Living with uncertainty

Uncertainty is a central feature of limerence. It acts as a fuel for deepening the obsession (constantly ruminating on what every word, gesture and meaningful look might mean), and seems to be necessary for limerence to move into full blown person-addiction territory.

Beyond its role in initiating limerence, uncertainty is also a major barrier to recovery. In part, this is because the best options available for resolving limerence carry uncertain outcomes.

First, if you decide to disclose to LO (or your SO), you don’t know how it will go. How will they react? Even people we know very well can surprise us when confronted with such emotionally volatile news as “I have very strong feelings for you/someone else”. LO, of course, may also respond in an ambiguous way, thwarting your best attempts to end the uncertainty by disclosing. To heap the uncertainty even higher, LO may not even know what they want. They may be just as confused and conflicted as you. The outcome: dangle, dangle, at the end of the limerence string. Will you ever be pulled up or cut loose?

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I advocate always bringing your own scissors

Similarly, although No Contact is the safest path to resolution, it does have an inescapable feature: you don’t know what’s going on anymore. What is LO doing? Do they miss you? Are they depressed? Even worse, are they happy? Argh. It’s agony. Just a quick Facebook stalk to find out for sure. After all, if they don’t know about it it doesn’t really count as contact, does it? Well, they look quite happy in that picture, but maybe they’re just putting on a brave face. After all, remember that time when they told you… and you’re drawn in again.

A big step in mastering limerence is coming to terms with uncertainty. Embracing it, even. Philosophically-inclined people have recognised the value of this idea for centuries, of course. It could be the Stoic principle of not worrying about what you can’t control, or Stephen Covey’s emphasis on concerning yourself with matters within your “sphere of influence”. Life comes with a very large random element to it, and accepting the capricious nature of fate is a surefire way of reducing anxiety about things you can’t predict. We’ve even established this into everyday language with the concept of “being philosophical”.

As desperate as you are to know how LO really feels about you, if you want to move on and leave them behind you, it’s much better to accept the uncertainty and be fine with it. “I don’t know, and that’s OK” is the mantra here.

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Admittedly, “stoical indifference” is a tricky cause to rally around

Partly, this is about letting go of the desire to be in control, generally. Purposeful living helps here. Focussing on your life, your goals, and how you are going to act to realise them helps in letting go of worries over what other people are up to. “I don’t know if LO reciprocates, and it’s torture,” becomes “I don’t know if LO reciprocates, but I’m married, so it doesn’t matter.” Beyond limerence, the choice to focus on your goals, rather than other people’s opinions, needs, and feelings, is a healthy way to live.

Lack of consideration for others is not purposeful, but putting your priorities ahead of other people’s priorities is. It’s caught up in the same principle as being proactive rather than reactive. Act on something because it will help you achieve what you want to achieve, not because someone else’s behaviour has made you angry or stressed. Once you decide that LO is not the author of your life (because you are the author of your life), then what they feel and what they want become secondary concerns. So, not knowing with certainty is no problem.

Finally, it is a fundamental truth about life that no-one knows what’s coming. Uncertainty is unavoidable. There’s nothing you can do about it, so the best strategy is to build your life up into something you are fulfilled by, and proud to live. Fate toys with us all; react to emergencies when you need to, but during the stretches of time when you have your health and vitality, work towards your own goals, and live with purpose.

Become reconciled to uncertainty as a constant companion, and you’ll be much more resilient to the challenges of limerence.

17 thoughts on “Living with uncertainty

  1. “I don’t know and that’s ok, I don’t know and that’s ok” must be my chant. I have a previous LO whose LE ended when he married (I have never been limerent over an attached person) but as he is a minor celebrity he has a Wikipedia page and once married I no longer allowed myself to look at it. So hard!!!! One day I got a notification that he had reviewed my LinkedIn profile!!! (He had previously been interested in me but there were solid reasons why we should not be together). It took all the strength I had not to look at his page! I have since moved through several LO’s throughout the ensuing years (such a curse to be a limerent) and my current LO desperately wants to and feels entitled to be BFFs and doesn’t really understand why we cannot. We have so much fun together, we help each other through life’s travails, we share the same friend pool, we even ebjoy each other’s families and we are both single! But of course I am limerent and LO is not. It’s not healthy but it’s nearly impossible to do NC. I’ve disclosed but as I behave with the utmost restraint and dignity and lack of drama LO doesn’t really believe I suffer. How could I when LO is the most generous, thoughtful and fun loving person this limerent could ever have in their life? (His presumed thoughts- I suffer aplenty).
    This may be a topic of future posts (please?!) but is it possible that a limerent subconsciously chooses the unavailable LO (over and over in my case) because of the guaranteed outcome of failure, there is actually less risk? A real relationship is fraught with danger and will require really hard work, a strong constitution and a mature willingness to face disappointments. And after romances first blush, all without the giddy dopamine rush of limerence!
    My greatest horror would be to have survived endless years of limerence with various LOs and then finally have a real relationship and then have limerence strike again as a married person. Unbearable!!!

