Post stimulated by comment by Sharnhorst. Thanks Sharnhorst!
Is jealousy an inevitable part of limerence? I may be wrong, but to me limerence without the desire for exclusivity seems to be a contradiction in terms. The sense of “special connection” is so powerful and so central a feature of limerence, that the idea of your LO being with another partner brings a particularly exquisite stab of pain. This fits with the notion of limerence as a mechanism for pair bonding: the prospect of losing the bond triggers severe distress.
But as with all things human, it’s complicated. For those of us who’ve been through a few limerence cycles, the experience can be surprisingly different with different LOs. Jealousy is a product of multiple factors: anger, insecurity, control issues, sexual jealousy, fear, low self-esteem, and – sometimes – accurately recognising that your partner is a lying, inconstant son-or-daughter-of-a-bitch. How different factors intersect will likely determine your emotional response, and how severe the jealousy provoked by LO being flirty with others is. For example:
1) Where you are in the limerence cycle.
Early or late in the progression of limerence, it is likely that you could cope with ambivalence from LO with more equanimity. In the early stages, you’re probably busy idealising them, and so even their flirting with other people can be framed as evidence of their special sensitivity or need for love. Towards the end, you are probably emerging from the madness and able to be more high-minded about LO showing interest in others. But in the midst of limerence, once you have become addicted and uncertainty is heightening your craving, you are likely to suffer most. You’re emotionally captured, dependent on their company, but not yet sure that they feel the same way. You’ve had enough reciprocation to be sure there is something going on, and you hope against hope that it’s the real thing, but there’s enough anxiety to keep you on high alert for threats to the cementing of the emotional bond. At that point the thought of losing LO to another partner is awful.
2) Where they are in the limerence cycle.
In the case of mutual limerence, another complicating factor is LO’s relative progression through the cycle. If they are coming out of the euphoria stage faster than you, then they will probably start to set off your limerence radar by cooling off, and being more open to other people in the world. This is likely to set you back, and escalate your limerence jealousy. Time was (when they were limerent for you) they would have loved the fact you were jealous, as it would have been sweet, sweet confirmation of your commitment to them. But now – what a drag.
3) Where you are in life.
All of the preceding arguments are about susceptibility to jealousy. The actual, full on, green-eyed monster expression of jealousy is, like all behaviour, within our control. A major factor in how jealous you feel is going to be how purposefully you live your life. As a young man I was prone to jealousy – anger, humiliation, revenge fantasies, the usual package. I’ve mellowed. A lot of jealousy stems of course from personal insecurity; anxiety about how attractive you are and whether you can “win” the attentions of LO and make them want to stay with you. The jealousy comes from fear of losing them. Maturity makes you realise you can’t “lose” someone any more than you can own someone. It will sting like a bastard, but if they’re not as committed as you, it is very much in your interest to learn that. Rather than try and dance prettily, or contort yourself into accommodating knots, in a desperate attempt to somehow impress someone into being limerent for you, you can make a conscious decision about whether you are OK with it, or whether it’s time to move on. Ultimately, it’s way more humiliating to try and cajole someone into wanting you, than to “lose” in some imagined romantic competition.
4) The intensity of the situation in which you find out.
It’s one thing to hear from a friend of a friend that LO hooked up with someone else. It’s another to see their engagement photos on Facebook. It’s still worse to have them messing around in front of you, after you and they just had a heart-to-heart.
What I’m saying is context matters. When it comes to discovery of LO’s romantic interest in others, ambushed and unprepared is likely to be much harsher to cope with than a rumour, three steps removed.
