Limerence is all about obsession, but sometimes the thought loops that ensnare us are surprising.
Today’s case study is from Violet, who was making progress in recovery before hitting a new roadblock. To set the scene, she became limerent for a colleague, who seemed to be friendly and interested, but gave out rather ambiguous signals:
I have not been able to tell whether my LO has been indecisive or intentionally stringing me along. I have gotten the vibe that he likes me, but not just enough to truly get to know me.
Violet became limerent for this enigmatic LO, and continued to have a confusing friendship with him for about a year. Their interactions were characterised by mixed messages, and an inconsistent communication style that left her wondering who he really was and what he wanted. Ultimately, LO started seeing someone else romantically, and so Violet decided to detach. It proved not to be simple.
She can’t avoid LO entirely, because they share both professional and social networks. Consequently, Violet ended up trapped in limerence limbo and struggling to find a way to escape the infatuation without disrupting her professional and social lives.
But then events took an unexpected turn…
However, I have noticed that when I’ve been stuck in limbo like this most of my “obsessive thoughts” started to concern a friend we have in common, and not LO directly. Because I think he might be interested in her.
Being a limerent, Violet of course analysed the dynamic between her LO and their mutual friend with forensic precision.
She noticed all the signs – the lingering glances LO kept sneaking, his shyness around her, the vibe of their interactions, the compatibility of their personalities, and her physical attractiveness. In short, she now suspects that this mutual friend could be LO’s LO.
I ruminate and worry about “the day of doom” in the future when I find out that they have fallen madly in love and will live happily ever after. It sounds ridiculous when I write it, but it is honestly where my brain goes, and a constantly ongoing thought, which can wake me up in the middle of the night and give me crippling angst.
It’s one thing to be assailed by thoughts of your LO, but to be obsessed about the idea of him possibly becoming limerent for someone else, and then have that person invade your peace of mind?
So, that’s one part of the puzzle, but another more practical one is how Violet should react to this altered dynamic in her social environment. She wants to be free of both the old obsession with LO and the new obsession with LO’s LO, but what does that mean for daily life? How should she behave?
But I’m not quite sure how to relate to him now, if it should be talked about or not. Should I like his stuff on social media? Should I treat him like everyone else, or completely withdraw? I know it sounds a bit like pettiness questions, but this limbo + strong feelings + self-doubt makes it hard to navigate.
These questions, of course, are not petty. They are the stuff of everyday life, and the heart of recovery. It’s the apparently innocuous habits that decide whether you reinforce the limerence, or slowly wean yourself off it. How you interact with an LO you cannot avoid completely is a determining factor in how quickly you free yourself of them.
So, we’d better come up with some good answers, team!
The Man of Mystery LO
I’ve posted before about LOs who are bad news, but one we could add to that list is the Man of Mystery.
Inscrutable people are vexing at the best of times, but if you are one of life’s problem solvers, they are maddening. Their erratic behaviour is both infuriating and fascinating. What is going on in their internal world? What do they mean when they say something vague or contradictory?
There is obviously some incompatibility that stops him from taking romantic action, but what is it? Is it a problem with you, or a problem with him? Does he have mysterious secrets that make him overcautious, or is he just not that into you?
Even after making the purposeful decision to detach, the fact that you never figured him out means an LO like this continues to haunt you. It’s unfinished business. An itch you can’t scratch.
She gets him
That unresolved puzzle is probably at the root of why the intrusive thoughts about his potential LO are now so potent. There’s a lot of psychology bundled up in this one.
First, there is the basic competitive urge. You wanted him, he started a relationship with someone else, and so you admitted defeat and decided to move on. But now, he’s showing signs of being besotted with someone else. That proves he isn’t as emotionally committed to his girlfriend as you thought, which raises fears that maybe you gave up too soon, or didn’t try hard enough, or just weren’t attractive enough. None of that feels good, and it’s wrapped up with the shame that competing for mates is pretty unseemly, so the whole business starts to feel a bit grubby.
That he should emerge from that coupled up with The Love of His Life is an affront.
Second, you committed time and effort to pursuing him without any clear outcome, but then she rocks up and snares him effortlessly. That’s pretty annoying. What is it about her that is so intriguing, when you can’t even get consistent attention from him? Why is it so easy for her? They just seem compatible, in a way that you hoped to be. You spent months on the puzzle of Him, and she goes ahead and solves it without even trying!
