Reader Amy got in touch with a query:
What if you end up having Limerence for your therapist? Specifically a trauma therapist who is supposedly trained in attachment issues? Is attachment to a therapist needed to heal from childhood trauma? If there is a strong connection there and trust is built, it seems hard to give up on the work with this person. Lots of new current thinking and models in trauma therapy about how to break barriers between client and therapist. Is it “transference” or limerence?
Any thoughts on this minefield would be appreciated!!
It is a minefield, so I’m going to tread carefully. Trauma has deep, tangled and long-lasting impacts on psychology, and no one school of therapeutic thought has all the answers to how best to approach treatment. In the spirit of that complexity and uncertainty, I’m not going to offer advice to Amy – but I thought it could be useful to think through some of the implications of the psychoanalytic concept of transference from the perspective of limerence.
Dorothy Tennov devoted a section of her book to limerence and therapy, and it is fair to say that she was sceptical to the point of hostility about psychoanalysis and its impact on limerents:
Now that the haze is being lifted from both of these phenomena, it is evident that limerence and psychotherapy have combined to produce untold suffering…
It is essential that the profession be called to task for irresponsibility
Before Love and Limerence she published Psychotherapy: The Hazardous Cure, detailing the damage done by erotic transference to the wellbeing of many female patients. Indeed she credits this previous work as contributing to her understanding of the three conditions for limerence: 1) A person who meets your criteria for an LO, 2) A sign of hope that the person may reciprocate, and 3) Uncertainty. It’s obvious that for psychotherapy as practiced in the 1960s:
…all three conditions were more than admirably met.
In fairness, therapeutic practice has moved on substantially since 1979. Transference is not so widely viewed as a positive and necessary part of therapy, but the nature of the “talking cures” still presents difficulties for limerents.
Misinterpretation of limerence as transference
One of the major reasons why Freudian analysis has become discredited in recent years is the fixation on sexual repression as the root cause, or manifestation of, all neuroses. In that context, erotic feelings on the part of the patient towards the therapist are seen as a positive outcome, as they are evidence of transference – the process of a patient transferring the unresolved emotional pain from their childhood onto the therapist as a surrogate authority figure. This is usually viewed as necessary for healing, as it gives the patient the opportunity to relive the old painful behaviours in a controlled setting, and work through their limiting psychological beliefs with a supportive helper.
For those of us that do not see limerence as a manifestation of disordered bonding, but as an element of romantic love that some people experience, the dangers are obvious. The therapist thinks one thing is happening (transference), but the limerent is actually just succumbing to limerence. The therapist may even encourage the connection, dooming the limerent to a life-altering obsession.
How genuine is the patient-therapist bond?
Therapists can obviously form deep bonds with their patients, being entrusted with secrets and intimacies that the patient may never have shared with anyone else. But, there is an unavoidable transactional component to the relationship too. The sessions are paid for, and the therapist’s living depends on the sessions continuing. Don’t get me wrong – I am sure that the majority of therapists are honest people with a genuine desire to help others, but there has to be a professional boundary in place, and payment is an element of that boundary. So, blurring that boundary by encouraging limerence as tranference is bound to be problematic. The presence of this boundary will also act as a barrier – and we all know what barriers do to the progression of limerence.
The other problem is that the limerent patient is not likely to be behaving genuinely either. Once limerence kicks in, the desire to impress LO becomes overwhelming. This can cause the limerent to fret about their physical appearance, and how their thoughts and opinions are perceived by LO, to an obsessive degree. They are hypervigilant for signs of approval and will present the best possible version of themselves that they can, to persuade LO of their appeal. Hardly the best circumstances to be helped according to their actual needs and problems.
Uncertainty will heighten the limerence
Following on from the issue of barriers, limerence thrives on uncertainty. It’s the rocket fuel. Your typical limerent, presented with someone who is willingly bonding with them, supporting them, maybe occasionally sharing insights into their own personal lives, but also closing down the conversation after a fixed period of time, occupying a position of authority and aloofness, and doing the same thing with all their other clients, is going to suffer uncertainty overload. Especially if the therapist actually is sexually attracted to them, and not as adept at hiding it as they should be.
Combine that with a therapist whose professional community thinks that the manifestations of limerence are evidence of transference that should be encouraged, and you have the perfect recipe for disaster.
It’s the perfect cover for indulging limerence
My general attitude to limerence is that it is a problem if the limerent or LO are not available for a relationship – which they certainly shouldn’t be in a therapeutic context. The purposeful thing to do under those circumstances is work to lessen the bond with LO, work on understanding your psychological triggers, and use what methods are available to “deprogram” yourself from the limerence obsession. The main obstacle to success, is that the limerent really, really wants to fail.
The resistance from your limerent brain is spectacular, for all the reasons I’ve outlined before. So, what if the limerent was offered a socially-sanctioned way to spend time with LO? Indeed, what if they were encouraged that opening up to LO was a healthy and desirable thing? What if they were told that romantic feelings were a good sign that the treatment was working? What if they had the perfect cover for getting limerence highs? Well, all those leading questions illustrate that it’s exactly what the psychotherapeutic environment offers.
Early on, the limerent would be pursuing therapy with the speed and enthusiasm of a rat up a drainpipe. A guilt-free limerence experience! But limerence unresolved is awful. That’s when the emotional pain really starts, which is why I advocate for acting purposefully to prevent the ambiguous bond persisting. If you persist in the limerent connection after the early euphoria has passed and the debilitating obsession kicks in, you’re trapped.
Limerence and attachment
I’ve opined before that the association of limerence with attachment disorders concerns me. The main disconfirming evidence, of course, is people that have otherwise stable attachments and no notable childhood traumas, but still become limerent in the early stages of romantic love. However, if someone does have attachment problems, and is also a limerent, then they have to cope with a double whammy when a romantic bond starts to form. So the question is: is limerence evidence for unhealthy bonding, or is it a confounding variable that some people have to cope with? And – as Amy asks – is attachment to the therapist necessary for recovery? Tennov would have given an emphatic “no”. Seeking a therapist who does not trigger limerence seems a much safer strategy.
Looking to the positives
That’s quite a lot of words devoted to picking apart the problems with transference for limerents. What about the positives? Well, I would say that it does make some sort of intellectual sense to think that re-enacting an attachment style with the therapist as a vehicle for transference could be a route to recovery. Transference is not always erotic (or limerent) so forming a quasi-parental bond with a trustworthy therapist could be valuable.
One option would be to seek out a therapist who is not your limerence match in terms of sex/gender (but tough luck on the bi-limerents). Transference in the sense of caregiver or authority figure roles shouldn’t be as risky for limerents as erotic transference.
Ultimately, this all adds up to a bunch of uncertainty. Therapy is not a science, and so intuition and emotional response do need to be considered when deciding whether to continue with a specific therapist or a particular approach. As ever, using purposeful living as a principle should help. If therapy is not helping you understand yourself better, and not leading you to develop more resilience, security, and self-sufficiency, there is cause to doubt its value. I’m not sure there is a hard and fast rule as to when you should continue with a painful process that may help, or abandon it to try something new, but if limerence for your therapist adds to the distress, then it should probably be confronted (most obviously by disclosure to spouse or therapist, or by ending the therapy and going no contact).
Anyway: enough of the inconclusive speculation. If anyone in the community has experience of this situation either as patient or therapist, please chip in and share your wisdom in the comments.
Best wishes, Amy, and hope you find a purposeful path through this.
“Is attachment to a therapist needed to heal from childhood trauma? ”
If you look in clinical literature, you can find the concept of an “earned secure attachment.” That attachment is usually done with the therapist but it doesn’t have to be. I think I got my earned secure attachment from my wife. It’s been a long time since I looked at it but I think it was Marion Solomon in “Healing Trauma: Attachment, Mind, Body and Brain (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology)” who says it usually takes 3-5 years to achieve it. The book is directed at clinicians but I found the last chapter very relevant.
I got the glimmer from my last therapist, our EAP couselor. That removed any financial incentive an outside therapist might have had. She was an attractive woman in her 40s, flying as a redhead at the time, and we got along really well. She was married, not that was really relevant. In one session, I told her I could spot an unhappy woman a mile away. She came back with, “Not all of them.” We locked eyes for a second. I wanted to come back with, “Sometimes, they’re right under your nose.” But, I came back with, “Yeah, nobody bats 1.000.” She has kind of a zen tilt and I’d send her links to articles that I thought we’d be interested in. I found her pattern of response similar to the pattern I saw with LO #4. I don’t know that it would have developed into anything beyond a professional relationship but it seemed to drift a little off task.
She left as EAP counselor and I haven’t had any contact with her in the last 2 years.
I'm Taken says
“We locked eyes for a second.”
