A case study about the long term implications of living with limerence, today.
J contacted me with a couple of questions, and an observation about life two years after her last limerence episode ended:
I miss the ‘high’, the euphoria, the in love bliss and blissful dreaming. I don’t miss the the crazy OCD obsession, worry, guilt and anxiety, lack of focus and concentration. Question really is do I actually miss him? I’m still not sure on that one. Maybe I just miss the adolescent dream of ‘the one’ which either I haven’t found or in the real world doesn’t exist? Will I forever be plagued with this nagging sense?
I suspect that many limerents find themselves in this position. The limerence resolves itself one way or another, finally giving relief from the obsessive mania, but they are also left with a sense of loss. Intellectually, they can recognise that they are better off now, but there is also the bittersweet memory of how wonderful it felt early on – how much promise, excitement and opportunity filled up their hearts during the euphoria.
Once the pain has subsided into memory, questions like J’s start to creep back into the mind. That’s when we limerents start to wonder: could I have somehow kept the benefits – kept all the promise and hopeful excitement of limerence – without suffering the harm?
Let’s take J’s questions one at a time.
Do I actually miss him?
My suspicion is that what you actually miss is the elevated mood of euphoria – the optimism, energy and excitement. LO himself was a vehicle for producing that altered mental state, but it was the sensations of limerence that were actually the most rewarding aspect of the experience.
It’s a complex psychological situation, though, because obviously LO triggered those feelings. He isn’t actually the wellspring of the emotional intoxication – that comes from within you – but everything gets tangled up because he was the drug supply that most reliably caused your intoxication.
As a consequence, LO is inextricably linked with that feeling of reward, and the prospect of bonding with him, specifically, is part of the giddy thrill of limerence. The more time you spend with LO, the more it reinforces the mental connection – They can make me feel like this, so They must be special. It’s a particular kind of beauty.
But, he was also the cause of all the negative experiences – the mania, the intrusive thoughts, the compulsion, the debilitating anxiety. What you really miss is the positive aspects of limerence, not the limerent object who (for whatever reason) was not an appropriate person to bond with.
Is it an adolescent dream?
This is another multilayered question. Certainly “the one” is a silly concept in its purest sense – that there is one unique individual out there who is a perfect soul-match, and if only you can find them you’ll live a life of timeless romantic bliss.
But having “a one” is not silly. There are plenty of people who can trigger limerence in us, and can provoke that wild sense of cosmic connection. The key thing is not assigning responsibility for your happiness to them, or believing that there is someone who – just by bonding with them – can make all your problems, insecurities and worries disappear. The real version of “the one” is someone who loves you sincerely for who you are deep down, but also helps you to become a better person. Someone who supports you while you solve your own problems; a combination of lover and Aristotelian Good Friend.
There is a school of thought that putting such high expectations onto one other person is impractical and dooms the relationship to fail. There’s wisdom in that, and the popular vision of a True Love who can be everything to us is a modern invention, but a lot of us have that dream, and yearn for that sort of deep communion with another person based on profound mutual love. It can and does happen, so it is not a hopeless adolescent dream. But it isn’t effortless, either.
I think that a lot of limerents make an understandable error of judgement when they first experience limerence. They equate the magnitude of their limerent feelings to the desirability of their LO as a partner – “if I feel this strongly about LO, then they would be an amazing romantic partner”. In reality the two factors are only loosely related – many rogues and narcissists are potent LOs, and many non-LOs make excellent romantic and sexual partners. The traits and conditions that cause the glimmer for you are unlikely to predict whether long-term love will survive. Limerence is not a good detection system for identifying The One.
Finally, it is also perfectly possible that monogamy may not be the answer for you. It isn’t for everyone, and there are other ethical models for romantic life that don’t focus on one single, unique bond. We all need to find our own purposeful path to a fulfilled life.
But don’t give up on your dreams just because they were formed in the hormonal furnace of adolescence.
Will I forever be plagued by this nagging sense?
It’s rare that I am so unequivocal, being by nature a cautious centrist, but my intuition is that nobody forgets the emotional fireworks of limerence, or the experience of living in that state of exaltation. I think the best that can be hoped for is the wisdom to see that seeking the natural high of limerence comes with hefty cost in the long run, like any addiction. It is also possible to transform that nagging sense of loss into a kind of wistful nostalgia, remembering past limerence fondly as a life lesson.
But is that too defeatist? Can we use limerence responsibly? It’s possible.
We’ve talked before about the distinction between pleasure and happiness, and I think this is another example of where that perspective is useful. Really, there are two major drives to seeking limerence: the euphoria of the early stages, and the craving for deep connection with this wonderful other person.
Pleasure-seeking is certainly possible.
I’d even argue that we all of us need to do it in moderation, to avoid falling into grey despondency. Other experiences can approximate the pleasurable overarousal of early limerence – skydiving (or other extreme sports), partying, dancing, erotica, art, travel, food, drink, and, yes, chemical highs. It’s a different quality of pleasure, for sure, but at a neurophysiological level, the mechanisms are all much the same. We can find thrills when we want to.