Third, you don’t actually know how she feels. He may be besotted, but the odds are that she isn’t a limerent and isn’t as into him as you are. There’s some schadenfreude to be had from imagining him suffering the same agonies of doubt over her, but that’s not the healthiest response.
Finally, this new development has upset your plans for recovery. You thought you had the situation under control but – yet again – his unpredictable behaviour has undermined your confidence and made you doubt your judgement. You’re back to trying to make sense of uncertainty, with him at the centre of it.
Leaving versus losing
This last point also reveals that a lot of the psychological weight comes from the difference between you choosing to walk away, versus her stealing him away.
Romantic connections don’t often work out, and the choice to accept that and move on is a purposeful and dignified decision. Having someone else turn up and bewitch LO robs you of some of that positivity.
Anyone with a normal level of human insecurity would feel the sting of loss on witnessing LO’s infatuation – instead of feeling personally empowered in taking control, you now feel a bit foolish and second rate. You didn’t resolve a complicated situation with decisive action, someone else came along and proved you were just outgunned.
That taps into very deep fears about social status and personal worth that are hardwired into our brains. Victory gives a literal neurochemical high, defeat a neurochemical low. Our moods are very sensitive to such defeats and we brood intensely over them, especially if victory had seemed close. That is likely the reason why she haunts your mind so much.
LO’s LO is a literal embodiment of the painful truth that in some situations our choices are immaterial to the outcome.
How to behave
Despite that demoralising perspective, decisiveness is paradoxically the best path out of the briar patch. Violet’s purposeful decision may not matter much to her LO, but it matters a great deal to her recovery.
The key point here is that after making the decision to detach from an LO, what happens in their life afterwards is not important.
You made your choice for a good reason. The connection to them was causing more harm than good. The decision to walk away is the right one, and that truth doesn’t change even if they marry a princess, come out as gay, move to Timbuktu, or fly to Mars.
Your goal is to accept that they are a puzzle you did not solve, and no matter what extra clues might come your way, what fascinating new developments might help you understand them, or what infuriating behaviour nags at you, you’re done trying to figure them out.
So, in Violet’s specific case, the answer is to stick with your original decision. This mutual friend has appeared and muddled the psychology for you, but the initial reaction to him getting a girlfriend and you reaching the limits of frustration with how he behaves towards you, was the right one. That hasn’t changed.
With that in mind, your endpoint for freedom is to be indifferent to what is going on in his life. Cordial friendship is fine, but no real intimacy. He’s never going to be a close friend – the relationship is already too tangled and too asymmetric and too much emotional labour for you. So, you make decisions about how to interact with him on that basis.
Should you like a social media post? “Yes”, if you like it and agree with the sentiment, but “no” if you are just dithering over what it would make him think of you.
Should you talk to him about the situation? No. What benefit is there, given that you have decided to focus your life and attention elsewhere? If you are going to find a meaningful, fulfilling relationship of your own, spend your time pursuing that. Would you interfere with the romantic misadventures of other friendly acquaintances, or let them get on with it in peace?
Liberty from the intrusive thoughts about him and about his possible LO will come from focusing your attention and interests elsewhere. You don’t have to cut them out of your social life altogether, but you should start cultivating other friendships more purposefully. Limiting contact as far as you can will help, but developing the recovery mindset is just as important.
You won’t see the opportunities ahead of you if you keep casting backwards glances at the past. Focus on the future, and let go of trying to resolve the drama.
Ironically enough, the best way to resolve it, is to ignore it until you no longer care.
“Violet became limerent for this enigmatic LO, and continued to have a confusing friendship with him for about a year. … She can’t avoid LO entirely, because they share both professional and social networks. Consequently, Violet ended up trapped in limerence limbo ”
But it isn’t confusing. It’s been a year, and they haven’t dated. There is psychological limbo but not situational. Most of the answers are all right in front of us. We just choose to ignore them. I think as limerents we spend too much time trying to read the surface behaviors instead of looking at the bottom line. Someone who’s interested … asks you out, pursues you, is committal. Or is accepting of you pursuing them. Is disclosing. Is trying to move things forward. A “mysterious” person isn’t mysterious at all. They just aren’t serious. I wasted an embarrassing amount of time trying to figure my last LO out. And he and I were in the exact same “situation” when I finally went NC as we I first met I him.
Allie 1 says
We spend a lot of time on LwL trying to define what differentiates a limerent from non. Maybe the common denominator is an inability to accept defeat and move on?
