Following on from last week’s post, I’ve been wondering about the circumstances and conditions that can push limerence into a descending spiral of addictive misery. It certainly seems to be true that there must be a reason why limerence can’t be simply consummated, if it’s really going to churn up the psychological silt and bring on the punishingly intrusive thoughts.
Most often, that reason is identified as uncertainty, but when I’ve talked about this in the past I’ve sort of used “barriers” and “uncertainty” interchangeably as impediments to disclosure and/or consummation. But I think there is a difference between these two ideas, which is worth exploring.
So the classic type of uncertainty that fuels limerence is mixed signals from an LO. You think they like you, and sometimes they say or do something that makes you sure, but then they cool off and act aloof and uninterested. Or they flirt with you, but then you see them flirting with someone else too, and so you wonder are they flirting with me because I’m me, or are they flirting with me because they’re a flirt? Or they say that they like you but also that – sigh – “you know, things are, like, really complicated at the moment, and anyway I’m a mess and you should stay away from me!”
The point here is that uncertainty about reciprocation comes from their behaviour, making it hard to judge how into you they are. This is a super potent driver for reverie. Hours of wasted brain time spent on replaying the last encounter with them (what they said, and how they acted, and what you said, and – d’oh! – if only you’d said something else!). Hours more rehearsing new things that you could say or do the next time you see them. Trying to find just the right tactics to get them to reveal the depth of their feelings, but without fully revealing your own feelings, obviously. Till you’re sure.
This is a perfect storm for crazy-making rumination, and also keeps them firmly front-and-centre in your mind.
Uncertainty itself is a kind of barrier, in that most people don’t feel confident to act until they have a better idea of how well reciprocated their feelings are. But actually, in principle, it’s a trivially-surmountable barrier. Because you can just ask LO directly.
Real barriers are of a different class. Here, there are external reasons why you cannot act. The commonest, of course, is that one or both of you are married. So, social, moral, personal and practical barriers prevent you from consummating any mutual feelings. Another barrier could be literal distance; if you are unable to connect with them except through electronic means. Or a language barrier. Or a religious barrier. Or a hostile family.
The reason that barriers are a different category from uncertainty, is that the impediment to consummation is imposed on you. You could be mutually limerent, but the barriers make you unable to act. It’s easy for this kind of conflict to slip into the “star-crossed lovers” archetype in the limerent’s mind, where onerous duty fights against burning desire. And we all know how reliably that scenario extinguishes mutual passion.
Another question follows: which of the two (uncertainty or barriers) is worse for deepening limerence? Obviously, it will depend on the limerent, but if I were a betting man I’d back barriers. It’s so easy to fall into romantic notions and archetypal stories, if you feel that there is a good possibility that you actually could have what your addicted subconscious is screaming for, if only you were free to act, if only your life had played out differently. And that “if only” leads to the next scenario…
3) Uncertain barriers
Divorce is a thing. So are affairs. Aside from death, there is no such thing as an insurmountable barrier to limerence. Barriers actually pit your moral sense against your deep drives; your Superego against your Id; your executive against your lizard brain. However you want to frame it, the point is that earlier life decisions, existing commitments – higher level goals – are in conflict with an emotional assault that is pushing you to pair-bond with someone new. Forbidden fruit. Your classic test of character.
Of course, this blurred category may also be externally imposed. If your LO is married, but attracted to you, they may be behaving erratically not because they are a flake, but because they feel guilty. The strength of most barriers is flexible, and so they sort of have uncertainty built in.
So what’s the answer?
I think it’s useful to discriminate between the “pure” uncertainty of a flaky LO and the complex uncertainty associated with external barriers, because it will help you understand what you are up against if you are trying to get over your limerence. Of course, you may be blessed with both problems, or maybe even a third scenario where you are not sure if you would want to be with LO, even if the barriers were removed. Maybe you’re the flake!
Regardless, the answer, of course, with crushing predictability, is purposeful living. Uncertainty evaporates if you make your own decisions with purpose. If LO is ambiguous, you are certain. If they carry on equivocating, then you need to move on and protect yourself from the life-sapping limbo of limerent reverie.
If there are barriers in your way, you decide which of your commitments are the most important to you, and act accordingly. And act with integrity. If your marriage is over, end it gracefully, and then see if LO is interested in the single version of you. If instead this fraternization with LO was just supposed to be a titillating diversion that has ended up going terribly wrong – well then acknowledge your poor choices, recommit to your marriage and get away from LO.
Problems that once felt like highly complicated and thorny dilemmas can turn out to be embarrassingly straightforward once you start being honest with yourself, and start acting with purpose.
Anonymous Limerent says
“Fizzled out in no time, with hardly any consequences”
I’ve never had a ‘barrier’ in an LE, but I have a question: Surely if barriers strengthen limerence, they can’t also abolish it? I mean, it either makes one obsess over LO more or it causes conflict internally, burning out limerence. Not both.
