Spin out post from a previous comment thread.
Long time reader, first time commenter, Landry asks:
What I’d like to know is how folks feel about polyamory and why is it that sexual/romantic/emotional exclusivity—however one defines monogamous fidelity—is so important. I know some of DrL’s take on this from an earlier blog entry, that limerents and poly types are a terrible fit. But I’m not sure I agree with that anymore. Now granted, my millenial LO is the one who got me re-considering this concept, got me wondering why I’m holding so fast to my (dated?) dogma about relationships. (OK, my LO and Mira Kirshenbaum and Esther Perel and Brene Brown—whoa, wa-a-a-y too many self-help reads on my night stand these days.) And it’s hard not to wonder how much of all the angst our limerence puts us through could be eliminated if we would just give up these notions about monogamy as the be-all-end-all ideal. Obviously, I’m not talking about single folks who get limerent. But the real heartache seems to come from being married and becoming limerent for someone else. Wouldn’t marriage be a happier state if we could just come clean about our feelings, accept that wanting someone else (at least once in awhile) is normal and OK, address the insecurities that non-monogamy can bring up, and…for heaven’s sake, move through it in grace and mutual compassion. Why exclusivity and mandatory monogamy, anyway?
I’ve previously speculated that polyamory is a non-limerent’s game, but am open to being wrong. The key thing for me is that I can’t imagine being limerent for more than one person at once. So poly limerents would seem to be in a situation characterised by being in a stable relationship with one (or more) significant others, but then becoming limerent for a new person, and then bringing that person into the team (with all the usual assumptions about consent and open communication etc.)
So, the question for the tribe: can limerents be poly? Has anyone ever been limerent for more than one person at once?
Also, a quick note on commenting policy: I’m pretty laissez-faire as I like to learn from everyone, but this is a support site for limerents and people impacted by limerents. Sharing your own experience = great. Bluntly critiquing other people’s conduct = not great.
Let’s keep this constructive and supportive!
I’ll kick the discussion off with an observation: there is a danger that the poly route can be a rationalisation for limerents struggling to reconcile the fact that they are in love with their SO, but also limerent for LO. Trying to square the circle of this apparent contradiction in feelings.
I guess one way to assess that is to ask “were you interested in poly before LO appeared?” If yes, then maybe you’ve discovered something about yourself. If no, then maybe you are trying to find a way to make conflicting desires work, somehow…?
I know two poly couplings (couples? meta-couples?). One were originally married (M & P), then a third member (B – a gentleman who was partnered with P) was added until he died. So I think all told the original couple have been married for 45-50 years, P & B were together 30-ish. They had a four bedroom house with three bedrooms in use and the fourth was the office for the one person who worked from home.
They said it was a lot of work. It was also very sad when B was diagnosed with cancer and was very ill for a very long time. That plus aging parents… No children.
Another good friend has 3 kids. Divorced from their dad. Now married to a woman (primary partner) and to a man (secondary partner to them both). Again, lots of hard work and communication and trying to make certain everyone gets their needs met without too much jealousy. I figure 3 adults to wrangle 3 kids to 3 different sides of the county with all their activities = WIN! They have said it is a bit tricky to explain to the kids but it’s not as though anyone is groping in the kitchen at breakfast to horrify the children.
None of them have ever mentioned limerence but as it’s not terribly well known in the community at large, I’m not surprised. Certainly when describing how events unfolded it doesn’t sound as though limerence played a role. Everyone has said it takes a HUGE amount of communication, trust and more communication.
“Has anyone ever been limerent for more than one person at once?”
I haven’t. But, when you look at my LE’s, I encountered 3 of the 4 LOs in the span of a decade between 20-30. I encountered the last LO in my 50s.
There was one time in my life where I was sleeping with 2 women at the same time. I broke up with LO #2 and I started dating another woman. LO #2 came back into the picture and they overlapped for 6-8 weeks, max. I couldn’t handle it. I don’t remember feeling disingenuous to either of them, I just had to pick one.
This last year have shown to me that I can’t be limerant for more than one person at once. As my current LE with LO2 was really warming up, out of the blue LO1 contacts me. She’s the one that got away, we were together for a year, split up and I got terribly limerant. I turned down other women because I couldn’t bring myself to think of anyone else. It took years for it to die down, but it never went even as I married my SO. We’d very intermittently swapped messages over the years, but it had been a long time when she messaged me. We swapped loads of messages over the course of a few days and my head was full of her. LO2 got bumped out of the picture. Why have the copy when you can have the original (they are very similar, or at least LO2 is just like LO1 at the same age).
We met up for lunch, had some wine and she confessed that she made a mistake leaving me and regrets it every day. BOOM – what I’d been waiting to hear all these years! Suddenly I was cured of LO1. It was like a switch went off. My mind then reverts back to LO2. Like a video game when you defeat the boss on level 1, and you move to level 2. That’s where I am now, on level 2 figuring out how to quit the game because I think the only way to complete this level is to sleep with LO2 and as we discussed before, that is potential Armageddon for my family.
Anyway, for me my mind can only cope with one at a time, and I’m trying to make that my SO.
