At first limerence is amazing. And then it isn’t.
This transition – from exhilarating to exhausting – mirrors the transition from initial high to desperate dependency for drugs of abuse, which is part of the reason why I like the framing of limerence as “person addiction”. So what is it that causes this transition? Why does something that feels great at first inevitably lead to a crash? Is it actually inevitable, or could we limerents [whisper it] find a way to get the high while minimising the risk of dependency?
Well. What a question! Let’s have a think.
1) The brain buzz
I’ve talked before about the neurophysiology of limerence, and how it is linked to reward systems in the brain. Dopamine is the primary player in this, but it’s a bit of an oversimplification to present it so straightforwardly. There are lots of other aspects to limerence beyond “simple” reward. Limerence is also linked to arousal, positive affect (i.e. happiness), sexual attraction, and bonding, to name a few other major psychological motivators. So, to try and pick that lot apart you need to consider the roles of a range of neurotransmitters and neuromodulators (serotonin, noradrenaline, acetylcholine, histamine), a few hormones (adrenaline, oxytocin, endorphins) and you can throw in various other speculative neurochemicals that might have a role too. What I’m saying is, it’s complicated. There is going to be a very substantial change in neurophysiology as a consequence of becoming limerent.
It also doesn’t end there. Once the transition begins, and LO starts to become an addiction, there are even more changes in store. Most limerents realise that once they start to crave LO contact, they are losing control of the situation. Often, they react by becoming defensive, and try to maintain the pretense that this is just a close friendship. Then, the real dishonesty sets in. Telling white lies about motivation or behaviour. Being deceitful about where they have been, and what they’ve been up to. Hiding their phone. In other words – behaving like an addict, with all the associated compromises of their self-worth, moral principles, and relationships with others.
What this means in practical terms is that limerence alters the way you perceive and react to the world in pretty profound ways, and is also likely to lead to changes in personality. That’s the kind of fire you’re playing with.
2) The energy needs to go somewhere
The thrill of limerence is an unusual psychological and physiological state. That’s why it feels so good. Sustaining that heightened sense of overarousal is not normal. Kind of like the “fight or flight” response, if there is no pay off, the pent up energy gets internalised and goes bad.
By analogy to how internalising stress and anxiety can lead to illness (like hypertension, or anxiety disorders) trying to internalise limerence energy leads to unhealthy psychology. This is a large part of why I would advocate a purposeful response to the glimmer early on: either express your feelings for LO (if appropriate), or make a purposeful decision to avoid their company, and set boundaries to reduce the risk of escalating affection.
The biggest danger is when you try to maintain your supply of brain-altering LO juice, but through willful denial pretend that it will have no lasting consequences. You’re fueling a fire but then trying to contain it to your internal world.
Redirecting that energy into some other project (creative, practical or social) can help, but if you keep fuelling the fire, you are never going to succeed in putting it out. Ultimately, if you charge up with energy but do nothing to discharge it, it will burst out in places where you don’t want it to.
3) The dangers of brinkmanship
One downside to the “person addiction” perspective for limerence is that it conjures the image of a seedy addict, seeking illicit highs or sleazy sexual kicks. But limerence rarely feels like that.
Early on (and for some people, over the long term) limerence doesn’t even feel primarily sexual or romantic. It’s often just that the company of this particular person feels energising and enlivening. It can also provoke a strong desire to help LO, emotionally or practically. Surely these are good things? Enjoying the company of another person and helping them achieve their goals?
Given that premise, perhaps it’s OK to get a bit of a limerence lift from time to time when you encounter a new LO, but then pull back when you get close to the brink of addiction? Can you let the LO energy grow for a bit, just to perk life up, but then let it subside? If limerence is a hill with addiction on the far side, can you climb to the fringe of the peak without tumbling over into the Valley Of The Junkies beyond?
Here’s why I think it’s perilous. Limerence, in my view, is primarily a drive for bonding. Even if you don’t intend to act on the impulse, the drive is still there. Your body is firing you up with energy and euphoria to spur you to action.
Potential mate detected! Bond! Now!
If you continually expose yourself to the stimulus but don’t act, then the drive turns inwards into obsessive thoughts, psychological fixation, and reinforcing rumination. It’s like fruit that ripens nicely, then over-ripens, then starts rotting on the vine.
I’m not saying it’s impossible. I’m not even as pessimistic as this jumble of thoughts might suggest. What I’m saying is that it’s very risky to try and experiment with limerence, unless you have a deep understanding of your own triggers and experience with methods for pulling you back from the brink. And absolutely, fundamentally, you don’t stand a chance of using limerence safely unless you are scrupulously honest with yourself.
Brinkmanship comes with risks. If you are not willing to accept the consequences of tipping over the edge, best to not even get close.
I would hazard a guess that no limerent episode has ever culminated in a healthy and satisfying romantic conclusion. I hope I am wrong.
I believe it can happen. I encountered mutual limerence over 20 years ago, which led to the marriage I’m in now, kids etc. I’d say it’s a happy, healthy marriage and getting together definitely felt like a “satisfying romantic conclusion”. Yes I’m here now but, I think this is down to my natural limerent tendencies rather than not being with the right person.
Just to add, I shouldn’t really have said “mutual limerence”. Although it started as limerence for me, before progressing to love, I do not know whether my wife had or still has limerent feelings. I suspect not, but it’s not something I would like to ask her about.
Royce it seems you did indeed safely harness limerence!
But it was mutual limerence. I wonder if one sided limerence can ever be safely harnessed?
I am intrigued by your story. How long did your limerence last? How was the relationship when limerence died and real love took over?
Oh sorry just saw your second entry….
I wonder if it doesn’t happen quite a bit, actually. It’s surely the inspiration for so many poignant love songs and poetry, right? Mutual limerence that gets to be acted on. Of the several shorter-term relationships I had before settling down at 37, only one was mutual limerence. But it didn’t last any longer than the others. It was way more intense in the beginning, but then ended more painfully.
I was limerent for my wife when we first met (in college), although she barely knew me. Seventeen years later when we reconnected, my limerence was instantly re-ignited and I believed I truly fell in love and so did she, although it was never limerence for her. She’s not in our tribe.
Am I in a healthy and satisfying marriage? (I have to say, I chuckle at the notion of calling marriage a “romantic conclusion.” That does about sum it up sometimes, does it not?) I don’t know. Probably I’m not, or else I wouldn’t have been totally hung up on another LO this past year. Worst limerent experience ever… I’ve theorized that it’s akin to what they call terminal lucidity–except, it’s my libido.
Terminal libidity, anyone??
Another factor in harnessing limerence is whether your LO behaves as you think they will. Actively managing limerence takes effort and how well you manage it depends a lot on how your LO responds. Your agenda, whether you and your LO are aware of it or not, may a lot different from your LOs agenda assuming he/she is aware of it or not. It would be really surprising if you’re aware of their agenda. Your LO has as much agency as you do and is entitled to exercise it. I think LO #4 and I were aware of the shaky ground we were on but I have no idea of what her agenda was.
