Prolonged limerence is painful.
Today’s case study is from Lara, who is well versed with the principles of recovery we espouse here at LwL, but is nonetheless struggling with this part of the process.
…in any of your blogs do you cover the sheer pain of limerence, which I seem to experience physically and mentally, as if a wound has been opened and not healed? What is the neuroscience behind the pain?
It’s a good question, and the answer is no. I haven’t really covered this before, and it is a significant oversight.
Time to put that right!
What is pain?
This might seem like an silly question to start with, but actually, from a neuroscience perspective, the answer is not as obvious as it first appears.
Pain has both physical and psychological components. Normally, when we think about pain we assume some sort of injury or disease has damaged the body, which triggers a reflex “ouch” response – say touching a hot stove (to give the rather old fashioned example that all the textbooks seem to use).
That sensory process is described as “nociception”, and covers the neural circuits that connect the neurons in the skin to the spinal cord and brain centres that detect the stimulus and trigger a motor response (contracting the muscles in your arm to snatch your hand away from the hot stove).
Pain, though, is a broader phenomenon, and encompasses not just nociception, but also the emotional distress and subjective psychological impact that follows. These aspects of pain are inter-related, of course – pain thresholds vary with mood, and chronic pain is a leading cause of depression – but it is reasonable to separate the basic wiring that relays the sensory input from the brain centres that process and interpret the pain.
The neuroscience of psychological pain
If you scan the brains of people experiencing physical pain or emotional pain, many of the same regions light up. We can list them – anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula, periaqueductal grey, amygdala – which is nice and all, but just reveals a common feature of neuroscience: the same circuits are exploited for fundamental drives regardless of the ultimate cause. These brain regions drive aversive reactions that allow us to learn what to avoid. They make you feel bad. But, it’s the executive centres in the cortex that make sense of the pain.
When it comes to limerence, there is no direct injury. Emotional pain is generated from thoughts, not nails or hot stoves or arthritic joints. The subjective experience of emotional pain arises when peace of mind is destroyed by a sudden reversal in fortune or unexpected disaster. When hopes are dashed.
A neuroscientist might describe psychological pain as an aversive emotional reaction to a reward extinction event. A normal human might describe it as the agony of loss – which is the main point. Loss is painful, always, and the magnitude of the pain is proportional to the importance of what has been lost.
The pain of limerence
When it comes to limerence the sense of loss is proportional to the scale of the hopes – that is, it’s wildly disproportionate.
There are few rewards in life more powerful than romantic consummation. Pair-bonding is such a fundamental drive, the evolutionary pressure to secure it so powerful, that it is about as highly anticipated as a reward gets. The euphoria of limerence comes from the promise of blissful union.
Even worse, in many cases limerence is heightened by the presence of barriers or uncertainty – meaning the reward is not eliminated entirely, it is just inaccessible.
This is a perfect storm for emotional pain. It’s entirely psychological in origin, and the executive brain can’t contextualise the loss away. It’s reinforcing, as every positive memory of LO causes a spike of hope, followed by renewed loss. It’s uncertain, so you can’t be sure all hope is truly lost, but it does feel like it’s slipping away – which provokes a panicked attempt to recover it.
Trapped in this mental loop, the body transitions into a state of constant stress. Pain activates what’s known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, where hormone release from the pituitary causes the adrenal glands to release cortisol, the stress hormone. This is what leads to many of the physical symptoms of heartache.
And that leads to another bitter irony…
It’s not just hope that is lost when limerence overstays its welcome. When limerence becomes a source of anxiety rather than euphoria, you start to miss the highs. Like any other addiction, once you become habituated to the thrill of limerent excitement, you lose a source of joy.
The brain and body respond to this slump by… seeking reward. When things were good, limerent daydreaming was a brilliant device for mood repair, but now it gives fleeting relief at best. With ever-diminishing returns, the motivational circuits push you to try even harder to secure relief, but in trying to stave off the pain you end up following behavioural patterns that make it worse.
Stewing in circular thoughts and stress hormones, you still feel the agony of loss, but limerent reverie only reinforces it. Your old avenue of escape has closed off. Which becomes another painful loss.
Coping with emotional pain
Limerent pain feels inescapable, because you end up trapped in mental cycles that entrench it. However, that realisation is helpful for making sense of the problem, because it also presents an obvious solution: break the cycle.
What’s needed is a shift in mindset to reframe loss as life experience, pain as transformation, and reward as freedom from limerence.
Here are a few strategies that can help:
- Accept pain as a normal part of life
If you are living a full life, in an open, loving and exploratory way, you will not be able to escape emotional pain. It is simply the cost of being alive and bonding with other people. Accept that suffering is a companion that you will sometimes have to accommodate, and try to bear it stoically.
- Try to identify the root of the pain
I’ve talked in quite general terms here, but the specific details of everyone’s pain will be personal. Loss will be a component, but is it the loss of a fantasy relationship, the pain of rejection, the regret or guilt for jeopardising an existing relationship, memories of humiliation, anger at mistreatment, frustration at feeling trapped? If you can identify what your personal sore spot is, you’ll know what to work on most diligently.
- Forgive yourself mistakes
You may regret bonding to LO, you may regret your choices, you may think that your disenfranchised grief is not justified. That’s fine. Even if your pain isn’t “valid” it will still hurt. Good people make mistakes, and the only route to forgiveness is to accept that you cannot alter the past but can do better in the future. Care for yourself, even if you don’t feel you deserve it.
- Stop using memories for mood regulation
When you feel pain, and intrusive thoughts of happier times with LO invade, do what you can to cut the memory short. Remind yourself that this pattern of behaviour is prolonging your pain. In general, rumination about LO, the unfairness of the situation – the past, generally, in fact – have limited utility once you have realised that you want to be free of limerence. When you have reached that point, you need to work on believing that the future can be better.
- Take pride in victories
One source of encouragement is that coming to the realisation that it’s time to take action and escape is a massive first step. A decisive first step. Take pride in it. Take pride in every day when you focus on something other than LO and limerence and make forward progress. Mark those victories, and allow yourself to believe that they will come more often in the future.
- Use purpose as a hook for optimism
You knew it was coming! The ultimate solution to the pain of limerence is better, healthier sources of reward that can help you improve your life. Finding a purposeful pursuit has multiple benefits. It’s fulfilling, it’s constructive, and it gives you something to immerse yourself into that is a worthwhile distraction from rumination. Best of all, making life more purposeful is the best route to lasting happiness, which makes the disruptive thrills of limerence less alluring.
