How to avoid someone you're attracted to you know isn't good for you?
October 21, 2011 4:58 PM   Subscribe

I am really attracted to someone I know I shouldn't be, when I'm not single and I know he is not the kind of person I should be interested in. We see each other almost every day of the week, and I'm in a new city with not many other friends. How can I find my way out of this feeling?

A few years ago, I was a bit wild. I was single for a long time and had a lot of inappropriate sex with not appropriate
people, men and women. I drank quite a bit at that time. It was fun and it was an experience, but it left me unhappy and confused.

In the interim, I found a therapist, and worked a lot of things out.
Then I fell in love with a very kind, stable, supportive partner. Due to economic circumstances, things have been difficult (he was unemployed, I was underemployed), but we were happy and I love him very much.

I just moved to a new city to go to graduate school a month ago and he stayed there (he unequivocally told me he didn't want to come with me, but he wanted to stay together and work on getting out of being unemployed, and I respected that). We're both busy now, and although we'll only be apart for a month or so at a time at most over the next 7 months, our relationship is now long distance. I'm more excited here, and feeling more happy in my choices and in who I am, than I have been in years.

The problem:
There is a guy in my class who I wasn't completely sure about from the beginning. Although we had things in common in terms of interests, I found it hard to talk to him about them, and I found him quite self consciously cool and arrogant at first. He is very exhibitionistic, attention seeking, and loves to tell lurid stories about his years of taking drugs, sex, etc. I am far more quiet and introverted and I found this boastful and tedious, but I also answered him back with a kind of yeah yeah, I've seen all that tone because I was annoyed by this. I associate exhibitionism with emotional imbalance, and I avoid those kind of people because usually they lead to drama. They are also exactly the kind of people to whom I used to be attracted.

A couple of weeks later, we ended up hanging out alone without our other friends, and he was very open with me when I didn't feel like I'd invited that or it was socially appropriate. I was appalled when he told me that he had encouraged someone to take a lot of pills and they ended up in a coma. (he didn't present this as malevolent or uncaring, more as something he feels guilty about, but it is something I would never discuss with a near stranger, or feel at all ambivalent enough about to relate as an anecdote - not that i'd ever do something like that anyway)

I spent a lot of time after that thinking and trying to work out what kind of personality he had, why he had chosen me to tell these things to, why things were so tense between us, although sexual attraction was something I entirely dismissed.

After class this week I went for a drink with my group and I told him straight out that I thought he disliked me at first. After a couple of drinks, he said he was pleased that I was so much less reserved than usual. His ex-girlfriend showed up in the pub, and I know that he wants to get back together with her (because he told me on a previous occasion!) Then after a couple more, I felt his foot nudging against mine under the table and the way he was looking at me had changed entirely and I could see things were heading in a certain direction, which I didn't expect. I got up, made my excuses, and left quickly. Since then, we've met each other at university and been quite neutral and polite.

My problem is, since then, I am insanely lustfully attracted to him and I cannot stop thinking about him or that night. It feels a lot like previous encounters that I've had, and I realised that although I'm so glad I don't have to deal with the drama of them anymore, they were exciting. I know he is not shy about sex. I see the rabbit hole and where it could go, and do not want to go near it. I feel guilty. I've been able to rethink the things that I know I'm not happy about in my relationship for the first time, I'm trying to figure out what the root of these feelings are (distraction, independence, etc), but I know that this is not going to help me manage and diminish this day to day feeling.
I am controlled about my drinking and know that this is the most important thing to avoid with him, but any other advice you can give me on how to think about this and how to make my relation with him as neutral as possible is welcome. I cannot avoid him, I'm ok with being friendly with him (we are in a group that spends about 4 days a week together) and I know after a certain amount of time, the feeling will ebb off. I know how inanely romantic I'm being, and I know I'm just flattered because its been such a long time since anyone has been so overt in finding me attractive. I just need some perspective.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
"so overt in finding me attractive"

The dude is a steaming pile of drama who made a foray to see if you were game. That's all. Your level of attractiveness may have had little to do with it.
posted by HopperFan at 5:03 PM on October 21, 2011 [13 favorites]

How can I find my way out of this feeling?

I guarantee that if you just hang in there a bit he will eventually do something that will take attraction off the table for you entirely. I say this because, reading your post, you don't like this guy at all and are actually semi-repulsed by his behavior. And he sounds much too impressed with himself plus damaged plus desperate for attention not to ultimately do something over the top that will turn you off. Give it some time. Also, if you totally ignore him he will disappear just 'like that'. He likes working a bit harder for your attention--but that is all.
posted by marimeko at 5:24 PM on October 21, 2011 [8 favorites]

I guarantee that if you just hang in there a bit he will eventually do something that will take attraction off the table for you entirely.