I’ve heard of this “off switch” end to limerence from a few people now, Vincent, and it really interests me. Do you think it was the abrupt removal of uncertainty? It’s strange, because with you being together for a year it seems as though uncertainty should have died earlier. Was she non-committal during that year?
My limerence episodes have always faded slowly after going NC. I can kind of imagine an LO doing something so objectionable that it kills the limerence dead, but declaring their feelings doesn’t seem as though it would fit the bill!
Yes, I’m sure it was the end of the uncertainty. She finished with me and started seeing someone else and married them. We still saw a lot of each other for the first couple of years and it was clear that we still had feelings for each other although I felt mine were far stronger. This recent episode very clearly showed me I was wrong about that for all these years that I was pining for her, comparing everyone else unfavourably to her. Turns out she’s always felt the same. I guess that was all I needed – blissful closure. Shortlived as it turns out because LO2 then just took over my mind.
Ahhh, the “off swtich”. My recent experience has demonstrated that the switch does indeed exist (YAY), but that it’s possible for the switch to be toggled back “on” again with the reinsertion of uncertainty (ARGH!). Which is yet more evidence of the value of NC.
You’ve piqued my curiosity catcity13!
So, when you felt the sudden “off” were you free of limerence feelings entirely (i.e. no more obsessive thoughts, no more rumination)? And what triggered the back “on”? Was the limerence as strong in the after-off on as the before-off on?
I think most of us wish for an off switch at some point.
I (re-) watched a movie about the off-switch this weekend. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I would consider visiting Lacuna, Inc. in NYC to have this procedure. What, you mean that wasn’t a true story? Geez, just my luck.
The truth is that I shouldn’t forget my experience…I should learn from it and move forward. And not find myself in that position again. I just wish it were that easy.
Time to play a game Thinker,
Really clear your mind. Who do you see you spending this Xmas with? Who do you see spending Xmas with 5 years from now? Who do you see you spending Xmas with 10 years from now. If you were in a car accident, who do you see standing by the bed when you wake up?
It could be LO, it could be SO, it might be somebody else, or it could be no one at all.
When I play that game, I don’t see anybody but my wife. I don’t know exactly where we are in the vision but we’re together.
35 years ago, LO #2 was there. Over time that vision faded. Today, I can’t generate a vision with her in it. It’s a little different with LO #4. I can generate a vision together but I have to force it and can’t sustain it. The vision defaults back to my wife.
Unless something radically changes, it’s just not in the cards. In my response to her goodbye, I told LO #4 that some people you meet in life are like a piece of fine art. It will never be yours and you may never even get to touch it. But, that doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate it when you see it.
“Really clear your mind. Who do you see you spending this Xmas with? Who do you see spending Xmas with 5 years from now? Who do you see you spending Xmas with 10 years from now. If you were in a car accident, who do you see standing by the bed when you wake up?”
The answer to all is my wife (and children). Except I also see LO by the bed after the car accident. I have shared traumatic experiences with LO, so I am not yet quite where I need to be. I even know that I can count on my wife to take care of everything with no regrets while I don’t feel the same level of reliability for LO. No Contact is breaking the attachment, but this is where I am right now.
The switch was flipped off when this person (I can’t abide the “O” in “LO”) started dating someone else. I don’t get limerent unless it’s reciprocated, which I thought it was…until I thought it wasn’t. Boom. Off. Okay, well not quite that quick but still not bad. The obsessive ruminations came to an abrupt end, and I was quite chuffed. Hah. If I only knew. We didn’t see one another for a couple of months, and then when we did, things quickly led to disclosures. So here I am now with you kind souls on this blog. 🙂
Ah, uh oh. Yes, disclosure that is reciprocated may end the uncertainty, but also opens a whole other can of worms.
Interesting that you were able to turn the limerence symptoms to “dormant” after the initial dating episode, but then they came back with a vengeance with reciprocation. I have wondered if some people are able to regulate the intrusive thoughts and rumination better than others – sort of like high functioning addicts. Or, actually, maybe that sort of experience is perfectly common, and how many people experience love and limerence…?
For me it’s a matter of pragmatism. If there is no reciprocation, I am not going to waste my energy. I learned that lesson the hard way many years ago. Yes, rejection hurts, but once you have lived through a really awful episode of rejection, it makes it much easier to deal with the next time it happens, because you came out the other side even better than before! But life is not so black and white is it. Sometimes a rejection isn’t due to lack of feelings…
It sounds as though that painful lesson has given you new strength for coping with limerence. Many limerents aren’t equipped to be so pragmatic and get even more desperate when the reciprocation is uncertain.
…which is like an accelerator pedal for the limerence engine!
For further context, I have not often experienced limerence, and most certainly not for more than one person at a time, and never (before now) unless I was single. I also do not experience it unless I am ready to go “all in”…as in, a serious monogamous relationship. Since I am married to someone else right now, I’ve been thrown for a hell of a loop!
Still, I’d be interested in hearing more about others’ experiences with the “off” switch.
Me too. Maybe some lucky souls can turn it up or down quickly.
“Still, I’d be interested in hearing more about others’ experiences with the “off” switch.”
