Finding the right match

Dating is fun and complicated and painful and confusing. A major source of pain and confusion is mismatched expectations. Now, having a blog about limerence, it’s sort of obvious that I’d think that limerence is one of the causes of mismatched expectations, but I actually think that the lack of awareness about limerence is the major contributory factor to a huge number of relationship problems. Once we understand limerence, we realise that the dating world will be very different for limerents and non-limerents, and foreknowledge of limerence and its ways can alter our expectations profoundly.

Most straightforwardly, it’s a good idea when dating to try and figure out at a fairly early stage of any nascent relationship, whether your target/victim is a limerent or non-limerent. Because that’s going to have a big impact on what you can expect from them, and makes it a lot easier to predict and respond to the likely behaviour you’ll observe. As for different attachment types, the drives and reactions of limerents and non-limerents will be fundamentally different, and much agony comes from mismatched assumptions about how people in love behave. It’s the tragedy of two well-meaning people with shared desire, but different expectations, misunderstanding each other.

Limerents, as we know, are going to be travelling down the obsessive love road.

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To person-junkie town

Non-limerents are looking for romance and friendship and love, but not the soul-consuming total consummation that limerents crave. That’s clingy and unhealthy in their world. And let’s be honest, even we limerents know it can be a bit much.

To pick this apart, let’s analyse how different love matches would play out in the early stages of a new relationship

1) Limerent–limerent love

For limerents, this is the real deal. Two people totally into one another. Both feeling the massive surge of limerent euphoria, but enough uncertainty on both sides to keep feeding it (I’m assuming here that neither are confident enough in their own attractiveness to be sure of full reciprocation). If obstacles are in the way, the limerence can be intensified. If mutual attraction leads to consummation, these lucky devils are in for ecstatic union, and a heady and intoxicating time.

However… the downside to limerent-limerent love is that the intensity is bound to wear off. At this point, our limerent heroes are going to either settle into loving pair-bonding, or seek out a new limerent object. This is where self-awareness as a limerent really pays off. It helps avoid the cycle of destructive breakups and seeking of novelty that is the fate of the limerence-chaser.

2) Limerent–Non-limerent love

The hardest combo.

From the perspective of the non-limerent, they really like this new person in their world and want to spend lots of time with them, and fool around (as the old folks say), and enjoy the thrill of new relationship energy. But – woe – after a little while their new lover is acting a bit… erratically. Getting jealous of their friends, seeking constant validation, wanting their undivided attention. Wanting more and more and more, as though they crave total immersion and want to do nothing but spend all their time with you. Just them and you. Don’t they realise that love shouldn’t be this stifling?

From the limerent’s perspective, things are different. Oh, the euphoria of consummation. Oh, the dopamine-rush of their company. This one might just be The One. But – woe – just when things were going so well their new lover is acting a bit… erratically. Wanting to spend less time together. Wanting to see friends, and go and spend time around other people, including other potential mates. The cooling of their ardour only feeds the limerence obsession. Suddenly, the limerent starts to fear losing the centre of their romantic universe, and their limerent brain doubles-down on the obsession. Don’t they realise that love shouldn’t be this superficial?

These kinds of matches can keep insecure limerents in a perpetual state of reinforcing uncertainty. They can try and play it cool and convince themselves that they are OK with the lack of mutual limerence, but they are likely to be having the worst kind of intermittent reinforcement schedule if they persist with this kind of relationship. It’s not impossible, if the limerent is aware of their drives, able to moderate their insecurities, and make a clear-headed decision to stick with their partner because they are worth the investment. But it’s not likely to be simple or easy.

3) Non-limerent–non-limerent love

Eh. I don’t know much about this, personally. I guess it’s about finding someone that you like more than all the other someones, but also being open to having emotional relationships with other people and everyone involved being fine about it. I suppose it’s alright if you like that sort of thing.

