Back in the early days of the blog, I wrote about limerence and libido. I argued that problems can arise in long-term relationships for those limerents who have a very tight mental association between erotic desire and being in a state of limerence. Bluntly, if your libido depends on being in the euphoric stage of limerence, then it’s pretty much guaranteed that long-term commitment will extinguish it.
This can lead, somewhat predictably, to a loss of erotic connection with your partner, with the endgame being a sexless marriage. There are three common scenarios:
- A significant mismatch in libido where one partner gets sex whenever they (rarely) want it, and the other is frustrated.
- One partner no longer wants sex, but the other does.
- Neither partner wants sex with the other.
None of these scenarios are easy to manage. The principal barrier is the strong sense that most of us have that “reluctant sex” is distasteful at best and traumatic at worst.
It’s an old joke in my country that a dutiful wife would “lie back and think of England” on her wedding night, putting aside her womanly frigidity for the greater good of conceiving the next generation. What can I say? The English had peculiar attitudes to sex. It’s a good job we’re so much more enlightened nowadays, and have no strange beliefs or attitudes anymore, eh?
Snark aside, it’s obviously progress that everyone can reasonably expect both sexual fulfillment and bodily autonomy in their relationships, and that’s what’s at the root of the discomfort about “making an effort” when it comes libido loss. Having to cajole yourself into intimacy with someone you don’t feel spontaneous desire for, feels wrong. Having a partner who still desires you, and tries to cajole you into sex (when you are solidly turned off), feels coercive – especially if their frustration and sense of rejection causes them to become impatient and angry. It’s easy to see how this can turn into a downward spiral of ever-decreasing desire.
Of course, that scenario can also be looked at from the opposite perspective.
How corrosive is it to self-esteem, to romantic and sexual confidence, to be continually rejected by the person who married you? Even this person – the one who declared their love for you to the world – cannot muster enough desire to touch you. Every attempt to initiate intimacy leads instead to rejection and shame. Every romantic overture is rebuffed.
Enough of that negative reinforcement, and you arrive at the other big intersection between limerence and the sexless marriage: a pressurised tank of thwarted desire that finally bursts open when a new limerent object arrives.
When the frustrated spouse become infatuated, it leads to a multiplication of the marital problems. Now the couple no longer has to just deal with the loss of erotic connection, they also have to deal with an existential threat to the marriage, a loss of the comfortable security they’d taken for granted, and, possibly, the disintegration of a family.
So what can be done about this apparent “incompatibility of wants”? We want the nourishment and secure love of marriage, but we also want erotic excitement. How can we purposefully respond?
1) Abandon the marriage
Option one is to decide that marriage and erotic desire are incompatible for you, and so abandon the pretence of a sexless marriage. This could be followed by a life of either serial monogamy (which would suit limerents best), casual dating, or simply remaining single and self-sufficient. It does seem as though this is an increasing trend, with new marriages in 2018 being at the lowest level since records began in the US (and that includes during both world wars). With divorce rates hovering around 45%, the future does seem to be one of fewer marriages.
The causes of this are many, but the simple explanation seems to be that men and/or women now feel that the benefits of marriage are outweighed by the costs, and that they can get their emotional and sexual needs met in alternative lifestyles. That could be the self-interest of MGTOW or the disdain of feminist separatism. It could be trendy self-partnering. It could be involuntary celibacy.
Clearly, choosing a lifestyle alternative to marriage solves the central problem of losing erotic connection to a primary partner. You are free to pursue romantic adventure. The cost, of course, is the loss of security, the loss of emotional support, and the risk of not being able to find a romantic partner who is interested in you. You can no longer rely on the availability of a loving partner. You have to trust to hope.
2) Unconventional marriage
Here you separate out the two conflicting drives – secure love and erotic excitement – and satisfy them with different people. In polyamory, there is usually a primary (love) partner, and one or more secondary (erotic) partners. This is not always the model, though, and some poly groups sustain multiple love relationships that have all the secure and erotic elements. They just want to have multiple partners.
The other extreme would be swingers, who have a stable marriage, but with licence to pursue erotic play elsewhere. This is conceived as being an almost entirely lust-driven enterprise – scratching the itch for sexual novelty.
These sorts of arrangements are completely rational on the surface. It’s a simple division of labour. Unfortunately, love, lust and limerence are often inconveniently irrational.
With apologies for not properly curating my sources, I recently read an article by a marriage counsellor somewhere, who stated that in their decades of practice they had only known one couple who successfully solved their relationship problems by opening the marriage. The vast majority collapsed because of jealousy, insecurity, resentment (usually as one spouse was much more successful at finding additional lovers than the other), regret (emotions are complicated), or one spouse falling in love with one of their new lovers and leaving the original marriage. I think the latter case is the massive risk for limerents.
Finally, of course, there is the option to unilaterally stray from the marriage and commit infidelity. That carries all the preceding risks, and loads more.
