In the last post, we talked about how to plan a purposeful life, and how that shift in lifestyle can protect you against limerence. It sets you up to be more resilient to change, and less vulnerable to emotional shocks. It’s also just a much better way to live.
Planning is all very well – in fact, it’s essential – but when it comes time to actually make a change, many people meet resistance. This resistance can be internal (fears and doubts about yourself and your abilities) or external (unsupportive family or partners, or financial or social limitations).
Let’s identify some of the commonest barriers to purposeful living, and see if we can barge them over!
Unsupportive friends and family
It’s a sad fact that many of the people who care for us the most can paradoxically undermine our attempts to improve ourselves. In some ways this is predictable. If they are happy with the status quo, then your decision to change things will be unsettling.
The trite answer to this is: get better friends. That could be good advice if you are hanging out with people who constantly run you down, but usually it is more complicated than that. Often friends and family can be outwardly supportive, but subtly undermine you.
“Honey, it’s great that you’re dieting, but can’t you just relax once in a while and eat with the rest of us?”
“Oh come on, I don’t want to drink alone. Call this a cheat day!”
“I know you are working hard right now, but we miss you.”
The reason this is hard to respond to is that they kind of have a point. You’ve unilaterally decided to make a change that affects them. Most of their negative reaction is not really due to them wanting you to fail, so much as you disrupting their comfort zone. A major source of discomfort is also something they would probably feel ashamed of if they admitted it to themselves: you are forcing them to confront their own lack of purpose. After all, if you are there in their life working hard to be better, surely they could be too?
This resentment is usually unconscious on their part. The key to responding constructively is to accept that it isn’t a sign that they are deliberately working against you, it’s a sign of their own insecurities. The best way to manage this is to bring them on board with your life improvement project.
If they are dismissive or sceptical about your plans, listen sincerely to their concerns, and then ask: “OK. You could be right. What do you think I could do instead to make it work?” Or “I really want to do this, but I need your help. If you had been given this job to do, how would you start?”
As with managing limerence in a relationship, the mindset to aim for is you and them versus the problem. Not you versus them. If they feel part of your project, they are more likely to feel positive about it. They are less likely to feel you are leaving them behind if you are involving them in the strategising and implementation. If they feel you care about their input, they are more likely to become a champion than a critic.
Considering how our choices affect others is healthy, but it can also tip over into self-denial. Those of us who have a high degree of agreeableness and empathy can have a real problem with doing things for ourselves. We feel that our time and energy should be spent helping others. It somehow feels like selfish indulgence to do something that makes us happy. This can be a big mental block: “if my purposeful work doesn’t feel like a sacrifice, am I being self-centred?”
The origins of this impulse are likely to be multilayered. Some of us are built that way, but it will also be overlaid by the long cultural heritage of the monotheistic religions that advocate for sacrifice, humility, submission, and service. Martyrdom can feel noble. If we are pursuing something that makes us feel proud and happy, does that mean we are putting ourselves before others?
The key to this barrier is to recognise that seeking happiness is only selfish when it comes at the expense of others. That is easy enough to avoid if you live in an open society with the opportunity to pursue a wide range of careers and interests. It is perfectly possible to find a working niche in which you can both help others and feel good about yourself. Happiness doesn’t require others to lose just because you win. Contributing to a better world doesn’t have to be selfless or self-negating. In fact many people feel a huge amount of satisfaction and fulfillment when helping others.
It’s perfectly possible for your purposeful life to be a win/win situation.
Too little money
There’s no avoiding the fact that it’s difficult to get things done if you are working flat out to make ends meet. Especially if you have a family and responsibilities, and so can’t just walk away to “find yourself”. It’s hard to launch a new endeavour without some financial security behind you. It’s hard to take risks if you are putting other people in jeopardy. You have to work within your constraints.
Now, there are a few possible solutions to this problem. The first scenario is that your new sense of purpose actually aligns well with your existing job. Perhaps you just need to reframe your attitude to work, or focus on ways to rise up the ranks rather than embark on something totally new. Or maybe your purposeful new goal doesn’t require money.
The other options if you do want to quit your current job and start something new are: cut expenses or earn more.
It’s banal, but it’s true. If your purposeful life requires more resources, you are going to have to plan to acquire more. The first step on your journey to the life you want to lead is to focus on your finances.
Too much money
This might seem absurd, but it’s related to the sense that purposeful life is selfish. If your new purposeful life ends up being more lucrative than your old life, it may conflict with the commonly held belief that too much money is immoral.