The eyes tell all… The therapist, who engendered limerence in me, after our last session began talking to me like a friend saying to keep in touch by email & it was a pleasure to meet and work with me. (Is this drifting a little off task?) I made him laugh, then he smiled at me looking directly at me. It was though the sun shone through my eyes to a part of my brain that had otherwise been in shadow. And I was caught…
I am recovering now and doing the FTTF course and reading Dr L’s book, but limerence has certainly shaken me with the intensity of its feelings.
I would love to know if this is a one-time wonder, or am I now sensitised to limerence in future situations?
I'm Taken says
Also left a lot of details of this in the wrong place in ‘What is Limerence?’ when new to this website before Scharnhorst kindly left details of this post. I wasn’t sure whether it was Erotic Transference or Limerence.
Dr L left a reply for me containing,
” It (therapy) is a context in which emotional connection and bonding is likely, and the patient is also likely to be physiologically aroused (by the emotional significance of the situation). It would be a crucible for limerence if you are sexually attracted to the therapist…”
Condition Awareness says
I was more than pleased with my first therapy experience. I wrote positive reviews online, told my friends that they should get a therapist and I wondered how I lived without having a therapist. I felt alive! To have someone help me better myself is a formula for admiration.
Here’s the limerence part:
Before each appointment I had butterflies in my tummy, after every appt I felt disoriented and I couldn’t concentrate for the rest of the day. Outside of therapy I would fantasize about my therapist teaching me to cope with and manage my anxious thoughts. I’d close my eyes and imagine how I’d thank him for helping me become better… For hours at a time. I was (geez, I still am) in awe of him.
— He told me it was transference and it was normal.
I thought he would be my therapist forever. However, he learned that my husband was white. He, being a white male himself, seemed taken aback… He was seriously shocked.
— Reading this article about how limerents have a “type” gives me insight as to what my therapist may have seen. Perhaps, it was at this point he realized I was a limerent?
In any case, he used the “no contact” technique with me. He referred me to DBT and told me to never contact him again and if I did he said he would take the matter up the chain… I responded with a psychotic break.
—Perhaps, he thought “no contact” and dbt was a great cure for limerence? I trusted him… However, I feel it would’ve been less damaging if he gave me anticipatory guidance or a reason other than “this place is not appropriate for your problem.”
I didn’t know how much I needed him. But, my beautiful black brain did! I started hearing his audible voice in my head. I’d never heard anything besides my own thoughts in my head. To me, at that point in time, it was the most beautiful gift anyone could give; unlimited therapy via telepathy.
Soooo, yeah, that was my experience with quitting my LO cold turkey.
— Perhaps my experience was negative because I didn’t know I had limerent tendencies until the Quarantine. I had time to research and read curriculum outside my field of study.
On a positive note, I did complete DBT. Which taught me to recognize, label, and grade my emotions. For example, I learned that I was extremely enchanted by my therapist which produced a 10 out of 10 on the shame scale. Then, to cope with the shame I would dip my head in a bowl of ice water for 45 seconds.
I’m not bitter, just disappointed in my reason for choosing the particular DBT facility. I thought my therapist referred me there to test me. I figured that when he saw my trust and obedience he would reward me by becoming my therapist again…
— Any time I encounter a male that sparks my limerence I flood with anxiety. If he speaks to me, I do not engage him, I walk the other way.
Therapy helped me become aware of my limerence and I’m grateful. Now I can be more proactive about dealing with it.
However, next time I need help coping with the amount of time I spend away from my kids I’m going to join a bible study.
CA that sounds like a horrific experience. It’s a beautiful thing that you can distill the positives out of it!
And that limerence sparking that evokes anxiety…I am right there with you. I am determined to never have another Limerent Episode again and view that anxiety as protective.
Wishing you continued healing….
Thanks for sharing your story, Condition Awareness. The combination of limerence and psychoanalysis does seem to be a high risk scenario – especially of the therapist handles it poorly (which would be a generous description of your experience!).
I do wonder how many limerents who don’t know about their “condition” experience the glimmer for their therapists and interpret it as good rapport. And then get drawn deeper in.
Great that you have come out of the other side wiser.
Never had that, but have had a therapist shame me and not disguise her contempt for my limerent tendencies, or rather at the time I had a couple of hopefuls as part of bipolar mania hyper sexuality. Other therapists have been dismissive of ‘crushed’ as a driver of internal dissonance and distress. Much greater understanding is needed, this blog should be required reading!
I am burnt by a futile fire
Guttered by its own breath,
Consuming nothing but its own heat
Fanned by spectral mirages,
By what will not be.
Yet to extinguish it sparks dread,
No wick, no hope, no flame.
I have never experienced limerence before, but I am deep into it with my current therapist. The experience of being so out of control has been frightening to me. It was a perfect storm of genuine admiration, feelings of friendship and trust, intense eye contact, emotional conversations, deeply felt gratitude, and gradually-noticed physical attraction that went too far, too quickly. I never knew that this could happen — it just didn’t occur to me — but now, I feel I have fallen into a kind of trap. It seems like therapy was designed to produce this effect on me. It genuinely feels like some kind of cosmic connection, although rationally I know that is not the case. There is obviously no hope of reciprocation, and I wouldn’t really want it even if it was possible; I am in a long term relationship that is very important to me. On top of everything else, I feel guilty, disloyal and ashamed — but I feel addicted to my fantasies and can’t seem to stop.
My partner noticed that I was acting strangely and asked me directly if I had feelings for my therapist. I admitted that I did. It felt to me like getting doused with cold water. I hate secrets, but I hate hurting my loved ones too. I am not sure if I will be able to continue therapy, or if I would only be throwing good money after bad, and making my mental health worse. Right now there are no good choices for me. Just wanted to say, if this is happening to you, you’re not alone.
Yeah, that’s a rough one, Limerbeast. It does seem an inevitable risk with a therapist who could be a potential LO.
Hard to know ahead of time, of course. I suppose it would be possible to only seek therapists who aren’t a limerence match (e.g. if heterosexual, seek a same-sex therapist), but then, what if that limits your ability to really gain insight from the relationship (e.g. if the opposite-sex perspective is important for your self-development)?
I have been in therapy with my current therapist for 1.5 years and my limerence for him started early in the process. I have disclosed it to him at first thinking it was transference and that it will go away with time once I learn the reasons behind it and work through it. It did not go away and now I am addicted to him. I am married and I still love my husband. I have been living with the guilt and shame for over a year. I found out about the word limerence just last week and read the book by Dr. L. (Living with limerence). I believe I need to cut myself off from my LO (the therapist). This is such a difficult decision for me as I am so hooked on him. The fantasies about him are so elaborate and obsessive. Am I making the right decision by terminating my therapy? I am afraid I will never find a therapist like him. I am afraid I will spiral back into suicidal thoughts with no support from a therapist. I am scared. I am lonely. Am I doing the right thing?
I think if it is causing you distress, you are doing the right thing. Why not ask your therapist to refer you to a female therapist instead? I would definitely aim to find a new therapist *before* cutting ties with your current one.
I agree with Anneli, Sanaz. If you are now in the addiction phase of limerence, you will continue to suffer while you still have contact with your LO therapist, but it’s really important that you find a new therapist before cutting off all support.
It’s a difficult situation. For therapy to work, there has to be good rapport between you and the therapist, but if they cause the glimmer for you, then the rapport is a bit too good! Finding a therapist who you trust and feel connected to is important, but try and find one who couldn’t be a limerence match for you.
I have experienced limerence with a couple of male therapists. I was aware of the transference, and that led me to disclose my feelings both times. The first therapist shocked me by admitting it was mutual, while paying lip service to professional boundaries. It felt wrong, and a little dangerous. The second therapist (a new age type) crushed me by saying he “just didn’t feel that heart connection” with me. I ended therapy with both shortly after admitting my feelings. (And I seem to remember writing them some angry letters, too!) Honestly, I think it would have been very hard for either of them to get it right. Female therapists for me, from then on.
It struck me both times that the whole therapy set-up was a perfect trigger for me, coming as I do from a large family with parents who could spare little attention for me, the well-behaved oldest child. But I also find that if I think of limerence as pathology or an attachment disorder, I tend to feel pretty hopeless about myself. So I much prefer to focus on the suggestions for how to work around it. Yesterday I avoided my current LO by getting a co-worker to call him about an order ready to be picked up. It was sad to come in today and find his order already gone, but I guess it’s progress.
Cosmic Fireworks says
I am so happy to find this article because I am 6 months past my last appointment with my therapist and am still feeling it. I miss her. I want to see her. I dream about her 1-2x a month.
This feeling of “cosmic connection” happened to me during our 2nd meeting and only heightened during the year I saw her. Eventually, thinking it was transference and reading so much about the importance of disclosing it (“That is where the real work begins…”), I mustered up every bit of courage I had and confessed at least part of it. I told her I was having really strong feelings towards her and that it felt like I needed her approval. And it was distracting me from the real work. I was going into each session with a performance to make her like me more than I was addressing real issues.
