How do I keep my raging lust in check while getting to know someone?
January 5, 2010 6:07 PM   Subscribe

Please share with me your best tips for keeping my raging lust in check while I'm getting to know someone I find very attractive.

I’m a single woman in my early forties, and I recently met someone who's incredibly hot and sexy, as in "he makes me utterly weak in the knees with ravenous, raw, I-just-want-to-throw-caution-to-the-wind-and-fuck-you-senseless lust."

It’s been many years since I met anyone who stirred up such primal feelings of passionate sexual desire in me. Frankly, I was beginning to think I no longer had it in me to feel this kind of erotic attraction, especially this early on in the process of getting to know someone. Oh, was I ever wrong!

This man is someone I will continue to encounter in a social context on a semi-regular basis, since we hang out in some of the same places. We are casual acquaintances – we have several mutual friends, and these social connections are very important to me, so I want to tread carefully. I’m pretty sure he likes me so far and enjoys chatting with me about our common interests whenever our paths cross, but really, we hardly know each other at this point. I think he’s single, but I don’t know for sure, and even if he is, I have no idea whether he’s attracted to me at all or would ever want to date me. I’ve considered asking him out, and I might do that eventually if he seems receptive, but at this point I feel too emotionally and hormonally overwhelmed even to engage in a simple bit of low-stakes flirting to test the waters. I sometimes find myself nervously freezing up and hastily excusing myself when I’d really rather be continuing the conversation with him, and therein lies the problem.

Feeling this way about another human being is beautiful, to be sure, but it’s also frightening and unsettling. I get tongue-tied and jittery around him. I fear I will unwittingly tip my hand too soon or come on too strong, and ungracefully ruin my chances of having at least a friendship with him if it turns out he’s not single, if the interest isn’t mutual, or if either of us discovers that there is some kind of deal-breaker here. (This has happened before in my life - my erotic attraction once obliterated a budding friendship, to my great dismay - so the fear isn’t unwarranted).

Here’s what complicates matters even further:

1) I have been single, dateless and celibate for a long time and am craving companionship and sexual attention.

2) My sexual confidence is still shaky and I bear scars from a pattern of long-term emotional withdrawal and repeated sexual rejection in my last relationship.

3) This man is quite a bit younger than me (the “cougar” stereotype sucks!)

It would be an understatement to say I am less-than-optimally equipped to sanely handle voracious erotic desire for someone in this context. Help! How do I keep my intense lust and anxiety from interfering with the process of getting to know him better? If I find out he’s taken, not interested, or incompatible with me, it’ll cool my jets quickly. But in the meantime, I need some coping strategies to help me clear mental and emotional space to get to know him.

I read through several earlier AskMe threads on dealing with crushes, dating and attraction, but couldn’t find anything from this angle. Any and all advice is appreciated, and personal anecdotes are very welcome, especially from other lusty middle-aged women who’ve successfully navigated similar situations.
posted by velvet winter to Human Relations (24 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

Maybe it would be worthwhile to ask one of your mutual friends if he's single, and see what kind of reaction you get.
posted by bingo at 6:17 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

it's not the most popular opinion - but my suggestion for guys or gals who find themselves overwhelmingly horny, to the point that engaging in the mating dance is just too much, is to pay a prostitute so you can get back in the swing of things without all the "does he like me? am i doing it right?!" hanging over your head. break the celibacy and then try to level headedly approach a new target.
posted by nadawi at 6:38 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

"a new target" as in, the guy you're crushing on right now.
posted by nadawi at 6:39 PM on January 5, 2010

This might not be relevant if you already masturbate regularly, but if you don't it might help you get over your initial "horniness".
posted by kylej at 6:49 PM on January 5, 2010

*it being to masturbate
posted by kylej at 6:49 PM on January 5, 2010

First of all, get that stupid "cougar" stereotype out of your mind. It's so lame.

