How do I deal with limerence for a total stranger?
November 11, 2011 2:18 PM   Subscribe

How do I deal with limerence for a total stranger?

So I see this stranger on a recurring basis. And I have a crazy, irrational crush on this person. Obsessive thoughts, heart fluttering, daydreaming, fantasizing about our potential life together, the works. I am well aware that this doesn't actually mean we're compatible in any way, shape, or form. I don't even know this person's name for chrissakes!

Anyway, I have actually dealt with this feeling before, when I thought I was falling in love with my best friend at the time. I now wonder if maybe that was just a crazy crush/infatuation as I am apparently now capable of developing this feeling for someone I don't know.

My initial game plan was to try to talk to this person and maybe ask them out. At the very least, it would break the fantasy of what I've got going in my head and it would help ease some of the craziness (or make it worse? I'm not sure). However, when I see my crush, I become stone cold silent and extremely nervous. I know this is normal to some extent. But the other day, I had amped myself up to finally say something and when I saw them, I immediately turned around and marched in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION.

This feeling is exhilarating and exciting but it also kinda makes me want to crawl into a hole and die. Please help me sort this out. FWIW, I have a gut feeling there is at least a mutual physical attraction. Honestly, I am willing to take the risk of being seen as foolish or creepy as opposed to wondering what if. Plus I think being rejected would help me come down from this.

What should I do? I don't think I can continue to not say anything and at the same time, I feel physically incapable of saying anything!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
You're kind of evasive about gender. If you are a man approaching a woman, I suggest you read this first: Hi. Whatcha reading?

Any other gender combination: just go for it already.
posted by modernserf at 2:23 PM on November 11, 2011

It's possible that there's the chance of a real relationship developing there but it seems more likely that what's going on is an internal process within your psyche, with the stranger functioning as a symbol. You can explore what is being symbolized, what is missing from your life, what you'd like to incorporate into yourself that is not there yet: those are some of the questions to explore. The experience of a crush like that can feel unbearable but, as everyone will tell you, it definitely passes.
posted by Paquda at 2:23 PM on November 11, 2011 [9 favorites]

Honestly, it sounds like you don't want to break the fantasy. Heart fluttering is fun! When you know nothing about the person, there's nothing to get in the way of your magical theoretical life together!

What should you do? Well, you can either recognize that what's currently going on is fun and keep doing it (don't be creepy, though), or you can recognize that talking to this person could go one of two ways: initial mild embarrassment/disappointment, or MUCH MUCH MORE FUN.
posted by supercres at 2:24 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is impossible to answer well without knowing the genders. :(

Just say hi a few times. If they're happy to see you when you run into each other, go from there.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:25 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

You say it's a crazy, irrational crush. Most likely, you're right.
posted by Segundus at 2:33 PM on November 11, 2011

Love is something that grows between two people. When one person is "in love" with a person who they do not know, that is not actually love, it is obsession. I realize that this may be obvious, but in your fantasies that person is a shell that you are projecting your desires on. Not an actual person.

I mention this because you are asking what you should do. The first thing that I would recommend is realizing that he/she is not a person but an attractive case for your desires. Remembering this whenever you fantasize should at least help you keep your feelings under control and in perspective.

This way, if you do talk to him her, you will emotionally handle it as talking to an attractive stranger, not your future fantasy wife/husband/love. That aura would creep anyone out.
posted by Shouraku at 2:47 PM on November 11, 2011 [6 favorites]

How do I deal with limerence for a total stranger?

Realize that given you don't know anything about this person, your limerence has nothing to do with THEM at all. All of your fantasies are just projections. This fantasy version of them in your mind isn't THEM, it's just your wishes cloaked in this person's appearance. It's no more them than my dog would be if I took him and dressed him up in your crush's clothes. Try to internalize that, first.

Then, look around at your life to figure out why you are fixating like this. Do you develop obsessions like this when you are bored? When there's nothing in your life that really excites you? Or if it's this escapist thing, that there's something about your life that's distressing you or you just don't want to otherwise think about, so you can retreat into this dream fantasy world?

That is what I would start by looking at if I were you, to deal with this limerence.