I’m not sure; if it is both, could someone please explain to me how?
Barriers definitely strengthen limerence. They do also cause internal conflict, but that would also tend to strengthen the limerence. So, ironically, barriers are a barrier to recovery.
Re. the caption “Fizzled out in no time, with hardly any consequences” – in case that’s the cause of confusion, it’s unadulterated sarcasm. A mainstay of my humour, I’m afraid.
Thank you for this post… In my case i think barriers created uncertainty and as the uncertainty goes slowly the barriers go slowly as well.
and the truth is it is a slippery slope because what was a red line before becomes excusable which is terrible..
Yeah, it’s even worse when your LO green lights you to do something stupid.
When I disclosed and LO #4 came back with “I had no idea. I’m flattered and might even be curious but circumstances are what they are.” Green light!!!
The 5yr old kid in my said, “Get outta my way, I got this!” The grown up me saw disaster coming. No scenario I came up with ended well. I was hoping LO #4 would end the acquaintance and I guessed wrong on that one. That put me in the position of having to end the LE or actively start lying to my wife.
I went as far as trying to find a way to get to LO #4 but there was no way I could swing a trip across the country to near her under a credible pretense. Everything I came up with had a lie in it somewhere. I had a trip that got me within about 200 miles but there was no way I could defend meeting LO #4 there. There just wasn’t.
The trip also had a layover about 50 miles from her but asking her to meet there was just as bad. I never told LO #4 that I got that close.
I could see my wife’s eyes glaze over when I told her. “You won’t believe this! LO #4 and I just happened to be in the same town the same week! What were the odds?” Or, “I sent LO #4 an email telling her I have a layover and she’s meeting me for lunch.” My wife is pretty trusting but she’s not stupid. Or, I could have tried to pull it off but I knew I wouldn’t be able to live with that guilt. I knew trying to keep that secret would drive me nuts and end up disclosing to my wife. The overall goal was to avoid damaging my marriage. I did something before I got married and I know how I respond when I do something I feel really guilty about later.
It was a classic double bind. If I asked LO #4 to meet me I betrayed my wife and it tells LO #4 I don’t have integrity, loyalty, or any of the qualities she appeared to value. I’d be no better than her cheating ex which was not the effect I was shooting for. It was no-win. I could either leave by the high road or the low road. I was leaving either way.
I thought I could find a line I could walk but I couldn’t. It took a few more pretty anxious months to realize that.
Hitting the nail on the head again, DrL! Feel like this was written just for me (like a lot of your posts, especially relating to mutual limerents). Barriers have definitely been the thing. Have definitely felt star-crossed. Meant to be but jinxed schedules. Bad timing. Distance. If we lived closer, I’m sure it would have gone from EA to PA, and then we’d have to learn who we are as gross and stupid humans, perhaps who we are as imperfect partners, and like you’ve suggested with consummation, it may have played itself out and died by now. Instead, we’ve spent the LE worshiping each other as god/goddess (sometimes literally when feeling REALLY silly) and the fantasy remained intact. It’s been a few weeks now of NC, with some light minimal communication (line checks on both our parts, I guess), and now feeling that this is something in my past – he’s an ex. Still think of him fondly and hope he’s well and worry just a tad, and yes I still imagine the flame could be fully reignited out of nowhere (“if it is/was ‘true love’ after all”), still look forward to hearing from him sometime, still have benign things I want to share or ask him (would love one day to have a real-real convo about his limerence experience and what he thinks about it), but these days I’m no longer in agony and my brain has so much more capacity for engaging with my actual life. Looking for passion in other places now. Thank you again, DrL, for helping us with all this. You’re a saint!
The numinous aspect of limerence can be really powerful.
I have a good friend who’s a faith-based LCSW. She actually knew LO #2 when we were dating. I sent her the 13 page history of the relationship. She provided a lot of insight. At the risk of bringing religion into the mix, one of the things she said was:
“It’s not that it couldn’t have worked for you two. God can work miracles. In your case, He chose not to.”
I find that comforting. Things are as they should be. For me, to be available to pursue LO #4 would take a calamity on the scale of Job.
My most recent and intense limerent episode received what I assume will be its death blow this week. My LO came to town and texted asking me to meet him and someone who turns out to be his new girlfriend. I forced myself to go so I would have closure and actually have a visual to make myself believe it’s over. Up until six weeks ago we have spent the last several years in constant, often daily communication… When he comes to town he brings me lovely gifts, he consulted me over his housing and business and even furniture decisions, he helped me with family issues and job issues, we have gone on vacations together, his family even invited me on vacation with them (without him) and when I disclosed a few years ago he said he was incredibly flattered but he had things to work out…. But he had considered it. This kept me living in hope… along with the frequent complements and generous and personal attention. A few times I tried to cut it off… Whenever I got the inkling he was interested in someone else… But he wasn’t having it. He pursued and pursued, pointing out he we need each other end how he’s been there for me during my most difficult times, until I capitulated and we were right back to being “besties”. Our mutual friends often asked us if we were dating…I would say “I don’t think do” but it sure felt like it.