I know many people that are very much romantics, they fall deeply and passionately in love, yet they never get stuck in the limerent state. Why? They recognise a dead end when they see one.
Good questions. I know you have written that you are a secure attacher, so this may not apply to you, but I have been watching videos on Youtube from a lady who calls herself the “Crappy Childhood Fairy.” She said that it’s very common for people with childhood abuse or neglect to become limerent. Limerence is a form of magical thinking that the limerent used as a child to survive that carries over into adulthood. It really resonated with me, but I don’t know that it would apply to all limerents.
That’s really painful, I’m sorry you went through that. Though I can safely say it doesn’t apply to all limerents. I had been a secure attacher my whole adult life and my first (and to date only) LE shook my world because it was so out of the ordinary for me to feel that way, to not be able to accept a dead end and move on. Still unable to fully accept it. Limerence overpowers even secure attachment, though maybe its impact is more severe still in non-secure attachers.
I wonder for secure attachers if it’s more about where they are in life. Something has to set off the limerence. It’s something the limerent is lacking or longing for or the LO reminds them off. People have crushes and attractions all the time, but limerence seems to go much deeper than that, which is why I think limerence has more to do with the limerent than the “razzle dazzle” of the LO.
Limerent Emeritus says
“She said that it’s very common for people with childhood abuse or neglect to become limerent. Limerence is a form of magical thinking that the limerent used as a child to survive that carries over into adulthood.”
I agree with this. I ended up on LwL because my EAP counselor labeled me as codependent regarding my LE with LO #4 and a previous therapist said I wasn’t a codependent with respect to LO #2. Codependence didn’t fit the logistics of my relationship with LO #4 but limerence did.
The difference is explained in http://www.andreaharrn.co.uk/co-dependent-limerent/ [I know you said that you don’t read links]. Shari Schreiber doesn’t talk about limerence but she talks a lot about codependence. It’s not a great leap.
Two therapists said that LO #2 likely had either BPD or NPD. One said, “You’ve convinced me that she’s a borderline. Quit trying to convince yourself that she isn’t.” She told me that her greatest fear was to grow old and die alone. She also said that I “didn’t need” her, that I was only with her because I wanted to be.
LO #3 was a near clone of LO #2 right down to the claimed abortion but I never got deep in the weeds with her.
LO #4 describes herself as the “adult child of narcissist/borderline parents,” an INTJ, and “a recovering co-dependent.”
Can I pick LOs or what?!
My last LE came came over 20 years after the previous one.
What’s the glimmer?
Two of the recurring questions on LwL is that if you never encounter an LO, are you a limerent? How would you know?
If you read the midlife blogs, one possib; theory is that in midlife, people are evaluating their lives and the environment becomes more receptive to LEs…if you are a limerent. You’re looking for something and stumble upon an LO. But, those “glimmer receptors” would have to already be in place.
I think that would be another indicator of the difference between limerence and codependence. Codependence seems to be a lifelong condition until it’s identified and dealt with but limerence can lie dormant until triggered. Meaning, it seems possible to go your entire life and never have an LE.
“I know you said that you don’t read links”
Bless your heart. And you are the Links King. 🙂 Because you listened, I read it. 🙂 So are you a limerent or a co-dependent? I suppose it’s possible to be both. I think of a co-dependent as someone who can’t be by themselves. I have a friend like that. She’s my age, and I don’t think she’s spent more than a few weeks on her own since she was a teenager. When she can sense the relationship she’s in is about to tank, she starts looking around for a jump-off.
Limerent Emeritus says
When the first therapist told me that I wasn’t a codependent, I asked why.
She said, “If you were codependent, you’d still be with her (LO #2.)”
Limerence fits my experiences, codependece doesn’t.
See how easy it was to listen?
“See how easy it was to listen?”
Bless your heart. Now you go to tell your Mrs. Emeritus that she is a lucky lady (per Limerent Marica). 🙂
It’s not confusing from the outside, but in the middle of limerence very few people have that clarity of thought. Especially when they are desperately hoping that the ambiguous behaviour of their LO might finally give way to an admission of feelings.
That’s why limbo seems better than “no”.
I can only speak for myself, but I knew, deep down, within a couple of months that my LO was a lost cause. I remember asking my friend several times, “Why isn’t he doing anything?” I chose to ignore that inner voice, to my own detriment. Of course, this wasn’t my first LE. Even if I didn’t know what limerence was back then, I knew that the other person’s hesitation or flat-out failure to act is a big warning sign.
