What to do if you are married but limerent for someone else

Following on from musings about midlife, one of the commonest problems that more mature limerents face is falling for a new LO when committed to someone else. This is hard enough to deal with in a simple monogamous relationship, but when commitment has led you to marriage and children and joint assets and lives intertwined like the Gordian knot, it can be especially challenging.

So, what should you do if you are married but limerent for someone else? The answer to this question depends a lot on the nature of your marriage, and also on your personal “limerence profile”, and what you want from life. In the manner beloved of therapists everywhere, I plan to answer this key question by asking questions.

1) Do you become limerent very readily?

If so, you probably have experience by now of multiple rides on the limerent-while-married merry-go-round. Managing this is similar to the challenge faced by high-libido folks in a world full of gorgeous people – find coping strategies to manage your urges in a way that doesn’t wreak destruction on the people around you (and yourself). If your goal is to have a stable, loving relationship with your spouse, then you need to accept that you must have a plan for how to interact with potential LOs that limits the risk of escalating attraction. Common strategies would be avoiding contact, avoiding discussion of emotionally-charged topics, and adopting a guarded, defensive mindset when interacting with that person. This is likely to make your company fairly flat (or even difficult) for LO – which is a good thing for you as they are less likely to dazzle you up. If this is an unbearable prospect, then you may have to reconsider whether you are able to lead a monogamous life. If you are not, please discuss this with your spouse before unilaterally embarking on a post-monogamy lifestyle.

If you are an infrequent limerent, and have had few LOs in your life, then there is a greater risk that the re-emergence of limerence will knock you for six emotionally. The specialness of the experience, and the specialness of LO, can seem much more dramatic by virtue of its rarity. Particular care is needed in these cases to maintain clarity of thought when making big decisions about your future.

2) Were you limerent for your spouse?

One mechanism for orientating yourself during the maelstrom of limerence is to think back to how you felt about your spouse in the Early Days. Were you limerent for them? If so, then you can reassure yourself that you picked a brilliant sparkly true-love match, and that now you have simply moved into a more mature phase of affectional bonding. There are lots of amazing people in the world. Many of them are potential LOs. If your spouse was one, then you know what the progression of love is like: dizzying limerence leading to pair bonding, but fading with time and familiarity. That pattern is likely to repeat if you start a new dizzying limerence affair with LO of the moment. So, you will be sacrificing your current marriage (kids, financial stability) for going back to square one and starting over. While older.

If, in contrast, you weren’t limerent for your spouse, then there’s no two ways about it: in terms of glamour they are going to suffer by comparison to LO. Now, depending on your individual circumstances, this may be a good thing. If you are one of those unfortunate souls that become limerent for narcissists or other personality-disordered types it is a Good Thing to bond with someone less glamorous but emotionally stable and giving. People are complicated, though, and there are a lot of strange chains of events that lead people to marry for reasons other than love or limerence. Then, the glamour of LO can make you feel that this is your chance to really experience blissful union. Perhaps the best way to determine how to proceed is to ask the big question…

3) How was your marriage before the limerence began?

Honest appraisal time. Can you determine cause and effect? Have you become limerent for someone else because you were unhappy in your marriage, or have you become unhappy in your marriage because you have become limerent for someone else? A guiding principle in answering this question is that when you are limerent YOUR JUDGEMENT IS IMPAIRED (sorry for shouting). Seriously, your brain is currently awash with a cocktail of hormones and neurotransmitters that evolved to try and compel you to bond with a mate. The demands and responsibilities of adult human life transcend this (or should). You need to compensate for the strength of your feelings with reason. Emotions have a much greater impact on decision making than most people think. You need to be as objective as you can in assessing the true emotional context of your relationship before the new centre of gravity skewed your orbit.

Were you happy? Did you and your spouse have healthy mutual respect and love? Did you support each other – and was there reciprocation of care and consideration? Now, most relationships fall short of these ideals from time to time, but the foundation of mutual respect and affection is the key. Were you a positive force in your spouse’s life, helping them to thrive and be fulfilled? Were they a positive force in your life? If you answer no to these questions, the next question is why? Was it distraction and neglect and the loss of a previous good connection or… is there a fundamental incompatibility? We all know that the mad bliss of limerence cannot last. And it would be exhausting. Most people buy into the goal of happily ever after, not intoxicatedly ever after. If that’s your goal, a clear sighted review of the past of your marriage will probably help predict the future.

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Oh, it’s very sweet, Bob, but… every year?

4) How are you currently relating to your spouse?

Limerence makes you resent the people that stand between you and your LO fix. Combined with the idealisation of LO and devaluation of boring familiar family life, this can lead to a negative feedback loop where your spouse becomes the enemy. Your spouse – and especially your children – are not the enemy. This trap is in your mind, and you need to escape it. If you are being a crap spouse, then obviously the marriage will continue to deteriorate and of course confirm the superiority of LO (who you only see at their best and most sparkly and novel). You need to re-value your spouse. Your response to question 3 can guide this, but the major point is: if you are currently treating them like a barrier to your happiness, your marriage is pretty much doomed. Get away from LO and try treating your spouse like the most important person in your life, whose happiness is a major priority for you. You know. Like they should be.

5) Would you leave your marriage if you knew for sure that LO would reject you?

If not, why not? Because you are fearful of being alone? Or because you’ll settle for spouse until the next LO who might accept you comes along? It should probably be clear that these are not good reasons for marriage. Always assume that LO will reject you. If you still mostly want to leave, that’s a pretty good indicator that things are bad with the union.

6) Are you living with purpose?

