“Reader” sent me a fascinating article this week, from the New Yorker:
It details the experience of a philosophy professor who becomes enamoured with a student and breaks up her marriage to be with him. Funnily enough, this is not presented as an abuse of power, or a sleazy middle aged Prof taking advantage of an impressionable youngster. I’ll leave the reader to speculate as to why.
Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating read, especially for those of us who are familiar with the phenomenon of limerence.
It comes across as a classic case, but with the interesting twist of happening to someone whose professional life is all about analysing ideas. From my perspective as a scientist, it also helps to illustrate one of the major ruptures in the history of what used to be called natural philosophy. It comes down to the trustworthiness of internal thoughts and feelings.
Crudely, philosophers have traditionally argued that true insight comes from rational thought. Scientists are more sceptical and counter that while thoughts are all very well for generating hypotheses, you need to test your ideas with experiments to validate them against the real world. The article strikes me as a beautiful illustration of this disparity.
Prof Callard interpreted her new experience of life-altering emotional turmoil as proof that she had accessed a deep truth about the world. That it proved her (happy, but infatuation-free) marriage was a sham, and that by being with her new paramour, all the events of the world became more meaningful. Conventions of behaviour were simply rituals, followed by unthinking people. What others would consider coincidences (such as craving a croissant while walking, and then happening upon a bakery) had amazing salience, and meant some sort of cosmic alignment had evidently taken place. The potency of the internal experience of profound romantic connection was evidence that she had glimpsed an ideal, aspirational state for mutual love.
As a neuroscientist, the same psychological experience made me conclude that I’d accidentally trained myself into a state of infatuation.
For most limerents, the emotional connection to their limerent object has a sense of the numinous. It really does feel extraordinary, profound, exhilarating and elemental. How you interpret that experience depends upon the way you view the world: I took it as evidence that my psychological triggers had pushed me into an altered state of mind, but this did not have meaning beyond my own personal history and individual romantic sensibilities. It also corresponded with what I understood about how the brain works.
For someone with a more philosophical or spiritual outlook, it could instead be interpreted as evidence of a transcendental truth that cannot be accessed during a mundane life of dulled wits.
The story you tell yourself about what limerence means determines the impact it will have on your life, and the lives of those connected to you.
Finally, one could argue that a prediction of my neurochemical hypothesis is that once the altered state of mind has passed, the sensation of the numinous would fade, and the relationship would then stumble as the couple tries to make sense of the new mundanity. For the philosopher the return of “normality” would instead be interpreted as evidence that the relationship was drifting from its aspirational, ideal state.
That disparity really struck me in this exchange from the article, where Agnes (the Prof) is discussing frustration in her relationship with Arnold (the student):
They labored under the shadow of the transcendence of their early romance. “I’ll be, like, ‘Why can’t we get back to that?’ ” Agnes said. “And Arnold will be, like, ‘That was never there.’ He is offended by my attempt to go back in time. And I feel like he is taking away the foundation of our relationship and telling me that our lives are built on a lie.”
A final reminder that the “truth” of any relationship rests upon two pillars.
Oh wow, I am so happy the article resulted in a post 🙂 Super fascinating read indeed. The whole time reading it I was thinking about this blog. LwL has taught me to tell myself the healthiest story possible about limerence, and for this reason I have been able to not let it destroy my life. Instead, the LE and its end triggered massive transformation, growth, and (now, after recovery) a lot of happiness. Thanks Dr L.
And totally agreed about the abuse of power missing entirely from the narrative. I hate saying “if the genders were reversed” but, yeah … it is grossly unethical.
Interesting story and situation. No doubt it fits the mold of limerence. What struck me as quite unique in this story is the ex husbands willingness to go along with it all immediately. I imagine this scenario with a compliant ex husband would not be most people’s case. Most people who did what Agnes did would leave a wake family destruction.
This must have been Agnes first brush with limerence, and I don’t get the feeling her or her husband ever experienced limerence with one another. He was very willing to set her free of the marriage and then support her new love interest. He must have felt a certain romantic indifference towards her. What I am also curious about is the sexual situation. They don’t mention it the article but could the ex husband still be having sex with Agnes? This all felt somewhat polyamory.
I’m not so bothered by the teacher/student nature of it. Their age was not that far apart, it was graduate school, it sounded as if everything developed naturally with no coercion, the student made the first move, it seemed to all happen towards end of term, and once they got into a relationship they went thru the proper channels at the institution. Not a big deal in my eyes.
But weird story for certain. I wonder how long it will last…I wouldn’t put good money on it going the distance if limerence strikes again for either one.
As for the philosophical idea of finding a deeper life meaning in their true love, that works for them because they both fell mutually limerent and were able to act upon it. Doesn’t work for the 95% of the rest of us limerents who are left in distress because of non mutual limerence or insurmountable barriers.
Limerent Emeritus says
Lots of things can be catalysts for changing relationships.
One of my former business acquaintances told me that right after 9/11, his wife told him she wanted a divorce. They lived in Newark, NJ. She told him that she was so rattled that she wanted to experience as much life as she could and she couldn’t do that being married with two kids. He said that his ex and his now adult daughters were Bohemians on the Jersey Shore.
Allie 1 says
Great article! Fascinating to see her emotional progression through the relationship when looking at it through an LwL lens.
But I don’t really see this as limerence as per the LwL definition. She fell in love and, upon realising this, immediately did something about it. No prolonged tortured infatuation for her. No uncertainty. No affair. No dishonesty. He may well have been limerent but not her. This re-iterates to me that “in-love” and early limerence are one and the same. The key differentiator being whether a real relationship follows or if it is all hollow neurochemicals.
I guess she wanted more from her first marriage but didn’t realise that until she fell in love. A common tale on this site (including mine!). Since they have stayed together for years, one might argue her choice was the right one for her and her family. I admire her bravery for bucking our cultural conventions and going for what she wanted in an honest and ethical way… life is short and new love is a sublime experience. And the cherry on the cake is that she got to throw herself fully into an LE without losing her husband… she is living my dream!!
Of course we can all speculate on how this story will eventually end… who will break first though, her or the new hubby?
“But I don’t really see this as limerence as per the LwL definition. She fell in love and, upon realising this, immediately did something about it. No prolonged tortured infatuation for her.”
Interesting observation. And you’re right in the sense that if one acts on limerence right away then limerence, according to Dorothy Tennov, is very unlikely to reach its full intensity. And if limerence never reaches its peak intensity, should it still be classified as limerence?
I mean, the person who acts on their feelings right away is obviously riding a whole different boat to someone who doesn’t act on their feelings, or who cannot act on their feelings, or who has inadvertently delayed acting on their feelings… 🤔
“… and new love is a sublime experience.”
