Back in the pre-event era of last summer, reader Evie got in touch to ask what the hell had happened to her husband. Said husband had become limerent for a co-worker and gone full devaluation hulk-out on Evie, declaring her the worst spouse ever, and a millstone around his poor, misunderstood, limerent neck.
The LwL community did their usual sterling job of setting Evie straight on what was really happening with her husband, and encouraging her to hold her head up high, be purposeful, and protect her children as best as she could.
Earlier this week, Evie got in touch with an update.
Now, I’m going to unabashedly enjoy the karma of this, but there are a couple of serious points to make first. Evie and her children have been through a lot of pain. They are coming out of a terrible period now, but any comfort they have gained has been hard won. Second, Evie’s ex-husband may be a selfish, destructive git, too wrapped up in his own romantic delusions to live up to his responsibilities, but if most limerents are honest with themselves, they can probably understand the compulsive temptation he was under, and know that they could have been a few bad decisions away from where he is now. The major factor in how limerence plays out is whether the limerent fully embraces the delusion (as Evie’s ex did) or instead resists the emotional storm and resolves to act with integrity, regardless of temptation.
So, the goal of today’s update is two fold:
- Offer some solace to the spouses of limerents. Evie’s tale shows that there is a happier future possible beyond the pain, and that future can be reached by purposeful action.
- To serve as a cautionary tale for married, conflicted limerents. Want to embrace the romance, devalue your spouse and embark on a new romantic adventure? Here’s a cold dose of reality.
A reminder of where Evie started:
HOW he has morphed into this, and gone from a kind, caring, considerate man with morals, to someone who calls me names in front of our children, says my feelings don’t matter to him, and seems happy to get me to a point of absolute despair and desperation? It is literally 2 sides of a coin, and that’s very difficult to understand.
Evie’s then-husband had started a limerent affair with a much younger woman. When his LO left her long-term partner, he rushed in like a rat up a drainpipe, leaving his family behind. What a winner.
Skipping forward to the present day:
My ex and I have now sold our home, been through horrible court proceedings related to children (instigated by him). His manner towards me continued to be vile for many months after we [Evie and Dr L] last spoke. I continued to be uncertain as to why he was horrendous to me.
20 months after the hell of the separation etc I finally felt ready to meet someone else, and I did! And I think I am falling in love with the guy. So happy.
I am lucky, I have someone who I totally believe will help me through the rest of the mess. And want me long term. Even if not though, I know I am now strong enough to get through the rest on my own!
Go Evie! After a prolonged and unpleasant separation process, she emerges to find someone new. No doubt she is more cautious after the experience of the marriage breakdown, but she hasn’t given in to despair and resentment. Onward with purpose!
But… there are some curious new developments:
In the months since Christmas my ex has been more and more amicable, even to the point of us spending an evening together as a family when my son came home from a trip abroad.
Also, both of my children said they don’t hear a thing about the LO, only seeing their father send the odd message. They don’t hear them speak on the phone… and my ex has apparently taken down all photos of the LO.
LO still seems to live with her (ex???) partner. I see them shopping regularly together.
Oh my! Can we put our heads together and connect the dots to solve this particular riddle? What could possibly have happened?
It’s probably little comfort to Evie to learn that I hear this story a lot. Joe Beam often talks about it too. Once the limerent affair moves into the full time real deal, once the subterfuge and the barriers and the drama end, the whole thing stalls. Suddenly, there is no third (or fourth) side to the relationship geometry, no one to play off, no one to blame. Limerent and LO have to face each other fully, and that turns out to not be as pretty as it once seemed.
Also, of course, the limerence will wear off all the faster once the uncertainty has gone, now that they are finally together and free to Live their Best Life, Honour True Love, and all the other capitalised platitudes that self-justifying limerents use to convince themselves that they Deserve This.
At that point, the limerent discovers that the euphoria of limerence was not a cure-all for their personal problems and insecurities. It was an evasion. And then, they start to remember all the love and support that they used to receive from their abandoned spouse, and they start to miss it. If they are really expert at blaming others for their problems, they now start to devalue the LO, and try to ingratiate themselves back into their ex-spouse’s good graces. Or – in the bittersweet irony of these things – they discover that LO is now bored of them, and is ready to move on to the next married person they feel like poaching.
Regardless, the limerent ends up a tragic figure, mired in a mess of their own making. Their integrity gone. Their sparkly true love affair dimmed. Alone and regretful.
It isn’t too late, though. There is always hope. If they can just break the habit of blaming others, take responsibility for their own bad choices, repent of their mistreatment of the people who loved them, then they can redeem themselves. They can rebuild their integrity by confronting their weaknesses and striving to improve. But it takes character and humility, and honest, slow, labour.
I confess that at this stage of the story I started to feel a pang of worry. Tragic figures can have their seduction, their own peculiar Romance. Would Evie succumb to the rescue fantasy, or get caught up trying to untangle the web of her ex-husband’s many deceits?
I am hopelessly happy with my new partner, but I do still find myself wondering about whether my ex and his LO are even still together.
I am not interested in any sort of reconciliation or even friendship. Far too much has happened for me to be able to come back from. But he asks about my family and makes references to things we shared as a couple. I would be interested to hear your musings if nothing more.
Ha! I shouldn’t have worried.
Well, those were my musings, Evie. Possibly a little gleeful in the telling, but that may be born from seeing my shadow in your ex. Regardless of the reasons, let’s end with some quickfire lessons that Evie’s experience has given us all, limerent or spouse:
- Thinking a limerent affair will blossom into true love is usually delusional
- You are probably not the exception to this rule
- Someone who is willing to have an adulterous affair with you is a bad prospect for a long-term partner
- If someone is lying to their partner to be with you, it’s likely they’re lying to you too
- Your children are aware of your antics
- If you are the spouse, pointing out the above lessons to your unfaithful partner is likely to make them angry and feed their limerence
- If you are the spouse being devalued, your best hope for happiness probably lies in a separate future
These aren’t hard and fast rules. There are exceptions.
But a statistician would know which way to place their bet.
i am so glad Evie recognized that the XH simply missed her usefulness to him and carried on with her much improved life, sans XH. May she and the kids continue to enjoy much happiness today and in the future. They earned what they always deserved: some stability and peace of mind.
Hear, hear. The benefits of purposeful living apply across the board.
Alice in Wonderland says
I think that cheating on your partner and deceiving them is a horrible thing to do. Even more when you put them down and treat them like the enemy for no reason. My father had done that and obviously it backfired as well and he is now miserable. I heard he one time when he was angry told the other woman that it was her fault he destroyed his family… Well, I guess that’s what happens.
Despiste all this though I do believe that maybe one should break up and pursue a relationship with LO. No cheating involved. Become single first fully knowing that maybe things with LO won’t work out. I don’t know how other people feel but it is already hard enough to deal with the rumination of limerence while single. I can only imagine it must be horrible to be limerent for someone else while having the duty to provide and care for your partner. If you are going to be indiferent then what’s the point? How long can you withstand to pretent that you actually care and feel connected to your partner? Even being happy with one’s partner I can’t imagine constantly second guessing myself about the relationship. Constantly trying to mend it while not being actually present emotionally… Imagining myself in the place if the partner maybe I would honestly much rather they broke up with me than live a lie like that. Even if they finally got over it I wouldn’t personally feel the same again… That’s just me but I would hate to do to someone what I wouldn’t like to be done to me. Frankly some times I think that limerents will never get over the cognitive dissonance they feel either way. Either married or single you can never be free. But at least you owe it to others to admit you have a problem and burden them with your issues.
You bring up a very difficult issue. While it’s one thing to use a LE to motivate yourself to live more purposefully, it’s quite another to come out of the experience being able to rekindle desire for your partner. This is especially in certain circumstances:
1) You’ve been married a LONG time (20 years in my case)
2) You had SOME physical interaction with LO if not a full-blown PA. So now you know the kind of passion that’s probably been missing in your current relationship, if not in your life in general.
3) You’ve been a total git, dropped the ball with your responsibilities, and then been treated (understandably perhaps) like a child by your more responsible partner.
That last one is a biggie. Being in the throes of an intense reciprocated LE can bring out the teenager in any of us, right? It certainly did for me. According to my wife, I became a rebellious, irrresponsible, self-centered teenager. Guilty. Add to that a need to jumpstart my career plus manage how I’m going to envision the last third of my life and…yeah, it was nice to tap into that teenage energy where the world is new and exciting and everything seems possible.
That’s the kind of passion, that absolute zest for life, that all too often fades away as we get older. But I need a little bit of that energy. It’s part of what I long to re-attain now, just without the limerent madness. To my mind, this piece is a bit trickier than living purposefully.
What’s truly hard is when you have allowed a parent-child dynamic to emerge in your marriage, which is what I think happens all too often in marriages where somebody goes limerent. Why is this hard? Because the very idea of having sex or doing something even slightly romantic with a parent is….just kinda gross. Children are supposed to grow up, move out on their own, etc.—which is why I kept thinking a Separation was the answer for my wife and me. But it’s hard to manage a “therapeutic separation” and not have it become just a way station on the way to Splitsville…or so I’m told by pretty much every therapist I encounter.