Seriously, just don’t do it (if it isn’t already too late).
3) Work on the marriage
So, the last option seems like the most promising, but it isn’t easy because it requires personal change.
Here you decide to try and strike a balance between the need for security and the need for excitement. For the familiar and the novel. It’s a lot to ask any one person to provide, and achieving this state of tension is tough, but it’s the best hope of sustaining a long-term partnership that remains sexually satisfying.
This is the approach that sex therapists (most famously, Esther Perel) typically advocate, with varying degrees of sophistication. The banal end of the spectrum is to “spice things up” (role-play! lingerie! toys!), but the more profound insight is the need to cultivate eroticism in yourself.
The “lie back and think of England” quip hides an unspoken truth. Most of those ladies weren’t thinking of England. They were thinking about how enjoyable sexy fun times can be, and they were thinking about the things that fired them up, fuelled their engines, pressed their buttons. Maybe they were thinking of the gardener.
So much of erotic excitement happens in the brain. Certainly the prospect of a new lover can supercharge it, but that’s an easy fix. It’s table stakes. Believing that you can only get aroused by a series of new lovers, each of whom will pall with time, is a very defeatist approach to your erotic potential.
Our minds are incredibly creative when they need to be. There are lots of ways to kindle the fire, even if it needs the occasional spark of outside stimulus (e.g. erotica or pornography) to get things started. Cultivating the ability to arouse yourself without the need for someone new equips you with the skill to find gratification without seeking stimulus outside the marriage.
We all take responsibility for our erotic fulfillment when we are single. We’ve no choice, after all. So, why not adopt this same attitude in a marriage that has gone stale? What can you do to excite yourself? Look on your partner not as a fantasy figure that provokes desire by their very essence, but as an erotic playmate who helps you enjoy some recreational sexy fun. They are not responsible for creating lust in you, they’re the ones who can help you satisfy that lust. Increase your receptivity to them by stoking your own libido first, and then invite them to join in.
This obviously requires trust and vulnerability on your part. The best way to add novelty to a sexual relationship is to try new things. Not just athletically challenging positions, but opening up about what really turns you on. Because often, what really turns us on is not what we think should turn us on – indeed it’s often a kink or quirk that we are a bit embarrassed about. Perversely, most of us are more willing to pursue those fantasies in a one-night stand with a virtual stranger, than with the person who knows us best of anyone. We trap ourselves in a bind where we don’t want to admit our sexual peccadilloes to the one person who could most readily satisfy them.
The worst case scenario here is if you feel that the very presence of your spouse would be a turn off. If that’s the case, then chances are you have moved them into a mental category incompatible with lust – i.e you see them as a friend, quasi-sibling, or (worst of all) a dependent. The parental impulse and the erotic impulse are incompatible, for very good reasons, so that means extra work to do.
All is not lost, though, if you once looked upon them with lustful eyes. The key is to try and reset your mental image of them. To simulate novelty.
Ways to do this include having new life experiences separately, and then coming back together to discuss them. Or, trying to observe them from a fresh perspective – say at a party or professional event of some sort when they are interacting with other people – to sort of catch them behaving naturally when they are not aware of your gaze. Seeing how other people react to our spouse can be surprisingly potent in shaking us out of our mental ruts.
Read their twitter feed or Instagram stories, and read the replies. What does your spouse look like through other people’s eyes? How do others react to their ideas and personality? Even a make over or fresh wardrobe can be enough to cause a mental hiccup that could be a route out of the status quo.
If your libido is tied to limerence, you really only have two options if you want to also have a long-term monogamous relationship: give up on sex, or cultivate your ability to stimulate your libido in ways that don’t require a limerent object.
The idea that lust must be spontaneous, and based on your reaction to someone else’s animal appeal, is a limiting belief. Those couples that survive into the long term learn how to take charge of their own erotic levers, and then teach their spouses how to pull them.
Great post DrL, am very much looking forward to the browsing the comments on this one.! Am still formulating my ‘relating it to my situation’ response but am too busy sunbathing right now 🙂
Sorry to be anal but I have to make a small point- I have read a few books on polyamory and have attended a group to chat to poly-amorous people to learn how it works from their first hand experience. What you have described above is more an “Open Relationship” rather then proper polyamory. The more purist “Ethical Polyamory” encourages people to hold all relationships as more or less equal (to ensure no-one’s emotions are treated as secondary) and both/all relationships usually involve emotional commitment. The thinking is that relationships are allowed to be more fluid and adaptive, they do not necessarily end, they just evolve over time.
Thanks, Allie. I confess that I’m not very knowledgeable about poly lifestyles and how the different forms view the relative commitments to different partners.
Appreciate the clarification 🙂
Vicarious Limerent says
Yep, this is me. I don’t think I am incapable of living the married life and having a normal long-term intimate relationship with a partner, and I still believe very strongly in the institution of marriage. My wife and I had a half-decent sex life for about 15 years, so that is quite a long time. I don’t think all hope is lost for me as a whole, but I am not sure about my current marriage specifically. Interestingly enough, I fantasize quite often about marrying my LO at a church in the village where she grew up (I even have a vision of the style of wedding dress I would like to see her wearing).