I don’t want to sound rude, although I suppose this comment may sound rude. But a purely abstract question – is new love still “sublime” when one knows it’s caused by neurochemicals? I’m afraid I don’t find anything sublime about neurochemicals. Neurochemicals are decidedly non-sublime in my book!! 😁
Dorothy Tennov reckons that understanding limerence doesn’t necessarily ruin the wonder of the experience. But, honestly, I’m not sure if I agree with the lady! I feel understanding limerence does knock some of the “icing” off the cake. 😉
Allie 1 says
“is new love still “sublime” when one knows it’s caused by neurochemicals? I’m afraid I don’t find anything sublime about neurochemicals. Neurochemicals are decidedly non-sublime in my book!”
Does knowing that all pleasure and happiness are down to my neurochemistry remove my ability to experience pleasure and happiness? No.
Neurochemicals are not the enemy. They are essential to being alive, without them your heart would not beat. They ebb and flow within us constantly. It is our beliefs, internal narratives and conscious choices (including where we put our attention) that cause most of our suffering.
Agnes Callard has earlier experience with limerence and she has wriiten an excellent article about it in the Harper´s Magazine, the article is called ”The Eros Monster” and it is available online.
I read that before! I remember most the observation that the opposite of eros is civility.
“It was torture. I rapidly found myself thinking of little else. I fell behind on obligations, forgot appointments, lost weight and sleep; a few months in, I began drinking. About a year in, thoughts of suicide surfaced—was that the only way out?”
Sounds like limerence!
“Prof Callard interpreted her new experience of life-altering emotional turmoil as proof that she had accessed a deep truth about the world. That it proved her (happy, but infatuation-free) marriage was a sham, and that by being with her new paramour, all the events of the world became more meaningful. Conventions of behaviour were simply rituals, followed by unthinking people … The potency of the internal experience of profound romantic connection was evidence that she had glimpsed an ideal, aspirational state for mutual love.”
Fascinating, fascinating, fascinating!
You know, I think one of the problems with having a lovesick brain is that one feels really SURE of one’s convictions, even if one’s convictions are completely false, ridiculous, extravagant, silly, or even – Heaven forbid – contradicted and recanted by oneself at some later date! (Oh my, how embarrassing! Having to recant something one believed and advocated so passionately!) 🤣
Limerence, in other words, makes champion debaters of us all. Even if we’re debating for the wrong side, or fighting for some hopelessly lost cause… 😉
In the current culture wars, waged on social media, there’s this cutesy-poo expression: “I will die on this hill.” Basically, this expression means that one feels so sure of one’s convictions that one’s not going to recant anytime soon. While I love the dramatic flair of this sentiment, I don’t think it’s wise to be willing to die on any hill. A brain running high on emotion is a brain that’s going to make mistakes. Although an excessive adherence to reason can also produce mistakes.
Example from my own life: I believed. during limerence madness in my 20s, that limerence was the last word on my sexual orientation. And people who didn’t agree with me were … well … pick your favourite British colloquialism of the non-polite variety. (My strong emotions, in other words, were colouring my reality – and everybody else in my social circle better toe the line, or else!) 😊
Now I see that limerence was a (largely unconscious) addiction to one specific person. That one specific person happened to have a Y chromosome, just like me, but he also had a strong androgynous appeal. I was fascinated by his seeming lack of a definitive sex, by his ability to ignore gender whenever it suited him. Post-limerent conclusion: my true sexual orientation remains unknown. Limerence can’t tell me what my “true” sexual orientation is. Limerence is obsession with a single person, and not attraction to an entire sex per se.
I also believed, during the peak of limerence, that all human males must harbour limerent feelings for other males, since I did, and they were just hiding these attractions to be annoying, or some such. This is obviously untrue, and it’s the reason why gay men are sometimes so unpopular among straight male peers.
However, before we come down too hard on gay men for processing information about their social environment incorrectly, many young heterosexuals fall into a different but related delusion i.e. the belief that all females must be limerent for some male and that all males must be limerent for some female, when in fact many people don’t experience romantic obsession for anybody at all!! 😉
“Conventions of behaviour were simply rituals, followed by unthinking people.”
Good golly! Has somebody been reading my diary? While limerent, I’m sure I replayed this thought over and over again in my head. I actually thought all the non-limerent people in my life had without my knowledge signed up to some cult, since they were all doing the same thing, and nobody had invited me to join said cult! How rude! (They were all dating, getting married, having babies, buying prams and nappies, and enjoying mundane family life in the suburbs – highly suspicious, shocking, abnormal, cult-like behaviour I’m sure you’ll agree!) 🤣
“For most limerents, the emotional connection to their limerent object has a sense of the numinous. It really does feel extraordinary, profound, exhilarating and elemental. How you interpret that experience depends upon the way you view the world.”
I think it’s hard for many people, yours truly included, to accept that “numinous feelings” are simply the result of brain chemicals acting up. For example, if one is raised is a religious household, one grows up with the belief that the numinous is something objective that one supposedly finds “out there”, in the world. A romantic poet might find the numinous when standing on a mountaintop, contemplating the beauty of nature, for instance. A devout religious person could be reasonably expected to find the numinous in church. And so on.
That fact that limerents find a sense of the numinous in another person must seem a bit on the nose to many non-limerents. How can another human being possibly supply all those wonderful feelings? And yet limerents are firmly convinced that their LO is the source of all their joy and all their sorrow…
Increasingly, I am coming to see limerence as “unfinished business with Mummy”. What does this mean? Well, I think the first great love affair all human beings have is with one’s own mother. And no mother is perfect. All mothers let their children down in some way. There’s always unfinished business of some description…
I don’t think it matters whether one’s LO is a male or a female. I think an LO functions as a kind of symbolic mother to the limerent. That’s why the draw between limerent and LO is so powerful – in some ways, it mirrors the draw between mother and infant. Basically, I think the limerent is looking for a more perfect version of Mummy (Mummy 2.0 perhaps?) in order to finish the separation-individuation process with Original Mummy, if the separation-individuation process with Original Mummy is incomplete.
At Neurosparkle, Lucy suggests that limerents adore the version of themselves that LO allows them to be. As a young person, I was shy, quiet, anxious, intensely self-conscious. Around LO, I was still shy, quiet, anxious, intensely self-conscious. In fact, I probably become even more shy, quiet, anxious, self-conscious. So LO didn’t give me a marvellous, shiny, new version of myself that I adored…
However, I think I did feel like a carefree child around my LO at times. He didn’t saddle me with age-inappropriate responsibilities the way my real-life mother did. So, yes, maybe my LO, despite being a male, was Mummy 2.0 and I felt like I was getting a second chance at happiness, a free do-over on my childhood. In other words, I got to be a child again – only this time with a less clingy, less neurotic, less demanding, more fun-loving, more self-confident maternal figure.