Exactly. All you need to do is wait. Don't be alone with him, that takes care of the practicalities. In the meantime you might as well enjoy fantasizing. Indulge in it. He will very soon reveal something repellant about himself that deflates the fantasy like a wilting helium balloon.

Consider that if you slept with him, there's a good chance he's hate you afterwards and destroy your reputation. If you let it get to the point where you have to bluntly reject him, he might lash out at you as well. Back off, play dumb, lay low, and count your blessings, is my advice. Right now, you have all the power. He wants you. Enjoy being wanted and make yourself scare so it lingers like a slow burn. As soon as you give in and show your cards, he wins and you've gone back a few squares on the gameboard. To mix metaphors. That's just how it is with people like him.
posted by Nixy at 5:35 PM on October 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

This sounds kind of silly, but it's helped me calm down somewhat when I'm in the grip of an inappropriate or unrequited crush: Picture Crush Object picking his nose, farting in his sleep, sitting on the john in his ratty terry robe, or with a bout of really gross diarrhea. It's a cliche, but it can work - especially because you don't really like the guy much.

Otherwise: stay calm and ride this out; you sound like you have a handle on not getting drunk around him or being alone with him. What marimeko said - it's likely that if you don't play into his drama he'll redirect his attention to a more vulnerable target. Frankly, from what you've told us he sounds like a douchebag at best or an awful person at worst (if he deliberately urged someone to OD, he's awful; if he's making it up to get attention, he's a douchebag). He might be targeting you because you are new and don't know him well enough to dislike him. It sounds like he's bound to do something that will make you un-attracted to him very soon.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:40 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think I'm reading some addiction or near-addiction issues hidden (or not so hidden) in your post, which is exactly what this dude seems to be pushing in you, button-wise. There's a reason that addicts (I'm not saying you're an addict, just to be clear) are encouraged to stay away from the influencers in their lives, because that exact type of "I know it's bad, but isn't it good?" behavior is a perfect storm to get one picking up again.

The same often goes for drama. Drama gets adrenaline flowing and it's a bit of a rush, so the closer you get to being "bad," the more tempting it is to going over the edge.

See this guy for what he is: a temporary, bad fix of something that's going to make you feel like shit as soon as the fun "bad" effects wear off.
posted by xingcat at 5:40 PM on October 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

I would just talk to your LDR partner about it. Not "oh my gosh I'm so worried I'm going to be unfaithful to you and get into a mess" but rather "you would not believe what the idiot player in my class did now." A few conversations like that and you'll have reminded your inner moron of all the reasons this is a terrible idea, and the parts of you that are all excited about this seeming opportunity will get with the not-gonna-go-there program.
posted by SMPA at 5:41 PM on October 21, 2011 [9 favorites]

He wants you.

It's probably more like he wants you to help him work the other girl, the ex. He's probably feeling you out to see how easy you'll be to dump once he gets what/who he really wants. You probably don't want to be used like that.
posted by fuse theorem at 5:44 PM on October 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

What they said. That's the tradeoff we sometimes make in mature, long-term relationships, the awesomeness of a great, appropriate, stable thing in exchange for, well, variety, novelty, and the thrill of the chase. Another factor is that, frankly, these potential situations can remind us of the fun parts of past lifestyle choices. I like how others have said you have the power here. You could use this as zingy fantasy fodder, for instance, if your behavior remains appropriate. I firmly believe that a lively fantasy and masturbatory life benefit both partners in a relationship if you turn it the right way.
posted by Occula at 5:59 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't drink when you're around him. Avoid being alone with him. You describe him as enough as a douchebag that the rest will take care of itself.
posted by MoonOrb at 6:03 PM on October 21, 2011

Of course you want him! He was an ass to the world and then treated you like you were super special--

He's a drama queen at best and narcissist at worst. If you think about his attraction to you as just his attraction to himself (he's playing with his power), you might not be so lustful.

Other offensive maneuvers:

1) Masturbate before you know you're going to see him. Takes the edge off, so to speak.
2) Pep talks to yourself in she shower.
3) Take up a new hobby that requires intense concentration. (This sounds crazy, but crushing on a new activity is very effective at killing the urge to crush on people who are losers, in my experience. You instantly become too awesome for them.)

Don't shame yourself for feeling this way. It'll feed the taboo around crushing on him and make your attraction stronger. Acknowledge you totally want to fuck him, and then acknowledge he is a total ass, and then acknowledge whoa, you are so smart because you know better than to do that in real life.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 6:13 PM on October 21, 2011 [9 favorites]

Perspective: this guy's a douche. Not just a douche-- a giant douche.

