Displacement activities

A question from the postbag:

What I wanted to ask is whether you think other activities might be helpful as a replacement or as some sort of therapy? One therapist suggested to me that perhaps I needed other hormone-high activities — ocean swimming, sky diving, etc — to replace the ‘addiction high’ of the limerence/crushing/obsessive phase.

It’s a good one.

The idea is certainly appealing – work yourself into a “high arousal” state through a new hobby or sport, in order to break the link between excitement and LO, and establish a new hyper-stimulus with an LO-free activity.

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Woop!

I can’t speak from experience on this one. I never attempted thrill-seeking as a strategy to break the limerence.

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Unless you count having an extra scone with afternoon tea

One thing that did help, which is along the same lines in some ways, was to make an effort to have more new and stimulating experiences with my family – to make my life richer by linking newness to my “old” life, rather than letting all the novelty come from LO. Success was mixed.

As the limerence was fading, it worked well. I laid down happy new memories and felt more positive about life (and purposeful). But when the limerence was bad almost all activities were invaded by thoughts of “I wonder if LO would enjoy this,” or “I wonder what LO is doing now”, or “I can’t wait to tell LO about this.” That experience was actually one of the key triggers for me realising that I was out of control and needed to take urgent action to try and stop the limerence. I was tainting quality time with my loved ones.

So my gut feeling is that it’s likely to be complicated. If you have made the purposeful decision to leave LO behind and embark on that new, better life you like the idea of, then it’s a definitely worth a try. However, if you are still in the depths of your limerence, then it may just be more experiences that will become linked in your monomanic obsessive mind with “things you are doing while thinking about LO”.

The instincts of my guts are not always to be trusted, though, so what does everyone else think? Has anyone tried this as a strategy? Help, hindrance or meh?

Enquiring minds want to know…

54 thoughts on “Displacement activities

  1. “The idea is certainly appealing – work yourself into a “high arousal” state through a new hobby or sport, in order to break the link between excitement and LO, and establish a new hyper-stimulus with an LO-free activity.”

    But, are you breaking the link or replacing it with something else? Methadone is an alternative to heroin. It may help you function but you have a lot of work ahead of you before you’re no longer an addict. Methadone may buy you the time you need to address those other things.

    It may work as a coping mechanism but I doubt it will ever be a viable long-term strategy. Limerence is about us, not them. So, until you do the work to understand your drivers and deal with those, you’ll always be in a reactive mode. You can probably do pretty well for yourself by only understanding and avoiding threats but you’ll do even better if you understand and deal with your vulnerabilities. Get rid of them and these threats largely take care of themselves.

    But, as John Lennon once said, “Whatever gets you through the night is alright.”

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    • Methadone may buy you the time you need to address those other things.

      Yes, that’s the idea. You’re quite right that mastering limerence is going to take a long and steady focus on understanding yourself and doing the deep work of reshaping your approach to life. But in the short term, disrupting the established mental patterns that are trapping you in a limerence net is a good tactic for giving yourself some relief, and a chance to take control.

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  2. Your point is well-made and applicable, but in light John Lennon’s adultery while married to Cynthia, that particular quote may not be the best choice.

    “That experience was actually one of the key triggers for me realising that I was out of control and needed to take urgent action to try and stop the limerence. I was tainting quality time with my loved ones.”

    That was a huge insight. Did it hit you like a bolt of lightning or was it more like the sunrise?

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    • Touche!

      I was assuming the “Whatever” was an appropriate one.

      Disclaimer: “The above stated ‘Whatever’ may incur ramifications to the performer, including, but not limited to, legal, ethical, moral, & physiological consequences. In addition, such ‘Whatever’ may also incur additional, as yet unforeseen, unintended consequences.”

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      • LOL.

        If we weren’t discussing limerence, it may have been appropriate. Limerence isn’t entirely unlike addiction and ‘whatever’ is DEFINITELY not a word tossed around in AA, NA, or a therapy session!

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    • That was a huge insight. Did it hit you like a bolt of lightning or was it more like the sunrise?

      I think sunrise is the better metaphor. A growing awareness that the “bargaining” plan I’d formulated (that I could carry on seeking pleasure from LO’s company at work, but then come home to an unaffected happy family life without any consequences), was delusional.

      To continue the poetic metaphor: it was probably the moment when a beam from the rising sun hit me in the eye. Rather than a background sense of unease (from knowing I was being emotionally dishonest), I had a concrete experience that proved I was not being the father or husband that I wanted to be. A clear thought, rather than a nebulous feeling.

      Plus, a nice little jolt of fear that I was not in control of the situation and had no idea of how I was going to sort things out. And, the first time in my life that I had experienced the addict’s guilt – I wasn’t sure I wanted to sort it out if it meant less time with LO…

      Yes, it definitely was a huge moment – and the point at which I started to turn the tanker around.

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      • “Yes, it definitely was a huge moment – and the point at which I started to turn the tanker around.”

        Well, I’m so glad for you and your family’s sake that you never hit that iceberg. And LO’s too, I’ll venture. I hope the work situation is going as planned and your client or boss or whomever is pleased with the results too. A nice bonus, or lots of recommendations rarely hurts.