A red flag I should have heeded is that there were other ladies (“friends”) who also thought they had something going on with him until they realized they didn’t and then they appeared to go NC. I, with a very patient and tolerant and hopeful (and foolish) nature hung in there…. Believing our close bond would eventually become a permanent thing. I have all this time lived purposefully (with his enthusiastic support of all my endeavors) but now my plans and projects seem sad and unchampioned.
So now that this unwelcome surprise of an official girlfriend has occurred its time to find a way to heal. (All advice very appreciated). I just can’t figure out why I was so blissfully happy in his presence… Even mundane things like going to the grocery store were so much fun!!! And this happiness never faded in the slightest for all these years! If I was to get in a real relationship I know it will not have the same sustained deep seated euphoria that I’ve experienced these last years but hopefully will also not have the soul crushing agony that I’m now experiencing. I feel like someone I cherished has died.
@Jaideux – it’s crushing isn’t it. My LE also had its death blow this week. I’d been NC with LO for 3m and got wind she wanted to contact me but didn’t know how. I felt bad, so sent her an olive branch via text, congratulating her on some work news. She replied having a go at me for the way things ended and really minimised our relationship. She’s now found someone, has gone in very deep very quickly with him and wants nothing to do with me. We’ve gone from being in each other’s pockets, numerous texts every day for example, to now this position of animosity. Hard to handle, I feel foolish for investing so much in her as she’s thrown it back in my face. My SO and various others who warned me off her were right after all. All very humbling. Now to get back to working on me and my recovery, along with putting SO first every day. I need to figure out what happened here. The barriers (my marriage, being be boss at the time) created the uncertainty which propelled the limerence. But why was I attracted in the first place? That’s the next step.
Actually, the guy comes across as a shmuck.
It sounds like he triangulates relationships. Have you read DrL’s “Narcissist LOs?” You may be dealing with one.
One of the hardest things I had to come to terms with when I worked with the therapist to understand my relationship with LO #2 was the idea that deep down inside she didn’t want the same things I did. I couldn’t understand why no matter what I said or did, nothing seemed to work. The therapist told me that not only was LO #2 not working to advance the relationship, she was subtly sabotaging it. She didn’t want things to work.
Try getting your head around the idea of the person you think you want to spend your life with is really working against you.
Don’t forget its corollary: Try getting your head around the idea of the person you married is really working against you.
Scharny sorry for this delayed response but you’re so right!!!!
“If I was to get in a real relationship I know it will not have the same sustained deep seated euphoria that I’ve experienced these last years but hopefully will also not have the soul crushing agony that I’m now experiencing.”
The way I know my wife is different from all my LOs is in the way she DOESN’T make me feel. Where all the LEs had some element of cosmic struggle worthy of grand opera, with my wife, it all just works. We have problems and disagreements but we’re not fighting against fate.
When the universe keeps throwing obstacles in your way, at some point, maybe you should take it as a sign. Not every quest has a happy ending.
I remember when I made the decision to cut off LO #2 to advance things with my wife. I was standing in a parking lot. On one hand, LO #2 declined my marriage proposal, admitted if she didn’t find anything she liked better she might come back and settle for me, and offered me nothing. On the other hand, there was a woman who was busting her fanny to make things work. My wife declined a temporary job offer so she could stay in town rather than take the chance I might not be there when she got back. She’d drive 30 miles one way, 5 days/week to be with me because there was more privacy at my place.
Not even limerence could make me think LO #2 was a good deal.
So – limerence is like carbon dioxide. It makes your soda fizzy, but can make your mouth tingle or burn and produce some prodigious burps!
And, CO2 can kill you if the concentration is high enough….
I was focusing on the more benign uses. Fizzy drinks! Burping the alphabet!
Plus carbon monoxide is far more effective for more permanent solutions.
Anonymous Limerent says
Well, anything can kill you if the concentration is high enough; oxygen is actually poisonous to humans, you know. It’s just a small enough concentration not to.