Limerence hurts, because life hurts. It’s just an especially powerful kind of hurt, just as limerence is an especially powerful kind of reward.
But there are ways through it.
Limerent Emeritus says
Song of the Blog: “Love Hurts” – Nazareth (1975)
Pretty much the description of what we feel when we confuse limerence with love.
Reminds of this recent song I discovered.
Only Love Can Hurt Like This — Paloma Faith
Adam, did you paint your wife’s nails? Was it fun? Did she love it? What color? Tell me, tell me, tell me. I want to hear about it.
Limerent Emeritus says
It’s a great song but not one that I can relate to. My twice-divorced father trained me to be ruthlessly self-reliant. He told me that there was nobody that I couldn’t live without. Nobody. He said that there might be people you’d miss terribly if they were no longer part of your life but you’d live without them.
He told me that if a woman takes off on you, or threatens to, you:
1. You show her the door.
2. You don’t ask her to stay.
3. You don’t tell her she can come back.
4. If she comes back, there’s nothing that says that you have to take her back.
5. If she had a key, you change the locks.
With LO #2, I was great on the first three but failed #4. #5 was NA.
He never said that it wouldn’t hurt.
Clip of the Day: “The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies”
That’s quite the opposite of what I get told. I get told I give too easily, fall too fast and ask too little.
And of all things in life I’ve met this one is more than I am. I don’t know if I can do this L.E.
I have found that dealing with my LE has been an extensive exercise in pain management. And it has really been quite a trial and error process. I cannot go full NC with my LO so I had to learn how to manage coexisting with her in an office environment and how to best deal with the emotional turmoil of it all. Over the last 11 months here is what I have found…
Stable but slightly down emotions are better than the euphoric highs and depressive lows. I am able to function better in a more stable state even if I feel pretty blah most of the time.
Stable routine and predictable interactions with LO keeps my emotions in check. I know what to expect each day.
Each day I can sort of determine when my low points are going to hit. They tend to be under the same circumstances. I can be more prepared for them.
For me, the act of texting with LO was torture on my emotions. It’s too unpredictable for me. I stay away from it now.
I have let myself cry when I needed to. Always feel better after.
If I feel a deep need for connection with LO I allow myself light interaction with her. That usually helps regulate my mood. Trying to be cold shoulder with her never works for me.
These are just some of the things I have found that work for me and I function fairly well most of the time. I have not had a breakdown in a while now. I am still focused on purposeful living and my SO but I need to also acknowledge that the pain is real and keep managing it.
What a great idea, Speedwagon. Maybe we should all add what works for us.
1. Never disclose attraction when you or the other person is in a committed relationship. (Ironically, Speedy and I respectfully disagree on this one.)
2. Do the right thing no matter how you feel. If it’s time to take your dog for a walk, but you feel stuck in rumination, take your dog for a walk anyway.
3. Avoid day dreaming about LO. LO daydreams will be nice until you’ve programmed yourself and your brain starts doing it automatically. Your brain will put LO in your thoughts even when you don’t want LO in your thoughts. The intrusive thoughts phase is very unpleasant.
4. LOs are people with their own values and agendas. They can “go off script” any time and it can cause you a lot of problems when they do. Be ready. I was already very much against disclosure to LO, but I wasn’t expecting my LO to disclose to me when he did. I kind of wish I had lied and said that I wasn’t attracted to him.
5. Know your standards. Set your own boundaries. Be ready to hold true to who you want to be.
6. Find something that stimulates the same chemicals in your brain. I love runners’ high. Find what you love.
Good luck, everyone!
I don’t feel I disagree with you on disclosure, just that in my circumstance it was almost impossible for it not to happen. But I think your view on it is the better view with maybe very narrow exceptions.
I had a couple of serious cries a in the past couple of weeks and I would feel a bit better about it all . Sunday nights are so melancholy for me.
Could you let me down?
I don’t feel it now,
I’m letting my head collapse on itself.
Could you need me now?
I can’t see how,
I think I’m forgetting how to breathe out.
I’m sorry you are struggling, Rufio. Can you tell me something good? Maybe three things that went well today. I’ll go first.
We attended a special meeting for 8-year-old kids and their parents today. A woman introduced the meeting by saying we were gathered because we would learn some new things together. My soon-to-be-eight-year-old daughter raised her hand. The woman called on her. She asked, “Will we be doing math?” All the adults laughed and looked at me and my SO. Kids can be so embarrassingly funny.
My 14-year-old wants to earn money for Valentine’s Day. She rubbed my feet for 3 hours while we watched TV together.
My husband made dinner tonight and I didn’t have to.
Now tell me three things that went well today.
I had a really good weekend actually. I was just replying to speed confirming that I too had cried in the last few weeks. A good breakdown can help things out from time to time.
To me the LE itself was not so bad – it was the mixed signals and the inconsistent reciprocation, and then the horrible “break-up”, that caused the real pain. A PA that ended badly would always have caused pain, of course, but that is not due to the LE per se – more the heartache, which DrL has addressed in the excellent blog post linked above.
These are great tips, Speedwagon. I am trying, with varying degrees of success, to be very LC (we have to see each other for work about once a month, and at other events sometimes). Unfortunately I can’t keep interactions routine and predictable – LO called me the other week about a work thing (when an email would have worked) and was super chatty, friendly, and even asked if we could have a drink together after an upcoming event we were both going to attend. Like an idiot, I said ok; I was hoping that would be when I could finally let him have it about how he has treated me- we’re going on 8 months since he ended our affair in an abrupt, cruel manner and we STILL haven’t addressed it, mainly because we’ve never been alone since. Of course he never turned up to the event, never wrote to say he wouldn’t be coming, never apologised for “standing me up”. I didn’t contact him either, just left the event at the end. I am proud of myself for doing that – a successful moment of choice!
All this is to say that I agree with Lovisa’s point (your tips were very useful, too, Lovisa!) that LOs are unpredictable. Mine is an absolute bloody nightmare – Skinner himself couldn’t have designed a more intermittent schedule of breadcrumbs (in our phone conversation he even started one remark with “Look, I do miss you, [TP], and there are 100 different topics I could have called you about…”.) and he sends me articles of interest and flirts now and then But there have been at least two occasions over the last few months where he has suggested we meet and never come through. And never said a word about it afterwards.
