How to deal with insane chemistry when you don't like the person
October 8, 2018 7:21 AM   Subscribe

And when lobotomy is not an option

I met someone recently who i'm not attracted to their personality but physically they are insanely attractive and they have the smell that makes me crazy (pheromones). This person is a huge tease and flirt and is vain, flaky, stuck up , self absorbed and is messing around with several women at once. I know they're not a good match for me. However I can't help but want them due to intense chemistry and it's distracting me from my life. I have already tried asking them not to flirt with me, but accidentally did that in a very flirtatious way which continued the flirtation. On one hand I know this is toxic but on the other, a very lizard-like part of my brain really wants to play the game, and I can barely help myself. but I know that I don't have the right sociopathic "player" mentality that can separate physical attraction from feelings so I know I'll get burned in the end. How can I proceed in this case?
posted by winterportage to Human Relations (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like this is a case where cutting this person out of your life or minimising their presence in it would be a good strategy. They don't seem to be bringing you anything other than discomfort and a sort of fatalistic acceptance that you will fall for their games and "get burned". You're aware enough to realise this is the likely, nay, the inevitable outcome, so be aware enough also to know that you have the choice not to engage with this person. Use the time you'd spend with or thinking about this person to devote yourself to other interests and to the people in your life who bring you joy and health.
posted by mymbleth at 7:30 AM on October 8, 2018 [7 favorites]

Don't spend time with this person.

Can't flirt with someone you don't have contact with.
posted by phunniemee at 7:30 AM on October 8, 2018 [12 favorites]

Here's the thing I've had to realize over a lifetime of being attracted to the wrong dudes. You can't control how you feel. You can only control what you do. So it's both true and not true that you "can't help yourself." You can't fix your heart. What you can do is draw away from this person. Stay away from them while being just friendly enough to keep them from realizing that's what you're doing.

As for your distraction -- God, don't I know it. It hurts, and it's miserable. There's no quick fix. There are only short ones, hour to hour. I start by forgiving myself for what I feel, for accepting the positive aspects of it, the way that it is natural and human and good to feel desire. What's not natural or human or good is to be treated badly for it, the way that so many people like this will do. It's also natural and human to feel pain, even physical pain, from unfulfilled longing. Be compassionate. Treat yourself like a beloved daughter, and protect yourself.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:35 AM on October 8, 2018 [29 favorites]

Just one more point to clarify -- this person is a close friend of a close friend of mine so I don't really have the option not to see them and am not really able to cut them out of my life without creating bad feeling in the friend group.
posted by winterportage at 7:36 AM on October 8, 2018

Stop thinking of it as fate and pheromones. Seriously. When we're deeply attracted to shitty people, it's not just that they're good-looking and smell nice, it's that something about their shittiness pulls us in - the unconscious desire to be hurt, a wish for excitement, a wish to "prove" either that we're awful and unlovable or that we alone can tame the awful person.

What puts people over the top in the "OMG I am so drawn to them even though they're shitty" category isn't their looks. It's something about their manner and personal qualities that has a kind of negative attraction.

I used to be attracted to small, mean people who hated me. That was my type. I could pick them out in any group. It wasn't fate, it wasn't how they smelled, it was the fact that they were mean people who would make me feel bad. (As evidenced by the fact that I was seldom attracted to small nice people who liked me.) Something about this person's horrible character is drawing you in. Once you get real about that, you'll find it easier to detach.

So for instance - I'm not attracted to small mean people who hate me anymore. The last time it happened, which was about seven or eight years ago now, I really focused on thinking about how I wanted to stop being hurt by these awful people, and how I didn't want to be drawn to them anymore. I really vowed that I was Not Going There Again. And once I truly, truly felt the desire not to be attracted to them, I was able to stop. Before that, it had always been more of a "I know this is a bad idea but maybe this time I will get that coveted approval from a small mean person and it will be the best".

Every time you're like "they're so attractive, it's pheromones, I just can't help wanting them", redirect your thoughts to "I am being lured in by a shitty, manipulative person because some part of my unconscious wants me to get hurt". Every time they're awful in front of you, think to yourself, "what a phony, garbage way to act; what a player, what a liar". When you start thinking "but they are so attractive", redirect your thoughts - think about cake or video games or cute cats or whatever is an effective distraction for you.

Most important, though, is to stop narrating this as biologically inevitable in some way. We're biology + social conditioning, always.


Also, consider your past - if you have some kind of history of being attracted to awful people, think about what you're seeking with them. (Not every "I am attracted to this awful person" story is about trauma, so this may not apply.) I was always seeking someone to recapitulate a particular trauma from my early life and I was always seeking someone to reassure me that anyone worthwhile would think I was garbage and pathetic, because not being garbage and pathetic was sort of scary.
posted by Frowner at 7:53 AM on October 8, 2018 [116 favorites]

I have already tried asking them not to flirt with me, but accidentally did that in a very flirtatious way which continued the flirtation.

