Get out of my head already!
January 16, 2014 5:27 PM   Subscribe

Specific tips and tricks for getting someone off your mind (when no-contact isn't an option)?

For various reasons, I am in a (non)relationship that began four months ago as casual, non-exclusive dating and has evolved - devolved? - into your basic FWB arrangement. We see each other 3-4 times a month, usually just for sex, sometimes drinks/dinner before, sometimes lunch the next day. We occasionally run personal errands together, and text a few times a week, but a "real" relationship and exclusivity are completely off the table. This works for me, for the most part. This guy, while awesome in a lot of ways, has a million personal issues he's sorting through, as do I, and I think we are pretty much in agreement that a relationship wouldn't work. And while I'm definitely more wired for deep emotional bonds (and monogamy) than he is, this arrangement as it stands meets many of my needs right now, and I'm mostly content. For the purpose of this question, please assume that nothing with him needs to change. (FWIW, I am dating other people as the opportunity arises, I'm in therapy, and I'm working through my stuff.)

The one problem is this: I would really like to reduce the amount of time I spend thinking about this guy, fantasizing about him, analyzing his texts and behaviors, etc. Rather than just *pretending* to be cool and aloof between our "visits," I'd actually like to feel that way for real. I want to be able to focus on other activities and people, and be pleasantly surprised when I have a chance to see him. I'm not doing this to try to prolong the "chase" and pique his interest more (although I guess that would be a side benefit, maybe?) but rather to try to gain some more balance in my life and feel more independent and less needy. Because I want to continue my involvement with this person, typical "no contact" advice doesn't really apply.

Any advice on keeping things in perspective, managing silly crushes, and getting on with life would be very appreciated! Thank you!
posted by justonegirl to Human Relations (16 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
This works for me, for the most part.

The fact that this question exists is pretty good evidence that this is not really working for you. I'm not saying that a FWB arrangement is not for you, I think that this particular arrangement is not working for you.

You're doing a lot of the right things -- dating other people, seeing friends, participating in activities -- and eventually you will probably find something that really does work for you, enough that your interest in this relationship will fade and you'll break it off and stop thinking about this guy so much. But if you want to stop thinking about him so much right now, I see no other way than ending it.
posted by telegraph at 5:45 PM on January 16, 2014 [13 favorites]

Standard mindfulness trick is, when you catch yourself thinking about him, think "Oh, I am doing that again," and then think about something else. I sometimes find it useful to have a specific alternative - an upcoming vacation, or my budget, or the book I'm reading, or whatever. If you find that doing a particular thing triggers those thoughts - recently for me it was looking to see if the person was on IM - find a way to make that harder to do impulsively.

I disagree that breaking it off is the only way. Limerence is a phase, and it usually fades even when the relationship doesn't. My recent experience with it lasted about two months, which is pretty standard - but the relationship has actually gotten more serious since then. I just needed to avoid indulging the giddy chemical rush of thinking/hoping/checking/anticipating for a while, and it went away - leaving a much more proportional response in its stead.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:48 PM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Not to be unhelpful or not respond to your question, but I guess just reading through what you have written it seems to me like maybe you do want a relationship with this guy, regardless of whether it is rational or makes sense at the moment. Maybe you should end it, or at least put it on the back burner for the moment?

I sort of encountered the possibility of a similar situation recently and said no to it ultimately in the name of my sanity. It was kind of a hard decision to make, but I felt really good about myself after I made it and have probably ended up on better terms with the person in question than I would have if things had gone forward, since I know I would have just ended up feeling angry at him and unsatisfied. Just food for thought.
posted by thesnowyslaps at 5:51 PM on January 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

I asked essentially the same question a few days ago (although my situation is a little different) and got some helpful replies so solidarity, sister. I feel you. Hope some of the replies help you too.

I am just focusing on being kind to myself when I do think of him and that is helping a LOT because when I don't beat myself up for thinking of him the whole interaction is a lot more pleasant in my head and I feel less pressured and upset and negative. I'm still thinking of him more than I want to but it's only been a few days and I see a marked improvement on the focus of my thoughts.

Good luck.
posted by sockermom at 5:56 PM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

You're thinking about him alot because you're falling in love with him. (Or at least, in limerence.) Despite what culture might tell us, falling in love with someone you sleep with 3-4 times a month is not weird or abnormal.

