How to get rid of limerence

For all its promise of ecstasy, limerence can be an oppressive and disruptive force in life. Most often, it is when limerence develops for somebody inappropriate – perhaps the worst being an LO who at some level likes the attention, or doesn’t know how to handle it sensibly, and so gives off mixed signals that keep the limerent in a perpetual state of (reinforcing) uncertainty. I think anyone who has experienced limerence has at some stage wanted to turn it off. So, is that possible? No.

Short post today!

Ha, ha. I am funny.

Given the impossibility of turning off limerence, the next best thing is to develop strategies for hastening its natural demise. Here are four of the best.

1) No contact

The best and tried-and-tested strategy, that merely requires superhuman discipline. No contact with the LO will, inevitably, surely, lead to a fading of the limerence. If nothing else, it does give enough distance for objectivity to reassert itself and allow you to recall LOs obvious unsuitability and negative qualities. Of course, if LO is actually admirable, then this is not so promising. Smart arsery-aside, no contact is a very sensible strategy. Starve the source of limerent reinforcement. View the LO as a danger to your wellbeing, and cut all ties. Avoid their company wherever possible. Absolutely no social media contact. Get into the habit of always choosing the option that diminishes the chance of accidental contact. Absolutely, under no circumstances, allow your limerent brain to persuade you that you have got your feelings under control and you can be friends with LO now. Yeah, friends. No harm in that. Just friends. Who like to play chicken with the cripplingly intrusive thoughts that add so much spice to their life.

Sometimes, no contact is not possible for practical reasons. So next you could try…

2) Aversion conditioning

The goal here is tricking your brain into devaluing the LO. It’s not a noble strategy this, but it can be effective. When in the company of LO, instead of reflecting on how lovely it is the way their chin has an adorable chubby crease as it merges with their oh-so-kissable neck, find a flaw and fixate on it. Your luck’s in if they have wonky teeth, or a prominent spot, or a receding hairline. The basic goal is to counter your traitor brain’s attempts to idealise the LO by feeding it negative data.

Appearance may not be the best approach here, as it is, after all, still their body and therefore hugely desirable by definition. More potent can be the memory of past shame. An inevitable aspect of limerence is some encounter with LO – perhaps where your flirting was a bit clumsy or LO was in a bad mood – when you were hoping for a bit of sparkle, but instead got the horrible stomach-lurching rejection (or at least, obvious failure to reciprocate). I’m good at shame. I do shame well. If you do too, use this as fuel. Next time you are chatting with LO, and feeling all happy and chilled, REMEMBER THE SHAME. Remember that feeling of being foolish and ridiculous and rejected and wallow in it. Let it seep into you while LO is telling you all about the problems they are having with their SO (that you could obviously save them from). Make the shame taint every good experience with the LO. No mercy.

A particularly effective strategy for me was vividly imaging my wife sitting on a chair in the corner of the room. Try flirting through that.

3) Transference

Assuming avoidance and aversion haven’t worked, your next hope is transference. You need a new LO. One who is suitable, or at least less toxic. If you have a SO, try and reconnect with them. Suggest new adventures. Get out of the ordinary routine. If you are keeping the limerence from them, this might be difficult to explain, but damn it, give it a try. If you don’t have an SO, then the world is your oyster. That limerence is a huge pent-up mass of romantic power. Unleash it on a worthy recipient. Cast around for someone else who gives you the glimmer, and seek their company at the expense of LO.

A possible byproduct of this, of course, is that LO may notice, and then get jealous, and finally see your value and then… oh, God damn it limerence, you monster!

4) Disclosure

Your last option is disclosure. Tell LO, straight to their face.

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AKA the nuclear option*

This will work, assuming that your LO isn’t a manipulative piece of shit. Disclose to them how strong your feelings are, that you don’t want to just be friends with them, that you want a romantic relationship, and that you hope that they feel the same way too. Really make it impossible for them to feign misunderstanding or confusion. If they laugh and change the subject, change it right back.

This might seem catastrophic. You will ruin a beautiful friendship. But be honest with yourself: it isn’t beautiful. Or a friendship. And after you’ve been honest with yourself, be honest with them. If they feel the same way about you, then you have got your heart’s desire. If they do not, then the uncertainty that is the essence of limerence is ended. They will probably now avoid your company, helpfully precipitating the no contact strategy. You will know that you can never pretend that you are just enjoying their company as a friend, and maybe one day their feelings may deepen…etc. It might hurt like a bastard at the time, but it’s a good strategy for living an authentic life to directly tell people that you care about, how you actually feel.