I had this mental image in my mind of LO #4 being on one side of the fence and her being on the other. Ideally, that image should have been two fences, one for her and one for me. But, since she was initially unavailable, I could neatly bypass any of the more uncomfortable issues of what I was doing and get by with only one fence. I didn’t have to worry about my boundaries as long as she was maintaining hers. When her relationship collapsed, that boundary disappeared and I had to scramble to re-establish mine. When we became Facebook friends, I felt like I’d let the Trojan Horse behind the wall and I had a dream about her in which I almost drove my car over a cliff.
I had the contingency plan ready if it blew up. When I ran through the list of outcomes, it was clear that the LE was going to end. Ending was questions of when and how it could be pulled off with minimal consequence. If the poop hit the fan, LO #4 was going under the bus. She’d never know. There were two reasons I think she and I never talked in the 5 years we crossed paths. One was it would have made the acquaintance real and eliminated the quaint 19th century thing we had going online. The second was it formed the crux of my plan if things went south. I wouldn’t be able to deny what happened, I could only attempt to minimize its significance. Since we never met or even spoke directly to each other, how serious could it be?
I’ve said this before, too. The therapist asked what I wanted from LO #4. I told her I wanted her to be honest with me and know what she thought or felt about me.
The therapist’s response was, “What would you do with that knowledge if you had it?”
Having been through this, rather than try to manage it, it was ultimately better to do the work to eliminate the vulnerability so I’m no longer attracted to the glimmer. I wasn’t good, I was lucky. Had LO #4 not responded the way she did, things could have been a lot worse for me.
Solving problems is good but avoiding them in the first place is even better.
Yes, great point. There are lots of factors influencing the limerence experience that are outside the limerent’s control.
To labour the analogy: brinkmanship is even riskier if there’s someone beside you who could push you over the edge.
Scharnhorst said: “When we became Facebook friends, I felt like I’d let the Trojan Horse behind the wall and I had a dream about her in which I almost drove my car over a cliff.”
I had a similar experience with my dreams. Back in September, a couple of weeks before everything exploded in my face, I started having dreams that for some reason seemed worthy of journaling. I had one dream that (in hindsight) seemed particularly prescient. I was laying on a beach sunbathing. IRL, I had melanoma so this is something I would never do. I actually wrote in my journal “I wonder what risk I am knowingly exposing myself to?” hahahahaaaaa The subconscious mind is funny isn’t it.
“Early on (and for some people, over the long term) limerence doesn’t even feel primarily sexual or romantic. It’s often just that the company of this particular person feels energising and enlivening. It can also provoke a strong desire to help LO, emotionally or practically.“
This is so true for me. LO is hot, dont get me wrong, and my mind does go that way from time to time, but it’s a need for her company and a desire to help her that drives it, plus I would add a desperate need for reciprocation or even just acknowledgement of my efforts, and a desire for exclusivity. I want to be the guy she turns to, no-one else, and I just want her to tell me how amazing I am basically. Seems so pathetic when you write it down 🙁
Honesty is never pathetic.
Bravo Dr. L! Honesty, yes. We need to let go of the shame of limerence. Limerents live with too much secrecy methinks. I wish I would have had a constant truthful dialogue with my last LO, (I did once when I disclosed and then in bits when I would try to withdraw), but if I had been repeatedly honest and truth to the point of discomfort (for us both) I think the ending and thus the suffering would have happened years earlier than it did.
Four years on, you probably won’t see this. But Vincent, I really appreciate your post. I have an LO, and I am also his LO. He constantly offers to do things for me, to help me, even gave me his phone number so I could request help at any time. I keep wondering why he does this, and I had settled on the idea that he doesn’t know how else to express his desire for me, since he’s married. But perhaps it is closer to what you describe
“If limerence is a hill with addiction on the far side, can you climb to the fringe of the peak without tumbling over into the Valley Of The Junkies beyond?”
Maybe…but the conditions would have to be right.
When I was working through things after saying goodbye to LO #4, the therapist labeled me co-dependent. But, co-dependence wasn’t a good fit so I kept looking and discovered limerence. There are a few sites that talk about limerence but I liked this one the best and started to hang out here. DrL’s blogs helped me put things into context and develop a more nuanced understanding. I think I have a pretty good idea of where I am, how I got there, where I see myself going in the future.
So, why am I still here?
Because I can have a vicarious Limerent Experience. Under the guise of trying to understand things, I get to ruminate on the house. I can get almost as much out of looking back as I could when I was in the LE but without the risk or anxiety. But, it’s counterproductive. If I really want out, I need to stop looking for excuses to raise the subject.
Maybe DrL can write something on Post Limerence.
Oh, no. That makes me an enabler!
Interesting question about “post limerence”. I’m not sure such a thing is possible. I’ve just had an email from someone dealing with limerence in their eighties. I think accepting it as part of who we are is probably the best bet for wrestling it under control.
And, as “ways to get some LE sparkle” go, reading about limerence on blogs is probably a fairly healthy option 🙂
“I think accepting it as part of who we are is probably the best bet for wrestling it under control.”
I don’t think I agree with that. You talk about 2 tribes, Limerents and Non-limerents. But, the definition of Non-limerents is that limerence is a concept that escapes them and aren’t vulnerable. I agree that there are people that when it comes to limerence, “just don’t get it.”
But, there’s a group you left out. It’s the group that understands and empathizes with it but for whom limerence poses little to no risk. Maybe they don’t have a vulnerability, maybe they haven’t encountered the right threat, or maybe their environment isn’t fertile for limerence to ignite. Maybe you could refer to this group as Unlimerent.
I don’t think I’m vulnerable anymore but I’m definitely not a Non-limerent.
Possibly quibbling on definitions, but I would say that limerence is still part of who you are, it’s just that you are a limerent who has developed skills to manage the process and keep it in check.
Kind of like an introvert who has acclimatised to socialising, but also knows when they’ve reached their limits.
Or like an alcoholic that is practicing abstinence. Alcohol/limerence will always be a danger, but we are currently not partaking. By deliberate choice.
Maybe “recovered limerent?”
“I don’t think I’m vulnerable anymore but I’m definitely not a Non-limerent” (in my current state).
Or maybe you are not at risk for new LOs, but still at risk for past ones because they are burned into your mind?
I’m still here because I’m not where I need to be. The downside of visiting this site is the reminder of my LO, but that is more than offset by the benefits I’m receiving from the site.
“Or like an alcoholic that is practicing abstinence. Alcohol/limerence will always be a danger, but we are currently not partaking. By deliberate choice.”
You need to be careful window shopping at the liquor store.
This morning I drifted into a “I’m totally over this. Let’s go for coffee!” moment. Specifically,
“This trap is most often encountered after a period of no contact, when the most urgent feelings of limerence have genuinely subsided. With the new clear-headedness that no contact has enabled, it’s easy to believe that you can meet as friends and enjoy uncomplicated time together. Maybe even learn more about yourself by analysing your feelings when you meet. Or validate your recovery, by demonstrating how resilient you are to their charms now.”
I think it was triggered by the brief email exchange we had recently and the resultant social media drive-by. The bad news was how easily I drifted into it. The good news was I recognized it immediately.
Moral: Probably best to stay away from the liquor store….
Good point Scharny. I just unfollowed my former LO. He rarely posts so I didn’t think it was necessary but he posted a movie star quality pic of him and his new wife and he was gushing about his happiness with her and I realized that it Was Time To Unfollow. Time to stay as far away from the liquor store as possible.