The way capitalist societies are structured means that pay does not reflect the social value of a job, it more reflects how much additional wealth your labour will generate for your employer. This is why investment bankers are paid so much more than nurses, despite the fact that the vast majority of the population have a clear idea about which activity they esteem most highly.
It’s not as simple as that, of course. Pay also follows particular skills, and can be a marker of status rather than a marker of value, but ultimately, if your skills and work generate wealth you will probably be paid substantially more than someone who provides a valuable but non-monetary service (like teaching, policing, caring or office management). This leads to a mental inversion of service and salary. Those who take get lavishly rewarded, and those who give are grudged a minimal wage. Many of us have a subconscious moral instinct that accumulating money is a sign of selfishness.
This can also lead to a subtle guilt when being paid for doing something you love. If you love coding, and have a great idea for an app that suddenly explodes in popularity, it can feel pretty weird. Ask the guy who created and released flappy bird. He was so discomforted by the success of his game that he deleted it and apologised for making something so addictive.
Pursuing a purpose that pays us to do something we want to do anyway can feel strangely immoral.
Fortunately, there’s a simple answer to this one. If you find yourself accumulating significant wealth doing something that other people value so much that they pay you handsomely for it, use your excess money to do even more good.
There are lots of very worthy causes that will happily help you spend your wealth wisely.
The sweet spot for finding purpose is to pursue something that balances all these factors. Don’t try and talk yourself into a job in sales if you have a suspicion about money, but don’t beat yourself up if your new venture ends up being financially successful. Don’t feel guilty about feeling good, if you are adding value to the world.
It is possible to do what feels right to you and to make something worthwhile that other people value too.
In fact, that is probably the best kind of life that anyone can lead.
Oopsie! Scheduled this for 9 pm instead of the usual 9 am.
Need to be more purposeful 🙂
It’s SOOOO hard to get good help now days…. 🙂
I know. I’d sack the IT guy, if it wasn’t me.
Thanks for the post as always DrL!
One obvious barrier missing though….a worldwide viral pandemic and nationally enforced lockdown. I guess all we can do is self analyse and plan out our purposeful life for now.
Yeah, I guess a “special circumstances” heading would have been good too 🙂
Totally agree that it’s an opportunity for self analysis. That’s probably why purposeful living is on my mind at the moment…
You forgot family who are suddenly so much happier when they see less of you or are genuinely enthusiastic about your plans.
Why is your spouse smiling more? Why do you walk into the home, hear happy chatter and every single time it stops when they see or hear you?
I’m not sure I totally get your point, Patrick. Do you mean that you’re pursuing new purposeful interests, and your family is happy that you are withdrawing? That they are not undermining you, because they would rather you were out of the house?
Is it possible that your pre-purpose persona was not much fun to be around, and so they are actually relieved that you are not hanging around like a black cloud?
Or is it possible that you are highly sensitised to the fact that the relationship with your spouse is not good, now that you are really looking hard at your life?
How do you want the family dynamic to improve?
Well, clearly they are happier when I’m not around. That isn’t what is supposed to happen. I mean, just because she isn’t nearly as special as my LO doesn’t mean she isn’t supposed to want me.
Forgive me if I’m wrong, I don’t know your story, but you don’t seem to be altogether sold on the idea of letting go of limerence quite yet as you write about how special your LO is. Have you read Dr Ls blog on Why do they seem so special?
Its 10 months since I’ve seen my LO, and while I do think about him several times a day, he no longer seems quite as shiny as before. Like you I am trying to figure out my feelings for my SO and I m grateful I’m coming out of the haze of limerence to do this (a lot at stake as several kids). Therapy has helped give me clarity on my current relationship and the way I approach life in general.
I will say with extra pressures and anxieties at home due to coronavirus restrictions I do find myself backsliding a little with my limerence.
So all advice and direction on purposeful living gratefully received. Thanks Dr L!
Dr L, another great blog, cheers to you. Regarding Covid, they say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but i have found, it can also make the heart forget (handy!). When the supply is cut off, you get used to it. It can feel like an empty existence, and like you’re doing the whole ‘living life in quiet desperation’ thing for AGES, but, actually the numbness fades and you come to realise that life goes on (with or without you). Limerence definitely feels like being in a psychological prison, but actually we are not physically in prison at all. Covid has sort of ‘forced’ me to move on in some form, which doesn’t mean my heart wouldn’t explode if I suddenly randomly saw the person I was limerent for, but whilst I’m away from them, I can get on with things to a point where I actually do have my life back a bit more. I hope you guys are all ok out there!