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    • Insight indeed. I had a similar trigger, and it was a little lightningbolt-esque. I suddenly realised the limerence was stopping me appreciating the time I spent with my children and for me that was it (plus it was around the time I found this blog). I decided to go NC the next day. Doesn’t mean it is easy tho.

      I don’t thrill-seek to replicate the high, but do try to keep busy, professionally and socially. The tricky part is when thoughts of LO come, because one starts to feel low and then wants to mope rather than keep busy and it’s a downward spiral. “Limerence is a bastard”. Indeed.

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  3. I found this blog last week and read every post over the weekend – it’s remarkable how well it explains my current situation. Like Dr L I’m a bloke, married, I have 2 kids, hitting that middle age and I’ve fallen massively for a (much) younger coworker. It’s probably been a year now and I’ve been struggling to understand and justify my feelings. I started reading Russell Brand’s Recovery book as I wondered if I have an addiction of some sort, and a lot of what he’s written resonated. I started googling for person addiction and stumbled across Limerance. Already I feel better having read the blog posts and comments.

    The coworker reports to me, she’s nearly half my age, and she’s beautiful, funny, sharp and makes fun of me – all big triggers of mine. I’d say she was LO #2 with my uni girlfriend being LO #1 once we’d split. They look similar, have similar humour, and both “needed me” to rescue them before I got hooked.

    I’ve not disclosed to anyone. My wife has noticed me being distant and knows LO #2 is there and sees her as a threat. I’m hoping to deal with it so as not to hurt her. If I had to put money on it I’d say LO #2 was mutually limerant, but she’s so young and knows I’m married with kids that she’s probably put it down to a crush. She’s likely got daddy issues and I’ve been playing that type of role. But no-one looks at me like she does, and she texts me at the weekends, on holiday etc. I’m more than a boss to her. Anyway I can’t disclose to her because if I’m wrong it’s an HR disaster and I’ve blown up everything.

    So I’m now in the position of trying to find other things to occupy my mind, switch it off LO #2 and onto to my wife. This post is interesting as a result…

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    • Hi Vincent,

      Welcome to the blog! Glad you found it, and glad too that you’re finding it useful.
      Interesting to hear that you stumbled on limerence as a concept via reading about addiction. Was there anything in Russell Brand’s book that was useful for you? Have you tried any strategies for counteracting the limerence? Or have you only just reached that critical crux of realising it’s really got to stop now if everyone is going to emerge OK?

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    • “Scharnhorst’s Law of the Swamp: When you’re up to your neck in quicksand, the notions of how you got there and not doing it again only matter if you make it out alive.”

      She’s on your wife’s radar, she’s your subordinate, and she’s demonstrated she has either no respect for or is clueless of boundaries as demonstrated by texting you on weekends and holidays. The cynic in me would believe she’s trying to get you caught. If that’s the case, she may not take the idea of your distancing well and it sounds like she has leverage. You not only have to get away from her, you have to do it without pissing her off. And, even once your out of the minefield, it’s not like the mines have actually disappeared, those texts may live forever.

      You may want to disclose to HR and your wife. If LO #2 blows the whistle on you professionally, you wife is likely to find out. If you talk to HR first, they may help you at least protect yourself professionally. Maybe you can spin it as mentorship gone awry and HR can help you.

      Good luck!

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      • Thanks Scharnhorst – that’s a great and different viewpoint that I hadn’t really considered. As I’m still in cliche defending mode with LO #2 I’d say that the texts individually are fine. There’s never anything sexual or overtly flirtatious in them so I don’t think there would be much to convict me on there. Although the volume and timing of them may say differently. Nothing has happened between us, it’s all been very slow and subtle but there’s a connection there no doubt. We’ve acknowledged that much as people at work have commented and asked whether something is going on. We resolved a few months back to try to keep our friendship (that was the term we used) less obvious at work, although I’m not sure we’ve done a good job of that.

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      • “Although the volume and timing of them may say differently.”

        How many are there? Are they significantly after-hours and do you hide them from your wife? Take your phone into the bathroom to read them?

        “We’ve acknowledged that much as people at work have commented and asked whether something is going on.”

        Uh-oh. You really have to talk to your wife. There is every chance that someone from work is going to contact her about this. I realize that most people wouldn’t do so – but someone MAY.

        “We resolved a few months back to try to keep our friendship (that was the term we used) less obvious at work, although I’m not sure we’ve done a good job of that.”

        So it’s more than friendship, otherwise you wouldn’t have used that particular phrase (term we used). No, you haven’t done a good job it.

        Here’s the other problem for her. She may be fantastic at this job but she is going to be tainted going forward. People who have noticed your behavior are going to speculate that she didn’t earn any advancements that may come along in the future. That without your “friendship”, she wouldn’t be where she is now or in the future.

        Don’t do that to her either.

        Also, ask yourself and answer honestly – if you weren’t enamored with her (eyes, teeth, hair, youth, perfume, whatever it may be), would you want her working for you?

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    • “My wife has noticed me being distant and knows LO #2 is there and sees her as a threat. I’m hoping to deal with it so as not to hurt her.”