My perennial theme, and the sneaky basis for all the foregoing questions. Are you willing to let LO determine how your life and marriage proceed? Are you going to move through life responding to emotional disturbances in a reactive, fatalistic way? Or are you going to take responsibility for your decisions, and acknowledge that making a commitment sometimes means doing the right thing even when it’s not easy? Carrying on in a fog of indecision and anxiety is no way to live. You need to respect yourself and your spouse and make a decision. And probably, honestly, deep down, you know what the right decision is. The one that will lead to a future in which your self esteem and wellbeing are determined by the actions you take and what they say about you as a person. That may mean staying in your marriage, learning from your limerence experience, dissociating from LO, and understanding yourself and your spouse better. Or it may mean leaving an unhappy marriage that you have been trying to keep alive for too long and admitting to yourself that it hasn’t worked out and this isn’t a shameful failure, it’s life.

If you keep drifting along in limbo, too starstruck and addict-selfish to recommit to your spouse, or too hidebound to leave an unhealthy (but probably strangely comfortable) marriage, other people will be making the decisions about how your life unfolds. Dithering about something this fundamental is the opposite of purposeful living, and an invitation for ongoing limerence.

Phew; a long and serious post. To end, here’s my bullet point list of How To Get Through All This:

  • Decide to live your life with purpose.
  • If you can possibly go no contact with LO while you figure this out, do.
  • Honestly evaluate whether your marriage has a future, based on an honest evaluation of its past.
  • If it does, commit to it properly and fully, and prioritise your spouse’s feelings over your limerence.
  • Part of that commitment should be honest communication. If you need to disclose, do it to your spouse but not your LO.
  • Good luck and godspeed to the far side.

37 thoughts on “What to do if you are married but limerent for someone else

  1. Did you write this for me? Ha, jk not that much of a narcissist. I plan to read and re-read your excellent post, but This Is What Happened to Me. LO was a married coworker that made some gestures that totally derailed me and caused me to lose my mind (all the symptoms of limerence). I never felt so fogged and confused as I did when it hit me. My wife of course noticed (as i think most would) and I decided honesty was the only way to play it. She was hurt but unbelievably supportive and we talked a lot. She asked that I sever contact and I did. For what it’s worth to those other married limerents, it was and is not easy but NC and disclosure to my wife definitely helped. Thanks for this post. I’ll return to it many times.

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    • Glad to help LTHLO. Sometimes wisdom is painfully won. This is the strategy that got me through – glad to hear it worked for you too. Not easy, as you say, but definitely worth the effort.

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  2. Just a thought from the spouse of a man neck-deep in limerence. Don’t tell her about the LO (19 years her junior and 23 years younger than himself) on her 50th birthday. Less than a month after her mastectomy, while she’s still bald and feeling low.

    Unless, of course, you want to be single but prefer to be kicked out by your “needy, inreasonable” wife of 25 years instead of simply leaving. Honesty may have led to public scorn, but at least I would have known I was fighting cancer alone rather than suspecting it. Thank goodness I don’t depend on his salary or health insurance.

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    • Hi Lisa,

      Yeah, that stinks. That doesn’t sound much like honest disclosure, or someone trying to manage their limerence responsibly.
      Sorry to hear about your trials. Good luck with the fight!

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  3. Best thing I’ve read yet on why my marriage of 21 years ended after tolerating 5 years of my husbands limerence addiction (and alcohol and Internet porn addictions). He played his behavior off as innocent boyish behavior. Told me after our first child left for college and my 50th that he had been “in love” for a year and a half with a happily married co-star in community theater (where 3 out of 4 of his LOs came from), and while he couldn’t understand his deep infatuation with her, if she had reciprocated he would have been there in a heartbeat.

    Our relationship lacked profound limmerence. A previous relationship for me was short, deeply limmerent, and disastrous (terrible partner material). Husbands love experiences were also not stable, bouncing between two partners for which he felt deep limmerence and was never able to move to a more mature understanding of where either of those relationships would have gone in time.

    He is now leaving because, in his words, he wants to feel romantic and passionate love (which he never felt for me), that he believes this is what caused him to fail to bond and attach to me (I feel, and I think he did, that we have a very strong companionate bond, and wanted to go to therapy to try to correct our bad patterns and deepen our emotional connection), and that he deserves the chance to finally be happy.

    I recently experience a very profound period of limmerence for a co-worker. Perhaps due to poor self-esteem, I never imagine myself as realistically the object of someone else’s affection, so I have related to the few strong crushes I’ve had as chemical in nature, not based in reality, and something that would pass with time. I have been conscious of their obsessive nature, at times feeling, wow, this is so distracting and unrealistic, I can’t wait for this to pass. I recognize these people I might pursue if I were not in a committed relationship, but not as the evidence of a fault in my primary relationship.

    My husband has said the following things: I want to have that in love feeling forever; our lack of “lost” in love feeling was a fatal flaw; I had doubts from the start; I thought my feelings would change; I think I don’t want to be anyone’s partner (with the mutual care and work that requires). These are all things he has said in the past four months. He never disclosed his unhappiness prior, rejected my invitations to therapy, and I had to uncover his infatuations. There was no disclosure (and yes, Facebook was a minefield and a source of secret communication). I explained to him my theory that these feelings are usually normal, and that if you disclose them to your partner, it often diffuses them. He was intensely focused on his right to having his own “private thoughts and private world.” At the same time, he NEVER said the word divorce, separation, etc. He feels we may have grown apart. I feel he rejected me in pursuit of limmerence, and never addressed that issue directly (like how he never expressed his “grave doubts” upon our wedding until now, and is only now coming to recognize his alcohol addiction after years of abuse and direct confrontation by me).