Pain when seeing LO with other potential partners seems a certainty when limerent. How you respond to that pain is the determinant of whether it leads to jealousy. Self-awareness can allow acceptance of the feelings of jealousy, but suppression of the anger and negative behaviour that could be provoked. Instead, use it as a good intuitive yardstick for assessing LOs suitability as a genuine, life partner. If you are irrationally jealous, you can learn to mentally override the anger and explore your trust issues (perhaps with a therapist). But sometimes, jealousy is telling you that something is up, that LO is not as committed as you, and that you need to moderate your limerence before you suffer further pain. A good use of those sickening feelings of jealousy, is to use them to reprogram your subconscious mind and break the “LO = pleasure” connection. “LO = pain” is a useful new connection to help you overcome the addiction and move on to a more purposeful life.
I also think one factor that may influence the response is what do you really want out of it. When I was a kid, my father told me, “Never play a game that you don’t want to win.” At the time, it made no sense to me. Why would anybody play a game they don’t want to win.
Limerence put a whole new spin on it. With LO #1, I wasn’t looking for anything beyond a FWB relationship. I blame Oxytocin but I became invested in her. He BF was an impediment to my happiness. He was directly between me and her. The fact that she was unsuitable notwithstanding, he had his hands on the woman I loved. To quote D’Artagnan in the 1973 version of “The 3 Musketeers,” “That man is inconvenient!”
With LO #2, the relationship had run its course although I was holding out hope for reconciliation. I learned my reaction was a trauma response to learning that was unlikely. I had been in that one to win.
With LO #4, the LE was an unintended consequence. I wasn’t looking for trouble but I still found it. The conditions were conducive and I ended up in an LE. But, since I never wanted things to really go anywhere, I think envy replaced jealousy. That guy had something she liked and I thought I wished I had it. Only I really didn’t. Since I wasn’t available in the first place, it didn’t really make any difference. You really can’t begrudge someone for winning a game you’re not even playing.
LO #4 contributed to my happiness but not in her capacity as an LO. Becoming an LO is what destroyed the acquaintance and she wasn’t responsible for that. She was who she was and I took that and ran with it.
Purposeful living can really get in the way, sometime.
As for, “Ultimately, it’s way more humiliating to try and cajole someone into wanting you, than to “lose” in some imagined romantic competition.” The Temptations would have you believe otherwise.
I have never listened to the lyrics of that song before! Hilarious AND creepy! The guys in the ruffly shirts were limerent for sure! 🙂
Interesting article, enjoyed reading this.
In my case I never experienced jealousy with my LO even after I had a fall out with his SO who is my friend. I was ostracised from his/her group and I went NC for 8 weeks before LO’s SO and I carefully reconnected and started rebuilding our friendship. It was hard as the environment was hostile, the whole group gave me the evil eye, LO’s SO was cold and suspicious, LO was twitchy in my company while showing excessive attention to his SO. They held hands, sat close together if I approached and were constantly touchy-feely, although I felt uncomfortable I never felt jealous. Fast forward almost a year later and we are almost back to normal, except for my limerence which never went away. Now LO and his SO don’t show any attention towards each other, just occasionally and I still feel nothing. Interestingly another female friend hugged LO at Christmas time and I wanted to rip her hair out, that floored me. Another interesting thing I’ve noticed is that LO shows signs of jealousy towards me if I am with my SO or pay attention to another male.
I think why I never felt jealous is because my LO never stopped paying attention to me, even if it was furtive attention, so I felt “secure”. Does that make sense?
“Interestingly another female friend hugged LO at Christmas time and I wanted to rip her hair out, that floored me.”
At the risk of sounding flip.
Don’t you just hate it when reality rears it’s head? You have to share your LO with his SO. This “other woman” is a fantasy-wrecking hussy. Nobody invited her.
This is your fantasy and she has no business intruding in it. Managing an LE takes work. We often have to do some serious mental gymnastics to get things where we can manage them, and the next thing you know, some Bozo comes in and messes it all up. You’ve factored his SO into things, but not another woman. You won’t make that mistake again.
Makes perfect sense to me.
Your reply made me laugh, yes fantasy-wrecking hussy indeed!
I’ll certainly be prepared for the next jealous attack but that might be awhile as he generally doesn’t talk to other women. I’ll confess I don’t much care for that particular emotion.
