Person addiction

Limerence certainly resembles addiction in many key respects. There are the neurophysiological highs, and the withdrawal lows. The cravings, the disruption of everyday routines, the habit formation. There is also the diminishing value of each fix, and the need for escalating stimulus as time goes on to get the same pleasure.  Ultimately, there comes the realisation that the LO is detrimental to your life, but you also know you can’t give them up without significant emotional pain.

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Heads you lose. Tails you really lose.

Despite these parallels, I struggled for a long time with how limerence fitted into an addiction framework. I confess that I do not have an “addictive personality” and so I could not relate my feelings of limerence to, say, alcohol or gambling addiction. Like most people though, there are others close to me that do have these issues, and so limerence did at least help me understand them a little better; at least to the level of empathising that “why don’t you just stop?” is worthless advice.

I read up on sex addiction and love addiction, and again, while there was some overlap, there were also fundamental differences that made limerence seem to be a separate category. In particular, the other two addictions seemed focussed more on the compulsive behaviour than the other party (or parties) involved.

The penny dropped for me when browsing limerence.net and coming across a comment by David Perl along the lines of “limerence is addiction to a person.” That really crystallised it for me: addiction to a person. LO is the drug. It’s not romantic love or sex per se that you crave, it’s LO. It has a nice clarity of focus; good explanatory power.

For whatever reason – whatever combination of your own emotional state and unmet needs and their particular recipe of personality traits – the company of this person gives you an emotional and physiological high. You seek reward until addiction has set in, and then your behaviour becomes erratic and irrational and withdrawal becomes painful. The drug parallel also helps from the perspective of overcoming limerence. You are probably not going to be able to be friends with your LO, just like an alcoholic will never be able to be a social drinker.

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Go on. Just a little sip of LO. You’ll be fine.

This is especially true if your LO is manipulative or narcissistic or limerent for you too. Because those guys will be enablers. They’ll be your drinking buddies, egging you on, telling you how boring you’ve become since you stopped hanging out so much, or how much they miss you – and can’t we just go back to how things were before you got so uptight?

Now, there can be ways through limerence, so it’s not necessarily essential to go cold turkey. If your LO is actually a decent person, you stand a better chance of establishing new habits, and a civil acquaintanceship is feasible as long as you steer clear of intimate conversations or situations. It will be hard and may call for constant vigilance, but then that is the price of liberty. But to return to my perennial theme: your road out of the addiction is self-awareness, honesty, and the determination to live a purposeful life. Act decisively, and work for the future you want to live.

11 thoughts on “Person addiction

  1. This blog represents my experience almost identically. I became limerent for someone and it was definitely the worst experience of my life. We became horribly emotionally entangled and while for my LO the sharing of emotions and experiences was a bit of fun, for me it became something I craved and needed. It also didn’t help that LO was by nature very charismatic but also fickle. I started to feel like a puppet on a string..pathetically grateful and on a high when we connected, and almost starved of attention when LO retreated. It was weird as I have so many other friends and also an SO who I love (very stable but not very exciting..that was probably part of the problem!) but this one person started to represent everything exciting in my life. I spent ages pondering unmet needs and why this happened and ruminating on it all…its annoying as I was pretty content before this person got under my skin. At the moment we are not taking as I keep overreacting to things and I think LO thinks I’m slightly mad. I’ve tried so hard to create some emotional distance but find it impossible. I think the point on the blogs about it being less like a relationship and more like an addiction is a very valid one!

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    • “At the moment we are not taking as I keep overreacting to things and I think LO thinks I’m slightly mad.”

      That’s pretty common when you try to walk a fine line you shouldn’t be walking at all, I was getting along pretty well with LO #4 until the landscape changed and the boundaries that were previously there seemed to disappear. Maybe not from her perspective but definitely from mine.

      To use a bad engineering analogy we went from inside the control band to overshooting everything. We never were able to reestablish equilibrium.

      The right answer was to end the acquaintance and we did, But, we were lucky in that the logistics of the acquaintance made doing the right thing a whole lot easier.

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      • Yes, I had a pretty normal friendship with my LO as well before my my emotions changed everything. I think that is one of my biggest regrets…that I’ve messed up a friendship that was ok to start with, and we can never go back to that. It would be impossible to explain the raw emotion that started flowing through me though…the ecstasy when we felt connected, the panic when I felt we didn’t, the anger when I’d been let down. LO isn’t perfect – thoughtless at times and can blow from hot to cold and cancels plans at the drop of a hat – but I just couldn’t keep my emotions under control. I’d always prided myself on being very emotionally balanced, and didn’t even know I was capable of letting someone get under my skin to such an extent.

