Like a moth to a flame
April 16, 2011 5:12 PM   Subscribe

Why am I drawn to certain people like a moth to a flame?

I'm trying to work some things out in my head about why I'm attracted to certain kinds of people. I'm attracted to this person who is bad for me and I can't seem to let him go. When we're together I'm ecstatically happy. When we're apart, he is very emotionally withholding and it hurts terribly.

He has a certain kind of cold stillness in him that I really like, an independence and strength. He reminds me a lot of the character of Gabe in the television show Six Feet Under, the crazy guy who holds up a liquor store that Claire falls in love with. He's a bastard, but there's something so attractive about him, at least before he goes off the deep end. I can't put my finger on it, though. Why am I drawn to him? If you know the show, why was Claire drawn to Gabe?

I am trying to figure out why I am so attracted to this person, and whether I can find the same qualities in a healthier relationship, or whether we can work out our differences together. Does it ever happen that these sorts of relationships work out? Can we grow together and maintain this attraction while fixing the parts of our psychologies that don't work well together? Or are all relationships of this sort doomed? Or perhaps some third way?

So, I want to keep this away from chatfilter, but I want to hear about your experiences to help me place my situation in context. Have you ever been a moth to a flame?

What attracted you to them?
- Did you find the same qualities in a healthier relationship or did you just stop wanting those things?
- Did you eventually work out your differences while keeping the attraction with the same person?
- Did you get what you needed in another way (from another relationship or activity or within yourself)?

Thank you, Mefites. (Some people have messaged me privately, so it's good to know that my questions are at least helping others think through these issues.)
posted by 3491again to Human Relations (17 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
You have low self-esteem, and being denigrated/punished validates your opinion of yourself.
posted by orthogonality at 5:20 PM on April 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


You need to work for the man you need. Saving people from themselves is so unsexy.

You need to infiltrate his community, get to know him before he does something stupid and learn to be outrageous with each other so you can save everyone else from him being a bastard.
posted by parmanparman at 5:21 PM on April 16, 2011


Perhaps it's just as simple as you wanting to be independent and strong yourself because you feel you lack those qualities. Focus on incorporating them more into your personality. You don't need to be with him to do that.

You say that you're ecstatically happy when you're together and that he's emotionally withholding when you're apart, but how is he when you're together and how are you when you're apart? Is he as happy as you are? Is him withholding emotionally more that he's independent than anything else and you want to be with him more?

Perhaps you need to work on being stronger and more independent within yourself and yet also look for someone who wants to be with you more often.

Why are you drawn to him - because he's the catalyst for change within yourself.
posted by mleigh at 5:35 PM on April 16, 2011


Love is crazy. Attraction strikes like an arrow to the heart when we least expect it, at inopportune times- it has for everyone, everywhere, at all times in history. It's a mystery, but I like to blame pheromones.

It's how we act in the face of our attractions that we have control over. The older you get the more you realize you'll have random occassional strong crushes in life, and it gets easier to contol yourself and ignore them.
posted by Nixy at 5:36 PM on April 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would suggest that perhaps you might like to look up resources on love addiction as this feeling of excitement/happiness can actually be a red flag for some people, rather than an indicator of partner suitablility. Perhaps you're not one of those people, but it wouldn't hurt to check it out, no ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:04 PM on April 16, 2011


One of the best lessons I ever learned in my life: "When we love ourselves, people no longer look good to us unless they are good for us."
posted by scody at 6:04 PM on April 16, 2011 [26 favorites]


Personally I am beginning to realize that for me, these guys express a part of themselves which I am jealous of, and it is usually resolved when I realize I have that in me too, but have been unknowingly suppressing it out of fear
posted by Chrysalis at 6:17 PM on April 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


Perhaps your "animal attraction" is triggered by his coldness and seemingly predatory nature for evolutionary reasons. You feel, somewhere deep inside, that he is a good protector because your genes are programmed to seek men whose offspring will have the best chance of surviving and thriving and perpetuating themselves in the gene pool.

This is so obvious out of evolutionary psychology that I initially suspected your question was a sham, functioning as bait to ferret out people's opinions to see whether they are in denial about evo psych principles. But then I see you've asked basically the same question about a month ago. Did you not like the responses you got last time?
posted by jayder at 6:22 PM on April 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to work some things out in my head about why I'm attracted to certain kinds of people.

Imagine your "type" as a younger version of your Dad/Mom. Then go about your life trying to un-ring that bell.
posted by Rafaelloello at 7:12 PM on April 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Have you ever been a moth to a flame?

Oh god yes.

What attracted you to them?

I thought he was the great artist/musician that I actually was longing to be. I knew this, on some level, but I couldn't really understand it for a long, long time.

Did you find the same qualities in a healthier relationship or did you just stop wanting those things?

I eventually learned that people are just human beings, not symbols in my internal world; that I would only find what I really needed within myself.

Did you eventually work out your differences while keeping the attraction with the same person?