Well I am devastated because we will be hiring a new person here at my office and I have met him and I know he will be social and charming and funny and LO will probably love him. She will love having yet another catch to add to her bounty. He will be virtually right beside her in the office. I will be old news. This was the case last year when another guy worked here in our area and I experienced some of the worst limerent lows of my LE thus far with jealousy. See my other comment on this thread actually (posted as Anonymous). And I am in a management role. I found myself resistant to hiring this guy for the sole reason of his interfering with my LO. But it is wasn’t my decision alone. I now want to make his life a living hell. I also want to talk with LO again about things. How I will miss our time alone when nobody bothered us. I hate this so much.
I found out today that LO #2 got married a few weeks ago.
I thought that would eventually happen and wondered how I’d respond to it.
No trauma response this time. Still not jealous. At least for the moment, I hope she’s happy.
Her first marriage lasted less than 3 years. I wonder if she learned anything in the intervening years….
Can we just pause a moment and reflect on how brilliant this content is? I wish I had it memorized and framed on my wall years ago….how much suffering could have been averted!
“But sometimes, jealousy is telling you that something is up, that LO is not as committed as you, and that you need to moderate your limerence before you suffer further pain. A good use of those sickening feelings of jealousy, is to use them to reprogram your subconscious mind and break the “LO = pleasure” connection. “LO = pain” is a useful new connection to help you overcome the addiction and move on to a more purposeful life.”
It is so strange that I feel absolutely no jealousy toward LO’s husband. He literally shares a bed with her, is intimate with her etc. but I am almost indifferent about that. However, with any other guys I burn white hot with jealousy if they interact with LO. A colleague of ours at work has been getting very friendly with her lately and my limerence lows are now hitting all time levels. Even after disclosure where LO admitted to sharing secret feelings for me, you would think that would be enough to forever satisfy my need for reciprocation. It lasted for a couple of months. Now any friendly interactions between LO and the other guy are painful reminders to me that LO is just like that with all other guys and doesn’t have any particular connection with me. It makes me feel so foolish for reading into the slightest things she has ever done or said. I go from extremely painful feelings of betrayal, to violent thoughts involving the other guy, to feelings of anger toward LO. What is interesting is that being angry at LO (and sometimes acting very aloof around her at work) is somewhat satisfying. It’s like my feelings of anger can’t coexist with my infatuation, so it is helping, much like the aversion technique described on here by Dr. L. To any of you with just “ordinary” limerence who have never experienced the jealousy thing, you are very lucky. It is a whole other level of limerence hell.
I could 100% relate to what you have written. I have no control on this as well and seeing her interact with a co worker in a friendly manner or sharing some private conversations is so much more painful than imagining her in bed with her husband.
I can get into a very bad mood whenever I chanced upon such incidents and it’s probably due to my fear that she will start to fall for another guy.
Its irrational and I have no right to be jealous of her but it just happens. This is the worst part of my LE so far – being unnecessarily paranoid and jealous about LO.
Hi Hopeless, it’s probably not paranoid. My LO made me believe I was paranoid, it drove me crazy, until he confessed 1,5 months that indeed there was something there and I wasn’t paranoid, but actually spot on. I’m not sure what hurt more, thinking I am paranoid and seeing things that aren’t there, or the confirmation that LO has moved on. Both sucked.
As written in the post, use this jealousy to break the limerence ban. Use it as confirmation that LO is not good for you, or rather that this limerent state you’re in is not good for you!
Thanks Sarah, yes definitely LO is not good for my mental health but I cant break the addiction as I see her every work day and text even on weekends, vacations etc we are each other’s default lunch partner and I cant even imagine drifting away for now.
Your not hopeless to start with. You can do this. I had the same issue. LO Is coworker.
I went for a staged withdrawal strategy which has taken down the reliance on each other for emotional support. Although now that my head is a little bit clearer I feel that I had the emotional support and emotional excitement but she was completely fine just enjoyed my company and banter.