I’ve actually been doing better over the last month or so, though, and what has helped me is keeping a list on my phone of all of his faults – some are petty/superficial, some are significant ways he has treated me poorly or exhibited turn-off behaviour — and looking at it multiple times a day. Ditto with turning fantasies/daydreams into nightmares.
I would add another tip – like others here, I have found using Daylio (or similar app/calendar) is a great way of seeing a “reward” for NC when you mark off a day. On the days I don’t look at his photos, re-read old emails/chat histories, etc I get a tick. So far my longest stretch is 8 days but I am aiming for more.
I read “Why limerence feels so good”, as highlighted by Kiva’s comment, yesterday and today I have read and reread the above latest blog. I can’t always remember every detail of the fascinating science but it has felt so helpful, rather like a safety net, to try to understand what has happened.
I am really struggling. I had to go NC because of the complete impracticalities and dangers of the three year all-consuming LE. It dawned on me rather late in the day that we could not just be friends. My LO is much younger than me and he now has a baby as well as a SO. There was limerence on both sides (understandably erratic on his part) but, after a Christmas message exchange, he is “ghosting” me. Illogically, this has hurt so much and I find myself checking the WhatsApp messages several times a day in case the grey ticks may have gone blue.
Whilst I have deleted the video clips and have hidden his photos and a letter, I cannot yet bring myself to delete the WhatsApp details and the affectionate (never sexual) exchanges. I think I must plan to do that eventually.
I have pieced together a lot from hours spent studying this site – reasons etc., and, because of the ghosting (it may have partly been a sort of “cancer ghosting”), I reckon I can do this now and, I sometimes feel that the shackles are loosening. Every morning I wake up with the sickening thud of the LE, however, and I am flooded with intrusive thoughts for much of the day.
The purposeful living issue is clearly the way forward. Having been unwell with this and that, plus having just had a dose of covid, I think this will be a challenge. I guess you can do purposeful living gently though!
Disenfranchised grief…. That’s another interesting twist too.
I guess I wrote this comment to express thanks for the blogs, to wish everyone success in their diverse struggles and for a sort of catharsis.
All best wishes
Harried and not-so-hopeless says
In my 40+ years of life experience, limerent pain is the worst pain I have experienced, of any kind. And I have been through a ‘few’ things in my life. I metaphorically keep a little ‘vial’ of this emotional pain with me at all times as a place to return to, if needed, if I am ever tempted by limerent energy or my most significant past LO. Allow this pain to continue motivating you and to resist temptation, and never allow this very painful life lesson go to waste. After all, you paid a very significant price for it.
Very wise words, Harried.
I have these thoughts as well. The agony of limerence has been worse than the pain of losing beloved friends and family members in death. It horrifies me to even acknowledge this, but it is so. The physical pain at times made me wonder if I was having a heart attack and if there is now damage to the heart muscle.
I felt the glimmer recently for a celebrity who, to my surprise, reached out to me with a social media friend request which I didn’t accept nor delete. He’s someone I’ve always found attractive and I stated reading interviews with him, reading all about his accomplishments and interests and watching videos of him. It was exciting and I absurdly started to feel I had a connection to him. Fortunately a wise friend begged me to delete the friend request reminding me of limerence potential!! I found the strength to do so but that night I had many intense dreams involving the celebrity. I felt that Limerence had already begin to kick in. I am so glad I made a decisive move to “nip things in the bud” before limerence had truly taken root. It took a few days but I feel safe now and back to my senses.
I don’t know if I could survive another bout of full blown limerence and forcing myself to face the price one pays for indulging in it is a worthy exercise.
My goal is to remain limerence free for the rest of my life and each day that passes with shields up is a victory.
“I felt the glimmer recently for a celebrity who, to my surprise, reached out to me with a social media friend request which I didn’t accept nor delete. … It took a few days but I feel safe now and back to my senses….I don’t know if I could survive another bout of full blown limerence and forcing myself to face the price one pays for indulging in it is a worthy exercise. …My goal is to remain limerence free for the rest of my life and each day that passes with shields up is a victory.”
A similar thing happened to me. Like you, I have been limerence free for a while. But then I went to a meetup group and this guy started talking to me … and I could feel it. That churning, burning, is-this-guy-flirting-with-me feeling. Oh, did I mention his wife was in the group, too? I did go back to the group. Just once more. This time it was obvious he was flirting with me. I later posted a comment to the group site thinking he’d respond. He didn’t. And I checked the group’s site for new events for a couple of weeks, seeing if maybe he signed up but she hadn’t. But they apparently go as a team. 🙂 But I haven’t been back to an event. I’m totally over it. Don’t want to see him. And I’m glad this time I recognized the glimmer and started to question it. Do I really want to do this to myself again with an unavailable guy? And I like your word: indulging. I indulged a bit and then I stopped myself. And I’m glad I did. It is possible to put the kibosh on these feelings.
We have come so far, haven’t we? The old me would have run headlong into another addictive, destructive, soul
crushing dalliance with faux love and yet we did it! We backed away victoriously! We have applied all the LwL trainings and we will continue to! Brava on us and Bravo to Dr. L. 🙂
“Bravo to Dr. L.”
Yes, this site has been instrumental. I also highly recommend the Crappy Childhood Fairy. She had a youtube video I was watching the other day about how limerence is a parasite. It robs you of your life and your time.
I do still worry about limerence, though. This guy was someone I could easily walk away from and never have to see again. Not like a co-worker.
But what was interesting was … he wasn’t as appealing to me the second time I saw him. It was a live music/dancing event. And I got up pretty close to him … and he had a bit of stinky-stank! I thought: Dude needs a shower! Whereas the old me might not have even noticed. 🙂 It makes me a bit sad, though. The death of romantic idealization. Maybe I’ve become one of those “realist” types I used to decry. 🙂
Limerent Emeritus says
“Maybe I’ve become one of those “realist” types I used to decry. 🙂”
Welcome to the club!
The Double Secret initiations occur every February 30! DrL presides.