This is where ignoring them will come into play. You have chemistry because they are a chemist, they manufacture these reactions in people. Don’t engage.
posted by RainyJay at 7:56 AM on October 8, 2018 [15 favorites]

Do you really think you continue down this path and walk away still friends? How many of his ex-conquests are still part of the friend group, or do they get cut out to protect this guy?

You could try the grey rock technique but to me it seems a lot easier to just get really busy at work, or take up a new hobby so you can get some distance.
posted by muddgirl at 8:04 AM on October 8, 2018 [6 favorites]

Every time you see them first make it a point to think of them having nasty diarrhea and vomiting. On you.

Wear a rubber band and snap yourself with it to remind you of how nasty they are.

Even though they are a friend of friend, you can minimize direct speech with them, even when you happen to be at the same gatherings.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:22 AM on October 8, 2018

Yes, you can change your friend group.

Yes, you can change how you are framing this, and therefore how you feel.

Yes, the only person in control of this is YOU.

Stop telling yourself you are helpless. That’s not reality.
posted by jbenben at 8:29 AM on October 8, 2018 [33 favorites]

At least you don't work with the guy, your livelihood is not dependent on him. Friend situations can be adapted.

There's nothing outrageous in saying to primary friend "Your friend Joe makes me a little uncomfortable. Please don't invite me and him at the same time." Of course if your friend is trying to set the two of you up, this might create a moment of malaise, but a real friendship will weather this moment.
posted by zadcat at 10:04 AM on October 8, 2018 [6 favorites]

Devil's advocate: this sounds like the perfect opportunity for some no-strings-attached hanky panky. Afterwards, you can blame vague "complications" for never wanting to be around this person when you are with your friends so that the temptation is gone from your life for good. Win-win!
posted by MiraK at 10:54 AM on October 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

There's this theory that even the most inconvenient infatuations can reveal something useful about yourself - maybe, like Frowner said, a longing to rewrite past trauma, or to vicariously live out some repressed aspect of your own personality, or to just set flames to your old life because you're in a rut and feel like burning your ships. I don't know that's necessarily true, but thinking about the possibilities usually keeps me too preoccupied to act on anything. And you've asked for distractions, so there's that. Who's got time for flirtations when there's so much navel-gazing to do instead?

Maybe you could even find the humour in it? A foolish crush on someone completely unsuitable is absurd and human and puts you in the very best company. I treasure all my most ridiculous infatuations as little insider-jokes I have with myself.

But let's assume it's indeed just pheromones and looks - I can promise you that these very same pheromones and looks will leave you entirely cold if you just give it a little time. Pheromenes and looks may weave a powerful spell, but it always wears off sooner or later, if you let it take its natural cause and don't prop it up with myths and memories and sacrifice and sunk cost fallacy, and that much is as sure as death and taxes.

So another little exercise I like to do in such a situation is call back to mind a number of guys I used to have an inconvenient crush on and really savour my by now perfect equanimity and marvel at whatever I might have possibly seen in them. This too shall pass, and nothing better to remind you than all those instances when it certainly did.
posted by sohalt at 10:55 AM on October 8, 2018 [17 favorites]

Figure out what weaknesses in your psyche he is unconsciously or consciously exploiting and fix them.

His schtick is only working on you because you’ve got weak spots you are lying to yourself about. Be honest with yourself, gain strength from your honesty. Once you do that, like magic, his charms will no longer be remotely compelling.

It’s this simple.
posted by jbenben at 11:02 AM on October 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

So much good advice above.

Here is this thing I started doing several years ago. When I get an infatuation on someone that feels a little out of control and on the dark side, I find a quiet place, and then say to myself (silently and sincerely): "If this (romantic fixation) is not in my highest good, nor the highest good of all beings, then let it go". And then I just forget about it and go about my day.

It works every single time to pop the limerence bubble and return that person to a state of ordinariness, and I am able to completely detach and see them as they are. And the more unhealthy the infatuation (or person), the better it works.
posted by nanook at 11:24 AM on October 8, 2018 [6 favorites]

Try, when you see him and start feeling like that, imagining him doing something really disgusting, like taking a dump and rubbing it lovingly on himself, or strangling a puppy, or whatever you feel would be most repugnant to you. It helps the 'shine' wear off these people who are, admittedly, charismatic, but your Wisdom and Intelligence are a match for anyone's Charisma.
posted by The otter lady at 1:21 PM on October 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was going to suggest just bone him or her to get it out of your system but it sounds like that would have social ripples.