“But it isn’t confusing. It’s been a year, and they haven’t dated. There is psychological limbo but not situational. Most of the answers are all right in front of us. We just choose to ignore them. I think as limerents we spend too much time trying to read the surface behaviors instead of looking at the bottom line. Someone who’s interested … asks you out, pursues you, is committal. Or is accepting of you pursuing them. Is disclosing. Is trying to move things forward. A “mysterious” person isn’t mysterious at all. They just aren’t serious. I wasted an embarrassing amount of time trying to figure my last LO out. And he and I were in the exact same “situation” when I finally went NC as we I first met I him.”
I agree with everything you write here, with some very minor caveats. Let’s tease out the tiny slivers of wisdom a little bit more. 😛
I think limerence plunges us introverts into a beautiful dream world, and we don’t want to leave that beautiful dream world, even if we know objectively LO isn’t a good match, or has no real interest in moving things forward. We become as attached to the dream world and the dream as we do to the LO at the centre of the dream world…
We become addicted to the promise, to the potential, to the faint lights we see glittering on the horizon, and close our eyes to reality.
Closing our eyes to reality – this is the first mistake we make. The car engine is still running. The car is still zooming along the highway next to the ocean. We (and sometimes our unfortunate loved ones) are still sitting in the car. Maybe we’re wearing seatbelts. Maybe we’re not wearing seatbelts. However, we’re at the wheel of our speeding vehicle and we’ve closed our eyes, blinded by the most enchanting sunset we’ve ever seen. That’s the emotional “shift” induced by limerence, if you like, rendered in somewhat fanciful terms/poetic prose. 😛
In other words, we surrender … maybe for the first time in our lives … to the dream. And if you’re someone who’s always struggled with anxiety or fitting in or understanding seemingly arbitrary social rules, then surrendering to the dream can be the most liberating feeling in the world. It’s like standing on top of a mountain: spectacular views everywhere you look. You’ve seen this panorama before – maybe in your dreams at night as a child. And now this panorama has come to you. How could you resist? How could you not want to step into a fairy-tale which Mother Nature has designed apparently and exclusively for you? 😉
Go on. Take a sip of wine from the gleaming golden goblet. Take a second sip. Take a third sip. Heck, why not get drunk? Why not get completely wasted on the nectar of the gods? You know you deserve it. You know you deserve it far more than anyone else in your life, your annoying colleagues, your overbearing in-laws. Self-restraint is such an overrated trait anyway. And you’ve done the right thing your whole life. When do you get to relax your guard and have a little fun? 😉
It’s almost like an LO gives an uptight introvert permission to be free, permission to let go, permission to not give a fig about all the things that previously vexed him/her. I think limerents for the most part are highly respectable, responsible, conscientious people with little interest in harming others. Limerence then comes along and erodes our moral resolve as surely as freak storms erode sand on the metaphorical beach fringing our metaphorical (aforementioned) ocean…
I suspect many introverts have a very limited experience of either pursuing or being pursued by anyone romantically. We’re called introverts for a reason. 😛
Extroverts probably get small hits of dopamine from every single social interaction they have. Introverts are a more particular bunch; we don’t always derive pleasure from random social encounters. Limerence reverses this pattern, and turns the introvert into an honourary extrovert for a season – someone who’s gets a huge hit of pleasure from people, and from one person in particular. (Although one might have to mix with a lot of shady characters in order to get close to LO, leading to the further erosion of one’s previously pristine character).
Obstacles intensify limerence too. In some especially sad cases, I think an LO finding a mate or even getting married to someone else other than the limerent might strengthen and not dissolve the glue of obsession. LO’s commitment to someone else can seem like just one more hurdle to overcome, and not what it should be seen as – a definitive rejection. I.e. the still-hopeful female limerent tells herself: “He’s with her because it’s convenient. She’s so good at baking cookies, or whatever. But I know he’s secretly in love with me, and always has been. His new involvement has no impact on our everlasting special bond.” 😉
Don’t underestimate the strange power of magical thinking, in other words. And, yes, then there’s the jealousy issue, of course. Jealousy always spices things up, and makes what might have been a pedestrian flirtation into a real contest. Bam! Suddenly, there’s a rival. This ups the emotional stakes significantly. Bam! Suddenly, there’s something worth fighting for (because someone else apparently wants it). Our brains go into survival mode. Maybe some of us gentle introverts are a little more competitive at times than we’d care to admit? 😉
“A “mysterious” person isn’t mysterious at all. They just aren’t serious.”