In sum, I think LOs are stand-ins for our mothers in some ways and that’s why we objectify them so readily and feel like they “belong to us” and “owe us something” even when they clearly don’t. This is also why rejection from LO hurts so much. In premodern societies, rejection or severe neglect by mother would almost always mean disaster for infant. 🤔
I think you’ll find that many gay men who remain closeted for some time naturally assume that gay sexuality has a higher frequency in the population because they have little way of gauging how ‘straight’ vs ‘closeted’ the people around them are. After all they know that THEY are/have been in the closet, so what about others?
The purpose of the closet is to conceal, after all. Hence it is homophobia which conceals the true frequency of same sex attraction (which is probably covered by a spectrum of behaviour). Some (in my experience a small number) of gay men do seem to make presumptions about how straight some other men are (so do some straight people). Then again, there are still certain places, apps, venues etc. Where ostensibly ‘straight’ men… Have sex with other men, so there’s certainly a % of straight presenting men who are bisexual/gay/queer and in the closet.
I suspect long-term closeted men will have a better gaydar then some others, such as myself I came out at 15, took some repercussions and got on with it.
I’m not sure I buy it as limerence. Sounds a lot like, I think I made a mistake getting married and having children. I need my freedom back that I am realizing right now at an almost mid life point I gave up starting a family.
It’s fine that it happens. Yeah you only live once, enjoy your life, be happy, etc etc. But how would this have played out if the husband hadn’t been as willing as he was? Would we think any less of her if he hadn’t been willing? Would she be a selfish homewrecker?
I think the circumstances make it more palatable for readers because it “all worked out in the end”. Now if I posted here I ran off with LO because she out of nowhere disclosed the same feelings I have how many of you would be as kind to me as Agnes? There’s a difference between limerence and lust. I am fighting myself and for my marriage over a woman that probably doesn’t have a second thought of me. On a DAILY basis. NINE months now since the last time I saw her. That’s not the bliss of limerence this woman seems to make it sound like. I think it’s just plain unhappiness with her life and she tries to “philosohize” it as something more meaningful to justify it.
My saving grace is LO is not interested in me. Never was outside of being a co-worker. I stare the problems in our marriage right between the eyes while being accused of a PA and/or EA with LO by my wife while trying to understand limerence myself much less trying tell my wife what it is while not trying to justify these feelings for another woman to her. Yes it is good Agnes was honest and up front with her husband and didn’t go have an affair or any kind. But when I looked my wife in the eyes and told her that I am having intense feelings for another woman other than her, and not see the hurt in her eyes ….. I’m sorry it hits me differently. I want to pass through this and never have it happen again and this woman makes it out like a fairy tale.
Not judging what she did. Everyone deserves to be happy. And sometimes we don’t make all the right decisions in life. And when we realize that sometimes others get hurt in the wake of our change. But lets not make it what it isn’t. She wanted this man and that was that. Just because he reciprocated doesn’t mean it is some cosmic destiny. I know I am sounding bitter and shitty, but this is just lust and not limerence or love even to me. At least that is my feeling. I maybe in the minority in this.
I don’t have positive feelings towards Agnes either, that is why I didn’t say anything. But I do think she experienced limerence which I understand to be a neurochemical reaction to a person.
Even if it was limerence that’s still not an excuse for bad behavior nor more than being drunk or high. In my opinion she engaged in bad behavoir, or at the very least, selfish behavior, manipulated a young man and broke up a family all to get her way. This whole account rubs me the wrong way. She relates the events of this encounter as a force beyond her control than pats herself on the back all the while sharing this publicly when it should have been kept quiet at least for the sake of the family she abandon just to stroke her ego. But I’m going to stop otherwise I’ll post something I shouldn’t.
“But lets not make it what it isn’t. She wanted this man and that was that. Just because he reciprocated doesn’t mean it is some cosmic destiny.”
You called it, Adam.
Eye role says
Did either of you read the article? She didn’t break up her family at all. All three adults still live and work together. They share parenting responsibilities, teach classes together and have-by all accounts a happy family. Her ex husband has publicly spoken many, many times about the joy of their different family structure.
As far as taking advantage of a younger man- sort of. He was a PHD candidate and not that much younger in terms of age. As soon as they realize they had feelings for each other, they disclosed to the department head, and she recused herself of any supervision. They were both extremely honest to both her now ex husband and the university.
To be honest, I read comments every single day on this blog about men who are supervising younger women, lusting after them, texting them, getting their egos stroked and still continuing to supervise them.
In terms of limerence- sure. That’s what it sounded like at first- but they’ve been together leading an incredibly full life for a long time now. She is a fascinating thinker, writer and philosopher.
I would say she is definitely leading a meaningful, responsible life.
Thanks for your comment, Eye role. I love your screen name, by the way.
I read the article. I don’t see the “happy family” the author portrayed. I see a recipe for disaster that was created by a selfish woman. Time will tell. And perhaps I would feel differently if I saw more articles from the family. I don’t judge the men who lust after younger LO’s and continue to supervise them, but I can see why you do. I think actions matter more than thoughts and feelings. I admire anyone who overcomes an internal struggle to do the right thing. The men you speak of are trying to do right by their SO and LO. They come here to get support for a struggle that is taboo.
Oh yes, I read the article. I thought what self-indulgence. I also went to read that previous article she wrote (referenced by someone earlier in this comments section) on her views of the Eros monster. She contacted her LO’s SO and expected something positive to come of it!
This is a person who does not mind throwing hand grenades into people’s lives, feels entitled to do so, and expects to be admired for it. Which obviously lots of people do. Including that exceedingly unusual ex-husband of hers.
I predict you a prediction: sometime in the future we are going to see a third article by Agnes where she blows up her current family structure in the name of her further enlightenment.
Limmy, will you post a link to the other article? I couldn’t find it.
Here you go, Lovisa:
The first thing that tripped me up was her immediate thought of herself when LO told her “I THINK I love you”. That right there should have been the indicator to a responsible adult that this is a precarious situation that should be handled delicately. He’s not even sure of his own feelings. But what road did she take?
I have never tried to manipulate LO (even when she was single) by telling her these feelings I had for her even when I didn’t know what limerence even was. I have disclosed (since the discovery of this community) my limerence to my wife in order to try and work through this together.
I fight every single day to say and do the right things. When I wonder if I should say or do something I consider my wife, LO and LO’s partner and how it would/will affect them. Sure I didn’t ask for limerence but LO didn’t ask to be LO. My wife doesn’t deserve this. If their happiness and contentment are at my discomfort so be it.
And until we are privy to what actually goes on behind closed doors all those testimonials mean nothing. She threw her family out in the public spotlight. So what are they suppose to do? If he loves his wife than he will do what makes her happy even if it is at his own discomfort. If the children love their mother than they will stay by her side while she has her cake and eats it too.
Any person in here reading these comments that is married or in a monogamous committed relationship think for a moment if your spouse came home with news of infatuation with a young man/woman and wants them to come live in the same house with you and your possible children how you would react. Would you be as forgiving as some people here are with Agnes?