Of course, it could just take about 80 years to kill us…
@Vincent – thanks for your response. We can get through this! I am so happy your SO is still by your side, may you fall ever more deeply in love with her every day. As for me…I am determined to love my self more every day…not allowing such a soul crushing experience to ever happen again, because to have your innocence, trust and dignity taken from you by someone who seemed like they cherished you, but only really cherished what they got from you…is a crime. I think if I develop a stronger sense of self worth and a habit of healthy boundary setting I will be in a safer position in the future. The thing is, I THOUGHT I had healthy self-esteem, etc..but obviously there is some work to do. I think the reason we were attracted is that these sorts of people (the virtuous LO’s) are magnetically drawn to people like us…and if we are at a weak moment…there we go down the rabbit hole. I hope Dr. L will develop and share more wise insights on this…’why exactly are apparently virtuous potential limerent objects drawn to folks like us (and we them) and how can we keep our guard up for the future?’ Anyway, all the best to you…and remember, we have hit bottom. Nowhere to go but up…..
It’s always darkest before the dawn… Time is a great healer, and I’m confident that going back to NC, avoiding her on social media and ignoring conversation about her in the office will get me where I need to be eventually. If I can focus on SO and my own mental and physical fitness as well then I should be able to speed it along.
I think this was a heady cocktail of a young, pretty girl with daddy issues just finding her way in the world, attaching herself to an older married guy about to hit 40 and a decade of marriage, who was feeling old and out of touch. Throw in a boss/report dynamic, a white knight syndrome, the reminders of a previous unfulfilled romance, professional barriers knocked over very early on and you hopefully have a recipe that won’t be repeated. I’ll certainly be better prepared if those ingredients appear again, and if I’ve worked hard on myself and my marriage, it will be easier to stop.
In my case, I think it’s the uncertainty of reciprocation that has been the key driver for limerence. The more reciprocation I get the more my limerence seems to fade and I wonder if I knew for sure about her feelings whether I’d feel content – step up the old debate of disclosure. I think it’s more likely though that I’d always want more and who knows where that could lead. Barriers can often be overcome and some are within your control, but with reciprocation it is out of your hands. Uncertainty and a lack of control are things my brain don’t seem to cope well with.
Yes Royce. drL says uncertainty is the rocket fuel of limerence.
Yes I think the uncertainty is the key ingredient. I know everytime my LO started saying something that could/ would make the relationship real ( apart from a terrible drunken sex session where I was terrified we’ d get caught) I started to ball. I m pretty sure that if the barriers were removed ( I m in a very happy relationship with someone I adore but am not obsessed with) and I was certain that my LO wanted to be with me : he says he can’ t be in a 3 person relationship , that he wants a real partner and that he can’ t be a homewrecker, that s he s been cheated on before and won’ t do that to my man … But then remains aloof and has refused to have sex with me on other occasions but then tried to have sex with me when he was super drunk. So if he was clear about wanting me and wanting to be with me and I was single I m pretty sure I d go off him instantly. He s not really my type. He keeps me interested with a mix of aloofness and then interest. That s why I didn t leave my lovely partner. If my LO had been a good lay, had expressed desire for me and fought for me , with the strength of my feelings in the begging I could have split up with the father of my children. But he kept telling me I had to leave him first …and then being aloof and then not wanting sex unless he was really drunk. Making me doubt if he fancied me, wanted me…
Captain Biggles says
Another timely article by Dr L, so thank you for this and thanks for everything else on the blog! I can’t tell you how many times I keep coming back to this site- I’d probably be floating in the weeds if not for this (sorry, gallows humour).
One of the things I’m really struggling with- particularly since LO and I work out of the same space and have the same workspace related social interactions (group lunch etc)- is that my self esteem depends directly on how LO has been towards me. I can’t believe how envious I get when we go out for lunch and I see all these other guys giving her attention (she’s attractive). I’m generally quiet and it always hits my self esteem badly to the point where I come back defeated after lunch. I know this is not really related to the topic at hand, but perhaps you could explore validation seeking behaviour as one of your future topics?
Again, thank you for this blog. Some days it’s the only way I any hope in the grimness that is limerence.
Anonymous Limerent says
I am exactly the same.
I go to school everyday with LO on my mind. We’re in the same class and have the same hangout spaces, so I watch her all day (obviously hoping for her to look at me, not just because I’m a creep) and, throughout lessons and breaks, I see multiple boys talking to her (probably only because they are friends, but I start to get suspicious and paranoid). Anyway, I’m a very quiet person too, so I end up reading into every interaction.
She always replies to and converses with them very enthusiastically, often with laughter and smiles, and this leads to my feeling defeated as well. Mainly because I’ve never had a moment like that with her and I hate myself for not being confident enough to actually speak to her. Ever. Instead, I get so nervous I tend to rush away from her and speak very rudely to anyone who gets in the way, or interacts with me when she is next to me (as I found out on Friday).
This site is the only thing helping me, too; no new comments or posts always downs me.
@AL, do you have any pastoral or student support services at your school? If so, it might be an idea to get in touch with them and to talk about what you are going through. I’m sure talking would help and those kind of services are normally completely confidential. I would imagine that pastoral staff have come across similar situations before, even if they haven’t heard of the term limerence.