There may not be one. Have you read “Deprogramming the limerent brain?” So far, nobody here has come up with a “magic bullet” that will extinguish limerence.
There’s no real “off switch” for most addictive behaviors. The general model is you brute force your way through the most detrimental aspects of whatever your drug of choice is until you reach a point where you can work on what got you there.
Think of the early period No Contact as detox. You have to stay from person of choice and get enough of him/her out of your system so you can reached. For awhile, that can be almost excruciating.
I think the majority of the readers are suffering from Limerence while in a monogamous relationship. It also appears from reading the posts that we ( especially myself) are in a committed relationship physically, and want desperately to be on board mentally, with all the emotions that our limerent brain controls. There was a long, long period that I had that bliss and peace of mind. I want it again.
I have a suggestion for us faithful Limerents. When you get off the high from the current LO,
(eventually you will) to prevent a new LO, locate your soft spot and be alert. My SO has been instructed that I’m going to introduce him to any new males (especially if they are charming and kind) in my life within my age group. I don’t find huge age gaps appealing, because it makes me feel old. (ha ha) Must keep humor to survive Limerence!
Good Luck to you Vincent!
I have never been limerant for more than one person. A combination of not knowing many potential LOs and not having enough emotional energy!
I’m trying to refocus on my husband at the moment. Despite the NC LO is still very much in my head. This was not helped by a mutual colleague/friend posting a photo online which included LO and another colleague who was leaving. LO wasn’t tagged so it wasn’t blocked. It’s stupid what can bring things back to me.
All the more reason to stay off of Facebook!!
Another thought: given that some people become limerent very easily – i.e. quickly become limerent for lots of LOs – it could be that those people are especially suited to poly lifestyles. Or at least the sort of poly lifestyle where there is a primary partner and a sequence of secondary LOs that hang around for a while.
In some respects, I can see the argument that it’s responsible/purposeful to arrange for this reality with your partner beforehand – e.g. “I’m likely to get infatuated with other people quite often, and want to be able to act on it”.
The moral conundrum, of course, is how the primary and secondary partners really feel about the arrangement.
The questions seem to be becoming a little muddled.
“Has anyone ever been limerent for more than one person at once?”
The answer from most respondents appears to be “No.” This is consistent with one of Tenov’s criteria for limerence:
– “Inability to react limerently to more than one person at a time.” – “What is limerence?”
So far, all the examples listed are between 3 people, a limerent, an LO, and an unknown SO who the limerent doesn’t appear to be in a LE with at the moment. There’s nothing that points to simultaneous LOs in a polyamorous relationship.
To a serial limerent, polyamory could be a very desirable condition. They get the benefits of consummation with agreeable parties while neatly avoiding any unpleasant ethical, moral, or legal considerations a non-agreeable partner might take into consideration. It may take a lot of work but if everybody buys into it, the dilemmas are avoided.
“So far, all the examples listed are between 3 people, a limerent, an LO, and an unknown SO who the limerent doesn’t appear to be in a LE with at the moment.”
It’s when the SO also appears to be unknowing is where things get very real.
“I’m likely to get infatuated with other people quite often, and want to be able to act on it”.
It seems easier to me to not get married at all. If someone is better suited to a revolving door, or a moveable feast if you prefer, why commit to an individual. It seems a little greedy or something. Unless both parties want it from the beginning.
Maybe I’m simply getting too tired to be inclined to juggle so many people and their emotions. It sounds like so much work for very little fun. A vibrator is fun & doesn’t need its feelings validated. I don’t want firefly relationships. I like having something with deeper roots and more interconnections.
But whatever works for others is cool.
So grateful to be getting some conversation going on this topic of polyamory and limerence! Thanks to everyone for their comments. I’m especially intrigued by DrL’s assertion that perhaps some poly types have a tendency toward low-threshhold limerence. Very interesting… I’m going to ask my poly LO about it. ☺
For the record, I don’t at all consider myself to be polyamorous and never thought about it at all until I met this young woman—indeed, I fully expect to have my poor limerent heart put through a meat grinder when she moves on, as she inevitably will, to her next amour. And also for the record, I fully recognize that what LO and I have engaged in is not the ethical non-monogamy that true polyamorists practice, but rather straight-up plain ol’ cheating. (Not that I’m proud of it.) As for more than one LO at at time, I spent most of my time in high school and college having multiple simultaneous crushes that I would now call limerent. But none was reciprocated to the point where nucleation occurred, and that point is key. I’m quite confident that one nucleating limerence is all I could handle at a time. Like several here have said, Who has that much time or energy? Plus these days, I don’t meet enough limerence prospects.
That said, I’m not sold on the romantic concept of there being only one “the one” out there for each of us, certainly not for one’s entire life. Serial monogamy has been my experience, with my current relationship (ie, my marriage) lasting some 18 years now. (And I was limerent for her before we got together.) While I’ve had the occasional fleeting attraction now and again since getting married at 36, I only experienced limerence once 10 years ago (at 43) and then just this past fall. In the first case, I did disclose my feelings to my wife (although at that time I had never heard of the term “limerence”) and, believe it or not, we agreed to each of us having an affair. To keep things fair and equal, I suppose, although she was not limerent for her lover. We all survived the experience, though it was not easy. (I would call that an experiment with an open relationship, btw, not polyamory.) And my LO and I had our time together. Alas, it was not at all the spiritual/sexual/emotional/physical union of my dreams. It was just…OK. But we got it out of our system and we are still friends to this day (though she lives on another continent and we don’t see each other very often, which is probably a good thing). I learned then that real consummation is not what this is about. Now I see this is consistent with what we’ve all read about here and in Tennov.