I criticize this woman for her selfishness with wanting both and I get countered with men with younger LOs. No matter the gender of the limerent or LO we should all be on the same page and doing the selfless thing with our limerence. Limerence isn’t a foundation on which to build a solid relationship for the future. It is a high. It’s a drug and when we feel it, it is amazing. She put him on a pedestal and devalued her husband right to his face. That he stays either shows he loves her more than she does him, or he wants to try and keep a semblance of a normal home for the sake of his children. Because he’s NOT selfish.
And if you analyze the structure of what happened, the reason why her family remains intact is not because of what she did, but because her husband decided to accept it, in a rather atypical way, which is far more unusual than her post philosophizing and self justification (so common, just not everyone cloaks it with the aura of Aristotle). She’s just lucky he’s that way, or maybe she’s just very clever and persuasive.
I speak as a woman who herself has decided to divorce. It is not a matter to be taken lightly. It is not something I step on a plane, decide on an impulse mid air, and then announce to my parents before I let my SO know first. There is honesty, and then there is sheer insensitivity and a lack of respect. Divorce is something you think about for years possibly, try everything you can to avoid, especially when they are children involved. It is not something you do just because you fell for someone else (not for very long either, if you look at the timeline she is describing, she did not suffer the months and years of torture described by so many limerents I see here on LwL). I agree with them that limerence alone is not a good enough reason to end a marriage, have an affair, whatever. Divorce is a decision you reach when you have tried everything and it just doesn’t work anymore, and to segue with the purposeful life message in LwL, when you realize it truly no longer is purposeful for yourself, your SO, and your children.
If there is one thing I do not see here on LwL it is recognition that divorce can sometimes be purposeful. There is (understandably, considering the demographics of this site) a bias towards staying together no matter what. But considering about half of marriages end in divorce, you cannot realistically or fairly say that many people do not lead purposeful lives just because they are divorcees. It’s not what you do, but the reason you it for.
My heart goes out to you, Limmy. I know you aren’t taking your divorce lightly.
Limerent Emeritus says
I read the article. It reads like a screenplay for a Woody Allen movie. A Jewish university professor with a complicated love life. Nothing we haven’t seen before. Maybe Anges can fund a 729 for the kids selling the rights.
Woody plays Arnold, Diane Keaton plays Agnes. I don’t know who plays Ben.
I got the vibe that Agnes is one of those people who’s chronically dissatisfied. Philosophy sounds like a great way to handle any cognitive dissonance that might carry with it.
The more cognitive dissonance you overcome, the more profound you appear.
Love the casting, LE.
Eye role says
Those are your stories. Your divorce took you years and years to consider. You struggle with thoughts of your LO for nine months and struggle with staying faithful in your mind. We know all the details because you repeat your story over and over again.
Agnes and her husbands chose a different life. A life- that by all accounts has turned out pretty well. Maybe she is dissatisfied with aspects of her life- but seriously who isn’t? From the amount of groaning on this website it would seem that most people have things that they are dissatisfied with.
The three of them have been very, very public with this story- I don’t think her first husband is unhappy with his choices at all. He loves his family and new partner- and has been very clear things worked out for the best.
Obviously- their family and choices are unusual and wouldn’t work for most people. But the fact that it does work for them makes their story interesting.
I appreciate this discussion, Eye role. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
It is obvious that we are all approaching this through a different moral framework, and hence our different takes on Agnes’ actions.
I refer everyone back to Dr. L’s very recent post of Feb 11, on ‘Morality’:
In it Dr. L states that: “Once you understand the roots of these moral differences, it becomes a lot easier to understand how good people can disagree so vociferously – not least because they are operating on different definitions of “good”. I’m not interested in debating whose moral foundations are correct – the internet proves how unproductive that is – so let’s just agree that both sides have merit.”
I might just observe that vociferous difference of opinion is great; but it is not useful to phrase dissent in ad hominem terms. There are few things that rile me up as that sort of reasoning, as it smacks of bullying (in my subjective moral judgment, and I apologize if I am being too blunt) or at the very least rudeness (again my subjective view). Comments like “Did either of you read the article?” (answer: yes, but we came to a different conclusion from you, please don’t assume that just because we do not think like you we did not read it) or pointing at people’s personal “stories” and being aggressive about it (request: please be kind, people are being vulnerable here and going through a very hard time). I contrast it with the painfully polite way others have tried to express themselves in this comment thread even when they did not approve of Agnes (who by the way, I am assuming is not hanging out here at LwL and reading about our responses to her tale).
There is also one other possibly salient point. Agnes says she is on the autism spectrum (obviously high-functioning). This might be part of the context of how she responded to the entire matter. Her response therefore might seem shocking to some; and exhilaratingly liberated (from norms) to others.
(And please don’t think I am attacking people on the spectrum; many of my nearest and dearest are on the spectrum; incidentally two are PhDs like Agnes. What I do know is that if you love someone on the spectrum, you need to be understanding and tolerant of some quirks. Which is why I point to the ex-husband as an important factor in how this story unfolded – it could not have happened if he had not navigated her response the way he did. Whether it is a happy ending depends less on what is said than what is in his heart I suppose, and none of us will ever really know that.)
Eye Role says
I enjoy reading your analysis and assumed you had read the article. I actually always like your post- you are a great writer.
However, I think some people- at best- skimmed the article. Then they used this post as yet another chance to stand on their soap box and trash a truly fascinating individual.
It would be so much more interesting if people engaged more with the ideas of the article. Here is an example of limerence that did not play out the way most peoples’ stories play out on this website. Isn’t that more interesting to discuss that than a comparison of how one feels about their own situation? Would I ever want to live or be treated like Agnes- absolutely not. However, I do think her family works for her, her children, her ex husband and her current husband.
I find that interesting. Not everything needs to fit into a one size fits all box.
As for tone- yes- I understand that people are suffering. Limerence can be horrible. I know that. However, this article and blog post was more of an intellectual discussion. I really would hope that people are a little more thick skinned than that.
It seems like recently, many people on this site just retell their story over and over again. Maybe this is cathartic for them? Maybe they are getting support? Great. I hope it does make them feel better. Although- maybe it would be better to keep some of that in a personal journal.
However, what I like most about this site is how Dr. L looks at limerence from a more academic lens. I wish ideas could be discussed without a constant reference to ones own personal experiences.
In general, the commentators on LWL are thoughtful and give great advice. It wish there was little more of that lately. I do think some people need to take a bit more responsibility for changing their circumstances instead of just restating how hard limerence.
No offense intended- but you were blunt, and I am as well.