There are occasions where disclosure is not appropriate, of course. If they or you have a SO, and you do not want those relationships to end (side note: if you do want those relationships to end, then end them before you disclose. Nobody said being a decent human being was safe and easy). If they are vulnerable, and there is a power imbalance of some sort (professional being the most obvious). Finally, if you do disclose, and the LO evades the issue, makes light of it, or gives you a vague or non-committal response, you are probably limerent for someone who is going to make your life a misery of indecision and insecurity. You are better off without them. Seriously. Go back to strategy 1, and repeat until you win.

 

*Yes, I know it’s a volcano.

26 thoughts on “How to get rid of limerence

  1. When I was getting out of my LE which had gone from a “friendly online relationship” to what met 2/3 of the criteria for a full blown emotional affair, I tried #1 first. It didn’t work too well.
    By that time, I was well aware of the minefield that I’d sailed into. It wasn’t a question of knowing what the right answer was, it was a question of pulling it off without hitting any mines in the process.

    So, after thinking it through, I decided to go to #4. We’d gotten into this mess after she’d broken up with her allegedly cheating boyfriend and she started reaching out to me. I thought that if I came clean and told her I’d become attracted to her, she’d see the irony in reaching out to a married guy, throw the flag, and end things. Not necessarily noble but, at the time, she was big on not being lied to and things would end honestly. It backfired and she wanted to get closer. The thing was, the closer she got, the higher my anxiety got. She got on my wife’s radar. It was not pleasant.

    I told a friend that I’d disclosed and she said, “You really told her that? For a smart guy, you make some really bad assumptions.” This was the same woman who when I told her what was happening said, “Get away from her and stay away from her. Stay involved with this woman and this will not end well for you.” Sometimes, people will tell you things, if you’re smart enough to listen to them.

    Logistics were in my favor and my distancing was eventually enough for her to end the acquaintance. She made the call that I tried to make but didn’t.

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    • Hi Sharnhorst,

      Thanks for your comment.
      Yes, disclosure can be a high risk strategy. The most frustrating being an ambiguous response from a flaky LO, or thinking you know how LO will react but misjudging. It’s often unpredictable.

      You have a wise friend. That’s a blessing!

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      • One upside of disclosure as an exit strategy is that if it works, it eliminates that seed for rationalizing the need to return for closure.

        No hope, no uncertainty, no upside to maintaining the relationship, and no “unfinished business” to bring you back.

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      • Absolutely. Also, disclosure means no room for hiding in “friendship” while hoping that one day, somehow, everything will change and you’ll know exactly how they feel about you. And seize the perfect moment and perfect words to persuade them of your appeal. Fear about disclosure is often fear that if you lose the cloak of friendship, you’ll lose an opportunity for future persuasion. Uncertainty means there’s hope.

        Disclosure cuts all of that false hope and uncertainty away.

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  2. This is the best advice I’ve seen and also the only time I’ve laughed about my “condition”! I really appreciate this post and how artfully and humorously it is presented. The part about viewing your LO as a threat to your well being is awesome, I’ve had the thought that I had to save myself, even if suddenly avoiding LO made my issue even more obvious and suspicious. It was and it did and there was no need for me to disclose when I suddenly started avoiding him – too obvious, but it killed 2 birds with one stone I guess. And the memory of past shame technique is spot on effective.

    I’m still battling after a year but I’m about 60% better. Getting there. Thank you.

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  3. This is brilliant and so lovely to have it put in light-hearted terms. As we are both single and I’ve tried everything else to no avail, this has persuaded me to go for disclosure, if and when we ever meet again. Really I’ve nothing to loose apart from months or years of heartache and self-delusion. I was widowed, quite young, 18 months ago, and this fantasy – with the vagueness and uncertainty that defines limerence – has helped in a strange way to put some light into those dark times. But it’s also added to the pain. The times I spend with LO are lovely. I think he does care and is unsure. Just not enough and probably never will be. I will loose a lovely friendship, but I’ll also be able to get on with my life and face reality, which I must.

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  4. If you are married or in a committed relationship, I’d suggest disclosure to a therapist and/or your spouse/partner. Attractions and infatuations are normal even in committed relationships; private obsessions or serial LOs are not. Disclosure to anyone pops the bubble, which is part of what keeps the limmerence experience alive. Expose it to the light of day and things will change one way or another. Keep it hidden and you are likely hurt yourself, your partner, your LO, and/or the LOs partner (and any children involved in the mix).