This is why I wondered about genuine consummation with my current LO—not just the “patty cake” we’ve played. (Lee, I just love that description. Thank you.) But this is not something that standard monogamy accommodates. I’m not sure if polyamory is the framework or the occasional opening of a relationship would do the trick. Despite the issues that most marriages have, I don’t want to leave my wife. But well…this limerence is a bastard. I believe that real consummation might have gotten me past it. Now instead what I’ve gotten is a few tantalizing experiences that I fear are simply going to seal this thing in amber.
Why not tell my wife this time? Yeah… well…for professional reasons I won’t go into here, disclosing to SO is simply never going to be a viable option in my case. If it were, I would have done so before any of this craziness got this far. So now I’m going to give it a go with this gradual No Contact strategy. Wish me luck!
“Why not tell my wife this time? Yeah… well…for professional reasons I won’t go into here, disclosing to SO is simply never going to be a viable option in my case.”
I’m glad you’re going NC but if you’ve cheated on your wife you may have exposed her to an STI/STD and that isn’t going to help your marriage. Ditto if she finds out from someone other than yourself she may decide to make a decision for herself. One that will effectively erase you from her life.
I don’t know anyone who subscribes to the belief that one person is always going to be the perfect companion until death. But marrying means you are going to do it despite it being hard. When it gets too hard you discuss it and if necessary, divorce. Not find a new flame, rewrite history to justify your actions and then inform your spouse/SO. Your spouse deserves better. So do you.
Using the word ‘never isn’t a good sign. I hope I’m mistaken.
I wish I could edit my posts.
Anyway, you can tell your wife. You have chosen not to do so, at least thus far. So to be honest with yourself at least and use the word ‘won’t’.
One of the beauties of “patty-cake” is that STDs aren’t really a risk. 🙂 But I hear you. The risk is to LO’s career, not mine, and I can see no reason to justify harming her future for the sake of my present. I knew very well when this all started that I would have to face serious consequences if my wife finds out what happened (and it is past tense now, thankfully)–but I guess I had been unhappy enough for long enough to take that chance. That realization in itself was an eye opener and we are now in couples’ therapy trying to work on our relationship. Believe me, I have been honest with myself about all of this and I will accept those consequences with as much integrity as I can muster if/when the time comes. I just hope it doesn’t.
If you won’t name LO to your wife because you are protecting SO professionally rather than your wife (professionally – there is no reason to pretend that you lied to save her from anything) I really hope you have been forthright about the limerence; there is someone who tickled your fancy, you have put NC in place and are serious about untangling your marriage. If it comes to an end that it wasn’t for lack of whole-hearted effort. I am concerned that if your situation is uncovered independently or worse that I will be reading about you on another web site entirely (chumplady).
Good luck to you. I hope both of you get clarity and peace of mind sooner rather than later. I don’t envy you the process and I hope the results are helpful to you and your wife.
Lee, we don’t know anything about Landry’s LO or wife, or the professional complications associated with disclosure. It’s not always the best option – with the caveat that if it does come to light through other routes then there may be even worse consequences. There is also sometimes time-sensitivity to disclosure.
It sounds to me like Landry is handling it well now, with couples counselling and more honest conversations about the state of their marriage. Disclosure at a later date may be a option.
“Disclosure at a later date may be a option.”
Sure but the longer he delays doing so the bigger the risk that his wife is going to feel doubly betrayed. IF she is going to couples’ therapy and laying it on the line and he is not. She may be holding back too, of course. If that’s the case they’re both wasting time and money because neither of them trust the other.
Also the more likely she will feel he was protecting LO at the expense of their marriage. He’s also tacitly suggesting that if she knows the identity of LO that she will take vengeance upon her, rather than taking him to task. If that isn’t her style, she’s being downgraded and insulted. If it is, why does he find that dynamic worthwhile in his private life?
It’s his gamble to take. I’m simply pointing out that as the non-limerent spouse his thought processes may backfire. It’s a different point of view.
“That said, I’m not sold on the romantic concept of there being only one “the one” out there for each of us, certainly not for one’s entire life.”
When I was a kid my twice-divorced father told me, “There”s somebody for everybody but nothing says there’s only one somebody for everybody.”
I just can’t handle having more than one woman in my head at any given time. It simply doesn’t work for me. If were to find myself back on the market, I’d look for another relationship.
The right person can add a lot to your life.
That’s interesting. As the partner who was effectively told, “You’re too old, short, familiar and successful”, I have no interest in finding anyone new if my marriage comes to an end. I invested myself into it fully so I feel very burned by the devaluation.