You're never too old (and early 40s is nowhere near old, ok?) to feel such overwhelming lust. Do you have any inkling whether he's interested in you, too? Go ahead and bite the bullet. Ask him to coffee. If he says no, then you better know where you stand. Don't even try to flirt.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:17 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don't ask one of your mutual friends whether he's single unless you want him to find out you're interested in him. Mutual friends will always gossip.
posted by cotesdurhone at 7:30 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It seems that, for a variety of good reasons, you don't trust yourself to make advances -- or even flirt -- with this man while you're in the thrall of some raging erotic feelings for him. Totally understandable. I've been there myself.

What has always worked for me in the past is to embrace the worst-case scenario (e.g., convince yourself that he is almost certainly married or otherwise involved with someone) so your raging hormones either pipe down or move onto another target, clearing the field so you can really get to know the man and be sure that your interest in him goes beyond lust before you make an obvious play.
posted by DrGail at 7:33 PM on January 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

I sometimes find myself nervously freezing up and hastily excusing myself when I’d really rather be continuing the conversation with him, and therein lies the problem.

Pretty sure that's the point of this excercise. Stop waiting until you feel like it--flirt when you are uncomfortable.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:35 PM on January 5, 2010

Response by poster: bingo - I think it's most valuable to muster up the courage to stand up to my own fears and flirt with him or (eventually) ask him out, but I haven't ruled out the ask-a-mutual-friend strategy. Right now, though, I'm more concerned with keeping my intense attraction to him from interfering with the gradual process of getting to know him.

nadawi - Fucking someone I don't know for the sake of sexual tension relief holds virtually no appeal for me; in fact, I think it might just leave me more frustrated. The emotional component is every bit as important as the sexual one for me.

kylej - That angle is very well taken care of already, thanks. :)
posted by velvet winter at 7:40 PM on January 5, 2010

Best answer: What is it about him, per se, you find so attractive?

Since the mind can actually only focus on one thing at a time, when interacting with him, I would very mindfully try to focus on understanding what he's saying, and communicating with him as clearly as possible.

If an unwanted lustful thought/sensation enters your consciousness, acknowledge it, accept it, recognize that it is irrelevant to understanding what he's trying to say, let it pass, and refocus on understanding what he's saying as clearly as possible.

If he is, by chance, occasionally flirting, you will realize it without flirting yourself, and then will be free to reciprocate. But don't try to flirt. Just try to focus on one thing: understanding what he's trying to express as clearly as possible.

Hope this is somewhat helpful.
posted by cotesdurhone at 7:48 PM on January 5, 2010 [6 favorites]

3) This man is quite a bit younger than me (the “cougar” stereotype sucks!)


No, it does not.

The cougar stereotype rocks.

Just keep two ideas in your mind, when you're around him:

1. It's an absolute certainty that there are experiences you have had-- sights and sounds and textures and smells and tastes and combinations thereof-- that he has not had. If any two minds were to actually truly merge, the radicalism of the result would be far beyond that of any psychedelic.

2. Because of 1., it's reasonable and really quite thoughtful and kind to maintain the following attitude:

"Life contains experiences you have not had, and life is more fun than you realize... so if you're sufficiently daring and creative and bold [lift eyebrows twice, quickly] maybe you'll get a chance to share something of what I have experienced."
posted by darth_tedious at 7:53 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

"I sometimes find myself nervously freezing up and hastily excusing myself" - which may be giving him a sign that you don't enjoy his company. The fact that he's still available after you've done this several times strikes me as a good sign.

Use the mutual friend route - part of the point of that is someone will tell him you asked.

If the emotional compent is a big deal to you, then think carefully about asking him out. Making the first move is not going to help you if you want to be wanted.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:56 PM on January 5, 2010

Response by poster: Do you have any inkling whether he's interested in you, too?

No, not really. He seems to enjoy chatting with me, and he's always very friendly toward me and asks me questions (e.g, "hey, how's your new project going?"), but I haven't a clue whether he likes me that way. In fact, there's even a possibility that he's under the impression I have no sexual/romantic interest in him at all, because sometimes when I'm around him I get all tongue-tied and shy and awkward, and when that happens I clam up and quickly excuse myself.

