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…
“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 was planning to have lunch with LO today to discuss why I must change my behavior (moving toward NC), effectively saying goodbye. But I realized that, in person, I wouldn’t be able to get through what I want to say, and I no longer see the (long-term) positive in getting together. I have asked to talk on the phone later today, as I can control (and read) what I want to say and try to keep it short.
There is nothing easy about this, as I was struck with limerence last year when LO announced she was leaving my office. A real emotional breakdown by me. The feelings were reciprocated and morphed into a clear EA with physical aspects looming until LO had an awakening (or fear crept in). I will add that we did love each other and became extremely close emotionally. Each of us were committed to others, so we were both guilty of going down the wrong road. LO wanted to stay “in touch”, which meant all of the linkages and attachments helped me become entrenched in limerence for another 11 months. We continued to be extremely close and discuss intimate matters. I did want to stay connected to her, but I now see that I could not handle that. I even knew I couldn’t handle it as it was happening, but on the flip side it felt awful to think about not being needed or confided in. It will be tough to lose my “best friend”, but I don’t see any other way.
I had the phone call today. I had felt some distancing vibes from LO over the past weeks as she went on holiday with family. Communication was shut down, which gave me a chance to reflect on things (AND FIND THIS BLOG!), while not sending or looking for any messages. Basically a mini-No Contact period. LO told me today that she felt more free not having to worry about any remotely possible emails from me being read by her husband; she felt that hiding my communication from her spouse was a negative thing (REALLY??) I told her some of my issues regarding her, and that this period of No Contact was healthy overall for me, though we both missed the regular notes to each other. Basically, we each feel the unhealthiness of the situation for different reasons. So No Contact is underway, though there will be some natural times that we will cross paths the next month.
There were things that I wanted to say, but knew not to say. And there were things I wanted to ask that deep down I knew that I didn’t really want to hear the answers. They would have only given me ammo to dwell upon. I will not make any predictions for my future emotions, but I am hopeful.
Sounds encouraging. Difficult, of course. Good luck!
I hope you’re doing well these days. You seem to know yourself well enough to have done the healthy thing here. I’m trying to do the same thing with my LO right now: extend a natural NC period (established while we were both on vacations with our respective SOs) and be honest (but not overly forthcoming) about why it’s necessary, and perhaps lay the groundwork (if even just in my own mind) for how to behave when our paths will unavoidably cross again. My LO and I would like to remain friends–your comment that you and yours “did love each other” really resonates for me–but we both know that that may not be possible. For now, it’s NC with a wait-n-see approach. I like the suggestion, made by someone on this blog, that a key milestone to look for in your recovery is when LO is NOT the first thing you think of when you wake up of a morning. I’m not there yet. But I see light ahead… You will, too. Hang in there!
Thanks for the good wishes. I will be seeing my LO off and on tomorrow. It is unavoidable, but it is the last “scheduled” get together for us. Fortunately, we both need to focus on our own individual events. However, there will be times that we interact, and I’m sure we will say goodbye once we are finished. It would throw me off to be rude to her or ignore her, but I will not engage in sensitive topics. After the “phone call” 2 weeks ago, I have come to realize that I will never get full “closure” as I do not see any good coming from further deep discussion. She may not ever truly understand what I have gone through, and I will never know what she has truly gone through. We have some friends in common, so I cannot 100% remove her from my life. But I can do my part by not attempting to see her.
I usually don’t think of my LO when I wake up, but I don’t go too long between thoughts of her. But the thoughts are not debilitating, whereas they were in the past. I am quite functional throughout the day, which is a welcome change. I kind of miss feeling awful, as it was a big part of my being. So I will not say that I am well, but I am better. I am also doing a better job of not wondering what she is doing or thinking.
“I kind of miss feeling awful, as it was a big part of my being.”
That’s a great insight. Weeks after I told my therapist what was going on, she asked me, “I’ve been wondering, what’s in this for you?” And I couldn’t understand why anyone would not readily see exactly what’s in it for a middle-aged long-time-committed lesbian when a very smart, interesting, attractive, young woman says she’s fallen for her. (I haven’t wanted to muddy the waters by coming out on this blog, since I think the limerence issues are mostly similar for gays and straights, but…what the hell.)
I spent a lot of time trying to figure out if it was all about my never having had a child, the daughter I would have wanted (this girl is half my age and I have never before been attracted to anyone that much younger). Or some kind of resonance with the woman I was when I was LO’s age or who my wife was at her age (LO is exactly how old she was when I first met her 34 years ago). Was I just wanting to be the kind of caring and supportive older woman in LO’s life that I had needed and never had enough of? (Minus the patty-cake-playing, of course.)
It was all of those things, really–much more than just a second adolescent tsunami of romance and desire. What really hit me as I read your comment, though, is that for me even deeper down there has been some kind of underlying…[I dunno]…comfort with feeling awful. Wallowing in all the pain of this terribly intense LE for the last year has been some kind of proxy for..[again, I dunno, I’m sorting this out here]…feeling sorry for myself for not having had some things in life, for some of the choices I’ve made, and for all that feels unjust about getting older. (That blog post on Midlife Crisis for Limerents…so apt!) For me, recovery has been not only a process of moving forward and trying to live a purposeful life, but also looking back and accepting myself and my family’s failings and my choices and all those things in life you can’t change. This has not been easy, this close examination of myself at mid-life, and it’s not over yet. But your comment makes me realize, I don’t want feeling awful to be a part of my being anymore. And I think that’s a truly key insight. So…thank you.