I Slowdown initiating the messages and now have zero initiation and only respond to her messages which also slowed down over time.
I’ve also gone for just meeting up a couple of times a month now on a one-to-one.
She hasn’t questioned it So you can argue that I’m lucky as I can slide out of this with minimal damage and embarrassment. But part of me also feel sad that she doesn’t miss the interaction that we had because it is now visibly reduced.
So stay strong and remember it’s just an addiction. It’s not real. Substitute thoughts of her other things that can lift you up.
Thanks Kel, part of me would like to believe there is some level of co-dependency and we are each other’s pillar of support but I am definitely in way deeper than she is.. this Is to the extent that I prioritise her and interacting with her above my SO, kids and even job..
She initiates 80% of the time but I encouraged it by responding swiftly and I am definitely guilty as charged for not imposing boundaries.
It has been 1 year and although less intense, I still think about her a good 70% of the time in my waking hours.
I recently stumbled upon some information regarding some very specific details about my LO’s sexual history, such as the number of her prior sexual partners, their names, specifics of their sexual encounters, etc. I wish I had never discovered this. It is devastating to me. As I mentioned in an earlier comment on this post, I am still somewhat indifferent about her marital relationship with her SO, which is bizarre. But the thought of her hooking up with multiple guys through the years makes me want to vomit. I even looked some of the guys up on social media, found their pics, wondered what LO saw in them and instantly compared myself to them. Some of them are still here living in the small-ish city we are in. The thought that there are guys walking around in this community who I might even bump into that have had that level of intimacy with my LO enrages me. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced this degree of jealousy in my entire life.
There is no way I would want to track down my LOs sexual partners. Even if somebody handed me a dossier.
I’m sorry that you’re having a hard time of it… but I hope it’s a lesson learned. It’s achieved nothing but increased your own pain and irritation. Like most adults of a given age, most of us have a past… and in the case of most of our LOs they’ll have a future without us in it.
I’m nearly a week of NC and couldn’t stop thinking of LO all day today. So I know it hurts. I know. But try never to do that again, for your own sanity.
I know, I know. It was a relapse on my part. I felt powerless, knowing it would freshen the limerent wounds but I jumped in head-first anyway. Ugh.
I think the thing that bugs me with knowing her other partners are out there in the world/community is that some of them were just a “one-night stand” type. I know many people have those experiences (side note: I didn’t), but I feel such resentment toward those guys. How could they have gotten to experience LO so intimately when it meant nothing to them? They probably don’t even remember her. By comparison, my feelings for her are so deep. They cause me to even question my marriage vows in an otherwise happy marriage. I ache for her. But they just had a fun time and went about their lives like it meant nothing. It is maddening.
I understand the pain your feeling very well B.
Would it help if you consider things from a different perspective ? “How could SHE have gotten to experience THESE GUYS so intimately when it meant nothing to HER? SHE probably doesn’t even remember THEM.
SHE just had a fun time and went about HER live like it meant nothing…”
B you are tormenting yourself with all kind of thoughts you don’t even know are true, you fill in stuff , you jump to conclusions, facts are you just have a name and apparently a picture of some men. You don’t know who they are ( the ‘ type’) , you don’t know how they think and what was the encounter like.
Try to stay in reality and maybe do a cognitive exercises.
Write down your thoughts and check them as facts.
Than write down helpfull realistic thoughts because your mind is all over the place and your thoughts are giving you negative emotions.
Their past is non of our business. Pls be compassionate with yourself and don’t look up things that will upset you. It’s an act of agression toward yourself, be kind to yourself.
It’s her life and she gets to live it however she chooses. Her vision of happiness is her vision of happiness. We no have no right to dictate what that vision should be.
When LO #2 compared me to my successor, she said I beat him in every category but she chose to try to make it work with him rather than be with me. The therapist had some thoughts on that and said it made no sense but that’s how LO #2 rolled.