I've told him that I enjoy his company and that I have fun chatting with him, and I've asked him lots of questions about himself, his hobbies, etc., which he seemed happy to answer. We always greet one another warmly and chat a bit when our paths cross, but that's about the extent of it at this point.
posted by velvet winter at 8:11 PM on January 5, 2010

I don't know about how you're wired, but I find that frequent and vigorous jerking off just keeps me even more perpetually sexually heightened. If you need to be cool around him for awhile until you get a better sense of what's up, you might try masturbating less.

Throw your energy into a series of great books or a project to give you something to talk about and, more importantly, something else to think about about besides wherever your mind is going ;)
posted by desuetude at 9:29 PM on January 5, 2010

Best answer: (Massive oversharing follows:)

Two Things:

First of all, as it happens, I've lately been fondly reminiscing about a brief and beautiful affair I had with a 39 year old woman when I was but a lad of 20. I don't know how that compares to the age difference in your current situation, but I thought it might be helpful to hear that both then and now I viewed the whole thing as a completely wonderful experience that, were I back in that place now a decade gone, I would do it all over again. I'm no fan of the "cougar" stereotype mess either, and it's not at all that her age made her more of a conquest or whatever the hell. While it was going on, we were just two people who really dug each other and loved hanging out and touching one another and all of that - the decades between us were just happenstance, really. It's not that the age difference went unnoticed of course, but it wound up being a net positive for the duration of our relationship. Her wit, her experience and her confidence were an unbelievably welcome tonic to the 20-something girls I was accustomed to at the time.

Thanks to some practicalities, not least of which being the massive distance between central Washington and Chicago, this romance was not built to last. But ten years later, it remains one of my favorites.

I'm telling you this in order to encourage you to not see the age difference solely as a potential dealbreaker. Could be that he's tired beyond belief of the gals closer to his own age. You just can't know for sure until you get to know him better.

Which of course brings me to the Second Thing: how to get to know him better when he makes your bones wanna jump out of your skin. Last time I met the current object of my raging lust for dinner and drinks, the things that kept me functional were 1) preparation 2) expectation management 3) having the right songs stuck in my head. See, as with you and your guy, merely seeing this girl makes me want to swallow my tongue and forget everything I've ever learned about conversation and interaction. I've never lost a bar fight, I've been in car chases, I've done all manner of brave and foolish things and this little baker girl from Arizona makes me go all to pieces. Last time we made plans to hang out, I decided to take a page from my reporter days and treat the evening almost like an interview. This time, I would be ready.

See if this works for you: I was having a lot of trouble getting to know this gal as much as I would have liked because when around her I would get so thunderstruck that the only questions I could remember were "HOW YOU GET SO PRETTY? WHY AM YOU SO NEAT?" (neither of which I would actually ask, obviously) - So in the days before we were to meet up, I filled one side of a piece of standard steno note paper with all the stuff I'd been dying to know about her and continuations of prior conversations that by some miracle had not crashed and burned completely. I did my best to keep the questions fun and open-ended. By now, I'd warrant that you know what your guy likes to talk about, so if you go this route, try to keep those things in mind as you fill your sheet.

About a day before we were to meet, I had filled the sheet and just read it back over and over, memorizing the questions so I would have a whole pack of them to draw upon whenever my nervousness threatened to derail the conversation. During the evening, I kept the sheet on me, folded up in my change pocket so I could whip it out and refer to it briefly when, say, a restroom break parted us for a moment.

The jitters were with still with me that evening, naturally, but it was different somehow - like, have you ever been in a play that you rehearsed really hard? On opening night, you're still all pins and needles but you're also READY. You know what to do and where to be and that anxiety amplifier we call "uncertainty" couldn't really get a foothold. I think I found out more about her in that single evening than I had in all the months we'd been hanging out previously. See if that works for you!