As part of your Welcome Aboard Package, you’ll receive one of these
https://www.harborfreight.com/2-12-lb-neon-orange-dead-blow-hammer-69003.html so you can hit yourself upside the head when you know better but feel like doing something really stupid anyway
and a framed print of https://external-preview.redd.it/y9zqIBchUez-EIzXZPhxmRWoDixoGjx0LjW8Xq8NTQY.jpg?auto=webp&v=enabled&s=1d888eea5e814d4e4ab6fe0cd5fefc3a927b38c4
Glad you could join us! 🙂
“Welcome to the club!”
I don’t want to be part of it. 🙂 I don’t particularly like logical types. I’m going to “pull a Limerent Emeritus” and paste song lyrics here. 🙂
When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful
A miracle, oh, it was beautiful, magical
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily
Oh, joyfully, oh, playfully watching me
But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible
Logical, oh, responsible, practical
Then they showed me a world where I could be so dependable
Oh, clinical, oh, intellectual, cynical
The wonderful, the fantastic Supertramp. “The Logical Song.”
Living without limerence … a lot healthier, a lot more present in my own life, not living in fantasy land … but feeling a heck of a lot less.
The sad reality is that purposeful living will never give us those self destructive highs!
But I’m finally at the point where I’m ok with that. The pain outweighed the pleasure.
This is exactly how my limerence episode with a celebrity started over 3 years ago! I accepted his request (in response to mine) and Celebrity he may be but he still engages with me in an on/off basis regularly – sending my into a huge limerent spin. This man has taken over my world and I cringe that Iv been hanging on to our private interactions (which I usually initiate but could definitely be construed as flirty from his end)! It’s given such intense highs and equally the crippling lows. No doubt he’s got a few other women in such a spin- almost like abuse of his position and power to create star struck-ness. I see the logic I know I need to break away from him but as is the way with limerence I just can’t. I can’t. Iv even tried the de-programming course and everything which eased it but didn’t break it (maybe I just didn’t want to-agghhhh!) but I will say this this blog has been an incredible- and the only- life line out there in the relief it brings in helping me to understand my feelings and seeing that I’m not only in this beautiful & horrific nightmare. You did right to not act on that glimmer seriously well done! x
#3 Wow. How can I forgive myself? She didnt ask me to be stupid for her. Im the idiot at fault. She didnt ask for this. She probably doesnt wonder wtf after 8 months now while she can still bring me to my knees.
“How can you help it when the music starts to play
And your ability to reason is swept away
Oh-oh-oh, heaven on earth is all you see”
Yes I did Miss Lovisa. Fingers and toes while I watched some episode of General Hospital with her. Soaps are her thing since before we met. And it was Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear Gunmetal, one of my favorite colors of what we have. It was very nice to touch her and her be happy. Maybe I can do this.
Yay Adam! You made two women happy! I love that you did that for her.
I’m glad I could Miss Lovisa. It was nice to get to do after so long. And I am glad that it made you happy too.
Free Fall says
Earned my 1 week NC token today, yay.
The pain is there but it hurts less today than yesterday. It’s both the pain of feeling loss, but also the lack of feeling that good. The high that comes from his WhatApp notification ding. I must stay strong, NC, and not entertain the what ifs running around in my brain.
I don’t think I have any choice but to back off and give my LO space. It is another start to the week of cold behavior. We have some decent convos but only if I initiate them. She isn’t the type that would tell me she doesn’t want to talk either. It just kills me thinking I screwed this up somehow and it could be over any week. I know she has a lot going on but to go from what we had to this and not really knowing why is incredibly painful
Sorry to hear that, that sounds rough! How much longer does she have at your place of work? It’s soon correct? You might just want to focus on that date as a source of encouragement, as odd as that may sound. You are being given the gift of NC and it sounds like you are ready for it. In the meantime, I suppose just act friendly and available as you would normally, you never know when she may truly need you as a friend. I have to believe all that is going on is rough on her and maybe she is actively creating distance in preparation of her departure. I don’t get the sense you did anything wrong. Hang in there…hoping it end for you on a good note.
As for me, I don’t know what to think these days. My disclosure fallout seems to have faded and my LO seems cheery these days. That’s good. I have spent a lot of energy putting on a good false front for her so she does not field weird or distressed by anything. I think she is doing well now. Our interactions in the office are nice and warm. I can make her smile and laugh a lot these last 2 weeks. But for me, I’m pretty much in a level of dull pain each day knowing she does not desire anything more from me than a few nice moments throughout her work day, if she even desires that? Today she came in and went straight to her desk to work without saying Hi to me at my office, that killed me a little inside. I’m just hoping that with a few weeks or months of stable routine I can fall into some level of being that doesn’t feel crappy.
I do envy your gift of NC. Oh, and it looks like I get to meet her SO in 2 weeks at a office function we are going to have. Yay for me!
One fun thing though…I teach a community college class in the evenings and there is a woman in the class, maybe late 20s, who has captured my attention with her looks and who makes good eye contact and smiles a lot when I teach. It was a bit intoxicating. I found myself thinking about her more than a few times last night and this morning. Maybe I can work on some transference, she would make a much better LO.
Limerent Emeritus says
“Maybe I can work on some transference, she would make a much better LO.”
Transfer your limerence from your employee to your student?
Why don’t you just get a job clearing minefields in Ukraine instead? It probably pays better and has way better optics.
Repeat after me:
“LO is a title, not a position.”
I was being a bit sarcastic. I have no intention of transferring limerence, and I doubt it would happen anyway. But the benefit of the student LO, she out of my life in 14 more weeks. Current LO might be in my life for next 20 years.
“LO is a title, not a position.”
L.E. that is really good mantra to remember. Cause I would not wish limerence on my worst enemy. This is an agony no one asks for and no one should have to endure. It takes your life apart one Lego at a time until you are in pieces laying on the floor and being nothing but a nuisance to everyone around you.
“Minefields in Ukraine…”. Hilarious!
Oh, how I love a good experiment…
I vote for transference, Speedy. But do me a favor and keep it in your brain this time. No disclosure! No seducing the new LO. Just keep the LE to yourself.
I’m serious, don’t seduce your student!
Tell us your intended boundaries in advance so we can hold you accountable.
It would be interesting if I could. This girl has captured my attention, but for limerence to happen, I would need her to show personal interest in me as well. She would need to text me or email me or do something that shows relational pursuit. I never have that kind of occurrences with my students and I have no circumstance to get to know her personally. But maybe I’ll try catching her eye a bit more next class and hold eye contact just a little too long.