Sure, after a few drinks he looked at you like he would fuck you. I'm sure that's true for half the guys in that bar. That can be flattering and/or validating, but that's probably all it was, and you may not even find him attractive beyond that.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:17 PM on October 21, 2011

Also, you really need to remember that this guy and your relationship have nothing to do with each other. They aren't opposites. It's a false choice. Choosing him "over" your boyfriend will very likely just mean you sleep with him, he leaves you, and then your boyfriend finds out and he leaves you. Not fun, and not the easiest way to end things if that's what you want. If you don't feel like you still love your boyfriend, maybe you can just mentally thank douchebag for helping you to realize that in a cosmic sense, allow that to be his sole function (some of us only exist to teach a lesson to others, especially douchebaggy guys...heh) and then find a THIRD guy who can actually be what you need.
posted by Nixy at 6:25 PM on October 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

I think you should read this entire thread.

I commented at length here, and the coma story sounds like EXACTLY what I meant about overdisclosure-as-testing.

I understand that you already understand this guy is not Good News, but I personally find that understanding that I'm being manipulated really takes the edge off that crazy lust. "A creep I can see through" is less magnetic than "dangerous guy in my program when I'm separated from my partner".

I love the "crush on a new hobby" strategy. I read some Major Literature that I'd always wanted to be the kind of person who had read it to get over a bad infatuation. I was going to suggest trying to crush on someone else, someone both more awesome and less willing to manipulate and fuck you.
posted by Iphigenia at 6:33 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

"I was appalled when he told me that he had encouraged someone to take a lot of pills and they ended up in a coma."

That is effed up.

Everytime you feel a tingle for him, I want you to remember what kind of person he really is. He is someone willing to put your well-being, even your life, at risk.

This person does not care about you. Don't you care about him.

Repeat that little negative anecdote to yourself every freakin' time you think of him.

Stay safe.


Also, continue to focus on the positive in your life. Compared to all of your blessings, this person doesn't even exist!
posted by jbenben at 6:42 PM on October 21, 2011

Yeah, chemistry can just suck sometimes. But after all the hormones and breathless glances and taboo-breaking fantasies, he's just another guy, and none too impressive a guy, at that.

Has he dropped the line about having a black soul or a hole in his heart, and he isn't even sure he's capable of love? Complimented you on your ability to see the good in people, since he can't seem to do that himself? Snickered at your naiveté?

Just guessing, but if you've nodded at any of those, just shrug and know you've been played, and it's human nature to allow ourselves to be played.

Seconding the don't drink around him and the don't be alone with him, though I'm not sure focusing on him doing bad/gross things will help much; you need not to be focused on him at all.

Kudos to you for being mindful enough to see it all happening, though.
posted by Mooski at 7:15 PM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have to tell you, I'm thinking of my friend Laura, she's got her troubles same as anyone but damn, is she ever strong, it just comes pouring out of her eyes. Whoa! She'd look this mook dead in the eye and tell him to keep his goddamn feet to himself, and then look at the others at the table knowing that she'd done right, same as if she'd brushed away a mosquito. At the very least she'd say "Hey, who's stepping on my foot?"

The game would stop right there.

Another person I thought of is a writer who used the time spent in airplanes to write, he really valued this block of hours -- he would put a piece of string hanging from his nose, no one would say a word to him. This wouldn't work in your scene, because of the other people that you've got to keep cool around, otherwise I suspect it'd work great, it'd humble you to the point where you'd know it was done with and it'd chase him off for sure.

Someone upthread talked about envisioning him sitting on the john or wearing a ratty bath-robe, walking unshaven around his house scratching himself -- hows about you imagine yourself sitting on the john with some horrific loud fart attack, or walking past him in dirty underpants, that ratty pair you've got tucked in the back of your drawer, the emergency shorts.

I damn sure don't think you ought to tell your sweetie about this at all, no need to get him worried about this. It's an adult situation, you're an adult, I'm positive you can deal with it on your own, and you'll be building strengths when you do. I know that you could/would give me great advice if I came to you asking for your help, positive you'd tell me to not give this guy the time of day.

The way I see it, you're in an even better position than someone who has never chased and slept around, as they might be deluded, thinking somehow that there's something to this, whereas you *know* that there is nothing there, that's it's an awfully empty place to live, you *know* how lucky you are to have found A Good Thing.

Here's a thought for you late on a Friday night, a time when many, many people are examining their lives without love in them -- not everybody gets to find A Good Thing. They don't have the warmth in their heart that you have, knowing that a good man loves you and that you love him, too.

This guys a dope and you know it, enjoy The Good Thing you have been lucky enough to find.
posted by dancestoblue at 8:29 PM on October 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

I would probably blurt it out to my boyfriend as a way to de-fuse it. Saying it out loud might cut the whole thing down to size. No need to go into detail about your feelings of lust, but just talk about this guy in your class who's a total drama queen and was actually flirting with you last week--the nerve!--and how uncomfortable it made you. Or say you have a harmless crush, whatever it is seems reasonably honest/makes you feel somewhat accountable to your bf. For me, the blurting is about not keeping secrets, I guess. If I kept something like that to myself, I would probably end up minimizing the bad things and really building up the good thing (which I guess there's just the lust in this case) and it would make me more likely to make a bad decision. For me, pre-confessing usually prevents the sin.