So how do I rekindle romance with my wife? I’m working on this and we’ve done a lot of therapy. She knows what happened and is trying to be understanding about it all. But…it’s very hard to forget the passion I experienced two years ago.
Do I wish I had ended my marriage and run off with this young woman? Momentary fantasizing aside, No. Full 100% NC was the right decision. Still, that doesn’t make my journey back toward a happy marriage any easier.
And for the record, I’m less sure that full disclosure to SO was the right decision, at least in my very unusual case. Jury’s still out.
@Landry, full disclosure ‘isn’t’ the only best way to go about things. We are all different. No one formula fits all people (shades of gray). It might be the best way for 99.9% of people even, but an open objective mind is always the best bet I’ve always found. Some people will live in sexless passionless relationships for years, or their whole life, convinced its the ‘right thing to do’, or, ‘everything turns out the same in the end anyway’ etc. Some will cheat and lose everything because they lacked the integrity and moral fibre to be a good enough human (they will say), some will cheat and it will work out (ok rare!), some will tough it out and always wonder what if (but otherwise be happy enough), some will end their relationship honorably and try for a new life and it will work out, or won’t work out, whatever. Multiple possibilities, and none if us have the right to judge any decisions any of us makes because we are all unique with a myriad of unique life circumstances which only we ourselves know about. So, personally, i don’t dance on the grave of the person who was crappy to his wife, what do we know about him, his relationship with his wife, or anything for that matter. Its just a story, where we all support a lady who has been wronged, but that’s all it is on here.
Lots of really meaty points there, Landry.
This crystallises the key conflict: the passionate excitement of novelty versus the fulfilment of a long-term partnership. What do you value most? Is it possible to recover some of the passion and improve the marriage, or will it always be an imitation of the “real thing” of limerent euphoria?
One way I reconciled this was to realise that limerence follows a predictable pattern. Massive excitement early on, settling into blissful bonding (if you’re lucky), that inevitably runs the risk of a slide into complacency and vulnerability to new limerent temptation. If you decide to chase limerence, you are basically choosing a life that means a series of intense but time-limited relationships that will come to an end when you become limerent for the next LO (or the last LO leaves you). You could try for polygamy, but it’s going to be hard to meet your commitment to your primary partner if you are limerent for someone new. Possible, but it seems like a similar amount of emotional work and pain as serial monogamy to me.
So if you want to build a lasting relationship (especially with children) then resisting the temptation of new limerence seems a necessary sacrifice.
Bluntly, you can’t have everything. What do you want most?
Oh, I know I can’t have everything. And I know that what I want most is Dr. L’s “fulfillment of a long-term relationship,” although I am going to take that as meaning something deeper than Lee’s “stability and peace of mind.” Which is why I’ve made the choices (since my LE) that I have made. And why my wife and I have done all the couple’s therapy that we have done.
But the work is damn difficult, that’s all I’m saying.
” I am going to take that as meaning something deeper than Lee’s “stability and peace of mind.”
Except I thought I HAD something deeper but it was a LIE. I didn’t lie to him – he lied to me. And Evie, her kids, my kids and I darn well DESERVED to have some stability and peace of mind. Particularly after the person we loved and wholeheartedly through our lot in with when we got married shat on us rather than addressing problems as they arose. I did it, time and again. I didn’t enjoy it, but I did it. Respect and love were why I would raise uncomfortable topics. So my husband and I could tackle them together.
Yeah. This is a great reminder of why I needed to step away from my marriage and this site.
Limerent Lucy says
I don’t have answers for you but I have my own question that’s related and I would love help from the community.
So last year I had this huge personal transformation, faced some stuff about my childhood and with my marriage. Also became limerent for someone and had what I guess was an emotional affair. I actually separated from my husband for a bit, partly because of the issues with the marriage and partly because of the limerence I think. LO and I had an intense friendship full of all the typical LE rumination/obsession and addiction from me. But he had a girlfriend which i found out half way thru the year, and my husband made some changes so we started working on stuff and I eventually moved back home. The new person that I had discovered within myself helped my marriage, I was more confident, more into sex, took better care of myself, lived passionately.
Now I’m trying to forget about LO and keep the new me I discovered, but it seems to me that they’re linked. I’ve been losing touch with that part of me and yesterday I went for a drive and reconnected with myself. I came home feeling refreshed, but was then flooded with thoughts of LO. I 100% know that the parts of me I love that I discovered last year are not contingent on having LO around; but I’m finding it difficult to separate the two. I want the new me because its the real me and makes my marriage better and more authentic.
My question: how do I keep the woman (me) but let go of the man?
Also happy easter all!
Vicarious Limerent says
Sorry I missed this post, Limerent Lucy. I think this is something we all struggle with: how to leverage the positive side of limerence and continue to harness that energy and enthusiasm while the limerence subsides. I think we have to recognize that the good things our limerence brought out in us were always there. We don’t actually need an LO to bring those things out in ourselves. I know this might not come across as very nice, but as my limerence slowly and subtly begins to subside, I replaced my motivation to impress my LO with my desire to be seen as attractive and desirable to the opposite sex in general (and my wife too). While I am married, and I would never cheat on my wife, I do still like to think some women are attracted to me. I sometimes focus on that as part of my motivation to continue my diet and exercise journey – as well as my desire for self-improvement purely for myself. I think the trick is to find some other motivation to allow you to continue the positive aspects your LO brought out in you. All the best in your journey!
Yes, there’s definitely an ethical way to handle it if you want to start a new relationship with LO, Alice. If you are sure that you do not want to stay married, then it’s ending the marriage as honestly as you can, before you start pursuing LO.
Very few people choose that route, though. Many decide to “try out” a relationship with LO before ending their marriage, thus starting an affair (as in the case of Evie’s ex). But even more people (at least of those who write to me) find themselves in the conflicted position of loving their spouse but being limerent for someone else. They’re not indifferent to their spouse and just carrying on for the sake of it, they are properly in emotional pain: second-guessing themselves and feeling guilt about the limerence and not knowing what the “right” thing to do is, and what the limerence means about their marriage and their future.
Your argument seems based on the assumption that the limerence is the most important feeling, and when it arrives that means your marriage has automatically become a sham. That you are “living a lie”. The counter-argument, of course, is that it’s the limerence which is a temporary episode, and merely symptomatic of some other problem – very possibly neglect of the marriage by one or both spouses.
How an individual limerent chooses to interpret their limerence is the critical determinant of what happens next.
But, Evie’s ex-husband picked the worst option of the available choices…
So very well put, Dr. L.
Alice in Wonderland says
I am really sorry for what you are going through Landry. I do not know either if disclosing is the best solution. But a person being honest and wanting to improve is admirable and I think it shows a great deal of integrity. I do wish my father had been more honest instead of having kept up the affair to the point my mother broke it off herself because she was sick of it…
Although I have little experience personally I believe that it makes a big difference whether someone was limerent for their SO in the first place or not. If one was never limerent it is a lot easier to believe that everything was a lie even if it was not. Although I meant “living a lie” in the case of the SO and not of the limerent. Because even if the limerent feels the relationship is meaningful maybe their SO depending on their character will feel like they are essentially in a performance where the limerent is not fully present in the relationship and has to make an effort to be. I know you mentioned something about this in an article but I do think that where the limerent once felt limerence for their SO makes a big difference in the recovery and the ultimate choice the person will make. Unfortunately depending on the person limerence can be more than a temporary problems that lasts for years and has you yearning for it to come back even when it’s over. Of course a lot of people can recover if their relationship to their SO is meaningful but for me personally I have a very strong uneasiness about even dating while knowing I have a general problem with limerence. The position of being partnered with someone and limerent for another is one I do now wish to find myself in.
Vicarious Limerent says
This is a great comment. For years, I wondered if my relationship with my wife in the early stages was a true romance because I don’t think either of us fell head over heels for the other one in the beginning. I kind of felt guilty that I didn’t have that obsessive spark like she was the best thing that ever happened to me right from the very beginning and the feeling that she was definitely “The One.” I was expecting something more like what I now know as limerence. I now understand that limerence isn’t true love, and that real love often builds over time. Still, I do think limerence can morph into true love in some situations, and it doesn’t hurt to have that wild attraction right from the beginning to cement the beginning of a relationship. The problem is that coming down from that limerent high can eventually lead to disappointment and disillusionment and an understanding that the LO might not really be as special as you initially thought. But I can also see why not having been limerent for one’s SO in the first place can make them seem very ordinary and like they truly weren’t a fit. Dating and building a relationship slowly often can’t compete with that feeling of being “madly in love.” That also makes it hard for your SO to compete with an LO you are passionate about.
Just for comparison, I was hugely limerant for my SO 17 years ago. It now feels like that was something that happened to two different people as there is minimal desire, passion and romance between us. However, he is my best friend, we love each other immensely and are happy together. My limerent obsessive passion for my LO utterly overwhelms the comfortable, content, slow burning feelings I have for my SO but I do believe that in the long run, I will be happier with SO as we just fit. And the limerent feelings always wear off….