Things started going off the rails with my wife about 3-4 years ago and I am not sure exactly what the problem was (they got much worse once my LE started). I thought it was a medical condition on my part (type 2 diabetes) and aging itself that were causing the problem initially, but I have since got my blood sugar under control, lost quite a bit of weight, improved my diet and become more active. I am sure at least a small part of the problem was physical, but by now I am certain it was almost entirely mental/emotional in nature. I suspect the problems in our marriage dealing with anger, controlling behaviour, lack of fun, power struggles, huge fights between my wife and daughter, few shared interests and different perspectives on life were more to blame for the loss of attraction than anything physical. As mentioned before, I still love my wife, but she feels more like a sister to me at this point. I have read that familial feelings towards one’s spouse aren’t at all uncommon in troubled marriages. There is also that cliché of loving my wife but not being sure if I am still IN love with her. One thing I am wrestling with in terms of guilt is the thought that I have improved my appearance greatly over the past couple of years (especially the last few months), but my wife doesn’t seem to be taking the hint that I would like her to try as well. Is that a horrible thing to be thinking? I feel so guilty feeling this way because we’re supposed to love and be attracted to our partners unconditionally. Still, Dr. L does provide some useful strategies for trying to get the spark back in my marriage, and I am going to try some of them (I just don’t see the usual banal advice about sex toys, role play or different sexual positions to be something that would make any difference).
Hi VL. Sounds like there are many reasons for loss of desire in your marriage. Overly controlling and, if I recall correctly, unkind behaviour from your wife sounds like a big one. We need to trust our partners with our most vulnerable selves to have good sex.
“we’re supposed to be attracted to our partners unconditionally.”
I think this is an unrealistic cultural expectation. You have done nothing wrong to feel guilty about. Most people need their partner to look after themselves and make an effort to look nice – this is also one of the factors in my and SOs lack of mutual desire. Physical appearance is often part of sexual attraction – although I do believe connection, affection, confidence and charisma go a long way too.
For me, as I have said below, “in love” is an early-ish relationship stage that leads us into real long term love and bonding. I know some lucky couples manage to keep this feeling going for longer but I do believe that this is not the norm and is another unrealistic cultural expectation.
I really hope you manage to resolve your marital issues and get the desire back again. I recall that you are considering couples therapy – I would think this could really help.
Vicarious Limerent says
Thanks Allie. I agree with you about it being unrealistic that we continue to be hugely attracted to our partners forever more. I think we should continue to make an effort to stay attractive, regardless of our age, marital status or how long we have been together. When I mention possibly no longer being “in love,” I think there are at least two definitions of that term: (1) the madly in-love/lustful/romantic feelings that are characteristic of the first 3-4 years of a relationship – the type of feelings that invariably fade; and (2) general romantic love for and attraction to a partner that can (and hopefully does) persist for decades. I understand that the first kind will be gone after a few years, but I am not even sure if the second kind remains in my case. Feeling like she is my sister is something I need to get over if we are to repair our marriage.
Do you share much physical affection with you wife? My SO and I are affectionate – lovely warm hugs and soft smoochy kisses. I think without that it would also feel like we were siblings not a couple. This gives me a small hope that we could get the full physical relationship going again, subject to him making the effort of course!
Vicarious Limerent says
@ Allie: That is a tough one. My wife was never very touchy-feely with me, so I used to tell her that affection doesn’t necessarily have to be about or connected with sex. She wouldn’t even hold my hand or kiss me very often. The sad thing is that recently she has started being more affectionate with me but I don’t want it anymore. That is yet another thing I feel guilty about. Is it because I am thinking about my LO? Was affection missing for so long that now I don’t want it? Is it because it feels phony and forced? Is it because of my familial feelings towards her? I suspect it is all of the above.
This is a subject very close to my heart. I am also in a sexless marriage which I was OK with for years – a vivid imagination and quality machinery was just about sufficient. That is until this damn LE kicked in and woke up my libido! Until marriage, I have always had a healthy, normal libido – regardless of whether I am limerent or not. But my ideal choice of life partner is at odds with my ideal choice of sexual partner. My SO is a good fit as a life partner – he is my best friend, he is kind, funny and chilled out. We have the perfect balance between individuality and partnership. We are both happy together, except that neither of us desires the other. We have talked about this (nicely) and both understand the reasons for it. There is no tension or hurt between us about this – we just accept it. But I don’t want a chilled-out best friend in the bedroom – my eros needs a more dominant, controlling, demanding man that takes charge, puts some skill & effort into it and really enjoys giving me pleasure. I would not want this controlling behaviour out of the bedroom. My SO is just not able to be like that…he is more passive, a little unskilled and, dare I say it, a bit lazy in the bedroom – not sure he would even notice if I was getting pleasure! I have tried to communicate what I like and I have bought us toys and manuals – but that has not changed anything. He also has a catholic school-boy discomfort about sex which while sweet, is a turn off for me.