Oh, a relationship may come along after death or divorce but I see no point in pursuing one. Maybe it’s easier to think about when you’ve already dabbled along the way.
Does serial limerence go hand-in-hand with serial monogamy rather than a poly lifestyle? It sounds as though respondents have a secure base and a steady presence of one person plus someone on the outskirts, if not making inroads, too. At least while in the throes of limerence. I guess I might too if someone were hellben on pursuing me and singing my praises while Mr. Lee was mooning over Miss Exotica. But that would be an emotional vengeance bomb, one that is more likely to blow up in my face, not limerence on my part.
So, yeah, if it ends I’m not looking for a new bedfellow. I do well on my own and I wouldn’t want to rush into a relationship to fill a void within me.
That’s not to say anyone reading here would do so, this is me musing out loud.
Serial sufferer says
We tried out polyamory. I’m the serial limerent. My husband had a limerent episode which sparked our interest in polyamory at a point where our relationship, after some rocky patches (which didn’t have as much to do with my limerence as with other issues), was more solid than ever. He ended up in a relationship with a woman who is in an open marriage. I ended up in another monogamous relationship, which is even stronger and happier than my 20-year marriage – yet still had a limerent episode, which proved that the relationship was NOT the cause of limerence.
My current SO keeps saying he should “let me be free” to be polyamorous. As I considered this, I realized that would never work for me. If I followed my limerent inclinations, I would end up in serial monogamy. Since some of my limerent objects have been dirt bags (I was aware of that even at the height of the limerence), most have been married, and none of them have been as stellar as my current SO (judged by my non-limerent brain), that would mean I would rarely, if ever, know the happiness that I have known with my SO.
This is really interesting. My LO is in an open relationship, having struggled to be monogamous in the past. But having learnt a lot more about limerence of late, I think he probably experiences limerence. or at least, thinking about the way he disclosed himself to me, I would equate that now with something on the borders of limerence. I can’t say whether or not he had intrusive/obsessive thoughts, but certainly he was upset at the idea of my moving spaces to a different part of the building (which I didn’t do ultimately, but also was nothing to do with him at the time), and he is struggling as much as I am to maintain sensible boundaries. He’s very infatuated with his partner…but I’m not sure that is limerence, so whether he has multiple limerence…?! It’s really interesting to think about, though I don’t think I’ll ever have a chance to discuss it with him, given that i’m trying to maintain limited contact (NC is impossible given we work together). But it’s a really interesting question, and I suppose cuts to the essence of what limerence is, vs a crush or someone quick to lust.
Like Landry, this experience has made me wonder if I’m more poly than I thought I was…that’s a hard question to answer, because while this experience has made me question other ‘temptations’ that I’ve had, they haven’t been limerent experiences, but just finding someone attractive. I think I would struggle with a genuine poly relationship with my LO, because I think i would fall hard and fast, and my existing partner would be devalued and excluded…which is not the nature of a poly relationship, or an open one. And that’s why I hesitate to say my LO is limerent generally, because he seems to be able to generally maintain the distance and the distinction in a way that i struggle to. and then I also wonder whether me thinking that he’s limerent with me is just the limerence talking, and me trying to see something ‘special’. I shall ponder some more. This site is amazing…
My Limerent Brain Is An Idiot says
@WishfulDreamer— the way I understand (and experience) limerence includes an intense desire for exclusivity and reciprocal feedback. For me that rules out the possibility of a poly relationship.
I’m way late to the conversation on this article, however I thought I would chime in with some personal experience.
I discovered limerence while my wife and I were experimenting with an open/poly lifestyle (started more open and moved into poly). What I found was that my wife was limerent for several partners during this time, yet I did not know what it was. The result was that once her LE didn’t drive away a partner and instead was reciprocated, the limerence skyrocketed.
This was the point when I discovered limerence:
After over 15 years of marriage, and having several young children, my wife wanted a divorce. She didn’t want to talk about it. She didn’t want to think about it. She only wanted out of our marriage. She refused marriage counseling at first and just wanted me to agree to absurd divorce and child custody terms and leave (yes she wanted me to leave). From my perspective, not knowing anything about limerence at this point, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was addicted. In fact I called it that from the start (she hated it and I don’t recommend trying to explain this to a spouse who is deep in LE). I began searching online to understand what she was experiencing. I found an article on limerence (thank you Dr. Joe Beam and Marriage Helper) and everything began making sense (well as much as limerence makes sense).
This was not the woman I had known since she was 17 and married at 20. This was not the person I had spent the entirety of my adult life with. She turned on me so quickly and so viciously. Over time I learned that she was turning on me because in her mind, I stood between her and her LO. In reality, there was a lot more in the way. Divorce is difficult and messy for a couple with no children and few shared assets. We were at the far end of the spectrum with several (young) children and a tangled web of shared finances, debt, assets, responsibilities… Not to mention we both come from large religious families who would be completely blindsided by this and would not support a divorce decision. Especially one seeming so frivolous.
So for us, poly and limerence don’t mix. Not only is my wife unable to be limerent for two people at once, she also cannot (or seemingly cannot) have or entertain romantic feelings for me at all while experiencing a LE. While we are basically living a one-sided poly relationship now, in a staged withdrawal effort to eventually achieve NC, it is completely miserable for her, for me and for our family.