I’m really rather surprised by how many people commenting on this website and in the forum seem to hold the belief that limerence is a legitimate indication that the marriage is bad and that it is literally THE most important emotion. There seems to be a general denial that limerence can occur in the context of an otherwise healthy relationship and that it’s a sure sign that divorce (and perhaps divorce via affair) is the logical answer. People also seem to believe that chasing a permanent limerent high is an excuse to disregard the needs and feelings of devoted partners, children (even minors), etc. I can’t say that I agree and I’m a little shocked that people wish to enable such unchecked selfishness and, dare I say, hedonism.
I’ve been watching the adventures of my sometime LO “The Chief” for years and wondering when he will get a sort of karmic payback for all the things he did to his family, like dropping the affair bomb on them a few weeks before his daughter’s wedding. I don’t care how good the affair feels — I honestly don’t think there’s an excuse for that kind of behavior. Since my limerence has waned I’ve found myself squarely on Team Wife #1, but I can see why she might not ever want him back. They’ve become Facebook friends again since I last kept an eye on things, which is perhaps generous on her part. I feel some sympathy for him because I think he didn’t have the self-awareness to stop the limerence dominoes from falling, but one would hope he’d have enough empathy for his family to keep it in check.
I can’t imagine a person not looking back on this situation with regret. While perhaps one wouldn’t regret the loss of a marriage that wasn’t working, the way it happens can create permanent divisions.
No, nobody cares about marriage here, as evidenced by the small number of posts dedicated to preserving it versus the large number of posts you’ll find about jumping over the cliff and “feeling the feels.” NOT
@ Marcia – Not quite sure why you are being so sarcastic. Have you seen the responses to my posts on the message board? A significant number of them are defending affairs, saying they do not ruin families, that limerence is something to aspire to, and that all limerents must be in bad marriages or they wouldn’t have this problem.
We must be reading two different sites. A good number of posts I’ve read are from people who are struggling with limerence, who are embarrassed about how they feel, who can’t explain it and want it to stop and who want to find ways to plug back into their marriage. I’ve only read a few posts written by people who’ve had affairs, but either way, it seems to me (though, of course, it’s not my site) the atmosphere here is more supportive than judgmental.
@ Marcia — If you haven’t been to the Community Boards forum, then you might not know what I mean. There is a different vibe there than the overall direction of the blog. I was really shocked to find so many users here who see no problem with limerent affairs, given Dr. L’s overarching message.
No, I haven’t read the blogs. From what I’ve witnessed in life (and these aren’t necessarily limerents), there are 3 groups of people — those who would never have affairs, those who would and those who will endlessly first, love the attention but not follow through — either because they don’t want to or because they are afraid. I don’t know how the percentages break down, but there are a good number of people who are very serious about monogamy.
Well, needless to say I have been surprised to find myself defending the merits of commitment here because it seems to be the prevailing viewpoint of our host. I realize that other people have different viewpoints, and they are entitled to those, but I still maintain that people who wish to live a non-monogamous life owe it to their partners to be up front about that. I find that compared to many message board commenters, my views are conservative and old-fashioned.
The very fact that making decisions while limerent is altering one’s life with impaired judgment should give us pause. I also think that living with integrity is a critical component of real happiness, contentment, and satisfaction. Affairs do not align with integrity and they do not show altruism toward the other people involved, especially minor children. I also hold the old school opinion that if the “other woman” really loves a man, she’ll step back and put herself second for the sake of his family, children, priorities, and values. The right way to exit a bad marriage is with honesty and consideration for everyone involved. If you’ve made the decision to become a parent, you’ve decided to make those children your first priority above all of your personal desires, and the needs of children need to come first in the dissolution of a relationship. But again, I’m old school.
I do share your attitude to affairs. I can conceive of scenarios where it could be “justified”, but it seems to me that it would always be preferable to end the marriage with integrity first.
That said, I also value a plurality of views. As Marcia says, people tend to split into categories in terms of whether or not they will have affairs (although I would add one more: people who are generally unreflective about life and can have an affair “sprung” on them by a pushy affair partner because they just go with the moment to moment experience of life and only come to regret it once it’s too late). My hope is that people come here and learn about the transformative value of living with purpose and acting with integrity. Planting seeds, as it were.
I cordially dislike the current hostility to alternative viewpoints (not accusing you, at all – just an observation about the polarisation of public life) so will always welcome honest disagreement. It is interesting that people are more open about wanting to have affairs on the private forum, and that maybe tells us something about the relative abundance of old fashioned views versus permissive views…
We’re right, though 😉
You have a right to your opinion, but in terms of other people, you don’ t know their personal situation or the terms of the relationship they are in. I’m not clear why this is bothering you so much. If you are worried about ending up with a limerent, there are certainly ways to prevent it. Just start talking about limerence. If they look at you like they have no idea what you are talking about … well, there’s your answer. Limerence won’t make sense to a lot of people. It’s not how they are wired. They’ll think it’s over the top, silly, even crazy.
I think the reason that I dislike it is that I believe that people have a fundamental right to self-determination. In this situation, what that means is that a partner should not promise one kind of relationship with the intention of delivering another. Perhaps it’s because once in my life I had a huge and important decision made for me by a partner who fully believed it would be better to lie to me and take away my autonomy. I am not a child; I am an adult who can decide what kind of relationship I want with eyes wide open. For me, that’s monogamy, though I recognize it might be different for someone else. People can want different things, but I can’t figure out why anyone would want to be fooled by a partner who has no interest in delivering what they promise. A relationship like that is lacking in closeness and intimacy to begin with, and I fail to see the value there.
So I guess that’s what sticks in my craw. I’m puzzled why a person would get married if their mission in life is to look out for #1. If you want to be all about you, again, that’s your choice, but marriage and children are by default commitments to other people who will come to rely on you, and even dissolving those relationships comes with responsibility. A complete disregard for the wants and needs of others to whom you have obligations seems, I don’t know, sociopathic? Like, I got mine, so screw you? I’m not judging people for having different desires in terms of the relationships they want, but in terms of sabotaging the emotional and financial security of their partners for entirely selfish ends, yeah, I have a problem with that, and I’m surprised that many people do not. I don’t think one partner should be able to secretly and unilaterally define the relationship as non-monogamous. I’m even more surprised that people would be content to have a partner whose true allegiances are a mystery to them. And finally, I think that by saying someone else’s affair is totally fine, that’s its own form of judgment, because you have no idea how that affair affected the spouse and kids involved; is it really fair to say that their expectations for monogamy are the problem? That because you have a free-wheeling view of commitment, others who don’t share your view are unreasonable?
I guess the long and short of what I’m trying to say is that there is a VAST difference between saying, “I don’t care if my partner is faithful to me” and “You shouldn’t care if your partner is faithful to you.”
“I think the reason that I dislike it is that I believe that people have a fundamental right to self-determination. In this situation, what that means is that a partner should not promise one kind of relationship with the intention of delivering another. ”
Well, I don’t think most people go into a serious relationship with the intention of being deceptive or pulling a bait and switch. But they may have made a promise to someone at 25 or 30 years old, and people change. They find themselves in situations they never thought possible two decades later. Marriage is a tall order. And people get married or partner up long-term for as many reasons as people have affairs. Sometimes it’s because all their friends are pairing up and they don’t wan to be “that guy” at the club. People are complex.
Also, you are on a website about LIMERENTS. People who light up when they feel raw passion. Everybody is different. I have a family member who lights up when someone needs. He will forever be rescuing people.
I’m not arguing, and never have, that mindfully dissolving a relationship or marriage is wrong. Yes, people sometimes exercise poor judgment in entering a marriage. I realize that it doesn’t always happen that way because humans are humans. I am honestly not sure why people keep coming after me with this straw man argument when I have repeatedly said, in almost every post, that divorce is the appropriate end to some marriages. (Are people intentionally neglecting the point I’m trying to make? Hmm . . .)
The social contract and the rules therein exists to protect the most vulnerable, like kids. I work with children in a high poverty region, and I frequently hear young teens tell me things like, “My dad decided he didn’t want to be a dad anymore, so he left when I was three.” Part of adulthood is that decisions have consequences, and often the worst consequences fall on the most vulnerable. Adults can walk away from bad situations but children are stuck with whatever we give them. Consider also, for example, a woman who voluntarily gives up her career to raise a man’s children, and then that man leaves her when the last child is grown and she is left without enough income to live, or is left in poverty. It’s one thing to accept that these things sometimes happen, but enabling this behavior is a bridge too far for me. When other humans become either pawns or collateral damage in our quest for personal pleasure, society breaks down, and quite frankly, it’s usually the kids who end up the most messed up. I know because I pick up the pieces.
Two consenting adults can agree to an unorthodox relationship arrangement. But when someone’s ability to consent is robbed from them by lies and deceit, that reduces that person to a helpless object, a passive recipient of whatever the other person wishes to give or withhold. Would any of us be satisfied with that? Do we have empathy for someone in that situation?
Your tone is very judgmental and scolding, and I’m not the morality police. I’ll opt out and let someone else take over.
@GEM. I understand and broadly agree with what you say, and don’t even find it particularly controversial.
Cheating is disrespectful. If you had a partner who wanted to practise non-monogamy, he should have told you and given you a choice whether you wanted to stay with him if you’d both initially entered the union on the assumption of monogamy. You’re right – he shouldn’t have taken away your (hopefully joint) power to define the relationship.