So I see this stranger on a recurring basis
This makes me think it is a barista or someone else who works in a public-facing job where you are a customer. If so, please tread very carefully here.
posted by cairdeas at 3:00 PM on November 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

You should start small, say "Hi" at some point. Smile when you do. Yes this might be hard, because OMG IT'S THAT PERSON YOU'RE CRUSHING ON. But saying hi and smiling isn't that big of a deal, really.

Start a conversation at some other meeting. Flirt a little. Get to know'em but don't bug'em a lot, especially if it's a place they're working at.

When you ask them out, start small, say with coffee or milkshake at that place down the street. Talk. Flirt some more. See how it goes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:03 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, if you feel you can't say anything, then smile and nod. or smile and wave.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:05 PM on November 11, 2011

I joined OKCupid to talk myself down from the "inappropriate limerence" ledge. There are lots of really great people out there to crush on.
posted by endless_forms at 3:13 PM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Okay, if this is someone who serves you in some way (barista, etc.), here is how I did it the one time I asked someone out at her job.

Every time I'd go in I'd just say hi and ask how she was. She'd respond brightly and ask me more than a few questions. Neat! I started getting the idea we were into each other after this happened a few times.

One time she asked "How was St Louis?" out of the blue. I said "What?" and was completely lost. I'd told her I was going to visit my cousin there a few months ago. I didn't see her all that frequently, but she remembered.

That is when I knew this person was not just being polite but actively interested in my life.

So I asked her out. Eventually!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 3:14 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think you know that this is obsessive, and not real. You don't know this person at all, it is like having a crush on a movie star. You are right to be self-skeptical and you are right to understand that you have to be extra careful not to conduct yourself like a crazy person.

Having said that, there is nothing inherently pathological about having a crush. Limerence, or "lovesickness", may be a different story and it certainly feels like an illness - indeed used to be regarded as one. The recommended treatment wasn't avoidance of the love object, btw, and I'm not going to tell you that something must be wrong with your own life and et cetera. I really don't think there's anything wrong with at least putting out feelers.

Just, on absolutely no account let your emotions run away with you to the point where they make someone else miserable. I second the caution about whether you are the customer of this person or someone with whom they have a business relationship especially if you're in any position of authority over them or vice versa. You really can't be hitting on them in their workplace, and since hitting on them outside of the workplace would require stalking, you'll have to rule that out too. Sorry.

Also, don't go in without an exfiltration plan. If it goes wrong, how are you going to go about your daily routine without seeing this person? Can you change trains, walk by a different route? Think it through to the end.

As for the nervousness, I suggest practising in front of the mirror, for ages beforehand. Of course when you try to talk to them you are going to say "arg glump flrrp," but you'll say it so much better if you practise ahead of time. Especially, learn to rehearse being Decisive. You must remember that confidence is just an act for almost everyone who displays it, and you can fake confidence just as well as anybody else, I assure you.

What you must not do is sort of hover about acting like you're going to ask them out but not doing it. Worse than that is fannying around with obvious plausible deniability - if you do that you are sparing your own feelings at their expense and you should expect them to hold it against you. Other than that, even if you sense disinterest (disinterest short of outright rejection), as long as they haven't mentioned a SO you should by the third or fourth conversation just ask, specifically using the word "date", and take refusal graciously on the chin. Remember, the worst that can happen is they say no.

Yeah, I can believe that the worst that can happen is that they say no and you are cast into an abyss where the fire of unimaginable pain and loneliness burns you forever. Well - I know what that's like, and the only way out is through. Yes, one fork in the road leads to unimaginable suffering, the other to horrific destruction. May you be granted the wisdom to choose well.

p.s. Do not allow your feelings to cause misery or discomfort to this innocent bystander ever. I just thought that was worth repeating.
posted by tel3path at 3:21 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree that gender may be relevant here, especially if the person you are crushing on is not of the gender you usually date.
posted by Wordwoman at 3:39 PM on November 11, 2011

This thing where you freeze up and run away when you see the person? Just stop it. Think of it as a bad habit you need to break, like picking your nose in public. When you notice yourself doing it, force yourself to shake it off. With that in mind, follow these instructions:

1. The next time you see this person, make eye contact. Then look away. A minute or two later, make eye contact again. Hold it for a few seconds. Smile. If the smile is returned, proceed to step two. If not, try again the next time you see them. If you attempt step one a few times without success, you have no chance of getting to know this person.

