weren’t married or officially engaged. I was told by her roommate they were going to get engaged. The fact that they weren’t was a totally arbitrary line that I had no problems crossing. Some people are ok with that, some aren’t.
I may not have been robbing the bank but I was driving the getaway car. I didn’t rethink that position until I was in a serious relationship and thought I might find myself in his position one day.
I’m all for purposeful living but there’s a big difference between the theoretical and the practical.
“Plus, as a general principle, if you play games, you’re likely to attract game players. And you can’t really complain…”
Are we talking about limerence or an actual relationship? To me, they are two different things. For a lot of us lifelong limerents who are on here, an LE has not moved into a successful, long-term relationship. (Some posters have had that experience, but not many). So to me, you ride the ride with the intensity of the limerence and get off it when it gets unhealthy. (If possible; maybe I’m dreaming and it’s not). And then you go look for something real. You do your best to not take limerence seriously. It’s an experience, but it’s fantasy land.
Limerent Emeritus says
“So to me, you ride the ride with the intensity of the limerence and get off it when it gets unhealthy. (If possible; maybe I’m dreaming and it’s not). And then you go look for something real.
Magic 8-Ball says: “Don’t count on it.”
I have one big, sexy experience left in me. Doesn’t necessarily have to be limerence. My dream of being seduced by a professional. 🙂 And then I’ll get serious.
Limerent Emeritus says
“My dream of being seduced by a professional. 🙂”
Actually, that really doesn’t seem unreasonable.
The question is how will you know it if you find it? Maybe, you already have and didn’t know it or it didn’t have the effect you thought it would. What would success look/feel like to you?
Do you know what happened when Sir Galahad found the Holy Grail?
“In most versions of the story of Sir Galahad, Galahad’s death comes about after his greatest achievement, that of the Holy Grail. – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galahad
Finding the Grail didn’t do squat for him, or anyone else for that matter. On top of it, the Grail went back to being lost and, as far as most people know, still is. If it ever was.
As far as the death part goes, Galahad could be Diane Keaton in “Looking for Mr. Goodbar.” Her quest didn’t end well.
As with other things in life, some quests are best left done by someone else.
“And then I’ll get serious.”
Translation: Then I’ll lower my expectations and settle.
How old are you? Do you seriously think you can pull that off? If you were that exceptional, I would have thought you’d have achieved your goal decades ago.
L.E.’s 5th Law: If you’re really a prize, someone will claim you.
That’s a setup for any guy that comes after him. You want to have a Phantom Ex in place before starting a relationship? If your goal is a trail of resentful suitors, that will do it. How convenient to engineer your standard against whom new candidates will fail before you start.
But as BTO says, “Any love is good love, so I took what I could get.” The older you get, the more likely you are to embrace this. So, you might be able to pull it off with a tolerable but uninspiring schmuck. At least, up until the time he figures it out.
Once he does, you’re a dead woman.
Don’t respond to my posts anymore.
I have recently discovered what limerence is, I had never heard of it before. I’m not sure if it’s what I experience or not. I only really resonate with 1 and 13.
I’m hoping someone can help me, or give me some advice
A little background – my parents split when I was very young, which has harmed my ability to make relationships now I’m sure of it. I do think it left me with attachment issues. For example, after my father left, I was in constant fear that my mother was going to leave me as well. I also didn’t want to go to school if my siblings weren’t going (if they were sick or whatever) as I thought it was a plan that my family had to leave me at school. Even when my mother was late to pick me up from school, I would panic and fear that she wasn’t coming to pick me up. My siblings seem to be able to have normal romantic relationships.
Growing up I had a few crushes on boys in school, and I would get very shy around them. I do remember never wanting them to know or find out.
In high school, I didn’t particularly have any strong crushes, apart from my first year, but he moved away the next year so it was no problem, I didn’t find myself thinking about him after he moved.
In my last year of high school, I found out a guy had a crush on me. I liked the attention, and we would talk via social media quite a bit, but in person I was too awkward to talk to him. He believed I didn’t like him, and looking back now he put a lot more effort in than I did, and we never ended up dating, we just stayed friends. Although I’m not sure if I really did like him, I think I liked the idea of him.