“I kind of miss feeling awful, as it was a big part of my being.”
That’s not all that hard to believe.
Replace “Borderline” with “LO” and you’re there.
“When you’ve adored a Borderline, you’ve loved the good times and the bad. Even when their interactions have felt diminishing and damaging, you’ve felt unusually alive within that struggle. Just striving for their affection and care has been an activating challenge.”
– OBSESSED WITH A BORDERLINE A Matter of Attraction and Revulsion
By Shari Schreiber, M.A.
A lot of Schreiber’s work deals with co-dependence which has a lot of parallels to limerence.
This was actually the quote from Schreiber I was thinking of:
Again, replacing “Borderline” with “LO,”
“The Borderline reawakens intensely positive and negative emotions–but one thing we’re certain of, is that we’re Feeling~ which relieves our inner sense of deadness or emptiness. Dead people don’t feel pain~ so in some way, we welcome it.”
OBSESSED WITH A BORDERLINE – A Matter of Attraction and Revulsion
By Shari Schreiber, M.A.
It is possible that my LO is a Borderline, but I am not certain.
I did self-diagnose myself (via the almighty internet) as co-dependent before stumbling onto the term “limerent” earlier this year. Some characteristics of co-dependency do apply to my LO relationship.
Thanks for sharing, Landry. The “mid-life crisis” fits me as well.
I don’t want to imply that all LOs are Borderlines. In my case, I have 2 professional opinions that LO #2 had either BPD/NPD or both but that’s beyond the scope of this site.
One therapist I worked with pegged me as a co-dependent but another said I wasn’t co-dependent. The circumstances of my relationships with LOs #2 and #4 didn’t support co-dependence but limerence fit them both.
If you can see past the Narcissist/Borderline labels in Schreiber’s articles and replace them with Unsuitable Partners, you can still learn a lot about yourself from them.
Once someone figures out they’re limerent, the process is fairly straightforward. Any potentially life altering question comes down to 3 things:
1. Could you?
2. Should you?
3. Would you?
At some point, limerents play the “What if?” game. If we could craft the “fairy tale ending, (FTE)” what would it be. Once we have the goal in mind we apply the above questions.
– Can we pull off the FTE? My last LO was 2500 miles away. I didn’t think she’d hop on a plane to see me & I knew I wasn’t going to her.
– We’re skipping #2 for a moment to address #3. Do you really want to do this? “Want” can be really labile and can turn on a dime.
– “Should you” is where it gets messy. It brings in all kinds of issues like purposeful living, integrity, morality, fidelity, etc. “Should you” defines character.
The questions become fairly straightforward.
What do you want and what are you willing to do to achieve it?
I tried to walk a line and wasn’t able to pull it off. In the end, I knew where my loyalty lay and made a choice.
If you disengage successfully, by whatever method, you may find you really didn’t lose as much as you thought you did.
Time to re-read this one…
“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?”
LO #4 has a significant professional anniversary coming up on Saturday. Based on her response when I asked her to delete my account on her website, I was tempted to wish her a happy anniversary.
What am I proving to myself? She’s still a guilty pleasure. (That’s really crappy.) There’s some things going on in my life that I’d like a distraction from. Unlike last time, they’re not related to my marriage and my wife and I are being brought closer together by working on them.
But, after re-reading this, I’m pretty sure I won’t. There’s no upside to it. I’m not concerned she won’t respond, I’m concerned she will and I’ll be right back in the mine field it took me 9 months to get out of and undo 3 years of No Contact (2 early relapses not withstanding.)
I recently got invited to a neighborhood Dungeons & Dragons group. It may be geeky but it’s definitely better than thinking about LO #4.
“He could keep to a bad resolution forever, but he couldn’t keep to a good one a month.” – Mark Twain, “Letters from the Earth”
I went to bed the night before with the best of intentions. Since there was no really legitimate reason to send the email aside from a bad habit I have of taking a whack at a hornet’s nest, and my “Magic 8-Ball” was on my desk at work, I decided I’d need a “sign.” A dream, handwriting on the wall, a burning bush, Angel of the Lord on the end of the bed, something. I can’t quite kick the numinous aspect of limerence. Why take personal responsibility when you can blame it on the Cosmos?
I woke up, Nada. I was reading the comics and drinking coffee. The horoscopes are on the page with the comics. This was my horoscope (no joke):
“You are likely to speak your mind. The recipient of your thoughts could be quite touched. You are not so often so direct yet sensitive. You words will be remembered for quite some time.”
So, I popped off an short email congratulating her on her anniversary. It got a reaction but no response. A few hours later, she posted the anniversary on her social media site and said she hadn’t remembered until a former member emailed and reminded her. I presume that was me.
In another blog, DrL says that if what you’re doing has an illicit feel to it, it’s a relapse. More than a week later, I don’t feel it was illicit at all. It feels more like the indifference of #2 above than the guilty pleasure of #3. It also has the feel of taking care of some “unfinished business,” although I didn’t think I had any of that left.
Hi! From which books is Yalom’s quote from?