Glad to hear you’re doing well, Winst.
I did wonder at the outset of the isolation whether there would be a lifecycle to the impact on limerence. Early on, the forced loss of contact would be traumatic, but later the withdrawal pains would subside and it would feel more manageable.
Hopefully that lasts for people. But there is a big risk of rebound limerence when they meet LO for the first time again.
This is me! At the beginning of lockdown I felt I was starting to loose my mind again but now I’m enjoying the peace which no contact is bringing. I’m 4 weeks NC but have been through various stages of NC and I know it’s gets easier.
I have been counteracting as many thoughts as and when I catch them about LO. It’s like I’m having a conversation in my head with myself. Kinda weird but I can tell you it works. I ask myself questions, such as ‘do you really want to get with him, he’s so ugly and rude’. Although he’s not ugly he does not deserve his pedestall he has been put on in my mind. I find saying to myself things like ‘he’s an idiot and you know it’ and ‘really your thinking about that looser again’ really are reducing his glimmer to somebody with very little interesting about him
It makes me chuckle but I’m acting as a friend to myself to deprogram my limerent brain.
Hey guys, I thought I’d give a little update on some of my earlier posts. My LO’s birthday came and went and I didn’t message her. I want to thank the people on this site who stopped me from getting a present and pulled me out of the initial madness. The seven day weekly email updates helped immensely. I have to say because of how long the LE has been going I’ve found it hard to reopen that discussion with people in my life who knew out of embarrassment so I decided to confide in someone who I hadn’t told before and boy did it make a world of a difference. It’s nice to openly discuss thoughts and feelings to see how irrational you’re being , and having a friend who can hold you accountable.
I think for now I am in a much better position to move on completely having successfully warded off the temptation to acknowledge this birthday and so I won’t be on this site again…… well, until the next LE…… good luck to everyone who is struggling and remember you are not alone
Congratulations Aimee! You took a big step up, out and away rather than back down into the hole. Celebrate your achievement, you deserve it. Good luck!
Congrats Aimee! That’s great.
You are hopefully also getting the additional psychological benefits that come from facing a trial and succeeding. Your rational mind overruled your limerent craving, and your life is a little better because of it!
Why didn’t I find this page a few years ago, when I first came across the limerence term?
My husband died, and my happy life was brought to a sudden, screeching halt. I have two children and my focus turned towards helping them and just getting through the grief. Around 6 months after he died, a man I worked with part time, who I liked, who made me a little nervous, turned his full focus on to me. He love bombed and made me feel seen. I clearly, but only with hindsight, turned my focus back to him as a way of dealing…or not dealing…with my grief. The ‘honeymoon’ period was beautiful. He was married so I felt safe. However, his love bombing pulled me in to a deep state of limerence. He became my LO and I became his. Eventually though, his feelings being strong, and using those feelings as almost a weapon or ultimatum to his wife, and as a way to try and fix what was broken within his marriage, he told her how he felt. Once they’d sorted out their key issues around it, they both pursued a friendship with me. He asked me to be her friend. Then follows the worst few years of my life. I felt powerless, unable to escape. He turned his attention away, but came back periodically to get a fix. In the meantime, we socialised with mutual friends from work, a part of work life. I would see him turn that attention on others. Every meeting, every social event left me reeling, it took days to recover. My work went to shot, I maintained a poorly constructed façade around my life. From the outside, it looked amazing. From the inside, I cried myself to sleep, was unable to do basic tasks beyond the pretence and then would wake and lie in a kind of stupor all night, every night.
Even though I realised I was his LO for a time, he found a way out of it, but turned to me often for a fix. At first, I tried to have a friendship with him, as any connection was better than no connection, right? Then I tried to escape. It’s been an incredibly difficult journey. I have done all the things suggested….yet, I still get pulled in. And, even worse, years later, I’m still in this position. And as I slowly disentangle myself, I have discovered that I haven’t yet grieved fully for my husband. I haven’t grieved for this man either, it’s a secret and one that causes me a great deal of pain. Writing it out like this, not to be judged but to be understood, feels good.
I cut contact but he finds a way back. I moved and he found where I lived. I stopped working at the same office and he found a way to get transferred nearby. Now that we are in lockdown, I’m able to maintain as big a distance as I ever have before. I get texts but I rarely answer. I do still answer though.