    He sounds like a real nightmare, and at this point it’s accurate. But I believe we had a strong loving companionship that might have worked if he had truly been interested in doing the work required for a long-term partnership (which was what he said he wanted and had found with me). Reading your post here is a huge help in understanding this compulsion of his. I have to let it go, and am getting closer to that point, but I don’t think therapists do a good job of delineating between “married to the wrong person” or “love has died” or “grown apart” and the addictive pattern my husband had shown. Not having felt a “spark” for me may have been because he was extremely focused on his choice of me as good mother material. He does not seem to have an internal sense of what he *brings* to a relationship, as opposed to what he wants to receive.

    In any event, the rejection has been brutal, and I can only hope I can find my own path and let this go. Still, it’s extremely helpful to place limmerence in the context of the demise of our relationship. In that sense, maybe we weren’t a good match, or never could be, because I could never be his limmerent ideal.

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    • Thanks for sharing your story, Robin. Of the many nuggets of wisdom, this one jumped out for me “He does not seem to have an internal sense of what he *brings* to a relationship, as opposed to what he wants to receive.”

      Given that you both clearly experience limerence, the difference in your reactions speaks volumes about how it is our choices that determine the consequences of becoming infatuated. He looks entirely to himself and how important his feelings are, whereas you can see past yours and make rational decisions despite the emotional overload.

      Wishing you all the best in traversing the devaluation, and finding that positive path you are seeking.

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  4. Any thoughts on spouses who weren’t in need of rescuing and who fit the profile of someone who is interdependent? You know, who can stand on their own two feet, are a partner in life but find themselves shunted aside in favor of the Damsel in Distress (real or imagined)? I mean, I’m not high maintenance and never have been. I earn good money and handle a lot of household responsibilities, juggled the kids, supported him through some very tough events, tried to be appreciative even when there were times when it was a tough slog and all we could manage was being polite to one another because we were tired, stressed, possibly slightly overextended (raising kids is hard work and not good for a marriage! In fact, if you want a good marriage do NOT have children – and I love our children very very much), I certainly have supported him in his career, hobbies, etc. When the advice to the spouse is to “take care of yourself” and “demonstrate that you can go it alone and mean it” but that is what I have always done, what the hell else is there?

    I was never the most decorative woman, but I didn’t make anyone run away screaming in horror either. I still don’t despite the years rolling by.

    I do feel shitty that if “twinkly” is what is needed, then I’m up the proverbial creek. I don’t think he ever “twinkled” for me and after a few decades, it’s not going to happen now.

    I’m not a victim – but I am human and it hurts to feel as though he may have settled for me when I don’t regard myself as being viewed with pity and in need of rescuing. I didn’t marry him with the aim of transforming him somehow.

    I’ve had the odd flights of fancy about someone else, but I didn’t set anything into motion. No cheating, emotional or physical, and I knew that no matter where I go, there I am. Plus all you do is trade in one set of difficulties for many of the same, but more so. So while I haven’t experienced limerence, I can and do understand the moments where someone thinks, “Oh, what if…?” I don’t understand devaluing someone to this degree though. Or if you are that unhappy, not having the courage to be honest and end the relationship entirely.

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    • Hi Lee,

      I wish I could give some super-insightful advice, but to be honest, I think it’s just a really shitty thing that happens to a lot of people, and the only way through it is to focus on yourself. I agree “take care of yourself” is a platitude, but actually, really doing it is surprisingly hard. Especially when you’re being devalued by the person that you have supported throughout a joint life.

      So, depressing reality aside, is there anything practical that can be done? Well, one thing definitely is not to compete with LO. You shouldn’t have to twinkle to get your spouse’s attention – you’ve earned that a hundred times over. The fact that he has forgotten that in the fog of limerence is not on you, it’s on him. Yes, limerence is tough to deal with. LO must be meeting some need of his that hasn’t been fulfilled, blah, blah, blah. Who doesn’t have unmet needs? Purposeful living is all about understanding yourself and gaining insight about your needs without causing harm to others. Especially the people you’ve committed to.

      I probably come across as a bit sanctimonious about this, but ultimately it’s our actions that define our characters. If he has embarked on an affair with LO rather than (as you say) having the courage to behave with honesty, then I guess that’s his character. God knows all limerents know how hard it is to cope with the neurophysiological turmoil of infatuation, but you do get to choose how to cope with it. “This is stronger than either of us” is a cop out. My goal with this blog is to help limerents find ways to cope before the damage is done, so I do believe it’s possible.

      I don’t mean to be excessively negative, but it is genuinely unfair that loyal spouses have to go through questioning their self worth in addition to being devalued. So, I suppose what I’m saying is focus on your value and your Values, and recognise that you deserve reciprocity and love regardless of how emotionally tumultuous he is feeling.

      Finally, it will end. Limerence doesn’t last forever, and he will have to live with himself afterwards. The fact that you sound like a remarkably well composed and self-possessed person suggests that you will cope better than him. Probably little consolation, but worth adding to the “why I’m great” list.

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      • Hi Dr. Limerence,

        Thank you for the kind words. One very big important thing I left out (because this was all about ME – damnit!) is that he did NOT pursue this woman, disclosed that he was confused, embarrassed, horrified and didn’t know why she was in his head all the time. Neither of us had ever heard of limerence. Well, now we have. There was never any inappropriate behavior on her part. What he did do wasn’t physical, or even inappropriate except for the context. When we discussed it and I pointed out that he had compromised his integrity – to the smallest degree – and that would make it easier to do so in the future, he was rocked back on his heels. That was the day before I found the term limerence. After that, he has been very, very above-board in his behavior. Yes, she’s still in his head and yes, she is GORGEOUS in person, but in the end, he doesn’t know her. She’s not interested.