A few years later I met someone else I felt a “spark” with, I will call him B to avoid confusion. I found myself attracted to B the first time I met him, and we had what I would explain to be “moments” where we would catch each other’s eye contact, and not look away for longer than normal, and I felt a “spark”. He was nice to me, although I got the feeling he was a bit shy around girls as he was friends with one of my guy friends, who had told me he’d never had a girlfriend. I never told my guy friend that I liked B however, but B and I would get to interact a bit because of our mutual friend. I had the feeling B liked me, as we would be very close in class situations, for example if we had to stand around a table while the teacher showed us something, and he would almost be touching me. I also remember one time my guy friend put a laptop on my books when he was talking to me and B said something along the lines of “don’t put that on her stuff,” and took the laptop off of my things. But, the next year B was never in any of my classes and I never saw him around college, so it sort of ended there. I did later find out that one of my girl friends I had told about B had approached B and asked him if he liked me, which I didn’t ask her to do, and she said he said that he did, but he thought he would be a bad influence on me (he was into the party lifestyle).
Anyway, now I’m in my early 20’s, still never had a proper relationship.
I came into contact with someone about a year ago, that I used to go to school with. It wasn’t a situation where I spoke to him, I just saw him and we had eye contact and I hadn’t seen him since school and I remember thinking how good he looked now. He is 2 years younger than me.
Anyway I’ll call him J to avoid confusion.
I saw him a few times a week, but he was always with his friends and it was not in a situation where we had the chance to talk. I had to stop going to the place we saw each other for a few months, so I lost interest because I never saw him. But, I had to begin going again, so I saw him again. I would get very excited but also nervous. I would catch J looking at me and sometimes his friends would sometimes playfully punch him or almost “hype” him up. I tried to play it cool and not seem super interested, because I thought I’d seemed a bit desperate with my previous crushes. We lived in a similar area, so I was walking home with my headphones in, and he crossed the road and came and walked next to me (no one else was walking near us) but I was so nervous I sort of sped up trying to avoid him. Afterwards I was so disappointed in myself as it would have been perfect to start a conversation, but I couldn’t. Another time his friends were playing basketball with him and I walked past his house(no one else was walking past) and they all stopped and stared at me. I didn’t look back at them as I was too nervous. Anyway, we stopped seeing each other in that setting, but unlike other crushes I still found myself interested without seeing him for a few months. I then saw him at his work. We would make eye contact pretty much every time we walked past each other in the store, although sometimes I would avoid eye contact. He would walk past me closely, and I have even walked past and turned around and he was looking at me. I am also pretty sure I saw him smiling to himself after he saw me smiling and catching up with a friend I bumped into. I followed J on Instagram, but he didn’t follow me back for a while and I thought he must not be interested, but he recently followed me weeks after I followed him. I’m concerned I’m getting a bit obsessed? I don’t think about him constantly, and I can easily stop thinking about him. It’s more I am so hopeful of a relationship with him, when In reality I don’t know him that well, only from when we went to school together. I find myself having relationship fantasies about him as well. But it’s not like the intensity of the above statements. I don’t feel like my life has been negatively impacted since meeting him – I can focus on other things without thinking about him, and I don’t feel bad if he doesn’t look at me. I have however found myself looking at photos of girls he’s liked on Instagram, and trying to go to his work on the days I think he’s working which is what has been concerning me (his work is somewhere I need to go frequently as he works at a grocery store) I also am studying online, and need to get a job to earn money, our town is very small with only a few cafes and food places most of which I have already applied for, but I have been thinking of applying at the grocery store. Would this be a bad idea? Or could it mean maybe a relationship will blossom?
I feel it is also worth noting with some of my other crushes as soon as I thought they might be interested in me, I lost interest in them. That’s not the case for J though.
I also sometimes find myself thinking J is way too good for me, and could find someone more attractive/nice/better than myself. Other times I find myself thinking I deserve him and I am more than enough for him. I’m really stumped as to if I have a limerence situation, or if there’s something else, or if this is a completely normal situation.
I apologise for the lengthy post!!!
Hi Chloe – it doesn’t seem like limerence, but you obviously fancy J and maybe you’re a bit too shy and nervous to make a move. You could ask a friend to tell him you’re interested, if you don’t feel able to. It could get awkward if he turns you down, it could be brilliant if he feels the same! Ultimately it’s up to you to decide if you want to risk it.
This was an amazing read and hit home on all levels for me!
Hi everyone! I can’t say how helpful this blog has been for me in the last couple weeks. I so fit the descriprion of a standard limerent that it is both comforting (it’s nice to know what’s going on) and distressing (it ain’t fun).