Sorry to read your post, McTavish. Did you see Dr. L’s guide for partners/spouses of limerents? It may provide some insights for your path forward. Devaluation of the significant other by limerents is one of the most heart-wrenching parts of the experience. Remember to cherish and honor yourself, and of course your kids, in this process. Take care!
@Bert I did see the guide, thank you! Much of my own stability in the current situation has come from the understanding I’ve gained reading LwL. Thank you for the words of encouragement.
McTavish, I have recently experienced exactly the same situation as you described.. would love to chat firstname.lastname@example.org
@Tavish, what an appalling experience for you, I’m so very sorry. Especially because, if she finally merges with her LO, there may be serious problems in their union, partly because it’s just LE, partly because divorce, small children, and family disapproval make any new relationship much harder. Tolstoy imaginatively reconstructed this scenario in Anna Karenina, based on the real story of a woman who committed suicide back in the 1800’s.
I think it’s good that you’re recognizing that she’s going through some form of temporary insanity, so that you don’t turn bitter against women. I think your goal should be to get through this with your dignity and integrity intact, so that you can eventually find another woman who will be a better wife/stepmother for your kids.
In your shoes, I would hold the high ground: if she forces you to go into divorce negotiation, telling the family, etc, make sure she and everyone knows this isn’t your idea, it’s very clearly her choice, her responsibility. Avoid letting her bait you into anger or retaliation, that will give her the excuse she’s looking for to blame you. Afterwords, take a few years to get over the damage to your heart. Then, when you’ve adjusted to being single and are happy again, find another woman. Life is long, this is just a very bad chapter in a bigger story.
@Satch thank you very much for the insight and encouraging words! My hope is that I can hold on long enough for LO to realize the relationship is futile and she will eventually recover. However, your words are heeded should this not be the case.
I really hope all is well with you, as I said previous, I too have a very similar situation as yours… Let’s chat email@example.com
Hi, I know I’m late to this convo also, but I’d like to share.
I’m recovering from limerence, I’ve experienced obsessive/intrusive/addicting thoughts for multiple people at the same time and I’m also polyamorous, ie capable of loving/respecting/having good feelings for multiple people at once. I’m describing limerence and poly bc I know a lot of people define those things in different ways, and I’m trying to make clear how I define those things. Someone above mentioned low-threshold limerence, and I’d say that’s probably the level of limerence I experience as my obsessive thoughts are dispersed amongst 5-8 people at any given time. My limerence was spurred from early childhood sexuality suppression – I came from a religious background and grew up where being queer wasn’t acceptable. I hid my attraction to women & queer folk, hated myself, and eventually become obsessed with people I thought could be potential partners. My obsessions, past and present, are stronger for certain people, but overall my limerent feelings don’t waiver unless someone moves away, and then I’m certain that distance will keep us apart. For a long time, I didn’t realize the disassociation, wild fantasies I was experiencing was in fact limerence.
Years later, I’m married to a woman/they person and I’m in a committed relationship with her. The relationship was always open, but we really only minimally experimented with it, and then after talking to my wife about pursuing a friend that used to be a prior LO we talked about it, made some boundaries, and then I started hanging out, making out, not having sex, spending some of my time with this person, I realized that I actually have real, lovey feelings for them, and at the same time feel love and commitment to my wife. That’s how I discovered that I’m polyamorous. AND most if not all of my prior limerent fantasies about this prior LO have disappeared even though I’m doing some of the exact things I obsessively fantasized about doing years ago with them. I think a lot of that has to do with my recovery and acknowledging when I’m having a limerent thought, but also through discovering that I’m polyamorous. Polyamory has given me the opportunity to manage my feelings in a much healthier way by giving me a framework to be in ethical relationships with everyone – limerent, in love or not. Being polyamorous hasn’t given me an excuse to be limerent, or feed into my addiction to fantasy so much as it has helped guide me in the direction of ethical relationships.
As I’m in a non-monogamous, committed, ethical relationship with my wife, and in a non-committal relationship with another person, I still experience limerence for multiple other people regularly. Typically these people are close friends that I’m in often in contact with, and everyday I’m chipping away at my disassociation/obsessive thoughts. I don’t think being polyamorous is the reason for my limerence, but I do think being polyamorous is the reason I’m limerent for more than one person. Hope that makes sense folks. If you have any questions, I’ll visit this thread eventually and answer.
Am also joining this thread quite late…..
I absolutely believe limerents can do Polyamory…..my ultimate dream right now would be to remain fully committed to my SO at the same time as launching myself into a deep & passionate relationship with my LO! I would never need a third SO (who’s got the time or energy!), but it would be an option once the limerence wore off.
I have always been attracted to the idea of ethical polyamory and like many, that interest has spiked dramatically now I am limerent. I have never believed that lifelong monogamy is necessary but I committed to it nonetheless – probably because it is our cultural norm. Long before my current LE, I discussed the idea of polyamory with my SO and although he was not closed to it, he had no interest in having a second relationship so I dropped the idea.