        I want to give Mr. Lee full props where they are due. We are still partners and friends and I love him even after (mumbles) years and even this unexpected emotional blow. I guess one reason I was so stunned by it was that after being very, very ill, my libido had made a happy roaring comeback, and 2017 was a lot of fun in a lot of ways. LO didn’t put in an appearance until she was hired in September of 2017. That has now been dampened a bit. I feel very self-conscious and I don’t want to feel like a stand-in. Not that he has ever said that and in fact, he’s told me that isn’t the case, but it takes time for my emotions to catch up with my brain.

        It still really sucks for me though to find myself suddenly as hurt as I was in junior high and high school, when I was overlooked and passed over and “friend-zoned” and it sucked. I never expected to be “friend-zoned” in my own marriage. Add on a few decades, some pounds that I can’t shift and well… It’s not fun for anyone. I keep having to tell myself that I’m not a consolation prize, I’m not a chump, despite the physiological effect she has on him (and did from the moment he clapped eyes on her), he loves me, he told me about it, he’s choosing me. I just wish that he wasn’t struggling with his own issues and one of them is wanting to be noticed or liked by the woman who is out of his league in appearance – just like high school and young adulthood. That MY good opinion mattered more. That he didn’t have to rationalize why he loves me and finds me attractive, that he didn’t have to talk himself into seeing me in a better light.

        Damn hormones. Lousy limbic system. His LO found a new job and will be leaving soon. I’m not looking forward to watching him mourn the loss of his imaginary perfect girl. I know it sucks to be him and I know her memory will probably always trigger something in him when she pops into his head. I do hope it fades and that another LO doesn’t come along. I don’t think I have it in me for another go-round.

        Let me repeat something because it’s important – he TOLD ME about this because he wasn’t happy about it. It was confusing and upsetting to him. He always thought he was a ‘better person’ than this and he didn’t like where his mind was taking him. So if there is anyone else here who is limerent and has a partner, please be a mensch and disclose. I did cry a bit but no hitting, no yelling but there was one dire pronouncement that was a swift hard kick to his frontal lobes (“if you are thinking about a mistress, remember that the only way that works is if you have a WIFE and I would rather pull the plug right here and right now”). he said it was like having ice water poured over his head and it woke him up to the fact that he needed to get a handle on whatever this was immediately. He did!

        Thanks for letting me vent and ramble. Best wishes to all the readers. Limerents – please consider full disclosure as early as possible.

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  5. Looks like I was quick to jump to conclusions, Lee!
    It sounds like you have a lot to work with there, and Mr Lee has handled this responsibly (with the help of a quick splash of cold water). It’s tough — nobody wants this to happen in a happy marriage — but it can be managed until it passes. We limerents don’t invite it in (usually), and the best that can be done is to behave with integrity. Good luck to you both.

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  6. Hi again –

    I know that Mr. Lee will mourn the loss of his LO when she leaves for her new job. I expect that. I’m even sympathetic. It’s a loss and grief is part of loss; I don’t want him to try to shortcut through the process or it might blow up in his face as well as land on me and our family. He doesn’t have a habit of addressing underlying issues or permitting himself to deal with his feelings of guilt or shame. He’d rather those stayed under a rug.

    Anyway, once she leaves is there some sort of general time line I should anticipate? Would it be out of line for me to expect him to mourn for approximately as long as she was a co-worker? Longer? I mean, I know there are no hard and fast rules with this but it might help to have a sense of the process. I don’t know if it lasts longer than a miserable breakup when you’re single, for example. I’ve dealt with the unexpected death of a beloved, but at least that man is dead. There is no chance of an encounter or reading about their exploits on Facebook or something.

    Meanwhile, I’m working through my insecurities about my looks. Again. I hope this time it truly sticks. If I’m completely honest, I hope it sticks and limerence never rears up in my husband. Or myself. Although if I should find myself in the grips of it I know my husband will be much kinder to me going through it than he is to himself. I wish he would be as kind to himself as he would be to anyone else!

    Thanks for your thoughts everyone.

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    • You’re right, I’m afraid – there really are no hard and fast rules. I’ve read plenty of stories at both extremes: where limerence vanishes almost overnight because of something the LO says or does, but also of people who pine for years. It depends so much on the individuals involved. The fact that the limerence is unwelcome and your husband is motivated to get over it and stay committed to you is cause for encouragement…

      Finally, working on your insecurities is always good, but my experience was that limerence came on entirely independently of my wife’s attractiveness (physical or personality-wise). By that I mean that it was nothing to do with losing attraction for her or finding the LO more good-looking. Many people fall into limerence for LOs who are less attractive than their partners. So even if LO is stunning, that’s unlikely to be the primary cause of limerence.

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    • Lee, I just stumbled on this site while looking for information on limerence. I’m astounded at the parallels between the stories here and what my spouse and I are working through–I had no idea how common this is. Reading about other’s experiences helps me cope with what we are struggling with.

      In my case, my LO is a coworker. I disclosed everything to my wife last year, and we are trying to work through the hurt and emotions. I still work with my LO, so we have been unable to avoid contact. I don’t know how long it lasts–we have been going through this about 9 months.

      My spouse is having a very hard time understanding how this could have happened, how my love for her could be “replaced” by my LO (despite my insistence it is not–rather, I feel both at once) and why this can’t be quickly fixed if only we observe very strict boundaries in our interactions.

      After decades of marriage I’ve never encountered this before, so I feel rather blindsided by it.

      If your husband’s limerence was one-sided, I’d like to think it will diminish sooner, especially since his LO is leaving the workplace. I wish you all the best.

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    • Sam,

      Best wishes to you and your wife too.

      Mr. Lee also has PTSD, BPD, and some other issues. It seems that limerence cropping up was almost a foregone conclusion, the question was when & how would he handle it. I think he has handled it quite well to date.