Happiness is not as showy. It comes from more fundamental sources of fulfillment. Helping others, love for family, purposeful work, creative expression, learning new skills, building things. This is closer to the deep, abiding satisfaction that bonding to an LO seems to promise (even if it’s ultimately a false promise). Bonding with someone good for you is a very effective route to happiness, and it doesn’t depend on limerence. In fact, healthy bonding dramatically outlives limerence, providing ongoing happiness long after any tingles have faded.
Don’t mourn the loss of past thrills. Seek new, healthier ones, secure in the knowledge that you chose them with purpose. Don’t trust the dubious neuro-alchemy of limerence.
Vicarious Limerent says
This is all very similar to a thread I started the other day on the discussion forum where I discussed limerence and nostalgia. I basically made the call that I am no longer limerent for LO #1. Yet I wondered why I still drive by the back of her house, go on drives to the village where she grew up, drive by the pub where I met her and occasionally check out her Facebook profile pic to see if she has changed it. I am no longer obsessing or pining over this lady and I can totally live without her (although I still think she is amazing), so why do I do these things?
I put it down to a type of nostalgia. Despite the fact she is a stranger to me who never gave me any validation and I have been no contact with her for 14 months now, I miss the ruminations and the fantasy on some level, even though it was so painful for me. Perhaps I am just a masochist? I also still think the night when I met LO #1 was very special and life-changing. I still don’t think I will ever be the same again after meeting her that night caused me to question just about everything in my life. Still, my limerence for LO #1 was bleak and gut-wrenching, so it seems difficult to imagine wanting to revisit that pain. In contrast, LO #2 is a friend who had given me some level of validation, and I don’t feel nearly the same level of pain, nor do I obsess over her to the same degree I did with LO #1. This LE isn’t nearly as all-consuming, and I feel like I can cope with this. I had speculated in the past that this one might be more of a crush than true limerence. Maybe I was right to begin with? I actually think transference worked for me in this case as a harm reduction strategy.
Yes, I think it’s totally possible to be nostalgic for the hope or dream of what LO could have offered, VL, even if it’s not based on a lot of personal contact. Really, the emotional impact was from her causing you to question everything in your life, rather than the direct contact of her company. Circling back to try and re-experience that sense of epiphany and renewal also makes sense.
Vicarious Limerent says
Thanks Dr. L. That does make sense. I also think simple habit plays a role too. For example, the drive out to my LO’s hometown is something I got used to doing every few weeks. It is a nice half hour drive with some fairly decent scenery, and it is probably about exactly the right distance away to kill an hour just to get out of the house during the pandemic and have a change of scenery. It is a picturesque little village too with some historical buildings in the downtown. My LO hasn’t lived there in at least 10 years, so there is very little chance of seeing her (although I am assuming she must visit there once in a while too). Still, I cannot help but think of her when I drive through there, even now when the limerence is gone.
Dear Dr L
I am thinking of doing my dissertation (studying a Psychology Msc) on raising awareness of limerence using thematic analysis.
Why is there so little research in psychology about this matter?Like university journals, etc. It is a very real disorder and altough we can find quite a few forums and info online, there is not so much when it comes to academic psychology research.
My limerent experience was the worst period of my life, by some distance. I can’t imagine ever looking back at it with rose-tinted nostalgia, although I realise everyone’s situation will be different.
“The real version of “the one” is someone who loves you sincerely for who you are deep down, but also helps you to become a better person. Someone who supports you while you solve your own problems; a combination of lover and Aristotelian Good Friend.”
That is absolutely my SO. My LO, on the other hand, never had my best interests at heart. Limerence is an appalling way to pick a long term partner.
Well said, levin
“Will I forever be plagued by this nagging sense?
I reserve the right to be completely wrong in my assertions, levin. More seriously, if there wasn’t much in the way of good vibes early on for you (or if they were tainted from the start by discomfort), then there’s not so much to be nostalgic about. So that nag shouldn’t be too troublesome.
“I reserve the right to be completely wrong in my assertions, levin.” What happened to “unequivocal”, Doc?! 😆
It’s a bit of a long story, but my LO and I both started with SOs, and as far as I can tell were mutually limerent. At least, she declared she was infatuated with me first. We were then not sensible. Apart from the emotional damage everyone is now fine, and LO has a new SO, but we very much needed to go our separate ways.
This site is such an important source of support, both in terms of your thoughtful and thought-provoking posts, but also in bringing together a wonderful community of people.
Even though I agree it will never go away, it does fade. It becomes something that is only occasionally painful, and in much less severity than at present. I have been through 6 LEs in the past 20 years. The current one (the reason I’m here) is not nearly the worst, although the pain right now is acute. In all but 1 instance, those experiences were based in relationships. You’ll be ok, Levin. You will.
Quote of the Day: “There is always an easy solution to every problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.” – H. L. Mencken
I’m going to boldly disagree with Dr. L on this point.
I feel the strong tie to my LO fading. I’m fairly confident I will not look back with nostalgia.
The highs! Sigh…not worth the lows. Not even close.
It’s great to hear that your LO is fading. Now that my LO and I are finally and permanently in NC, I hope that’s the case for me too. We didn’t exactly part on the best of terms, which I regret, but there wasn’t another option.