      She knows. She knows full well this woman is a threat but the only reason she is a threat is because you haven’t put an end to it. The best thing you can do now is disclose and confirm what she has suspected/known and deal with the fallout. She will not trust you for quite a long time (nor should she); you will be answering questions for quite a long time (don’t resent it). You have engaged in inappropriate behavior and you didn’t shut it down – so you liked it. Don’t deny LIKING it – your wife isn’t stupid and she will pick up on that lie in a nanosecond. Have you kept those texts? Share them. If you wouldn’t dare because she would want to punch you in the nose then kick you out – you’ve already crossed the line and it’s up to YOU to decide what you are going to do. Decide what kind of man you are going to be. If you can’t be honest with your wife, stop wasting her time and don’t be patronizing. You aren’t trying to prevent her from being hurt – SHE IS HURT. You are trying to avoid consequences for your actions.

      “Anyway I can’t disclose to her…” (LO)

      Your loyalty doesn’t go to her, she isn’t supposed to be your priority. Your priority is to your wife and family. If you don’t want to be married, if you WANT LO then DO the right thing, separate from your wife (including the paperwork!), divorce and THEN go forth. What you’re doing now is all about you and your wife is getting shortchanged.

      You say you can’t disclose to HR what is going on without jeopardizing your position. Well, can you request that she be moved into a different position? Cite cross-training, or needing a new mentor – anything. If she goes to them first, you are going to be in a real jam.

      If you can read this all the way to the end, then digest it and decide what you are going to do, that would be advisable.

      https://www.chumplady.com/2016/10/yeah-thats-not-apology/

      I wish you the best and remember – if LO is worth pursuing, she is worth pursuing with integrity. As a divorced man. Not one who wants the security and social standing of being married with kids AND playing (mental or physical) footsie on the side.

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      • Professionally, he’s between a rock and a hard place. People in the office are aware of what’s going on. Based on that, HR not only has to consider LO, it has to consider everybody else, too. In today’s climate, moving her somewhere else can be perceived as victim blaming. She get promoted or trained ahead of someone else, everybody else in the section thinks it’s a payoff or reward.

        If HR’s smart, they won’t sanction her, they’ll sanction him. If I was HR, I’d move him. From their perspective, it solves the problem and makes them look good at the same time by sending the message that the old ways won’t be tolerated. If she moves on, maybe he can come back to the old position. If he’s not the only case like this and they need to improve their image, they may make an example of him and put his head on a pike. If they’re forced to take action before he tells them, it wouldn’t surprise me if they did. It might even look better if he asked for a transfer.

        Personally, I agree with you. He has to decide who and what’s important to him and act accordingly.

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      • Oh, good point. I hadn’t thought about the rest of the office picking up on the two of them. Yes, he needs to be moved, unless there are compelling reasons for her to be transferred (SOP) or she has earned a promotion or whatever.

        Well, this is where theory meets reality. Who are you now and is this who you want to be in the future.

        Instant gratification or delayed?

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      • I think there’s a little catastrophising going on here. Given that the boundary-crossing seems to be mutual, that the content of the texts is not overtly inappropriate, and that neither LO nor Vincent have made a complaint, I would guess most HR departments would deal with this by having a quiet chat with Vincent about professionalism. And from what he’s posted so far, I would say that chat is unnecessary as he has reached that realisation himself.

        If Vincent and LO are still on good terms, I would expect that him making a decision to cut back on non-essential contact, and decrease the intimacy of the friendship, would also put a stop to the office gossip.

        I’m not making light of this. It will be very hard to continue to supervise LO fairly, and restore trust with his other co-workers, but HR-initiated relocation of either of them is a pretty serious (and disruptive) step. I think that Vincent taking responsibility for sorting this out himself (and sucking up the personal pain involved as self-inflicted) is also a positive step for dispelling the limerence fantasies.

        All that said, disclosure to his spouse is almost certainly a good idea. It’s much better if she is a well-informed (if understandably angry) partner in this, than a suspicious but confused bystander.

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  4. I’m really at the crux part where I’ve realised it’s got to stop. My decision making at work is being affected, I’m thinking about her when I’m with my wife and it’s just dominating my waking thoughts. I’m looking for ways of mitigating it. Brand’s book is based on the quite common 12 step method for overcoming addiction, and I’m planning on working through the first few steps to see where I get to (you can download the steps on his website). Maybe it’s addiction, maybe it’s not but the stuff he writes about accepting you have a problem, and understanding that it requires positive actions to help will be useful I think.

    I’ve tried to take my mind off her before, but I’ve been unsuccessful. Things like no contact outside of work (I couldn’t leave texts unanswered), taking up running to create a challenge for me to focus on (side effect = lose some weight and look better for LO #2). But now I’m more determined to make a change.

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    • “I’ve tried to take my mind off her before, but I’ve been unsuccessful. Things like no contact outside of work (I couldn’t leave texts unanswered), taking up running to create a challenge for me to focus on (side effect = lose some weight and look better for LO #2). But now I’m more determined to make a change.”

      Vincent – you can do this.

      Don’t answer the texts. I know they are a siren’s song but you can ignore them. It gets easier the more practice you get at ignoring them!

      Taking up running is a good thing. Any way to incorporate shared physical activity with your wife? Swimming? Tennis? Running together? Dancing? 30 minutes carved out so each of you receives a 15 minute massage?

      “My decision making at work is being affected”

      Serious question – are there resources at work for you? If an employee came to you with this problem, what would you advise? We have family life/work balance counseling available to us if we need it. I think this would easily fall under that umbrella.

      Good luck – but I think you don’t really need it. You got this.