If you seek professional help, check out DrL’s blog on Therapy. Also, be really careful of going the pastoral route. Clergy may have a vastly different agenda than helping you (e.g., staying in an abusive relationship to preserve the “sanctity of marriage”). Guilt and shame are the last things you need when dealing with limerence and those are often two major tools in their bag.
Having a conscience is a good thing. It often plays a big role in purposeful living. It can be helpful to have someone coax it out of you. But, having someone weaponize it against you isn’t can do more harm than good.
Anonymous Limerent says
Yeah, I don’t think so.
My school does have a Pastoral Office and Team, but aside from the fact their main purpose is to hand out punishments, I wouldn’t want anyone worrying about me; I don’t like special attention and certainly not being pulled out of my breaktimes every so often (as I’m aure would happen, to talk about the situation). I also want this to stay unknown and undisclosed to everyone. Once one person knows, it could spread or accidentally spill oit to other people. And I don’t trust a single person in my entire school to keep my secret confidential.
As for professional help, I don’t need any. I can’t go to a therapist without telling my parents the situation and that is NOT something I’m willing to do!
So basically, I’m screwed! I don’t trust anyone and can’t seek help so I have to struggle through myself. Alone. With only this site and the people on it for support (limerence.net is not helpful at all to me). Thanks for trying to help, though.
Do you have any adult figures in your life that you trust? Ideally, that would be your father but it doesn’t have to be. Adolescence is tough enough when you have a support system. I’m an only child and lost both parents by the time I was 23. I had to learn to rely on friends. But, as you point out, you have to be very careful.
I made sure to look both ways down the hall when I went into and out of the EAP counselor’s office.
Anonymous Limerent says
I don’t trust either of my parents; they both have a history of making fun of me and teasing me constantly when they think I like someone (never have done before, though…). So telling either of them about my limerence would just end up in:
1. My mum and dad teasing me about trying to woo LO and my sister cottoning on, resultant of her telling everyone around her and the whole school knowing.
2. Word getting round to LO of my feelings and my having to deny everything to her (not a very good feeling as it means she’ll never think of me as ‘an option’.
Other than that serious note [and just imagine I’m saying this in a jokey, abide way, not meant to be offensive nor insensitive]:
No, funnily enough I didn’t think of going to the most prominent and caring adults in my life for help during this difficult period; it never dawned on me that parents are supposed to be shoulders to cry on and rocks to go to help for. [again, not being insensitive, no offense intended. I wouldn’t have clarified twice, but since remarks only work in a sarcastic way if the person to whom one speaks can see one’s facial expressions throughout.]
Thanks for the suggestion, though: I know no one else suggested help a bit closer to my personal life and went straight for the authorities, a formal care service. It’s always good to have different perspectives, takes and viewpoints in a polylemma (if that’s a word!).
Anonymous Limerent says
As it turns out, polylemma is a word, and the right one at that!
Might be some confusion here about what I meant by “pastoral”. In the UK and in the context of schools, pastoral care is the provision a school makes to ensure the physical and emotional welfare of a child. There’s normally staff (e.g. school counsellors) who’s job it is to look after the wellbeing of students and it’s not normally anything to do with religion.
@AL has said before that he is 13 and it might be good for him to speak to someone who is trained to deal with people of his age.
How you getting on. We started of our journey of limited or contact together on New Year’s Day. How’s it been in q1
@Kevin, doing ok thanks. A bit up and down and getting tired of it all, but generally I have a better grip on my emotions. Got to admit that I haven’t been that good with limited contact and have been easily drawn back in when I’ve managed to take a step back. She’ll often pop up just when I think my head is getting sorted. Got a natural period of NC coming up soon and will try to extend that as long as I can. I’m starting to lose faith though that I can actually go NC long term. How are things with you?
Managed contact isn’t going so well here either, Royce. I thought I had a grip on it but I don’t, and am also getting tired of the emotional rollercoaster. Looks like NC really is the only way. Good luck 🙂
Another great and timely post Dr L. The Romeo and Juliet pic and caption made me laugh out loud on a crowded train.
Sorry to hear that Limerspan. It’s very easy to get drawn back in and lose your grip if you keep up contact. I think NC is worth a try for you. It’s such a simple concept but I’ve found it hard to put in place. Good luck to you too! Glad you can still laugh 🙂
” If instead this fraternization with LO was just supposed to be a titillating diversion that has ended up going terribly wrong – well then acknowledge your poor choices, recommit to your marriage and get away from LO.”
It started that way with LO #4 but that’s not what sent me over the edge. If the poop hadn’t hit the fan for her, we might still be simmering in a nice little limerent soup. She said she had no clue and it was working pretty well for me.
What sent me over the edge was when she reached out to me and starting opening up and revealing herself to me.