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  7. Lee,

    Was there any discussion of what he found so compelling about her? LO #4 wasn’t better than my wife but she was very different. If you read the other blogs, they explain the physiology of addiction, rewards, reinforcement, etc. But, something made her appealing to him even after she wasn’t interested. Was this his first limerent experience? The usual answer is she reminded him of someone or something that may not be consciously held. Maybe it was her voice, the way she tilted her head, it could be anything. But, it was something.

    They may or may not be important questions. I went back to the therapist 6 months after we said goodbye. I wanted to know why I went down the rabbit hole since if it happened once, it could happen again, and I might not be as lucky the next time. I also detected LO #4 was a pattern.

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    • In many ways, she not completely dissimilar to me in appearance and personality when I was around the same age (but single and without children) in general build – although where I was slender and athletic, she is slender. Yes, there is something about her voice he has remarked simply sealed it for him. He said when he first saw her, he felt the bubbles. Then she spoke and everything lit up. However, she is far more attractive to a wider audience. And almost 20 years younger.

      The more I read, the more I realize how fortunate we were that he recognized early on that this was more than a workplace crush and discussed it with me. As I say, he didn’t fall off the fidelity wagon although there was one instance where he compromised his principles to a small degree and didn’t realize it until I pointed it out. He disagreed initially, but when I laid out what I saw in the anecdote, he understood and was truly horrified. After that he took still further steps to get distance from her. Not because she had done anything wrong – she hasn’t!

      One thing that troubles me just a bit, is one time he said IF she had expressed an interest he would respond that, “I have nothing to offer you, I’m married and I love Lee.” The order makes me a little concerned. Now, it never happened. Perhaps if it had come up he would have said, “I love Lee, we’re happily married” and “I have nothing to offer you” would never have been stated. That may be overly sensitive on my part, but perhaps not. I don’t think that is a woman thing, entirely, but as I pay very close attention to language and how it’s used in general, it jangles my nerves. What do you gentlemen think? If your wife were to use that word order, would you be a little concerned? Presuming she was discussing the person for whom she is lime rent? For example, I don’t like the phrase “Limerent Object; they’re people, not objects.

      I’m probably overthinking it, but it still leaves me feeling a little downhearted. That’s too strong a word, maybe a little flat? Like soda that has lost some of its bubbles. I’m resilient and resourceful; I’ll eventually be less wobbly, but it will take a little time and effort.

      In the meantime, Mr. Lee is doing really well. Every so often I bring up something related to the situation and he says he doesn’t want to discuss it/her, but I gently point out that this is something about me that he needs to know or at least I need to discuss with him. So we can also get a handle on my responses. I don’t always want him to respond, I want him to listen as I try and make sense of it in my mind. It’s not always bad to have some insight into how another person thinks things through.

      We love each other very much. I can’t say that this has been pleasant, but for me this doesn’t compare to earlier crises in our lives or marriage. Different. Definitely different but upon reflection not the worst.

      So maybe she represents the possibilities inherent in her age and situation. Adventure, for example. It’s one thing to quit your job and go sailing around the world when you’re single and can live on love. Quite another when you have a mortgage, children who would be less than charitable about you abandoning the other parent and extended families who may or may not be supportive of running away. Not everyone believes that doing whatever makes you happy, regardless of the cost, is a good idea. If that is something he wants to do, of course he could do it. (I would hope he would go through the hassle of divorce first.) To the best of my knowledge he doesn’t, but I know it’s tempting sometimes. I think EVERYONE has wanted to run away from home at least once or twice.

      So, I’ve pointed out that I’m up for some excitement too. I’ll go spelunking, it would be fun to learn how to scuba dive, there are places to go and get skid pad training and then drive a race car on a track and so on. Maybe this spring and summer we’ll go do some neat stuff together. I’ve suggested things through the years but he didn’t want to do them for one reason or another. Perhaps this will break the ice. I’m certainly going to try and make it work for us.

      Sorry this is so long. I hope it informs any replies. Thanks to you all.

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      • “One thing that troubles me just a bit, is one time he said IF she had expressed an interest he would respond that, “I have nothing to offer you, I’m married and I love Lee.” The order makes me a little concerned. Now, it never happened. Perhaps if it had come up he would have said, “I love Lee, we’re happily married” and “I have nothing to offer you” would never have been stated.”

        I think I would have responded the same way. Keep in mind, if they were having that conversation at all, they knew what territory they were in. Also, you weren’t going to be a part of that conversation, he would have been talking to her and under different circumstances, he may have had something to offer her. When I disclosed to LO #4, her response was, “I had no idea. I’m flattered and might even be curious but circumstances are what they are.” In her goodbye, she said she didn’t think “…continuing to correspond would be appropriate.” It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know what she meant.

        As bad as this sounds, I knew if things went south I had no defense. I could have explained some of it but I couldn’t excuse it. One of the things that led me to get out was there was no upside to my marriage. None. I was one question away from being in the position of lying to my wife or throwing LO # under the bus in an attempt to perform damage control.

        I could anticipate this conversation:

        1. Who is this woman?
        2. How long has this been going on?
        3. Of all the shoulders in the world she could be crying on, why is she crying on yours?
        4. Why are you encouraging her?

        Nothing about my association with that woman would enhance my marriage. That doesn’t make her any less attractive, it makes her a threat. LOs may be unsuitable candidates for relationships but whether they’re suitable or unsuitable doesn’t excuse betrayal. It was only going to get worse from there.

        Have you read the blog The Glimmer? Something has to get our attention.

        Like

      • Scharnhorst,

        Thank you for your reply and pointing that out, it helps a great deal.

        Yes, I have read it and even shared some of it with Mr. Lee who agreed with portions of it. In the meantime, he’s taken active steps to minimize his contact with her and now that he knows what is going on, he says he’s going to be rather relieved when she has left. He has noticed how it affects his work too as well as home. Not that either of us think it will be like cutting the light switch after she has moved on. But it will make it easier to move forward (with clarity of purpose).