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      • Thank you Lee – some great points there. Yes, we have counselling services available and I may well use them. As a man I don’t like to ask for help unless I have to, so I’d like to sort this internally first, or at least try to. I feel like I’ve taken the first step of acknowledgement and resolving to fix.

        I like the shared physical activity idea. I’ll give that some thought.

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      • Vincent – I’m going to let you in on a little secret. A lot of women don’t like asking for help either. Seriously. My mantra throughout my life has been, “I can do it myself!”

        But there comes a time when there is something you can’t do by yourself. This is going to be one of them. Don’t get hung up on the first step either. It’s a start – but only a start.

        Go do something with your wife that neither of you have done before and can improve upon together. Or go do something with her where she is already proficient and can teach you. Give her the chance to be your mentor where you are Vincent and Honey – rather than thinking of yourselves entirely as spouses. A sense of fun and whimsy.

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  5. Thanks for another insightful post. Your writing has been really helpful for me. I’m married to a lovely man and we have a gorgeous little son, but I’m limerent for a colleague (who’s also married and in another country!). Possibly began as escapism from the stress of work, life, and toddlerhood. As for displacement, it’s unfortunately feeding into guilt and shame that are fuelling a relapse of an eating disorder..I get my alternative high (or numb the pain!) by not eating, or occasionally binge eating and throwing up. I also feel totally out of control with it, and I know it’s going to damage my family. The limerence isn’t the only factor but I’m trying hard to break it. Thinking that I actually care about this person and can’t offer anything but pain/disruption to them, and I wouldn’t want that, helps somewhat…

    Thanks again and look forward to future posts.

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    • Oh wow, you have a lot to juggle. I’ve done the juggling of small dependents, career, family, still trying to carve out time to be ME – separate and apart from the other roles…

      Would it be possible to go for a quick stroll rather than contact your colleague? What about going to your husband, explaining that you need his help to reconnect with him and/or both of you juggling your son when it’s Arsenic Hour (the hour between arrival at home and dinner – when no one is at their best)?

      I’m all for telling spouses that we are distracted, tempted, tired and need them. Whether it’s to pick up certain responsibilities, or realize that there are stress fractures showing up, etc. He is your ally and confidante. He may want to be let back into your mind.

      I’m so sorry about the eating disorder. You know that can wreck havoc with your body and mind on top of it. Can you go to your GP? Do antidepressants help at all? Please take care of yourself. You’re important for who you are in addition to all the hats you’re wearing.

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      • Thanks. I have told my husband about the crush a while ago as we’re open about those things. He is fine with it, he knows I don’t want to leave him or the family, and he’s actually pro the idea of sharing me, if that’s not tmi!! That doesn’t help so much… I doubt LO’s spouse is as relaxed! But my husband recently has had a lot of issues at work and is depressed himself so I don’t want to lay extra on him. I’m doing as much as I can of the childcare etc (with the help of the TV sometimes I’m afraid!) I am trying to get help for the ED but it’s a real struggle where I live, and the nature of the illness is to avoid/reject help so it’s an internal battle too. All the best.

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      • “He is fine with it, he knows I don’t want to leave him or the family, and he’s actually pro the idea of sharing me, if that’s not tmi!!”

        Hey, whatever works for you both. But as you noted he is feeling low himself, I wouldn’t take him up on that idea. That is the sort of thing that is discussed and negotiated long before one party or the other has a crush or is interested in someone else; plus when it’s brought up by someone who is on the downswing it’s a bad sign.

        ” I doubt LO’s spouse is as relaxed!”

        Monogamy is an equally valid choice as polyamory.

        Mr. Lee has issues too and I used to do most of the lifting & carrying in too many ways to count. It really wasn’t helpful. Learned helplessness isn’t good for individuals, or relationships. I had to impress upon him how important it was for him to participate in our life together. Don’t just phone it in.

        I’m so sorry it’s extra-difficult to get help for your ED in your area. Is it the sort of thing that you can discuss with a friend and get some support or is that not helpful?

        Yeah, little people can really kick the legs right out from under you. I do hope that your husband can do more to take some of the strain off of you (plus feeling needed or purposeful in his personal life).

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      • Thanks. Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply any criticism of monogamy, which is a beautiful thing in itself, poor choice of words. Just that I know full well that even if LO were interested, which I’m unsure of anyway, there would be nothing but pain involved for someone/everyone so I can’t do anything. Hard to deal with the emotions though.

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      • Oh, I know what you mean, E.

        ” Hard to deal with the emotions though.”

        Absolutely! I was concerned when you mentioned your husband was feeling low. That can lead to people agreeing to things that they don’t like in a twisted attempt to fix a situation without being honest with themselves and others. I have friends who are polyamorous and make it work. They all agree that it involves 100% honesty, trust and it’s really really hard to do. That’s not a good mix with depression. Depression warps your outlook and feelings of self-worth so completely and thoroughly. It’s the equivalent of an emotional prion.

        I hope the limerence is abating and your life is getting a little easier, E. I don’t know the age of your son, but may he enter some amazingly adorable or delightful phase soon. There are periods of time where little people just aren’t much fun – or at least I didn’t enjoy some stretches of time very much. It does get better. If you don’t enjoy toddlers, pretty soon they’re in school and bringing home fingerpaint art, etc.