She was trusting me and that was something I found almost irresistible. I wasn’t part of the problem, I was part of the solution. The more she revealed about herself, the more I wanted to know. The more I knew, the more she appealed to me. She had some distinct shortcomings but she was trusting me. I know what it feels like when a woman doesn’t trust me and I know what it feels like when one does.
I not only had one woman trusting me, I had two! And, that was a problem.
“If the poop hadn’t hit the fan for her, we might still be simmering in a nice little limerent soup.”
Scharnhorst – I believe somewhere along the line you did state it was an emotional affair. Was that whilst, or afterward that you came to realize you were engaged in an affair? Do you really think that you would still be stringing your wife along while mentally diddling another woman, or would your sense of right/wrong have come into play?
This is going to be a pretty long post.
Like many EAs, it didn’t start out to be one. It took about 4 years to really develop into one. It encountered her in 2010 and we said goodbye on New’s Year’s Day 2016. In 2010, I had no idea of what limerence was or what my vulnerabilities were. In 2010, I thought there was a good chance I’d be divorced by the end of the year and I hadn’t met LO #4 yet.
LO #4 ran a website on a subject I was interested in. I’d post on it. she was attractive, charming, and liked what I had to say and invited me to be a moderator. We developed an offline acquaintance. My wife was aware I was a moderator. She didn’t endorse it but she had no objection to it. The mods had a private channel where she and us could discuss things without the general membership seeing it.
Not long after I arrived, she suffered a serious professional setback. She told us about it on the back channel. Reading between the lines, I could see she was hurting and there were some off-handed comments that led me to believe the guy that should have been there for her wasn’t. I’d see one of them and send an encouraging email. At this point, there was nothing I couldn’t show my wife.
One time I sent one and she commented on how they always seemed to show up when she was really down. She asked, “What do I telegraph to you?” I told her it didn’t take a rocket scientist to see when somebody needed a hug. In one exchange, I told her, “Heaven help the man you ever really trust.” I later apologized for being out of line and she came back with that I wasn’t out of line and that I had nothing to apologize for. She made a post about what was happening. I posted something on her site. I got an email from her that said my post made her cry. I apologized and said I was trying to make her smile. She came back with, “I know. That’s why I cried.”
At this point, I sensed a potential threat and backed off. We were scrupulous in not discussing our respective relationships. Neither did we ever bring up the topic of actually talking or meeting each other. I may have met a few criteria of an EA but not many. We had never met, she was on the opposite coast, and we had never actually talked to each other. While she was a potential threat, I wasn’t aware of my vulnerability and the above were pretty big mitigating conditions. As long as I didn’t actively probe the boundaries, what possible risk could there be?
At this point, I was over the line but not so far that I couldn’t get back on the right side of it. Had my wife seen that exchange, I think something like this would have played out, “Who is this woman? Why is she telling you this? Why are you encouraging her.” My response would have been that LO #4 had a setback and was looking for a shoulder to cry on. My wife’s comeback would have been, “Tell her to find different one.” It would have been unpleasant but not ugly.
We went back to friendly barter on the mod channel. One of the mods commented on it. For maybe the next two years, we had a platonic relationship. Neither of us strayed near the boundary. It was a relationship of close associates. I enjoyed bantering with her. We weren’t hiding anything because there was nothing to hide.
In early 2014, she dropped out of sight. This was a problem because the mods had only limited rights to things and stuff was piling up. She wasn’t responding to PMs or emails. We hadn’t exchanged phone numbers. One of the mods was a RL friend of hers. I asked her what was going on with LO #4. The other mod said LO #4’s relationship was in trouble and she was trying to save it. I told her I’d start making as many executive decisions as I could and if LO #4 wanted to reverse me, I wouldn’t take it personally.
About October, 2014, I got an email from LO #4 saying her BF was cheating on her, they were in counseling, and they were taking a trip together to try to reconcile. She said she appreciated my efforts to keep the site running, I had her authority to disposition things as necessary, and that she really appreciated all the support and encouragement I’d given her in the past. My response was that whatever happened, I hoped it led to her happiness. My spidey sense started tingling and I went silent. LO #4 wasn’t the first woman to tell me she was being cheated on, she was the third. The first woman who told me that showed up at my door at 11 PM one night and asked if she could spend the night with me. I was still with LO #2 at the time.
In mid-December, I got an email from her that said he’d assaulted her and she was moving out. She was moving to within 15 miles of where I’d moved from. I could give her directions. When I read the email, my first thought was, “F–k, I don’t need this.” I had this vision of a giant snowball coming down the hill at me. I set up an appointment with the EAP counselor because something in me knew that this had the potential to cause big trouble. In spite of the mitigating circumstances, this scared me. The EAP counselor was straightforward, “Get away from her and stay away from her. Stay involved with this woman and this will not end well for you.” The EAP counselor never used the term EA but from our discussions, it seems clear she was referring to it.