@ Eye Role
And no offense taken (at least not by me!) Thank you for taking the trouble to explain your view on what is happening regarding the comments sections. I really appreciate that. I have heard – and not just from you – that some people are getting frustrated by hearing the same problems and stories. And I was quite interested to hear how this was quite a unique development on LwL that regular commentators have formed a cadre (I love that word, and hadn’t heard it used for years).
I wonder if it coincides with the fact that the LwL forum was recently shut down. That might have been where people brought their specific stories to be discussed in detail in the past. But because that is now no longer an option – and because commentators cannot reach out specifically to another commentator except through a “to all” comment that is read by everyone – well, everyone gets to read messages that are obviously for just a few people. It’s a little tricky to balance the needs of the people who need the support, and those who would rather discuss a topic that Dr. L wrote about. The comments section now functions like a support group AND also to comment on blog posts. I guess since Dr. L has reiterated that all are welcome, we might just need to accept what is posted, and just skip reading what we are not interested in?
Now, since you are obviously quite interested in the alternative lifestyle represented by Agnes & co. I’m quite happy to explore this! (ask and you shall receive, hehe) Putting aside our various moral views of her pursuit of happiness, it IS interesting how they have arranged matters. TBH (and you have probably noticed this) her husband fascinates me more than she does. Many of the limerents here on LwL are very much focussed on not blowing things up with their SOs, and here is an SO who embraced the coming of an LO into their lives. You mentioned the ex-husband has commented publicaly on this extensively – are there any available links to his view of things?
I have noticed nowadays, there are more fluid definitions of relationships AND there is sometimes an additional layer of fluid gender roles and diverse sexual preferences layered a top of that as well. Just as how interracial love and same-sex relationships have changed the face of what “is” a relationship, I am seeing many other factors being given a second glance (as so they should) – an example that you bring up – age disparity, and not just going one way gender-wise. (By the way, 35 and 27 – pish, that’s nothing! And she recused herself, so that’s taken care of that.)
There’s also been a push back, or at least an exploration of monogamy, the institution of marriage, and how evolutionary psychology and neuroscience hit up against cultural constructs. What wins the day? There are more recognized inputs than the morality we are fed on our mothers’ knees. Just the sheer variety of potential answers cause unease.
In Agnes’ case, I think she had no idea how it would turn out – it is just that she had a very strong view that she just HAD to behave according to her feelings. Dr. L says “It comes down to the trustworthiness of internal thoughts and feelings.”
I would say therefore, that her philosophizing is about her impulse, rather than the effect of her impulse. Meaning that she would do exactly what she did, whether or not her family imploded or not. It just turned out that it didn’t – but for many families, it would have. And for Agnes, in her purity, that is inconsequential. (Which is why again, her SO interests me – his reaction to her is what chose the path their amazing arrangement is on.)
So much of the discussion on LwL is about our LOs; but the LO often (not always, but more often than not) is a problem and causes us limerents such anguish because of an SO. The LO actually exists in the shadow of the SO. So, perhaps our questions regarding the situation in this article should not be “what did Agnes do” but more about – should the role of an SO be redefined, and can it? If all our SOs would welcome our LOs with open arms, we would be “living the dream”, as Allie put it. Now, do what Adam invited us to do, and ask ourselves when WE are the SO; can we do exactly what Agnes’ SO did? And SHOULD we? So that people can live authentically and honestly (like Agnes, bless her). So they don’t have to be conflicted and suffer as so many of our fellow limerents have suffered. So our children can have intact families. So much is placed on the LIMERENT as the one to change, modify, deprogram … but this triangle has three points. SO-LIMERENT-LO. A “give” on any one of those points will cause change. When we focus on the limerent or LO changing, we are still playing within the confines of the social construction of Marriage. When we ask SOs to change their expectations – ah, that is when the true revolution begins.
Another interesting article and more info.
Eye role says
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This was exactly what I was hoping for with this blog post. Forgive me for not responding more fully as it is actually quite late where I live! I would like to reread your words in the morning before fully responding.
One question I had about the husband/divorce is would things have gone the way they did had Ben not so quickly agreed to separate. If I am remembering correctly, he agrees to the divorce the very next day. I’m intrigued by this. What was it about their dynamic or way of thinking that opened the door to what I would characterize as pretty extreme behavior. The parents were baffled, their friends were baffled and yet, to them it made sense. If Ben hadn’t wanted a divorce would the whole story be very different? Would Agnes allowed herself to be transformed by limerence had Ben been resistant? She acts completely selfishly, completely follows her id- and yet- by living her truth they seem to make it work. As far as considering how we would feel in Ben’s shoes- I’m not sure that is the point. I think it is clear the majority of people would be devastated. I think that is a given. I don’t want to put myself in Ben’s shoes because that doesn’t help me understand his choices or his way of thinking. Does that make sense?
I will say that as a child of divorce I have witnessed first hand how a marriage can end and things can still turn out fine- better than fine- actually really, really great. Maybe this is another reason why I find this story interesting.
“There’s also been a push back, or at least an exploration of monogamy, the institution of marriage, and how evolutionary psychology and neuroscience hit up against cultural constructs. What wins the day? There are more recognized inputs than the morality we are fed on our mothers’ knees. Just the sheer variety of potential answers cause unease.”
–I keep coming back to the word, “unease.” It’s the perfect word. I really want to think about this and also how this relates to limerence. For me, “unease” describes a LE to a t. Unease over being found out. Unease over not hearing from LO. Unease over not controlling one’s thoughts… the list could go on. Why does Agnes provoke such strong responses from people- when by all accounts the people around her seem to be as ok as most adult I know. I think you are really nailing this on the head.
“A “give” on any one of those points will cause change. When we focus on the limerent or LO changing, we are still playing within the confines of the social construction of Marriage. When we ask SOs to change their expectations – ah, that is when the true revolution begins.”
The key word for me in this quote is “ask.” I’m actually thinking about this more broadly than an affair or a relationship with a LO. What would it mean to ask a SO to change their expectations of what a marriage would look like? I think people do a lot of silently changing things or demanding things change- but very little asking.
Sometimes I think my most recent LE was really just a way of me transforming things about my life. I didn’t want an affair. I didn’t want to blow up my marriage- but there were things that I really needed to deal with.
Wow. So many things to think about. I really appreciate this conversation.
Last nascent thought- is living a responsible life basically defined by how other people (you love, are close to, etc.) react to your choices?
Again- my parents divorced. They could have stayed together for the sake of us kids. It was hard and very painful for many years. But… in the end- I am so grateful for their choice to divorce. I would even argue that they made the “responsible” decision. Their lives both took interesting twists and turns. My life and the lives of my siblings have also taken interesting twists and turns.
But what if I felt the opposite? Is the fact that we all “turned out alright” is what defines the morality of my parents’ decision?
What is a responsibility to a spouse? To a child? To a friend?
Time for bed.
Limmy- your response really made my day. Good night.