Wow, Dr. L, I’m in my late seventies and going through a bout of Limerence that’s driving me nuts. And it all started with a dream I had last May with a boy friend I had when I was 26! 50 years NC! I just found him and contacted him!!! Very emotional and at the same time very painful, a lot of regrets… My mind has been hijacked completely 24/7. I had never had a thing like this before . Thanks for this site which gives me comfort and hopes that it will pass… really?
“Or maybe you are not at risk for new LOs, but still at risk for past ones because they are burned into your mind?”
The therapist and I covered this one in detail. One of the unexpected things to come out of working with the therapist was I no longer idealized my LOs. The reality is I have no place for an LO in real life and as LO #4 showed, I only have limited head space. I can really only have one woman seriously in my head at one time.
She asked if I’d consider re-engaging LO #2. I told her not as long as I was married. Her response was that after everything I’d told her her recommendation was that if I ever found myself back on the market was to never have anything to do with her again. I hope I’m never so desperate, so bored, or so unhappy that I’d turn to her or let her back into my life. I know what that would cost me in terms of my self-respect.
As for LO #4, that might be a different story. In her goodbye, she said she didn’t think to “…continue to correspond would be appropriate.” She wasn’t unhappy with what I said but coming from a married man it wasn’t appropriate. If circumstances changed and it would be appropriate I might try to reopen the acquaintance. The thing is for me to be available would mean something terrible had happened in my life. I don’t know what state I’d be in should that happen. It could make me really want to engage her, it could make me forget about her entirely. If I did re-engage and she agreed to it, a whole lot of RL issues come into play, like logistics, age, etc. There are others. When she brought my wife into the conversation, she shot the elephant in the room and the only difference between a live elephant and a dead one is the dead one smells worse. She could ping me to see if the circumstances changed but I just don’t see her doing that.
I also have a trait where I frequently look back on my life but I’ve gone back. I can’t think of a single person in my past I didn’t stay in contact that I wish I had. There are people I’m curious about what happened to them but I don’t want to re-engage them.
So, while the risk is not precisely zero, I don’t see that happening.
“but I’ve never gone back.”
Thanks for the detailed reply, Scharnhorst. As I was never limerent for my wife, having LO take initially root in my head was wonderful (at the time, as it was such a new life experience) but also disconcerting. The limited head space rings true for me as well, as there wasn’t room for ANYTHING other than LO at both the height (euphoria) and depth (depression) of my limerence. LO is still very much in my head, but doesn’t have control of my world.
For the 2 Limerence experiences I had I found out that I can go no contact “easily” but cannot remove that person from my head for years. One thing that happens to me is that I have to say his name all the time, and very often out loud. I mean several times a day. Most of the time I just need to say his name, whereas other times I say full sentences like “I love you [his name], even if you don’t love me”… it sounds creepy and obsessive but at the same time I don’t search him in social networks ( that I know already his profiles), I don’t enter in contact with him… but can’t stop saying his name. Does this happen to anyone else here? I always wanted to know why I have this need.
Do you have this or any other ritual?
I have a similar need. I sometimes will sigh, then say “I love you LO, but…” followed by “it can’t work” or “I need to stay away from you”. It is definitely a release for me.
I also get irritated (or other uneasy feelings) when I need to drive in the general vicinity of LOs neighborhood. A reminder of being physically close to her, but in reality no longer close to her.
Strange isn’t it? I agree with you, when you say it’s a kind of release as also I have the impression I don’t even think before saying his name, I just open my mouth and his name (or complete sentences) went out of my mouth without me being aware what I was about to say. It’s like it comes from some repressed feelings or thoughts that somehow found their way to vocal cordes.
First time poster and yes, every day, multiple times a day. It feels so good saying his name (and I won’t even say his first name because of who he is to me, and I never use his first name, so it’s Mr. So-and-so). And when I hear someone else say his name, or I read it if it’s written down, I feel my heart literally skip a beat. It’s been THREE YEARS. What IS this?!?!
My Limerent Brain is An Idiot says
I did the opposite. I say out loud, “I don’t love or want LO. I will never ‘have’ LO. I am married to SO and I love, want, and need SO.”
Idiot Limerent Brain grumbles and mercifully agrees.
Please NO CHEATING on spouses. If you need another perspective, visit Chump Lady’s blog pronto! It’s not worth it inflicting lifelong pain to your spouse.
Carla that’s both fascinating and terrifying. Limerence is like a systemic staph infection, ready to erupt wherever it can.
“Limerence is like a systemic staph infection, ready to erupt wherever it can.”
Maybe herpes is a better analogy. It never goes away and SO’s aren’t happy to get the news about it.
My Limerent Brain is An Idiot says
Ahaha Haha, Lee, you’re the best!
Thank you. I’m glad it provided a wry chuckle.
This is a very relevant topic for me. I have been thinking a lot about how the energy needs to go somewhere, and if I can use this energy to spice up my relationship with my SO.
Like Thinker said, I have used a similar technique, on the same lines of “I love you LO, but we would never be a good couple together because of [many reasons, including being too similar].” Then I remind myself about all the reasons why my SO is the right match for me, especially being complementary in so many ways. And then somehow I have been able to transfer this energy to my SO. This does mean thinking about both the LO and the SO at the same time, which I started practicing doing.
My most recent limerent experience felt really great, and in fact actually improved my relationship with my SO. All this new desire was now physically directed at my SO. For a while they did not know I was in the midst of a LE, they just remarked that they loved this new desire. When I told them months later (and confessed to fantasizing about LO while in bed with SO) they said they had no idea, but as long as no actions were taken, my thoughts did not bother them. In fact the mystery was a turn on for them, because we had never talked about these depths of feeling before. I think it helps that my SO is a very rational person (opposite of me), so they never think to ask about my feelings, etc.
So, yes I think limerence can safely be harnessed – and can actually enhance an existing relationship!
I love your perspective, PS. I’ve been trying to do something similar as you, using the boosted energy from the LE to improve other aspects of my life. Especially with SO, it reignited our relationship as you describe!
I believe though, that this can only work in case of non-reciprocated and non-disclosed feelings for LO.
I’m fully aware my LO is an idealized version in my brain, and not the real person. But still, I’m not so sure if I’m able to “safely harness” this limerence…!
I agree with you, Emma, that that this can only work in cases of no actions and non-disclosed feelings for LO. The moment when I felt I needed to disclose to my SO (instead of trying to handle it alone) was when I had the quite terrifying realization that if my LO did contact me, I would not be able to resist acting.
Now that my LE is waning, I find that the only times I continue to think of LO is when my SO is in the mood and I am not. Just purposely thinking about LO for a minute or two usually gets me in the mood very quickly. So that’s what I mean now about safety harnessing this limerence!
Vicarious Limerent says
I feel like limerence has been a huge curse for me. It has been a highly destructive experience. So, why do I voluntarily walk down Limerence Lane at times and indulge in fantasies? Why do I seek out pictures of my LO and yearn to hear news of her? Why am I so intensely curious about the pub where I met her, the town where she lives (the next town from mine) and the town where she grew up (about three or four towns east of here)? I even listen to songs that make me think of her. Today I broke down and listened to a slightly cheesy 80s rock ballad by a hair band with her name as the title. I actually cried because the song not only has the same name as hers, but it also is reminiscent of my situation, the possibility of meeting her again someday, last goodbyes, the need for time and patience and the fact I met her at the end of the night. I am not going to mention her name outright or the name of the song, but those who are familiar with 80s hair bands might be able to guess it (I am terrified the song ever comes on the radio when my wife is with me in the car). These are NOT pleasant experiences, so why do I do it?