I understand that need for an LO to show some type of interest before limerence kicks in. Hmmmmm, this is a tricky situation. If you make efforts to trigger interest in her, you may be seducing her. Can she just be a source of fantasy without showing any interest in you?
I’m sensitive to her experience because my LO1 was my teacher at the community college and he intentionally seduced me. It’s not a good idea.
Yes, I have no intention of trying to seduce anyone for many reasons. I’m not sure I even could, I have pretty low ‘game’ when it comes to women I don’t know. If I ever had to try to meet a women at a bar I am fairly sure I would fail miserably.
Yes, this woman could be just a fun crush, I have a few of those, but they don’t replace the limerence I have for LO. I have had many fun crushes over the last 25 years since LO#2 and then LO#3 happened and threw my life into turmoil. At this point I prefer to ruminate over the fun crushes rather than LO so maybe I lean into this one a bit.
Atta boy, Speedy. Lean into it. I like your attitude.
I’ll tell you some of the stuff that LO1 did to me back in the day.
He had a couple of tricks to get me alone. I am a bit of a straight A student. I really get into the lessons, I love learning and I tend to do well. He would mark stuff wrong on my tests so I would stay after class to discuss it. Sometimes he would make little mistakes in his lectures so I would stay after class to get clarification. Then he had ways to keep me longer. He is just a likable person with great conversation skills. Also, he used some of the questions from “36 Questions to Make Anyone Fall in Love With You.” It hadn’t been published at the time, so I guess he got them from someplace else. But some of them are oddly specific and they stuck in my memory. So when I read the article, years later, I was surprised and quite angry.
Don’t do these things! I’m just telling you the crazy things a person might do to win someone over.
I felt confused. I could feel myself getting drawn to him and I couldn’t figure out why it was happening. One day he was playing with a dry-erase marker and it tapped repeatedly against his wedding ring. The sound grated on me. I didn’t like my attention being drawn to the fact that he was married. That moment is when I realized that I had fallen for him. I was married, too. I was very naive and full of shame when I realized I was attracted to someone besides my husband.
Anyway, don’t do that stuff to your student. Just keep it in your head.
I am into almost 3 months of NC with LO
As I know that this was the best thing to do, I was incredibly hard!
I felt pretty good after about 6 weeks but it all came crashing back again during week 7.
I’m doing ok now but I feel FLAT, like I have no emotions whatsoever! I hope this will pass, but on the bright side, I am more involved in life stuff now. I also have a glimmer that maybe this whole darn thing will eventually help me grow into a whole new person.
Has anyone else go through this ugly “flat” stage?
Yes, I fully understand. I am smack dab in the middle of a flat stage. But, I find I function better with flat but stable emotions over euphoric highs and depressive lows. Being flat feels like the next place to be in the progression of healing, I just don’t know how long it will last. I’m guessing as long as my LE lasts.
Yes, I do agree that “flat” is better than high/low.
I do feel like a zombie though.
At least I can function through everyday tasks again, for I while I couldn’t even do that.
Like I said to Adam, why? oh why? do we waste our precious time with this?
But having said that I do believe I can catch a peak every once in a while of the end of the tunnel.
I don’t know how some can have more than one LE? I would be mush! LOL
Anna, I think you might benefit from a short YouTube video about intrusive thoughts.
Just in case the link doesn’t work, it is called “How to Deal with Intrusive Thoughts” and it is by Mark Freeman.
Yes Miss Anna I have. It has been 8 months since LO left my life and have had NC. She made the decision herself, a former co-worker, to move on with a new job and her gentleman friend after a really bad divorce. I met her when she was single.
I have good days/weeks and bad days/weeks. Something reminded me of LO recently and so its not been a good week as far as the intrusive thoughts and memories of the times with her.
Flat is a good analogy. For people that like soda, no one likes it flat and that’s how I feel right now. I don’t have the energy for most things and am just going through the motions and putting on a front for people to not know that I am dying inside.
I hate that it can be the most mundane things that remind me of LO. In this case I was watching the original King Kong before I went bed Sunday night while having some drinks. And all of sudden BAM Fay Wray is in this. Fay is LO’s middle name. Memory of LO sharing that information as part of conversation. Something she didn’t ever have to tell me but did. Teased her I liked the name Fay maybe I should start calling you Fay. LO saying it was okay if I called her Fay. Me now missing LO again already. The cycle starts again …..
I know, Adam! My LO and I liked the same music, I don’t even listen to the radio anymore. Everyday something reminds me of him. sad…
This is my first encounter with Limerence so I’m off the rails so to speak.
Why do we waste our precious time with this? so unnerving!
Especially because there is no chance that LO and I could be together~zero~zilch.
AND, I believe he was a Narcissist to boot!
Yet, here I am, searching this site everyday hoping for answers why I feel the way I do.
It’s my first time too and if I can get past it I hope to God I never experience it again. I don’t like not being in control of my emotions. It is something I have worked tireless in my life to not let get out of control. And here LO comes around and with no intentional effort she completely captivates me and takes control. She could call at anytime and any hurt or pain I feel I would totally forgive her for just in the hopes to talk to her again. It is so tiring.
Yeah music is a tough one too. I never cared much for country music but LO did. I was just going through my youtube playlist to look for a specific song a few days ago and finally consciously noticed how many new songs added to my playlist were country. Ugh.
Limerent Emeritus says
These aren’t country and are very “old school” but you might appreciate them:
“You Don’t Know Me” – Jerry Vale (1961)
“Amore Scusami” – Jerry Vale (1967)
I thought French was good. Italian is better.
I was having some deep thoughts about my current experience with limerence and the feeling of being in constant dull pain over LO but reaping the benefits of life change that LE brings versus not having dull pain, but being a happy complacent in life. I can’t decide which is better?
Before LE my relationship with SO was a bit in cruise control with less libido and less general affection towards her. Since LE I have been more “into” SO and our relationship has never been closer. Also before LE I was far less in good health than I am now. Since LE I eat better, workout, and generally am more aware of healthy things emotionally and physically. These are all great things…yet I still live life right now with heavy intrusive thoughts of LO and a general sense of dull pain over her.
I am starting to think that even though the pain sucks big time, the side effects in my life have been positive and beneficial and the bit of pain is worth it over the generally happy complacent state I was in. I feel if I can endure long enough the pain of LE may fade but the benefits will stay.