And yes, the lows were many orders of magnitude worse for me than any highs, and lasted far longer. That’s why I won’t look back on this fondly. I have learned an awful lot about myself, though, and the relationships that actually matter in my life have improved considerably. So I can take a lot of positives, but limerence itself can go f*ck itself.
It’s wonderful and positive that you’ve learned about yourself. Maybe your LE will make you stronger in the long run.
Limerence steals time. I was in a bizarre trance for two years, unable to appreciate the world around me. I’d be with my kids, and I’d feel this undertow of sadness at all times connected to LO.
It’s still there but fading in a strong way.
I worry for the posters here who are reveling in the highs. I felt that way for a long time. It’s an illusion. Your brain pushing an untruth.
I believe my trance is broken. As ridiculous as it might seem to an outsider, LE nearly wrecked me, as it has so many of us. I didn’t have a marriage and young children so the cost was internal and mostly to myself.
You’ll get through, Levin.
Thank you so much for your encouraging words. I know what you mean about being with your kids while being mentally checked out, lost in obsessive, negative rumination. My LE led to a breakdown and some extremely low points. The worst was over some time ago, but the lockdowns really haven’t helped with the rumination. There’s a lot of time to fill, trapped in your own head. Like you, I also feel my tie with limerence is now fading, especially given the positive action I’ve taken, and I’m now coming out of a dark period of my life. All my best wishes to you too with your recovery.
Thank you and my best to you.
(My avatar color changed. Limerence mystery. Still me!)
Limerence misery 🙂 Great to read this thread
My reaction too!! J
Levin- My reaction too! J
Hello Dr L,
Thank you for sorting out the Gravatar issue.
I have a question and searching the site didn’t bring anything up. I think you said limerence could be more common among introverts, and I wondered whether you have any sense of it also being more prevalent or more extreme among people with ASD? It feels like a form of specialist interest (aka obsession).
I’m a (currently) undiagnosed Aspie myself, FWIW.
If you search for “introvert” in the search box, you’ll get 8 hits. Here are two of them.
“Asperger” doesn’t come up in the search but there are numerous posts that talk about it. I’m not on the private forum. There might be threads on it. If not, it sounds like an excellent topic for one.
I haven’t covered ASD or Asperger’s in the blog, but as Scharnhorst says there have been some discussions in the comment section. It’s a possible future topic, for sure.
Like you, I consider myself to be an undiagnosed Aspie. I have a lot of the traits, at any rate. I have no idea whether limerence is more common among Aspies than neurotypicals. (Are Aspies always introverts, would you say?) However, on a hunch, I’d say Aspies probably experience limerence differently to neurotypicals and, yes, maybe we experience a more severe version of it due to various factors.
For example, Aspies often have trouble connecting with others, especially peers. Hence, if we find someone we really like who radiates warmth and acceptance, we might get very attached to that person very fast. We might hang onto that person for dear life, and not realise we’re making them feel uncomfortable. This sort of happened to me in high school. I’m gay and ended up idolising a straight boy who was randomly kind to me.
Alternatively, Aspies can be incredibly easy-going in some social situations, even oblivious to what’s going on. We can be absurdly trusting. We might be so good at giving a romantic and sexual partner “space”, for example, that years can go by before we realise that our feelings (of limerence, etc) aren’t reciprocated.
Limerence can often occur because of communication difficulties. Asperger’s Syndrome, as you would be well aware, can certainly exacerbate communication difficulties. We’re not always great at picking up non-verbal communication signals, which provide vital context to spoken communication. We can take things too literally, and assume conversational partners are always sincere.
Aspies usually have rich fantasy lives and intense emotions – maybe both these things can make us especially good at limerent reverie?
Aspies, in my experience, are also very loyal. We tend to do the right thing and expect others to do the right thing as a matter of course. We want the world to make sense (morally and otherwise). Mathematical precision would be ideal. All these factors can make it hard for us to move on when a much-desired relationship doesn’t work out or fails to materialise. Often, we blame ourselves because we don’t understand all the nuances involved in social interaction.
I should add that the above comments are just my personal reflections, personal reflections based on gut feeling and general reading, and not expert advice.
Hope you feel very welcome at the blog. 🙂
James Afourkeeff says
I too am an undiagnosed Aspie, and an unfulfilled and frustrated life long sierial limerent. You’ll see more of my posts.
I think there is a link. With Asd many people have a special interest, I heard that a person can be someones special interest. it’s also similar with adhd which would be me, my LO is what I fixate on. I think it’s definitely more common with introverts too, i’m not an introvert but I am shy, so when my LO made an effort to get to know me i thought wow, he wants to talk to me? that’s so sweet. and the feelings progressed from there. I also think there is a link with people who have Bpd.
Great blog entry. For me, LO1 and LO2 trigger no senses of missing the high or nagging sense of missing being with ‘the one’. My current limerence let’s call her LO3, however I fear may cause those above senses. Its been a much longer fight and a much more stubborn fight for me than 1 or 2, maybe both put together. I’m also afraid that by feeling this way or dreading it, I’m creating a self fulfilling prophecy. So I guess I’ll try my best to add this worry to the problem heap.
Regarding ‘The One’ I agree its the one person who loves you back and makes you a better person, but also I think to be ‘The One’ it’d have to be a person you love back so much that you would not entertain any serious thought of being with any other partner than ‘The One’.