Obviously, Dr. L has told us a bit about the brain chemistry of limerence and that it is a high similar to a drug. I really do not think limerence can be safely harnessed, but there have been some positive aspects of this. I have lost weight, my appetite has decreased, I have little interest in eating sweets, my libido has exploded so that I feel like I am 18 again (although no benefits for my SO just yet), my aches and pains are gone, I am taking much more pride in my appearance and I have never been so consistent in going to the gym in my entire adult life. I also really began to critically examine my life and really focus on the fact there are so many things missing and not working for me. So, it hasn’t been all bad, but I still wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. The sadness, guilt, loneliness, feelings of unrequited love, lost sleep, lack of presence and decreased focus and attention don’t nearly make up for the positive aspects of my LE. This is even affecting my job performance and someone is going to start noticing very soon if I don’t pull up my socks.
Is there a prize for guessing the song?
I’m pretty sure I know.
There are a few a songs that remind me LO #2 riding in my car. If they come on and my wife’s with me, I just let her change the channel if she doesn’t like it. She doesn’t know about the association.
If it’s the song I’m thinking of, LO #2’s name rhymes with it.
Vicarious Limerent says
Oh, my wife will certainly know the song and its association for me! Let’s just say that, while my screen name is based on the fact my attraction was initially a vicarious experience through my brother in-law, it is also a play on words relating to my LO’s name.
If it’s a crime, how come I feel no pain?
Vicarious Limerent says
@ Scharnhorst: Bingo! I am actually having fun with this. We should all play a game: Guess My LO’s Name!
My Limerent Brain Is An Idiot says
Wow! I watched the video for that song and got an overwhelming blast of limerence, for nobody, somebody, anybody! I had to turn it off and take a few shuddering breaths.
Well played on your name, VL.
I am a long-haired 80’s baby and loved that band, but don’t remember that song being so powerful. I think something has made me more susceptible to limerence in my middle age, because that was scary!!!
Vicarious Limerent says
@ My Limerent Brain Is An Idiot, thanks for validating what I was thinking. Just imagine if that song was the name of your LO and your experience with that person mirrored the words of that song so closely – especially when you are NC? It is pretty tough to take! “When lights go down” even got me thinking about how we met her at the end of the night and we literally closed the bar and were the last ones to leave. So, why would I even play that song? I find myself wondering what my LO thinks of the song (she must have been teased in high school, although she is a little younger than me and it would have been quite a few years old by then). I actually also think my LO might get a chuckle out of my name (or be totally appalled).
May as well make it the Song of the Day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZoSGL96CzQ
There’s no hope in that song. It’s all about resignation. He’s given up. He has nothing left. He doesn’t feel any pain because he’s past the pain. He’s numb. He wanted a reason not to give up and she didn’t give him one.
It will never change and that meeting will never happen. He’ll never seek her out and if they meet by chance, he’ll look at her with dead eyes. He gave her one last shot at redemption and she didn’t take it. He won’t give her another one.
Vicarious Limerent says
That song actually did come on the car radio the other day. I said to my wife, “Oh God, not this song,” and promptly switched it off. I think she knew why. She didn’t say a word. Today my wife showed me a picture of my LO on Facebook. She said, “There’s your girlfriend,” and acknowledged that my LO is pretty, but said she couldn’t see me with her. She also said, “No kissy kissy for you,” when I mentioned there was a COVID-19 outbreak at what might be my LO’s workplace. Is that weird or what? Is this level of transparency good or just plain strange?
@Vicarious: I have something in common with you, in that my marriage is in a bad place too. I find the way your wife is talking to you about LO very unrespectful, but I have to say my husband would say such things too! She talks to you like you had a affair and that she rightfully is aggressive about it. You did nothing wrong! Remember that. Your mind has been turned upside down since meeting you LO, but you didn’t act on it, you didn’t cheat. And you’ve been very brave to even disclose what happened. I get it that your wife doesn’t understand it (who would, except us fellow limerents!), but it doesn’t mean she is rightful to be angry and sarcastic.
Apologies that I’m probably writing this from my situation with my husband. I can just hear him saying what you wife said!!
Vicarious Limerent says
@ Emma: Thanks for the kind words. I sometimes need reminding that I haven’t actually done anything truly wrong because I haven’t tried to have an affair or anything like that. Still, I can understand why my wife is upset because I have inappropriate feelings for this woman and I think about her constantly (and my wife can tell when I am thinking about my LO). On the other hand, I am not sure if these recent comments came from a place of anger and jealousy or if she was just trying to be supportive and understanding and maybe use a little humour to diffuse the situation. The comment about my LO’s looks almost felt to me like she was conceding that she might end up losing me. It was a little sad in a way. I still love her, but like you I am really not satisfied with my marriage and I am having real difficulty getting that spark back into our marriage (I am not sure if I can, but I am at least willing to try).
Dear Vicarious, my interpretation of what your wife says comes from what I’m imagining my husband would say. It depends on the tone she uses of course. I agree I feel very different about what she says, if its with caring and compassionate humour.
My husband on the contrary is often angry with me since the beginning of my LE, and he’s very sarcastic. I didn’t disclose but somehow he knows that there is something beyond me just being very involved in the association my LO manages. He says my mind is constantly busy with my volunteer work, and that I’m putting way to much energy in it. He’s right about the fact that I’m not putting enough effort in our family life anymore. But on the other hand our kids are teenagers now and they don’t need me to be available for them constantly. I’m very close to them but indeed I’m more often absent because of my activities. I used to be home full time for years while my husband was away for work. Now my kids stay home alone sometimes in the evenings when I have meetings etc. But I’m there during the whole afternoon, weekends, school breaks, it’s not like I’m away “all the time”.
About my LE, it’s 100% in my head only. I never did any kind of flirting. My LO doesn’t know my feelings. Nobody knows except here on LwL. I work with him, we are both volunteers and our whole team is very passionate about our cause. I do see him once or twice a week and we have a lot of exchanges in our group chat. Very rarely personal messages, and only work related always. I never had to delete a message that wasn’t appropriate. There is nothing in my behavior that I can be blamed for. My boundary is to think what I would accept from my husband.
On the other hand I know my husband’s anger is because he’s suffering. He feels my mind is elsewhere. And I know that his pain is increased by the fact that there is something that he feels but doesn’t know. He’s acting like I’m having an affair. I feel guilty about it but there is no way I could disclose to him. He would be devastated. I know it’s unfair and I agree I’m responsible for his suffering. But I don’t have to accept his angry and belittling attitude towards me. He has become very bossy and often unpleasant. He makes me feel like I’m not good enough for him.
And that’s why I’m investing my energy increasingly in my volunteer activities. I feel appreciated there, I feel useful, I get a lot of praise for the work I do, and I made real friends (not my LO!!). I need them.
Is all this just me rationalizing about my LE? Is there a cognitive dissonance that explains my feeling of guilt?