Limerent Emeritus says
I’ll start this by saying that I don’t see Anges as a “truly fascinating individual.” My personal frame of reference sees her as stereotypical, likely liberal & tenured academic living in a cloistered world. All the principals in the story are. Certain environments, e.g., first responders, tenured academics, military units, etc., seem to form almost hive-like communities. You’re either in it, or you aren’t. That’s not good or bad, it just is.
Following the discussion, to me it looks like some posters view Agnes is an icon to be admired, envied, and possibly emulated. Other posters see psych major’s thesis in this story.
As adults with agency, they can live their lives as they choose within some boundaries. They’ve chosen an unconventional arrangement. That may make them unique but not necessarily worthy of endorsement or admiration. Unless you have skin in a game like this, you could probably care less about Agnes’ arrangement. Since her experience is vastly different from mine, I don’t find much interesting in her story.
For attachment limerents, limerence is all about relationship triangles. Agnes’ triangle is unique in that it works for them. As noted in other posts, Ben was the key to making it work.
In the end of it all none of us will really know how it went. The most qualified news caster can go to an accident scene and report what he/she can report based on what those involved in the accident tell him/her. The truth? No one will know if those involved don’t tell the truth. And how often do we tell our stories (as has been so well pointed out with commentators here) with a bias?
Academically speaking if it really works out for all parties involved than truly it doesn’t matter what we think. In the same vein it doesn’t matter what is reported as none of us will really know what is in the heart of each party involved and why they reacted and took to the situation the way they did. Each party had a stake in the situation and each had a decision to make weighing in for each of them what the benefits were.
Maybe ex-husband has insecure attachment issues and being second party to another man was better than being alone. Maybe he didn’t want his children to grow up without their mother so this was a better alternative than taking his children and trying to raise them himself. What we realistically (not morally) have to recognize is that in this situation that played out she got everything she wanted. So her motives are suspect to me. And not even from a moral stance, but from a logical stance. Once she had new boy on her fishing hook, she played everything else out to her benefit. And why not? If she felt she could steer the situation to her benefit, why wouldn’t she?
And pointing out that limerence is not a state of mind to act on (yes perhaps using my own experience wasn’t the right litmus) to build a relationship. No one runs out and marries (or at least shouldn’t) some random person they develop a crush on. None of us would feel too much remorse for a relationship that falls apart because two people got drunk and married in Vegas. And limerence isn’t too far a stretch from intoxication from alcohol.
Alternative relationships and how we view them being pliable or not (as Limmy pointed out) aren’t what is the point here, to me anyway. It is that no one but Agnes had a rudder to steer in this situation. She capsized the boat and everyone else, even including the new boy, had to react. And when you are drowning in a rapids river you are going to make desperate decisions, not the ones that you would if you were still inside the boat.
Sorry that his whole situation reeks of selfishness to me, autism aside. Because limerence is no excuse either. We all own our actions. Or for god’s sake please should. And she hasn’t. And maybe some day down the road she will have to when reality hits her fantasy in the face. To be clique; only time will tell.
And with that I apologize for taking this personally and will try to be more practical (of which I usually am) in the face of discussion.
Limerent Emeritus says
Maybe Agnes arrangement will stand the test of time. My bet is that it won’t but I tend to drop on the cynical side of the fence. From what I picked up from the articles, she’ll be the one who drives its demise.
What I think would be fascinating is to run a longitudinal study of the future relationship patterns of the kids in the story to see how they turn out and validate or refute some accepted ideas of Attachment Theory. $5 says that they’re going to have significant relationship turmoil later on. I accept PayPal or Venmo.
You could follow this over generations. There’s a gold mine in this story.
Hmm. Maybe the ex husband also was not so happy in the marriage anymore. Maybe that was the reason why he so quickly decided that he supported the idea of divorce.
Limerent Emeritus says
Marriage is as much a legal contract as is a social contract.
The article said they retained their joint bank accounts. I don’t remember if it talked about other assets.
I’m not a lawyer but it seems the primary benefits of the divorce is any new debt goes to the individual and unless there’s a power of attorney, Ben and Agnes can no longer make decisions for each other as spouses.
Ben might be a lot smarter than we think. He slowly cuts the legal ties and moves when he’s ready. He may just be biding his time. Being legally divorced gives him options he didn’t have when he was married.
Allie 1 says
I do not have any particular feelings for Agnes, and I neither endorse nor disapprove of her choices and actions. I would personally make a different choice but I think in that scenario there is no right or wrong path to take. The situation, people, values, etc are too finely nuanced for that. Using adjectives such as “selfish” or “homewrecker” seem excessively judgmental to me. Should a woman always choose to put the happiness of her husband and children before her own? Surely her life is equally important to theirs, and thus taking the actions required to get your deeper needs met, and avoid prolonged suffering does not make someone selfish, so long as they consider others in the process.
Our cultural scripts tell us that staying with a spouse forever is always the right thing to do but why? With a certain mindset, what is wrong with going from one LTR to another. We should not live our life purely for the benefit of others. You don’t need to abandon ex’s along the way, your relationships can naturally flow from one type to another as you all grow and change. More fluidity in relationships is no a bad thing if you do it in an ethical and considerate way. This is certainly not for everyone of course but that is the point isn’t it. We should allow people to live by different scripts to our own without deeming them “bad” or “wrong”.
I was very interested to note that Agnes once suffered from a 4 year LE during which things got so bad for her that she considered suicide. Let’s imagine she decided to turn away from Arnold and stay in her monogamous relationship with Ben. Based in her history, I suspect she would go full throttle into another long, tortuous and suicidal LE. I can totally understand her wanting to avoid that fate! Also noting that Ben actively encouraged her to divorce him – maybe he wanted avoid being married to someone in limerence for another, and maybe he wanted another shot at love too. I am sure he had no difficulty finding someone new!
I can concede the ex husband as he is a grown man and can understand the situation even if he doesn’t agree with it entirely. And as it has been pointed out maybe ex husband has his own agenda and reasons for hanging out for the time being for his own benefit. I can give that.
What I can’t give is what this woman has put her children through. If you can’t do what you feel is better for your children than yourself, perhaps you shouldn’t be a parent. I am by no means the perfect father but I have always tried to do what is best for my boys. And their mother too. And as L.E. pointed out there is no telling how much this situation will carry on into their adult life and effect their overall quality of life because of their mother.
I hate this limerence. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I want to get through it and be over it. It’s not fair to my wife. It’s not fair to my children. It’s not fair to LO. Why anyone would embrace this damnation much less publicly condone and advocate for it I will never know. For people who don’t know what limerence is, to read her account will get the absolute opposite view of limerence they should. Or at least to understand it from the academic angle as Dr L does so well at.
My duty as a husband and father is to do what is best for our boys. I willingly took both roles when I married and when we had children. Those are conscious decisions that shouldn’t be taken lightly. And I think that she is acting very irresponsibly as a parent, even if I am to pardon her as a wife. I have no problem with alternate arrangements for relationships IF all parties involved are truly content with it and will benefit from it.