It struck me that I have had LO’s before but never anything I felt I couldn’t handle, even if I was sometimes overwhelmed by it all. This, being pursued in my vulnerability, not being able to grieve or even find a true, loving, unattached life partner, or even a sexual connection with anyone as a result, it’s a side of this which is pretty horrible. I’m doing ok, considering, but I do need help, hence finding this site. Thank you.
Thanks for sharing your story, Maryanne, and sorry to hear what you’ve gone through.
I have to say, my immediate response is that your LO is really bad news. It sounds like stalker-level activity on his part trying to keep you ensnared with him after you had taken steps to distance yourself. It reads like he wants to be sure you are around when he feels like getting a narcissistic boost out of your company. Drawing his wife in too is just plain creepy. Urgh.
Now you are beginning to see things much more clearly, it’s a good idea to enforce boundaries strictly. Block his number and stop replying to texts. If he continues to push, it might be time to escalate and make it clear you do not want to hear from him anymore.
You are dead right. he has pursued you in your vulnerability, and quite aggressively. Any decent person who wanted to be friends with you, but knew you had feelings for them, would be fine with you distancing yourself. They’d be sad, but they’d respect you. He has shown zero respect to your needs. So he deserves very little consideration when you are planning a future of freedom, in my opinion.
Good luck with extricating yourself. We’re here for moral support!
Sorry for the loss of your husband.
Welcome to LwL! DrL has built a great community here. Read on!
Have you seen a professional about mourning and grieving? There are a few blogs that talk about the, often disenfranchised, grief associated with the end of an LE. You don’t want to do it with the kids around but have you let yourself go and cry so hard that you can wring the tears out of your pillowcase? Keeping it in doesn’t make it go away, it only puts it under pressure. When I finally started mourning the end of my relationship with LO #2 20+ years after it ended, the dog got more long walks in the woods than he had in his life until then. But, I also had access to an EAP counselor, which helped a lot.
There’s an overall really encouraging theme of resilience in your post. You found this place, you’ll keep looking until you get your answers.
You haven’t given up on happiness.
Welcome! I’ve been so helped by discovering the idea of limerence and by finding this community.
I’m sorry for the loss of your husband. I do think that traumatic experiences can fuel limerence (it did for me- even though it took me a bit to put it together).
I agree with DrL. Your LO sounds like a threat to you. The way he’s behaving is wildly inappropriate and sounds, at the very least, pshycoligically dangerous and, at the worst, physically dangerous.
You can get free of this. There are so many resources here and other places. All good things are possible.
I’m going to try my hand at a song of the day: https://youtu.be/lWco978VpjY
That song was beautiful.
Thank you all so much. I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve known for a few years it was incredibly unhealthy but I’d gotten into such a toxic cycle. I also realised I have boundary issues, possibly a pre requisite of becoming limerence in the first place? I also realised that keeping in such a huge secret is very damaging and doubly awful because everyone assumes its all because of my husband so I’m also a fraud. Not by choice though. The good news is, I am very resilient, yes, and am in pursuit of healing and happiness. I’d also like to properly fall in love again but didn’t want to look under these circumstances. That feels incredibly unfair. I feel I’ve found the place that is going to help me finally let go. Thank you for the kind words and advice.
Recovering-I Hope-Limerent says
Oh, Maryanne, so sorry for your loss! It takes a good long time to recover from such a loss and then to have a narcissist pushing the boundaries on top of it is too much.
I noticed an up tick of ‘concern’ when I was dealing with a terminal parent. I couldn’t go NC until I left that company completely, and until then there was much manipulation involving including me in the work-social circle, wanting me to be acquainted with wife, texts – all things that maybe he viewed as making sure I was receiving wanted attention (yes I know it’s limerent behavior to try to attribute good motives to LO when really the messages were very mixed) but to me, were just excruciatingly painful and anxiety provoking.
I understand the feelings of feeling so vulnerable and being in a living hell that you can’t get away from. I wish you well on your journey to properly grieve and recover. As one soft boundary person to another, it’s hard to lay down a strong and clear boundary, but you are moving in the right direction! I backed down on the initial limited contact because of LO being my boss and in a position of authority. Hard for me, I’ve learned through this whole sorry mess, and leaving completely was the only way. You sound like you are doing everything right (except the texts?). You will be stronger and stronger as you go along.
I have been reduced to writing all my feelings down on paper and burning it. Gives me much satisfaction. Apparently I’m in in the angry phase of grief! I felt manipulated into sliding down what I knew was a slippery slope and was in a position of grief and other contributing factors that made me more vulnerable than I would have been normally. Your life struggles reasonated. Hugs and well wishes to you. You’re stronger than you know!