I can concur on similar changes in my life. Having lost weight to be more healthy and having greatly reduced my smoking to almost nothing. Having changes in wardrobe and fashion have given more self confidence than before. My self and my self image has vastly improved.
But my relationship with my wife has been (but even before too) not good after LE and LO. Disclosure didn’t do what I was hoping it would do. I don’t get much understanding from my wife in regards to my limerence. She thinks I am just participating in a one sided EA and it a conscious choice to do so. We are just two people living in the same house.
So as an individual I do think that LE and LO made some improvements to my self. But my life in of itself is still a mess and I am still in limbo as to how to move forward with purpose. Because I don’t want to live this life of a marriage on auto pilot and intrusive thoughts of another woman in my head. And this feeling of selfishness in wanting to prioritize improving myself further.
But following your story, it seems as if your LE at minimum has given you the desire to fix your relationship with your wife and there have been better moments over the lastvfew months.
I have not disclosed to my SO for a few reasons, biggest being that she would be quite hurt by all this. She has a very conservative view of outside of marriage men/women relationships. I’m not willing to step into that arena with her seeing that I am not in an EA or PA and am taking steps to minimize my LE turmoil. Right now I am in a stable place and my relationship with SO is on good solid ground. I don’t want to disrupt that.
I hope over time you can get back on track with your wife as well.
Yes I would rather fix it, if possible, than for it to end. I do need to bring the subject back to the table at least one more time to get a feel for what is going on in her head. I understand if she is angry and hurt and doesn’t want to forgive me. She too is very conservative on the subject. But it’s unintentionally been a suspicion of hers for a while now so disclosure was my hopes to educate her on what I am going through as best I could for just having learned about it. Right now we are just in this limbo where I am trying to give her space on the subject but she seems determined to let it lie as it is. But that’s just going to make things worse for us.
And thank you. I hope so too.
If I were the SO to either of you, I would NOT be troubled by your LE. I would love the benefits! The reason I would not be troubled is that, although you both have moments of believing you would blow up your lives to be with LO, I don’t think either of you would actually do it. I think both of you are committed to marriage. Both of you were “tested” by a beautiful female and both of you passed the test. True that there wasn’t mutual limerence that we know of, but you still passed. Hopefully if another LO comes along, you will pass that test, too.
This may sound crazy, but since I learned the benefits of an LE, I kind of want to inflict my SO with it. I’m thinking about hiring a sexy personal trainer to work with him. Hmmmmm
Limerent Emertitus says
“This may sound crazy, but since I learned the benefits of an LE, I kind of want to inflict my SO with it. I’m thinking about hiring a sexy personal trainer to work with him. Hmmmmm”
Seriously? You’re an adult with agency. So is your SO. SO, is the sexy personal trainer.
As long as you’re willing to live with the consequences, go for it. There are risks you have to take and risks you choose to take. This would be in the latter category. If it goes south on you, it might be regrettable but it wouldn’t be tragic.
Could be a great Case Study for DrL. “I Induced and LE in my SO.”
Limerent Emeritus says
“So is the sexy personal trainer.”
Good point, Limerent Emeritus.
“When it comes to limerence, there is no direct injury. Emotional pain is generated from thoughts, not nails or hot stoves or arthritic joints. The subjective experience of emotional pain arises when peace of mind is destroyed by a sudden reversal in fortune or unexpected disaster. When hopes are dashed.”
Emotional pain is generated by thoughts alone, huh? Does no one else find that profound? I.e. I’m being hurt by my own thoughts? 😲
“Trapped in this mental loop, the body transitions into a state of constant stress. Pain activates what’s known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, where hormone release from the pituitary causes the adrenal glands to release cortisol, the stress hormone. This is what leads to many of the physical symptoms of heartache.”
A state of constant stress pretty much sums up limerence for me. A state of constant stress that’s very hard to escape. But a state of constant stress that can be weirdly pleasurable … if and only if one still believes there’s a pot of gold at the end of the (imaginary?) rainbow. And, obviously, if the body is subject to stress for too a period, one’s mental and physical health can begin to break down… 😢
I have a theory about the relationship between pain and limerence and this is my theory: pain, in the form of all-pervasive emotional discomfort/free-floating anxiety, motivates humans to seek out companionship in general and romantic companionship specifically.
Dorothy Tennov, for example, mentions in her book how Mother Nature seems to endow limerents with a “huge fund of energy”, and this fund of energy I guess is supposed to help the limerent pursue and win over their limerent object. It’s the reason so many limerents feel manic, and can’t relax, eat, sleep, etc. I am no stranger to this “huge fund of energy”. (It was worst when I was a teenager). I have also spent time with a fellow limerent who worked all day in a stressful job and then wanted to go for a run in the middle of the night!! (Where oh where did he get the energy? Um, now I know…) 😆
Let’s frame it another way. I believe limerence can make people feel intensely uncomfortable in their own skin, like they can’t sit still. Limerence makes people believe that there’s something out there in the external environment that they’re supposed to find in order to “soothe their pain”. What is this rare treasure that limerents are meant to find? Well, in evolutionary terms, I think this rare treasure is a mate (romantic and reproductive partner).
Like most limerents, I’m an introvert. When I’m not in an active state of limerence, I’m actually extremely shy and lazy and uncommunicative and self-contained and independent, and don’t make much effort to interact with people, because social interactions aren’t that rewarding to me. I don’t get energy from people. Solitary hobbies are rewarding to me. Reading a book/absorbing knowledge is rewarding to me. Limerence changed all that. Limerence reversed my introvert programming. All of a sudden, I was GETTING energy from people!! 😲
In a nutshell, limerence was this strange, almost biological “pain” I felt forced me to get up off my backside, go out into the world, and interact with people in a way I never had bothered to before, simply because the sudden involuntary emergence of my “mating instinct” made some people very, very rewarding to be around. I now see, however, that this sensation of “some people are super-rewarding” is actually an illusion. Right now, at the moment, I don’t find people particularly rewarding. My hormones played a little trick on me, in other words.