Expectation management: This was pretty simple, really. I told myself that a single evening doesn't have much chance of forever changing or breaking a relationship between friends. My mission wasn't to make her fall in love with me or to avoid repulsing her or to keep all of my terrible feelings secret or to reveal them in the most flattering framing or whatever the hell. My directive was a simple as what I think you're looking to do here: just get to know the person better. Find out more about them. This way I was able to stop fretting about the future and to keep doing all the stuff all the conversation guidebooks tell you to do (you know, keep the focus on them, encourage them to share, yaddayadda). It was a lot more fun than tense and really reminded me of an interview for an article, which I'm used to being in control during.

Music: This is an anxiety management trick I picked up from way back. Maybe it'll work for you! I find that when heading into a situation that could be stressful, it helps enormously to have some cheerful, confident music locked into my head to, I don't know, provide me with a good soundtrack or something for the ordeal I'm trying to make into a success. Pick something you like and listen to it over and over so it's really dialed in there. Here's a few of my go-to tunes. When they've earwormed me enough that I'm bobbing my head in silence, they're ready!

Straight to Hell - Hank III

The Kelly Affair - Be Your Own Pet

What's Happenin' - Method Man & Busta Rhymes

Tha Shiznit - Snoop Doggy Dogg

Word Up - Cameo

You get the idea :)

Anyhow, it's my hope that you manage to keep your cool long enough to find out that, yes indeed, this dude wants to jump your bones as bad as you wanna jump his.
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:39 PM on January 5, 2010 [26 favorites]

Best answer: Sounds like you both have a genuine interest in talking to each other. Seems reasonable to take the next step of having a conversation together, over dinner, some night. Consider: if he wasn't single and wasn't interested, he'd have mentioned his wife/girlfriend by now to keep you from getting the wrong idea. Also consider: if he wasn't interested in talking with you, he wouldn't ask questions like "hey, how's your new project going", he'd just go "mm hmm" a few times and find an excuse to get away from you.

I think the mutual friend route isn't a bad one, but simply asking "so, we talk about [your work/your hobbies/whatever you talk about] a lot, but not your family." Find out if he has brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and of course if he's got a family of his own, or someone he's thinking of starting a family with. If you were completely uninterested, this would be a reasonable thing to talk about -- it's not tipping your hand provided you ask openly and sincerely. Plus, then he can ask you the same questions, and perhaps then he'll decide to ask you out.
posted by davejay at 9:52 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just wanted to say that the answers so far really rock - even the suggestions that don't suit me are helpful in clarifying where I stand in the midst of this heady hormonal and emotional cocktail I'm currently swimming in - and you all have given me a lot to ponder. I love it! You people are awesome! Please keep the suggestions and stories coming!

EatTheWeak, I love your handy-list-of-questions-to-ask, expectation-management, and cultivating-musical-earworms ideas, and your encouraging story really made me smile. Thank you!

I'll check the thread again tomorrow after work. I can tell already that choosing best answers is going to be difficult!
posted by velvet winter at 11:46 PM on January 5, 2010

I'm with the research and masturbation angle. Touch starvation can cause you to make some seriously messed up decisions you wouldn't otherwise, but can also make a meaningful encounter even more fantastic than it would be if you had already been getting lots of physical affection and attention elsewhere.

Also, review how to flirt and read up on body language. The combination will give you an edge in knowing what's going on.
posted by medea42 at 1:53 AM on January 6, 2010

Remember, too, that the whole "cougar" stereotype adds a certain level of "kink" for the man in the younger-man/older woman encounter. If the emotional part of the interaction is important to you, make sure (and I don't know how) he doesn't want to just tell his buds a "I bedded a cougar" story.

Back in the day, an older woman was an older woman; now it is a kink/fetish...sad.
posted by teg4rvn at 12:48 PM on January 6, 2010

Hey Velvet Winter! I'm so glad you met a guy who makes your knees feel like jelly. I don't really have any better advice than what's already been said. I just wanted to stop in and say, "Yay!"
posted by dchrssyr at 2:04 PM on January 6, 2010

Response by poster: What is it about him, per se, you find so attractive?