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    • Hi E,

      Thanks for your comment. As displacement activity goes, a relapse of an eating disorder is a tough one on you…

      I know that limerence can seem uncontrollable, but I do think there are tactics that can help in the short term, and a long term strategy of self analysis and purposeful living that can help you master it. I’m not pretending that it’s easy, but there is hope. I don’t know if you’ve sought therapy before for the eating disorder, but as you intimate, it sounds like there are more factors underneath this than “just” limerence.

      It’s definitely a good perspective to think “I can’t offer LO anything but negative outcomes” – it shows you are thinking of consequences and not focussing on gratifying your own emotional cravings. Control does come from taking personal responsibility (but also don’t neglect self-care). Wishing you the very best of luck!

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      • Thanks very much. I particularly like your thoughts on purposeful living and I do have things to focus on and develop – it’s been difficult with a small child though, and I also had severe PND which knocked me. It’s also hard not to ‘frame’ everything in terms of impressing LO! I am very well aware of the potential this has to harm people though and as you say it helps me control it, I don’t want to disrupt anyone’s life or even make them uncomfortable.

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  6. “I think there’s a little catastrophising going on here.”

    More than a little but that’s what contingency planning is all about. You determine what could happen, assign a probability to it and plan accordingly.

    Vincent wouldn’t be the first person on this site to put (her) personal relationship ahead of (her) career. She put in her notice to separate herself from her LO. I’d like to see her take on this.

    Assuming it’s in the best interest of the organization to move one or both of them, it has the following advantages:

    1. It should separate the threat from the vulnerability. In theory, they should see less of each other.

    2. It removes any hint of impropriety. If he goes, he’s no longer her boss. If she goes, she may be able to avoid carrying a stigma (I know, catastrophising again) with her current co-workers and avoid the reputation as a troublemaker (“She got Vincent transferred…) in her new position.

    3. It would send a message to Vincent’s wife about where his loyalty lies.

    My organization has training for this kind of scenario, although it’s usually run by attorneys and the focus is on protecting the organization. If there is an Employee Assistance Program, it would be a good idea to use it. Being able to say he’s used it is a mitigation if things go south.

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  7. Wow, some awesome thought provoking comments here – thank you all so much.

    On the working relationship and telling HR etc. I’m one of the most senior, high profile people at my firm and she’s one of the most junior. If there was any issue she’d be moved, no question (unless I broke the law of course, which I haven’t). We’re not the source of firm gossip, a few comments have been made, mainly in the form of banter in the pub. I do worry about all of the things Lee has highlighted about people unfairly maligning her achievements because of a perception of our relationship. I don’t believe this has happened yet though. There is some truth in it however. I have given her a better job than her CV would reasonably justify. Is that because I thought she was hot? No, because she’s good and underestimated by everyone else because she’s young, blonde and pretty (white knight to the rescue). I do admit that I only found this out because I was attracted to her in the first place and spent a lot of time with her however….
    Any HR disclosure at this point would be odd, it’s just two colleagues that are good friends and one of them has been having some more intense thoughts about the other.

    On disclosure to my wife, I agree this is ultimately the right move but I feel like I need to organise my thoughts first. I think this runs deeper than LO #2 and id like to figure this out before I blow her world apart with no plan for putting it back together. I’m only just coming to terms about what this is.

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    • “I think this runs deeper than LO #2 and id like to figure this out before I blow her world apart with no plan for putting it back together.”

      I recommend you start by looking the “the glimmer” and what about your LOs attracts you. Once you’ve identified what attracts you, you can start to determine why it attracts you. That’s where the heavy lifting really starts. When you understand the why, you can decide if you want to confront that or if you’ve gone far enough.

      You can do a lot of the work by yourself but at some point, you’ll probably need the help of a competent professional. As a caution, many therapists are unfamiliar with limerence but they know a lot about co-dependence. There’s some overlap but they’re different. http://www.andreaharrn.co.uk/co-dependent-limerent/#sthash.kwC7dCVS.dpbs is short article that explains the differences. Don’t let them try to convince you you’re co-dependent, if you’re not.

      LOs act as catalysts. With a little luck and some hard work, you can come out of this better than you went into it. My last LE got me in front of a therapist who helped me address things that went back decades. In that respect, LO #4 did me a favor.

      You’ve got a ways to go to get out of the woods, but once you’re out, the view from the other side is pretty nice.

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    • “We’re not the source of firm gossip, a few comments have been made, mainly in the form of banter in the pub.”

      No, that’s not how it works. What you have heard in ‘banter’ in the pub is the very tip of the iceberg. You know that there are others who would happily climb the heights using your professional corpse as a stepping stone.

      It’s gossip and that is the early warning system in full swing.

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    • A couple of thoughts on disclosure, and managing limerence for an employee:

      1) It is wise to take some time to consider how to disclose. I wrote a post on disclosure a while ago, and the risk of “unburdening” yourself in a thoughtless way, that risks mugging your spouse with an outpouring of pent up emotion. The key things are to be sensitive, responsive, and honest. “I am having trouble managing my feelings about LO” is a good start – acknowledge it’s your problem and that you are taking responsibility.

