1 Moral uprightness; honesty. 2 wholeness; soundness.
How does integrity relate to limerence? I think both meanings are relevant. The first relates to leading a purposeful life, and the second comes from protecting oneself from external stressors (such as LOs). Let me expand.
1) Living with integrity
When faced with difficult, confusing or conflicting desires, it is easy to become paralysed by indecision. One reliable shortcut for making the right decision is to choose the option that is consistent with acting with integrity. This might not be the easiest option. For example: when trying to choose between setting up a business selling hyped-up “nutritional supplements” or one selling exercise training programmes, you choose the latter because it doesn’t involve misleading people. If choosing between deepening an emotional affair or going no contact with LO, you choose no contact. If both options are ethically neutral then choose the one that is more likely to allow you to feel pride in yourself.
The choice of integrity does not always mean doing things for other people. Integrity is not obedience. If your boss asks you to do something distasteful or unscrupulous, it is appropriate to say no. Similarly, if you are offered a job by a competitor employer, it is not a sign of integrity to refuse because of the commitment you made to your current employer. In a transactional relationship, moving on or renegotiating is legitimate. Where integrity may be strained would be accepting the new job without intending to do it, so you can leverage against your current employer. Not illegal – not even unethical – and certainly advocated by many, but not a choice of high integrity. Similarly in personal relationships, doing someone a favour because they are a friend is a fine principle, but if the friend is asking you to cover for them (providing an alibi for an affair, for example) then choose not to do it. No need to lecture the friend, just a simple “I am not willing to do that.”
So why would the “integrity choice” be the right one? The benefits of this approach are manifold.
First, you can live with the knowledge that you are a decent human being, and you should not underestimate the impact that has on your wellbeing.
Second, if consistently applied, other people will come to think of you as a person of integrity. Again, it is easy to underestimate the impact this has on your life. Trust is a hugely important aspect of all interpersonal relationships of value. Once lost, it is very hard to regain.
Third, it draws other decent people to you. If you role model integrity (simply by exhibiting it) then people that value the trait will be attracted to you. It is one of the most reliable ways of excluding spivs and players from your life: make it clear from your actions and opinions that you do not cut corners, blur ethics, push boundaries, or lie to get what you want. This also plays out in romantic relationships – avoid the game playing and you will make players uncomfortable, and so cleverly select out the decent people that are worth bonding with.
A helpful consequence of this approach to life is that shady LOs will also be put off by your straightforwardness and honesty, saving you from becoming limerent for an arsehole.
2) Integrity of self
The second meaning of integrity is also apt for living with limerence. Integrity as wholeness, without division or fracture, is another protection against the danger of unworthy LOs. An intact self-image, resilient to external forces, is a stable state to aspire to, and a good guard against attempts to break down your confidence or self-belief. How does one cultivate this sort of integrity? Well, curiously enough, from practicing the first form of integrity.
We all of us have wounds. Past experiences that have undermined our confidence in ourselves, shaken our self-esteem, and led us to make poor decisions that we regret – often for a long time. Sometimes, these wounds are very deep and profound, and can be astonishingly hard to overcome at an emotional level. Living with integrity can help with this. Most of us have a fairly clear ethical and moral framework – even if we can’t necessarily articulate it well or deal with clever-clever “what if?” scenarios that exercise the philosophers. For everyday choices, most people have a clear view of right and wrong. Do not take the £20 note that the person in front of you just dropped – return it to them, even if they are ungrateful about it. Do not string along someone who is attracted to you if you are not attracted to them. Do not trick someone who is confused into doing something in your interests and against theirs. Simple stuff.
Choosing to do the right thing does not take a lot of emotional energy. There is no need to deliberate for long. If you become conflicted, short-circuit the emotional confusion by choosing the course of integrity. You may not always benefit financially, or always outwit the conman, or “win” in some perceived game of oneupmanship against the rest of the world, but you will know that you have integrity.
That sense of confidence, wholeness and satisfaction with who you are, comes from action – deliberate, purposeful action – not from words or thoughts. Or from other people. This is a mistake that a lot of limerents make: if only they can fuse with LO then at last they will have purpose and self-confidence because at last they will have affirmation of their value – and from their beloved LO. But it’s a fool’s errand, because if you rely on other people for your self-confidence they can undermine it just as easily as bolster it.
The only safe way to build self-confidence, to build integrity against emotional attack, is to consistently act in a way that your subconscious mind will know is the principled and morally-sound choice. After adopting that method as a life choice, slowly but surely you will programme yourself to do it from habit, and the foundation of self-esteem (true self-esteem based on actually being someone admirable) is laid.
So, integrity. One meaning flows from the other, and both can protect you against the vagaries of an LO’s behaviour.