So, I’d suggest being super emotionally present and available. Open from the heart. Lean in. Be fully ready to connect. This scares them off like a fart in a car.

Otherwise honestly give it time, trust me it will fizzle.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:03 PM on October 8, 2018 [8 favorites]

However I can't help but want them due to intense chemistry

This is a bunch of bullshit. Just stop. Jbenben is right that this person is just pushing a button in your emotional makeup. It's not about them, or something uncontrollable about chemistry. It's about you and why you're totally willing to tear down all your healthy boundaries, priorities and self-respect for someone you can make these excuses about. Sit quietly and think about that.

In hindsight, these become the most embarrassing, ickiest, most cringeworthy relationships to think back on in your life. Do you really want another one like that? This is going to be that.
posted by Miko at 7:58 PM on October 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

Limit the time you spend with them as much as is possible, unfollow them on social media, cut them from your life. Start dating and meeting other people, focus on a hobby and things you love, fill your life with wonderful distractions! Easier said than done because I have totally been exactly where you are. You'll get over this person eventually :)
posted by belliceNH at 9:52 PM on October 8, 2018

Otherwise honestly give it time, trust me it will fizzle.

In my experience, this is totally true. You are in a weird, chemical fog right now, but if you just wait it out-- notice it, acknowledge it to yourself, but don't try to wrestle with it-- eventually it will dissipate. You'll find yourself becoming less and less aware of the loveliness of their smell and more and more aware of* their giant forehead, their inability to bring anything but Chips Ahoy to potlucks, and their compulsion to recycle (and laugh at) the same three tired jokes, over and over again. And before long, they will completely stop being a creature of myth and dream and go back to being the plain old annoying human being that, in your truest heart, you already know them to be. And the fact that you can't avoid them will actually speed the process. So fret not: this is inconvenient AF, but in all likelihood, it will be over before you know it.

*Succeeding examples are from my own life. Obvs, yours will vary.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 10:14 PM on October 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

When I was in a situation like this, these are the questions my therapist asked me to snap me out of it:
*who does this person remind you of?
*what traits do they have in common?
*how does this person behave toward you?
*how do you feel around them?
*in what other situations have you felt like that?
*what do you value in others?
*what do you think this person's core values are?
posted by Chrysalis at 2:48 AM on October 9, 2018 [13 favorites]

And then to deal with having to spend time with the person, to go into situations where he would be there expecting to feel that pull but committed to keeping my body language open and resisting the temptation to go into autopilot. Plus loads of self compassion for having my buttons pushed and being human.
posted by Chrysalis at 2:52 AM on October 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

these are the questions my therapist asked me to snap me out of it

I used to carry a list like that around in a journal and it was a great help. Another one was:

-Do you want to become more like this person?
posted by Miko at 7:30 AM on October 9, 2018 [9 favorites]

Contrary to what some others have said above, it is not a good idea to sleep with this guy, but you probably know that already.

Frowner and Chrysalis have some excellent suggestions above. And do cut contact as much as possible, and while you're at it, might want to tell that close friend of yours what's going on and why they may not see as much of you as usual. No need to shit-talk the dude: you can just say you're not entirely comfortable around him and would rather keep your distance, which is true, and leave it at that. You don't have to explain details why unless you have a lottttt of faith in friend.

Good test of that friendship: they should simply support you and word of what you said to them shouldn't get out at all. And they should want to hang with you on your own or with some other solid people from the friend group. If anything other than that happens, hmmm. I'm not sure how the person you describe could ever be close friends with anyone other than the most forgiving/enabling people. And it's amazing how groups often harbor and coddle predators.

Out of sight, out of mind is a helpful truism :-) And nthing "don't beat yourself up" even if you do lapse toward contact now and again: you'll eventually get sick of putting your hand on the hot stove. But it's very costly behavior in terms of emotional drain, and you're better off not going through it at all.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 3:50 AM on October 10, 2018

Thanks for all the helpful answers :) Just to clarify, this person isn't *quite*a sociopathic player but definitely has issues with boundaries and entitlement that they might be able to grow out of ( not that I'm excusing the behaviour, but I don't know them well enough to know if they're going through a confused phase or if this is a lifelong pattern)
I do have one other idea, (since I am "friends" with him and he listens to my thoughts and feelings and seems to admire me in whatever twisted way he's capable of) which is to talk to him about how his behaviour affects me and give him the chance to just sit with that information. Maybe he will say sorry, maybe he will just be a douche about it, but either way i think I'll get a sense of closure just from speaking my mind. My gut tells me this person isn't so fragile that that kind of confrontation will make them angry, at worst I feel like they'll just brush it off callously, and I think i can handle that.
posted by winterportage at 11:11 AM on October 10, 2018

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