Some heterosexual women married to gay men say the same thing about their marriages – e.g. I wish he told me (about his sexuality) and then I could have had some input into our future together. It’s important to not take away a partner’s agency. Adults need some control over their lives for the sake of mental health and it’s wrong to make a partner powerless in a union (by lying, manipulation, etc).
Of course, people are complicated, though. Sometimes lying is done to avoid hurting feelings. Sometimes people are confused. And it’s natural to find more than one person emotionally or sexually appealing throughout the lifespan. However, desire and behaviour are two different things and must be judged separately. It’s not always reasonable to act on our desires. I don’t think limerence should automatically lead to a divorce. People seem strangely reluctant to acknowledge or work through their emotions.
My parents married very young and my mother had an affair and left my father when she was about 40. She married her affair partner. To this day, 20 years later, she can’t admit she did anything wrong or hurt anyone. I love my mother very much. However, because she never accepted any kind of responsibility for the affair/divorce, I find it difficult to trust her or feel close to her. She damaged her relationship with her children, never mind her ex-husband, but remains in denial about that. I imagined many people have a similar mindset to my mother. They don’t want to confront their own flaws.
I can understand adults not getting along and breaking up for various reasons. Still, it’s sad when parents abandon their dependent children or say disparaging things about a loyal and loving spouse. Rewriting history is a no-no in my book. I.e. have an affair, by all means, but don’t pretend it’s your SO’s fault. Your affair is about you, honey, and not your partner’s alleged shortcomings.
It would have been nice if my mum was honest about her feelings – my dad was a good man, but she (Mum) in midlife found someone more exciting. (At least until that marriage too became all about routines and bills and responsibility, etc. Then she felt like a victim again. My mother probably has Narcissistic Personality Disorder).
I only read the blog here. However, if there are limerents justifying affairs, that might be a testament to the intoxicating nature of limerence. When I was experiencing the heights of limerence, I probably advocated some pretty dodgy moral positions too. Oh yes. And I loved to argue with friends about my dodgy moral positions!
Limerence sort of made me mad about personal freedom and how dare anyone or anything stand in my way, etc. I think it’s an adolescent mindset, and maybe a stage of development we all need to go through, before we realise it’s entitlement (in very thin disguise). Other people have rights and preferences, not just me.
Even the most sexually liberated and liberal people are probably only liberated and liberal until their own friends, family members or partners start exhibiting such “liberation”. I.e. when self-centred behaviour impacts one directly/negatively, how quickly one changes one’s tune and starts playing the so-called morality police!
Affairs can end marriages and very occasionally affairs can save marriages. Like I said before, humans (and human relationships) are complicated. Life isn’t black and white. But it’s important not to minimise the substantial costs involved in infidelity, especially when deception is involved. John Donne was right: “No man is an island.” What we do affects others (and eventually comes to light). Radical autonomy, while very attractive on paper, is an adolescent fantasy.
Thank you for your wonderful comments, GEM. I didn’t find the tone judgemental and scolding. Au contraire. I found what you said quite logical. But maybe that’s because I’m a very logical person, and I tend to evaluate what people say in logical terms. I very rarely take things personally. I.e. for me, arguments stand and fall on their own merits. People who approach life more emotionally (most people I’m afraid) may struggle to appreciate your perspective.
I think it’s fair to say that this is a highly inflammatory topic and that people on all sides can find it hard to cool the emotions and really listen to what others are actually saying. Sometimes even taking a logical position can be read as grossly insensitive for such emotionally-charged issues (no doubt you can think of some other topics where this pitfall applies…)
I agree that the issue is a charged one. I grew up with 2 “logical” parents who stayed together but that doesn’t meant they were happy. It just was “illogical” to break up. And neither one was willing to do the work to get out of it. No, I don’t think either one was cheating, but it got so bad — separate bedrooms, separate lives — that I don’t think it was wrong for me to hope maybe one or both had a little joy on the side.
I have to say that I browse many of the private community forum posts and have found an almost universal attitude that affairs are not the right thing to do. The degree of feeling it is not OK does vary, some people being much less judgemental than others, probably due to their current situations and beliefs. I think many people are very tempted by their limerent feelings and use the forum as a way of exploring and discussing that – maybe that has been misinterpreted? Otherwise, I am wondering if there is another forum I have not seen 🙂
I think you’re exactly right. The community forums aren’t necessary more accepting of that behaviour; rather, I think people just speak more openly there because there seems to be an extra layer of anonymity and privacy. I know I am more open with my thoughts there than here. I have felt more judgement here than on the forums, which is probably why I rarely comment here anymore.
I’d agree with that analysis, Allie and B. People are more willing to admit to their desire to cheat with LO, perhaps, but not their intent to do so. The privacy probably helps promote that openness, which is one of the reasons I set up the forum that way. Safe release of pent up guilt.
I guess I’m just not following this line of reasoning. So I’m supposed to feel better if I find out that my spouse didn’t actually physically cheat but has been hyperfocused, limerent and lusting after someone else for months if not years? Maybe I’m in the minority, but I’d feel better if my spouse had a one-off physical transgression with someone he didn’t care about versus was limerent for someone but never touched them.
I don’t think many would disagree with you there Marcia, particularly women. Sometimes we need to explore the wrong path mentally in order to realise it is the wrong path.
When you commit to someone for life, I think you have to accept they will like, fancy or even love others in that time. It is unrealistic to expect anything else. What matters is that the limerent still appreciates and values their SO, is honest, treats them well and values them (& kids if relevant) above anyone else. It is possible to do that even if you are in the grips of an LE.
“When you commit to someone for life, I think you have to accept they will like, fancy or even love others in that time.”
Are attracted to other people? Sure. Maybe even have harmless crushes that one can walk away from and not care if they ever see again. But limerence? That’s a whole different ball game. That’s something that shakes up your very soul. I would not want to be married to someone who felt that way about someone else. I’d be done. In that sense, I do agree with GreenEyed about your partner giving you the information so you can make an informed decision.
@Alice in Wond… i agree with you. It bothers me every day that there’s a possibility that due to some potential incurable flaw in me, I will never be free whether I take one road or another. True peace and happiness really does only lie within, and never in another person/thing. How do you get a human brain to compute this? Thank you for you comment.
I found your statement about worrying that you will never be free one way or another very relatable. I find that I am often tortured by the road not taken, and I feel like there is so much possibility inside of me sometimes that I wonder if one relationship or one path or one life can hold it all. I fear that I’d resent any partner I’m with for holding me back.
“I feel like there is so much possibility inside of me sometimes that I wonder if one relationship or one path or one life can hold it all. ”
Oh I can so relate to that GEM!
But there are many different ways to do marriage….and I am not necessarily taking about polyamory here, although that is one way. An open minded, realistic, secure couple can give each a lot of freedom e.g. to think, feel and obsess all they like, or to go their own way for a short while. So long as they agree, still put each other first and remain committed to their relationship.
Is it me or does the Joe Beam ‘marriage helper’ offering have a clear pro-christianity leaning?
Yep. Quite a lot of US marriage/relationship advice sites do. Cultural legacy, and all that.
But, there is a lot of good info that doesn’t require embracing their faith.
There’s a real danger in already vulnerable people taking to heart advice delivered by a source which has (in my opinion) conservative and theological/orthodox ideologies at its centre. It will potentially just mess people up more than they were before. Just my opinion though. There are better YouTube videos which are more politically neutral, for helping people learn about limerence, attachment styles and so on.
I am an American Christian. I have to say it is my faith that did the most to help me (before I even heard of limerence), it is also what kept me in line to do the right thing by my SO. If people understood the core of it (forgiveness of sins and a relationship with Jesus) they would not get hung up on and distracted by the politics. Not starting an argument. Just saying…
@Peg, your entitled to your opinion and to believe what you will, as I am. Ultimately these are all just ‘beliefs’ though, and that’s my point. I just feel like at least I have the objectivity to realise this. Also, its ‘you’ who should be credited for any good deeds you do, not really your faith, but if you believe its christianity that should take the credit, again, that’s your belief that you are entitled to.
I agree with you Winst, it makes me feel uncomfortable too. It’s the guilt and shame that I find is not helping.
Do you have some other resources that you find particularly useful to share?
@Emma sure, one YouTube vid I have watched which seemed to be basic with the advice it gives, yet effective is this one: https://youtu.be/j5Te10tbvmI
And this one (a bit of ‘americana’in there, but she focuses on the science and attachment styles which I found constructive: https://youtu.be/g6gm3O2ipfs
Also Susan Winter seems to have a comforting series of videos which look at the nature of obsession in a relationship setting: https://youtu.be/6sPkjyUTbw8 and https://youtu.be/UCjMr_JpGcU
Finally, i recommend any videos on attraction/love addiction by Alex Katehakis https://youtu.be/jEstVPYOARA and Helen Fisher on love psychology https://youtu.be/OYfoGTIG7pY
” If they can just break the habit of blaming others, take responsibility for their own bad choices, repent of their mistreatment of the people who loved them, then they can redeem themselves.” – DrL
Maybe they can redeem themselves, maybe they can’t. LO #2 is beyond redemption and it has nothing to do with her leaving me for someone else. As far as I know, we did it the right way and broke up before we started seeing other people. I know 3 people who divorced and went on to long term marriages with people they knew before the divorce. I don’t know about two of them but based on what my lapsed-Catholic accountant told me, she was wearing the “Scarlet A.” She asked me if she was going to be sent to Hell for it and home-wrecking (seriously).