I think there could be potentially many ‘The Ones’ for all of us out there, after all plenty of fish in the sea, the problem is in society it’d be hard to meet so many potential partners to really see all of them.
Hence, for most people they either stick with someone they go through a honeymoon phase with and then due to co-mingle finances, children etc, they can’t leave easily/divorce etc…
OR, you get lucky and essentially hit the lottery ticket which is ‘The One.’ Truth be told I can only think of a handful of couples I know (maybe) that I believe think of each other as ‘The One.’ And certainly I could be wrong b/c as we all know plenty of couples can maintain an image but behind the scenes there’s plenty of problems. Heck, I think my wife and I are often thought of by other people as perfect couples but here I am on Living With Limerence b/c of my own problems
“Regarding ‘The One’ I agree it’s the one person who loves you back and makes you a better person, but also I think to be ‘The One’ it’d have to be a person you love back so much that you would not entertain any serious thought of being with any other partner than ‘The One’.”
Yes, it’s the latter part of that which is perhaps more difficult for limerents, especially those who were never limerent for their SO. Limerence of course tricks you into thinking that LO must be The One – why would you feel like this if it weren’t the case? And then if LO is also telling you that you’re The One, and you don’t understand limerence, you can end up going very astray. There were never any barriers or uncertainty at the start of the relationship with my SO, so I couldn’t ever have been limerent for her. I do also believe that some people are much more likely to be LOs because of their (natural?) behavior. In any case, it’s taken me a while to process the fact that my SO can be My One, even though I wasn’t limerent for her. It’s really quite baffling to think that I would be more inclined to be certain about my relationship with SO if the relationship had initially been more uncertain.
“It’s a complex psychological situation, though, because obviously LO triggered those feelings. He isn’t actually the wellspring of the emotional intoxication – that comes from within you – but everything gets tangled up because he was the drug supply that most reliably caused your intoxication.”
I don’t think I miss my LO. I think I fell into limerence simply because I was at the right stage of life (late adolescence/early adulthood) to fall into limerence. If I hadn’t become limerent for this particular LO, then I would have become limerent for somebody else fairly similar to him in my environment. If we see limerence as “being in love with love”, we could argue LOs are in fact largely irrelevant.
On the other hand, once we’ve fallen for a given LO, everything does become about him/her and LO does seem to be the source of all the euphoria, pain, confusion, etc. In our brains, everything becomes intertwined e.g. pleasure, memories, images, anticipation, LO, etc, etc. We can’t imagine limerence as being about anything other than this special person. It’s almost like Mother Nature performs a deft little substitution trick before we realise what’s going on.
“What you really miss is the positive aspects of limerence, not the limerent object who (for whatever reason) was not an appropriate person to bond with.”
“The popular vision of a True Love who can be everything to us is a modern invention.”
I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that – much too confronting! 😛
“Will I forever be plagued by this nagging sense?”
Hm. Interesting question. I don’t know if I’m completely non-limerent. (Do we have a test for that?) However, I think my limerent feelings have really died down and I’m kind of enjoying being “considerably less-limerent” these days. I always wanted to crawl into my LO’s skin and see the world through his eyes – not in a creepy way, of course, but in an empathic way. I thought if I could understand LO, then I’d increase my chances of getting over him for good. And I can sort of do that now. I can see (or imagine) reality from a non-limerent’s perspective.
“Other experiences can approximate the pleasurable overarousal of early limerence – skydiving (or other extreme sports), partying, dancing, erotica, art, travel, food, drink, and, yes, chemical highs.”
Strangely enough, I’ve met one or two men (including my LO) who I’d classify as conspicuously non-limerent, and both were interested in sky-diving. I guess we all have different ways of getting high! Also, I used to see limerence as a more “mature pleasure” than, say, partying. However, I’m not so sure about this distinction now. If limerence is addiction, is it really any better than partying? 😛
“I guess we all have different ways of getting high! Also, I used to see limerence as a more “mature pleasure” than, say, partying. However, I’m not so sure about this distinction now. If limerence is addiction, is it really any better than partying? 😛”
Mmm… interesting Sammy. Thinking about it, I definitely have a lifelong propensity for seeking highs of every which kind. Childhood tree climbing, teen risk taking, too fast driving, several drunken partying phases, youthful drug taking, numerous crushes and infatuations, 5 LEs and a love of adrenaline sports – I even had a Cat8 skydiving licence but have not done that since my thirties.
I really believed that I had grown out of all that when I married and had kids. Clearly I didn’t and maybe my LE is just this aspect of myself coming back to life.
So now I just need to find a healthier mid-life suitable way to get my kicks.
“So now I just need to find a healthier mid-life suitable way to get my kicks.”
Let me know when you find it! 🙂 I’ve been looking for years. I’ve lived in four different states in the last 4 1/2 years I think in large part to recreate some kind of excitement and sense of possibility of my youth. It’s not the same. One of the things I have struggled with is trying to explain this to my middle-aged peers. They seem very settled in their lives. Whereas I think: Why don’t you want more?