I heartily agree with this assessment. Spot on! I think a mysterious LO is probably just someone who enjoys our company, but only in low-to-medium doses, and only/always on THEIR terms. We are just another ragdoll to them: playthings, puppets, yesterday’s favourite teddy bear, easily picked up and easily put down again and forgotten the second a new, more interesting toy comes along. 😢
So, yes, Mr/Ms Mysterious is not serious in a sense. To steal a word from Germaine Greer’s impressive lexicon, Mr/Ms Mysterious is merely being “frivolous”. 😛
Great analysis overall! 😛
“How could you not want to step into a fairy-tale which Mother Nature has designed apparently and exclusively for you? 😉”
Because it’s not real, and after a while you get tired of the crumbs the LO is throwing at you and want the whole damn meal. That is, if you actually do want the meal. Deep down I think some limerents want it to stay a fantasy.
“It’s almost like an LO gives an uptight introvert permission to be free, permission to let go,”
But I don’t understand how you can feel free if nothing is happening? I can’t think of anything more constraining that having to hold yourself back around someone you really want? It’s like having to keep all the powerful feelings back, like holding back a dam. The five minutes I spent alone with my LO where I went to town on him … that was freeing. Especially after waiting for that moment for more than a year. That felt like jumping over the cliff — AT LAST! And then he put the walls back up and it never happened again. So more constraint. Actually, even more constraint than before because now I didn’t trust him, and now I was having to protect myself and all the feelings he was lighting up. I felt like I needed to have my phasers on “full stun” around him. 🙂 Impossible to do, so NC.
“Because it’s not real, and after a while you get tired of the crumbs the LO is throwing at you and want the whole damn meal. That is, if you actually do want the meal. Deep down I think some limerents want it to stay a fantasy.”
Great answer. Well said. I probably wanted to stay in the game until I won, because I find it difficult to “lose with grace”. My ego was caught up in “winning the game” even though I was miserable and even though I was the only person ultimately playing the game with a serious desire to win. I could never admit to myself he didn’t have feelings that matched mine in intensity. Maybe it’s a dude-dude thing, but I just wanted to win the stupid game!! 😛
“But I don’t understand how you can feel free if nothing is happening?”
Yes, indeed-y. I realised I said the wrong thing almost as soon as I wrote some limerents might find their limerence liberating. What I should have said is that limerence promises us liberation and may feel liberating in the early stages, (that’s the big surge of feel-good chemicals, the apparent forward momentum) but then it leads to enslavement (mental enslavement) and not to liberation at all…
Limerence is like drinking saltwater. It doesn’t satisfy thirst. It only makes one more thirsty in the end. Limerence isn’t what it appears to be at first glance. It’s a mirage, a false dawn, an optical illusion.
Limerence is something very painful that comes wrapped up in something very beautiful and seductive. There’s definitely a Trojan horse element. The shiny dream of romance is the Trojan horse that allows the armies of addiction and obsession to invade our minds… We don’t even know we’ve got a problem until it’s too late.
Makes me wonder if there was something in all those irritating things my teachers used to say at Christian school. “Sin fascinates and then it assassinates”. “You can’t stop birds flying over your head, but you can prevent them making a nest in your hair.” Do these religious slogans refer to limerence, I wonder? Or intrusive thoughts? I think religious authority figures in my youth did try to warn us stubborn young’uns against the dangers of fantasy, or fantasising about potential sexual partners, but they just didn’t explain it very well. Put their comments in a limerence-related context, and it kind of adds up. 😛
“I didn’t trust him, and now I was having to protect myself and all the feelings he was lighting up.”
Your honesty is always very brave and very touching. 🙂
To have your feelings seemingly requited in full by a person even one time is worse than never having your feelings requited. 😢
“Insouciant” might be a better word than Germaine Greer’s “frivolous”. LOs are insouciant. I got “insouciant” out of Toni Morrison’s novel “Sula”. Insouciant, as you probably already know, being one very smart cookie, means displaying a casual lack of concern. 😉
In my experience at least, you are absolutely correct. I had felt the glimmer a couple of times in my life, I now realize, but it only ever got to nucleation (with this one and only LO) at a time in my life when I was really vulnerable and going through a very tough period. So even though it didn’t have to do with childhood wounds, it definitely did have to with adulthood wounds, and I believed that LO/our connection could be an escape from those wounds.