Vicarious Limerent says
Thanks Emma. I didn’t really think the recent comments were made by my wife in anger, but there could be some passive aggressive thoughts there as well. I know she is deeply hurt by my LE, but she did seem to have a bit of an epiphany the other day when we decided to call off our separation. At that point, she told me she realized I wasn’t going to cheat on her. I think what upsets her the most is I spend so much time ruminating about my LO and it is plain and obvious I am not 100% present in the moment. She often asks me what’s wrong, and I get a little annoyed at that and tell her, “Nothing!” But most times she is able to figure out when I am thinking about my LO. I sometimes go into the bathroom and shed a couple of tears (not just for my LO but for my wife and my marriage as well). I always dry my eyes, but she can see something is wrong with me.
Vicarious Limerent says
@ Emma: Sorry, I wanted to address your questions and concerns as well. As limerents, we understand that there is little we can do to stop our limerence. It is our brain playing tricks on us and forcing us to think about people and situations we would rather not focus on. Guilt is quite common, and I have mixed feelings about that because, despite limerence being basically an involuntary reflex, we can manage our own thoughts to a large extent. We can refocus our attention on other things and try to keep busy and have a meaningful life. Despite the fact that limerence is so painful, there is a certain amount of pleasure in indulging in limerent fantasies, even when we know they are nonsense and very unlikely ever to come to fruition in the real world. But I think we have to truly want to get better before we can really focus on getting a handle on limerence (in my case, even dramatically reducing its potency by downgrading my feelings to a simple crush would be sufficient for me).
I have written elsewhere on this forum how my limerent experience is different from others in a couple of ways: (1) I hardly know my LO; and (2) my marriage is not in a very good place (although there are still some good things to build on). I always found it difficult to relate to people who have great relationships with their SOs but were nevertheless limerent for someone else. I know it happens, but my experience is so different in that my limerence is the result of a marriage that has been lacking in intimacy for years (as well as several other major issues). However, I am starting to see that quite a few commenters on here (like you) are faced with similar situations. I cannot absolve you of any guilt, but I really do think limerence can be understood and forgiven (at least to a large extent) when you aren’t getting your needs met in your relationship with your SO. In my case, limerence is my mind’s way of forcing me to pay attention to the aspects of my marriage (and my life) that aren’t working. I think we can all learn some valuable lessons by trying to focus on just what our LE is telling us, and I believe our LOs can often tell us what’s missing in our partners and our relationships.
“As limerents, we understand that there is little we can do to stop our limerence.”
That’s flat out wrong. It’s not there is little we can do to stop limerence, it’s how much are you willing to do to stop it. You decide what’s important and take action, or not, accordingly.
I told LO #4 flat out that as cool as I think it would have been to make a run at her, I told her I hoped I was never in a position to find out because to be in that position meant something terrible had happened in my life. I thought about how to reengage her if I became available. 5 years later, I don’t know that I would try to reengage her if I became available.
Vicarious Limerent says
@ Scharnhorst: Maybe that was poor choice of words on my part. I don’t think there is all that much we can do to stop limerence starting and to end it in the short-term (unless you have enough self-awareness to be able to spot the glimmer and act accordingly, which is something I still lack). However, I do agree it can be managed, limited and controlled, and the duration can be shortened. I also agree that we really have to want it to end in order to move forward (for the longest time, I thought I wanted my limerence to end, but part of me was still addicted to the fantasies and ruminations). Limerence does go away eventually and there are things we can do to help (redirecting our thoughts, keeping busy, leading a purposeful life, repeating mantras, thinking logically, acknowledging our limerent thoughts, reminding ourselves of our LO’s flaws, thinking about what we stand to lose, etc.). However, in some ways, I believe we kind of need to let it run its course, and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up if it doesn’t go away right away. I have been limerent before, for several other women (although not for more than 20 years), but the limerent feelings for those ladies is completely and utterly gone. I do still retain some curiosity about how they are getting on with their lives, but I know for a fact that nothing would be rekindled with them if I ever ran into them (some are in another country, so that kind of makes it very unlikely anyway).
Chris Higgins says
LImerence to me is like playing it until it is exhausted. Retiring from it assessing and reliving the memories and triggers. Make sense of it. Rebuild oneself and try again. I am more honest than I used to be from the first few episodes. The first time I got through it, it was a soul destroyer. The next time I learned something. The third time I managed the fantasy really well. The fourth time I got married. The fifth time which I am in at the moment is motivating me to check and balance myself. The sixth time I’ll have fun then destroy myself only to rejuvenate. The seventh time I’ll do it again.
Limerence is part of me and it is who I am. At 52 years old is there any point in changing?
Vicarious, maybe you did do something wrong, as for some SO’s, the emotional affair is much MUCH worse than the physical one. My wife, for example, might eventually, with much sarcasm, counseling, and time, forgive sex with a random waitress at PF Chang’s (which I would never do). Having an LO I pine for? She’d be calling the divorce attorney the next day. The soulful intimacy is the violation, particularly the yearning.
Vicarious Limerent says
Very true, and a valid counterpoint to Emma’s point above, ParadoxHighway. On the other hand, I don’t think I truly had an emotional affair with my LO. I only met her once and spent 2-3 hours in her presence (and she wasn’t even into me; it was my brother in-law she liked). It wasn’t like she was someone I worked with and developed a relationship with over months or even years. Still, lusting over, fantasizing about and pining away for someone else while married is a form of betrayal (some would say infidelity), whether I can help it or not. One thing I am starting to feel is a tremendous sense of stupidity and anger at myself for having this LE. I wonder if that is a sign I am starting to turn the corner? Who knows; I have thought that in the past and the limerence came back full force the very next day. Another thought I am having is I would like to start being more of a giver than a taker on this forum. I would like to start helping others more than always venting or asking for advice on my own situation. I am thinking my experiences might be able to help others.
Dr. L might chime in on this, but for me having a profound one-sided LE can feel emotionally as powerful (sometimes more) as a reciprocated EA.
Vicarious Limerent says
I can see how that might be the case, ParadoxHighway, because a one-sided LE allows us more opportunity to construct an image of our LO based on fantasy. In my case, I know quite a lot about my LO (nothing that was learned through inappropriate channels though), but the honest truth is I don’t really know what she is like as a person, so I fill in the blanks with what I THINK I know about her. I believe that I end up putting her on a pedestal as a result and constructing an idealized image of her that likely doesn’t match reality. I also believe the uncertainty of an unreciprocated LE can make it harder because I simply don’t know if she would like me (she never said anything inappropriate to me or came on to me, but there were some subtle signals that might mean there was something there). I believe Dr. L has discussed the uncertainty aspect of limerence in some of his posts.
Dear Vicarious, you definitely don’t have an EA! Correct me if I’m wrong, but an emotional affair is an affair without the sex, it’s exchanging with your LO on a deep emotional level. It’s impossible with a non-reciprocating LO as yours and mine.
And furthermore, my conviction is that you are entitled to your thoughts without feeling guilty about them. Your LE is all in your head and you know it. It’s a fantasy. It’s not about LO but about what she represents to you. About what she reveals about you. About what you are craving so hard that you have become obsessed with her.