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  5. One other technique that I stumbled on at the height of my limerence was forcing myself to try a couple of addicting phone games. My limerent brain was too stupid to read books at this point, and they couldn’t really compare to the limerent fantasy world I was living in, but I forced myself to get into Candy Crush again, and another super dumb but also addicting game. It was the weakest effort, but it took the edge off in moments of desperation, and it also became a part of my daily life as I traveled through a year of recovery. Especially for a brain that loves addiction, this is a poor substitute, but you can see how it could slightly work. It helped me – it was like my brain was finally able to get distracted for brief snatches of time, almost like transference, but to an electronic phone game.

    I normally would not recommend wasting time on phone games, but in this case, desperate times call for desperate measures.

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    • Nice idea. I’m not a gamer, but the idea of replacing a destructive addiction with a neutral one (assuming no in game purchases, I guess) is smart. Agree about the reading too – it’s my go-to comfort blanket when non-limerent, but hopeless during limerence.

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  6. I chose #4, as I felt it unfair for someone in my social circle to unknowingly inspire that feeling. I didn’t know that it would lead to what was probably the gentlest honest rejection ever, nor was I ready for any development then.
    If you do reject someone who admits the feeling, be clear. I took “I don’t feel that way,” followed quickly by, “I’m not ready for a relationship” to suggest that there was a chance when he was ready. Just the first sentence would have left me in no doubt, while being as gentle as possible.
    #1 was not possible, as going to the same place regularly and having mutual friends preludes that. And I can’t avoid that place
    #2 came up blank. Yes, I tried really hard. Found positives I hadn’t thought of before instead.
    #3 I was trying to stick a dead marriage together to start with, and worked really hard at finding my partner attractive again. When that couldn’t work (only I was trying), I tried pretending to myself that I found a different friend attractive. That got confusing, as a few people picked up on the misdirection

    Reminding myself that my LO now has a girlfriend and that nothing would ever happen anyway helps

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    • Oh yes, the “soft rejection”. Meant well, but harder to cope with than a blunt “No”,

      Found positives I hadn’t thought of before instead. 🙂 Damned virtuous LOs are the worst.

      Focussing on how nothing will ever happen is wise – if you can’t avoid LO, keep working on eliminating the uncertainty by yourself.

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  7. What if you disclose, they are interested, they want kids, you have two and don’t want more, you can not compromise, it is agony, you realize no contact is the only way, they keep contacting you, you hold their hand and cry about what can’t be, you want desperately to be friends as least, but know you can’t. I’ve run through all four and need a 5th option…

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    • I really hope you are single or divorced because of the LEo’s desire for children. If either of you are married and not divorced, the ‘ick’ (and potentially infecting a committed partner with an STD) factor comes into play.

      “they keep contacting you”

      IMO, sadly, you have to shut that down entirely. Change your phone number, get a new email account, let messages roll to voice mail, block from social media, etc. Otherwisr, you are engaging & maximizing and prolonging the pain.

      “you hold their hand and cry about what can’t be,”

      There are a lot of things that can’t or won’t be. When you’re engaging with this person you are not committed to ending it.

      She wants to bear children and you do not. That means you have to shut it down. Time is a factor and the sooner she has dealt with the end, the better.

      You may have to be cruel to be kind. She may ‘hate you, she may even truly hate you, but if you are no longer in her life it doesn’t matter if she thinks of you at all.

      I’m so sorry. It’s a tough situation.

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    • It’s a real drag when two peoples’ vision of life don’t line up. It’s even worse when they both have equally valid positions. You’re both entitled to pursue your individual ideas of happiness. Your not wanting more kids is as equally as valid as her wanting her own kids. Unfortunately, kids are a “no compromise” situation. You either have them or you don’t. The decision to have or not to have children when you hold the opposite view isn’t a compromise, it’s a sacrifice.

      If there’s ever a candidate for resentment to appear later it’s this one. She concedes and, if things don’t work out, that club might come out of the closet. You kept her from her dream. You concede and the kid is born severely disabled or becomes a drug addled delinquent. you might be the one wielding that bat.

      It’s not that you can’t be friends, it’s that you’ll likely be holding yourselves back if you do. The other thing you may face is your reaction to one of you eventually moving on. You’ll say it won’t bother you, but it will, at least for awhile. But, that doesn’t mean moving on isn’t the right thing to do.

      30 years ago, I thought I’d be at this point in my life with LO #2. She didn’t share that vision. Happiness isn’t a zero-sum game. Another downside of life, is you can’t guarantee the future so you just have to make a decision and go with it.