Sadly, the rational part of my limerent mind can see that a poly relationship with my current LO is impossible but occasionally, I am able to visualise a future when my current LE has subsided and I believe I would be happier living a poly lifestyle. I love my SO dearly and I am completely committed to a lifelong relationship with him, but I have not desired him for a long time. I find it tough to accept a future where I cannot experience desire and act on it with a clear conscience. I think that has a been the major effect of my current LE – after 10 years of minimal libido, I now realise I am not “past it” after all and I hunger for another romantic adventure.
Hm. Polyamory is an interesting topic. I have a sister who has tried it, without much success so far. (If it doesn’t work out, you have to “break up” with multiple people, which sounds a bit awkward). I don’t think it’s very likely people can be limerent for multiple LOs at the same time, because once you’re giving your attention to more than one person (and trying to divvy it up equally) it no longer qualifies as “obsession” to my mind. Nor would it be involuntary and all-consuming. Are you really going to picture ALL your partners in every reverie?
Do I think people can be physically attracted to more than one partner? Of course. That’s just human nature. Do I think people can deeply love and respect more than one person? Naturally. But I think limerence is a special kind of beast. Yes, to me personally, limerence and polyamory would feel like a huge conflict of interests. The limerent goal (securing affection from beloved at any cost) and the poly goals (group harmony, etc) would be fundamentally incompatible.
Basically, I think there’s something inherently competitive about limerence, which would be an obstacle to practising authentic polyamory. Another poster has called limerence a “zero sum game” and I think that’s true. Love is not a zero sum game. Sex is not a zero sum game. But a limerent person? They definitely want LO all to themselves and favouritism is the inevitable result. (Not to mention the often-unconscious jealousy!)
Is polyamory a good way to have both SO and LO in one’s life? Well, put it this way, I can see the appeal of that fantasy. But, honestly, I don’t think it’s very fair to anyone, especially a SO who just wants their old familiar pre-limerent spouse back. And it would take a heck of a lot of talking through. If I were ever to practise polyamory, I think it would only work if I was single at the point of entry and never became limerent for anyone inside or outside of the group.
Im 2 years too late to this post, but I’m in a very stable poly relationship/basically married to my partner, whom i was limerant about in the beginning, and which matured to a very deep and unbreakable bond (weve been together for almost 7 years and have been through literally everything together). We both get limerant about our crushes. But also we are able to turn the unstable limerance into renewed appreciation for the stable and honest love we’ve built. Some aspects of poly i think helps with limerance; we’re both self aware enough of it to recognize its effects and try to avoid putting our LOs on a pedestal, we also dont require exclusivity from each other or our crushes, and we do a lot of work to try see the person as they are and not as we want them to be. But its definitely possible in poly relationships, we also call it new relationship energy. Its intoxicating but if done properly it can turn into a healthy love and into the deep joy of truly getting to know someone (not like, the projection of someone).
Hi Kim. Thanks for your post. I feel very similarly to you about my SO and have been interested in opening up our relationship / polyamory for a while now. I have read a few books on polyamory and feel it would suit me/us very well. Unfortunately my SO is currently unwilling to take the risk and go for it, in part because as he is not interested in anyone else so has no vested interest other than solely for my sake. We have gifted each other a non-expiring one-off “hall pass” for our 50th birthdays next year however, so we will see how that goes.
I am curious though – are your LOs/paramours polyamorous, single or married? How did you both meet them?
My partner & I decided to open up our relationship, we call it slightly ajar – a few years back. Soon after I met someone & got limerent for them. However I knew I wasn’t interested in a relationship. Somehow though it opened up a can of worms. I got limerent for someone non available almost at the same time. Whereas I could act on one LO, I couldn’t on the other. All very messy 🙂 I love the concept of our open relationship that we can have sex with someone else if we feel like it & we are very open about it. Unfortunately my problem is that in order to want to have sex with another guy I need to be fairly infatuated with them. Hence falling into limerence almost naturally. Theoretically I like the idea to have love for more than one person but in practice it’s so much harder as the primary partner is often the one that gets the not so good bits of having to deal with the crap whereas the poly partner / LO gets idealised and has all the amazing fun & sex.
I don’t think I could be limerent for more than one LO at a time. I don’t think I have the brainpower for it. Damn this Daihatsu Charade brain…
I’d embraced the concept of having a poly outlook before the LE so I didn’t have to deal with confusion around that, thankfully. But I can totally see why it would help keep an individual stuck.
I’m definitely late to the game, but I have an interesting experience to share on this topic. Thinking back to adolescence, I have always been a serial limerent. It is very easy for me to get attached to or obsessed with a new LO. I had sometimes characterized myself as a “hopeless romantic” in this sense. This has often happened for for me towards multiple LOs at once. I remember one time in high school I felt limerent toward three men at the same time, all named “Andrew”! XD
Anyways, I do think there are degrees of limerence, and I wouldn’t say that I necessary have equivalent degrees towards all LOs at all times. I understand from the comments from some others that they would classify limerent feelings as either all-consuming or not limerence. But for me, I experience differing levels of obsession and this can come and go based on the interaction/attention I’m receiving or other contextual circumstances.