Why do you think that single parents struggle so hard? Why is it alternate relationships like homosexual couples can flourish when raising children? Because it doesn’t matter if two men or two women raise children when they truly are looking out for the children’s best interest. If they truly love the children than they will blossom. It’s harder for single parents because of the work load. LO is a single mother raising her two daughters. And she is one of most amazing women I have seen when it comes to her determination to raise her daughters the best that she can. I have really never see the amount of strength I have in her in most single parents. But I have also seen her panic in situations that went the wrong way and she had no one to turn to. I helped her out as best I could in those situations but I really couldn’t fathom what she goes through on a day to day basis as a single mother.
Parenting by it’s definition is a two partner job. Is abandoning (at least possibly in her children’s eyes) ex husband going to effect them? Is new boy as their father going to effect them? Are these things she thought about before totally abandoning reason and embracing her limerence? My impression is “no” to all these questions. And that’s telling to me as to the person she is.
Just to add, my very not sober self, brought up this topic while enjoy the nice weather on the porch with my wife last night.
It’s the first time since I found this place that I mentioned my limerence again to her. I told her how I could not understand how Agnes could embrace her limerence like she did while I fight mine everyday. I told her that I was sorry for it. She seemed really calm about it compared to last time. She said nothing either way, upset or understanding. She did agree with me that she thought that Agnes did not do the right thing for her children at least, even if ex husband was willing to be in the position that he was/is.
It’s very difficult to discuss my limerence with her. I don’t think that she is uncaring or angry anymore, just maybe confused as to how I can be this way about another woman. But I am hoping that she will be able to at least come to terms with it until it passes. I guess it is a lot like her trying to explain her behavior and mood when it comes to her bipolar to me. And I always try to be understanding and tolerant even if it plays out in a negative manner with what she says and does.
But I think I saw some forgiveness in her eyes when I told her that I am as sorry as I am to her as I am to LO for this. It’s only the second time in almost two years that I have said LO’s name and not gotten a negative reaction from her. I don’t know where this limerence will take me. And I don’t know how long my wife is willing to tolerate it, but I feel some solace in the fact that it was a pleasant and calm discussion. Perhaps we can both get through this and perhaps be stronger for it. But I fear that LO will never leave my mind. Not because I don’t fight to do so, but because she is just that much to me. Or I’m just weak.
Limerent Emertitus says
“But I fear that LO will never leave my mind. Not because I don’t fight to do so, but because she is just that much to me.”
Give that some time. Right now, your LO is that much to you but that doesn’t mean she always will be. Trust me on this one. I’ll never forget my LOs. LO #2 was the central figure in my life for 5 years. I lost my virginity to LO #1. LO #3 and LO #4 were footnotes.
When it comes to limerence, I think I’m at my pre-LO #2 level. I understand things and I know what to look out for. Also, my marriage is now in a place where I’m not questioning many of my life decisions. The latter was huge.
“Or I’m just weak.”
Getting over limerence is hard. Your drinking and your marriage pose two very formidable challenges. But, they don’t have to be insurmountable challenges. I have no credentials but I have a lot of experience dealing with alcoholics.
From the way you post, you really want to do the right thing. What you’re looking at is overwhelming. This is where a professional might really help you. You work on one problem at a time. When you’re faced with multiple challenges, it’s hard to know where to start and harder to maintain focus. IMO, the ability to maintain focus is central in transcending limerence. With limerence, it’s so easy to lose focus. Eyes on the prize. You’re not running the 100M dash, you’re running hurdles. It’s one thing to deal with after another.
You can’t manage a forest when you’re so close to the trees that all you see is bark. That’s where the pro comes in. It will take time and work but your posts indicate you’re willing and capable. You need the right help. A few breaks going your way wouldn’t hurt. It’s nice when you get them but you can’t rely on those.
I’ll take your word for that L.E. It doesn’t seem like it now, but I hope that I will get there one day with LO.
I also think concentrating on my marriage will help greatly to feel closer to my wife and happier in my marriage than I am now. I am trying to make that effort. When I am close to and with my wife I think of LO less. When I laid by her last night I didn’t think of LO at all. My wife didn’t bring up last night’s conversation either the whole evening. So I don’t know if that is good or bad. Is she still upset or is she just pondering it? I don’t know but it felt a great relief to talk about it with her.
I thank you for your advice L.E. and I will take into consideration about how and why to get some help with my issues. I hope either of you don’t take it the wrong way; but you and Miss Lovisa have helped me out a great deal and I thank you. L.E. you tell me what I need to hear and Miss Lovisa you tell me what I want to hear. You two are like both sides of the same coin of my conscience.
That is sweet, Adam. Thank you for your kind words. I agree that Limerent Emeritus shares helpful guidance with each of us. He recognized that he has limited ability to help you as a stranger on an anonymous forum and I think he is right about that, too. Both of us would like to see you seek professional help for alcohol use and marriage strengthening. Something is holding you back from contacting a professional. What is holding you back? Whatever it is, I am ready to hear your honest response. It is okay if you don’t know and it is okay if you disagree. I’m just curious.
I can relate to not wanting to seek professional help for a problem. My LO2 and his friend both think I should see a physical therapist for my knee injury. My knee is holding me back from running. It’s been almost two weeks since my last long run (it was so painful at the end and that was only 10 miles which wasn’t a big deal for me at that time). I haven’t done much running since. But I had a bad experience with a physical therapist and now I don’t trust them. I’ll take this opportunity to address the reasons I am avoiding physical therapy.
I don’t believe it will work.
I am afraid of getting a big bill.
I am afraid that the therapist will make a mistake and I will be worse off.
I am afraid of getting bad news, like maybe the therapist will tell me I can’t do distance running anymore.
I dread the process of figuring out which therapist takes my insurance, figuring out how much my out-of-pocket will cost and setting up the appointment. It sounds so daunting.
I want to see my primary care doctor first and I have an appointment with him next week.
Those are my reasons for avoiding a professional. Whew, that felt kind of good to voice out loud. I look forward to your response.
It’s the fantasy of LO that might not leave your mind. She represents getting your needs met. You associate her with feelings of successfully taking care of a woman. Men love taking care of women! Men love feeling successful! Your interactions with her met your need to be needed.
That’s my guess anyway.
But… yay that you and SO are connecting. That is huge!
MARCH 23, 2023 AT 5:24 PM
It’s the fantasy of LO that might not leave your mind. She represents getting your needs met.
Lovisa, you could not believe how helpful that was to take on board just now. I have been struggling today with feeling crazy over mourning so painfully for someone I know is mostly toxic and uncaring about me. I have guaranteed my LO no more contact and I won’t break that. The impulse to drive the 30 minutes it would take to ring her doorbell, is insane, though thanks to LWL I understand why it’s happening and why I cannot do it.