So what do I do?
• Option 1 is out as I have kids and love my SO. A no brainer really.
• Option 2 is my favourite approach but polyamory is not my husband’s bag so that is out too.
• I am pretty liberal about these things so I often wonder if a carefully hidden, occasional, secret affair is the best comprise (no judgement please – each to their own) but I would much prefer to stay honest.
• This leaves option 3. I have not quite given up yet but I do not feel hopeful. I might give sex therapy a try. If only I could hire Esther Perrel!
The “careful, hidden, secret” parts are usually wishful thinking, even for those who don’t want to be honest.
But, yes, the honest bit is the biggie for me. We only keep dishonest things carefully hidden and secret, after all.
It is a toughie: if you have kind of got to the point of understanding what the issue is, but your husband doesn’t like any of the proposed solutions, you are at a bit of an impasse. I guess the danger is that if he is content enough with the status quo, there’s no real urgency in him changing.
Maybe that is the way you need to approach things – try to encourage him to try some problem solving…?
Great post, I have been married for 36 years, sexless for 10.
When every single touch is only initiated for the purpose of sex, that is tiresome too. I didn’t want to treat my wife like a blow-up doll and I am not a walking vibrator.
Would Perel have nearly as wide an audience if she sounded as though she sprung from a West Virginia meth house?
Where are her studies, submitted for peer review, with actual data? She keeps talking about it in her books, but has never actually written a paper that would be rigorously reviewed. So she is a highly-paid apologist for liars and actively inflicts harm on unaware betrayed partners.
I had to have my three children paternity tested. Which, by the way, means we were having sex because there were doubts in my mind. Then her betrayals were confirmed.
Vicarious Limerent says
I hear you Patrick. As men, we’re supposed to be about, “Wham, bam, thank you ma’am” when it comes to sex, but I find a lot of women are actually like that. It can feel so robotic and forced at times — and sometimes totally lacking in romance. I kind of went through that with my wife too – and I am the limerent one! I laughed about your observations about accents. While there are different types of Southern accents, I actually find Southern accents on women to be incredibly sexy (perhaps I am thinking more of the “mint juleps on the front porch”/Southern Belle type of accent than what you describe as “West Virginia meth house”).
Patrick, the reason behind the tone of some of your previous comments is a bit clearer now (if you’re a ‘cheated on’ person who has never himself been unfaithful physically?). It must be hard not to tar all others with the same brush. Your situation sounds really crappy, nobody deserves to be tangled up in another persons selfish decisions, but never become a victim. You will be at war with the world and the whole world isn’t against you.
Perel is very polarising. I like the psychological insights, but dislike the blase attitude to infidelity. Some hate her, some think she’s a guru.
Like many “personalities” in that situation, there’s value to be found if you approach the claims critically.
And sorry to hear of your paternity betrayal, Patrick. That is a special hell reserved for men.
Yeah – Nothing like finding out your first and third kids – aren’t. Then to hear, “You don’t understand! I loved both of you at the same time, it just happened!”
Sure. You just happen to lose your clothes and get pregnant without being a willing participant. If that were the case there is a different word for it – rape. So now I have 2 years of child support to pay. Plus the financial salt in the wound – the kid whose university fees I paid for two years. Not anymore. She can approach the real fathers and get them to do right by their children. I’m out.
Because she was “limerent”, she now says. She’s the one who said I should read this site. I did. It made signing the divorce papers an even bigger priority. She didn’t expect that. She must have thought the magic word limerence would wipe it all away.
Best of all – no legal recourse. I was married to her and as the presumptive father I was on the legal hook then and I still am. Of course she put my name down as the father. At least I made it binding that I am not paying for her third child’s education past high school. That’s on her. I am in the process of pursuing having my name removed from the two birth certificates.
I WISH we had had a sexless marriage because I would have divorced her when she was pregnant with the first. I would have known it wasn’t mine and I would have saved myself several hundreds of thousands of dollars raising two kids who aren’t mine.
Or at least I would have acted on opportunities to have sex with others instead of thinking about how much it would hurt my wife if I cheated and that I loved her too much to do that to her – whether she knew about it or not. That it would destroy our marriage from within because I would know. How trust, honesty and love were important to us. Or that the risk of a STI was ever-present and could harm us both, but particularly her.
What an idiot I was. I wasted decades of my life thanks to her duplicitous cowardice. At least I will never clap eyes on her again. She has the house and I moved across the country. Told the state to garnish my wages so I didn’t have to waste postage or a check on her. Nor would she be able to claim I hadn’t paid despite cashing a check.