        I’m going to try and keep the NC thing going this time. I want a peaceful summer without jittering around with my phone, wondering if LO will reply to a text or what LO is doing.

        I think the powerlessness of a situation like this is the worst feeling. You feel that your emotions are in someone else’s hands and that made me incredibly edgy and fragile.

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  2. Reclaiming yourself is like piloting a boat. You need a rudder and you need propulsion. You have to both.

    Without propulsion, you may be able to orient yourself but are at the mercy of the wind or current. Without a rudder, you can get somewhere but you can go in a bad direction, out to sea or on the rocks.

    To make this post even more of a groaner, deciding where you want to go is influenced by your “moral compass.”

    Some blogs talk about the minefield you sailed into and how you got there. Some of the blogs here talk about tactics and strategies to get out of the minefield. Some blogs talk about how to implement those tactics and strategies, and some blogs talk about why some choices are more ethical, moral, or noble than others.

    There can be a lot of layers in a LE. The onion analogy is pretty good but I prefer thinking of it as a mirrorball. There were a lot of facets, some of them are pretty subtle, and they can spin around pretty fast in your head.

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  3. A question about living with limerence. Some background first

    I’ve known someone for decades that I was close with but didn’t love. Last year I fell in love with them. At first I put aside the thought but eventually thinking of them started to consume me. It’s debilitating when you think about a person virtually all day long. I also knew they didn’t think of me this way and I started to get depressed.

    Eventually i couldn’t hold in inside any longer. I told them. They claimed to me (and others) they loved me in a difference sense, After some painful discussion we have since parted ways.
    We are still connected through other people that we are mutually close with but we don’t communicate with one another directly. This is unlikely to ever change.

    Since that time my feelings of love and depression have only become more entrenched. I closed down my business. I’m barely functional (mostly in bed). Living with my mother. And on meds.

    I believe in unconditional love on a philosophical level so both my feelings and rational side tell me that I don’t want to move on to someone else even if the person I love never loves me back. Living without the prospect of love though seems to have ripped away my motivation to do anything. The depression is ongoing.

    Here is the question.

    Is there a thought process that allows me to keep my love (without moving on) but not exist in this debilitated state?

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    • Wow, Elpetha. That’s a hell of a question.

      First: I am sorry to hear what you are going through. Given the impact on your life, I hope you have sought help from medical professionals. I am guessing so, as you mention meds, but please do continue to take advice from people who know more than laybloggers…

      From the perspective of limerence, the most I can say is that your path is not the typical path that the majority of limerents follow. To know and care for someone for decades and then succumb to limerence is unusual. It’s much more typical that familiarity causes limerence to fade over time. I can’t pretend that I understand the significance of that, but it may suggest that you are dealing with limerence emerging due to some other stressor or external cause (rather than bumping into an LO by chance). Can you think of a trigger that set the limerent experience off?

      With respect to unconditional love – I would say I am more of a sceptic than you. Adult romantic love is, to me, a distinct category from love for children or parents. There is always the possibility that someone who you fall in love with will treat you badly, even abusively, I’m not suggesting this would be true for your LO, but the point is that there should always be a limiting boundary for what is acceptable for you in a romantic relationship. So, I suppose what I am saying is that unconditional love is possible, but unconditionally pledging yourself to one person regardless of their feelings for you, or behaviour towards you, is potentially very psychologically damaging.

      When I look back at previous SOs, I remember them with love and affection (mostly), but know that they are part of my past. You can keep those feelings of love in memory, but once those people have left your life, it is rational and healthy to seek new love with others. Future love does not diminish past love, it just follows it. Also, dedicating yourself exclusively to someone who is not available to you is not altogether an act of love. It’s more like self-sacrifice. As you suggest, denying yourself reciprocated love rips away your motivation, and a major purpose in life. I don’t see how anyone benefits from that.

      It’s a very hard question to answer, but I hope that is some food for thought, at least. Best wishes.