I know that this isn't what you want to hear, but honestly, I don't think its going to work to try jedi mind tricks to fake thinking about him less. Take some time alone to reflect, have an honest discussion, and either start a "real" relationship with him, or let him go.

(I'm speaking from the perspective of someone who is really not judgy about FWBs in general. I think it can work in the right situation, but that's just not what's going on here.)
posted by tinymegalo at 5:59 PM on January 16, 2014 [6 favorites]

I feel like this question is the relationship equivalent of, "How can I become less addicted to cigarettes, while still continuing to smoke?"

The answer is: you can't. This relationship is not meeting your needs. It is going to make you unhappy. And the longer you continue this, the more unhappy you will be when it ends.

But to answer your very specific question, I suppose you could:

a.) Go running for an hour a day

b.) Go to hot yoga every day

c.) Meditate multiple times a day

d.) wear a little elastic band around your wrist and snap yourself with it each time you think about him.

e.) hook up with a bunch of other guys in the hopes of stumbling into a crush on someone else.

However, I should point out that even if you succeed for a little while using these methods, you will not be "prolonging the chase" at all - you will simply be giving him exactly what he wants, on his terms, and sacrificing your own needs in order to do so. And he is likely to respond not by becoming more intrigued, but by continuing to walk all over you. It is not a healthy way to start a relationship, asking "How can I stop feeling how I feel?"

Here is what you could do, as an alternative to shoving your true feelings down into the bottom of your heart and hoping they just curl up and die - break it off now. No tears, no explanations: just a slightly cool, 'This isn't really working for me right now, let's go back to being friends." That actually is prolonging the chase and playing hard to get in a way that might actually work, to the extent that game-playing ever can. And even if it doesn't, you will be over him faster than you would have been if you'd stuck it out.

I know you probably won't do that, though. We've all been there. Cigarettes are hard to quit; sucky FWB relationships with people you like more than you should are hard to end. That's just life. And hopefully, you have a close circle of friends who will be waiting for you on the other side with a tub of Ben & Jerry's once it's over.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 6:01 PM on January 16, 2014 [21 favorites]

I would really like to reduce the amount of time I spend thinking about this guy, fantasizing about him, analyzing his texts and behaviors, etc.

Well, why are you doing this? Because if you're doing it because you actually desire a different relationship with this guy than you actually have, that's one thing. If you're doing it because it's a predictable, routine pattern you follow in your romantic relationships, it's another.

If you're doing it because this thing is only "mostly" working for you, could it be because this relationship seems to be evolving without your explicit input, but with your implicit consent? You say you "think" you're on the same page, but if you were sure, perhaps your brain wouldn't be working overtime on filling in the gaps.
posted by sm1tten at 6:50 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Any advice on keeping things in perspective, managing silly crushes, and getting on with life would be very appreciated!

Yes: you have to stop sleeping with him. That's really it.
posted by heyjude at 7:30 PM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

There are little psychological tricks, sure. Snapping a rubber band on your wrist, imaging him pooping, blah blah blah believe me honey I've tried them all. The only thing that has ever actually worked for me is getting really fucking busy. So busy I have no time to think. Like I get up, eat, work all day, have a really vigorous workout, take a dance lesson, then see the dentist and volunteer and do some home improvement project and see a movie and get home and bam, shower, lights out, conked out, busy. This also ups your chances of A.) meeting someone better and B.) If you play that way, probably making him a little more into you.
posted by quincunx at 8:01 PM on January 16, 2014 [6 favorites]

If piquing his interest more is a "benefit" then you have a problematic crush on your FWB that you're probably not going to get over by, you know, fucking him. Reading up on NRE and limerence may give you the perspective you need to make whatever choices will serve you best.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:27 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have said it repeatedly, FWB rarely works out because one person wants more than the other is willing to give.

I would put an end to it right now, mostly because you still like each other, and you have a chance to part as friends.

If you just had a crush on this guy, you could avoid him and eventually another bright, shiny object would be in your path and your attention would be diverted.

Do a thought exercise. Imagine that he comes to you this afternoon and tells you he met a wonderful girl and that he was going to cut off your FWB so that he could devote himself to nurturing that relationship. How would you feel?

If you would be happy for him and wish him well, then you're okay.

If you are sad, jealous, upset, angry, and left wondering why he didn't fall for're in it for the wrong reasons.