But, what you are responsible for are your actions. If your LE has a profound impact on your behavior (like is my case), I can understand that your wife finds it difficult. Especially as we limerents often don’t have the lucidity to see how our LE has changed us. A good question to ask yourself is, what if the situation was reversed? What is the limit of what you would accept from your wife if she was limerent?
I realize I’m totally projecting my story onto yours, and that what I’m writing is what I want someone to say to me!! About myself I’m not as convinced as I sound like! I’m burderned by a profound feeling of guilt all the time, and it’s killing me.
Vicarious Limerent says
Thanks Emma for confirming I am not having an EA! That was my feeling as well, although my wife did refer to it as that a couple of times. As much as I realize I cannot help my thoughts — and that actions are what are really important — I have not been present over the past four months. I think that is where I do have to take some blame and feel some guilt. As I mentioned on my reply to your other post, my wife can tell when I am thinking about my LO and it does upset her. From now on, I have to try much harder to put my LO to the back of my mind and think about other thoughts when I do start to ruminate about her. Nevertheless, I do give myself a bit of a pass on some of this because who can blame me for looking elsewhere when my marriage has been so unfulfilling for so long? I would never cheat, but I certainly think about what I might do if my marriage were to end.
Hi All and thanks for the really interesting discussion. This is a bit of a fly-by post as I am currently struggling with internet access and all the other myriad problems that the current pandemic is causing…
My thoughts on all of this: most people would consider an emotional affair to be a prolonged period of closeness and intimacy that essentially has all the characteristics of a love affair except the sex. However, there’s no escaping the fact that Vicarious Limerent is emotionally obsessed with another woman, and any spouse would find that hugely upsetting and threatening. To an extent, the only value in quibbling about definitions is to figure out where your own “line” lies when it comes to acceptable behaviour in a marriage. You then have to figure out where your spouse’s “line” lies, because marriage is a partnership so your views are equally weighted.
It sounds like VL’s wife is in pain, and responding with caustic humour and sarcasm – not unreasonably given the threat she must be feeling. VL, I think, has obviously realised that his limerence is indicative of some serious issues with his marriage, and it is easy to agree with that conclusion, given that he has been blown away by LO after only a few hours in her company. That definitely fits the “LO is an archetype of something I deeply desire” case, rather than a progressive emotional connection growing between two people as circumstances throw them together.
So, really the heart of the issue is going inward and trying to understand what it is that LO has triggered in you, while doing nothing to escalate the limerence further.
Finally, in terms of guilt/shame, it’s good to remind yourself that you haven’t done anything concrete (like a physical affair or declaration of love), but shame can also be a useful warning signal from your moral centre. If you find yourself feeling defensive about your spouse’s sarcasm, here’s a useful thought experiment: what would you have done if LO had wanted to have an affair? Would you still have done nothing wrong?
Vicarious Limerent says
Thanks Dr. L. This pretty much nails it. My LE very much was the catalyst for change and the canary in the coalmine telling me something was and is deeply wrong in my marriage (and my life, frankly). Almost nothing was working right in my life when I met my LO.
My wife is becoming a real homebody and is obsessed with ideas about what people should be doing at “our age.” She thinks partying and going to bars is something you do in your twenties, and mainly when single. I feel very differently. I have been stuck at home almost every Friday and Saturday night for the past 12 years or so due to our conflicting schedules and childcare obligations. My wife and I are often like passing ships in the night. Now that my daughter is old enough to be on her own for a few hours, I want to be paroled from the prison I am living in. We hardly even ever have people over to the house anymore, and my wife often comes up with excuses why we can’t have company. All my wife wants to do is talk about how our friends suck and never want to do anything, yet she doesn’t seem to want to try to meet new people either. She is bossy, controlling, nagging, negative, constantly angry, always at my daughter’s throat (and sometimes quite abusive towards her) and totally lacking in any sense of fun or adventure. Even when we travel, she doesn’t want to go swimming or go on amusement park rides with my daughter and me. She never wants to go out and she gets angry if I want to have a pub night when we travel. The passion is gone, and I feel like my wife has let herself go (I did too, but I am really working hard on changing that – and that focus began even before I met my LO). She also seems to lack any empathy for me and my struggles in my job and career.
My LO, on the other hand, is fun and exciting, and I met her in a bar. I also know she has at least some similar musical tastes, and she shares a similar ethnic background with me. I think what really hooked me was the fact it was obvious she was looking for love and seems lonely. I am quite surprised she is single and seems to have been for quite some time. I would think a quality woman like her would have been married off by now, yet I am pretty sure she has never been married. I find her extremely attractive, yet the fact she isn’t perfect makes her seem even more appealing to me because her flaws don’t bother me and they make me feel like she would be less out of my league.
In spite of everything, however, I swear that I would refuse my LO even if she threw herself at me and begged me to make love to her. My own moral code would not allow for me to have an affair with this woman. It would take every ounce of willpower I have, but I would have to refuse her. Nevertheless, all bets are off and the situation would be entirely different if my marriage was truly and permanently over. In that case, as I have already mentioned, I would make a beeline for my LO, even though I don’t think I would have a serious chance with her.
Dr L – “here’s a useful thought experiment: what would you have done if LO had wanted to have an affair? Would you still have done nothing wrong?”
Yikes, honestly? I’d like to think I would’ve resisted but I have a sneaking suspicion the temptation would’ve been too great. Not happy with that answer, but there it is.
Yeah, it’s a sobering question, eh?
All very well to pat ourselves on the back for our integrity when it’s a theoretical problem, but it’s when we’re confronted with both means AND opportunity that we get properly tested…
“All very well to pat ourselves on the back for our integrity when it’s a theoretical problem, but it’s when we’re confronted with both means AND opportunity that we get properly tested…”
In the Navy, we were trained not to rely on our safety features, (e.g., relief valves, breakers, etc.) We were trained to operate so we didn’t have to rely on them. Keep the pressure down and don’t overload the circuit.
This is an interesting question to me. After a very bad emotional response to a rather lovely outing with LO, I subsequently managed to mute my limerence response to the point where I felt none of the hyper-arousal that comes with limerence. This was not quite the “grey” some people have described, but I did notice how very much less “alive” I felt. On one hand, I did not miss the desperation, but on the other hand, I also did think life felt more worthwhile with the spark that limerence gives. So. I experimented. (uh-oh, you say)
I had a meeting set up with LO. We would be alone, so you can imagine the potential scenarios I could fantasize about. In anticipation, I could feel in the days coming up to the meeting, a rekindling of the excitement that characterizes the LE. Being far more informed about what is happening, I was able to observe it more objectively. Mind, it still did not eliminate it, but it did feel less “out of control” than when I knew nothing of limerence and was just blindsided by the intense feelings. And it *was* nice to feel that sparkle of excitement. I also kept as an option that I could cancel at any point, if I felt things were getting out of hand.
I was also a lot more guarded in LO’s presence once we did meet. We were still enjoying ourselves, but I, at least, was a lot more cautious. I was also trying to view LO in a more objective light, trying to see the real person, rather than the glimmer giver. I was trying to figure out what about LO was my fantasy, and what was the reality. Strangely, knowing that so much of why I was drawn to LO was fantasy meant that … though I liked the real person, I did not have as strong a desire to *be* with the real person. So, when LO suggested that we spend more time hanging out this summer, I actually demurred, and he said, “Oh, I guess you’ve got a lot on this summer.” And when LO gave me a goodbye hug, I just gave him a pat on the back. I might add, we very rarely touched before this, apart from the odd brush, but rather than melt into his embrace like I would have in fantasy, I was pretty cool about it.