      2) A helpful method for me with my LO (who was also a professional subordinate) was coaching myself that what I was seeing as reciprocation of limerence was actually the innocent excitement/enthusiasm of a mentee who felt special because we were working closely together. I’m not saying I think that was necessarily true – but it was a useful mental device. I dwelt on how awful it would have been if I had disclosed to her and she had reacted as a mentee that had no romantic interest in me, and now felt appallingly embarrassed and betrayed and undermined.

      Not sure how clearly I have articulated that idea, but the main point was I didn’t know how she really felt, so I deliberately talked myself into it being the worst case scenario (and vividly imagined the consequences) in order to help resist the urge to overshare.

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      • Thanks Dr L – yes I get it. Even tried that myself a bit, but then she’ll do something like fix eye contact with me for a longer than appropriate time and I’ll be straight back into thinking it’s more than that. The scenario I think that will ultimately kill it off is when she gets a boyfriend. But between now and then I need to fix the root cause.

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      • She might be limerent for you. She might be manipulating you. She might be desperate for a relationship and has realised you are responding to her signals. She might be a narcissist who is enjoying the attention. She might be someone that likes flirting and pushing boundaries but doesn’t actually want anything serious to happen and will react badly to a disclosure. This is the sort of uncertainty that supercharges limerence!

        I suppose the key question is: does the truth of the situation matter when it comes to deciding what you want to do? I can remember being desperate to know how LO felt about me, but then I realised that it wouldn’t actually affect the choices I had to make. My ego would have loved to know for sure that she was mad for me too, and that I wasn’t imagining it all, but the only way to find out would have been to disclose to her, and cause direct harm to my wife and family by sending that emotional bombshell out into the world.

        One last thought: I’m not so sure her getting a boyfriend will help. Limerence thrives on barriers, and if the boyfriend is a git, your white-knight syndrome will go into overdrive. Much better to focus on the root cause within yourself, as you say. That’s the heart of it all.

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      • ” Even tried that myself a bit, but then she’ll do something like fix eye contact with me for a longer than appropriate time…”

        Uh-oh. She knows the effect it has on you.

        “…when she gets a boyfriend”

        What makes you believe she doesn’t have one already? He may be unaware of what is going on; or maybe she’s mate poaching (you). Or maybe, just maybe, she has a boyfriend and they are laughing at you behind your back as being so gullible, so easy to manipulate?

        Embrace your sense of self-preservation and cynicism. Not because you aren’t a great guy, lovable, smart, funny and attractive to others – but because you are all that and a possible mark too.

        You are going to be okay Vincent if you continue to keep a very professional distance from her. Plus it will force her to expand her professional and personal contacts if she isn’t given as much access to you and your network. She and her peers are the future, she should pay a bit more attention to that too. The time will come when she may need their acumen and she needs to know who is reliable, who talks a good game but falls flat, etc.

        All stuff you know.

        Got plans for the family this weekend? Go do something fun!

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  8. In no particular order:

    “I do admit that I only found this out because I was attracted to her in the first place and spent a lot of time with her however….

    Any HR disclosure at this point would be odd, it’s just two colleagues that are good friends and one of them has been having some more intense thoughts about the other.”

    “My decision making at work is being affected,”

    “If I had to put money on it I’d say LO #2 was mutually limerent”

    “But no-one looks at me like she does, and she texts me at the weekends, on holiday etc. I’m more than a boss to her.”

    “My wife has noticed me being distant and knows LO #2 is there and sees her as a threat.”

    “I have given her a better job than her CV would reasonably justify.”

    You’re ducking, Vincent. Face it. Look at what you have written. If your wife stumbles over this blog (I did!) and you haven’t come clean AND done something to get professional and literal distance between yourself and this woman, your marriage may be toast. Your career could be too.

    Or look at it another way – if your kids behaved like this personally and professionally, would you warn them? Or encourage them to continue?

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    • I am facing it. Hence me being here trying to figure it all out. I don’t have the answers, I’ve laid out the issues to anonymous people on the internet. It’s a start. It won’t be the finish.

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    • Lee, a perennial theme here is the difference between thoughts and actions. From what Vincent has said, his actions have been pretty innocuous from an objective perspective – over-familiarity/favouritism is a potential issue in a professional setting, but does not compare to an illicit relationship. Probably others in the office are gossiping, but my guess would be that so far most ire would be directed at LO for flirting with the boss.

      He’s obviously realised that his thoughts are another matter. He knows the feelings that LO provokes, even if the texts and interactions have not crossed any red lines. So far, he’s stayed on the right side of personal integrity, and I hope this blog can help him nail that down!

      Let’s keep this constructive, and respect the fact that he has recognised (and been honest about) his own culpability.

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      • That’s a valid viewpoint, of course. But I’ve also seen office dynamics. The knowing looks, the raised eyebrows that threaten to turn into toupees (or wigs), and in my field, it follows both parties.

        So it is a good start. I wasn’t being sarcastic. Time isn’t on his side though.

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  9. Vincent,

    Stealing from the addiction field, you’re in “early recovery.” There’s a lot going through your head and the short-term focus should be on not making things any worse. It’s also really easy for limerents to miss the obvious, with respect to their LO, their SO, if they have one; and the outside world. What may be totally innocent and innocuous can wreak havoc with limerents.