If it's not the right time to be in a relationship, then don't be in ANY relationship. Meet with friends, take classes, do whatever it is that you need to do. You won't die without sex.

When you're ready again, jump in with both feet.

I don't see how this is going to end well for you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:24 AM on January 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

when no-contact isn't an option


I read your post a couple times to be sure, but I'm not really seeing why going no-contact isn't an option. I mean, if you guys work together and can't switch jobs then that's one thing. But this seems like run of the mill "go no contact" territory.

I think I'm wired like you. I've tried to push myself outside my comfort level before, and tried to be cool about things, and be pleasantly surprised to see the guy, but it just didn't work. Aaaaand no contact it went.

If your brain is running away with you, and won't let you move on while sleeping with him, then your best bet is to cut it off. And yep, unless there's something here you're not telling us, it is very much an option.
posted by ulfberht at 7:34 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's been helpful for me to remember that my feelings are neurochemical. When you are in the limerence phase with someone, seeing them gives you a hit of dopamine. Anticipating a date? Hit of dopamine. Getting a text out of the blue? Hit of dopamine. Sent a text but didn't hear back? Dopamine withdrawal.

Then there's oxytocin for bonding. Orgasm? Hit of oxytocin. Cuddling and skin contact? Hit of oxytocin. If you're having sex with someone, no matter what your rational feelings are, you are being bathed in oxytocin and there is the potential for feeling a bond.

It's very mature to recognize that a relationship with this person would not work. There's nothing wrong with getting your needs filled or having a "relationship-lite." Trying reading up on love, sex, and hormones. Then when you start feeling like you need to see him more, remind yourself that, through the wonder of evolution, your body is trying to make a love relationship happen. It can be painful, very painful, but it can be overcome.
posted by Knowyournuts at 10:07 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here's what i believe - there's nothing good in a sexual relationship if different people are filling different needs. Everything you've written makes it sound like one person is entirely happy with the status quo and the other is putting up with the status quo.

In my own little life, I have not seen this end well for the one who was putting up with.

It is not clear why ending it is off the table.

Good luck and take care of yourself.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:39 AM on January 17, 2014

No, you don't have to stop sleeping with him. Do what feels right for you.

No contact is an easy answer and often a great thing to consider, but its not always great. No contact makes this into a dramatic huge situation in some ways - it seems pretty chill to me.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like the thoughts aren't causing you anxiety, sadness or interrupting your life a great deal, right? And you didn't mention anything along the lines of being really scared you are going to get hurt? If I'm wrong then yes, go back and consider no contact.

But otherwise, this is so normal. FWBs can trigger a lot of brain chemistry, but its a matter of opinion whether this is love or not. It will fade with time. And until then, as long as you are aware and set boundaries for "this is getting out of my control" amounts of limerance, you're doing good. Definitely keep the therapist up to date with how you feel.

Things I do as a polyamorous person that has a few FWBs but at the moment doesn't want a romantic buddy:

1. Meditate on just how fucking awesome platonic love/affection is. I redirect a lot of warm fuzzies to this topic.

2. Balance out FWB dates with me-dates. I literally imagine I have a huge crush on myself and I really want to impress myself. So I get really pretty and eat something good, listen to classical music and masturbate. Then sometimes I take a bath wearing fancy lingerie. You do you though.

3. Obvious stuff : learn a thing you always wanted to learn, exercise, stay busy

4. Don't monitor him on social media, don't monitor your phone for texts. These are my weak points that cause anxiety, so I have an hour a day which I indulge in checking out crushes and looking at my phone compulsively but otherwise don't go there!

Good luck!
posted by supernaturelle at 11:55 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone, for all the feedback thus far.

supernaturelle (and a few others), you're right that this arrangement is not causing me all the bad feelings that some people seem to assume. I'm not in love with this person - I like him, enjoy his company, and have major chemistry with him, but I'm also able to see that he would not be a good partner for me in the long run. I am not really available for a partnership now, and am enjoying the benefits part of the FWB.

This feels a lot like a teenage crush - and when we're teenagers, we have all the time in the world to daydream and fantasize and fuss over every little interaction. I don't have that kind of time now, so I'm just hoping for ways to manage this obsessive little habit and get on with my life :)
posted by justonegirl at 12:23 PM on January 17, 2014

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