When LOs return, part two

In a previous post I wrote about the fact that my LO was re-entering my life and that we were working together on a short project. It’s done.

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and dusted

So, was it worth the effort? What did I learn? Would I ever do it again?

1) Old habits are well ingrained

The most striking part of the experience was how quickly and easily we fell back into the old habits of our previous interactions. I suppose it’s pretty obvious that would happen, but it very nicely reinforced many of the lessons I’ve learned about limerence. At one point, when in the height of limerence, it would have been a disaster, as my habit was to deepen the personal connection and strengthen the giddy thrill of limerence. But by the time LO left last time, I’d reprogrammed my habits into a pattern of guarded friendliness with clear boundaries – which is what I defaulted straight back into during the last month. So, the working dynamic was friendly and familiar, but without emotional depth or personal openness. It’s a highly constrained sort of friendship, but necessary to avoid backsliding.

Establishing the right habits took time, but has turned out to be a lasting protection against limerence.

2) Danger lurks constantly

OK, possibly a little overstated, but the risk of boundary crossing is always there. A good example was during a conversation about politics that meandered around a bit and ended up with us discussing #metoo. Helpfully, my gut gave me a nice strong lurch to let me know that this was a “skating on thin ice” topic.

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Danger, Will Robinson!

I think this illustrates the problem with trying to be friends with LO. Ordinary chat can lead unpredictably to sexually and/or emotionally charged topics that (even if LO is trustworthy) just have too much potential to push the relationship dynamic towards intimacy. The times of highest risk were when I started to relax and think everything was fine, and began to enjoy LO’s company in an unguarded way.

Once vigilance is relaxed, the natural openness that characterises an uncomplicated friendship becomes a door for the limerence pixie to come prancing through.

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OK, not my finest metaphor, but you get the idea

3) It’s never going to be gone

I’ve spoken before about my tendency to become limerent for damsels in distress. It’s part of who I am, and that’s fine, but the awareness of it is a key protection for me making purposeful decisions rather than reactive decisions. The hardest part of the month came at the very end. To my surprise, as we said goodbye for the last time, LO lost her normally steely composure and became teary-eyed. That bypassed all my carefully constructed defences and got me straight in the heart.

Fortunately I was able to draw on my deep reserves of English emotional repression, and harden my resolve. No hugs were exchanged, no “we must keep in touch” promises, just a friendly, slightly sad goodbye and thank you, and we were done.

But, in the spirit of complete honesty: that hurt. Even now, a few days later, the memory of it hurts. Someone I care about needed emotional support from me and I withheld it. I know why I had to, and I know she’ll be fine, but I think it goes to show that I will not be able to achieve a state of indifference towards LO. Maybe many years from now, but for the foreseeable future I’ll be sticking to the limited contact principle, and certainly not be instigating another joint project. There are plenty of worthwhile projects to occupy me, and LO would be a distractor in any of them.

 

So, the main lessons learned are that the right habits and boundaries were proof against re-exposure to LO, but that any interaction is always a risk, never neutral, and so should only be embarked on with caution and full awareness. A caveat is that my limerence was never disclosed to LO, never consummated, and I killed it by a sort of slow suffocation rather than an abrupt coup de grace. That may be part of the reason why there is still enough lingering uncertainty to make our interactions uncomfortably charged, and requiring constant vigilance. Nevertheless, the strategy has worked well enough for me to feel generally positive about the latest experience, and able to move on with satisfaction.

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Hopefully to a peaceful and fruitful future

 

p.s. in case anyone is wondering: the work project went fine. Not as well as hoped, but good enough to be worth the effort.

23 thoughts on “When LOs return, part two

  1. “Establishing the right habits takes time” – a pertinent reminder for my own workplace LE, thank you. I’m attempting the slow suffocation too, but it’s hard. I’ve resolved to be “more managerial” towards LO and we’ve been discussing big career goals over the last few days. It’s my attempt to remind myself of my professional obligations and when thoughts turn personal I bring them back to that. I think it’s working.

    My second resolution was to stop the texting in the evenings and weekends. I’ve not initiated anything for a week now, although she has sent me something on Sunday and tonight. I’ve replied both times but left it late and not encouraged further conversation. I find it hard to not reply as I simply don’t want to hurt her feelings. I know eventually I’ll need to be firmer but it’s one step at a time. Not initiating feels like a good start. It’s going to take her time to get the message too.