Her response was pretty much a “huh”. She listened and gave me the intense eye contact she always gave. But she didn’t offer a way out of it, we didn’t dive into the topic or why it was occurring. She is attachment and trauma based so I thought it might’ve been something from childhood surfacing. But I guess I will never know because she just listened and didn’t have much of a response to it at all.
After all the courage it took me to bring it up in the first place, I couldn’t bring it up again. About 3 months after that, and after only dealing with tiny topics since the disclosure, I ended therapy with her. And yet, she’s still there in my day-to-day thoughts 6 months later.
I would like it to end because I’m tired of feeling it, being bewildered by it, and I’m tired of feeling like I’m in love with a ghost. And I must admit, I’m tired of feeling so intensely for someone who not only doesn’t feel the same way, but was very dismissive of my confession of the deepest thing I had going on.
“…but was very dismissive of my confession of the deepest thing I had going on.”
She really dropped the ball. She should have discuss this with you further. I wrote similar comment on another post — therapists are people, too, with their own limitations and prejudices. It’s best not to take 100% of what they say as “the word.” Which isn’t to say they can’t be helpful, but they will sometimes offer wackadoodle opinions or advice.
I feel physically sick and terrified reading about ‘limerence’ and that one of the key solutions is to cut ties with the LO. There is no way I can terminate seeing my therapist as he is my lifeline in many ways. I do not want to try to find another therapist, it took me YEARS to find someone I respect, trust and can learn from. I have confessed to him on several occasions my feelings, and he provided understanding, nonjudgemental responses and kept strict professional boundaries. My question is, would my limerence end if I point blank just asked him to tell me he is not attracted to me in any way? I know he is not, but until I hear this brutal truth from him directly, there will always be hope/uncertainty. I know hearing absolute rejection will be heartbreaking, but losing him as my therapist or continuing on with limerence for years is far worse …. Could this be the answer to ending limerence and still keeping my therapist ? Any thoughts on this approach, or has anyone tried this ?
I want to express my deepest gratitude for this article. I would’ve needed that badly 6 years ago, when I was deep into limerence for my therapist (who was female…despite me being heterosexual but…it just happened). Back then, I wracked my brain if it’s transference of limerence and it almost made me lose my mind. The psychoanalysis school tells you that you should go through this with your therapist, as it’s the path to healing; limerence theory tells you that you should go NC as quickly as possible. I didn’t know what to do. There was no one to ask, no one to talk about it who knew about both phenomena.
I guess everyone has to find out on their own what’s best.
When I told my therapist about my limerence, she didn’t really take the term seriously, but she seemed shocked because I confessed how intense it was. I asked for an honest answer from her part. She said that she had no other feelings for me other than being my therapist. At first she wanted to end the therapy, but then she went into case review with her colleagues and they must’ve encouraged her to go on with me and so I stayed with her for more than another year. Long story short…I suffered very much during that year. It felt so humiliating being so dependent. Every time having to leave after those goddamn 50 minutes.
In the last session, I spoke about how it still hasn’t gotten better and that I would like to have some kind of guidance from her…some kind of “treatment plan”. After I said that, she totally lost her temper which never happened before. She said things like: “It’s so exhausting with you”, “You’re like someone in puberty, all you do is complain”, “you don’t have any sense for inner development processes, and you don’t have to project that on me”. I just sat there, shocked. In a way I was glad that this happened because it made me see very clearly what to do. I didn’t return after that session. Wrote her a message that I wouldn’t return. No answer. Wrote a letter, how disappointed I was, but also thanking her. She answered with a lot of “sugarcoating”…what a good process it had been and that I had achieved a lot, etc… (it’s true that I had achieved some things I couldn’t have done without her. But to tell the truth, the reason I did it is because I wanted to impress her…). No word about the limerence / transference entanglement, etc…
It’s been 5 years since and I’m having an extreme flashback right now. Remembering all the “special moments” during the sessions. You know what the mean thing is? Even after she said she had no “such” feelings, your brain tricks you into thinking: “She cannot tell the truth because she’s your therapist and she has to say that to keep the façade”… so it’s a special kind of “hope” you still can harbour. Making it more difficult to recover.
Blue Ivy says
I’m so sorry to hear about your horrible experience. I don’t know much about psychotherapy but surely this CANNOT be acceptable behavior on her part. I feel she just did not know how to handle limerence from a patient which is likely not a rare occurrence
Glad that you have been able to put this behind you. Hugs!
Cosmic Fireworks says
I am so sorry to hear this. Your situation sounds so very painful and enduring.
It sounds like she handled things in a very cruel manner. And I get it: in ordinary life, if someone were that cruel or dismissive, it would be easy to move on. For some reason with LO’s though, it is nearly impossible. Even being no contact for 6 months hasn’t resolved it for me.
I wish you peace.
“When I told my therapist about my limerence, she didn’t really take the term seriously, but she seemed shocked because I confessed how intense it was. I asked for an honest answer from her part. She said that she had no other feelings for me other than being my therapist. At first she wanted to end the therapy, but then she went into case review with her colleagues and they must’ve encouraged her to go on with me and so I stayed with her for more than another year. Long story short…I suffered very much during that year. It felt so humiliating being so dependent. Every time having to leave after those goddamn 50 minutes.”
Thank you for sharing.
Yes, the intensity of the feelings – I think that’s what shocks most people about limerence, and makes people start to feel uncomfortable. 🤔
I think your therapist’s first instinct was correct – to end therapy with you. I don’t think it’s possible to help a client who’s addicted to the treating professional. Your dependency on her would feel very humiliating, I can imagine. And the limerence would likely dwarf any other issues you were hoping to discuss.
I think the Freudian school of psychoanalysis got it wrong. I don’t think “transference” is beneficial to the therapeutic relationship. I think “transference” can prove highly destructive, if transference is just another term for limerence?
A difficult experience. I’m sorry you went through that. 😢
Thank you all for your sympathy! It feels so good that there are other people who know how this feels. I think that a person who never experienced limerence will never truly understand it.
Sammy, yes, in retrospect I also think that her first instinct was correct and we should have ended it. She should have transferred me to someone else.
But, instead she handled it like this: After I disclosed (by E-Mail), she wrote back (summarized): “It doesn’t seem to be a good idea continuing, it seems like there’s an immense yearning in you, you should go on to seek what it is. I’m sorry to leave you alone with this but I’m sure you’ll find enough opportunities to work on this. All the best, bye.”
If I hadn’t insisted on further “working on it”, then that would’ve been it.
I mean…how can you lure a patient by telling her, “yes, this dependency is good, it means that we’re reaching something deep inside, it’s normal…”, and then, leaving her alone in the abyss? Not even helping to find her someone to deal with that? Isn’t that deeply unethical?
I give her credit that later, she really tried…nevertheless…the whole thing was heading towards disaster.
I now plan to stop ruminating about everything that happened back then. I can’t do anything about it. But it certainly will make me more careful when starting another psychotherapy.
“It doesn’t seem to be a good idea continuing, it seems like there’s an immense yearning in you, you should go on to seek what it is. I’m sorry to leave you alone with this but I’m sure you’ll find enough opportunities to work on this. All the best, bye.”
What a horrible, generic response. Of course you have a yearning in you! Every person who goes into therapy does. That’s what therapy is supposed to do. Help you find ways to fulfill that in heathier ways than you have in the past. And this person spent how many years in higher education to tell you what you could have found in a Google search? Ugh.
I have been seeing my current therapist for three years, twice weekly, for depression. I began having romantic feelings about her a few months in, and some time later I told her what I was feeling. She has always been professional with me, never acting in a way that would make me think she felt the same way, but there have also been times when I felt that she was exasperated with me, and even a little angry. I have a tried to somehow end my feelings for her, but over time they have become, if anything, increasingly intense. I have considered ending the sessions, but the thought of never seeing her again just makes me so depressed that I don’t think I could handle it. And reading that these feelings could go on for years makes it worse. I feel beyond stuck.
Wow, James, that is a tough situation. I see how it would be easy to develop limerence for a therapist. I’ve never had limerence for a therapist, but I frequently find that I want to be friends with my therapist outside of therapy. Then I remind myself that therapy is a job for the therapist and a relationship outside of the office is probably not desirable for them.
I wish I could be more helpful. Best wishes!
I have never heard the term limerence before this week when I once again spent hours googling “how to stop feeling like you’re in love with your therapist”. It appears from what I could discern I have this for him and wondering how anyone has actually resolved their feelings regarding their therapist? I have been in twice weekly sessions for 6 years and I can’t imagine not seeing this person again should I go no contact. My feelings are out of control when I’m not in his presence and I literally feel like I’m crazy. Would love to hear from someone who has experienced this towards their therapist. I’m desperate!!! By the way my therapist and I talk about it all the time and he thinks it’s all transference and attachment stuff from my childhood. He believes we can work through it so I continue my sessions and am in agony when we’re apart.
Welcome to our club, Beth!
Let me see if I understand. You have been seeing the same therapist, twice a week for six years? Wow! Besides the limerence, have you made progress on the issues that took you into therapy in the first place?