I understood that. Then, LO #4 started opening up to me. She said that I’d been like a rock for her, that I had opened her eyes to what was happening in her relationship, she trusted that I had her best interest at heart, and that she’d always be grateful to me. She also said that she drank port and listened to a particular artist until she passed out. I’d dealt with that before, too, with the woman who showed up at my door. I went from an email/month to almost an email/day or more. She wrote more in one email than she’d sent in the previous emails since we’d known each other.
At that point, the 5yr kid in me took over and I went into the EA. I ended up returning to the EAP counselor to figure out how I’d gotten into this mess. She said a 5yr old kid had taken over and we spent a few months working on that.
I really take exception to the expression, “mentally diddling another woman.” There wasn’t the faintest hint of anything illicit in them but they were intensely personal. She poured her heart out to me and I responded to it. I shouldn’t have but I did. I was on a level with her that I should not have been on with another woman. Had things not taken the turn they did, I think we could have maintained the acquaintance. LO #4 played into a serious vulnerability that I had. My sense of right or wrong did kick in.
“I really take exception to the expression, “mentally diddling another woman.” There wasn’t the faintest hint of anything illicit in them but they were intensely personal. She poured her heart out to me and I responded to it. I shouldn’t have but I did. I was on a level with her that I should not have been on with another woman. Had things not taken the turn they did, I think we could have maintained the acquaintance. LO #4 played into a serious vulnerability that I had. My sense of right or wrong did kick in.”
Fair enough and I apologize for using the term. I view sharing intimate information with another woman, even being the confidante of hers, as a form of serious courtship and a prelude to a physical relationship. I’m glad you realized you were in the weeds and decided not to straddle the fence any longer. Hopefully you and your wife have enjoyed more good years together since then.
While I was waiting to get in to see the EAP counselor, I talked to a married co-worker. I wondered if I was overreacting. I asked her if she’d be concerned if an acquaintance of her husband had started confiding in him about this. She expressed a similar sentiment.
“Hell, yes, I’d be concerned. A woman in her situation shouldn’t be confiding in any man. That’s what sisters and girlfriends are for. But, for her to confide in a married man is really inappropriate. It’s just too easy for that to go sideways.”
LO #4 wasn’t trying to screw things up for me. All she did was provide me the opportunity to screw myself up. She said things and acted in ways that made her complicit but, in the end, nobody put a gun to my head and told me, “Act stupid.” I did that all on my own.
I don’t know if it’s a form of courtship but it definitely contributes to some kind of attachment. I asked the EAP counselor why LO #4 would confide in me if she didn’t think I had something to offer. The EAP counselor said it could be as simple as it’s sometimes easier to talk to a stranger. She said maybe LO #4 didn’t think I was a threat for the same reasons I didn’t think she was a threat. After all, I was talking to a stranger, an EAP counselor. Maybe, but the EAP counselor hadn’t read all the emails.
Why LO #4 was confiding in me didn’t matter. I thought it mattered then but it really didn’t. Why she was confiding in me fell into the “What would you do with that knowledge if you had it?” category. The EAP counselor liked that question and asked it several times to keep me on task. Doing the right thing didn’t require an answer to that question.
Our marriage is in a better place today.
Damsels in distress who overshare their troubles with married men are looking to be rescued and taken care of by him.
It’s a form of mate-poaching. Already married wo/men have demonstrated they wish to be married. Now to make that person dump Spouse for You! It’s more common than many realize. To be clear to any readers, both genders practice mate-poaching.
Glad you and Mrs. Scharnhorst are doing well.
Another story from the “You Can’t Make This Up!” Dept:
After I disclosed and started to disengage, I had to resign as a moderator. I told LO #4 I was resigning and she asked me to make a post about it. I did. The mod who was her friend sent me a Facebook friend request. Unlike LO #4, I had actually talked to this woman. She asked for my number so she could call me and tell me what was going on with LO #4. We only talked a few times. My wife said it was rude to not accept someone’s friend request. So, I accepted it.
As things got weirder (remember, after disclosure things got worse before they got better), I decided I needed to cut all ties with the site. So, I asked her if she would be really offended if we weren’t FB friends. She said ok, and we weren’t friends anymore. I periodically check her page but haven’t any contact in over 3 years.
Not a week after I told the other mod, I was cutting ties with site I got a friend request from LO #4. I asked her if she meant to send it. She said she did. LO #4 had gotten on my wife’s radar and my wife told me to accept. It was one of those, “Keep your friend close but keep your enemies closer” kind of things. I’ve posted about what happened after I accepted it before so I won’t repeat it. When I asked LO #4 about not being friends, I told her I needed that boundary to go back up. 5 minutes later I got “No problem” back. Not only did she unfriend me, she blocked me.
