Hee hee. Limerence and its wily ways. I recently came across this quote from Irvin Yalom (an eminent therapist) about overcoming infatuation:
Nor is the dissolution a steady process. Setbacks occur— and nothing is more likely to bring about a setback than another encounter with the beloved. Patients offer many rationalizations for such new contact: they insist that they are over it now and that a cordial talk, a coffee, or lunch with the former beloved will help to clarify things, help them to understand what went wrong, help them establish a lasting adult friendship, or even permit them to say good-bye like a mature person. None of these things is likely to come to pass. Generally the individuals recovery is set back, much as a slip sets back a recovering alcoholic.
I’m guessing most limerents recognise this impulse. The gentle self-delusion that it’s now fine to spend time with their LO, because they’ve worked through their issues and are now all empowered and wise and emotionally stable. Of course, it’s really driven by the desire to get a little hit of their drug of choice, rationalised by a high-minded desire to get closure.
This trap is most often encountered after a period of no contact, when the most urgent feelings of limerence have genuinely subsided. With the new clear-headedness that no contact has enabled, it’s easy to believe that you can meet as friends and enjoy uncomplicated time together. Maybe even learn more about yourself by analysing your feelings when you meet. Or validate your recovery, by demonstrating how resilient you are to their charms now.
Gotta agree with Irvin: “None of these things is likely to come to pass.”
So is that it? No possible hope for full recovery and a neutral friendship with LO? I’ve opined on this before, but in the spirit of not being totally defeatist, there may be some cases where it’s possible.
1) The limerence was fully discharged
You can plausibly meet again as friends on the far side of limerence. The simplest case here is if a sexual relationship took place, and because of that consummation you worked through the limerence and it’s now gone. Less complete, but possible, is that you disclosed and received an unequivocal “no”. Again, that could smother the fuel of limerence by removing uncertainty. One could debate the wisdom of seeking friendship from someone you desire but who does not reciprocate, but it is plausible that limerence has been snuffed out beyond recovery.
2) You truly feel indifferent
In the let’s-meet-for-coffee scenario above, someone who still has a glimmer of limerence will feel a quiet thrill of excited anticipation. That, of course, means you’re not over LO half as much as you would like to believe. If, in contrast, you can ask yourself the question “how would I feel if I didn’t see them again?” and honestly answer “OK”, then you may actually be OK. In fact, a good test would be to decide “I have lots of projects on at the moment, and meeting old-LO isn’t a priority” and then see how your dormant limerent brain feels about that. It’ll let you know if it’s cross about losing its fix.
3) They are a guilty pleasure
Not sure if this one is healthy, but I guess it is possible to treat an LO like social drinking – an occasional indulgence that can be managed for the pleasure it brings. I suppose an unwitting LO could be safe, but it’s a relatively high risk strategy from your own perspective if you are in a long-term relationship. Plus, it’s kind of icky.
As Granny Weatherwax says “Sin… is when you treat people like things”.
Overall, you’ve got to ask yourself how important it is that you can be friends with an old LO. What are you proving to yourself? How much would they add to your life, really? Are you surrendering your purposefulness to them? Are you trying to cling to the old comfort of the person addiction that once meant so much?
It’s hard to believe you can’t find the benefits of friendship elsewhere…