I have been able to work online for the last 10 years and chose to live in many countries around the world, working on a caribbean beach in costa rica, hitting great hotels, Japan, India , Mexico, etc … I was a limerent for all those years. Covid finally brought me back to my roots in Barcelona, near my family. And I realise for me this is whats healing me right now. Planting some mental roots with my place of origin and family. I will always be a nomad at heart but I think I needed to connect. I left home at 17. When this work is finish, I whink I will be able to live a fuller life anywhere I travel or even here.
Song of the Day: “Kicks” – Paul Revere and the Raiders (1966)
Some days, this job is just too easy. All that wisdom condensed to 2:25.
“Well you think you’re gonna find yourself
A little piece of paradise
But it ain’t happened yet
So girl, you better think twice
Don’t you see, no matter what you do
You’ll never run away from you
And if you keep on runnin’
You’ll have to pay the price”
One of my favorites.
Actually, it’s Eddie Money’s “I Want to Go Back.”
I want to go back
And do it all over again
But I can’t go back I know
I want to go back
‘Cause I’m feeling so much older
But I can’t go back I know
Well, I hope you’re happy Marcia….
You’re Eddy Money post just cost me $7.79 for his greatest hits CD. The MP3 version was $9.99.
I didn’t have any of his stuff in my collection.
Have you heard of converting YouTube videos into mp3 for free? Smh 😂
“I really believed that I had grown out of all that when I married and had kids. Clearly I didn’t and maybe my LE is just this aspect of myself coming back to life. So now I just need to find a healthier mid-life suitable way to get my kicks.”
Yes, I found it interesting the article suggests all the different thrills people seek sort of involve the same brain chemicals.
I’ve never been big on parties or dancing in clubs or drinking alcohol in a group. I could never understand why people do these things. I kind of thought people were pretending to enjoy themselves when they go out dancing at night, because to me it sounds a bit exhausting! (Wouldn’t they rather be at home, tucked up safe in bed, reading a good book or three, then worrying about the exorbitant price of taxis?) Now I understand how it would give their brains a pleasant buzz and be a bonding experience.
Skydiving definitely holds no appeal to me. I’m beginning to think having an extra shot in my coffee is a bit wild! 😛
James Afourkeeff says
“believing that there is someone who – just by bonding with them – can make all your problems, insecurities and worries disappear.”
My problem is that I can never get far enough to actually see for myself whether this is true or false for me. You may have been told your whole life that the grass isn’t any greener in the next county, but if you have always failed to make it there, how can you be sure? Despite being told by others that lying in a pile of fire ants is a miserable experience, some of us need to experience for ourselves the extent of such miseries to fully understand our place and our purpose, and how we can best contribute to the greater whole of our collective destiny. Sorry for waxing all philosophical, but I think you do need at least ONE perceived success to measure against, to be able to assess what is a good or bad experience, and how these differ from an actual unfortunate coincidence.
See: Somatic Marker Hypothesis
Am curious James – what would you consider to be a “perceived success to measure against”? A happy LT relationship with someone that loves you and that you love, or the reciprocation and consummation of limerent feelings?
Both of these are awesome… but very different.
James Afourkeeff says
I’ve always assumed that all LTRs begin with limerence, initially. However, I have always believed an LTR would be a badge of honor I could fall back on, that would demonstrate to others and myself, that I’m OK, especially when confronted with a potentially disruptive LE of the nature that you marrieds are always complaining about. But I’ve always been a loner, and it seems that I’ve always been shunned by others. So, on those rare occasions, when I do finally get some attention from someone interesting, an LE is all but a foregone conclusion; so, the only thing I ever regret loosing IS the LO.
Limerence is not my only challenge; I guess I’m also mildly autistic.
“I’ve always assumed that all LTRs begin with limerence”
I get the impression from my own experience and that of others that an LE turning into an LTR is unusual. We don’t have LE when someone reciprocates from the get go, and thus consummation is likely. And the very conditions that bring about an LE are the same ones that make reciprocation and a successful consummation highly unlikely. But falling in love with someone that you know feels the same for you is equally thrilling as an LE to me.
My SO is a non-limerent and we have talked at length about what makes him a non-limerent and me a limerent. It was NOT due him lacking depth of passion or love. The difference was simple – he chooses to let go of hopeless causes where I do not.
James Afourkeeff says
Allie, you have stated in better words than I could have come up with, the very paradox, between an LE and a “success” (in my words), that we are all trying to solve here. An LTR is an LE without that went right right from the get go, which means that an LE is an LTR that ended prematurely!?!?
Absolutely agree with everything that Allie has said here, James. I’d add a few more points:
LEs tend not to turn into LTRs because of the very reasons that create the limerence, as Allie says. But there are also plenty of stories here of consummated LEs that then quickly fall apart: the person turns out not to be so magical and wonderful and perfect, or worse, you discover you actually don’t like them at all. Limerence makes you a very poor judge.
On limerence versus falling in love and forming a stable, affectionate, long-term bond with a partner: there are those of us whose attachment styles mean the latter is at best extremely difficult. If you’re dismissive avoidant, you inherently want to avoid affectionate long-term bonding with anyone (including an LO or former LO), even if this makes you miserable. In retrospect, I had become close enough to my LO that I had already started to distance from her in certain ways.
For such people (limerent and dismissive avoidant), the whole love thing is horribly screwed up.