I am so sorry you have to get through this situation, Patrick. I have no consoling words, it just sucks big time. While I hear you loud and clear, I also feel sorry for the kids as they suffer now too without any wrong doing on their part, they are also losing the person they thought was their father.
So sorry to hear about your situation Patrick, this must be incredibly tough to go through.
Echoing Sarah, I also really feel for your kids. Did you raise them? Setting the financial issues aside, you may not be their biological father but their “real” father is the person that raised and cared for them.
I sincerely hope that eventually you manage to move through your understandably hurt and bitter feelings to find peace and happiness again. I sense you may find that easier with the right support – maybe a group or a therapist?
Vicarious Limerent says
I too am very sorry to hear about your experiences, Patrick! Limerence is no excuse for what your wife did to you. While I certainly have feelings for my LO, I would never cheat on my wife. We have choices, and as adults with morals we should be able to resist our temptations and urges. The truth is that being attracted to others is perfectly normal and natural, even in a happy, healthy, committed relationship. But we don’t need to act on every impulse — even if we experience pain as a result.
Even if you are able to escape your financial obligations, I hope you are still able to think of the children you raised as “yours” in a sense. Speaking as someone who was raised by a man who wasn’t my biological father, just about anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be called “Dad.” The man who raised me is a million times better person and a much better father than the loser who was my biological father.
All the best to you (and the kids) as you sort through this mess!
Sad Mouse says
Good lord that sounds painful. I’m so sorry, Patrick. Limerence is no excuse for such out of bounds betrayal.
She sounds like a real piece of work. Don’t you just love it when they show absolutely no remorse and want you to just go along with it? What?! Seriously?!
I’m glad you’re out. How’s your relationship with your biological child? Best wishes on your restart.
Questions about my mother’s alleged indiscretions rose to the level of my paternity. My wife said that even if he wasn’t my real father, he treated me like a real son. I told her knowing wouldn’t change anything I felt for him but it would inform my opinion of my dead mother.
Since since my father and his brothers are all dead, I signed up for Ancestry. I tripped to some second cousins on my father’s side. Whatever things I have against my mother, that isn’t one of them. Interestingly, there’s a block on my birth certificate that reads, “How many other children born to this mother are still living?” It says “1.” Before they died, I asked both my parents about it. They both said “it was a mistake.” I’m sure it was. If there was another kid, it was a very well kept secret.
Patrick, God, I really am sorry to hear your story. It’s totally disgusting what happened to you, its beyond unfair. I’m a limerent and have never cheated myself and never would. I’ve also been cheated on, not as bad as what happened to you, but I know what it feels like for another person to obliterate your trust. It’s not ok and we all agree with you, you are the hard done by party here who deserves full sympathy. I hope you find a better life after that horrendous chapter in your life.
Patrick sorry to hear about your wife’s affair. It sounds as if you were dissatisfied to with your sex life, yet did not stray.
My husband also had an affair due to a stilted sex life. I remained faithful, too, despite the sexual ennui. Truthfully, I was not very interested in sex because my husband was a bit of a wham bam thank you ma’am in that department and I never had an orgasm anymore.
When I tried to discuss this with him, he would storm out of the house.
Eventually, he had a brief affair. It was discovered early on, he stopped immediately and we both decided we wanted to remain married.
I would have been okay with an open marriage, but he was not okay with it. Hence he stopped his affair.
Nothing has changed in our sex life, and I sometimes wonder why I bothered to stay, given his betrayal. The lies hurt the most. The fact that when I first suspected and questioned him, he looked me dead in the eye and lied so convincingly that I backed off.
As mentioned I would have been okay with an open marriage situation.
Anyway, I found out that my intuition was correct Later when a friend forwarded me emails one of her friends had sent her that revealed the affair.
In any case, I think learning that the children you raised are not genetically yours is far worse, than my situation.
I don’t know why I wrote this. Maybe just to get it off my chest. I do think if a person loves their spouse, cheating is the wrong approach.
If you are so unhappy, then ask for an open marriage or a divorce, rather than having your cake and eating it too. While the spouse is clueless.
Affairs are painful to the surviving spouse.
Song of the Day (redux): “Lonely in Love” – Dan Fogelberg (1987)
“A man needs a woman to have and to hold
To love him in body as well as in soul
I need your desire, where did the fire go…”
Gonna try to embed this but if it doesn’t work, I’ll add the link directly.
This song came out in 1987 after I broke up with LO #2 but while I still thought we might still have a chance of getting back together.
From what I read on Wiki, he wrote this while on his first marriage that ended in 1985. In the liner notes to “Portrait – The Music of Dan Fogelberg, he says, “I wrote this after moving into the ranch and getting married. Somehow, it didn’t occur to me that this was an strange thing for a newlywed to bw writing.”
Sometimes, you just know…
Anonymous Limerent says
I DIED LAUGHING.