I have been thinking about the difference between gay men and straight men, and why it is so hard for gay men and straight men to be friends, despite good intentions on both sides. I have come to the realisation that I don’t just have an aesthetic response to male beauty; I also have a hormonal response to male beauty. (My hormones spike whenever I see a beautiful male, and I experience this spike in my hormones as pleasurable and I want to keep experiencing this pleasurable spike – again and again and again. The feelings involved are truly exquisite). 😉
Straight men, on the other hand, are perfectly capable of having an aesthetic response to male beauty. Straight men are not blind. Straight men, however, do NOT experience a hormonal response to male beauty. Straight men presumably experience an intensely pleasurable hormonal spike in their bodies in response to female beauty – or they experience such a spike if they are “heterolimerent”. 🤔
I am looking forward to the day when I only have aesthetic responses to male beauty and no longer have hormonal responses to male beauty, as I honestly have found “homolimerence” to be an incredibly disappointing and exhausting psychological condition. To be so emotionally affected by people who are not at all emotionally affected by me is just … tiresome, after a while. Happily, I am moving towards purely aesthetic responses to male beauty. I have observed my hormonal responses growing less and less with the passage of time. The pleasurable spikes come less and less often, and are less intense when they do occur.
I have also been thinking about limerence and INFJs who report happy childhoods and no attachment issues. Why do such INFJs still experience limerence at much higher rates than the rest of the population? My theory is that INFJs have above-average levels of empathy. You guys are just really good at absorbing other people’s emotions. And maybe this super-sensitivity is what makes you prone to limerence (as opposed to unresolved childhood trauma, for instance)? 😉
Sammy, I am an INFP and I am incredibly sensitive to emotions and body language. My LO even jokes about me being an empath as I have surprised her several times by being able to pick up subtle things in her moods. As she started having a lot of stress in the last month over family, wedding, and career.
I could “feel” a door had closed to everyone else. She is naturally an incredibly friendly and warm person but she became distant in a way most others can’t see. I explained it to her that her light simply isn’t shining as bright and she told me about some of the stuff going on.
Of course, this all matters to me because I suffer greatly from that distance and door closure. It has left me in shambles plenty of nights and scrambling to try to cheer her up when I can’t. That is pain. No matter how much I tell myself it isn’t personal and she doesn’t think of me the same way I am often hurt by her lack of effort in return. Even when I am having a good day in the evenings my thoughts will find a way to remind me that even though she said yesterday she wasn’t busy she never came by to see me. They remind me to be jealous of the people who sit in the same office as her who she talks to even though she’s known them a third of the time she’s know me. In the end it is all pain.
Limerent Emeritus says
Have you read https://livingwithlimerence.com/how-common-is-limerence/ A colleague of DrL’s ran a survey of MBTI Type vs Limerence.
I have! I actually heard him talk about it on a podcast while I was looking for any kind of help. That was how I found this site.
“In the end it is all pain.”
Truth. No matter what relational paradigm I find myself in with LO it just all seems to lead to pain.
Limerent Emeritus says
Sometimes, you can look at things from over/under, 360 degrees, and you still can’t get to a fairy-tale ending. Because, there isn’t one.
I should probably be saying this to a bunch of active limerents but for me, it’s like this.
I never see myself ever reengaging LO #2. I don’t think I’ll ever be in a position to attempt to reengage LO #4 and I don’t know where my head would be since if I was available again, something terrible happened in my life.
Ever watch “How I Met Your Mother?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOUtVnNA-k8
But, it’s funny, LO #4 and I used to talk about cooking. When she was confiding in me, she’d go into great detail about buying ingredients and cooking. She made the comment that her Ex could barely open a can of soup. I’m a decent cook. Semi-homemade was invented for me. When I cook, I see myself cooking for LO #4. She owes me two Grand Marniers after losing a bet. I’ll never see those but I still can envision sitting at a table drinking them with her. Never gonna happen.
The other really kind of scary one is there are a few songs in which I see myself dancing with LO #4 at our wedding reception. I know exactly what she’s wearing. My wife’s parents are there. I never actually met LO #2 but we were pretty deep in the weeds for a few years. I can envision getting married to LO #4, I can’t envision being married to LO #4.
It’s another pipe dream that I hope I’m never in the position to carry out. But, as Scott Adams noted in his dreams about flying, it’s kind of cool.
In a general comment about recent threads, there’s a difference between using an LE as a springboard to living your best life. It happened, it’s over, what can I learn from it?
It’s another thing to try to manage an LE for things like mood regulation. That difference has to do with the role your LO plays in your life.
In the former, the LO has no real place in your life, exerts no direct influence and you transcend limerence. Your LE might feel like it’s worthy of grand opera. Poets should write sonnets about it. The right tear jerker comes on and you buy the grocery story out of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. But, you’re past it.
In the latter, your LO exerts direct influence on you and you make decisions accordingly.
You’re not free, yet.
Limerent Emeritus says
“I never actually met LO #4 but we were pretty deep in the weeds for a few years.”
There are contractors drywalling my kitchen. It’s distracting.
What you said reminds me of a quote I saw somewhere online ….
“I miss you so much that I am jealous of the people that get a chance to see you every day.”
I feel that in my bones every day.
Ooof! Adam, I realized walking the other day what the distance I felt from her was.
She is already gone. Her wedding, her moving, and her being over this job. In her mind she is already somewhere else. While the motions are still gone through we are almost ghosts to her at this point. Worth a thought, a wave, or a crooked smile.
There is only so much energy in such situations and I understand. I will always value the personal talks and warm open body language. It is gone tough she remains for at least a few more weeks.
I am thankful that LO was gracious to me all the way up the last day I got to see her. She was very inviting and kind to my feelings that whole day.
In fact I remember telling Miss Lovisa when she was cleaning out the plants she had in her office I opened the front door for her and then got out in front of her to get the door to the truck and she was thankful. She usually didn’t being treated “lady like” like that but she let me do that for her.
It would have been difficult if she had “checked out” with me before she left so I can understand some what, how that is for you. And I am sure it is painful.
For me in some ways complete NC is good despite it being painful. I miss her greatly but even if I got a call here and there it might make it worse. Of course as I am typing this I hope she calls someday so I’m my own hypocrite.
Hoping things get better for you Rufio.
Sammy thinking on the relationship of limerence and MBTI types, being an ISFJ brings me to the realization of what drew me to LO and why I fell for her so hard. I never really even thought about my personality type being a factor in my limerence. But it is. A huge factor.