I can't tell if that was a rhetorical question or not. I'm tempted to answer it as if it were a sincere, straightforward query, but I'm also hesitant because 1) I don't want to give too much detail about him, lest I reveal his identity; and 2) I'm overwhelmed with feelings of erotic desire and vulnerability right now. Rhapsodizing about why I think he's smokin' hot and want to tear his clothes off will only throw more fuel onto those fires, and...well, let's just say that's probably not a wise idea at the moment. ;)

dchrssyr - That's really sweet and thoughtful of you to cheer me on like that...thank you!!

EatTheWeak - Your whole comment was great, but this line of yours, in particular, painted such a vivid mental picture for me that I burst into great helpless fits of side-splitting, uproarious laughter:

I would get so thunderstruck that the only questions I could remember were "HOW YOU GET SO PRETTY? WHY AM YOU SO NEAT?"

Love it!

Thanks, everyone, for your input (in MeFi mail as well as in-thread). Very much appreciated! I'll come back to this thread eventually and post an update on the situation one way or another.
posted by velvet winter at 8:36 PM on January 6, 2010

Response by poster: As promised, here's an update on the situation with my lust-object.

It has become pretty clear over the past few weeks that this man and I are unlikely to be a good match. For starters, I discovered some things about him that gave me pause. (For confidentiality reasons, I think it's best not to go into detail about my hesitations. Let's just say it's a rather ill-advised crush).

Furthermore, I really don't think he's interested in me sexually/romantically. In fact, the past few times our paths crossed, it seemed like he was being distant and avoiding me, and more than once I got the sense he was giving me the brush-off. A couple of casual, friendly e-mails I sent him in between these brief encounters received no response whatsoever. I suspect that he got a whiff of my lusty intentions somehow - pheromones, "vibes" or something like that - and decided it would be best not to encourage me.

So I've essentially given up on this particular erotic fascination, and although I still can't help thinking he's too smokin' hot for his own damn good, my jets have cooled rather quickly. I'm still feeling lusty, but at least it's a more free-floating, generalized kind of lust now, rather than the kind that constantly screams into my ear "*THAT* ONE! GET HIM HORIZONTAL *NOW*!!!! RIP HIS CLOTHES OFF AND FUCK HIM SENSELESS! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU WAITING FOR????"

So, anyway...the situation is essentially resolved. I'll still be friendly toward him and chat with him whenever our paths cross (if it seems appropriate), but I'll leave it at that. A severe case of unrequited lust is just about the last thing my poor bruised and lonely heart needs right now. Conveniently enough, other pursuits are taking up more of my time and energy now, so I probably won't cross paths with him as often as I did previously.

This is the first time I've ever used AskMe for anything relationship-related, and although I was hesitant to post this, I'm mostly glad I did.

I say "mostly" because some of the e-mail I received in response to this AskMe post was disheartening. There was a bit of the any-reasonably-attractive-woman-will-suffice attitude, e.g.: "No doubt he'd love to fuck you...he's a GUY, after all!" I can never seem to think of a good way to respond to that tired old stereotype (which, I might add, is not borne out in my experience with men). Usually my first instinct is to recount all the men I've known who don't share that attitude, but I don't think that helps much.

By far the worst of it, though, was a bald-faced and crudely worded offer for sex from a married man who was looking to cheat on his wife. Apparently the mere fact that I'm female and interested in sex with a specific person I'm crushing on makes me fair game for wanna-fuck email from anyone, even though I was explicit in this thread about my lack of interest in casual encounters. ("Fucking someone I don't know for the sake of sexual tension relief holds virtually no appeal for me; in fact, I think it might just leave me more frustrated.")

That said, I'm still glad I posted this question, because now I have good advice I can use if I ever find myself in this predicament again. Thanks again for all the advice, support, stories, and helpful suggestions!
posted by velvet winter at 10:47 AM on January 21, 2010

Thanks for the recap. You're right: Two unanswered emails is a sign that you should cool your jets.

Hope you enjoyed your crush, even if it didn't turn out exactly as you had hoped.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:22 PM on January 22, 2010

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