It’s not uncommon for them to have problems in the next relationship. People aren’t who they are because of the relationships they have, they have the relationships they have because of who they are. Google, “will she be different with the next guy” and see how many hits you get. It’s also not uncommon to interfere with a new relationship. He’s free to do what he pleases but she’s his forever…. It stinks but it happens.
One of the biggest mistakes I made was turning over another woman to go back to LO #2. That woman stood in my living room with tears running down her cheeks after I told her and said to me, “She’s using you.” I told her that was a chance I had to take. It turned out she was right but I could never look her in the face after that. I hope Evie doesn’t weaken and go back to him. It would be grossly unfair to the man she’s seeing now.
Unfortunately, Evie’s ex is no longer her husband but he’ll always be her kids’ father. Hopefully, he won’t make a pest of himself. Based on what she said about the divorce, I wouldn’t be surprised if he became a real thorn in their side. If he does, let me know. I’ll turn you on to a reference that can help with that.
Good luck, Evie! I hope things work out well for you!
Let’s equate the use of the word redemption to the limerent being worthy of forgiveness. Who’s forgiving the limerent? The limerent forgiving themself? The SO? The LO? The children? The family? Friends? All will come at this from their own personal viewpoint influenced by their experiences. There is no control of other’s reactions even if the limerent had stopped short of even reaching the point where most might consider it to have been an EA (yes, I am feeling some guilt). I have always thought that as a parent we can only influence our children and not control them, and as their experiences accumulate, we have less influence than we did earlier. Exactly how much influence can we expect to have over adults reacting to such an emotionally charged situation?
I just consider myself lucky. Lucky that my LOs stated and maintained their boundaries — I never was tested. I hope that my morals would have kicked in if LO1 had bent in the end, but I came uncomfortably close in falling to the temptation to pursue her into a limerently mislabeled friendship.
Good point about redemption. I wasn’t really thinking from the perspective of personal forgiveness. As you say, that lies entirely with the people affected. You can earn forgiveness, but I wouldn’t say you can ever deserve it.
I was meaning redemption in a more abstract sense – of restoring their character, becoming someone trustworthy and upright again. Of living with integrity. Basically, becoming someone valuable and admirable in the future.
Past sins shouldn’t be forgotten, but they also shouldn’t define your destiny forever, in my view. There has to be a way to atone for them, even if it takes formidably hard work.
Vicarious Limerent says
Wow! So much to think about here not only in the post, but also in the comments, several of which are extremely interesting and spot-on. There is a lot of food for thought in this for me. I am so glad I never did anything truly inappropriate with my LO, but my problem is there were issues in my marriage long before I met my LO. I am not engaging in revisionism regarding my marriage, even if my wife acts like I am. She could not possibly have been happy either. Who would be happy about a lack of physical intimacy for literally years? She told me many times she thought I was boring, and she often was pretty vocal in telling me how I didn’t measure up to her expectations, so it isn’t at all one-sided. So why does she act like she was blissfully happy until I started having a crush on a woman I barely know after that fateful night four months ago? Does she just want to be able to play the victim?
Nevertheless, I am not sure if my thoughts about ending my marriage are truly just the result of a marriage that has major issues and problems or if they are just my limerence trying to get me to make a play for my LO. I don’t seriously think I would have a chance with her, but I honestly am trying to have the body and face of a fitness model (as much as I can at my age). Is it just my desire for self-improvement and wanting to improve my health, appearance, career prospects and other people’s perceptions of me, or is it just me wanting to look more like my brother in-law so my LO might take an interest in me if my marriage ever ended? That is pretty sad and pathetic if that is the case, and I am deeply angry and disappointed in myself for that. My wife is so nice to me these days. She really isn’t making this easy for me, but I should be trying to focus on really trying to improve my relationship with her first before deciding to call it quits. I have to make her my first priority and realize I might have a 1% chance of ever landing my LO if my marriage ended. Still, I also tell myself it doesn’t have to be either of them since I am getting much more validation from women in general these days. I don’t think I would need to be alone, but at least I recognize that I would need to end my marriage first before trying for anyone else. I would never cheat or leave my wife for someone else, and it isn’t fair to my LO to try to make her my backup girl (assuming she would be interested, which she probably wouldn’t anyway).
“She really isn’t making this easy for me,…”
That’s pretty condescending. What should she do to make it easy for you?
Well, here’s the thing. I’m happy to make hay from Evie’s situation because her ex was so unpleasant. It’s one thing to give in to temptation, it’s another to aggressively devalue your spouse and blame them for the affair.
But if I read VL’s situation correctly, he falls into the difficult grey area that makes this topic so inflammatory. If there are problems with the marriage, but the non-limerent spouse is basically happy with the status quo, the limerent is faced with a really tough dilemma.
Let’s say your spouse hasn’t been physically intimate with you for a couple of years. You try to have the difficult conversation, but they are basically fine with a sexless marriage (at least on the surface) so they are non-committal about making a change.
Then you become limerent for someone else.
Now it really is urgent to resolve this situation one way or the other. If the non-committal spouse continues to stonewall and just comes out and says “I don’t want any sexual contact anymore,” then it makes the decision easy: marriage over.
But, if the non-committal spouse says “let’s try and make this work,” and does the bare minimum necessary to try and keep you happy enough so that they can go back to their comfortable co-habitation arrangement, then what do you do? Question their motives? Work harder at trying to really get to the root of the problem? Leave them anyway? What if they say how much they love you, but still flinch away from your touch? What if they do try to be more intimate, but you sense that they are doing it from fear of loss, not because they actually desire you?
That grey area is really tough to navigate. A spouse who is giving mixed signals doesn’t make it easy.
Vicarious Limerent says
Thanks Dr. L for sticking up for me. You were spot-on in terms of me not understanding why my wife is pretending our marriage was just fine and was completely happy before my LO walked into my life. That is patently untrue. She was just as dissatisfied as me.
However (and I know you used this only as an example), there is fault on both sides in terms of why there has been no sex in our marriage over the last few years. Neither one of us is deliberately withholding it from the other. Both of us want it, but there are several complex reasons why it is missing. Some of these include a medical condition (that has largely cleared up), conflicting schedules, distractions from our child and dog, neither of us feeling very good about ourselves and our appearance, both of us having let ourselves go, my wife belittling me and not being understanding of my inability to perform in the past, me lacking in confidence and being scared to try after that failure, previous issues with infertility and the animosity and anger that often exists between us. My feelings of loving my wife but not being sure if I am IN love with her are also important. So, while she is acting like she was happy in our marriage before, I am probably more to “blame” for our lack of intimacy, although there is a great deal of fault on her side as well, in addition to circumstances beyond the control of either of us.
I agree with your sentiment Doc about VL’s wife but the way it was expressed still comes across as throwing her under the bus.
I’m well aware of the territory you describe. Whatever the environment my wife and I were in at no time did she do or say anything about visiting memory lane about LO #2 or going down a rabbit hole with LO #4. If anybody was holding a gun to my head it was me.
And, as for this sentiment: “Past sins shouldn’t be forgotten, but they also shouldn’t define your destiny forever, in my view. There has to be a way to atone for them, even if it takes formidably hard work.”
Whether they define your destiny forever or not depends on the context. 30 years ago I told LO #2 that I didn’t trust her anymore and I’d never let her get close to me again. I’ll never allow that woman to be in a position to cause me pain. Once was enough. She admitted to me that she wanted to look around some more and if she didn’t find anything she liked better, she might come back and settle for me. I almost backhanded her. Nothing she can say or do will ever negate that. So, in that context, it did define my destiny.
Song of the Day: “Settle for Me (feat. Santino Fontana)” – “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (2016)
Vicarious Limerent says
@ Scharnhorst: My wife is being (uncharacteristically) nice to me, so that is making my decision about what to do about my marriage and the rest of my life much harder to make. I don’t see that as condescending or throwing her under the bus. She is being so syrupy-sweet it isn’t genuine, but at the same time, I have to give her a chance and at least try to take it at face value. I mentioned elsewhere on this forum that I had never felt more at peace over the last few months than when we were talking about separation and divorce. It may actually come to that, but the thing is I love this woman. I would gladly take a bullet for her. She is the love of my life and the mother of my child. We have had many happy memories and shared moments together, and it saddens me to think that if we ever went our separate ways SHE (not me) would be the one to take a scorched earth policy towards our marriage by devaluing our memories and shared experiences and acting like it was a sham all along – when that clearly wasn’t the case. Even now, there is tenderness, affection, humour and ongoing dialogue.
Both of these are huge clichés, but sometimes my wife feels more like my sister than my wife, and while I do love her, I am not sure if I am still IN love with her. The literature I have read on this topic is extremely split, with some experts saying the marriage is doomed if the passion and spark are gone from the relationship, and others saying it is possible to rekindle that spark through honest dialogue, being vulnerable to each other and open to change, exploring shared interests and dating one’s spouse again. I honestly don’t know which experts are right about this, but I am at least willing to try. Still, it seemed much easier when my decision appeared to already have been made for me. But lurking in the background is my limerence, and I am not sure if my thoughts of throwing in the towel are based on my subconscious desire to try to be with my LO. My wife and I both want sex and neither one of us is happy about the status quo, so why is my wife acting like her life was fine until four months ago? This is all causing me genuine pain and anguish!