She was a woman in distress. She had no one to help her. She was alone. Trying hard to overcome the stresses in her life. I can help her!!!!! I was alive with purpose; to help her any way I could. Help her with her work load. Listen whenever she wanted to talk. Absorb her negative feelings and reciprocate with positive ones. Pull out her negative energy and take it on myself so she could be happier. Protect her (from a pos cheating ex still trying to be in her life). Every single personality trait I had came out with LO. It was a compulsion.
The pain and the emptiness now that she is gone. The lack of purpose. She doesn’t need me anymore. She has someone else now. So she moved on with him. Yes he is better for LO than I could ever be. Yes he’s a good and caring man. But now what do I do without this purpose? Did LO really ever need me? Does she even remember me?
Indeed, in the end it is all pain.
“But if there is someone that makes you feel happy
Tends to your heart in the ways I’d been lacking
Then who am I, who am I to stand in your way
That I feel is no longer your burden
If there is someone that can make you feel perfect
Than who am I, who am I to stand in your way”
“You Don’t Know Me” – Jerry Vale (1961)
I could really relate to this one. I had to watch her walk away with his hand in hers just like the song. Very lucky guy. And I hope he remembers that every day. Because he aint gonna want me to have to remind him.
Vicarious Limerent says
I feel like there’s three stages to limerence and recovery. First comes the euphoria, then the pain, then the disappointment and “blah” feelings. I’m currently in the third phase. Limerence has basically worn off, and I definitely think limerence was a negative force in my life, yet there were some positive aspects to it. There was some excitement, hope for the future and drive towards self-improvement. Much of that is gone. My job performance has improved dramatically and I no longer think of my LO day and night, but I miss having the dream of being with her (even if I knew deep down it would never come to fruition). I also miss having the desire for self-improvement, particularly with respect to diet and exercise. Now that the limerence has essentially worn off, I struggle to make it to the gym, go on my long walks or eat in a more healthy manner. It’s as if I miss being able to harness the positive aspects of limerence (there are some, even if it feels miserable and painful once the initial euphoria and excitement wears off).
Like previous LOs, I still retain some affection for my current/former LO. I still like her, but I am kind of disappointed with her because she basically ditched my friend group and I have heard she may have even tried to scam one of my other friends. I struggle with the likelihood that she probably isn’t the person I thought she was. Despite the limerence basically being gone, I really miss her, but I think I miss the person I thought she was rather than who she really is. I also miss her friendship, even if things will never be the same again. Other members of my friend group say I shouldn’t take a side in the dispute between my LO and my other friend (hell, even my wife, who is very jealous of my LO, is telling me I’m being too hard on my LO!), but because I thought I was in love with her thinking she may be less than honest was really a blow to my opinion of her and my memories of the time we spent together. I haven’t seen her in ages, but I recently reached out to her. She explained to me that she is really busy and misses hanging out with our group, so I don’t know where this will end up. Maybe I will never see her again, or maybe my other friend will be angry that I reached out to her. I understand she is likely dating someone now, and for the first time I don’t think that would bother me too much, even if I end up meeting the guy (although passionate public displays of affection between the two of them might just set me off).
“I also miss having the desire for self-improvement, particularly with respect to diet and exercise.”
I have this issue too. I just saw my doctor (cardiologist) last month and he’s like “you gained 5 lbs don’t let it all come back”. I lost 40 lbs back in 2021 and have mostly kept it off since. And honestly I was surprised it wasn’t more. But I haven’t been exercising much and while my diet is still healthy its not as good as it could be and as good as it was.
My wife doesn’t too much care about my appearance, as in she’s okay with the way I am now. But way back when I went from 215 down to 170 someone noticed. LO made a comment one day about how she was just now noticing I had lost weight. Which of course was fuel to keep it off. When a pretty young lady notices you improving your body, that just throwing fuel on the fire. Now I find I don’t have the motivation much to maintain self improvement. I just do it enough so my doctor doesn’t hassle me.
Vicarious Limerent says
Thanks Adam. I am glad others can relate to this. I lost quite a bit of weight a couple of years ago and got really serious with working out and going on long walks. I have regained some of that weight and have become very inconsistent and lazy when it comes to working out. But I have committed to myself that today is the day I start right back at it!
For some reason, reaching out to my LO made me feel a little better. I wanted her to know I miss her and I’m still thinking of her. She is also dealing with a bit of a health scare right now, so I am a bit worried about her. Being able to think a bit less highly of her due to her alleged dishonesty with my other friend has helped with my recovery a bit because it took her down off that pedestal. On the other hand, I’m not ready to completely give up on her or write her off. I’m just not willing to chase after her too much or kiss her ass.
Wow, first, thank you so much for maintaining this blog. My case of limerence is going on strong now…3 years this fall. I am starting to think my obsessive/intrusive thinking is crossing the mental illness line now, and I don’t know where to begin to seek help.
For context, my LO and I began a “situationship” during quarantine. It was blooming into a beautiful thing until distant brought us apart. A few months later they came home to visit and we had a December fling. Things went out of hand with gossip and it sort of ended there. We did not speak much after that unless it was the occasional social media comment or hanging through a mutual friend, I could probably count the number of instances on two hands.
Two months later I found the best partner I’ve had yet. They are patient with all of my other quirks and truly loves me for me. Of course we have our little bickering such as any other couple but we do make a pretty great duo. There’s just one issue…my limerence! I managed to keep it a secret from my partner for 2 years now. The imaginative thinking…there is so much more context to my thoughts but I cannot share just to keep privacy…Oh and of course there was the social media stalking. Last fall I discovered they now have a partner and this influenced a depression spiral about for a week. Yes, I am aware of how ironic this is when I have a partner of my own whom I love and who loves me.
This past New Year’s I decided enough was on enough and I removed them from just about all social media. This went really well, until I began looking them up on other social medias. This, along my maladaptive daydreaming, is so much to handle. It always has been but I was able to shut it behind a door in my head, now I can’t.
Typing that last sentence really sealed in the concept of that limerence “high”. It’s like an entirely different headspace when I’m thinking of my LO that I don’t even realize the ethical boundaries I’m passing, as well as how far my sanity is going.
Thanks for reading this far if you did…I’m going to start therapy, but I am looking for any other suggestions for someone as down bad as I am. I know I should tell my partner about this for honesty’s sake, but how do I even go about that? I know it will break their heart, and that is the worst outcome of this entire situation.