I can see how you would develop limerence for a therapist. I haven’t ever developed attraction for a male therapist, but twice I have wanted to be friends with female therapists. When that happens, I have to remind myself that she is just good at her job and not actually interested in being friends with a client.
I am very concerned about your therapist’s willingness to continue seeing you when he knows you have feelings for him. That feels unethical. Are you willing to consider changing therapists?
My heart goes out to you. That would be so hard. Best wishes!
Thank you so so much for replying.Yes, I have been seeing my therapist for 6 years and he chalks it all up to transference AND my childhood. I have made great strides in some areas of my life with therapy and feel like I’m done talking about my past. Problem is, I don’t feel done with him. He has never heard of limerence (just asked) and we spend inordinate amount of time discussing my deep love for him which he attributes to my childhood experiences. His method is not unusual for psychodynamic therapy but like I said I have just felt crazy with this deep longing for him and never quite sure how to deal with the intensity of my feelings for him having never heard of limerence myself until a few days ago. Now that I have, I feel a relief that I’m just not crazy. Still sort of stuck since I love him so deeply that the idea of never seeing him again causes me to have actual pain. He has boundaries with me and has never crossed them, nor would I actually even want him to. I just cant stop the obsessive thoughts and feelings. Wondering if anyone has any ideas or if they themselves have lived through this?
I’m so sad that so many people had been through this and yet nothing is resolved… I developed feelings for my therapist rather quickly (in 6 sessions within 2 months), and I confessed to him immediately when I became aware of it, since I googled and found out it was what a client should do. He just accepted it and had no comments about it, kept his boundaries both mentally and physically, and redirected focus back to my issues, which was standard professional.
I have the same feelings as Limerbeast described as cosmic connection. Great for finding a way to put it! I couldn’t figure out what type of feeling it was as it seemed to go beyond everything, but I found myself not rejecting the idea of romantic intimacy with him, so I told him I did found him sexually attractive. I also told him I was anxious that I was making progress because I wanted to impress him, and it was not a proper motive.
His response was not so clear but he didn’t seem to consider it as an issue. Probably because he thought it was pure transference related to my neglecting childhood.
I think it is fair to say that limerence is irrational. Sometimes when the feelings become too intense, I would try to picture him in real life, carrying all these bad habits and qualities I hate, and tell myself “what if that is his true self?” in order to get my rational brain working again.
I certainly only know the best part of him and he was not self disclosing anything. I’m just projecting my ideal image of a perfect partner onto him. It helped clear my head a little for a short period of time, but overall didn’t help reducing my affection for him lol. He’s like an app running in background of my mind all the time, I don’t know what’s gonna happen and am terrified of the idea of not being able to let go of this feeling after termination. Human beings just need to suffer I suppose ;(
I’m sorry that you seem to be going through a lot of the same issues as I am in therapy. I don’t actually see anything changing for me until I leave. When I explain all this to my therapist, he thinks I should work through the underlying reasons I have limerence (he believes it’s all transference and has no solid knowledge of limerence)instead of stopping therapy. Good luck to you and I hope it resolves well for you.
Beth, if you tell him that you think it’s best to work through your limerence with a different therapist, does he resist that, too?
I haven’t said that to him yet because I’m just learning about limerence but I know just from our years together that he would not in any way try to stop me. He might tell me why he believes I should stay, causing me to doubt myself but no, he would not tell me not to leave.
Hi Beth, yes I have been through this. Was in twice weekly therapy for 3.5 years then left and ended up in a weird kind of long distance friendship with said therapist for 2.5 years which was deeply unsatisfying (not to mention unethical) and exactly as you describe in terms of the deep longing.
I came out of the other side of it by suddenly going no contact one day, blocked him on all channels. White knuckelled it for a month and then – honestly – it’s like my brain just learned to forget him.
He wrote to me after about 2 months of no contact and I burned the letter on the stove without reading it.
This Easter is exactly 12 months since I got free. Absolutely no regrets and I say this as someone with deep childhood trauma, no family who saw him as a replacement father.
I came out the other side and it’s amazing to live in my own mind. Happy to chat any time if that would help – it’s such a lonely experience, I know.
Thank you so much for replying and I hope it’s ok for me to ask you some questions. When you left originally, did you tell your therapist first and discuss it? How did you manage to leave? Did your therapist know about limerence? Mine attributes all my feelings to transference and tries to get me to break down the feelings which are impossible for me to do but he feels that’s the way to work through transference.
We recently had a 3 week break and while I still thought about him constantly and missed him, the intensity of the feelings lessened so I know that leaving with no contact will be the best thing for me in the long run but I just can’t actually visualize leaving. Right now I can’t imagine never seeing him again despite knowing it’s the right thing to do. I give you huge credit for initially leaving. Once I do, I know unlike yours, I’ll never hear from my therapist again and that scares me a bit. I’m so happy to hear that you have no regrets. During the last year did you ever want to reach out or did something just switch off in your brain giving you the courage to have no contact? Thanks so much for indulging my questions. I’m in such a bad place and I just want these feelings for him to be done and over but any time I start thinking of leaving therapy some part of me kicks in and won’t allow it.
Sure, I will answer them as best you can.
Please bear in mind that my therapist had – at best – some very flexible ethical boundaries so, in part my actions were driven by that.
First question – did I tell him I planned to leave? Short answer is no. I had tried a few times to leave the therapy starting from about 3 months in as the intensity of my feelings scared me. The summer before I left for good I ‘left’ and had the whole summer (so I guess about 6 weeks) off, which showed me that I could live without him (your 3 week break stands out to me as boding well here, it shows that you CAN live without him).
For various reasons, I ended up going back…but it was never *quite* so intense after that break and that’s also when I broke the 2 x a week habit, I only went weekly after that.
Over time I began to feel quite strongly that there wasn’t a lot else left for me to *do* in therapy, but that I was staying there because of the intense connection. If I *ever* tried to raise anything like this he was very dismissive (like I say, he was not a good therapist).
Anyway, it all came to a head when I realised that the idea of a ‘relationship’ (and by this I genuinely do mean a friendship; I was happily married and it wasn’t a sexual thing I felt for my therapist) was forefront in my mind in therapy and I just…I got sick of it.
I can’t remember the entire ins and outs of it but in session I asked if we could be friends some day, long after therapy had ended. And…..he got really strict and muttered about his membership organisation not allowing it.
It was like waking from a dream. He rejected me, outright, and I felt it…it was SO painful.
After this was the weird shit – I wrote him a letter explaining why I was leaving – because the idea of being his friend had eclipsed anything therapeutic and I was just done with the lot of it.
This was when he wrote back, saying he wanted to be friends too. At the time I felt a mixture of joy and deep dread in my stomach because I knew it was wrong. So conflicting.
Anyway, the friendship was shit. It wasn’t much different from our therapeutic relationship in that it was all on his terms, in his time, when he felt like it.
As to how I switched off the limerence….it was a death of a thousand cuts. All the times he showed he didn’t really give a shit about me, I got so tired of him having all the power. I also realised he was exactly like the narcissistic parents who were the reason I was in therapy in the first place.
I was constantly looking for approval that never came. When I achieved good things he told me he was jealous of me (he was in his 60s and jealous of a working mother of young kids who went back to Uni and got a Master’s degree). Just it got ridiculous.
Every small slight was like a tiny brick in the wall until….I just didn’t want it any more. If you imagine him as a statue on a pedestal I had to take it apart brick by brick to even begin to get to the part where I could block him.
Gosh, it’s exhausting to even remember, I really feel for you.
Sorry, just realised I never answered two of your main questions.
Did he know about limerence? We never discussed it, but I didn’t know about it then. He put everything down to transference, though, which was a convenient way for him to dismiss my feelings and shut down any conversation on it. That’s the sign of a bad therapist, if you feel you can’t actually discuss it.
Did I ever feel like reaching out to him? Actually, this surprisingly was over very quickly.
The timescale was that around winter 2021 the shine had really worn off him. January 2022 he was spectacularly, horribly nasty about some baby animals I was caring for who had died (bear in mind he was an animal lover and had actually shared a poem he wrote about some mice he tried to care for when their mother died) and this really seems to have been the last straw for me.
I didn’t have a lot of contact with him for a few weeks. Then I – once again – tried to ask him what on earth was ‘in it’ for him to have a friendship with me and he essentially said that he was hanging out to be my therapist again (like I say, shit therapist).
We had a couple of pleasant text exchanges after that and then a switch flicked in my head. I didn’t contact him for a couple of weeks, then I found out about limerence, found this site, found the advice to cut contact all together and…..blocked hm. That was it.
Initially it felt weird not contacting him as it was so habitual for me to do that (then, maybe 7 out of 10 times he’d leave me on read so there was a whole intermittent reward thing going on).
But after four weeks, it felt natural. It was amazing.