After the whole thing was over, I had a good cry to release the tension, but I did feel that there was a better balance in my experience of my days before and since as a whole; I wasn’t totally obsessed, but there was a low level of excitement that made me feel more alive. What this says about me and my life, I don’t know! But since this post is about “harnessing” limerence, I thought this experience might be worth mentioning. It reminds me a little of something someone was telling me about recently: micro-dosing.
I also monitored my txting a bit more the past few days, as in deliberately cutting back when I felt it was becoming too habitual (I noticed I was triggered when I was hungry, around dinner time, so I planned to do something else at the time). Today I had some work stress, and I found myself longing for a mood-enhancing hit of LO, but I resisted. I’m not planning to reach out to LO till the end of the week at the earliest.
So … is this safely harnessing limerence? Am I kidding myself? Am I playing with fire? Has anyone else had experience trying to harness their limerence as well? Was it a success or a failure? Was the gain worth it? I have to say, knowing the mechanics of limerence is very useful in not being swept away by it. I think though, this is all fine and good while I am in a fairly stable emotional situation, but if there is a stressful situation, it might affect my control.
Allie 1 says
Am really interested in this post Emily. I like the idea that more in-person LO exposure can help alleviate the intensity as I have experienced something similar myself. For this to work though, you do have to really hold back on the fantasising which can be akin to an overeater trying to hold back at a buffet of all their favourite foods when they are really hungry.
I also agree that some people can succeed at harnessing their limerence – it is a skill you can develop to a degree. Yet I suspect the majority people will still get swept away by it. I have harnessed mine with some success, and have done this a few times during my life. I was swept away during the first few months but over time the feeling becomes more familiar and a bit less intense so more manageable. Living purposefully and valuing my SO above LO are two of the key success factors for me. The trouble in this though is I am still at the mercy of my LOs behaviour which is totally out of my control. If he goes cold on me, which he does from time to time, or moves roles, I am miserable and this always ramps up the LE.
Hi Allie, thanks for sharing your experience. I think you hit on a few good points. The early euphoria stage – impossible I think, to regulate, it is just too good. 😀 So, for that stage alone, I think learning to identify and stop limerence from developing is the only way to keep safe from that especially vulnerable period.
Holding back from the fantasizing – that’s where I am taking a different approach. I’m like, if there is no thought police, I can GO WILD – in my head. Recognizing that my fantasy star LO is not LO in real life. When I see LO then in real life, it is ALMOST like seeing a different person – the real one, who of course does not behave like the fantasy LO. (Is in fact more interesting and surprising, I might add.) Sure, there will be things that are fodder for future fantasies, but generally, I keep my expectations separate.
LO’s behavior – so for me, I am trying to cordon off LO’s behavior in reality (where he owes me absolutely nothing), and I just go with the flow on this one. I basically accept uncertainty as a given when it comes to real LO, and I try to let it change nothing. I am not so sure how successful this will be – I will report back!
Now, for the final and most important part – my SO. I am coming to terms with where my SO fits in with the limerence. A bad patch (okay, I’ll be blunt, a bad, sex-less, uncertain patch) with my SO is what made me especially vulnerable to LO in the first place I think. I even asked SO if he’d be open to opening the marriage at that point (Answer: no). However, the LE was a wake up call, and I initiated some hard conversations with SO (but did not have the courage to disclose about LO yet) – and those conversations have improved my relationship with SO quite a bit. To the point where I am now in a position where I have a more than decent relationship with SO (ironically because of the limerence) but unfortunately now have an LE with an LO at the same time! (ironically caused by the situation with SO, but SO is the reason why I would not actually embark in an affair with LO). Oh what a tangled web we weave, you have to laugh at the universe sometime!
As for a purposeful life, I was ALREADY working on that for 6 months before LO appeared on the scene, retraining for that was actually where I met LO. It didn’t stop the LE from happening, unfortunately (maybe it is because I am still in training, rather than actually doing the purposeful thing?) Instead, it threw me into close proximity with someone who shared goals with me and understood and shared my struggles (uh-oh) and who was studying late into the night when I was (double uh-oh) in a fairly high-stress situation (triple uh-oh). In fact, I think partly why I CAN experiment with micro-dosing LO is that is IS summer, and I have more control over how much I see LO (as in, I cut it way back, its going to be close to NC by the time I am done). I think for me, when Fall comes, and we will be thrown into proximity again (LO has invited me to do a study with him, late nights, secluded settings … sigh) … I am a little worried about that. I am considering skipping the whole quarter completely, tbh. But I have been working so hard to get this qualification too!
(I have to say, a part of me is very annoyed with all this. I have an intense, very focused, addictive (I think) personality. Because of that, I have cut out every single even mildly addictive substance for my life including TV, coffee and alcohol for the last two decades. Then THIS happens. Am I supposed to avoid people as well, so that I don’t develop person addiction?)
I am trying to approach it as a challenge, but I also just want to be clear that the suffering I read here on this website, the guilt (before I understood what was going on), the derailment and inability to work (thank goodness I managed to pass everything), the pain and crying, the endless fantasizing and rumination … I went through all that – and I realize I might have to go through that again.
So, that’s where I am at this moment.
” A bad patch (okay, I’ll be blunt, a bad, sex-less, uncertain patch) with my SO is what made me especially vulnerable to LO in the first place I think. I even asked SO if he’d be open to opening the marriage”
So my first question if my SO said he wanted to open up the relationship is, “Who do you have in mind to open it up with?” It seems like an obvious question. Particularly if we were in uncertain patch and not having sex.
We’ve discussed opening the marriage at various points (SO and I have been together a long time), so it isn’t quite so left field as all that. Sometime he’s asked, sometimes I’ve asked, and we have never actually done it.
Actually, another observation, Marcia: I never asked my SO who he had in mind when he was asking to open the marriage, and he never asked me either! I just assumed there must have been someone he was attracted to at the time, but in a way, it didn’t matter to me. What mattered is that he asked me. And it’s a delicate thing … I’ll use an analogy. When your child confides in you, you don’t want to react too strongly, or push too hard, because it will stop them from confiding in you. So, I think SO and I have a fine-tuned sense of how much we want to pry into the other person’s head or feelings, we (at least I) don’t want to make it uncomfortable, or embarrassing, or basically stop him from asking me. When I say difficult conversations, I told him I was noticing others, flirting, being turned-on by other guys … basically being more hyper-aroused than usual by other people (limerence does that). He said it was somewhat disconcerting to hear that, but he accepted it, and I think he trusts me not to cross certain lines, while accepting that I am currently having reactions that are a bit beyond my control. This might be a little strange, but it’s the way our relationship is (and now that I have actually written it out, it makes me realize that is actually quite special, in its own way).
“We’ve discussed opening the marriage at various points (SO and I have been together a long time), so it isn’t quite so left field as all that. Sometime he’s asked, sometimes I’ve asked, and we have never actually done it.”