        Mr. Lee has remarked that limerence can be exhausting to have and to hold at bay. Ruminating takes time and effort, so does keeping busy and practicing active avoidance.

        Like

      • One thing that troubles me just a bit, is one time he said IF she had expressed an interest he would respond that, “I have nothing to offer you, I’m married and I love Lee.” The order makes me a little concerned.

        Yes, I think your intuition is right – but I wouldn’t be too concerned. Remember that the limerent will be very powerfully motivated to retain the LO’s good opinion and would not want to just come out and say “I am not attracted to you.” It would be a lie for one thing, but also painful for LO to hear. “I have nothing to offer you” is a way of implying that the issue is lack of availability, not lack of attractiveness on their part. Where this sort of dancing around the issue is a problem is if mutual limerence is occurring and it feeds uncertainty (not a rejection but also not reciprocation).

        In contrast, “I love Lee” is direct and unequivocal. No scope for misunderstandings there. Direct affirmation of his priorities and feelings. Also, ultimately, this has not come to pass because your husband’s actions have meant the imagined confrontation has not occurred. That counts for a lot.

        Lastly, I know what you mean about “limerent object”, but I actually like the coinage. You are quite right that they are people and not objects, but the key thing is that the limerent is not treating them like a person (with flaws and virtues and complicated lives). They are projecting all their own needs and fantasies onto this imaginary person in their mind – objectifying them.

        Like

      • “It would be a lie for one thing, but also painful for LO to hear. “I have nothing to offer you” is a way of implying that the issue is lack of availability, not lack of attractiveness on their part.”

        Which sounds, to me, like someone who is leading the LO on and/or is looking for the LO to make a better offer, or somehow suggest a way around the blockade (me). It’s moot though. He’s avoiding her like she has the Spanish Flu. Actions trump words and I’m really glad he’s walking the talk.

        That’s a good point about the phrase “limerent object”. They are being objectified which isn’t fair to anyone, even the LO whether they know it or not.

        “Did he say what about her looks and voice sang to him?”

        He doesn’t really know what, precisely, about her looks grabbed him but she is a very attractive woman. Her first language is Greek, so she speaks with an accent. Apparently the accent is what locked him in.

        Like

  8. Lee,

    Did he say what about her looks and voice sang to him?

    I’ve been married a long time and met a lot of attractive, intelligent, and charming women. Only one of them got inside my head and she wasn’t even trying. There may have been things going on that made limerence conducive but that wasn’t what he was responding to.

    It took a fair amount of work to get to the bottom of what my drivers were. But once I did, I came to the realization:

    It’s not that I don’t have anything to offer her, she has nothing to offer me.

    Like

  9. ““It would be a lie for one thing, but also painful for LO to hear. “I have nothing to offer you” is a way of implying that the issue is lack of availability, not lack of attractiveness on their part.”

    It’s not like we actually tell them the truth….

    “I usually don’t act like this but you reeaallly carbonate my hormones.”

    Or, even better, assuming your Person of Interest (renamed LO) would understand this (POI #4 would), I can only imagine what she’d think if I came out with,

    “I find you really appealing but my therapist thinks you remind me of my mother and I’m merely trying to reconcile my insecure attachment by getting it right with you. I told her my mother wasn’t even a redhead.”

    Yeah, I’m sure she’d find that flattering…

    Like

    • I should have written a lack of ATTRACTION by the person in limerence. It’s a way of leaving the door propped open. “If only my partner/your partner/social norms weren’t standing in our way. We would be so good together.” Which nicely sets up the spouse as a pesky impediment rather than a person.

      It’s a difficult situation. Full sunlight will either make the nascent relationship able to grow because the partner/spouse will no longer be a stumbling block, or it won’t be as interesting without someone or something (rules about office romances) in the way if one leaves the job for another.

      If someone is worth pursuing or being pursued, then it’s equally true if they do it with “clean hands”. Why would you want to sully someone with a sneaky beginning?

      I realize logic doesn’t play well with limerence, but that’s why we have to slow our roll and use our brains a bit more. Always hard to do when angry, or lustful, etc.

      So again, Mr. Lee has demonstrated why he still has my respect (and vice versa). He disclosed it to me and we are trying to figure it out as it plays out.

      LO isn’t unlike me in personality when I was around that age, but she’s single and unburdened with any children. Far more attractive to a larger swath of society though. So it’s like dating the most gorgeous girl in high school. It makes the social standing of the guy dating her go way up! Plus very good-looking people are frequently presumed to be more intelligent, more honest, more capable, etc. by society at large. Pretty heady stuff if your self-esteem is tanked for one reason or another.

      Thanks again for your thoughts.

      Like

      • “LO isn’t unlike me in personality when I was around that age, but she’s single and unburdened with any children. Far more attractive to a larger swath of society though. So it’s like dating the most gorgeous girl in high school. It makes the social standing of the guy dating her go way up! Plus very good-looking people are frequently presumed to be more intelligent, more honest, more capable, etc. by society at large. Pretty heady stuff if your self-esteem is tanked for one reason or another.”

        This is why I didn’t disclose to my wife against the advice of the therapist. I’m not big fan of therapists but there are times you need to call a pro and there was too much riding on things to get it wrong. I was talking to a therapist to determine the best way to get out of things and figure how I got there with the least amount of trouble. We were having a trying time in our marriage, during which time I met the POI. Knowing there was another woman out there would have only made those worse.