“So even though it didn’t have to do with childhood wounds, it definitely did have to with adulthood wounds ”
I think it could be a combination. I have been a lifelong limerent, but my last LE happened at middle age and at a job I didn’t like. So I was kind of ripe for the picking. 🙂 And now I have a new job, I work from home and I have met maybe 2 or 3 of my co-workers in person, which is probably good in that there’s no one to become limerent for, but it sure makes the work days seem SOOOOO much longer. 🙂
There are lots of potential triggers. For me, there was neither childhood trauma nor an immediate crisis. Mostly just background midlife anxieties, and a chance convergence with a woman who fitted my LO template.
My limerence happened significantly earlier than midlife, but I do think it’s true that the glimmer receptors were always there (I even recognize them earlier, looking back), and also the potential for such intensity of feeling, romantically. But perhaps because of my secure attachment, my inner limerent never got triggered until I went through an unrelated personal crisis. Then, the temptation became too powerful and my LE swooped in, ostensibly at the same to “save” me but in reality, now that I’m in recovery, to teach me how to save myself.
This article describes me very well, and at the same time I also have to agree with Marcia- the only mystery (at least with my LE) is why I continue to ruminate on a situation that I will never be able to resolve. But even that’s not a mystery if I’m honest with myself… I also watch “The Crappy Childhood Fairy” on the regular and find it very helpful. She’s done a lot about limerence lately. I think it’s a topic that’s gaining attention more in the mainstream (hopefully that will pay off for Dr. L’s mission here!).
I find her stuff really good, too.
One of the things I read (it was a memoir) that I haven’t forgotten was the author talking about how she knew she met the man who would be her husband because she wasn’t talking about him with her friends. She didn’t need to piece apart and analyze everything he was doing. If you have to do that — meaning there is “mystery” there — it’s not a good sign.
I have been in a situation where I witnessed my LO fall for an LO. I didn’t realize it at first, but when first suspicion crept in I started to obsess over it, same as Violet.
I tried to stay close to LO and “gather evidence”, I wanted to know how far it went. Lo also happily shared and asked for love advise from ME… sending me text messages from her, asking me what that means: is she into me? Is she not (His LO was in a relationship)? It was killing me.
My advise is precisely what Dr. L outlined: make the conscious decision to detach, and then ignore anything related to LO and LO’s LO. It is not your problem to solve, it does not concern your happiness. Whatever happens there happens, and the less you know, the better.
You need to reach a level of indifference, a state where you don’t care about it anymore and the only way to get there is to remove yourself from the equation. You are no longer a factor in that equation.
Reduce any information about LO and LO’s LO to a minimum. In that sense I’d also say, don’t like his stuff. Retract yourself. Block him out as far as you can, and if you have contact with him (and her) professionally or socially, just keep it professional. Treat them like any other colleague. Just don’t proactively seek any info about him at all, be it on social media, via friends… don’t talk about them with friends.
The less you know, the better. But it is hard… it was hard for me. But i got over it, so can you.
Marcia writes: “Deep down I think some limerents want it to stay a fantasy.” I have this experience, where I’m not sure my limerence is a bad thing. Like a few other people have written before, my limerence has increased my desire for my spouse, and made me think and learn a lot about myself. I would never act on my feelings for LO in real life; everything about it is a fantasy world in which my spouse doesn’t exist.
Sometimes I think about what would happen if LO actually did reciprocate in real life and it actually makes me sick to think about rejecting my spouse, and I would probably reject LO, but I try not to think about it. Instead, I return to my fantasy land sometimes just for fun, to relax, or to get in the mood for my spouse. I have no current reason to stop this; I rarely see LO in real life anymore, so I don’t see any negative repercussions of continuing to fantasize about them sometimes.
However, this site seems to be focused on getting rid of limerence. I feel as if I could completely remove it from my life if I choose to. After I learned what limerence was, and went NC, it was pretty much gone for almost a year. Then I just started the fantasies back up occasionally. There have been a few posts/comments about how to harness limerence safely. Sometimes I think this is what I am doing, but other times I wonder if this some kind of slippery slope. What do you think?
“Marcia writes: “Deep down I think some limerents want it to stay a fantasy.” I have this experience, where I’m not sure my limerence is a bad thing.”