Recovering I Hope Limerent, thank you so much.
I have seen him, even during lockdown because, work. But all the work I’ve done means the recovery time is shorter. It used to take days to recover. Now, the feelings are akin to rage and pure anger but I stand still and breathe them out. I know… I KNOW… by the next day, soon, hopefully, the next hour, I’ll be OK again. I expect nothing now. And the only emotional response seems to be that anger. I’d have that any day, over the pain and anguish. And it drives me forward. I’m coming out the other side, I think.
All the very best to you too.
The anger state of grief can be overwhelming but it’s healthy, your body is doing it’s work, cleaning up, sorting out, making you so angry to prepare you for the detaching that will follow. You are getting there.
Yes the detaching feels so good! It’s so liberating! When the pain is at its worst you can never imagine feeling happy again or even enjoying detaching…but as you naturally heal you suddenly realize a huge weight is off of you and you have indeed detached and then you can rediscover yourself!
Where are you in recovery jaideux ? You seem to have recovered or was that relief an experience from a former LO?
Im in the negotiation fase, sometimes I want to understand LO (so I can re connect one day ) sometimes I’m angree sometimes I have so much pain I think I can’t take it, sometimes I fantasize about our future meeting when I’m better and more strong to handle LO ( which is absurde but my mind desperately seeks for relief even in insane fantasy). Most important step is keeping NC for me. And I will, first step will be 30 days. And than celebrate and prolonge with another 30 days .
I am a little over a year NC. I have been a limerent since childhood, but this last LE was the worst by far due to it’s duration (several years) and the intensity of the LO’s attention and thoughtfulness and charisma, charm, style and extreme generosity. He always made me feel I was just couple of small steps away to spending an exciting, adventurous, pampered and joyous lifetime with him. I tried to escape a few times, (I really did!) but wasn’t strong enough to resist his extreme efforts to woo me back.
I will never understand his behaviour and it’s baffling that all he really wanted was a very close and intense and interdependent friendship, but it was the case. He would like to be back where we were but as he is now finally in a committed relationship I took the leap into NC and although the first months were the most excruciating pain of my entire life, I get better every week, far surpassing my expectations. I thought I would be miserable and pining for him for the rest of my life, and life would be nothing but enduring pain of heart, hurt and anger and longing, but now I am finding myself again, enjoying my own company immensely (lockdown style) and have strengthened many friendships with my friends of all ages. I am often told that I am loved by dear authentic friends and now have the brainspace to think and explore and create and learn and give quality attention to many deserving people and things instead of being sucked into the vortex that was the LO. If I ever choose to be in a romantic relationship (emphasis on MY choice) I will be a much better partner and have the potential for a really healthy relationship. If I choose not to , I know I will still be happy and whole nonetheless. Stay the course….there is everything to gain by breaking free and nothing to lose but the pain of a false ‘friendship’ and ‘romance’. Life is too precious to waste on a fake.
Thank you! . I recognize so much, my LO is an adventure photographer travels the world and very high sensitive a good listner and was very very focused on me. Litterary everything I missed in my 20 year marriage. I saw myself traveling the world with him .
He still wants to meet and see of we can pick up things after we went NC during my divorce. But I can not, I’m not healthy, his love fore me completely changed after the NC he moved on he would have to fall in love again and I’m still as obsessed as ever, the levels of our relation are completely unbalanced so I told him goodbye. I have to get better, I have to get rid of limerence. He was my whole world and regulated my mood 100 % .and I want to be happy without him, I want to focus on me and my friends, I want my own happyness not coming from a text from him.
But because the door is still a bit open it’s hard not to ruminate in fantasy. ( What shall I wear when we finally meet up) but I’m determined. I want to get healthy obsession free and free of limerence. By that time I hope I don’t even want to contact LO anymore.
Stay strong and it will happen. My LO’s Star is fading fast and I’m starting to see him very differently than I did. I don’t need him, and although I wish him the best I don’t want him in my life. He no longer has power over me (as long as I stay away).
Clip of the Day: “Deteriorata” – National Lampoon “Radio Dinner” (1972)
On an existential note…
Trigger Warning: While really funny, this can also be a real downer.
Today, the barriers to real life can make everyday living miserable…or kill you. Ok, going to the grocery store could always kill you but it wasn’t in your face.
As a High School sophomore in 1972, there was plenty of angst in our world.
It’s worse now. Even better, you know about it in real time and have to work to escape it. At least in 1972, you had to wait for the next news cycle.