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    • It sounds as if the barrier for you is the impossibility of a long term relationship – and you are right that kids/no kids is an insurmountable barrier. While I definitely am an advocate of planning ahead, already having these conversations in the middle of limerence is surprising (I’m reading your words as suggesting you are at a pre-commitment stage). There are no certainties in life, of course, but if you are sure that there’s no future in the relationship, you really only have one option: No Contact, properly. If you try to comfort LO and remain available to them and seek them when your own pain seems unbearable, it is very likely that you will prolong your own limerence, and delay the opportunity for LO to find a partner that does want kids.

      Perhaps option 5 could be: tell yourself that if you truly care for LO, you should free them to find a partner who can meet their need for children. If that means shutting them out of your life, you just have to make that sacrifice. It will be hard on you (and them), but doing the right thing sometimes is hard.

      Good luck, and best wishes.

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      • We were friends for a year, then I disclosed and a relationship was a possibility, except for wanting marriage and kids…so I went NC and eight months later I got an email and I thought minds had changed. But, it was just an attempt at reestablishing a friendship. I guess I misread “I think about you every day” “I have more than just friend feelings for you” “I want you in my life”

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      • Pretty hard to misinterpret those statements!
        A charitable guess would be that they missed your friendship and were conflicted about seeing whether a relationship was possible after all. A less charitable guess is that they were feeling lonely and wanted some narcissistic supply. Who knows where the truth lies, but getting back in touch and upending your life again after 8 months of no contact is not very friendly…?

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  8. Has anyone ever been able to get limerence to go away forever, because mine will just come back with someone else. So, I guess my thinking is if I HAVE to live in this torturous hell because there is no real “cure” then should t the LO at least like me too?

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    • I think limerence is a trait that some people have – like introversion or agreeableness or proneness to anxiety. Like any other personality trait, I think the effects can be moderated with practice and discipline (and the will to change). But, I’m not sure you can ever eliminate it completely, and I’m also not sure that is a particularly desirable goal. Limerence can be wonderful, when reciprocated by a good LO.

      My hope with this site is that by learning and talking about it, limerents can develop the techniques needed to control the worst effects of limerence when it is a bane on life, but embrace it when it is a good thing.

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    • Maybe you’re destined to be an active limerent forever and maybe you aren’t. Using the addiction model, for some addicts sobriety may be relatively easy and for others every day is a epic struggle.

      People aren’t who they are because of the relationships they have, they have the relationships they have because of who they are. Limerence isn’t a cause, it’s an effect. Addressing limerent behavior is treating a symptom not a cause. Dealing with limerence may be more like diabetes that you’re forced to manage forever than an infection that you can treat and it’s gone. But, once they get the protocol down, many diabetics have very happy and productive lives.

      If you want to at least get your limerence down to a manageable level, I recommend you start with DrL’s blogs relating to “glimmer.” The “glimmer” is kind of a litmus test for limerents.

      The first benefit is if you understand what your “glimmer” is, you see someone may be a threat (i.e., potential LO) and you can take steps to avoid it. If someone has it, there are topics you just avoid with them. The second benefit is by understanding the glimmer, you can gain insight into what attracts you to them which can help you reduce your vulnerability to them. That can take a lot of work and take you to places you had no intention of going. Digging into that one can not only change how you react to limerent stimuli, it can affect your whole life.

      But, if you do the work, you’ve learned to identify and avoid threats and you’ve reduced your vulnerability to the threats you can’t avoid. Hence, your risk goes down.

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  9. I just ended a good “friendship” over this. She got pissed off, blocked me on every social network known to man and then showed all the suggestive texts that I had sent her to my mutual friends.

    Found this term today! thank god.
    I was addicted to this woman who was 9 years older than me. The obsession nearly cost me my job, definitely ruined my reputation ( I am the crazy guy who went to the girl’s house uninvited to ask her why she wasn’t picking up my calls) and I lost all my mutual friends.

    But I knew this was an addiction and was totally convinced that she was a narcissist and love bombed me into this hell. On the surface it was purely a friendship but our hugs were longer, kisses on the neck and cheeks and a bite on the cheek definitely muddled things up for me.

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  10. It really is an insane roller-coaster ride. That being said, being limerent for a married person is not an experience I’d wish on anyone.

    Has Dr. Limerence done any writing on clarifying the mess of affectionate feelings the limerent typically has for the LO? Is the friendship I enjoy with this woman an illusion created by limerence, or is the limerence an unwelcome by-product of the friendship?

    I feel like the real tragedy of the situation is that not only is romance out of the question, but our friendship is probably doomed as well due to this absurd infatuation.

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  11. – Can’t we just be friends?

    – Limerence and the friendzone

    – I’m totally over this. Let’s go for coffee!

    – The Glimmer givers

    Like

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