“There have been a few posts/comments about how to harness limerence safely. Sometimes I think this is what I am doing, but other times I wonder if this some kind of slippery slope. What do you think?”
This is certainly an interesting theme worth exploring in depth…
For example, if limerence has no negative effects on one’s life and does not harm one’s primary relationship, is limerence always a bad thing?
If limerence is causing someone unbearable pain and anxiety and depression, then we could almost certainly say limerence is a big problem for that person.
If limerence is causing someone to devalue a good partner or neglect important duties or think about engaging in behaviours contrary to one’s moral code i.e. infidelity, then limerence could also certainly be cast in a negative light.
If, on the other hand, limerence is just someone admitting their partner isn’t perfect because nobody is, and no one person is ever going to fulfil all one’s private longings and secret fantasies, then maybe limerence isn’t so bad…
How does one define an illness, a disease, a pathology? And is limerence all or nothing? Can one have one’s cake and eat it too? 😉
I guess it all boils down to a few questions which have been discussed on this site previously and which will continue to be discussed ad nauseum, because everyone is bound to have slightly different viewpoints:
(1) Is limerence intrinsically bad or does it depend mostly on context?
(2) What distinctions should humans make between fantasy and actual behaviour? Or does fantasy always lead to acting out? (Can fantasy be stopped at the fantasy level and remain just that – pleasurable fantasy?)
(3) Does limerence always lead to crippling mental health problems for the limerent sufferer? Concentration issues? Physical health problems?
(4) Do all limerents want to abandon their partner so they can be with LO?
(5) Is limerence for a new party always the death knell for a pre-existing relationship?
(6) Do all limerents feel like life is not worth living without their LO? Can some people wean themselves off their inappropriate source of reward without too much effort?
(7) Is it possible to be in limerence and still attend to all one’s duties and responsbilities e.g. work, friendship, parenting, etc?
(8) Is thinking about someone else disrespectful to the person one’s already with? (I believe individual respondents will have strong views on this topic).
(9) Is limerence controllable or uncontrollable? Will controllable limerence always reach a point where it becomes uncontrollable? Is there some dangerous “point of no return” that should be avoided at all costs? How slippery exactly is that proverbial slippery slope?
(10) Can we mentally separate LO from the fantasy of who LO is, and thereby find a way to avert danger?
(11) If limerence isn’t some huge disruptive or destructive thing, is it still limerence? Why is limerence so traumatising for some people and not so much for others? Is it just the happiness or the unhappiness of the outcome?
(12) Does limerence have no redeeming features? Personally, I think limerence DOES have at least one redeeming feature I can think of. In my experience, limerence makes limerents sparkling conversationalists. Limerents may be almost inarticulate around their LOs, but they are wonderful and enlivening company around people they’re not overwhelmingly attracted to. I think Oscar Wilde, Nancy Mitford, Truman Capote, and Gore Vidal were all limerents. Limerence makes people super-observant coz they want to understand their LOs. As a result, they tend to become highly knowledgeable about a lot of interesting subjects, including human psychology, which is always great fun to discuss. 😛
Gore Vidal is a perfect example of someone who stayed frozen in amber in some kind of fantasy land. He had a one-off tryst with some guy in high school and claimed that was the love of his love until he died in his 80s. But … this guy was engaged to a woman. Had had survived WW2, he and Gore would probably have not ended up together. Meanwhile, Gore had a partner for 40 or 50 years. THAT’S the the love of his life. The other guy is just some memory he couldn’t let go of.
When I mentioned some limerents want the LO to stay a fantasy, I meant that they have no intention (and do not want to) make a move to consummate things. Gore did make a move, bless his heart. 🙂 (I’m not knocking Gore. I love him, I have a picture of him as my screen saver on my computer with one of his quotes: “Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say and not giving a damn.” Kevin Spacey was to play Gore in a biopic before it was discovered Spacey was a creeper. I think he would have been fantastic in that part.)
@Sammy, wow thanks this is a great summary of the questions discussed on this site! I especially resonate with #11: If limerence isn’t some huge disruptive or destructive thing, is it still limerence? I do wonder about that.
It WAS a huge experience for me, but almost exclusively internal (although I did discuss it with SO who was pretty laid back about it and said that as long as it never became a physical affair with LO, it didn’t bother them, and it brought us closer together). So it was huge, and had all the characteristics of limerent thought obsession, but was not disruptive (although maybe a bit when I was not present with my kids in the early stage of LE), and certainly not destructive.