Sad Mouse says
Wife of limerent here. I wouldn’t describe what we had as a sexless marriage but I can say with confidence that before now we never fulfilled our potential in that domain, and that our inability/unwillingness to communicate about it may well have contributed at least in part to his multi-year limerent episode. When you’re feeling sexually rejected and imagining that someone else might fancy you, it’s not hard to find your fantasy drifting in that direction. (I didn’t help matters by suggesting to my husband that LO might have a crush on him–which she didn’t–and telling him about how she was having casual sex with other men. FML.)
I find some of Esther Perel’s work very insightful but other bits are sort of troubling, depending on where you are on your emotional journey. Reading her book on affairs somehow comforted my husband when he was in the throes of early limerence but he now thinks he ignored certain parts of it and possibly didn’t take other important bits to heart…whilst I read it in the immediate aftermath of the disclosure and felt wounded to the core by what I saw as her apologist attitude toward betrayal (even while she very accurately described the trauma that I was feeling). As a committed monogamist, I appreciated more fully Shirley Glass’s book “Not Just Friends”.
I do appreciate Perel’s insights into the inherent tension between secure, stable marriage and the kind of nervous frisson that makes sex so exciting in the early days of a relationship. https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/10/13/mating-in-captivity-esther-perel/
I was raised in a family that never discussed sex and the kind of sex ed that we got in schools focused on mechanics and pregnancy/STD prevention. My husband came from a similar background. Without wanting to overshare, I can say that it’s possible neither of us has ever had what I would call a mature sexual partnership: one in which people talk openly about their needs and desires and dedicate time and energy into satisfying those needs. This despite living in Silicon Valley, where both kink and polyamory have become somewhat mainstream. I think in relationships like ours, there might be a presumption that all the great sex is happening elsewhere and is of a fancier/more exotic variety. Getting to a place where we’re comfortable discussing desires and validating each other’s needs is something we probably should have done before midlife. But maybe it’s not too late.
Limerence Writer says
I only just discovered the term “Limerence” last week because of an article on Medium, but I immediately identified with it. I am fascinated with your site, still working my way through it, and I wouldn’t be commenting so soon, but this topic hits home for sure.
As a kid, I had obsessive, awkward crushes that would last 3 years at a time, never reciprocated, and as I was leaving home for college, I began dating a girl who had just moved to my hometown — my first steady girlfriend (mostly long distance as I went off to college). We were passionate but remained virgins, and then I broke up with her suddenly after 2 1/2 years, frustrated with her jealousy, insecurity and possessiveness… and likely I was unconsciously frustrated with my virginity at 21. I immediately started dating someone at college who was my first girlfriend’s opposite: she was distant, cold, secure, non-possessive, and very intelligent. I’m sure I was attracted to her confidence and seeming aloofness; she was someone who encouraged me to be me, and was never threatened by my having female friends. We became sexually active, but I was a bit troubled by my lingering fantasies of my first girlfriend. These fantasies continued years after I married the girl I met in college. A coworker once told me that was normal, “You never get over your first.” However, my fantasies often included that my marriage would end and I would get back together with my first girlfriend, even though I was no longer in touch with her. These thoughts were likely fueled further by our increasingly unsatisfying sex life, which went from lousy to non-existent after our second/last child was born, after which I moved out of the bedroom for good… and our last child is a teenager now.
Nearly two decades after breaking up with my first girlfriend and feeling miserable a few years into celibacy in my marriage, I reached out to my first girlfriend (who is single and lives far away) through social media and apologized for the way I had ended our relationship. I then went too far and admitted that I had never stopped dreaming about her, and we had a brief online affair. After we agreed to end the affair while I took stock of what to do about my marriage, a strange thing happened: I suddenly fell completely in limerence with a slightly older woman I met at a party. After 2 decades, I stopped fantasizing about my first girlfriend, and now this new woman was all I could think about. I was fixated, my mood would skyrocket when I chatted with her or thought about her or talked about her, which I did constantly. Only when reality sunk in, like when I drove home after work, I would fall into a huge depression bordering on suicide. We had big debts and two young children — what was I thinking?! The older woman saw my red flags waving and gave me kindly advice and removed herself from my life. I responded by starving myself, emotionally crawling under a rock and waiting to die. I blamed my marriage — if I hadn’t been stuck in the marriage, I complained silently, things would likely have worked out… but how could I look myself in the mirror if I abandoned my family, even if I was miserable? How could I financially afford divorce anyway?