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    • HI Elpetha, I am right where you are at: I met my LO on the second-day of law school. Within the first year we became inseparable. He was married. about 6 months after we met, I started a relationship of convenience. I have been in that horrible relationship for 12 years–My LO from law school became my law partner. We had an incredible bond that was very unusual. He was and is still perfect to me. My limerance (now that I know what “it is”) has wax and wained over those 12 years but became really bad for both of us this summer when he said he was leaving the firm. We started into a tail spin–emotions all over the place overcorrection, new boundaries, we do almost all our hearings together, which is extremely unusual. He treats me better than any man I’ve ever been with–he is very kind, generous, emotionally supportive, and of course, he’s extremely attractive. It makes me upset that I’m in a “relationship” (or so I think) that is better than most people’s marriages (as even noted by others). It seemed like we could not get enough of each other’s company, even though we have never had a physical relationship–mainly due to the morality of him being married and I love him too much to make him lose his standing in “the church,” or to lose his family. He said he is leaving the firm in 8 months. I am devastated. I plan on leaving the practice of law altogether. I already live with my mom, so I know, I’m headed right where you are at. The problem is–I do not want anyone else. I’m in my early 40’s and never married. I know what I want, and what I want is him because he is everything I have ever wanted and more. I feel for you. The sad part is the relationship is real, but I have every symptom of Limerence, so I can’t sort out what is “real” from what is in my head. I want this feeling to stop, but I don’t want it to stop at the same time. There is no winning here, and I don’t want to move on–ever.

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      • “There is no winning here, and I don’t want to move on–ever.”

        Why, Counselor? But for the fact that this guy’s married, how would your life be different?

        If you know what you like about this guy, why wouldn’t you pursue those qualities in someone who’s available to give you a healthy, nurturing, reciprocal relationship? There’s a sizable body of clinical literature (Schreiber, Solomon, et al,) that suggests repeatedly pursuing unavailable partners is a technique that allows one to maintain the illusion of being able to handle intimate relationships without actually risking it. But, that’s why you should take advice from real professionals and not from blog posters.

        Sacrifice for a purpose is noble, sacrifice for no purpose is suicide. Being willing to let him go because it’s in the best interest of him and his family is a noble sacrifice. Choosing to enshrine him in the pantheon of “what if?” is martyrdom.

        Will you be happy with that decision for half your life?

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      • I wanted to reply to you (LLawyer) a few weeks ago, but I couldn’t find that older blog entry. I know the emotional change that occurred when “he said he was leaving the firm.” That uncertainty of what will happen next completely destroyed me when my LO said she was taking another job. (Perhaps she wasn’t my LO until she said she was leaving.) I mean, completely non-functioning in every aspect of my life. Home, work, even with friends. It was impossible to fake. Absolute suffering that I had never felt before. The time spent waiting for her 3-week notice to expire was torture. But when she emailed me from her family vacation after her last day, I (we) essentially entered into a different emotional phase.

        Now, my LO was more like my “work wife” at the time, as we would go out to lunch once/week, spend (probably obvious to others) time talking during work hours, and discuss fairly personal matters at times. She had become my best friend at the time and I did love being with her. And honestly, I did come to wonder what life would be like with her. We did not ever communicate outside of work. And there was a “damsel in distress” element coupled with common interests and caring for one another. But we were both married with children, so nothing to worry about, right? Well, if she had never left work, then maybe things would have been “alright”, though I’m sure that would only have delayed the emotional carnage.

        The next 3 months consisted of a phase of mutual love that was confusing, painful, and euphoric. A closeness that I had never had with anyone ever. We talked about almost EVERYTHING. And what were we going to do about it? How did my very rational, logical self become completely dominated by emotion? I think we would have done anything for each other, but each was afraid to ask certain questions. We each privately knew the situation was untenable, and LO ended the extremely close bond nearly one year ago. But she kept the contact going, which put me into a different limerent state where I had no chance to mourn, and all of the attachments to her were still there. I knew her feelings for me were still there, but things were different. Maybe she could handle the new reality, but it wore me down. We continued to go through phases of deep sharing, poor boundary management, until a few weeks ago I felt that going No Contact was what needed to happen. It is too difficult for me be the friend that she wants, and I don’t know if I can be friends with her in any healthy way.

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  4. Combining your other post, a few things stand out.

    1. You’re a 40 yr old never married woman living with her mother. Why are you living with your mother?

    2. You have a history of being attracted to unavailable partners, a gay man and a married man. What would you do if he were to become available? Let’s say his family was killed by a drunk driver. Would you leave you mother to start a life together? What’s the “fairy tale ending” for you?

    Those two items are likely related and maybe what you want to focus on. Somebody had to prescribe Xanex. Maybe they can recommend a good therapist to go along with it, preferably one with experience in trauma.

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