    Well done on the goodbye. I’m sure I would have buckled at that point!

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    • Stopping any unnecessary texting is ESSENTIAL. Glad you’re doing that. Not initiating and responding so as not to encourage further communication is a perfect start. Way to go!

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      • The texting is the single biggest creator of the uncertainty for me. I’m still thinking about the text from last night and I’ve spoken to her loads today. It wasn’t anything really either, just a picture she’d seen that linked to an in joke we have. But I’m still thinking why did she send it? Why then? She’s clearly thinking about me before she goes to sleep, that must mean something? Etc etc. Aaargh!!

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  2. “Fortunately I was able to draw on my deep reserves of English emotional repression, and harden my resolve. No hugs were exchanged, no “we must keep in touch” promises, just a friendly, slightly sad goodbye and thank you, and we were done.”

    I know that was incredibly difficult. I hope there were no residual effects elsewhere in your life.

    “in case anyone is wondering: the work project went fine. Not as well as hoped, but good enough to be worth the effort.”

    Glad it wasn’t a complete bust!

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  3. Glad the project went OK and that you’re happy with how you managed the limerence.
    Especially welldone with the goodbye – I’m not good at goodbyes at the best of times! (I was saved by a customer taking forever when it came to saying goodbye to LO!)

    Did you find keeping your guard up all the time exhausting?
    That was why I quit my job in the end as I struggled with doing that all day! Then reach the end of the day and rational brain would be delighted I’d managed it, whereas emotionally I was exhausted.

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    • It was tiring keeping my guard up. Or, really, it was tiring that I had to re-engage it repeatedly after relaxing and forgetting for a bit. But not that bad. In no way comparable to the exhaustion of co-working while limerent!

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  4. Indeed, kudos on managing that goodbye! Having both disclosed to LO and had some limited physical consummation, I have found any tears to be the worst sort of relapse trigger. It’s made limited NC maybe not as successful thus far as total NC would be, which I’m now going to try harder to do. Honestly, I wish now that I had never disclosed to LO, just kept it all to myself and waited for it to pass (like a kidney stone, one confidante told me). But in my circumstance, I didn’t see a choice. NC didn’t seem realistic (although maybe I should have somehow made it work), Aversion was not possible (at least without getting to know her better), Transference (what, back to my wife? I dunno…possible, but difficult), and…that left Disclosure. I just wish I had considered what might happen if LO did reciprocate, but that just did not occur to me. Anyway, I guess I am trying Transference now. Or Sublimation. Or maybe it’s Purposeful Living. Oh, and anti-depressants. I’ll be curious to see if they help.

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    • Good luck with reducing contact
      Funny how we can end up regretting what felt like the only viable option at the time.

      I’m struggling a bit with complete NC but am almost 3 months in. Limited contact wouldn’t have worked for me. I tried for the last few months before I left my job to tighten my boundaries etc, but then it seemed to be OK so I’d relax a bit, then so would the boundaries and I felt caught in a cycle. It was emotionally draining and I strongly suspect that if I had seen him more than once a week the outcome may have been very different.

      Working with LO meant spending the vast majority of the day stood next to each other, so avoiding unnecessary contact made the day very boring, uncomfortable and long!

      I never completely disclosed to LO. I gave him a card when I left saying that I would be stopping contact and a vague idea of what I was struggling with. There were some clues that he may have reciprocated, but I’ve no idea how much of that was the limerence twisting things. I know it was cowardly. It has also left me wondering how he felt about it (although he’s 100% honored my request for no contact)

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      • “Funny how we can end up regretting what felt like the only viable option at the time.”

        I also slightly regret disclosing but for different reasons. Six months into NC, and now that it’s largely worked I’m left with a feeling of embarrassment that I disclosed. At the time I couldn’t think how to end all the (extremely frequent) contact other than tell the truth; no massive outpouring of adoration, just a blunt explanation in one or two lines. Ghosting LO didn’t seem fair and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stick to gradually letting contact fade away. At first I didn’t care that LO knew how I felt, I just wanted out. But now I cringe when I think about what I wrote, and feel like an immature teenager. Even though LO is the only one who knows and he’s out of my life. Maybe my limerence is still there really, and will always skew my thinking on LO in some way or another? Or maybe there are stages of NC like the stages of grief? Is anyone much further down the NC road than me?