My wife and I went to six months of couples therapy, but most of that time was spent with the psychologist asking my wife about getting a job. I laid my cards on the table in the first two sessions, admitting to the affair, admitting to my obsession with this other woman, being miserable and suicidal. My wife responded that she would rather I kill myself than abandon her for someone else. She apologized later, but I knew it was the truth. It hardened me. I spoke to an attorney, and the costs of divorce were even greater than I had imagined. When I told him how long we had been married and that she didn’t have a job, he laughed with hopelessness. So privately I made my choice, and stopped rocking my marriage boat because I was miserable. I called it my Long Term Exit Strategy. Step One: Pay off my debts. That took 5 years. By that point, my marriage had entered a detente. I had lost 30 pounds while depressed, but I had overcome my depression. The key was my writing, my greatest love, which my wife encouraged. I write passionate, imaginative romances, the stuff of my fantasies, often with the older woman as the model for my protagonist. I have an online following of fans of my writing that feeds my ego, and emotionally I’ve gotten by on just that for the last few years. I have not communicated with my first girlfriend or the older woman for many years now. My wife now has a job and pursued further school and other interests; she seems to have accepted this sexless marriage, even though 7 years ago she told me she wouldn’t stand for it. We behave like roommates, paying the bills and raising the kids, who are growing up very fast. I write and fantasize constantly, and in every fantasy, I am single. I’m still trying to figure out what Step 2 of my Long Term Exit Strategy is, but at this point… I don’t know. As long as I’m happy with my writing and my fans, I have accepted things, as depressing as that may sound.
Thanks for sharing your story Limerence Writer. It was (predictably?) well written, if sobering to read.
It sounds like your writing is your purposeful outlet, and that’s great, but I agree that a step two is important to identify. Have you spoken with your wife since the therapy about how she wants her future to be? I understand the caution about keeping your cards close to your chest with respect to divorce settlements etc. but that does psychologically put you into the role of opponent rather than partner. A negotiated exit plan may work much better and be less disruptive than getting lawyers involved the moment your teenager leaves home. Not always realistic, I know, but worth ruminating on as a strategy. Especially if your wife is now working and becoming more independent.
Good luck with whichever route you take.
Gosh this blog post really hits hard. I only came across the term Limerence in the last month when I was trying to find stories of people in a similar situation. It feels good to know I am not alone. I hope you don’t mind me using this opportunity to write a bit of my story. It’s the first time i have written any of this down and it may be quite therapeutic. I sound really selfish and awful in this story but i’m just stating the hard facts. I won’t go into detail of my LO here as i don’t feel it is related and will make this post incredibly long! I will leave that for another post.
I’ve been married over 12 years but we haven’t had sex or any form of intimacy in 7 years!! This is the first time admitting this to anybody. Its all my fault, i’m sure he would if I offered it but to be honest I don’t think he is bothered either now. I think I can only do it when that first excitement and mystery is there. Once it wears off, I just can’t bear it. It has happened with past relationships too. It feels like we are more of a brother-sister relationship now. I am maybe a selfish person and I can’t just ‘lay back and think of England’. I feel awful about it and all the times I rejected him to the point he just gave up. Neither of us mention it now. Actually I didnt find the sex that great or satisfying and then it seemed like every cuddle or kiss was expected to turn into sex so I started withdrawing from that too till we have ended up with no intimacy at all. I honestly don’t think I could do it now, too much water under the bridge.
We sleep in seperate rooms (my choice, started off due to snoring but now I just love sleeping alone, plus we have different routines and timings) and pretty much lead seperate lives as he is a workaholic and works 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. I love and care about him and we have some good times but i’m not in love with him. I’m sure he feels the same about me although we never discuss it. I dont think I could ever leave the marriage (unless he wanted to) as he is a lovely kind person who has sacrificed a lot for me and i don’t want to hurt him or break the commitment that i made.
I am a serial limerence-er (sorry not sure of the technical term) I think I’ve always had obsessions over various people throughout the years (going back to school days) It seems like I lurch from one LO to the next. I don’t feel this has anything to do with the sexless situation though.
So yeah, a sad state of affairs. I loved your post but didnt feel any of the options are there for us apart from the ‘live in a sexless marriage’. The worrying thing is after stopping taking the pill a year or so ago (what was the point anymore?) my libido is going off the scale!! Anyway I have my LO to think of and quite happy err ‘going solo’.
It has made me feel a lot better hearing that we are not the only couple going through this. Thank you.
You are definitely not alone.
Do you see yourself spending the rest of your respective lives in mutual resignation? Do you see yourselves together in a year, 5 years, 10 years?
This is why God invented therapists. But, really define your goals. Do you see yourself wanting to share a bed with anyone, again?
Happiness is a good thing.
Scharnhorst – you’ve been a friend of the blog a long time. And you seem like you have lots of life/love experience and know your own mind quite well. Totally fine if you’d rather not say, but would you say you’re completely happy with your current spouse? I love my partner but sort of feel a bit like I’d be happier with a different type of person, but also do have so much in common with current long term partner and love her to pieces. Sometimes I feel like breaking free and trying again, and then I feel like that would be a totally stupid foolish thing to do. I know it can seem like the grass is greener in life, but sometimes I get an overwhelming feeling that I’m clipping my own wings and trapping my partner in the process (double whammy of crapness!). Have you ever felt like that? Or anyone else on here? It feels impossible to know for sure if the one your with is really right for you. I mean, do most people who have been together for years still regularly sleep with each other, or do most not? I feel like its on some level normal to not have much sex with someone who you’ve had sex with a zillion times before. My best friend always joke that theres nothing that bores him more than the thought of having sex with his own wife, but they’ve been together years and i know they do still love each other. Its like they’ve transcended the need/want for sex and exist happily with each other on a higher plain to most other vein humans. I feel like I wish I could be/feel more like that. Why can’t we all just be grateful to have found another human who wants to be with us and cherish that. God hormones are so oppressive. Rant over haha, thanks.