        My LE was never really illicit but it was deeply personal. I was responding on a level that should have been reserved for my wife. The more the POI revealed, the more I wanted to know about her. The more I learned, the more attracted I became. Over time, I got in too deep. Limerence being what it is, it’s hard to just walk away from. I don’t know if she would be a suitable candidate. The more I learn about myself, the guess is probably not. I told her that as cool as making a run at her would be, I hoped I was never in the position to find out because if I was, something terrible would have to happen in my life. She never responded to that.

        In my response to her goodbye, I said, “Some people you meet in life are like a piece of fine art. It will never be yours, you don’t even get to touch it, but it doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate it when you see it.” The blogs on Choices and Integrity talk to this. She didn’t make goodbye necessary, I did. At first, I saw things as a loss, but not anymore. In an odd way, I’m grateful to her. Because of her, I ended up addressing issues I’d carried for decades. My life and marriage are better today because I encountered her. But, not everybody that comes into your life is meant to stay there.

        In a perfect world, people wouldn’t face those kind of choices. For every, “I Only Have Eyes for You” there’s “Lightning’s Striking Again.” Like DrL says, it’s not that we feel things, it’s what we do when we feel them.

        Like

    • “In a perfect world, people wouldn’t face those kind of choices. For every, “I Only Have Eyes for You” there’s “Lightning’s Striking Again.” Like DrL says, it’s not that we feel things, it’s what we do when we feel them.”

      R’amen!

      “My life and marriage are better today because I encountered her.”

      I’m so glad for you both.

      Like

  10. So I re-read Scharnhorst’s post, “Jealousy” and I have a question.

    For those who are in a committed relationship, but who develop an attraction or limerence for another, have you ever found yourself jealous of people who try to fill the void left by your distraction? Mr. Lee has been struggling with LO still being at the workplace (gone tomorrow) and apparently I haven’t been entirely successful at masking my discomfort/distress. I have tried to do so however! I have my pride & dignity, as well as Mr. Lee’s to consider. Several people have noticed my affect is a bit flat and being good people, inquire. This includes a few gentlemen. I have simply said there has been some private family issues that have cropped up, we’re managing and there is improvement, but thank you for asking. No, no, nothing dire but I may be a bit more distracted and please let me know if it seems to be affecting my job performance. (I earn more, we can’t afford for me to slip up).

    I have mentioned having these brief conversations with individuals to Mr. Lee. Not to threaten him but so that I don’t find myself going down the path of having something to hide. I’m not shopping around. However there is a void and I can see how someone might permit or even encourage a third party to displace the limerent spouse who is already preoccupied.

    Ugly things can happen. I’m guarded. I haven’t discussed our situation with anyone in person (only here) and I don’t want to stumble.

    Anyway, if Limerent Spouse were to notice Spouse/SO is drifting, or that there was a potential romantic rival for S/SO does jealousy follow? Or is jealousy (possesiveness) exclusively reserved for LO and romantic rivals (real or imagined)?

    Again, I am NOT looking for a new paramour, nor do I feel there is someone looking to fill Mr. Lee’s role, but I can imagine it happening if circumstances were different, or someone was feeling neglected for too long or at a critical juncture. Especially if the limerence were particularly acute (emotional leakage is real, folks) or continued long enough for a partner’s antennae to not only quiver, but caused real distress.

    I’m not talking about being manipulative, I’m talking about someone feeling badly then making bad decisions and taking hurtful actions.

    I think I’m also advocating for early disclosure so these seeds are less likely to germinate.

    Gentle Readers, what do you think?

    Like

    • This sort of question illustrates nicely why I’m an advocate of “purposeful living”. There are pitfalls everywhere. The spectator spouse will inevitably go through the emotional wringer, which will be noticed by friends and colleagues. If the limerent spouse is devaluing them, then the appeal of concerned others will be obvious (I need emotional support, my partner is too obsessed with their LO to notice, and this attractive person is showing that they care about me). For the limerent spouse, how they respond to their partner showing interest in others is likely to depend on how deeply they are in limerence for LO – they may welcome it as a great excuse as to why they should dump spouse and make a play for LO, or it may panic them into waking up. Then, of course, they may come to resent it later as manipulative (even if it isn’t), just as you suggest.

      Basically, it’s such a complex scenario, with multiple possible unpredictable bad outcomes, that the only way that I can figure out to deal with it is to communicate honestly, behave with integrity, and do the hard work of figuring out exactly what you as an individual want to do. If both partners are doing that, in good faith and with mutual respect, then the chances of a catastrophe should be markedly reduced. If either partner is being deceitful or disrespectful, then it’s unlikely that the other will stay committed for long (justly). Unless they have low self-esteem, of course.

      Like

    • Well, then I still think Mr. Lee and I will be okay. I mention the conversations because I don’t want him caught by surprise and it keeps the lines of communication open. Mr. Lee is still feeling adrift regarding some other issues, but at least not about LO. While a really nice individual, not interested in him and he says he’ll be relieved when she’s left. I suspect there will be moping this weekend but we have made plans to go out and maybe that will lessen it a little. Redirection for the moment.

      Mr. Lee disclosed relatively early after the onset (IMO), so that probably minimized the necessary fuel for growth. It’s not like anyone is looking to step into Mr. Lee’s place, but I can see how it can happen. Hence my wondering if the Limerent individual becomes jealous if someone appears to desire their S/SO who currently isn’t as interesting (said in the Bugs Bunny voice when he was playing hairdresser to the Monster).

      If either partner is deceitful or disrespectful, then the relationship had bigger issues and fissures all along – more than limerence. Although I can see how it would cause the glacier to calf!

      Have a lovely weekend everyone.

      Like

      • Will the limerent become jealous if their SO gains someone’s attention? Maybe, maybe not. As DrL says, there are a lot of variables. Having made at least one bad assumption in my most recent LE, any proposed course of action should be evaluated for its unintended consequences and this has the potential for any number of them.