James Afourkeeff says
Levin, I know you’re right. I guess for me I still feel like the teen who still wants to see what it’s like to be drunk, and maybe even see what it’s like to get arrested. These are obviously not worthy pursuits, as a fast and wild LE is probably not either, but the hankering in the back of my mind is never going to go away completely.
“but the hankering in the back of my mind is never going to go away completely”
Same here James, same here. That “nagging sense” or “hankering” is what drives my LE also. Even though I married an LO!
17 years later, my heart yearns to experience the intensity of limerent consummation just one more time, but this time with full mutuality. I am like a (no longer) ex-addict fondly remembering the pleasurable times they had while intoxicated with their drug. Accepting that yearning and then moving beyond it is proving so very hard to do.
Wishing you well.
I should add James that I struggled to have a proper relationship when I was younger due to my shyness and limerence. Once my powers of thought and speech became befuddled by limerent infatuation, genuinely connecting with a man became impossible. My first LTR was with a non-LO. He was a friend whose thoughtful attention helped me get over a crush. Spending time together as friends made it clear he liked me as more than a friend. for me, that kind of caring attention is irresistible so soon enough my romantic feelings swapped over from my crush to him. And voila, I fell in love without the awkward, overly-intense LE behaviours ever getting in the way.
James Afourkeeff says
Levin — “There are also plenty of stories here of consummated LEs that then quickly fall apart: you discover you actually don’t like them at all.”
I’m realizing that this may explain what is going on from the perspective of any one of my past LOs. There may not be anything more for me to read into it beyond what a relative once told me: That she thought that some women are initially attracted to my appearance, but then they quickly loose interest as soon as I open my mouth and start talking. And if you “disclose” to them, then that is probably as good as (actually, much worse than) consummation — for them.
So it boils down to the same observation I made decades ago: They seem to like me at first, but then they quickly (and inexplicably) loose interest. For several months, my last LO acted like her happiness depended upon my approval her — until I started reciprocating. Hmm.
Years ago, my wife and I attended a church. There was a young man in his early 20s. He wasn’t exactly a regular but he came frequently. He took an interest in my wife. He was an attractive young man, about my wife’s age, but he seemed a little “off.” He was socially awkward and he made my wife nervous although he never did or said anything out of line.
We didn’t see him for a long time. One day we got a call from the Pastor, asking to see us. We met in his office and he said he wanted to tell us something.
The young man was being released from prison. The Pastor said he’d been accused of sexually assaulting two college students. The Pastor said he wasn’t sure the young man actually committed the offenses because he didn’t seem to understand what exactly he’d done or what line he crossed. The young man had been influenced to take a plea deal.
The Pastor said the reason he was talking to us was the young man would mention my wife in his letters and how he looked forward to seeing her again when released. The Pastor asked if we saw him, we call him before calling the police as this would violate the terms of his release. We never saw the young man and heard he’d moved away. Honestly, it’s cool to have a trophy wife but it was unnerving to know some guy in prison had been thinking about her and wanted to look her up when he got out.
We didn’t know then what we know now about Apsergers and autism. Over the years as a teacher, my wife has gotten pretty good at picking up on the indicators and making the appropriate referrals.
I don’t know many people on the spectrum, if any, but I can see how someone could be unfavorable misread by others.
“My SO is a non-limerent and we have talked at length about what makes him a non-limerent and me a limerent. It was NOT due him lacking depth of passion or love. The difference was simple – he chooses to let go of hopeless causes where I do not.”
@Allie. Absolutely love this because I think there can be a false perception sometimes that non-limerents are a bit cold and don’t invest emotionally in romantic relationships. Also wonder if the difference relates to OCD? I.e. non-limerents don’t have the OCD component of limerence, which makes it slightly easier for them to let go of hopeless causes, though they might feel wistful at times?
“I guess for me I still feel like the teen who still wants to see what it’s like to be drunk, and maybe even see what it’s like to get arrested. These are obviously not worthy pursuits, as a fast and wild LE is probably not either, but the hankering in the back of my mind is never going to go away completely.”
@James. Thanks for sharing that with us, mate. So the “nagging” people experience might relate to a feeling of missed opportunity?
What’s the ultimate goal?
For me, I’ve always framed things in terms of happiness. But, I learned a long time ago, that happiness is mine. People and things can contribute or detract from your happiness but in the end, you own it. The right person can add a lot to your life. The wrong person can make your life a living hell, if you let them.
For the first two years we were together, LO #2 contributed to my happiness like no other person ever had. Over time, she contributed less until we hit the point that she was detracting from my happiness.
At the end, she became an obstacle to my pursuit of happiness and she had to go.
What makes you (royal “you”) think an LE or LTR will contribute to your happiness? What are you really looking for?
James Afourkeeff says
Very wise. That is certainly a good thing to aim for.
Recently recovered from my first full-blown LE at 46.
My feelings for Lo have faded down to an innocent crush.
Though I’m in a much better place right now, I do miss the euphoria/manic state associated with the peak of limerence.
I guess people with bipolar disorder might feel the same about their manic épisodes ?