Thank you so much for your detailed (and helpful) reply. As I originally stated I had never heard about or knew the word limerence before last week. For the last 6 years these deep intense longings which I shared with my therapist were chalked up to transference which we discuss all the time. I had a very chaotic childhood and in some ways as a young psychologist he thought if he showed me enough (platonic) affection, allowing me to attach to him with calls out of session (always initiated by me but he offered after every session to be available should I need him) and periodically checking in with me after a rough session. He thought the inconsistency of me not knowing when he would call and see how I was (because it wasn’t after every session) caused me confusion ( it didn’t cause me confusion, just pain because I wanted him to call all the time) had him discontinue those check ins which really ramped up my longings. I have tried to explain to him that I don’t want these feelings for him ( I’m married with 3 kids) and his belief is we will work through it as we figure out what I want from him. I don’t know what I want other than for him to love me like I love him. I also know that will never happen. He holds his boundaries very well in that he tells me we will not be friends when therapy is over despite both of us knowing if we met outside therapy we would be. To assuage my younger self he often tells me he loves and cares for me which of course while I find it gratifying also causes me deep pain. I think about him all the time, to the point of distraction-imagining him with his family or in his daily life…I absolutely hate feeling like this and I feel powerless to stop these feelings. I got through our 3 week break because I knew I was going back after his vacation and he also called one evening to leave a voice mail telling me I was not forgotten by him (a huge fear left over from childhood). Thinking back after reading this week about limerence I have developed these insane crushes since childhood. Never this bad or intense because I’ve never had someone know me as well as he does for the last 6 years but I’ve definitely spent a lifetime of inappropriate longings and desires for others.
He is going away again in June and immediately following his return I leave for a two week vacation. I’d like to discontinue our therapy then I’m just so scared of never seeing him again. I wish I had more reasons , like you did, to see his true character but sadly for me I think my therapist is genuinely a good guy who wants the best for me. Any actions he takes is usually with my best interests and I don’t know how to leave that, especially since he knows nothing about limerence (and if he did he’d probably disbelieve because he is a phd psychodynamic therapist really set in his ways) so thinks this can all be worked through. Except it’s been 6 years of unabated longings and desires and I feel broken by it.
Sorry for the missive. Thank you for your comments above, they have been really helpful.
Hi again, Beth,
It sounds like the absence in June might present an opportunity to take a bit of a step back.
I know we don’t have the same story or the same experience with our therapist but I’m fairly sure I could devalue your therapist pretty easily because I’m not in the fog of limerence.
Plot twist – I’m a therapist myself now and what you describe your therapist as doing “we spend inordinate amount of time discussing my deep love for him which he attributes to my childhood experiences” doesn’t sound like working with the transference psychodynamically, it just sounds like feeding the limerence beast.
I’m not saying it comes from a bad place, more likely from lack of knowledge/experience of the difference between limerence and transference.
In therapy, working transferentially might mean something like….you come to a session and you’re cross with him over something he said in your last session. He goes with it and wants to know more and you end up telling him things like he always lets you down, he’s never there for you etc etc. You become honest and articulate your unmet needs in a way you’ve never been able to before. Then he helps you to realise that you’ve projected a role someone in your earlier life played – say an absent parent – onto him, and working in those roles helps you to gain new insights and articulate pain you haven’t been able to articulate before.
Talking endlessly about your crush isn’t working with transference. We all know that feeling when we have a crush on someone and can’t stop talking them – mentionitis I call it. It sounds like he just lets you have long mentionitis sessions that feed the limerence.
Second point, he’s been taking your (or your insurance companies) money twice a week for six years and you haven’t moved through this crush at all? Wow. He’s at best imcompetent and, at worst, unethical.
The stuff you say about him feeling like he needed to be available outside of sessions sounds more driven by ego on his part than need on yours. But I’m sure it’s fed the limerence beast because he’s doing stuff that makes you a ‘special’ client (calling you from his holiday for example).
He honestly doesn’t sound like a great guy. If you want to knock him off his pedestal I’d start with working out how much money he’s made out of you.
Thank you. Your words are one I want to hear. In the fog of my limerence I absolutely idolize this guy and can only see things through the lens of how desperately I love him. Hearing your perspective is so so helpful! I don’t want to keep asking you questions but is there any way to find you off line in your therapist role to actually make an appt to discuss limerence further with you? Now that I know you’re an actual therapist ( which is amazing by the way, congratulations! Did your own therapy give you the motivation or were you always on that path?) I would love to be able to talk this through. Over the years, recognizing my problem, I’ve had consultations and no one ever mentioned limerence so I think if I could speak with someone who has an understanding about limerence it might help. I don’t know how you feel about that. In any event thanks again. I was not able on my own to look at his behavior in any other way than how he’s been trying so hard all these years to help me so your perspective really is so helpful.
Hi Beth, sorry I missed this earlier post! I’m in the UK and I have a sense that you might be in the states? So I wouldn’t be able to work therapeutically with you, unfortunately. Wouldn’t be appropriate anyway, given how much I’ve shared about myself personally.
I’m happy to chat more though on here.
Ah ok, I just feel bad asking you so many questions and thought if somehow I could pay you I could ask all the questions I wanted to 😀
I went on Reddit today in the limerence forum to see if anyone had experience with resolving their limerence towards their therapist and basically everyone said the same thing- tell my therapist (which I have) and also that it sounds like transference. I’m more confused than ever. They seem to be of the opinion that limerence can be worked through. I know that I won’t be able to work through this with my therapist using the methods he does so now I’m just trying to figure out how to leave without too much more additional pain for me. I guess that’s impossible and you just have to get through it. I’m so scared of the backlash my internal self will feel if I ever get the words out that I’m leaving. I don’t necessarily want to continue therapy with anyone else because the actual issues I went to therapy for in the first place have been worked through enough. I stay in therapy now merely for my therapist and my deep feelings for him. Anyway I sound like a broken record. You’ve been a great source of support, thank you again.
Personally – and I say this from my own experience rather than a therapeutic one necessarily – I felt that transference doesn’t quite fit the bill. Transference, to me, is about projecting existing or previous relationships onto the therapist.
Limerence is about creating an idealised version of the therapist, probably at least in part to soothe old attachment wounds with the sense that the secure attachment we’ve longed for has now arrived.
But they’re very different. Working with transference should be dynamic (hence the term psychodynamic) there should be a processing of emotion and a moving forward.
If you are stuck in limerence, idealising a therapist because they give you that attentive care and they listen to you as if you are the only person in the world then you can’t really work through this idealised version of them. Because the idealised version of the attentive listener is exactly what we pay a therapist to be.
I’m also quite wary of everything being put down to transference. My ex therapist would do that – he’d miss a session or turn up really late then blame it on my transference if I got upset. Not on!
Sorry , one more thing to address. Regarding working with transference. We talk about my feelings towards him endlessly but we do so in terms of where they emanate from and how they resemble the feelings I had from the past but because he knows nothing about limerence his belief is by talking about my feelings and relating them to ways I’ve felt like this before, realizing he can’t actually change my childhood, that I am worthy of love in the present, etc. etc. I’ll eventually not feel like I do towards him and will redirect to people in my actual life who can fulfill those roles. All good except it has not worked that way AT ALL. the feelings have only exacerbated over the years to the point that I feel crazy.
When you left the first time for those 6 weeks how did you say you were leaving? We have our appointments scheduled, they’re mine twice a week so I can’t not show up. I’d have to say something in advance and I can’t imagine that at all. Yet, like you wrote above I feel done with therapy. I’m tired of all of it. Just not done with him.
The therapy isn’t helping you. It’s unethical that he’s keeping you in it and that it’s keeping you in this state. You sound like you are in a great deal of emotional pain DUE to your therapy with him. That’s not ok. He should first do no harm and know when to refer on if he isn’t helping.
When I left that time I just messaged him to say I wasn’t coming back. I didn’t have any appts scheduled in as such, we just used to book the next one at the end of the session.
You could email him now and cancel your sessions but I think the safest thing to do would be to use the time between now and June to find a new therapist so that you can transition to someone else during your forced break.
You deserve to work with someone ethical who has your best interests at heart. I saw a great therapist for 20 sessions last year, she was female and younger than me so a complete opposite to the previous therapist. I can’t tell you how healing it was a to have a ‘normal’ therapeutic relationship. One that I forgot about between sessions. One where I didn’t ever think or care about what her real life was like. One where we could both go on holiday and I didn’t bat an eyelid about going without sessions.
It’s out there; I promise you.
Just had my first of two therapy sessions this week. After all the wonderful support from here and reading all I could on limerence I truly went in to the appointment feeling strong and thinking I would leave feeling the same way. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The moment I got in my car I was slammed with feelings for him and started to parse every word of the session. What is wrong with me that I’m fight back where I was? I need this to stop.
Beth, you are in a very vulnerable place. I can’t think of many settings where a person is more vulnerable than in a therapy session. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Oh my, it would be hard to break free from limerence for a therapist. I just can’t imagine being in your shoes.