I told that story to a bartender. I said I thought that was kind of bitchy. She said I’d thrown LO #4 out. That hurt her feelings or pissed her off. I said the first woman didn’t block me. The bartender said,
“The first woman didn’t care about you.”
“I told that story to a bartender. I said I thought that was kind of bitchy. She said I’d thrown LO #4 out. That hurt her feelings or pissed her off. I said the first woman didn’t block me. The bartender said,
“The first woman didn’t care about you.”
Think of all the money you could have saved on therapy if you’d talked to the bartender first!
“Think of all the money you could have saved on therapy if you’d talked to the bartender first!”
The EAP counselor was free and I could see her on the clock.
I had to tip the bartender….
Anonymous Limerent says
What a day.
So at lunchtime, LO comes out of the door while I’m in the queue and joins the line. But pushes in almost right behind me. Then she ends up right behind me, making no attempt to push in front.
Then in Physics (curse it ☠) she just has to go and ask me for an answer. And then ask me again. What hurt so much was the fact she talked so nor.ally and casually like nothing was between us. Like she hadn’t even noticed my behaviour around her.
But I guess it’s a good thing that, when these happened, I immediately saw them as her purposefully trying to hurt me or screw me over or something, rather than because she ‘likes me’. Even though she seems like a nice person, it’s my go-to response.
An improvement? Maybe. But that doesn’t f**king change what happened.
Anonymous Limerent says
Anonymous Limerent says
Okay, I didn’t think anything could be worse than LO talking TO me. But as it turns out, her talking ABOUT (again in Physics (die, Physics, die)) me was a killer. I swear she’s trying to hurt me now.😡🔥
Oh no what did she say?
Anonymous Limerent says
It wasn’t anything bad, just a statement.
I was standing at the door of the class waiting for the bell, so I could finally get away from there for the day. I sometimes get paranoid when I turn my back, that she is watching me. But this time, she really was. She was talking to her friend and I’m not sure what led to the subject of ‘me’, but LO just started saying:
“Look, he’s just standing there waiting” and then some other stuff to that effect. It doesn’t sound bad but I felt like I had no protection, no distraction and I was helpless. Most of all, it felt like she was trying to hurt me by trying to get a reaction from me. And damn it, it hurt.
A big part is the uncertainty (why was she talking about me?) and, as ever, how she said it so normally (a bit on the ‘sounding like an insult’ side, though, as if she were saying I was some sad person just standing there with no friends). I’m sure she knows what she’s doing to me, to some extent.
I think that was the angriest I’d ever been.
Hi Anon Lim,
I think there is a danger that if you carry on along this road you could end up in a bad place. It does sound as though your LO has noticed that you are acting a bit strangely around her, and I’m sure it’s really uncomfortable for you, but fuming and feeling persecuted is a recipe for more pain for you. The simple fact is that very few people have the emotional maturity to handle someone having a crush on them in their early teens. I shudder when I remember how I acted around girls that liked me (when I didn’t like them) and girls I liked (who didn’t like me).
The best way through it is to focus on yourself, developing your self esteem and developing your purposeful life. The best way to manage that is to focus on self-development. What kind of man do you want to be? What do you want to do with your life?
Developing yourself is also the best way to become more attractive to others (friends and LOs). It also beats the hell out of letting other people’s behaviour dictate your choices and ruin your mood.
Anonymous Limerent says
Well, I would do that, but I can’t really when every 5 minutes my LO finds new and cruel ways to torture me…
🙂 It might seem like that, but I’m sure she isn’t. She’s probably just as confused as you and trying to figure out what it all means.
Or she might be cruel, in which case you’re better off ignoring her and concentrating on your own development anyway!
This is terribly true! I’ve had an emotional connection with a guy from another country via internet, I think we are both limerent, but he ghosted me saying that it is the best for both of us, that he doesn’t want to, but there are circumstances in his life that can’t be changed, though he never wanted to tell me exactly why! and I think that’s what messes up with me so much 🙁 I think if I knew I would be able to do something about it, it can’t really be impossible right? 🙁
It sounds like you are deep in your LE. I hope this passes quickly. No one but your LO can answer your questions about the barriers between you. It sounds like your LO is not going to answer those questions either. This is going to be a rough recovery. I hope you pursue purposeful living as soon as possible. Also, a new LO works very well to overcome an existing LE, but proceed with caution. That is the path I took, it got me out of a terrible case of intrusive thoughts about my LO#2.
I really hope you get through your LE quickly. Best of luck!
“Hours of wasted brain time spent on replaying the last encounter with them (what they said, and how they acted, and what you said, and – d’oh! – if only you’d said something else!). Hours more rehearsing new things that you could say or do the next time you see them. Trying to find just the right tactics to get them to reveal the depth of their feelings, but without fully revealing your own feelings, obviously. Till you’re sure.”
Guilty. This is me.