It’s kind of bittersweet. One one hand, limerence is not sustainable or even desirable. On the other hand, I remember the high energy, feeling of connection and all-encompassing love with nostalgia. I still feel like I have it in me though, all that energy and love that can be released. Which brings me back to purposeful living as a preventive measure 😉
“It’s kind of bittersweet. One one hand, limerence is not sustainable or even desirable. On the other hand, I remember the high energy, feeling of connection and all-encompassing love with nostalgia. I still feel like I have it in me though, all that energy and love that can be released. Which brings me back to purposeful living as a preventive measure 😉”
Thanks for writing this, Nat. I was talking to my sister about limerence, as she has experienced quite a few episodes, and the word “bittersweet” did come up. I haven’t quite thought about limerence as being bittersweet before, and it’s a good description.
“… but there is also the bittersweet memory of how wonderful it felt early on.”
Ah yes, I see Dr. L mentions the bittersweet component too. 😛
Thank you for this article, help, and wisdom! I miss my LO everday. She was a coworker, good-looking and 6 years younger. We worked together for several years and got closer emotionally. I developed a crush on her. When I realized that she liked my too, I was hooked! My ego took a major boost that a pretty woman thought I was desirable. I was married and she was single. This lead to an affair which I knew of course was wrong but the highs we’re amazing. I experienced this in high school and I wanted it again. It was fun, exhilarating, and chaos. It was like a drug habit. Now I’m left with guilt, regret, and I miss her and the highs. My marriage tho is much better. Much stronger. I’m much more self aware that I’m vulnerable to this.
I just learned about “liminence” today and it’s a game changer to know what this is. I’ve read and learned a lot on this website today.
After dating for two years, talking every single day (pretty much), sharing deeply, telling each other everything, supporting each other … my LO broke up with me completely unexpectedly. He’s a good LO. (I just realized he’s an “LO” today). He said he realized he couldn’t give me the commitment I wanted and wanted to do the right thing and break up. He said it would be easy to stay with me but it wouldn’t be right. He said it was hard for him to do it.
This was a year ago. Of course I was crushed. Completely heartbroken and also in shock. I’ve cried almost every day for a year despite ACTIVELY trying to let go of him / get over him. Until I found this website I could not understand why I couldn’t get over him when I was literally trying to every day. Recently, I told him everything about how I felt. He kissed me! With a LOT of passion. He commented that he was not going to invite me over for the night. We went home alone. The next day he said the kiss was a mistake.
This describes how we were together though (from the post above): “The real version of “the one” is someone who loves you sincerely for who you are deep down, but also helps you to become a better person. Someone who supports you while you solve your own problems; a combination of lover and Aristotelian Good Friend.”
We do and did support each other and try to help each other make smart decisions. We do and did love each other. We have total trust. Neither of us has been this close to anyone before. He said that to me first and I told him it was true for me too.
He still very much wants to be friends. He asked if it was possible to have the closeness and total trust we had but without the romantic aspect of it. Of course I want that but of course am also secretly thinking … ooh another chance for him to come around!
Losing him completely would be just devastating. We became each other’s best and most trusted friend while dating and loving each other. His young son also loves me and I him.
I listed his negative traits – there certainly are some. But I can talk them all away easily. I am trying to distance myself but we are both members of a pretty tight community and he keeps coming around or asking to see me. I am trying to date other people but they just seem flat and incredibly boring.
I think he was THIS CLOSE to committing to me but he chickened out because his previous previous relationship (he’s divorced) ended because she cheated, and was emotionally abusive to him, and he’s not over it yet. (Laugh at my liminent brain calling the shots in this paragraph … it’s ok).
But in the past year he has kept some space, talked to me less, etc.
When he broke up with me it felt like the sun went out. I felt like everything was just dark. It was really weird. It lasted for months. I don’t think that’s normal. I still feel like the light in everything is dim, though better than the first few months.
I don’t know what to do here. I can’t truthfully say I want this at the moment but rationally, a good result would be that I lose my liminent attachment and we’re able to truly be just friends.
I’m finding it impossible to muster the strength and social negotiating it will take in our community to just completely avoid him for a length of time.
What to do …
Such a good article. I can relate so much to this subject. I spiralled out of control during a limerent affair; the euphoria, soulmate feeling, the addiction to this person was so overwhelming I would have done anything… so I left my family to pursue the ultimate dream, but when the fantasy eventually blew up in my face and reality caught up, I was completely shocked by the destruction I had let myself get into. Luckily, after much despair etc, I’m now back with my spouse.
The unbearable thing is now, something in my brain wants to go back to that feeling even though rationally I know it will cause me pain and trouble! It feels like a complete addiction. It has taken over my conscious mind and even though I can function fine it is always there, like a record playing over and over again in the background. The euphoria I once felt is so compelling, it’s like a magnet.
Purposeful living, really coming to terms with what long-term love is, and a lot of time time will hopefully eventually lessen this horrible addiction.
The limerence and longing do lessen over time, but, no, purposeful living does not replace the high. It can’t. Particularly if you were able to fully consummate with the LO. That makes it even harder.
Cosmic Fireworks says
“…believing that there is someone who – just by bonding with them – can make all your problems, insecurities and worries disappear. ”
This is the exact experience I had with a therapist I was seeing. By the 2nd session, I felt like she would be able to solve all my problems. And I wanted to tell her all of them.