    So, I don’t know how things are being run in your office but:

    1. No private meetings with the LO outside work. No lunches, no stopping at the pub, nothing.
    2. No closed door sessions in your office with her, If she’s there alone, the door stays open.
    3. If possible, don’t enter or leave meetings with her unless you’re part of a group.
    4. If you take her to a meeting off-site, take someone else along.
    5. Don’t take her on business trips unless she’s absolutely essential. Training’s nice but your image is more important.
    6. Tell her to keep texts business related and try to avoid weekends and holidays. If your wife knows about the texts, tell your LO the truth. Your wife has seen them and she doesn’t think their appropriate. At which point, you defend your wife and tell LO that in the context of work, they’re not. This has the side benefit of you taking a positive step to keep things professional should you need to defend yourself late.
    7. Avoid making her appear as your protege. Nobody likes a teacher’s pet but when she’s young, blonde, and smart, it only makes it worse. Make sure you’re doling out the career enhancing and crap jobs fairly. She gets her share of both, no more, no less.

    I apologize if these are obvious but limerence can really screw with your head.

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    • And, one more thing,

      She may ask why things have changed, if they have. You tell her the truth about that, too.

      “There’s a growing perception that I’m treating you differently than I’m treating other people in the office and I can’t allow that. Some things have to change to alter that perception,”

      You aren’t required to explain yourself beyond that. She may push that point, too, but as the boss, office morale/professionalism provides you all the cover you need to modify the behavior while avoiding disclosure. “Because, it looks bad,” is all you need to say.

      PS: I apologize for my grammar/spelling errors in the previous post.

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      • We almost had that conversation the other day as we’re both aware of the dangers of perception. She even brought it up this time, but we got interrupted and didn’t finish it. I need to revist it.

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      • Unless you are very clearly articulating “we should stop these interactions as they are rather unprofessional”, this is a very delicate conversation to have. It is right on the edge of disclosure. Take care to not try and give or get hints about whether “the perception” is warranted.

        You’re probably sensing that Sharnhorst, Lee and I are panicking a little on your behalf. Any conversation that could be interpreted as an admission of personal feelings is very risky – both for prolonging the limerence, escalating it to an affair, or causing professional damage.

        Another potentially useful thought: even if she is limerent for you, she won’t be forever. How will she (or others) feel about a “that time Vincent admitted we had a thing going on” conversation in another year’s time, when limerence has faded and everyone’s come to their senses?

        It’s one thing to look back and think “We were pretty stupid for a while then, but at least we never crossed a line”, another to look back and think “I should never have said that.”

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      • Be careful with open-ended statements. Declarative are best.

        Don’t use “we must stop…”, use “I will no longer…”

        Lead the way. You are not telling her what to do or not to do. You are telling her the changes you are putting into effect.

        There is no “we” in this situation.

        It will feel awkward but you are enforcing your boundaries and stating your own limits. It’s for the best in the long run.

        Best wishes.

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  10. “..does the truth of the situation matter when it comes to deciding what you want to do? “

    In my more lucid, logical moments the answer is no. I can’t act on it, she’d be dynamite to my family, career, everything. It would ruin hers too so it’s irrelevant. BUT, the rest of the time it’s yes, of course. I spend so much of my time analysing moments we’ve had, texts she’s sent for signs, rehearsing conversations where I try to find out. Some certainty one way or the other would be nice.

    Re the boyfriend question.

    We sit next to each other, we talk every day, she tells me what she’s been up to and says she hasn’t got a boyfriend, refers to herself as single in front of other people in the office. I’m confident she’s telling me the truth. I’ve contemplated the idea that I’m being played by her of course. If she is doing this just for her career then it’s been an incredible acting performance she’s been putting on for a year now. I just think cracks would have appeared. Is she desperate for attention? No, she gets plenty from all the young guys at work. Now it could be that I’m playing a father figure role to her and I’m filling some male role model holes she’s had in her life. That would make some sense but otherwise it’s all so uncertain.

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    • Becoming this woman’s confidante is a recipe for disaster. Have you read DrL’s blog, “Emotional affairs?” She’s already taking up enough space in your head. Depending on the article, there are usually 6-18 evaluation criteria for an EA. In my last LE, I met 2/3 of them. Trust me on this one.

      At this point why she does anything doesn’t matter unless you intend to pursue her. You don’t care where her attention is as long as it’s not on you. As enticing as you think it might be, you don’t want to be the one she turns to should something go south. As a “White Knight,” it’s one of the last things you want to happen. Trust me on this one, too. I recommend you take a look at DrL’s “Can’t we just be friends?”

      You don’t want to attach to her and you sure as hell don’t want her attaching to you. If she’s only doing this to advance her career, you’d be lucky. She’d be much easier to deal with.

      Add to the list:

      8. Stop sitting next to her and knock off the personal talks.

      Have the perception talk sooner than later.

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  11. Hi, I’m a bit late to the party but read through the thread to gain some wisdom and relief from a “sore mind” due to my inability or unwillingness to give up the memories of how I first became attracted to LO. It felt really good… really, really good. All I have to do is a bit of imagining and I’m right back into it – including the really intense pain that followed that. I will try the physical activities – but have found too that when I snap a rubber band on my wrist, or drop and do ten pushups, it really does help to reframe things. I hope I’m on the right path toward recovery?

