Limerence is about bonding. There plenty of room to discuss whether it’s good or bad bonding, and how it relates to longer-term love, but the central experience of limerence is becoming powerfully emotionally and mentally connected to another person. That has consequences.
As has been argued here before, and in many other places, the best, tried and true tactic for managing limerence is No Contact. This presents a problem, in many cases. First, No Contact may not be practically possible, but to judge from most of the objections raised by struggling limerents, the reasons why it seems emotionally impossible are far more significant.
A common cause (and/or consequence) of limerent bonding is the decision to confide in LO. Many times, LO confides back, and this is what really cements the bonding experience. Sharing intimacies, feeling safe, feeling emotionally “seen” and understood, perhaps for the first time in a long while, leads to strong common feeling. This source of emotional support is not easy to shrug off. If the mutual confidences deepen, the relationship could verge on an emotional affair. Even if that bullet is dodged, the practical reality is often a closer than usual friendship, where you lean on each other for support.
I’ve covered the problem of attempting friendship with LOs before, but in this post, I’d like to look at the consequences of finding yourself in this trap when you come to the realisation that your limerence is out of control and hurting you (and possibly others). When the euphoria fades to addictive dependency, and you want to make it stop, but are entangled in a habit of spending intimate time with LO, what do you do?
One big sticking point is that the bonded limerent doesn’t want to hurt LO. They are your friend. You have bonded with them, however ill-advised you now realise that was. You care about them, and want to continue to provide support for them and (if honest) receive support from them. Severing a bond is painful. Going No Contact seems a drastic, even callous act. How would any friend react to being cut off cold?
A thorny problem. Here are some thoughts.
1) Beware the self-serving justification
How dependent on your friendship are they really? I mean, I’m sure you’re great and all, but is it maybe possible that you are resisting withdrawing from the friendship for less noble reasons?
Many people are bad at saying “No”. The social stigma of being seen to be rude, or upsetting people, or generally having to uncomfortably explain why your behaviour has changed, is surprisingly psychologically powerful for people who are used to keeping others happy. Speaking as an Englishman, I can attest to how spectacular an impact the force of social embarrassment can have on life. Our proud nation has made dozens of sitcoms and weepy romantic films and books from the premise. The Remains of the Day is not intended as a “how to” manual for life. If you’re going to live purposefully (highly recommended), then the marginal discomfort of confounding others’ expectations with uncharacteristically assertive behaviour is well worth overcoming.
Of course, the other possibility is that you might, just maybe, be clinging to the responsibility to stay committed to the friendship, because of some other benefit that you might be deriving. Some sort of emotional reward that you might not want to give up.
Don’t make junkie rationalisations. They’ll keep you trapped.
2) Consider the need for self-preservation
In moments of clarity, limerents know that they cannot be sure that they will act as they should when in the presence of LO, because limerence is a bastard. Deciding to continue a friendship for reasons of misguided loyalty, or embarrassment at looking bad, or any other reason, frankly, could be seen as an act of self-sacrifice.
Yes, it will probably hurt LO that you are no longer as available to them, but will it hurt them as badly as the limerence is currently hurting you? Will their life be as badly disrupted and derailed by your quiet withdrawal from it, as your life is disrupted by the suffocating uncertainty of limerence?
It’s fine to protect yourself from harm, even if the harm is being caused by an unwitting friend.
3) Staged withdrawal is possible
Cold turkey No Contact is a dramatic step. It may well be necessary – especially if your LO is manipulative or shows signs of wanting to keep you hanging on for their own gratification. If so, I really wouldn’t worry too much about their feelings, given that they are selfishly disregarding yours. But in the case that your LO is not a git, and is in fact a good friend, then a staged withdrawal is a perfectly sound strategy. In fact, psychologically it has a lot to recommend it. A series of incremental small wins (no texts today, no texts or social media for three days, no contact of any kind for a week) helps to reinforce the formation of a new habit of LO avoidance. Even just steering conversations away from personal topics can start a virtuous cycle. Most decent LOs will notice that you are becoming more emotionally distant, and get the hint that the days of oversharing have passed.
There is no evading the fact that deciding to un-bond from LO is going to hurt, and that the loss of a friendship is hard to bear. It’s perfectly fine to mourn it for a bit, but with the purposeful perspective that while it’s unfortunate that limerence came along and broke up a friendship, sometimes shit happens in life and you just have to accept it and move on. It’s part of who we are as limerents to be vulnerable to the friendship-threatening allure of LOs. Make peace with that, and accept that life will be better for everyone if you part company regretfully, but decisively.