She purposely revealed very little about her life personally in session. But, she was attentive and gave a lot of intense eye contact and I found out by her wide open social media profiles that we were actually quite similar in upbringing, current life, beliefs, etc. All of this conspired to make me feel in (platonic) love with her that still exists 6 months past the last appointment.
A lot of my time in therapy was aimed at focusing on things that we actually had in common. She never “bit” so to speak to say “Oh I’ve gone through that, too…” or anything. She just listened. She helped process. She illuminated some really dark trailheads, but she didn’t really want to wander down any of them with me, in-depth. There was always some kind of withholding with her, it seems. So could she feel how I felt and was purposely keeping me at arms’ length?
She also saw me in the hallway of her office building once and didn’t return my “hello” as we passed each other. And never replied to my emails outside of session, even though they were related to topics we talked about. All of these things really bother me to this day. Did she do all that because she hates me? Or likes me beyond the therapeutic relationship?
Eventually I confessed the feelings that were making it difficult to do any meaningful work in therapy. Again she listened. But we didn’t really take the topic anywhere. I stopped going a few sessions later.
So now I dream about her at night. I think about her all the time. I wish she would want to keep in contact. Or check-in. I wish that she missed me even a tiny bit.
I’m very ready to be over this and would welcome any tips that aren’t already mentioned in blog postings.
I am still recovering from my husbands limerent affair of 5 months. As a result of a mutual friend giving him her e mail he reconnected with someone he had an affair with 40 years ago. He completely lost his head over her and ended up telling me it was over after 4 weeks but then seriously lying and gaslighting me for 4 months until I found one of their romantic nightly messages. She was in a unhappy relationship and he definitely wasn’t but it was like he could give her a happy life. They only met once in the whole time when he spent the night with her after lying to me about where he was going. He allowed her to think they had a future although he knew fairly early on that it wasn’t what he wanted but to quote him he has dug himself such a hole he didn’t know how to get out of it so he kept the messages going and clearly loved the attention. He believed she was the love of his life. He ended up treating us both so badly and is now ashamed of himself.
While I understand the limerent behaviour I am just so ashamed of him. We genuinely were happy. He is 60 years old
Pat, I don’t know if you will come back to view this comment, but, I think you are doing the best thing by understanding limerence, even if your wayward spouse, won’t. My husband has been in a limerent affair for the last year. I made sure I learned everything I could about the limerent spouse: The rewritten history of our relationship, the vilification, the lies, etc. Things got better for us once their relationship started to deteriorate. My husband lied a lot to his LO. He wanted the both of us. I was the secure one at home who has taken care of him for 25 years. She was the fun one that he could go out with. This weekend, I blew it all up. I texted her and told her the whole truth, woman to woman. She responded kindly with apologies to me and my kids. There is no guarantee that they won’t contact each other again, but, I said what I had to. I am also, no longer afraid to lose my marriage. I fought hard to keep it together for a year. Despite the fact that I know limerence always ends and one day, he may realize what he has done, what if he doesn’t? What if he forever blames me for everything? What if he always pines for the one that got away? I also have been limerent before in our marriage. Over a decade ago before there were children. I know that those amazing feelings were inside me, not my LO. While I don’t wish death on the guy, (we are still friends on social media) I feel nothing for him. Learning about limerence helped me understand that there is nothing magical about neurotransmitter. I’m a Psyche major, I get all of that. The only feeling I have about my LE is how embarrassed I am that I took that risk. I get sick to my stomach over the time wasted and I will always do whatever I can to avoid feelings like that. I wish I could say the same thing for my husband.
I hope you are doing okay.
A very helpful article, as usual, from an acknowledged expert.
I have, I believe, benefited greatly from the information available on this site.
I feel quite desperate, in so many ways, in my No Contact battle. It has been two months now. My posts detailing what has happened to me have presumably appeared to be too “run of the mill” bearing in mind the paucity of reactions.
I am resisting the temptation to send my LO a WhatsApp message with every mental resource that I can muster. I believe he may be ghosting me in the phenomenon of “cancer ghosting” and, because he is thirty years younger than me with a SO and a young daughter, I know that I must be resolute. There is a temptation, should he send me another affectionate message, to explain and reciprocate but I know that I must do the right thing. I am 68 and it’s one of the hardest challenges of my (maybe somewhat pathetic) life.
Sincere best wishes to all. I know it gets better with patience.
Limerent Emeritus says
“My posts detailing what has happened to me have presumably appeared to be too “run of the mill” bearing in mind the paucity of reactions.”
I wouldn’t say your posts are “run of the mill,” it’s more that you’re in a dry spell of active posters who would relate most to you. Trust me, your situation resonates with a lot of people. They’re not very active on the blogs at the moment.
LwL is kind of an odd place. Posters seem to go through phases. They likely lurk, then they post, then they respond to posts, some of them leave and some of them go back to lurking. The goal for many limerents is to put limerence behind them and get away from this place. (https://livingwithlimerence.com/freedom-from-limerence/)
Have you checked out https://livingwithlimerence.com/community/
Thanks very much, LE. You are right, I’m sure. Appreciated.
Stay strong. NC is the way to go to get better. Don’t text. You can resist.