“When your child confides in you, you don’t want to react too strongly, or push too hard, because it will stop them from confiding in you. ”
But it isn’t a parent-child relationship. It’s a romantic/sexual relationship with another adult and asking to open it up is changing the entire dynamic and the rules/boundaries. I’m not saying that’s good or bad, but I’d be asking questions. Now, that’s me.
“When I say difficult conversations, I told him I was noticing others, flirting, being turned-on by other guys … basically being more hyper-aroused than usual by other people (limerence does that). ”
I guess I experience limerence very differently. When I was limerent, I wanted one very specific person — my LO. There were other people I flirted with, and I enjoyed the attention, but I did not take them seriously at all. It was sport. So not disclosing an LO would be disingenuous. I’d want to open things up to have sex with the LO.
Hi Marcia, I went to check my journal … at the point I talked to SO, I don’t think I even knew what limerence was yet or that LO was a LO (it was three days before I found this site!) – all I knew was that suddenly, everything was super-charged – I think Tennov wrote of the glimmer stage as potentially having several glimmer givers to choose from, before crystallization? – I think LO was the catalyst, and I definitely was noticing (and fantasizing about) him specifically by then, but it wasn’t full-blown limerence by then yet, and I have had crushes on others before, and fantasized about them, and those eventually faded, so I didn’t really think this was anything different at that point (oh boy, it surely is; crushes don’t hold a candle to limerence).
It also felt like part of a larger change in my life at that point – I had been feeling more emotional than usual for months before that, but LO made that amorphous emotion take the form of desire. There was a noticeably distinct change in my energy, because I would just look at some guy in the eyes, and they would suddenly perk up and start flirting with me. Or I would hear some guy’s voice and be instantly switched on. Or I would notice how great a guy looked in jeans. The way I walked and talked was subtly different. It was weird. I am *totally* not like that usually (nor do people react to me that way usually). So, my experience of the early stages of glimmer is that I suddenly became aware of myself in a sensual way (and by extension lots of others did too!)
Once my mind “settled” on LO though, I (interestingly enough) self-censored so if I caught someone’s eye, I immediately averted my eyes and ignored them, and the glimmer is snuffed out instantly (good for future reference). It was like being faithful to an LO (stranger and stranger). When I reflect on how I fell into infatuation with LO though, I think I was a little unlucky – it wasn’t the lock-eye experience I was describing with others, which is clearly an attraction-between-the-sexes thing from the start – so I wasn’t quite aware things were developing until it was too late. We bonded over a group thing (upon later reflection, the start of the glimmer, though I did not particularly note it at the time, apart from thinking, that’s a nice guy), we ran into each other suddenly very often and it was nice to see a friendly face, we crossed paths by accident and ended up sharing a meal and a chat – that chat was the killer I think, because he was showing a lot of interest, a crucial ingredient for developing limerence when there is a glimmer. I remember feeling flattered. I remember thinking, if I was free I would definitely date this guy and see where this would go. When I knew something was seriously up (for me) and different in this case was when sometime in the next few days he sat next to me (six feet apart, this is a pandemic after all), and I felt desire so strong I nearly threw up! Literally. I had to take the rest of the day off to recover. After that was when I noticed just how absolutely and utterly irresistible/sexy/gorgeous/brilliant/riveting/etc. LO was! Haha, totally objective of course. Then because of our work and study, we were thrown together a lot, sometimes alone, late at night … and the feelings just escalated from there on and I was deep in the middle of it before I knew I was even in it! It was when the euphoria stage was over (this is when crushes usually end and one forgets it and moves on with life) and the obsessive stage started that I knew *this* was different, this was not good.
I have not talked to SO about this fixation on LO – maybe I should now that I know about limerence, for total disclosure, but I don’t know that my SO needs the level of detail (and frankly, I am scared of disclosing the madness which is LE – it scares ME and I am still a little ashamed of it, even as I am coming to accept it is a normal part of the human experience). What is important, I think, is that SO is put on notice that something is up, he knows the nature of it (sexual attraction and emotional perturbation), and he knows I am trying to handle it. He knows my sexual energy is up, he knows it is external to him, but he also knows he’s the only one to benefit from it. Also, that we are BOTH focusing on our relationship right now. To be honest, we also had lots of other things to talk about (like why we were not having sex) and also longer term issues that had been festering for years … maybe it is a sign that our slightly “hands off” approach to our relationship carries risks, maybe we do need to be more open and proactive in our communication (this is hard for me, generally, I am very self-contained and very private of my deepest feelings, and so is my SO – I actually think we each found ourselves a partner who needed a certain amount of distance to feel comfortable – see attachment styles). I might add at this point that I have not “overshared” with LO about my relationship with SO – THAT I think would be a huge betrayal of SO, who I know would hate it. Possibly even worse than a physical betrayal.
I thought it would be interesting to update with basically a repeat of what happened almost 9 months ago. LO and I have a friend-zoned each other, but I think we are still occasionally indulging in contact over text. Due to changes in circumstances, we see each other in social situation maybe once a month.
The last two times I saw him felt super horrible. Like we were both totally cut off emotionally from each other. I was guarded, he was guarded. His eyes were opaque to me, whereas I felt I could reach him before. The mood was awkward, conversation stilted. I didn’t feel the buzz or delight I normally get from his presence. This is good I suppose, from a getting rid of limerence point of view, but a part of me was wailing at the loss. I have lost him. Outwardly, to everyone, it looks the same. We are “friends”, as we always have been. But with no vulnerability or true exchange.
Furthermore, I find myself wondering and second-guessing the past. Wondering if I was deluded in thinking we had this amazing connection. How could it just disappear like that if it actually existed?
Also, I also recently found myself wondering if my charming LO was a player? That he’s just a charmer to everyone, not just me? Someone else we knew mutually said she had a crush on him too. Was I just charmed like everybody else? Was I just a typical, lonely woman, vulnerable to anyone who showed a little interest in her? I feel like a sad, pathetic person here. Ego in shreds.
I mentioned we were still in touch over text and social media. The obvious next step is go NC. I have never been more tempted.
Ah, and here’s a description of micro-dosing in practice. Sub in limerence and LO and there you have it. Please feel to remove this post if not appropriate. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/microdosing#risks
I have had big crushes since I was in 4th grade, I am now 59 years old. Some of them have been unhealthy, unobtainable, but are usually short lived. I used to tell myself it was the secret life I could live in my head. My imaginary interactions with my LO are lifelike and not necessarily all sexual, some even include fights and heartache when I project certain actions on the LO. I am married for 32 years and have no plans to cheat or abandon all that we have built and still feel the need to keep these thoughts to myself rather than cause paid for my SO. Only lately have the thoughts driven me to actions which could lead to self sabotage. I find that music choices tend to intensify the feelings so maybe need to change the playlist. The ease of finding someone on the internet with very little info about them is another driver of why this behavior has taken over my mind. I sleep very little because my thoughts are always wandering through my secret life. I just hope I can keep a grip on reality and always know the differences. Thanks for the Blog, it may help me in the long run.
Welcome Eric! You are not alone. Your limerence experience sounds fairly typical except it sounds like you don’t have a specific LO. Maybe I misunderstood. Anyway, my biggest concern for you is your lack of sleep. Please talk to your doctor about that. It is a very big problem and and shouldn’t be ignored. There are many treatments for insomnia and you would benefit from experimenting to find the best treatment for you.