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

Hee hee. Limerence and its wily ways. I recently came across this quote from Irvin Yalom (an eminent therapist) about overcoming infatuation:

Nor is the dissolution a steady process. Setbacks occur— and nothing is more likely to bring about a setback than another encounter with the beloved. Patients offer many rationalizations for such new contact: they insist that they are over it now and that a cordial talk, a coffee, or lunch with the former beloved will help to clarify things, help them to understand what went wrong, help them establish a lasting adult friendship, or even permit them to say good-bye like a mature person. None of these things is likely to come to pass. Generally the individuals recovery is set back, much as a slip sets back a recovering alcoholic.

I’m guessing most limerents recognise this impulse. The gentle self-delusion that it’s now fine to spend time with their LO, because they’ve worked through their issues and are now all empowered and wise and emotionally stable. Of course, it’s really driven by the desire to get a little hit of their drug of choice, rationalised by a high-minded desire to get closure.

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Ahhh. Two of my favourite stimulants at once.

This trap is most often encountered after a period of no contact, when the most urgent feelings of limerence have genuinely subsided. With the new clear-headedness that no contact has enabled, it’s easy to believe that you can meet as friends and enjoy uncomplicated time together. Maybe even learn more about yourself by analysing your feelings when you meet. Or validate your recovery, by demonstrating how resilient you are to their charms now.

Gotta agree with Irvin “None of these things is likely to come to pass.”

So is that it? No possible hope for full recovery and a neutral friendship with LO? I’ve opined on this before, but in the spirit of not being totally defeatist, there may be some cases where it’s possible.

1) The limerence was fully discharged 

You can plausibly meet again as friends on the far side of limerence. The simplest case here is if a sexual relationship took place, and because of that consummation you worked through the limerence and it’s now gone. Less complete, but possible, is that you disclosed and received an unequivocal “no”. Again, that could smother the fuel of limerence by removing uncertainty. One could debate the wisdom of seeking friendship from someone you desire but who does not reciprocate, but it is plausible that limerence has been snuffed out beyond recovery.

2) You truly feel indifferent

In the let’s-meet-for-coffee scenario above, someone who still has a glimmer of limerence will feel a quiet thrill of excited anticipation. That, of course, means you’re not over LO half as much as you would like to believe. If, in contrast, you can ask yourself the question “how would I feel if I didn’t see them again?” and honestly answer “OK”, then you may actually be OK. In fact, a good test would be to decide “I have lots of projects on at the moment, and meeting old-LO isn’t a priority” and then see how your dormant limerent brain feels about that. It’ll let you know if it’s cross about losing its fix.

3) They are a guilty pleasure

Not sure if this one is healthy, but I guess it is possible to treat an LO like social drinking – an occasional indulgence that can be managed for the pleasure it brings. I suppose an unwitting LO could be safe, but it’s a relatively high risk strategy from your own perspective if you are in a long-term relationship. Plus, it’s kind of icky.

As Granny Weatherwax says “Sin… is when you treat people like things”.

 

Overall, you’ve got to ask yourself how important it is that you can be friends with an old LO. What are you proving to yourself? How much would they add to your life, really? Are you surrendering your purposefulness to them? Are you trying to cling to the old comfort of the person addiction that once meant so much?

It’s hard to believe you can’t find the benefits of friendship elsewhere…

Why are some people so addictive?

Some people have all the luck. You know the ones, always seem to have someone on their arm. Sometimes several someones at once (probably not literally). Although they appear outwardly normal, there’s something magnetic about them that draws people in. The sort of people that have Intrigues.

One might call it charisma. Whatever It is, they seem to have it. The X factor.

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Maybe it’s the pipe?

Why?

As ever, we’ll look at this from the perspective of limerence, so our definition of the X factor is going to be “able to provoke limerence in many people.” Can we figure out, from what we know about limerence, why some people may be especially addictive?

Probably not, but here’s a few unsubstantiated theories that seem truthy!

1) They play the numbers game

Some people love to flirt. They sparkle at everyone. This could be innocent, but could also be due to narcissitic tendencies. Either way, a consequence of this is that they basically trawl for limerents. Anyone vulnerable to their charms gets captured by their flirtation carpet-bombing and duped into thinking that reciprocation has occurred. Possibly not even duped. Within this framework there’s plenty of scope for the broad-spectrum LO to be equally indiscriminate sexually, further snaring the limerent into nucleation.

So, these folks appear to have amazing powers of charisma, but are actually playing a high volume/ low conversation rate game. Anyone who has fallen for one of these players knows the heartache of being limerent for a narrow-margins romance speculator. Exclusivity is a hopeless dream.

2) They are human slot machines

I’ve written before about the power of intermittent rewards. We’re hardwired for this. Gambling companies understand it beautifully and optimise their slot machines to time payouts and losses just right to keep us hooked. The uncertainty of intermittent reward is a major part of limerence. Do they like me? Sometimes it’s wonderful and they are loving and flirty and seem to be enraptured with me. Other times they are aloof. Cold even. They can make me feel elated and devastated. What do they want?

In popular vernacular, this is the “treat ’em mean keep ’em keen” strategy, and it works a treat with unsuspecting limerents. For those that want to arm themselves against it: the most effective hook for gamblers is to give a big win in the early stages of interest, and then to progressively increase the time to the next payout (and decrease its size), but keeping a semi-random element to it to prevent a pattern being recognised. With limerence, this would be a period of love-bombing at the start of an affair, followed by progressive decreases in the time and attention given once the limerent is hooked, but with occasional, unpredictable, grand gestures to keep you off balance.

I’m not saying this is all some awful plan and the world is full of limerence predators – often it is just subconscious learned behaviour on the LO’s part too. But that’s not much consolation if it’s your heart they’re breaking.

3) They are archetypes

We all have certain personal triggers that determine who we become limerent for and how frequently. These may well be determined in childhood or adolescence and so non-trivial to uncover in adulthood. However, it doesn’t seem much of a stretch to assume that many of us will have triggers in common; that we will respond to common cues. Some people may exhibit these cues in abundance. There may be a class of “limerence archetypes” that are psychologically attractive to many people because they represent a behavioural or physical type that is evocative of the Ideal Mate.

Us limerent moths circle these blessed/cursed souls relentlessly, drawn inexorably towards their archetypal flame.

4) They are just inherently gorgeous and good.

Finally, there may be some people who are LO’s because of their overwhelming goodness. It would be nice to think so. I wish you all the luck in the world in finding one!