In case you think I am being a total bastard, and my poor, long-suffering wife is truly the victim of an uncaring husband who has a wandering eye and can’t wait to discard her for the latest new and shiny object, it isn’t that simple. To reiterate, I do love my wife, but she is bossy, controlling, manipulative, negative, lazy, unfair, boring and angry far too often. She is abusive, unreasonable and unfair to my daughter – so much so that my daughter basically can’t stand her. When we were talking about divorce, it was assumed I would have custody of my daughter. The two of them have constant screaming fights that are totally unhealthy in any family. If I say something about how their fights are psychologically damaging to me, my wife calls me a homophobic slur. I have also tried to tell her my daughter will hate her when she grows up and never speak to her again, but she doesn’t seem to care.
My wife bosses and controls me so much that my father and brother can’t stand to be around her. They are sick of seeing the way she treats me. It is as if she wants to utterly dominate and control me even more when she has an audience so that she can prove to everyone how completely under her thumb I am and how I am her “bitch.” Even her own family gets furious with the way she treats me and yells at her to “Lay off of him!” My brother in-law has several times shook his head at the way she treats me and says she is “retarded” (not a politically correct word, I know, but that is what he says). She wants me to do all of the “manly” jobs around the house, even though I am not much of a handyman, but she also wants me to do a lot of the other chores as well. I don’t mind helping out and doing my fair share, but then she treats me as if I am not a real man (she really wants me to be a blue collar tradesman like her father instead of a university educated professional). If I am diligent in washing the dishes, she calls me a homophobic slur or says I am not a real man, but if I don’t do them for a couple of days because I am busy with other chores, she pretends to cry and says, “I NEED you to help out with the dishes and things. I cannot do it ALL on my own.” I have begun to realize that she wants me to do the dishes but doesn’t want to actually see me do them because that would ruin her image of my masculinity, yet she totally emasculates me all of the time. If I am painting a room and doing a good job by being meticulous, she screams at me about how “f***ing anal” I am and how no one takes as long as I do to paint a room, but if I try to go a little faster, she screams at me about how I did a “f***ing shit job!” after basically taking a magnifying glass to find places where I went over the lines by a tiny fraction of a millimetre. All of this is after I bust my ass ruining my entire weekend to paint a room that doesn’t need painting just on a whim of hers. She doesn’t even let me finish one project before insisting that I start on a new one – just so she can give me shit for never finishing anything and tell me (and others) what a terrible handyman I am. If the project isn’t done in an hour like it is on home improvement shows, in her eyes there is something wrong.
She always tries to stop me from having fun and she never wants to do anything truly enjoyable. I sometimes feel like a single father because my wife almost never does fun things with my daughter. I mentioned to her that I would like to have a pub night once or twice a month, and she said, “No! You’re a f***ing alcoholic and we can’t afford it!” I am nowhere near being an alcoholic or even a problem drinker. I go out once in a blue moon and sometimes I buy three or four cans of beer. She actually had the gall to tell my mother in-law the BLATANT and MASSIVE lie that I am drinking all of our money – then she got all upset when my mother in-law mentioned my drinking after my wife tried to tell her my brother in-law is drinking far too much (which is true, and he does drink far more than me). My wife constantly tries to limit my ability to enjoy myself and frequently tries to stop me from doing the things I truly enjoy. She is always checking up on me and never lets me just wander off on my own for a couple of hours. It’s as if I have to account for every minute of my time – and this predates my LE, so I know it wasn’t about jealousy or thinking I was with another woman. My wife yells at me if I buy lunch at work once every three weeks, yet she can go out for lunches or buy coffee, treats and tons of stupid things for my daughter (things she doesn’t need or often even want) whenever she likes. If I tell her money is tight one week, she will come home with a bunch of clothes for my daughter, even though she has tons of clothes. She wants me to live like a pauper, but she can spend to her heart’s desire (and I am the main breadwinner). I know this isn’t my wife’s fault, but for the past 12 years, she has worked almost every Friday and Saturday night, and I have felt trapped and bored. It often feels like we are just passing ships in the night. She also never wants to have company over, and she is constantly coming up with excuses to cancel social events. Then she moans to me about how full of shit our friends are and how they never want to do anything. My brother told me she has scared my family and friends away with her behaviour.
While my LE has made me put my foot down on some of these things and insist on some changes, there are still some major problems in my marriage. I do still love her, but she is hardly innocent in all of this. I really feel that married limerents can be divided into two categories: (1) those who still have happy, healthy relationships despite their limerence; and (2) those whose limerence is indicative of deep problems in their relationship and is telling them something desperately needs to change. I find it hard to relate to people in the first category, and I only wish my limerence could enhance my relationship with my wife (through increased libido) like it has for some people. I have not experienced limerence while married and my last LE was over 20 years ago when I was still single. I also think that people in happy, stable relationships may have a difficult time understanding what unhappy and dissatisfied limerents like me are going through. I thought we were supposed to be here as a community to provide support and understanding? Until you have walked a mile in someone’s shoes, it is difficult to truly judge their thoughts and actions.
Vicarious Limerent says
” I have not experienced limerence while married and my last LE was over 20 years ago when I was still single.” – obviously I meant “prior to this current experience.”
I now understand your situation more because of your very open post. Don’t ever question yourself about whether or not you should have been so honest about your experiences. It has helped me see my LE and wife in a new light. I have posted similarly (open and honestly) on a prostate cancer support forum and it helped both me and others work through difficult situations. Don’t stop.
You are in an abusive relationship. She sounds like she has a personality disorder. What you need is therapy and recovery not an LO.
In my opinion, VL, if you can financially afford to leave this woman, you cannot emotionally afford not to. That brief interlude of peace when divorce was seriously on the table says it all.
Definitely sounds like a case of coercive control. That would also be consistent with the syrupy-sweetness now, if she is scared of losing VL.
But, we’re only armchair psychiatrists, VL. Personal therapy could be a very good idea…
Holy S–t! I agree with Thirty.
I recommend you Google “men in abusive relationships” and “why we stay in abusive relationships,” Find yourself a therapist. If you have an EAP, use it. And, don’t tell your wife you’re doing it.
One piece of advice about therapists, ask if he/she believes men can be victims of abuse. A lot of them don’t. The worst case scenario here is if you find one of them and they get you into couples counseling. If the therapist doesn’t believe women can be abusers, the two of them will team up on you to make you a more compliant victim.
Vicarious Limerent says
Thanks Landry, Dr. L and Scharnhorst! I am feeling better that I am maybe not a totally selfish asshole after all. But once again, I still love her!
Vicarious Limerent says
Thanks Kramer and Thirty. Another major thing I forgot is how my wife gets furious when I take courses to try to enhance my career. My job isn’t stable, and I am no longer marketable in my original profession, so I am trying to make a career change. Yet she constantly yells at me and belittles me for my “stupid-assed f***ing courses!” I am really worried about losing my job and not being able to find another, but she doesn’t seem to care about my ability to provide for the family (I am not spending a ton of money on courses, and many of them have been reimbursed by my employer). She also doesn’t like it when I vent about my job, yet she seems to be allowed to vent about hers all the time.
I do think this is an abusive relationship, although she has accused me of being the abuser a few times (I was a little unsympathetic towards her very early on in our relationship, but that was ancient history). We absolutely do need counselling, although she doesn’t really seem to agree. Once this pandemic is over, I am going to insist on it. Kramer, I freaked out after posting this last night because if she ever saw it she would recognize me for sure and it would absolutely be game over for my marriage. I worry a lot about oversharing on a public forum like this. What if she stumbles across my comments even five years from now, assuming everything is good between us?
I recommend individual counseling before couples counseling.
Something else to consider:. What behavior are you modeling to your kids? Their normal appears to be it’s ok for Mom to have open season on Dad and his job is to take it.
What you would also gives a hint of why you think your BIL and LO should be together.
Vicarious Limerent says
@ Scharnhorst: I did go for individual counselling through my work EAP, but I don’t think it helped all that much. At least I got some affirmation that my feelings (and even my limerence) are totally “normal.” I also liked how my counsellor agreed with me that I have no solid ground in my life at the moment (not my marriage, work, career, family, friendships or finances). Still, I feel like I am in a position where I will need to figure things out on my own (or possibly with the help of books and other resources). I might need to explore paid options because the EAP feels a bit like a band-aid trying to fix a bullet wound. My counsellor did kind of nudge me in the direction of couple’s counselling (which the EAP also provides). My wife wasn’t keen on the idea, but she eventually said she would go with me. The problem is I think she will act like everything has been fine lately if I bring it up again (due to her syrupy-sweetness). She will probably blow up at me and ask me again, “Are you still thinking about HER?” Lately I have been lying to her when she asks me that because telling her the truth didn’t do any good in the past. Funnily enough, the last couple of days I haven’t really been thinking directly about my LO much because I am focused on my wife and our relationship.