One thing I always think about when I find myself really taken in by someone even though my gut is telling me otherwise, is Gavin De Becker talking about charm: “Charm is a verb. He is charming me. What does he want from me?”

And, yeah, don't drink too much and don't spend time with him alone.
posted by looli at 10:00 PM on October 21, 2011

I'm not sure what you can do about your feelings at this point. It's as if you've already drunk from the poisoned chalice.

But you can limit the damage. Take a look at this which I referred to only yesterday. I think you know that this guy is making you feel desirable now but he is only going to make you feel horribly worse.

I'd do as Nixy says: Back off, play dumb, lay low, and count your blessings, is my advice. Right now, you have all the power. He wants you. Enjoy being wanted and make yourself scare so it lingers like a slow burn. As soon as you give in and show your cards, he wins and you've gone back a few squares on the gameboard. To mix metaphors. That's just how it is with people like him.

That's how you're going to avoid getting your life disrupted. You will still end up feeling bad, because that's the inevitable outcome here. But if you shut this down now, you can limit exactly how bad you end up feeling.

Bad as in "oh crap I know he's a pathetic douchenozzle and yet I crave him despite myself and now he's running a jealousy plotline with some other chick right in front of me." This is better than bad as in "my boyfriend caught us and dumped me" or bad as in "I just took an overdose at his encouragement and I am now in the hospital with liver failure knowing I am going to die and there's nothing anybody can do about it."
posted by tel3path at 6:39 AM on October 22, 2011

Stop idolizing the unknown.
posted by phaedon at 7:51 AM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Read everything you can on narcissism, because this guy is classic. Feel free to send me MeFiMail as I have encountered my fair share of this type of person. They are eminently predictable and easy to handle if you can resist their spurious charms.
posted by xenophile at 9:39 AM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

From the OP:
Thanks to everyone who has commented on this post.

After a day away from the situation, and reading the comments, I couldn't help but laugh at how ridiculous I have been about this. Of course my gut instincts were right! I've met - and been involved - with people like him before, and I'm not in touch with them now because they are erratic, selfish, and narcissistic, no matter how interesting they seemed initially. Obviously I cannot control his behaviour, but I shouldn't react to it. Eroticising is something to go back to my therapist about, but it should be something that stays in the mind and is never acted out. Narcissistic personality disorder with a soupcon of histrionic seems to fit this person really well.

I particularly valued HopperFan, marimeko, xingcat and Nixy's comments, although all comments were supportive and useful.

To get a new hobby or interest, in particular, is great advice. One of my problems here has been trying to find ways to do things I used to like doing in a new setting with a host of other things to sort out at the same time, such as finding work. I've probably become overattached to this social group, because they are the first people I've met since I came here who weren't from my home town that I had something in common with. Now I want to meet people outside of it and develop other networks too.

To clarify:
I wasn't sure if I liked him as a person, but I wasn't quite willing to dislike him actively, even if its patently clear that I don't really like him! I don't think, however, that he is going to try to make me overdose on drugs or alcohol or anything else. I don't think he has good boundaries, but I knew from the first that he'd never exactly get that far. He isn't a complete sociopath either (I've met a few). When he told me the messed up friend in a coma story, it was clear that it wasn't just one friend but a whole group taking drugs, he felt responsible for this (and maybe particularly afraid after it?) because this was his particularly good friend. Now it is not a happy story, and the reasons he told it can be interpreted and analysed in a few ways, but I don't think he wants to kill anyone.

I laughed a lot when people mentioned the jealous game. I am pretty certain he will do that with some willing female and I even think I know that there is a victim in sight. If that doesn't pan out, I'm sure you're right! He'll try and do it with someone else.

I do have some addiction issues, but I am very aware of them.

I did mention our narcissist's attempt at a game of footsie to another person in our group just before I excused myself, in an eye-rolling 'What the hell did I not mention before that I'm practically married? What's his problem?' I really liked the idea of saying 'who's standing on my toe?'. It's the right attitude. At this juncture I did not want to be confrontational, but I am plenty capable of it. I've been around this block before a few times!

My crush, or button-pushed interest, should just be allowed to run a quiet course and let die.

Without suitable trusted friends in this city to discuss this with, who would have immediately said the same things that everyone did here and told me to get real, I was lucky to know about the HiveMind. Thanks.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:06 AM on October 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

He sounds like he's using typical "pick up artist" techniques, and they're working
posted by moorooka at 6:48 PM on October 22, 2011

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