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    • Worth trying anything (reasonable). I’d be curious too.

      Re. disclosure: it’s why I’ve called it the nuclear option. in the past. You don’t know how bad the fallout is going to be, but there’s bound to be a explosion. The unpredictability is the big problem – will they reciprocate, will they react badly, or will they leave you in a state of agonising limbo? There’s no doubt it’s a risk.

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  5. If I’m summarizing correctly, DrL entered a potential LE with a known LO for a perceived financial benefit which was moderately successful. He chose an active risk mitigation strategy of avoiding issues which would exacerbate the LE. I have some questions.

    1. Who’s idea was it to enter the venture?

    2. Was the LO the only person who could have pulled it off or were you throwing her a bone with the added benefit of working with the LO?

    3. From what I read, DeL is still a limerent & this LO is still a threat. Given the effort you had to expend in playing defense against the financial reward, would you do it again?

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    • 4. Until the end, LO pretty much behaved herself. What if she hadn’t? What if she had flat out come at you? Were you good or were you lucky?

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  6. Hi – I wanted to reply to Dr.L’s latest blog post. I don’t remember if I told you all about me and my LE. I’ll gladly do so… But likely mine is the same story as all of yours, but mine is less common in that LO is not my boss, but if you will, my boss’s boss. I nuked my LE by disclosing to LO – and the mushroom cloud hasn’t even reached full height yet. (disclosed in December, 2017). My workplace is sorting all this out now – it’s all become quite uncomfortably public.

    Dr. L ., Good work on completing the job requirement and keeping your head attached. The last minute tearfulness in LO… that you withstood… has been the single most common event in most of the men that visit me (I’m a counselor). One man saw the dangers of his LO in advance, set limits, turned off any signals of warmth, and walked straight. A month or so went by and the last day of their summer work (government forest management) found them in the same room turning in their equipment and paperwork. She teared up silently, and he reflexively offered a quick, distant, and very slight hug to comfort her. He says his intention was to give a minimal droplet of comfort so that he could get out of there quickly and not have to feel guilty. However, despite his intentions, the static electric charge that had built up between them discharged, just a static electric spark so to speak. But the percussive explosion that raged through him was horrifying and devastating. Here’s a video that doesn’t quite match exactly but is entertaining nonetheless. Check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHfQYGGUS4U, and advance to 9:36. Dr. L., your Englishman manners appear to have saved your life and preserved your lifestyle – you get to keep the many good things you’ve earned!

    How are things at home? I’ve personally found that having turned myself toward my own SO, and being willing to work on barriers between us, there is progress in making my real life more meaningful. Sometimes my mental image of my prior LE is like a painting or cartoon fantasy. I ask myself what is being projected onto the canvas? Those are my needs and wants right there. With the help of other people such as yourselves, and borrowing from your strength at times, I can work on “one color at a time” and bring them into my real life. Slowly by slowly my real life becomes more and more colorful, alive, and real. It won’t ever match exactly, but I’m open to it being better. I backslide too. Sometimes when I’m mad at SO or frustrated that things aren’t improving as fast as I would like, I fantasize: “see, that’s the reason I’m really meant for LO, and her for me”. Perhaps it’s a good safety valve (?) so that I don’t “introject” and blame myself unjustly for all the difficulties in my working (*imperfect) marriage which I used to do.

    Thanks again for your blogging and being out there. Thanks to the rest of you for reading!

    Mark

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    • How are things at home? I’ve personally found that having turned myself toward my own SO, and being willing to work on barriers between us, there is progress in making my real life more meaningful

      Things are good at home, thanks. If my wife was concerned about the contact she didn’t show it, beyond the occasional “I’ll just be glad when she’s gone” comment. I was aware of the need to make extra effort at home to anticipate any need for reassurance. It helps a lot that my wife is a limerent too, and so knows what it feels like, and knows that it’s not any reflection on how much I love her. Happily, life went on in its comfortable way throughout. It was just me that had to be extra vigilant.