I’m glad I could help you, Mike. Hang in there. It will get better, but you will have good days and bad days. Tell me about your strategy for purposeful living. It will help a lot!
Im sitting on the floor while momma sleeps on the couch. I hold her hand. Maybe. Just maybe. You know. And youre right LO filled my needs. Really well.
MARCH 23, 2023 AT 11:13 PM
I’m glad I could help you, Mike. Hang in there. It will get better, but you will have good days and bad days. Tell me about your strategy for purposeful living. It will help a lot!
Hi Lovisa, thanks for the reassurance. My main stability comes from working on my novel which I have been writing for over a year. For some time LO was very helpful with feedback and editing ideas which hooked me in for much longer. Working on the book is triggering because of that, but my purposeful living is a determination to finish the novel and write the best story I can, despite losing a creative ally who was so bad for me emotionally. I have a character now who experiences limerence. If I keep writing I have purpose and dignity. I feel I lost a lot due to my behaviour with LO. Thanks again Lovisa for your support. Mike
Oh, that is good news, Mike. You have a worthwhile focus. Thank you for sharing it with me. Cool that you enjoy writing. It’s hard for me to sit still for long periods. Do you take breaks to move your body? No doubt writing reminds you of LO if she was helpful during the process. It sounds like you found a way to continue the creative process without her. Very cool!
Hi Lovisa, I park up in the countryside, walk two miles into the City alongside the river. Go into a cafe, write with two cups of strong coffee, no longer than 90 minutes or the creative writing edge goes, walk round town a bit and two miles back to the car. So plenty of body movement. I am in the same City as LO, in the danger zone, I had a good conversation with an Aisan lady, a stranger who runs a shop where I bought some pens earlier. We spoke about the problems of wanting to contact exes. I love random support from strangers and pay it back when I can. I hope you feel able to take the risk of getting your knee diagnosed and treated and that’s its a good outcome. Mike
Thanks for your concern about my knee. I really do need to grow up about it. I’ve already seen a doctor at the urgent care, but it isn’t improving. I’ll see my primary doctor next week.
Your writing day sounded lovely! I enjoy talking to strangers, too. Some of my favorite therapy sessions happened in airports.
“What is holding you back?”
When it comes to the addiction I am honestly just afraid to be sober. I have been drinking on a regular basis since before I legally could buy it. No matter what changes have happened in my life it has always stuck with me. Sobriety scares me.
As far as the marriage goes, one, like you mentioned, is the financial aspect of it. I have three people that depend on me. My wife and son at home. And our oldest in college. I am still financially responsible for him (what isn’t covered in his budget from his scholarship) so that can concentrate on college and not have to juggle his education and a job at the same time.
The other is I want my wife to be in on it. If I am honest with you Miss Lovisa if I went to therapy solo I would not be truthful. I would tell the therapist what they want to hear. It’s not that I am intentionally being that way, but I know that’s what I would do because I won’t expose myself to someone about some things. But if went to therapy together, I would have to be honest and open. And if I wasn’t my wife would call me out on it, as she should.
Opening up anonymously like here is easy for me to do, because there really is no consequence. If you guys and gals didn’t like what I said or called me out on something all I would have to do is stop posting here. No big deal. But in person to someone, whose reaction you are witnessing first hand and trying to determine what they think of you at that moment; scary. Because I feel more useful as a human being helping other people with their problems rather than address mine.
Holy cow, Adam! You are a brave man!
I understand that feeling of not wanting to be too open around the people who matter because the stakes are too high. You are correct that anonymous relationships are disposable (not that I want to cut anyone loose from LwL) it just feels safer to share when I know that if I cross a boundary with someone here, I don’t lose that much. I might lose a relationship with an anonymous person. I would be sad to lose some relationships here, to be honest. I miss Rufio. I missed Limmy while she was gone. There are some other commentators that I would miss, too. But of course that feeling of loss doesn’t compare to how hard it would be to lose a spouse if I said or did something wrong.
Your awareness about the risk that you might lie to a therapist is good. It is a step in the right direction. I have had so much therapy over the years (hundreds of hours) that I tend to go the other way. I tend to be honest when the socially correct thing to do is lie. Like when a stranger asks, “How are you?” Sometimes I tell them the truth and then I think, “Oh shoot! I did it again. I was supposed to say ‘fine.’ Nuts! Someday I will get this right!”
You are scared to be sober. Wow. Let’s take some deep breaths and take that thought in. That is big. You identified it and admitted it. That is big! I’m looking forward to Limerent Emeritus’s response. I think you took a leap in the right direction today. Wow! Adam, I have opened up to you about things that I didn’t think I could be honest about in real life and then after I discovered that it was safe to talk about on LwL, I actually talked to people in real life. You might do that, too. Wow, I am so impressed with your courage!
Limerent Emeritus says
“I’m looking forward to Limerent Emeritus’s response.”
This is getting way outside my comfort zone.
The only thing I’ll say and it relates more to Adam’s comment about couples counseling vice individual counseling is to repeat something I read.
In one of her works, I don’t remember which one, Dr. Marion Solomon says that when many couples with dysfunctional relationships enter therapy, the goal isn’t real change. The goal is to become comfortable in their current pathology.
I think that would extend to individuals as well.
Allie 1 says
Oh I so so agree with that!
Limerent Emeritus says
I really like Solomon’s work. A lot it is directed at clinicians so I didn’t understand a lot of it and it didn’t relate. But, what did relate was very helpful. You used to be able to find a lot of it free on the internet but it’s gone now.
When I was working through things with the EAP counselor, I showed her some of it.
Aftrer reading it, the EAP counselor said it was “old school” and said that there was now more advanced/refined material out there.
I told the EAP counselor that Solomon’s stuff worked for me. She said then we’d use it.
I found it interesting, and also a story of very privileged people. There are many who could not pull this off due to the way their lives are arranged. I am not going to be quick to judge the professor, I found it curious how she followed her heart, and the people in her life aligned to allow it, and several years later she wound up a bit disenchanted despite the strong conviction that she had to make the decisions she did.
My LO once stated that he wished we could “merge” our families. I understood completely, and also knew given our society, and the nature of our spouses, that it was never going to happen the way he envisioned that. It caused me to think of the rigidity of the “script” we are expected to follow when married with families and how there is room to love more than one parent, or more than one child or friend, but a lot of judgment around loving more than one person romantically, or having those feelings shift away from your partner and transition into something that is still love, but no longer romantic.
Divorce is presented as cutting that person off entirely, a situation where you have to reach a point of intense opposition, or have a solid enough reason for wanting to leave.
I think everyone did the best they could to accommodate each other here, and I found that admirable and rare, however, as I initially stated, the people involved are all privileged enough to pull it off.