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    • “This may be a topic of future posts (please?!) but is it possible that a limerent subconsciously chooses the unavailable LO (over and over in my case) because of the guaranteed outcome of failure, there is actually less risk? A real relationship is fraught with danger and will require really hard work, a strong constitution and a mature willingness to face disappointments. And after romances first blush, all without the giddy dopamine rush of limerence!”

      There is in my husband’s case a lot of that going on. Marriage is hard to do for decades. For some people it’s even harder individually or as a particular couple.

      Giddy romance is a lot more fun than gritty reality.

      Have you ever taken the Grit Scale? It’s not the be-all, end-all some people tout it to be (is anything with the possible exception of chocolate?) but it can still be informative and you might find it useful.

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  2. As Amy Winehouse once said fairly bluntly: “Life happens. There is no point in being upset or down about things we can’t control or change.”

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  3. Maybe we covered this somewhere else. If we, did I don’t remember it.

    How many of you have ever apologized to your LOs?

    When I go back over my last LE, I apologized to her on numerous occasions, often during periods of uncertainty. At least as many of them happened before I disclosed as did after I disclosed.

    I started early in the LE and apologized to her in my goodbye. I pushed a boundary early on and later apologized for it. Her telling me I had nothing to apologize for was a factor in entering the LE.

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    • As a habitual apologiser (I know why and I’m working on it!) I’m probably not the best person to answer this!
      I have. Pretty much every time I felt I’d pushed the boundary and been more intimate than I should have. (With hindsight those apologies should have gone to my husband- but I’ve done plenty of apologising to him too.)
      Unfortunately, LOs responses of “Don’t be sorry, I’m always up for hugs” and “Don’t worry, it was special for me too”
      Didn’t exactly help the limerence.

      I think I said in my parting card that I was sorry to be going NC but couldn’t see another workable way forward. However, how he felt about and wanted to respond to that card is uncertain, and best left that way.

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    • Hmm, interesting one. In a way, apologising for boundary pushing is sort of an oblique disclosure isn’t it? An admission that you know you did something that crossed a line, and are now trying to row it back. I can see how getting a “no need to apologise” could also lead to limerent reinforcement, because it is (in kind) a sort of oblique reciprocation.

      In my case, I can’t remember ever apologising to LO for my behaviour – only for things that I would apologise to anyone for (like refusing invitations to social events etc.)

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      • I pushed the boundary when I got the first hint of glimmer, that her SO, wasn’t really there for her when she needed him.

        I told her, “Heaven help the man you ever really trust.” That’s a pretty ballsy statement from a relative stranger.

        I apologized for being out of line. She came back with, “You weren’t out of line and have nothing to apologize for.”

        That was pretty much the beginning.

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    • I apologized to my LO when (in hindsight) she initially became my LO (I had never heard of limerence at the time). I became a wreck when she announced she was leaving my work and I actually went in and out of the 5 stages of grief. Well, actually 4 — not Acceptance. The close (not yet intimate) attachments between us already existed, then the uncertainty of how we would stay in touch was completely devastating. I had never felt anything like it before, and it had total control over me until plans to keep in touch were made. I apologized for how emotional I had become. No apologies since then, over a very long year+ later (felt like a lifetime at times), now in the early stages of (almost) NC. There are some natural times for us to connect, but I try not to extend conversations and I am not initiating contact. I have seen her this week, for the first time in 4 weeks, but it was a fun group setting with no “extra” communication.

      This blog has helped me understand why I fell into this state, and how I can avoid doing so in the future.

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  4. This contemplative post helps me think about my current state. Since I initiated No Contact 4 months ago, I felt an empowered sense of self-generating certainty, as it was my own decision, which was strong enough to stifle the uncertainties mentioned in the post. However, because of our mutual contact – my mother – the risk of contact (even indirectly) is ever-present. For example, he contacted my mother after I ignored his text messages and blocked him. He then offered my mother an appointment out of the blue. A degree of uncertainty is re-introduced which is irritating to me. In a weak moment I even thought maybe itms not so bad to reconnect (limerent brain at work!). I strive to achieve a stoical indifference. But it seems to be more a battle of wits at this moment.

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    • Yes, I’m sceptical about ever feeling stoical indifference towards an LO where the uncertainty wasn’t resolved. The hope is to become stoical about uncertainty itself. In your case: he may continue to try and reconnect via your mother (which is pretty unpleasant behaviour, btw, if that is his motive), but you can’t control that, and should try not to expend too much mental energy on planning for every contingency. If he does try it, know that you have settled on your decision to maintain NC and can stick to it.

      You may also want to discuss with your mother why she continues to professionally associate with someone who has acted very inappropriately towards you…

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      • It’s a difficult situation as my mother is thinking mainly of her own needs and benefits as she is quite ill, lonely and vulnerable, not to mentiom living in a different country far away from me. I have already had long discussions with her, and she thinks I don’t need to be involved in her dealings with this specific person (or my ex-LO, for lack of a better term). And she thought I could just ignore him, while she continues to use his service. Of course it brings up the question whether she should trust his professional judgement, if his motivation involves getting to me via my mother. At some point, I may have to insist that she should associate with someone I can have open discussions with, as it will probably be necessary eventually. I will maintain NC and stick to it.

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