I agree that this is creating a really bad situation for my daughter. She has seen far too much fighting and arguing in her lifetime as well as an ongoing power struggle between my wife and I. It is a really unhealthy family dynamic. I am really curious what you meant about me wanting my BIL and LO to be together? Did you mean that I think my LO should have her way as a kind of means of controlling my BIL (i.e., because I am used to having a dominant woman in my relationship)? I suppose I get that up to a point because if he clearly isn’t interested that is his decision. I just wish he would man up and tell her that. I do, however, worry that maybe he hasn’t rejected her outright due to his loyalty to me because I gave him some advice to keep in touch with her (he is known to change his mind about these things even years later and then kick himself, so I advised him not to lose touch). I do care about her feelings and her dignity, and I wouldn’t want to see her hurt, used or strung along, but I need to think of his feelings as well. The problem is he is being shallow and vain. He literally said he would only bother with her if she was a “10.” My mother in-law keeps on telling him not to bother and reminding him how there are plenty of other fish in the sea. She also said, “She (my LO) ain’t no f***ing 10, that’s for sure!” I was livid because I told the whole family what a really nice person this lady is, and all that seems to matter is whether she has fake, plastic Barbie doll good looks (which is what my BIL goes for). I still think she is plenty hot enough for me though – and a natural beauty with an amazing figure. She just looks her age and maybe slightly older in some ways, but so what?
Disclaimer: I’m not a mental health professional but I’ve worked with several of them as a patient and on projects for work. I also spent so much time trying to understand things with LO #2 that I think I’m a dissertation short of a degree in this. But, I.AM.NOT.A. PROFESSIONAL.
Are you familiar with the psychological concepts of Projection and Transferrence? Given your circumstances, your attraction to an LO makes perfect sense. What didn’t seem to make sense is why try to play matchmaker between your LO and your BIL? But, now, it kind of does. If you can’t have her, who’s the next best candidate? Plus, look at all the distraction miles you’re getting from thinking about getting them together. You really shouldn’t care about whether he sees how wonderful she is or not and that he doesn’t appear to appreciate her but you get to waste a lot of time thinking about it at no risk to yourself. It’s between them, not you and your SO.
See disclaimer above.
Vicarious Limerent says
@ Scharnhorst: Are you a Star Wars fan? For some reason, I think of my LO as being like Anakin Skywalker: The Chosen One who was meant to restore balance to The Force. I know that is putting a lot of responsibility on her shoulders, but I thought if everyone did their job my brother would have a nice girlfriend (someone who was good for him who is a real grown-up rather than the 20-something Barbie dolls he’s chasing who won’t bring him true happiness since, deep down, he is lonely and does really want someone to give him love and companionship), my LO would get what she wanted (my BIL), and my wife and I would get a really nice friend and companion who might bring us more fun and excitement in our lives and help our strained marriage. You are correct that I thought my BIL having her was the next best thing to me having her, but I really thought they would be good together too. I know how much she liked him, and I wanted her to be happy as well (because she is such a sweetheart). I was so drawn to her on so many levels that I wanted her in my life in some capacity – ANY capacity – but there was an altruistic side to it too. My interest in her truly was vicarious in nature to begin with, hence my screen name. But to try to understand the psychology of it all, you have to understand the chronology of what happened on that night and the days that followed. I am not a mental health professional either and I would be interested to hear what a trained professional would make of all of this.
The night we met my LO was such an incredible night. It would have been memorable even if we hadn’t met my LO. My BIL was getting so much attention from the ladies, and even I was receiving some (although nothing inappropriate as a married man). I must say it boosted my confidence as a man (not that I was looking to cheat or leave my wife). I met another lady that night – a divorced and very pretty dentist from yet another neighbouring town. She kind of gravitated towards me and her sister really liked my BIL, but nothing inappropriate was said or done. I realized fairly quickly that those two and their friend were playing games with my BIL and me, but for some reason, my BIL wanted to follow these three to another bar, even though he wasn’t into the sister who liked him (I think he liked the dentist too). So, off we went. However, we took forever to get a taxi (neither of us does Uber), and by the time we arrived at this pub, they basically ignored us and acted like they were angry we were even there. Nevertheless, we talked to a lot of people (mostly women) and my LO approached us in such a cute but strange and vulnerable way, asking us to guess her age (I am glad I didn’t say anything because I would have guessed a few years older than she was – still I thought she was very attractive). I think (but am not sure) she actually kind of approached me first. She very quickly hit it off with my BIL, but I was also very much in the picture, chatting with her even when he was off talking to other people. We spent the next three hours or so with her and the three of us (plus a friend or acquaintance of my LO’s) were the last to leave. Again, we waited ages for a taxi outside. The two of them were kissing in the back seat and we dropped my LO off at her place. They exchanged numbers, and I didn’t think much of it at the time. I was happy for him and maybe just a little envious, but I was mainly thinking, “Lucky bastard. I hope he goes for it!” I liked her in a way a father would like his son’s nice new girlfriend. I even felt a little proud of my BIL in some ways. We got back to my place and I felt a warm and happy feeling.
The next morning, I actually started off the day thinking more about the dentist than anyone, although it wasn’t full-on limerence or anything like that. MY BIL and I told my wife and mother in-law all about the previous night. We tried online to find dentists in the town where she lives, but we couldn’t find her. Both of us joked about visiting her office for a checkup. I also started searching up my LO on Facebook and I Googled her name on my BIL’s behalf. I couldn’t find out much about her, but I did find some birth, death and marriage notices that mentioned her. The two of them started texting each other, and I found out a little more about her. My BIL wanted to go for a date with her on the Sunday, but she told him she was tired (she did have a VERY full day the day before) and it was a horrible day weather-wise. My BIL still acts all upset and rejected over this, but I believe it is all an act to justify his rejection of her. She was really gung-ho to go out with him on the Monday, but he was leaving first thing to drive my mother in-law back to their hometown five hours away. By that evening, my thoughts quickly turned to my LO, but it was the strangest feeling. I think searching her up online and replaying the events of that night in my head made me focus on her more, but it became this strange “vicarious crush” (i.e., liking her on my BIL’s behalf). I began to REALLY want him to date her.
The more it looked like my BIL would go for it, the happier I was. But it soon became clear he wasn’t going to go for it, even though she continued to call and text him and try to get him to come down and visit her. After a few days, I began to realize I was developing feelings for her myself. By then, I had completely forgotten about the dentist, but I think my mind was ripe for a limerent experience with just about anyone (not to knock my LO because she is amazing, but it wasn’t really even about her). I was at such a low point in my marriage and my life. I still wanted the two of them to be together, but part of me wanted to leave my wife and pursue my LO for myself. I have made no secret of the fact I would make a beeline for this lady if I could, but she is currently off-limits to me. When my wife and I were talking divorce, she asked me if I would pursue my LO, and I admitted that in six months or a year I would be likely to do that. The main reason for the wait was to focus on weight loss and fitness to improve my appearance and likelihood of landing her. My wife said, “Six months? I give you five days.” When I told my brother the story, he said, “Five days? I give you five minutes.” So, there you have it. I never experienced “limerence at first sight,” and part of my thinking was focused on the fact she was off-limits, but still wanting her in my life in some way.
Vicarious Limerent says
Obviously I meant “brother in-law” (BIL) in the first paragraph above.
I’m not much of a Star Wars fan. I’ve seen 4 of the 9 in the series.
It’s funny what others’ perceptions of what’s going on. When my wife and I were having serious problems, she asked if I’d try to reengage LO #2. I told her, “No, I hope I’d never be that desperate.” She asked about LO #4. I wanted to say, “She won’t be the first woman I’d call (true).” But, discretion being the valor, I said, “Maybe.”
On that note…
Comic of the Day: https://assets.amuniversal.com/96def0b09fbd012f2fe600163e41dd5b
Substitute “LO” for “laptop.”
OMG Vicarious, really?? I knew a bit about your marriage issues, but this??
Now I’m wondering, has this bossy/controlling/dictatorial behavior changed since she’s behaving “syrupy-sweet” lately? Or is she alternatively one or the other?
Have you considered trying online video counseling? Many therapists are doing this now, I just started 2 weeks ago and I really like it.
Vicarious Limerent says
My wife is far less “bossy” lately, although she did blow up at me yesterday about a household project. My wife definitely seems to be on her best behaviour lately, which is making my decision much harder. I have researched narcissism and borderline personality disorder in the past, and I think she definitely is showing signs of one or both of these. I often wonder if she is gaslighting me by making me think I am the bad one. Obviously, she can’t be too outrageous in her behaviour, and she has to be nice more than half of the time in order to do that — otherwise I wouldn’t have felt conflicted and I would have left years ago. I definitely highlighted some of the worst behaviour in my post above, although everything I mentioned is true. Things aren’t ALL bad — not by any stretch of the imagination — but they are definitely bad enough to upset me and make me question my marriage. I feel guilty for possibly falling out of love with my wife, but I wonder just how much of that is because of her controlling and manipulative behaviour? I feel so awful that it might be because I am simply bored and lack fun, excitement and variety, but I suspect our underlying issues are causing me to look elsewhere. I thought about online/videoconferencing for counselling, and it may be an option, but I want to wait to see how long this crisis lasts first. I would prefer to do it in person if at all possible.