I think you will benefit from changing therapists. Can you change therapists? What steps do you need to take to change therapists?
Hang in there. You can do this.
My SO suggested that you don’t do it face to face. He suggested that you contact your therapist through email or text to cancel future appointments. It might be easier than facing him.
Thank you Lovisa, my rational mind ( which doesn’t feel very present right now) absolutely wants to leave this therapy due to the constant pain. I like your suggestion of emailing although a part of me just feels bad, like after 6 years I feel I owe more to my therapist than just an email. But transversely I truly can’t imagine ever actually saying the words that I’m leaving to him outright because the need to stay is so strong. Thanks again for your kind words.
Beth, you don’t owe him anything.
It’s a business arrangement.
You said earlier in this thread that you have met all your therapy goals.
He is just taking your money and keeping you stuck at this point.
Can you at least reduce to once a week?
I cannot tell you how unethical it is for a therapist to see a client who feels they have met all their goals, let along twice a week and for years.
He is not the idealised therapist you perceive him as.
You owe him nothing.
Thanks BW, I missed your comment until this morning. You’re so right, I’m definitely idealizing him and can feel myself defending him in my mind as I read your words even though I know you’re absolutely correct. The subconscious is a powerful thing. My plan ( for now) is to reduce to once a week and not go back in June after break. Hopefully I’ll be strong enough to do it. And because I feel defensive of him I do want to say that although he is aware of all my feelings which he chalks up to transference and I’ve threatened to leave at many times over the years because I feel done with therapy ( but not him) there are a few things we have been working on that would lead him to believe we still have work to do. Meaning I have not ever explicitly told him I don’t need therapy anymore and he has said many times he doesn’t tell patients that they need to terminate, he leaves it up to them. As always I do appreciate your perspective because I’m definitely not thinking clearly.
Beth, I think you are doing great, you really are.
I know how hard I found my situation and how long it took me to extricate myself from it.
I worshipped my therapist and no one – not even my closest friend or my husband would have been able to convince me that he was anything other than perfect.
You are doing so well to have reached this point of reflection and realisation.
Miss Lovisa is such a blessing to this place and her words have done so much for me in the months that I have been here. She knows a lot about therapy and what it should and shouldn’t be. This is my first (God help me) and only limerent state I have had. I can’t quite imagine opening up yourself to someone for so long and then them using that against you.
It is difficult to see in the state of limerence. People would tell me LO isn’t the most perfect woman in the world you think she is and I go full on momma bear on them for thinking anything less of her. It was difficult to see through the limerent haze that she had imperfections, just like you and I or anyone else has. The great thing about this community and talking to other limerents is that they can see your LO differently than you can. Just like people see LO differently and can help me come to terms with it. Because other limerents can be more objective with other people’s LO’s than they can their own. That’s what makes this community and the people in it are such a God send.
Thank you Adam. I agree with you, Lovisa is a kind and thoughtful person with wise words. So many people here have been so helpful to me. I’m grateful I stumbled on this site.
Wow, you two have kind words for me, thank you.
I have been pondering something. This might be a little off, but I would love to hear your thoughts about it. Do you think limerence is a form of idol worship? This is for my personal development. I am not implying that I think other people here are worshiping idols.
Limerent Emeritus says
“Do you think limerence is a form of idol worship?”
Is that a literal or rhetorical question? The responses to that would depend on the cosmology of the responder.
Limerents tend to idealize their LOs.
At what point would that cross over into “idol worship?” My response to that would be when it reaches a point where the idealized object is compelling you to take action against your, integrity, morals, religious beliefs, or whatever else your moral compass point to.
Does the idealized object compel you to act against your own best interest or against the interest of someone whose best interest you should be acting in?
Miss Lovisa, you are most welcome.
I, personally, don’t think there is much of a gap between idealizing and idolizing. I think the idealizing is the start. You look at LO’s positive qualities and become enamored with them. Like LO had many actual objectively good qualities that one would want in a friend or mate. She was motivated, strong willed, determined, hard working, a loving mother, an independent woman, and very beautiful. I would think that anyone seeking a mate would agree those are qualities to find in someone.
I think the jump from idealizing and idolizing comes from then denying any possible negative quality that may present itself or be brought up by others that interact with LO as well. Several of LO and my co-workers would say LO had a temper. I would always counter (sometimes angrily), usually, with “LO has always been nothing but sweet and nice to me.” It would upset me that people would think of LO having that kind of attitude.
Since idolizing is usually synonymous with admire, reverie, and greatly love excessively, I guess you could say a limerent might idolize their LO. Just like a young boy may idolize a movie star in a father figure kind of way, for whatever reason, looking at only what he sees on TV and not figuring in who the real actor is. Not necessarily consciously but because this man on TV fills a void. Maybe his father is absent from his life or emotionally unavailable. So he idolizes this actor into the perfect father and wishes his father would be the same.
I know it was the case for me with LO. She was fulfilling otherwise unmet needs even if wasn’t consciously on her part. So over time I saw her as this woman that’s absolutely perfect. No man would be good enough for her because she’s so perfect. She would make the most amazing friend/girlfriend/wife. So now that you got me rambling Miss Lovisa I would say, yes in my case anyway. But I wouldn’t think that is the case with every limerent.
One last thing I thought of …. I think the case could be made for how you know and/or interact with LO. Like in my case LO was a co-worker and I never saw her in a social setting, so the only side of LO I saw was what she was at work. Or with Beth she confided in her therapist many, probably, intimate things about herself. She possibly (not trying to put words in her mouth) never saw him in any other setting so she might not be able to get past the times that he did help her as a responsible therapist to see what he is negatively doing to her now. Where you and LO are friends and see him in many different setting. So you might know his “whole person” more than Beth or I. Just a thought.
I’d like to leave with a disclaimer to Beth that I apologize if my theorizing got any of your story wrong. What Miss Lovisa asked just got me thinking and here in my comments I tend to “talk out loud” before I proofread my post. So I tend to ramble. 🙂
Adam, that makes sense and it’s kind of what I have been thinking.
No worries, you aren’t off base in your theory regarding my therapist. I have never seen him outside the therapy room and yet I do feel like I know him. He discloses quite judiciously and I’ve googled him quite often and found out things which only endear me to him more. Although I know deep down I really don’t know him know him.
I can’t really answer your question regarding idol worship and limerence because I am so new to knowing about limerence at all, it’s hard for me to parse the difference.
Thanks guys. It’s something I’ve been pondering lately and I appreciate hearing other people’s thoughts about it.
Beth, I have also been pondering your situation. I question if I could pull myself away from a therapist LO. The only thing worse would be a masseuse LO. Both of them provide an intimate service. Holy cow it would be so hard to walk away.
Beth, for another outside opinion, it seems like you should sever ties with this therapist. He is causing you a lot of distress and having him out of your life seems like the only proper thing to do for healing. Plus, it just seems shady on his part knowing you are attracted to him.
Maybe you could find a good female therapist that you could immediately change to to not miss a beat on your therapy.
Thanks speedwagon for your thoughts. Apparently in the general population it’s not uncommon to have an attraction to your therapist but where it gets tricky is I definitely have limerence and he doesn’t know a thing about limerence. He thinks of limerence as an attachment disorder which he believes can be worked though. So I’m not sure about him being unethical because in a “normal” situation it would probably peter out on its own after much discussion.
I so agree that I need to leave and/or find a female therapist.
I am so grateful to everyone for their advice and words of wisdom.
Do most people end up going no contact with the person they experience limerence towards?
It seems most success stories around LwL revolve around full NC. I can’t go full NC with my LO and there are so many days I wish I could. I was a week away from her last week, and my mood was better. In your case full NC seems like a good strategy.
LO made the choice for me when she decided to move on to a new job. And while I would love to see/talk to her again, I can at least understand that NC is the best for me. In my case LO was a very good friend to me, and I regret that it had to go the way it did. But I also know that she needs to move on with her life and be happy. It’s been 10 months since I last saw her and I still have the intrusive thoughts and apparently subconscious talking in my sleep about her. So if I am still bad this long after NC started than I know still being in contact with her (I do have her phone number) would only make it worse for me and my marriage.
Who knows, Beth? I am not one for all the gush and waffle but I have now spent many hours reading about limerence and I reckon it’s the best option, despite the pain and the unpredictable episodes of intrusive thoughts.
I did not appreciate the potential problems with therapists, however. It has stiffened my resolve to go it alone.
Personally, I have been in a dark place for a couple of days. Re-reading the blogs “The Benefits Of No Contact, “The Loneliness Of No Contact” and “When Things Go Sour” together with the comments of Limmy, WorkingOnIt and Adam et al have been enormously helpful to me.
Limerent Emeritus says
Risk = Threat x Vulnerability x Consequence
If any factor is zero, there is no risk.
Eliminating threat is often illegal or unethical. Besides, we usually like our LOs.
