When You Feel An Intense Pull Toward Someone… Watch Out!

Have you ever felt an intense pull toward someone before you even really knew them? You meet, maybe you even speak, and you’re consumed with the desire to have this person. You need them.

You may make the mistake of believing they are your soulmate. Isn’t that how it goes in the movies? You believe that this is it. You’ve found “the one,” whether this other person realizes it or not.

I apologize for being the destroyer of your hopes, dreams, and longstanding idealistic beliefs, but that’s not really what’s going on. More likely, this person is representing your unhealed trauma and they have activated an old wound within you.

And relationships that start from this place rarely end well.

Here is what it can look like. Maybe you meet a really hot guy, the kind of guy that easily could have any girl. And you become instantly obsessed, like more than the average person who may stare and appreciate the hotness. Now let’s say growing up you went through an ugly duckling phase and none of the hot guys wanted you or even acknowledged your existence. And being a young middle schooler, you interpreted this as meaning you were worthless and that your worth is measured by whether hot people notice and appreciate you.

This belief remained unchallenged and in adulthood, you obsess over the hot guys and will do anything to get them to want you because this feeds your desperate need to be validated and to feel OK.

Maybe you’re drawn to people with an air of emotional unavailability. The kind of person you can’t quite crack. And you don’t fully understand why you only want people like this because you desperately crave emotional intimacy and depth of connection. And yet, you seem to be turned off by partners who are open and available.

Well… it’s possible that you had an emotionally absent caretaker and working hard to win someone over and gain their approval feels normal to you because in your house, love was conditional. Love wasn’t based on who you were, it was about what you did. If you behaved perfectly if you worked hard enough, if you were “good enough,” then you were rewarded.

In adulthood, you may end up in a cycle where you become obsessed with someone who doesn’t treat you well and you don’t consider that this person is just emotionally unavailable… or maybe just a jerk who isn’t worth your time, and instead you think that you just aren’t working hard enough. You need to do more, try harder. The more you work, the more on the line you are and the more invested you become making it even harder to get out.

Is it love or is it limerence?

Obsession in romantic relationships is often commonly known as limerence, defined as: The state of being infatuated or obsessed with another person, typically experienced involuntarily and characterized by a strong desire for reciprocation of one’s feelings but not primarily for a sexual relationship.

The obsession consumes your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It’s essentially a form of relationship OCD. You obsessively think about the person and play and replay every interaction, analyzing every text and innuendo. You may obsessively play and replay positive memories from the past and fantasize endlessly about what a future might look like.

You are vacillate between hope and uncertainty, a game of he loves me, he loves me not. Limerence usually takes hold when the object of your desire hasn’t made it fully clear where they stand. They haven’t flat out rejected you, but they haven’t made any moves to indicate significant interest. So you cling onto any scraps they dish your way that could indicate they reciprocate your feelings.

The defining feature of limerence is that the thoughts are incessant, uncontrollable, and all consuming.

If you are someone who is desperate for love, you are predisposed to limerence. When someone comes into your life who sparks something in you, you may latch on forcefully. Limerence isn’t usually about the other person, it’s a psychological wound within yourself. 

Trauma Bonds

When you imprint on someone you don’t know it’s a risky game- you risk developing a trauma bond. A trauma bond can happen with someone you’re in a relationship with or a “situationship.” Basically, it all starts out amazing, you think you’ve finally found the one. These relationships usually start out with a love bombing phase and love bombing can feel really nice!

But things take a turn. Suddenly, he isn’t on the same page as you, he doesn’t want what you want. Or maybe he starts to devalue you… you’re no longer the magnificent creature you once were in his eyes. This sudden change confuses you and causes immense stress. Cortisol floods through you. You’re perpetually stressed and on edge.

But then it shifts again… he’s back and it’s like the beginning again. He gives you whatever love/attention/validation you need and you breathe a hearty sigh of relief and bask in the dopamine rush. But that doesn’t last and then he pulls away again. You are sucked in this cortisol/dopamine alternating cycle and you literally become addicted to it. The mechanism is the same as any other addiction. You can’t seem to find your way out.

Trauma bonds often occur with narcissists who have no empathy and will use you to serve whatever needs they have. But your partner doesn’t always have to be a narcissist to create a trauma bond. Sometimes two people are just toxic together. Sometimes on person is toxic and the other is too weak to walk away.

No matter what, the antidote goes back to one core concept: you must work on yourself and make your self-worth a priority so you don’t fall victim to these situations.

When you feel the intense pull, stop and pull back and think a little bit. Gain a more objective perspective- what am I really drawn to here? What’s really pulling me? What is the underlying need? In what ways does this feel familiar to me? Here is a little secret about the way our mind work: we are always drawn to the familiar, even if the familiar is bad and toxic, because the familiar feels like home. And there’s no place like home. There is a comfort in being home because if your home was far from comfortable!

So recognize your patterns and address those inner wounds that are setting you up for heartbreak and devastation.

About the author

Sabrina Bendory

Sabrina Bendory is a writer and entrepreneur. She is the author of You’re Overthinking It, a definitive book on dating and self-love.