Limerent Lucy says
It sounds like you are having a really tough time and I wish you the best as you navigate it.
I just wanted to chuck in my experience that it *is* possible to kindle back the spark and save the marriage, however you both have to do the work. In my case my spouse realised his part in the marriage breaking down and acknowledged that I was looking for something with LO because there was something broken with us. Then he made real changes, and so did I.
If he hadn’t have done that it wouldn’t have worked out.
Vicarious Limerent says
Thanks Limerent Lucy. That means a lot to me.
On Spotify, I bumped into Dolly Parton singing “Here You Come Again”, but it wasn’t the usual version that you hear. It was slower paced and with a bit of an anguished tone to it. This rendition sounded more like a ballad about limerence than love.
Dr.L – What is the photo of at the top of your blog and what does it represent in relation to this weeks blog please?
It’s a statue of Pallas Athene in Vienna. Goddess of wisdom (and prudent warfare).
Kind of an admiring nod to Evie and an allusion to the idea that the wise course leads to victory, ultimately.
Blimey…a very interesting debate.
Go Evie! Your story us certainly a good lesson for us limerents and will feature in my anti-ruminations.
VL – your wife being reluctant to go for therapy says it all to me…she knows she is going to be called out on her bad behaviour. You MUST get therapy with or without her. Wishing you the strength and wisdom to resolve this.
To add my own spin on this debate….both my husband and I would honestly say we are happily married despite only very rarely having sex. We just don’t desire each other any more as happens in many long term relationships. But we love each other enormously, we have fun, enjoy being together and have a strong, supportive, life affirming partnership. There are many different forms of love and many different flavours of marriage. We are all so brain washed by our cultural “rules” that we believe no sex = marraige over. This is utterly not true for me at least (though I do wish I could get that satisfaction elsewhere!). Also contrary to our social rules, I believe you can fully love more than one person without devaluing or neglecting either. So long as I treat my SO and family well and stay honest, I don’t see why I should feel guilty for having strong loving feelings for someone else as well. This is perfectly normal and part of the human experience. (obviously when this becomes obsessive it becomes a problem to resolve, as we all know so well!)
“We are all so brain washed by our cultural “rules” that we believe no sex = marriage over.”
I couldn’t agree more! We’ve nearly all of us been brain-washed to hold our marriages up to this unrealistic standard of endless romantic love. But it sounds like both you and your husband view things a little differently. I’m wondering: have you considered pursuing your limerent desires?
Yes my husband and I both agree on that.
I consider pursuing my limerent desires daily in every possible format…..morning, noon and night 🙂
I have raised the idea of an open relationship with my SO a few times over the years but while he was not completely closed to it, he is not interested for himself – but now that I am so very infatuated, he is definitively opposed to the idea. Can’t blame him for that. My LO is not available anyway, and, assuming he still reciprocates, I doubt he would ever act on his feelings for me – he is an annoyingly virtuous LO! I don’t think I could have an ongoing PE anyway as honesty is too important to me. I sometimes consider the idea of a secret brief fling with someone I find attractive but am much less emotionally attached to, but I think that would probably lead to stronger feelings and everyone would get hurt. So if i must choose between my marriage vs romantic adventure with great, novel sex….I choose my marriage as I believe that is where my happiness lies in the long run.
Allie- “”To add my own spin on this debate….both my husband and I would honestly say we are happily married despite only very rarely having sex”” same here, you articulated exactly what I am feeling and going through. Verbatim!
“”My LO is not available anyway, and, assuming he still reciprocates, I doubt he would ever act on his feelings for me – he is an annoyingly virtuous LO! “” again, same! Like you if I have to choose between sex and my marriage I choose my marriage. I would love a quick fling but I am not emotionally capable of doing it without escaping unscathed. Besides I need an emotional connection or at least like the man if I were to sleep with him, ergo-I’ll get attached which is not a good thing.
Sometimes I wonder if I am only interested in the “hunt and chase” for my LO but if I were to capture him the novelty would wear off. Guess we’ll never find out.
I must also add Landry, that if my SO came to me saying he had strong reciprocated feelings for another woman, I would invite her round for dinner and discuss it like mature open-minded adults. For me, the greatest gift I could give my SO would be another romantic adventure without the fear of losing our life together. I would put my trust in him and in the strength of our bond. A risky approach maybe, but sometimes a bit of risk pays off and makes life richer and more colourful. I think it would also make me appreciate him that much more…and maybe a bit of jealousy would re-ignite the spark.
Well, this is how polyamory is supposed to work. I think all partners have to be extraordinarily secure–with themselves and in their primary relationship–to make it work. I wish I were, but I’m not. The intellectual exercise has given me a goal to strive for, though!
Vicarious Limerent says
Thanks Allie. I had obtained some therapy through my work EAP, but I don’t think it helped all that much. All I got really was some validation for my feelings, and I believe my counsellor was nudging me in the direction of couple’s counselling. I have thought about just how important sex is. The problem is both of us really want it, and if I am honest, I would love it with my LO (I know that is very presumptuous of me since she hasn’t given me any real validation, but it is what it is) or someone else. I can see maybe not worrying about it in 15 or 20 years, but I personally feel like my wife and I are too young to settle into a sexless marriage just yet. Still, I get your point that sex isn’t everything and many couples are able to have a happy, healthy relationship without it. We are definitely too focused on sex as a society.
The thing that makes a relationship different to a friendship is emotional intimacy and… well, quite often, sex. I believe non-sexual companionship relationships can work perfectly well too. But not for all, and i would argue probably not even for a majority of 20-50 year olds (who aren’t asexual)? Plus we are living in an age where forced marriages are less of a thing, and where women are more financially independent, changing the nuclear dynamic quite a bit. Its new territory for everyone. The thoughts and desires were always there (the 1950s housewife/ male stickbroker unhappy in her/his marriage, but stuck, so stays), and now people are just beginning to think about relationships differently. Many people go on to have successful next relationships, as always, the key being to do things with integrity (not cheating!). It’s accepting that a relationship may be 80% wonderful but choosing to still turn your back on it if the 20% bothers you enough (and doesn’t your partner deserve 100%?!). Is it greedy to want more? Or is it the incurable human condition? We are not divine beings unfortunately.
I came of age during the Sexual Revolution and First Wave of Feminism in the 70s-80s. Some of the First Wave Feminists were insufferable but benefits more than made up for it. The older you were, the more disorienting it was. But, for a late teenager or early adult who wasn’t raised by Puritan zealots, it was great!
Women wanted to be independent and pay their own way? We were happy to let them. The more militant feminists insisted on paying our way. Even better! Everybody was still learning in the 70s but by the early 80s, people had it down pretty well. Chivalry wasn’t exactly dead but it definitely went out of vogue.
But, the best thing was sex without commitment! Women took responsibility for birth control! STDs were at an all time low with the exception of herpes. AIDS wasn’t on anybody’s radar. “Condom? I don’t use no stinking condom!” Now, when a woman told me she was on the pill, I didn’t go through her purse or medicine cabinet when she wasn’t looking. I believed her. And, since no woman has ever accused me of fathering a child, if they had been lying to me, I got away with it.
A woman said she wasn’t looking for commitment, ok by us. Women in committed relations were the objects of scorn by their more “enlightened” sisters. A married woman with small kids in 1982…”Sister, what were you thinking?!”
And, it worked right up to the time a woman filed for child support because the guy who took her at her word didn’t want to raise a kid with her.
@sharnhorst, haha, tangential is the word, not sure what could have invited your particular comment in response to mine, but ok. I can see you don’t like double standards though…me neither, and as a minority human, I have no choice but to live with them and lump it. Its life, and life is not always fair, I try not to dwell at least 6/7 days a week ha!
It was, ” Plus we are living in an age where forced marriages are less of a thing, and where women are more financially independent, changing the nuclear dynamic quite a bit. Its new territory for everyone. The thoughts and desires were always there (the 1950s housewife/ male stickbroker unhappy in her/his marriage, but stuck, so stays), and now people are just beginning to think about relationships differently,”
It’s not so new, it’s just becoming more well-refined. There’s been a few decades to work on things.
My father was the Post-WWII, GI Bill, Playboy reading, 3 Martini lunch generation of the 50s. I don’t know that my mother ever finished high school. She worked as a part time commercial artist and wig model. [my father never knew what woman would be waiting when he got home] She never learned to drive a car. I think she’d have been much happier if she’d been born in the 60s or later and had more opportunities open to her.
With the exception of maternity leave, my wife has always worked. We talked about her staying home until the kids were in school. Our thought was if anybody was going to screw up our kids, it would be us, not some day-care provider. But, my wife liked her job and she gets paid pretty well so it was a no-brainer for her to go back to work.
Really slow day teleworking…
Vicarious Limerent says
Totally agree with everything you wrote, Winst!
While I was isolating this weekend I saw “The Neighbor ” on Starz. Married middle-aged man in LE for a younger woman in an abusive relationship. Some reciprocation. Rescuer for the wrong reasons. His friend didn’t help. Not good for him or his SO. Throughout the film I was saying, Don’t do it! All the while thinking…did I do some of that? But, (spoiler alert!)
this one didn’t end well.