When I was 18 and moved away to college, I lost my virginity to and began a regular sexual relationship with a man. Slowly as we continued to see each other, my limerent feelings intensified. He was in another relationship at the time and was cheating with me. So the uncertainty was definitely ripe for my LE to develop. After about a year, he broke up with his boyfriend but then moved away. We did long distance (~10hr train ride) for a year during which my limerance was maintained and even intensified. Once he returned, slowly the limerence faded and the stable, reliable love set in. It took overall probably 3-4 years for the obsessiveness to wane.
Fast forward to today, we are about 6.5 years into our relationship and things are solid. Great communication, great sex, good boundaries, mutual trust and respect, etc. Another thing to note is our relationship has always been open (physically) but we had never discusses polyamory or the idea of having multiple relationships. A few weeks back I received a message on social media from an old acquaintance in which they professed they had been crushing on my for a number of years. Immediately I felt a glimmer and we have been texting constantly, had a few phone calls/video chats and are both definitely feeling LE towards each other. I brought this up to my partner of 6 years and he was very supportive of me. While he made sure to mention that situations like this can become quite complicated, he also expressed that he wanted me to explore myself and whatever might make me feel happy. We decided to open our relationship up further to be polyamorous, allowing him to see new people as well if something comes his way.
Interestingly, as I lean into my feelings for this new LO, I am noticing that some of these feelings are in some ways transferring onto my long-term partner. While I wouldn’t call what I am feeling towards my long-term partner full-blown limerence exactly, I am noticing that certain feelings of heightened arousal, obsessive thoughts, butterflies in the stomach, etc. are coming back up. I know that some have experienced LE for a new person diminishing their feelings for or connection to their SO but for me the opposite is occurring, something that I had never expected. I believe that this tells me I truly am a polyamorous person. Not only am I capable of romantic/emotional relationships with multiple partners, but it seems that this paradigm actually compounds or multiplies my connections with each partner individually. While this is all very new for me, I am happy to share my experiences so others can understand how limerence and polyamory might interact.
Limerent Emeritus says
From today’s Washington Post:
Not much about the courtship phase or anything related to limerence:
“Cody Coppola, 31, and Maggie Odell, 28, have been together for six years, and married for four. Janie Frank, 26, is Cody’s girlfriend of more than than five years. She is also Maggie’s. They all work in construction and design.”
It works for them.
@Skyler – Thank you for posting. I have had the same experience as you of my feelings for LO transferring onto my partner, increasing my desire for them at the same time as having fantasies of LO.
I am not sure that this tells me that I am a polyamorous person, as polyamory is the practice of having relationships with more than one person, not the feeling of love for more than one person. Personally, I know that I could not actually have a relationship with more than 1 person at a time, but it is very interesting to have feelings of love for more than one person, and not something I ever thought about before.
With me suddenly falling for my supervisor last September, I have discovered this website and the whole topic of limerence. I’ve had LEs in childhood and adolescence, but then there seemed to have been a long break, so I never thought much about it as being different than simply falling in love. At the age of 27 I met my husband who I am very happy with since 14 years, yet there is this undefined part that seems to be missing. I’m really not sure what it is and how to define it.
My husband has a secure attachment style, is affectionate, highly emotionally intelligent and caring and yes, sometimes also just plainly boring. I really do not want to sound ungrateful. I have definitely won a lottery by meeting and creating a strong and honest relationship we have together. I’m just trying to understand the nature of a desire that becomes stronger at times and that desire seems to be one for intense feelings, a promise of an enticing world full of adventure, where you can feel a bit special, where you can enjoy a powerful connection with someone, and that overall feeling is exactly what an LO can provide, or you can find it by getting addicted to drugs..
Seven years ago, in a period of severe stress at work, I met someone who after few months I’ve started an affair with, it was something my husband was aware of. And with that, a thought of having a non-monogamous relationship became interesting and I was wondering if this would be a way for me to address the need of this extra adventure/stimulation. Or am I just lying to myself and simply coming up with some justifications for this highly addictive and co-dependent additional relationship. I do not think it was a LE, but there were certainly similarities.
With the most recent crush, the idea of having a primary and secondary relationship made sense again, and actually was used as something to break the intrusive thought cycles I experienced for few months last autumn and winter. I also became convinced by articles about polyamory talking about one person not being able to satisfy all their partner’s needs, but many of these articles are quite superficial and do not go deeply enough with all the psychological aspects of those needs. Yet, I start to think that I’m wrong believing it would address the above described “need”.
Happy to hear more thoughts if what I shared resonates with others ‘ experience.
I also hope it’s OK to share it here in this non-judgemental crowd.
Allie 1 says
I agree Catarina. I feel exactly the same and believe the desire you feel is a natural and normal part of the human experience. Exploring it would certainly solve the problem for me but my SO is not quite on board sadly. But if the barriers were not there, and I was free to explore my desire for LO, the painful and overly intense side limerence would never had started.
In my (well researched) view, Humans did not evolve to be sexually monogamous, this is a culturally enforced paradigm created to solve a problem caused by a misogyny that has almost been eradicated in the western world. I’ll get off my soap box now 🙂