2. At least 24 hours later, repeat step one. Make eye contact. Smile. When they smile back, say "Hi." Repeat each time you see them from now on. If at any point they seem to be avoiding you, return to step one.

3. Once you've said hi to each other a few times, append your hi with a "how's it going." They will probably say "fine, how are you" and you can take that opportunity to tell them something interesting about your life. "Pretty good, I'm on my way to work. I'm going to be training fifteen monkeys to ride speckled hogs for the rodeo this weekend." This conversation should last no more than five minutes, preferably less, and you want to be the one to end it. Introduce yourself on your way out the door. "Well, I better get going. It was nice to talk to you. I'm Esteban, by the way."

4. Return to steps one and two. The next conversation you have should be initiated by the other person. During this conversation, introduce the possibility that the two of you might see each other somewhere other than your normal run-in spot. Not an invitation to hang out, just mention a public thing you're going to and ask if they're also going. "Got any exciting plans for the weekend? My friend's band is playing a free show on Saturday evening at the Snake Pit. You should check it out, it should be really fun." If the person is interested they will ask for more information. If not, return to previous steps.

5. You see each other outside of your normal run-in spot. They are happy to see you. Now is when you ask them out. "Hey, it's so great to see you here. Listen, would you want to grab a drink after this?" If you get a no, BE COOL. Return to steps one/two and stay there. If you get a yes, I hope you know what to do because I don't have time to walk you through how to be on a date.
posted by milk white peacock at 3:51 PM on November 11, 2011 [25 favorites]

I can share my own story. I had limerence for one of my classmates. We don't really know each other at that time. It went on for months, and I was miserable because of this. My best friend told the best friend of the guy I am obsessed with and we started talking, eventually we got married! This was over 10 yrs ago. So I say, just talk to the person and see what happens. You won't regret doing this.
posted by akomom at 5:09 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you don't even know the person's name, chances are you are putting them on a pedestal and projecting all these qualities onto them unrealistically.

First step is to get real and remember this is just a person, not a demigod, and as human and flawed as you are.

Second step is to find a non-creepy way to strike up a conversation.

Creepy=spying, taking pictures, following them. Basically, anything done behind the person's back. If you have to ask yourself if you are acting like a stalker, that's bad. Err on the side of caution.

Non-creepy is probably just running into the person wherever you normally see them and saying so,"Hey, I've seen you around before. This place is great, huh?" or whatever, and go from there. Introduce yourself. If they do the same, good, and that's a great first meeting.

Personally, I'm old-fashioned enough that if someone struck up a conversation with me for the first time ever, a complete stranger, and asked me out on the spot, i'd be a little unnerved by it. If you see this person around all the time, there's no reason to rush it. Whatever happens, if you ask them and they want to meet at a public place first, etc, treat their wishes with respect.

But lots of people do go out after a first meeting, so I think it really depends on what the context is. If you are a student or teacher of the person, if one of you works for the other, if there's a significant age difference between you...well, obviously extra caution is called for.
posted by misha at 6:40 PM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Maybe follow the suggestions here, but perhaps also spend some time looking inward too. This person is a mostly blank canvas, but the thoughts and fantasy world that you've built around them says something about desire – your desire and the desires you've projected onto this person and wish to find yourself in. Where does it come from? Is there something missing that focusing on this person relieves you from? Or is this person representative of an ideal you want to run toward? A little of both, perhaps? There is some draw, some attraction there, and it may be wise to explore that some more on your own before you drag them into it. When the time comes, it will also allow your interaction with them to be more honest (and therefore less potentially creepy), as it is clear what you want and you're not seeking answers from them. You have them all anyway. It also lessens the stakes and the pressure of them to live up to some expectation you have that you may not even be remotely clear about. Best of luck to you in this adventure!
posted by iamkimiam at 6:51 PM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

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