It doesn’t matter how they are with anybody else. It only matters how they are with you.
Vicarious Limerent says
Yep, I agree with Scharnhorst. We don’t “own” our LOs and they are entitled to some happiness even if it isn’t with us. I actually don’t care about my LO’s history. I have absolutely no idea about that, and I don’t care to know. Frankly, even if she has had 1,000 other guys, it wouldn’t bother me. In many ways, I even hope she is enjoying herself with other guys at the moment. I am married to someone else and she hardly knows I exist, so what kind of claim do I have on her? Absolutely none. The only thing I would find difficult is seeing her engaging in public displays of affection with another guy or being introduced to her boyfriend (if she has one currently or in the future). That might be a little difficult to take, but I couldn’t blame her in any way for either of those things. I would still be a complete gentleman and would do my damndest to keep it together publicly if I was faced with either of those situations.
Jealousy in a relationship is a funny thing because too much of it is unhealthy, but not enough kind of makes you wonder if the person even cares. A little bit of it is healthy and shows that the person actually gives a shit, but I have seen a situation where a woman wouldn’t even allow her boyfriend to LOOK at another woman walking down the street or even watch a movie with an attractive actress in it. That is totally ridiculous! For the longest time, my wife was so lacking in jealousy that I began to wonder if she even cared. I actually wanted to see a bit of jealousy from her in many ways, but she is now really jealous even when she doesn’t have any reason to be (for obvious reasons I suppose). I guess it’s a case of being careful what you wish for because you just might get it!
B – I Feel your pain. My LO is married and I feel jealous of them as a couple, but I think it would be worse if I found out he was having an affair or random sex.
I’ve never been in a relationship with my LO. In fact, I hardly knew him! But I keep having jealous turns when thinking about him and his wife. I’ve been no contact for a few months, but still can’t stop thinking about him! The jealous turns are the worst part now. Mindfulness helps a bit, but I can’t get him out of my head. I thought no contact would be helping by now.
Jealousy is one of the characteristics of a LE for me. If I’m not limerent (but, say, in love) I’m just not jealous. In fact, I often find myself quite amused when others are throwing themselves at my SO. LO though … if he ‘likes’ someone’s post, I feel furious! I think it is the difference between being secure (love with SO) and insecure (limerence with LO).
Three years into my current LE and I had chances to cut ties with him but I didn’t. I totally fooled myself or even was in denial while I stayed friends with him while he was having relationships with other women.. I was so jealous , but still responded to his texts and agreed every time for a phone call chats he’d always ask for. I still made myself available for him all this time. It was always me waiting for him to call me when I said when im available to talk. Sometimes he didn’t call, then apologise the next day, rearrange, and I’d always be ok about it. We’d normally talk for over an hour each time.
All this time I just wanted to stay friends but had these underlying feelings of Limerence. The guy is constantly on my mind and I can’t help it. The worse thing I did was invite him to a yearly event with my very good friends – trusted really good friends I built up over 10 years after a distressing divorce where my whole world fell apart. ( fell apart through a LE) I stupidly invited him. I thought having him there would help me see him as a normal human – through my friends interaction with him, or thinking my friends will see his flakyness and flaws and would help me see them. Far from it. Now he’s made contact with them, he loves it there, they like him. Even worse.. one of my best and most intuitive female friends (who I thought would be averse to him) appears totally enchanted by him. And he by her. They’ve connected so well and I go through excruciating jealousy pain when I see them hug so many times. She is someone I really care about and she one of few people who really checks in with me. But when I see her hug him for a long long time – twice in one conversation, see her perk up when he is around ..then later they hug again. At the end of the night she doesn’t leave while I’m there and feel so awkward when it’s me her and him.. like I’m in competition for his attention. Wanting to be left alone with him, but she stays around even if she’s over tired. I also want to tear her hair out and hear myself swear and insult her in my head.
This is so painful, I could have dropped him ages ago. What a vicious cycle has been created in my own painful limerent hell world of my psyche.