I’m a single dad (47) who met a girl (42) through one of those dating apps two weeks ago. We matched instantly. Lots of texting and two great nights out. And all of a sudden… voilá! I can’t get her out of my mind. Literally. She is 24/7 here, in my mind. It’s so time consuming that it leaves me exhausted but craving for more. As you may have already guessed she is not so much into me. Ok, I’ve been there so many times in my life, it’s hardly news to me, but this time around the whole thing is different.
What makes things worse is that I feel silly and stupid and childish about the nature of these feelings and my lack of control over them. It’s crippling me. Of course I can’t tell anyone how I feel, who would get it? I’m at a crossroads right now: should I disclose to her (and probably blow it up) or should I just keep it to myself? Oh boy…
Thanks for reading & good health to you all.
This piece speaks to me somewhat.
I only met her once, only chatted for a few months online.
Botched the evening itself, of course I did and some of the aftermath. Perhaps I was intoxicated a bit by her beauty, but in addition to that, she had a certain aura to her. Still does!
I could have done an awful lot better on the evening, and after but damage done on evening, compounded thereafter. Whether it would have done the job is a different argument, maybe it wouldn’t…but the errors I made I’ll always bloody regret!
1) I did not wear a shirt (she though looked great in my view). T-shirt, jeans, smartish fleece but black shoes. Assumed it’d be somewhere between smart and casual.
She wore a good dress which showed arms but not full length, tights, fancy boots and nails done excellently.
2) My supermarket bag which contains a few things was visible in a nice cocktail place! Which leads neatly onto…
3)…Us talking of food! I was umming and aahing and my indecisiveness eventually steered us away and to make matters worse…
4)…I spoke of Cheese Ploughmans and Prawn Sandwiches in my bag- for me enroute back! Unbelievable but there’s more. Food there looks great, wish I’d ordered some stuff even if the meet was a fail.
5) I checked phone twice, not good!
6) As I miscalculated the weather, this had a knock-on effect on not only the dress code but having to rush for 2 taxis to avoid a soaking! This unsettled me, especially the 2nd one scrambling for a taxi queue as I did.
7) Possibly partially linked to the being unsettled thing, I did jokes about my work, and daft stories of the past to try and ease it for me a bit, to ease myself in a bit.
8) She mentioned that she worked part-time, well I *might* (with the best of intent) have offered her work at my workplace, also part-time. I’ve told nobody about this, but this was bloody abysmal.
For some reason I thought it went great and was delighted! How wrong I was…sent her a few texts on the evening when down the pub with pals, she proceeded to block my number with not even a word that the texts were intense or excessive!
Things didn’t go well on the site either, eventually she blocked me on there too.
Finding out that she may have a different name, could be married albeit rather confusingly in an Open Relationship, well it’s no contact that she wants clearly.
She’ll get that, but I’m at a level whereby IF I pass her and she is being harassed or worse, or I overhear it whatever. Well ‘No Contact’ is just that, and she should expect no help from me, even though my ethics are quite different.
How I needed this right now.. I met a girl online dating. I was already in a fearful place. I am 39, starting to realize it’s getting too late to have a family and I rarely meet women that I like. We both loved each others profiles, just what we were both looking for. Chatted for three weeks and called on the phone. She showed so much interest in me.
We went for one date, and I got such mixed signals all night. After the date I left feeling completely unsure how it went. Her personality completely jived with me, we laughed, touched, talked a lot. But I still got tiny signals that she wasn’t feeling the spark. After the date she told me she was not sure I was her type but she could consider seeing me again. I realized that above all I had come on too strong and seemed needy and scared her off. We agreed to see each other again. But between these two dates she barely texted me. While she had every day previously. Her distancing prior to the date drove me nuts. But I still managed to keep my head on for the second date. Again we had such a good time, so much fun, same interests. But again she showed signals of staying at a distance.
Three days after that date she writes back that she doesn’t see this going anywhere. I am in complete limerance. I only talked to her for a month. Met her twice and I can’t get her out of my mind. Shake the feeling that I did something on our dates that killed what in my mind could have been. That if I had only done x, things would have worked out.
I’m hooked on the fantasy that she was into me at one point, until she wasn’t. The sense that if I had played the cards just right she would not be gone now. And yet I realize that I have no clue if we would have worked out together. Only that I really really loved to be with her (or did I?) I don’t know anymore.
The combination of her being so into me at first, of not knowing what I did to make her not see a romantic opportunity with me, that she was affectionate and we did have a great time and still we’re done. The hot and cold, mixed signals. So many things conspire to create a perfect storm of obsession. At least understanding the psychology may help me find a way out of this void.