You may be incapable or unwilling to reduce your vulnerability, especially in the short haul. Real change takes work. Reducing vulnerability often takes professional help which can be hard to conceal from SOs, coworkers, and other stakeholders.
Consequences are often not in your control LOs, SOs, and disgruntled co-workers/employees can throw all kinds of wrenches into the works.
No contact is considered the most effective technique because it separates the threat from the vulnerability. But, it usually doesn’t do your frame of mind any favors. It hurts.
I could go NC from my LOs and every piece of advice that I received from anyone, friends, therapists, bartenders [surrogate therapists], you name it, told me to do it.
“Get away from her and stay away from her. Stay involved with this woman and it will not end well for you.” – EAP Counselor.
So thank you for answering my question. Please keep in mind I’m new to knowing about limerence; I don’t understand what you wrote :
Eliminating threat is often illegal or unethical. Besides, we usually like our LOs.
What do you mean by it being illegal or unethical?
Beth, you might not be the only one who doesn’t quite understand… Apologies to LE for gently pulling his leg but it’s so nice to smile here and there.
Limerent Emeritus says
Threats are external to you. Vulnerabilities are internal.
My response was somewhat flip. You have little or no control over most threats. So, taking any action other than your leaving to get away from them might involve doing something illegal, like killing them, or unethical, like getting them fired.
Are you familiar with the movie “Sleeping with the Enemy (1991) starring Julie Roberts. She tried to get away from her abusive husband but he tracked her down. She couldn’t reduce her vulnerability so she eliminated the threat. Permanently. It’s the ultimate in going “No Contact.”
When I explained the concepts of threat and risk to her, LO #4 said it was like a light bulb going off in her head. She quoted me later in several of her posts.
I can take a stab at the “unethical” part but don’t want to in anyway speak for L.E.
It came about in the comment section of one of Dr. L’s recent posts “I Don’t Want To Devalue My Limerent Object
( https://livingwithlimerence.com/case-study-i-dont-want-to-devalue-my-limerent-object/ )
Devaluing has been thrown out as a way to bring LO down from the pedestal that you have put them on. But for a non-predatory LO, they more than likely didn’t seek, ask, or solicit the attention that you gave them. In their minds you could just be a friendly person and they have no idea what the limerence is doing to you in your head.
Imagine if someone that was previously friendly to you just all of sudden gives you the cold shoulder and/or tries to avoid you and interact with you. It would more than likely hurt the your feelings or at least make you wonder what you did wrong.
Doing that to LO would, in my opinion, would be really cruel and selfish. Again they more than likely didn’t solict your attention and are more than likely innocent in what developed in your own head. It’s not fair to hurt them because of something you let get out of hand. Even if you were ignorant of limerence.
I was fortunate that LO was the one that moved away from the situation. Now whether I was any factor in here moving on I do not know. But I know that made it easier for me to try and move on and rid myself of the limerence. Some people, like Speedwagon, aren’t so fortunate, and I feel for him. To think LO would still be around after I learned what limerence was and what was happening in my head would make it very difficult to interact with LO professionally (LO was a former co-worker) if she hadn’t left.
Thank you all for explaining. Starting to sorta kinda make a bit more sense.
BW, I can’t seem to reply to your post so I’m responding here by saying thanks once again for your support. As you absolutely know, this is very difficult and I’m feeling so grateful to you and everyone else who has been so kind on this site and offering me so much support during this terrible process of figuring things out. No one in my actual life has heard of limerence (I’ve been asking!) so while I’m alone it feels less fraught knowing the people here have experience and been so kind.
It’s such a hard road, Beth, you and I obviously don’t have identical experiences but I relate to so much of what you say.
It is very, very hard when it’s a therapist because – as I’ve said upthread – therapists have to present an idealised version of themselves to be able to listen attentively. One where they are all ears and hide away their own thoughts and feelings.
I should also say that therapists (when well trained) should absolutely be alert to signs of dependency.
Dependency happens, we know that. A therapist might not know the term limerence but they should understand dependency, how to spot it and how to work to diffuse it.
Given that your therapist has no knowledge of limerence could you ask him to set aside transference talk and discuss dependency with you?
That’s a brilliant idea! I’m going to ask him that. Years ago he was very adamant that he’s not an attachment therapist yet it appears we ended up doing parts work along with attachment stuff and he is well aware of a) how deep and intense my longings are for him b) that I am scared to leave because I can’t imagine never seeing him again and c) I think about him to the point of it interfering in my life. Despite knowing all this he insists I will get through these feelings I have for him by discussion and linking it to my childhood. Until last week when I found this site I have just assumed there is something wrong with me and felt ashamed of my inability to get over him. By the way I have had intense crushes for others since I was a little girl. Never as intense as this but for the most part those other intense crushes were with people who really weren’t a part of my life like he is.
Thanks for the awesome suggestion. Wish me luck, I have my second appt tomorrow where I’ll bring it up and reduce my sessions.
My therapist liked to throw in a lot of parts work, too. My experience of that is that it positions you as very vulnerable to the therapist’s all seeing eye.
Not saying that it’s inherently wrong, and I don’t think my therapist was abusive in using it. But the theory of it was far too exciting for him.
There can be a lot of ego in therapy. Good Supervision should help with this, but of course that relies on the therapist to actually bring stuff to Supervision.
Definitely asking for an honest conversation about dependency sounds like a good place to start tomorrow. Remember that not all therapists believe in/use transference also – it’s pretty specific to psychodynamic modalities.
So if it’s all ‘transference’ people wouldn’t be limerent for CBT therapists. Except sometimes they are.
Don’t let him bamboozle you with theory, some therapists use that like a forcefield when they feel vulnerable and want to avoid open conversation.
Haha BW, are you sure you haven’t met my therapist? He sometimes falls back to explaining theory to me and I usually have no idea what he’s saying or how it relates to me.
How did it go today, Beth?
My SO is the only person in my real life who has heard of limerence and he learned about it by snooping on my phone to find LwL. No one else has heard of it.
Thanks so much for asking how today went. I’m not doing as well as I hoped to be after telling him today that I’m stopping therapy in June. I didn’t talk about reducing my weekly sessions yet because actually telling him I plan to leave shocked me. I never thought I would be able to say those words to his face. On one hand there’s a part of me that feels strong , that I’ll finally feel like I will get my life back on track but on the other hand I’m slammed with the intensity of my feelings for him and want to call him to tell him I made a mistake, I was just kidding, I’m staying forever.
He took it very well. He didn’t try and convince me to stay but said he’d miss me very much and understands the magnitude of pain I’m in each and every time I leave. He still believes that I have not worked though the root cause of why I can’t accept the care and love he does provide as enough and despite my continued efforts try I can’t explain what I want from him. I’m not sure if this is typical of limerence or maybe there is something else deeply wrong with me but I can’t really articulate what I want. I just have this deep, unexplainable love and it’s filled with so much intensity that I am in pain each time I have to leave him. Yet I also know he is “just my therapist” but that doesn’t stop my deep longings for him. Not necessarily for a relationship… just more of something.
So that’s the update. I appreciate you asking, I’m sure I sound absolutely bonkers and that’s the way I feel. It’s going to take every ounce of self control to not call and ask him to forget everything I said.
Well done, Beth, you’ve done a really brave thing.
This thread has got a bit too chaotic for me to follow and I feel it’s being derailed with discussions around what people find attractive which is a shame. Because for those of us who have experienced therapist limerence it was a really helpful resource.
If you want to message me you can email [email protected], not sure if it’s allowed to share emails on here so might get deleted.
Limerent Emeritus says
There used to be a private forum where posters could go more into more personal things and develop relationships, if they chose. DrL discontinued it awhile back.
DrL provides a few alternatives. https://livingwithlimerence.com/community-coaching-and-purposeful-living/
I believe So few ppl have heard of it because of how rare it is and the inability to understand it if you haven’t experienced it. If i could pretend i wasn’t a limerant and i saw this concept i feel like I’d call it nonsense and say your just obbsessed with someone a special word isn’t nessesery. Although having gone thru it took me almost a full year after initial LE where something clicked in my brain that this is NOT NORMAL in one single momment whilst feeling like my heart was twisting inside it was like a ton of bricks fell on my head, like a breakthrough i realized this was something unique and individual and i consequently researched my symptoms and found out
This is the same reason i haven’t told anyone about this despite having ppl i trust. I refuse to tell anyone unless there a limerant themselves.
This is one of the reasons I am so happy for the people here. I did disclose to my wife for a variety of reasons between the two of us and I feel that’s what she thinks, is that I am obsessed with this woman or having a EA. I think she thinks it is a nonsense concept and a cop out to continue being infatuated with someone.
Since than I have made the same decision. I don’t think anyone not a limerent will try to understand limerence, or just completely dismiss it if I tell them. So it is a condition that I am going to have to get through solo in life. But thankfully I have this community to help me along.