    I also wanted to comment on Vincent’s dilemma. I’ve provided professional services for a few people who describe your exact situation, Vincent. There is a predictable series of terrible events, which may be only a few steps ahead of you as you walk on your journey. I hate to sound like a know-it-all or haughty or full of myself and make a bad impression here on the board – but I feel I should tell you what is usually* happens with situations like this. *(really, “always”).

    Here… the girl wants what you have… you have earned stability, earned money, kids(?), a house, to be a supervisor. By getting close to you, some of that rubs off on her. And as it rubs off on her, there are things you want from her – her youth, energy, clarity of life, with many less problems and complications – that’s rubbing off on you. So, you’re drawn to her… like she can actually give you youth or take away your life complications. She can’t. But she can add to them exponentially.

    What is likely to happen since you and the LO have been rubbing off on each other, it’s created a very powerful “static charge” that is still contained but bursting at the seams – ready to arc, and when it does, I’m sorry to say that it’s going to nuke your family, your retirement goals, your health, your money, your job, your security and your self-esteem. You have become like a cup of water in a microwave can become “super-heated” and not boil because the side of the cup is smooth. I hope you know what I mean.

    A very, very dry tinder box… all it will take is a teeny, weeny spark and it’s going to be the biggest bonfire you’ve ever seen. These “sparks” involve unintentional body contact with her shoulder, her leg… her arm. Or her having sad feelings one day and you just give her a platonic hug, or shake hands and hold her hand a second too long. Then quick as you can snap your fingers, you’re going to be in bed with her and she will likely love every minute of it and feel that she has won you over. She already is acting pseudo-mature to impress you but it’s just an act, either consciously or unconsciously. She’s trying to take something from you – something you’ve earned over many years.

    Yes, you risk losing LO now if you distance yourself – a mighty blow which will leave you in tears, crying like a kid and barely able to breathe. On the other hand, if you keep building up this static charge with LO, it’s going to blow up – honestly, a dirty bomb of misery that will affect a lot more people than you in its blast radius.

    Sure, yes, true, you will get to have a period of pure ecstacy with LO. I’m sure it will be the best sex you’ve ever had. And then, when the fun and excitement is over (and it will be over at some point)… well then – one by one you will lose your house, your family, your job &salary, your health, your self esteem. Then hardest of all – since you will have nothing of value to offer LO, you will lose her as well. She will shrug you off “you’re not what I thought” or “I think this was a mistake”.

    Vincent, do damage control, man. Learn from other people’s mistakes and avoid the terrible, excruciating suffering that this relationship is about to unfold on you.

    As someone else said, imagine yourself in the future surrounded by wreckage and a smoking hole where your life used to be. And you make a wish to go back in time and make a few different decisions. Well – it just happened, and you got your wish. You are now at the point of pre-disaster. How will you proceed?

    Mark

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  12. Oh Vincent. I feel your pain so much. Having gone through the same thing (bar some details) I can honestly say it’s the most difficult thing I’ve had to navigate in the past few years and I’m sorry you’re going through it too.

    Others have already expressed their thoughts on what you should do quite forcefully haha. I will say that as a woman who has also been in your LO’s position (20 years ago), from what you say she will almost certainly reciprocate if you take the next step, whether she’s properly limerent or not.

    On the bright side, you know this is limerence which gives you a huge advantage, and the earlier blogs on this website are invaluable, or they were to me. I used them repeatedly for guidance and confidence in decision making. I can tell you that disclosing and then going NC (“I like you too much and so I’m ending all personal contact”) as far as possible worked for me, although it was easier because my LO was not mutually limerent and we no longer worked together. It’s difficult and painful but it works if you stick to it and give it – a lot of – time. I can also say that the emotional contact created by texting is an underestimated menace, and if you can cut that out alone it could help.

    Again, I’m so sorry you are having to deal with this, and the very best of luck.

    PS as 99% of relationships start at work I’d be astounded if HR got involved.

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    • Thank you Limerspan – yes I’m only worried about HR in the nuclear fall-out situation that Mark describes above, after we’ve acted on it and its all gone wrong.

      I agree so much on the texting, it reels me in every time. I went on holiday with my family and didn’t contact her at all (10 days) and that felt like an achievement. There was a work related text waiting for me when I landed though… She’s on holiday now and has texted me once, bringing me right back in again (and an example of her trying to impress me). Its all via WhatsApp so you can see when she was last on and she regularly changes her profile picture (always her looking hot) – a Limerant’s nightmare. So I now delete the messages so I’m not tempted to stalk.

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      • Aaaaah, the attractive WhatsApp profile pic change. Glad I never did that (I did. Frequently). I got so obsessed with LO’s last seen that I changed my settings so I couldn’t see it any more. It’s mildly irritating not knowing if a real friend has read my messages, but a small price to pay for this would-be stalker’s sanity 🙂

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  13. Mark – thank you for that, what an amazingly frank and stark picture you paint. Some of the things you say there are so true for my situation, its like I wrote it… “you’re drawn to her… like she can actually give you youth or take away your life complications”, ” She already is acting pseudo-mature to impress you”… “you and the LO have been rubbing off on each other, this rubbing has created a very powerful “static charge”, like when you rub two balloons together ” – perfect description. I’m the mountain and she’s the dynamite. Learning from others is hard though, you always feel as if your situation is special somehow. How many versions of this have you seen in your work?

    Like

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