Nope. I do, however, still see him around, and wonder, after all these years, just what I was thinking, and what a feat of imagination it was to romanticize him into this towering figure. He was just another person, and far more fucked up than I was willing to believe.

Did you get what you needed in another way (from another relationship or activity or within yourself)?

Yes, in complicated ways and over a long period of time. What I needed to do was to think better of myself, and to stop thinking that artistic magic (or so I idealized it) was contagious.
posted by jokeefe at 10:00 PM on April 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


Also, it's a really good idea to separate out lust and desire from a genuine relationship.
posted by jokeefe at 10:01 PM on April 16, 2011


@jayder - I guess it takes some time to figure these things out, and sometimes you have to view the same issue from multiple angles.

@chrysalis and mleigh - I think that's probably it. Thanks for helping me to understand this.

@rafaelloello - I wish it were that simple. Neither of my parents are this way, at all.

@jokeefe - yes, exactly. "I eventually learned that people are just human beings, not symbols in my internal world; that I would only find what I really needed within myself." Wow.
posted by 3491again at 10:05 PM on April 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is no factual scientific answer to this question.

There are theories.
posted by bukvich at 7:29 AM on April 17, 2011


1. His poise, polish, confidence, and effectiveness in shaping his life in ways that satisfied him.
2. See below.
3. No. I realized that there was very little if any reality behind the fa├žade. As poised as he could be, his preoccupation with image often led him to do stupid things, and his "graceful recovery" was just a failure to properly handle the bad feelings that occurred in the wake of his errors. His "confidence" oscillated between arrogance and self-loathing with nothing healthy in between. And in the end, for all his influence and persuasion techniques, he had no more power to force the world into shapes that gratified him than I did with my more conventional efforts, because it's just not possible to have that much control over the world. If anything, he was more unhappy because of this as he tended to feel very angry and cheated by every little discomfort, which his belief system told him he should be able to arrange to avoid having to tolerate.
4. Another thing I noticed was that he seemed to be very proud of his girlfriend, but over time it unfolded that he saw her as a commodity and devalued her when she was not as successful or glamorous as he would have liked. He clearly had been counting on her to provide him with a particular lifestyle which he felt cheated out of when faced with the reality of her daily grind. He also seemed to be very reliant on women to provide him with an intellectual and emotional life since his own mentality was quite impoverished. As soon as a quantifiably more successful, popular, and glamorous woman hove into view he started imitating her and grooming her to be his bit on the side while relying on the first girlfriend to support him in the material style (house, car) to which he was accustomed.

As you can imagine, it was hard for me to have any respect, let alone attraction, for him once all this became apparent. Not only that, but seeing him obviously aping the interests and mannerisms of his latest targets, and seeing him change completely to put on a show for them, was quite an eye-opener for me. It showed me that not only did he lack the qualities I'd admired in him in the first place, but that he appeared to have these qualities because he was imitating me. It was literally the case that the thing I hoped to find outside myself had been within myself all along and he had been the one who was looking to me to provide him with those things. It's a good thing I didn't get involved with him because he was an insatiable vortex of need, really very debased underneath his respectable exterior, and not relationship material at all.

As to finding those qualities in another relationship (other than with myself as described above), give it time. I highly doubt that I'm the most fabulously poised person on the planet, and if I am, that's quite frightening :D If the qualities I sought exist in me, logically they must exist in another person too.

We all crave, and we're all lonely. There is satisfaction for that craving. I've recommended How To Break Your Addiction To A Person before, I'll recommend it again. This is where you'll get the most complete solution to your problem IMO.
posted by tel3path at 3:03 PM on April 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


It showed me that not only did he lack the qualities I'd admired in him in the first place, but that he appeared to have these qualities because he was imitating me. It was literally the case that the thing I hoped to find outside myself had been within myself all along and he had been the one who was looking to me to provide him with those things.

tel3path, this is brilliant.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 9:16 PM on April 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Repetition compulsion | Secrets of Psychotherapy (Part Two): Repetitive Relationship Patterns Why would anyone persist in pursuing relationships that are doomed to failure?
posted by nickyskye at 9:43 PM on April 18, 2011


I think you have to figure out what's going on inside you that makes this so painful. He can be however he wants (cold, distant, reserved, etc) but it really doesn't have to affect you. It affects you for some reason, it triggers something... figure it out.

I was involved with someone for a few years that I felt this way about, I just simply adored him, always, yet... I found his distance to be extremely painful. We broke off contact for about a year and a half... and I got over it, and examined why it was so painful for me (abandonment issues, loneliness, etc.)

We've been dating again for several months now and ... everything's different now. He's still equally interesting and attractive, and I'm still very happy with him, but there is no painful drama. Mostly I feel it has to do with the fact that I take full responsibility for my issues, instead of blaming them on someone else.

I would say I worked out my half of our differences, and he worked out his half. A year and a half of not being in touch really, really helped this process.

Whether you work it out with him, or find someone with similar good qualities without the bad qualities, you have to figure out what provokes your attraction to his bad qualities.
posted by Locochona at 3:42 PM on April 20, 2011


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