Limerent Emeritus says
“Sometimes I think this is what I am doing, but other times I wonder if this some kind of slippery slope. What do you think?”
Like most things, “it depends…” Sammy covered a lot of questions.
A simple assessment is:
– When you think about your LO, do you think about the past, present, or future?
– What triggers your thoughts about LO? Do you think about your LO when there is some event, good or bad, that takes your mind to your LO? Do you think “I bet I wouldn’t have that problem with LO?” or “I bet LO would really like doing this?”
If you think about your LO in the past, you’re probably on ok ground. If you think about them in the present or future or see them as somehow altering your life, watch out.
@Limerent Emeritus, thanks for your comment. This is really interesting, because when I think about LO, it’s in a context without time.
For example, if I’m stressed and I want a hit of warm fuzzy feelings and tingles (oxytocin?), I imagine kissing LO in an elevator, or in the cereal aisle of the supermarket, or some scene that has no time attached.
Has anyone else had a similar experience?
Limerent Emeritus says
This one’s for you!
My experience [last LE] trying this is excruciatingly detailed in this string:
As long as you’re not actively involved with your LO, you might be able to pull it off.
It’s a minefield. If you know where the mines are and know you can avoid them, go for it. Just remember, things can change and while solving problems is good, avoiding them is better. You can’t sail into a mine that you never laid.
It doesn’t sound like you’re being disingenuous to your SO. You’re not the first poster on LwL whose SO wasn’t concerned about their LE as long as it stopped short of a PA. My wife didn’t endorse mine. She didn’t take my disclosure well.
Life is all about risk management. You have agency and, if you’re aware of the risk, you can choose to accept it or not. Maintaining an active LE takes work. The bigger the hit you want, the more you have to manage it.
So, can you maintain an active low-key LE?
The big question for you is are you relatively confident you can keep it low-key?
what about an SO’s LO’s also LE for me
LO is always talking for the both of them, I’m confused
I fell into limerence with my LO over the course of one month. I have an SO; we were having some troubles. I got the very strong impression that LO was mutually limerent for me (even friends have noticed). I think because we are both trying to do the sensible thing, we corrected course and took a step back and put ourselves firmly in the friend zone. But, being friends with your LO is confusing, even when the feelings have subsided a little. I chat about my SO, LO comments on my good-looking friend, and I offered to introduce them (cos that is what friends do, right?) All the while, we are having long private chats and txting conversations … which don’t look like flirting on the surface (nothing untoward), except that they are LONG back and forths, where we joke and discuss fairly mundane things. And of course, I cannot deny they mean so much to me. I don’t know how serious LO is about going after my friend, and I seriously do not know how I would feel if my friend became LO’s LO. Yet, I am a fair person. I have an SO, I cannot expect LO to not date anyone because of that. LO deserves happiness and a person of their own. And I actually think my friend would be well suited to LO! Is it my destiny to dance at their wedding while I die a little inside?
” Is it my destiny to dance at their wedding while I die a little inside?”
I think you are jumping the gun a little. Have they even gone on a date? Was there mutual interest/attraction? If that even happens, that’s a lot because most dates end up in the what … the “nice enough person, no chemistry” category?
I’m limerent! Of course my imagination is jumping the gun 😉
But kidding aside, just how many ways can this hurt?
Well, you didn’t answer the question. Are they actually dating or did you just offer to introduce them? Not sure why you did that. She’s an LO, so I’d take the mindset that she can get her own dates. I mean, unless they start dating and jump into some big, sexy thing, I’d try to put it out of my mind as much as possible. And if you don’t want to hear about her love life, you may not be able to be as close as friends (or, really, friends at all if you want the limerence to end).
I am coming back half a year later to say that my LO did date the person I introduced him to. He called it off after awhile, I felt a bit bad for the girl. Then he found himself someone else to obsess about, and that surprisingly was harder for me to take. I’ve played the good wingman all this while. It was tough at the start of each time he started with someone. Now doesn’t really hurt so much (as when I was in LE). But it is not a great feeling to see him mooning over the second girl he liked. To complicate matters, she is now dating someone else, so LO is pining after someone unavailable again. Oh and he recently said he thinks he is still in love with this ex from two years ago as well. Is the guy just a mess? And am I just letting myself be dragged into his complicated love life?
I want to follow the advice to ignore it until you no longer care. I think I am getting there.