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There are probably some other blogs out there for you lot

 

So, those are the pitfalls out there for the dating limerent. I’ve made the point before, and I’m happy to make it again: I don’t think that non-limerent love is in any way more mature or evolved than limerent love, and it’s a recipe for pain and self-denial for limerents to try and behave as though they are non-limerent. Lots of gurus and relationship coaches advocate this, but it’s a denial of the fundamental nature of limerents. Yes, the mad obsessive infatuation of limerence is objectively unbalanced, but it’s euphoric and life affirming and energising too. Maturity comes from within the individual: the ability to restrain limerence when it’s unwelcome, embrace it when it’s focussed on a worthy partner, and use it to build an incredible pair bond that will last. That’s the ideal scenario for limerents. Not to deny who they fundamentally are.

 

Midlife crisis for limerents

Midlife is an interesting time. It begins to dawn on you that whatever endeavours you threw yourself into in early adulthood are coming to fruition. In many careers, it becomes clear – and pretty much settled – whether or not you will reach the highest levels. By definition, most people won’t. If you have children, they are growing to independence, and you start to face an empty nest. In love, your choices will have determined whether you are partnered in a long term relationship, bruised from bad encounters, alone, or living one of the many non-conventional models of interdependence.

The things that you decided to do with your life are no longer characterised by the promise of future achievement – it is now clear whether or not that promise has been, or will ever be, fulfilled. Regardless of the choices that you made, the realisation comes that you are halfway through your life and have to decide whether you are still happy with those choices. Our bodies also confront us with evidence of our age – grey hairs, wrinkles, flaccidity, menopause.

Halfway through your life. Or halfway to your death.

For some people this can cause a panic of regret and fear.

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I’ve wasted my life! My chance for happiness is slipping away! I hate my job, but I’m trapped!

For others, it is closer to ennui – a sense of dissatisfaction and fatigue, and nostalgic loss.

It is also, perhaps unsurprisingly, the prime time for affairs.

Many people report that a peculiarity of midlife is a sudden eruption of libidinous energy and romantic interest in others. It’s been described as a second adolescence. Whether this is mainly a psychological response to the emotions of midlife, or also a hormonal surge due to physiological changes at midlife, is unclear. But the consequences are a powerful sense of a “last chance” for a fling, or open relationship, or to reinvent yourself with a new partner. This can be complicated by the realisation that your appeal has changed (for better or worse) with age: physical maturity, the confidence of experience, financial and emotional stability; all of these can affect the perception of your attractiveness to others. Of course, another common cliche is the desire for a younger partner, in an attempt to hang on to youth or get a second chance at making a relationship work. Equally, spending time in the company of other attractive midlifers going through the same suite of sensations can prove… combustible.

All of these factors come to a head and present a particular vulnerability for limerents. It may be a long time since a midlifer felt the pull of limerence, and if it has been an infrequent part of their life, it may be an unfamiliar challenge and upend their emotional stability. I’ve speculated before that limerence is a mechanism for establishing pair bonding, but as it typically only lasts for a few years at most, serial monogamy would seem to be the natural outcome. A sudden urgent sense that this is the last chance to find a new mate, coupled to resurgent limerence, is a powerful force.

Ultimately, all this turmoil may drive our midlife limerent into a tailspin, but what can be done?

Well, they could spend hours studying Jungian analytical psychology, take up a new hobby (maybe even a blog…), or just weather it as best as they are able with the coping skills they’ve developed through adulthood. Alternatively, they could embark on that affair, and start the second half of their lives by jeopardising everything they’ve achieved in the first half. It might work out. But it will probably come as no surprise to regular readers that I would instead advocate reflection and self-awareness. As the heart of this is self-honesty, and here are some blunt questions that could help:

1) Was I happy in my relationship before this started?

2) Do I honestly think that starting a new relationship will solve my emotional problems?

3) Am I facing the future or running away from it?

4) Do I want to let limerence determine my fate?

 

Usually with these bloggy ramblings I try to adopt a broad point of view about the nature of limerence, but this topic is a personal one for me, and so it’s hard to be objective. The first stage of my adult life is over. I am no longer a young man. I have a family, who are growing fast and will not need me so urgently in the coming years. I’m facing the second half of life, and determined to attack it with purpose. To take the opportunity to live well, and decide for myself how I want to measure success in the afternoon of my life. Luckily for me, I have a supportive wife that I love very much – and we’ve spent many enjoyable afternoons together already.

Here’s to a purposeful future.

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Cheers M’dears