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  7. “Maybe my limerence is still there really, and will always skew my thinking on LO in some way or another? Or maybe there are stages of NC like the stages of grief? Is anyone much further down the NC road than me?”

    We said “good-bye” 2.5 years ago. I relapsed at the 6 month point and posted something on the site I met her on. She deleted my post and banned me from the site. 6 months after that, I tried to send her an email that bounced for an invalid email address. I don’t know if she saw it but I still relapsed.

    I’m well into acceptance. I had attached to LO #4 but i never invested in her. I can’t speak for her but I got the feeling that we were at the point where we either advanced things or we said goodbye. That’s one of the upsides of disclosure. You can’t claim ignorance anymore.

    One thing i didn’t anticipate was the more time that passes, the less I see the possibility of ever re-engaging her. It could be a thorn in your side forever but i think you’d have to want that; like you’re in a grand opera. DrL talks about that, too, in “Why is limerence so powerful?”

    I’m not the same person I was 2.5 years ago and the conditions that were conducive to a LE are different. Were I to become available, I don’t think I’d be interested in her. I’m sure she’s still an attractive, intelligent, & charming woman but I’m no longer interested in the subject area that led us to encounter each other. I’m not sure we’d have anything to talk about, now. I know what attracted me to her and led me down the rabbit hole of limerence. I doubt that knowing she reminds me of my unhappy mother would sit well with either of us.

    If you can’t achieve time and distance, you’ll need to come up with shielding.

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    • “That’s one of the upsides of disclosure. You can’t claim ignorance anymore.”

      And that’s exactly why I disclosed, to have 100% certainty for myself that I wouldn’t relapse. I don’t worry that I will, it’s just that now the limerence has less of a grip and I have a little more perspective, I find myself feeling embarrassed that I basically told someone I used to work with that I was so totally mad for him that I couldn’t be in contact at all. As a non-limerent (I think), or at least probably unaware of limerence like 99% of the population, he must think I’m nuts. If I’d let contact fade, he’d just think I’d got bored, so no embarrassment. It just didn’t seem like an option at the time. And I suspect I would have kept on relapsing anyway.

      Anyway, I just wondered if it was part of the process – once the NC starts to work, your mind thinks ‘why did you do that, you lunatic?’ Off to read Dr. L’s ‘why limerence is so powerful’ blog…and maybe something on self-esteem 😂

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    • So maybe the stages of NC are relief, grief, longing, embarrassment, then acceptance, and any combination of the five 🙂. I’m also hoping for ‘forgetting you ever met them while retaining the life lessons the limerence taught you’…

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      • Its possible.
        Yet also true to say I’ve felt all 5 within a day before!

        Sounds like out decisions to go NC were very similar. I get what you were saying about making sure you couldn’t relapse.

        I’m still in touch with a couple of other (female) colleagues from that job and they keep asking me to go back. I’m relieved that LO hasn’t blabbed, but knowing that he knows for certain how ridiculous I’ve been is enough embarrassment to stop me!!

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      • Yeah, rather like the five stages of grief, the five stages of NC recovery come in almost any order. It’s part of the mental madness that you can feel a total sense of acceptance and peace about NC in one moment, but then later in the same day a rogue fantasy will intrude and upend all that resolve. Persistence is the thing. Accept the thoughts as and when they come, but set your actions straight and true.

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      • I felt embarrassed about it. When I make myself look bad, I prefer not to return to the scene of the crime.

        Since LO #4 & I were geographically separated, it wasn’t a real big deal for me.

        On the other hand, when I disclosed to LO, I told her this whole thing was embarrassing and she replied I had nothing to be embarrassed about. That didn’t make leaving any easier.

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      • I felt the need to add how I too have had many of those feelings during the same day. In my case, I never felt embarrassment. We had each gone through and shared serious emotional roller coasters with each other, and basically cursed science for making us feel that way! I do believe LO is non-limerent, as she seemed better equipped to “keep in touch” or “just be friends” whereas I fell into limerence.

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  8. Sophie, a blabbing LO, ugh. I don’t even want to think about it. Hopefully we both had better taste in LOs than that. But who knows. Scharnhorst, I guess if I was someone’s LO and they told me, I wouldn’t think they were embarrassing themselves either. I will hold onto that the next time the memory of my final texts resurfaces.

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