        Maybe Mr. L would get jealous. On the other hand, knowing you may have something else going for you might be just the incentive he needs to go all in for a run on the LO. Maybe he would think that you were doing it out of spite. If he’s really creative, you’ve been harboring this all along and uses it as justification for the LE. You can (almost) rationalize anything if you want it badly enough.

        People do notice when your head’s not in the game. When I broke up with LO #2, I started making mistakes at work. Luckily, I had a boss who’d gone through a messy divorce. He pulled me aside and told me to take some time off before I did something that would tank my career. I did and it didn’t.

        I see nothing wrong with telling Mr. Lee that the whole LO situation is affecting your performance at work and people are starting to ask questions but I think you’re taking an unnecessary risk if you even hint there’s a chance of there being anything under the tip of that iceberg.

        Like

      • Oh no no no Scharnhorst! There is nothing under there!

        My comment was noting that if a relationship was already on a less firm foundation (a habit of deceit, disrespect or other problems) then limerence might be the final straw.

        Not looking for a new Mr. Lee. Simply wondering how thongs tend to unfold. I don’t tendto put off distress signals, so this is attention-getting for my co-workers. New for me too. I’m generally much better at bouncing through, over and around tough situations. I’m resilient & resourceful. Hence my finding this blog and making inquiries.

        In the meantime, I think we’re doing well, in light of the situation. Miss LO starts at new job next week. I like her, but I’m relieved. I know Mr. Lee will oscillate but he’s been less distracted lately. Just a little bit.

        No, it hasn’t affected my job performance to the best of my knowledge. I’ve been given more responsibilities since this began and a bonus. I was being proactive when I asked other’s to let me know if I was slipping.

        In the meantime, we have made weekend plans. I hope everyone enjoys a few days of fun and relaxation.

        Like

  11. *things*, not thongs. My glasses are elsewhere and the font is a little small.

    Still, it’s a little chuckle. I’ll laugh at myself.

    Like

  12. I think “caught by surprise” was misunderstood. If someone should ask Mr. Lee what has made me a bit flat, I want him to know the party line & that I haven’t disclosed the situation. Not that anyone was sniffing around, or being encouraged by me to do so.

    Simply that he may find himself fielding a polite or concerned inquiry,or two. I don’t want him to feel put on the spot.

    Like

  13. “My comment was noting that if a relationship was already on a less firm foundation (a habit of deceit, disrespect or other problems) then limerence might be the final straw.”

    In one of his other blogs, DrL talks about whether there are existing issues in the relationship that are exacerbated upon one partner finding an LO or does one encounter an LO and then begins to find fault in the existing relationship as justification for pursuing the LO. In my case, it was definitely the former.

    I’ve posted about this elsewhere so I’ll give the short version. There was a time there were serious issues in my marriage to the point I’d consulted a divorce attorney. Nothing gets somebody’s attention like a $600 charge on your credit card to one of the best sharks in town. At the time, I was revisiting a lot of my decisions in life, particularly LO #2. She had never remarried but appeared to have a boyfriend. Trying to make sense of the events of the past is what got me in front of a therapist the first time. It took awhile but I think I understood what happened back then and saw no reason to go back. Things in my marriage eventually turned around and at the end of the year, we’ll have been married 30 years. Not all of them were easy.

    One interesting point is you can never precisely determine what anybody’s tripping point is. LO #2 sent me a Facebook friend request 25 years after we last spoke. I declined it. I’d reconciled the past by then. If that request had come in the week after I’d seen the divorce attorney, I don’t know what might have happened. It may have been all I needed to say, “The hell with this. Time to pull the plug.”

    Rambling on, I stopped in a restaurant after playing golf one day. I asked the bartender about some of their specials. She said I should like them on Facebook and I’d know before I came in. There was a woman a few seats down who said, “Facebook, Bleah!” I asked if that was a general or specific “Bleah!” She held her hand up to the noticeable absence of a wedding ring and said that her now ex-husband’s old girlfriend contacted him after 28 years, he asked for a divorce, and they got together. She said obviously their marriage wasn’t very strong if someone could come out of nowhere after 28 years and wreck it.

    So, in response to your question, based on my personal experience, limerence could be the final straw. But, also in my personal experience, it doesn’t have to be.

    Like

  14. Nothing gets somebody’s attention like a $600 charge on your credit card to one of the best sharks in town.

    I suspect seeing a charge to a Marital counselor might have had the same effect, with less cost. Especially if you had brought up feeling it was necessary prior to going.

    It sounds as though money was spent on counseling eventually. If you don’t mind answering, was it solo or joint/marital?

    Like

    • The reason I saw an attorney was efforts to make things better failed and I was advised by the counselor to remove the children from a toxic environment. He said he was willing to sign an affadivit we could put before a judge that would grant me sole custody.

      Faced with the loss of the marriage and loss of her kids, she sought help. We’re using a combo of individual & joint therapy. Individual to address personal issues & joint to integrate what we’ve learned.

      Like

  15. “We’re using a combo of individual & joint therapy. Individual to address personal issues & joint to integrate what we’ve learned.”

    I’m so glad it’s working for you both, as well as the family. Have the kids noticed an improvement? Or have you (s/pl) noticed changes in the kids?

    Like

    • The kids are in a much better place. Our son was pretty young and his sister did her best to shield him from as much as possible. Some residual resentment still pops up in our daughter from time to time but she’s largely reconciled with her mother and forgiven me for enabling her. Our son is struggling with complications of Type I diabetes he was diagnosed with several years ago.

      It’s going on 5 yrs since the poop hit the fan but there’s no longer any doubt we’re in it for the long haul. We hit 30 yrs in December.

      Like

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