Adam, honestly what you said non limerants say is exactly what i anticipate them to say… And if i did open up and they did say that I know i would become extremely angry as i can’t control my anger. This is why I’m posting comments on here in the first place as i don’t open up to people very easily whatsoever to people who i love nevermind strangers, however the strangers here are the only ones who understand i supposed.
Limerent Emeritus says
It’s probably a good time to refer back to https://livingwithlimerence.com/therapy-for-limerence/
I havent read this article until now as you have suggested it. From what i understood from the article dr L is saying that there potentially isn’t a root cause of Limerance and it could jusslt be apart of us as something natural like flight or flight etc. And going therapy to establish that so called root cause would be unhealthy. I wasn’t aware of this and i assumed there had to have been a root cause this whole time. That being said i feel i do have a root cause. In my case I’m 21 yrs old and no girl has ever once established any romantic interest me. (perhaps hints but no certainty) and this has always eaten me inside a. Little bit i usually tell myself what a ridiculous thing to worry about there are people with real problems in the world, however every time men around me tell me this girl likem them this day and this another day i always feel so bad inside. My first and only LO was basically the first girl i ever established a friendship with and we became some quite close. I’m thinking my limersnce came from me desperately wanting her to be the first one i suppose. And this makes so much sense with limerance as reciprocation would suggest i got what i secretly want. This makes sense why reciprocation is craved above all else.
Also quick question is there any kind of notification to know someone replied to your comment or do you have to basically keep going onto the website to look
Limerent Emeritus says
I’m not a mental health professional but I’ve worked with a few and know a few more.
I don’t want to speak for DrL or presume to know how he might respond.
If you look at the date of blogs, it’s one of his very early blogs.
Therapy is a subject all its own. Few therapists have heard of limerence. DrL has another blog https://livingwithlimerence.com/a-guide-for-coaches-and-therapists/ that touches on it.
A therapist who knows nothing of limerence is likely to try to fit you into a box that they are familiar with, like co-dependence. Limerence and co-dependence have some similarities but are different. I believe they both can have similar origins but manifest differently later. But, that’s just my opinion.
Therapists work for you. If you work with one and they aren’t helping you, look for another one. It also helps if you know the problem that you’re trying to solve when you talk to them.
As for knowing when someone responds to your comment, the answer is currently “No,” there isn’t. It would be nice if there was. There are now over 5 years of blogs on LwL and being able to keep track of some things would help. If you look at the end of the blog, there’s a “File Under” and “Tagged With” which have hyperlinks.
Activity on LwL ebbs and flows. Sometimes, there are a lot of comments and sometimes they seem to barely move.
From what you’ve posted, talking to a pro might help.
“In my case I’m 21 yrs old and no girl has ever once established any romantic interest me. (perhaps hints but no certainty) and this has always eaten me inside a. Little bit i usually tell myself what a ridiculous thing to worry about there are people with real problems in the world, however every time men around me tell me this girl likem them this day and this another day i always feel so bad inside.”
Tell the therapist what you told us.
Did that help any?
Plenty of girls are wondering why no guy is showing interest in them, too.
I was into my early 20’s before I decided to try with women because up until then none showed any interest in me. I didn’t do too well at dating. Most of the women, really girls, I dated I found were all in it for everything but an actual real committed connection. As an ISFJ and demisexual I cared nothing for casual dating. And found that girls at that age didn’t grasp that. So I stopped dating and went back to focus on my life until I met my wife when I was 24.
That need for connection is what made me fall for LO. She was easy to talk to. I opened up to her so naturally it was scary. LO was a co-worker, and for the most part I keep my private life separated from my work. But LO would listen to me. I might make a generalized complaint about mowing the lawn that turned into me spilling my guts about something very personal. And she would sit there from across my desk listening with interest with those sparking green eyes and that beautiful smile. That kind of connection makes me weak in the knees. And she made it with no conscious thought. It was just the kind of person that she was.
Finding a connection with someone is highly attractive. It is why for some people opposite sex friendships turn into romantic interest. But not always. Contrast that with another female co-worker of mine that I have actually shared more personal things with than LO. But I didn’t feel the same with her. She was more a confidant. Like one of the guys that you go to the bar with and get drunk and unload on.
As far as gals not being interested in you …. my personal experience is, as much as women complain men don’t mature, many women at that age aren’t either. Unless you want to set your eyes on dating up, you are going to find that many women, like men too, at that age just aren’t thinking about commitment. And if a true long term connection is what you are looking for than settling now, you might never find that connection that you are longing for. Saving your money for Guinness when you only have $5 is better than settling for Bud Light.
And no there are no notifications here. You have to just keep checking in on the most recent posts to the right of Dr L’s post (or the bottom of the post on mobile) or mentally track what posts you’ve commented in to see if someone has responded to something you posted.
Limerent Emeritus says
“And she would sit there from across my desk listening with interest with those sparking green eyes and that beautiful smile.”
Please don’t tell me she’s a redhead.
A green-eyed redhead is just Kryptonite….
Sorry to say LE, yes she was. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I never saw that as she dyes her hair black. I only know that because someone else told me. If I actually saw her with red hair …. don’t sin, don’t sin, don’t sin ….
Limerent Emeritus says
There’s something about redheads.
When I disclosed to my wife about LO #4, she said, “…a redhead with a tale of woe who’s looking for a shoulder to cry on…I can see how that would appeal to you.”
LO #2 had gorgeous auburn hair. At the end, LO#2 was flying as a blonde. She said she was going gray so fast that it took too much effort to keep it red.
LO #2 was 37.
Yes there is. My wife use to dye her hair red. She’s had gray hair since she was a teen and always dyed it different shades of red since we got married. Finally in 2019 I finally convinced her to let her gray grow out. Now she has this amazing silver hair. I’m equally flustered by silver hair as I am red.
“…a redhead with a tale of woe who’s looking for a shoulder to cry on…I can see how that would appeal to you.”
Ironic. That’s pretty much what my wife said when I disclosed to her about limerence. Except she didn’t know LO’s hair color as I never mentioned it. But she knows about, as she says, “your __d-damn rescue complex that gets you in trouble every time.”
Limerent Emeritus says
“Goldilocks and the 3 Tints”
LO #2 is history and things are moving ahead with my now wife. At the time of the story, I don’t know if we were engaged yet.
One Saturday, she came up to my house and asked if was ok for her to tint her hair in my bathroom. No problem. She has a kit from somebody, Clairol, L’Oreal, I don’t remember. All I remember is it had a number.
She tints her hair and said that the highlights are too dark and she wants to change them. So, she heads off, goes to the store, and comes back with a lighter shade. She comes out of the bathroom and says that it’s too light.
So, she heads off and comes back with a tint with a number in between. You’d think that this should be “just right.” But, you’d be wrong.
She went into the bathroom and a few minutes later, I heard this blood-curdling shriek.
She came out of the bathroom and her hair was the color of a Sunkist orange. She asked where the nearest salon was. I told her and asked if she wanted me to go with her. “No!”
She came back a few hours later. She said the stylist told her that she pretty much fried her hair.
She did her own highlights a few more times after that but if she didn’t like the results, she went to a pro.
Heheh, guys. I’m a girl, and hetrosexual I think, and I also think redheads are the most beautiful shade of woman in the world (I’m brunette).
Cosmic Fireworks says
It’s hard to believe it’s been a year and a half since I posted about that therapist. It’s been nearly 2 years since my spouse and I saw her as a couple. And believe it or not, it’s only been a month where my thoughts about her died down a bit. That is, I will still think of her, but it doesn’t give me a charge or a hopefulness. Not one bit. I don’t care about her social media or what she’s up to. I finally feel back to normal and a … bit more me, I guess?
So with the feeling more stable and objectively able to look at things with more clarity, I realized probably I created that limerence with the therapist because I’m so miserable in my marriage. I think I married an unkind person and it has taken me a whole lot of years to admit to that to myself or anyone. The therapist was just so kind that she filled a huge hole in my life and heart.
I told my spouse I wanted a divorce. A day later, she told me she booked an appointment with our former couples’ therapist, my former LO, only for just herself as an individual. This triggered me more than I would like internally, but I’m really practicing just letting go and not caring. I actually feel… I don’t know, kind of centered. Part of me does care what that therapist is going to hear about me, though. The other part is just trying to stay as busy as possible to try to move on.
Cosmic Fireworks says
The chronology I realize is confusing. I started to feel better, limerence-wise about that therapist about a month ago. It only took nearly 2 years. But then as I was clearing up and realizing perhaps the roots of it, I realized I wanted out of my current relationship. My spouse doesn’t know of my limerence for that therapist, but she knew I wanted to quit seeing her for couple’s therapy. She just didn’t know why. Right after I told my spouse I wanted a divorce, she told me OK she’ll seek help and go to therapy for herself. (Too little too late.) And the therapist she chose was our former couple’s therapist, my former LO.
Wow, Cosmic Fireworks, that is hard. I am at a loss for words.
Song of the day: “Too much too little too late” by Johnny Mathew and Deniece Williams