Vicarious Limerent says
Winst, I feel exactly the same way. I love my wife, but I don’t think we are really right for each other. I know she isn’t happy either in our marriage (she has again started voicing her displeasure, which is only natural due to the situation). In many ways, we would be better off going our separate ways, but there is still love there and many memories we share. That is the hardest part for me, the inevitable devaluing of those memories if we ever split. I also worry about how things would turn out for my wife. I know she wouldn’t handle divorce well. I, on the other hand, would thrive in a divorce, even if I didn’t end up with my LO (which would be a faint hope at best). At times, my daughter begs me to divorce my wife and is asking me for a “new mother” on a regular basis (they are not getting along well at all and I constantly have to mediate disputes between the two of them and stop my wife from being so damn abusive towards my daughter). It isn’t a happy situation at all. I sometimes wish we could just be mature about this, recognize we are two people who love each other but weren’t meant to be together forever and remain friends after we go our separate ways. Why are so few couples able to do that? The lack of intimacy does worry me as well. It actually saddens me because I know it wouldn’t be a problem with someone else. I wish I could still give my wife that. Maybe she would be nicer if we got that part of our lives back? On the other hand, she was ALWAYS bossy, mean and controlling, so likely it wouldn’t change much.
I’ll put it this way. I know that no woman has ever loved me more, trusted me more, or wanted me more than my wife does.
With respect to sex, we saw things differently. For me sex was more physical than emotional. For me, sex was never some kind of transcendental experience where we met on a higher plane. I’ve always liked the women I slept but I didn’t feel spiritually connected to any of them. I don’t think during, at least beyond that I’m enjoying myself and hope she is too.
My wife saw it as an emotional expression, the ultimate expression of intimacy. For her, we were meeting on a higher plane. So, we were off on that level.
One day, she caught me “taking matters into my own hands, :” if you get my drift. She has some self worth issues from childhood. She took it as a betrayal on the order of a PA. The thought I could be aroused my another woman devastated her. There was no difference in her mind. Entering the house after work was like walking underwater. We’d go to the mall and she’d ask, “Do you want to F–k her?” It got so bad, I walked around looking at my shoes. I told her that we find a therapist or I’d find a lawyer. She chose the former.
We worked with the therapist and she diagnosed it as primarily a communications style problem. It was way more than that but in my wife’s family, “therapy” was a four-letter word. So, we worked on that but it didn’t fix the underlying problems. I had my baggage and she had hers. Sex with my wife became fraught with anxiety. My wife wouldn’t stop talking during sex and my head wasn’t anywhere near what she was asking. If I anticipated sex, I came up with a script in advance. Eventually, it was easier to avoid sex than deal with it.
I always thought my wife had mild depression but in her family, that was not ok. So, she self-medicated to the point of addiction. By that time, our first child had been born. She’d be clean while pregnant but relapsed afterwords.
I have sleep apnea and snored horribly. We haven’t slept in the same bed for more than 1 or 2 nights in well over a decade. Things came to a head and I consulted a divorce lawyer. I bailed our oldest out of the county crisis center twice after the school referred her. The counselor at the crisis center said he’d an affidavit recommending that I get sole custody. I posted that series of events in detail in a previous post.
She dried out and has been sober over 8 years. She has started working on her childhood issues. I told her that I knew she loved me and trusted me but I haven’t felt wanted by her since the s–t hit the fan years ago. Then, in 2018, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and the treatment has destroyed my libido. The doctor says it should come back but who knows?
My last LE with LO #4 was never about sex. Under appropriate circumstances, there’s no doubt I’d take a shot at her. It was about the emotional connection. My wife and LO #4 are entirely different women from their looks to their likes. LO #4 and I bonded over a mutual interest my wife cares nothing about. My wife doesn’t care about golf at all and she doesn’t care that I talk to people who do.
My wife was the first woman to take a chance on me. She didn’t take off on me like other significant women in my life had. I had ask LO #2 to marry me and her response was to decline and move across the county. To make it worse, I got LO #2 to admit that she wanted to look around some more and if she didn’t find anything she liked better, she’d come back and settle for me.
Whenever my wife had to make a decision that would make or break us, she chose to stand up and fight. I told her that if she was willing to fight for herself and us, I’d fight alongside her but if she wasn’t. it was time to part.
Overall, I’m pretty happy. There are things in my life that I’d tweak but another woman in another place isn’t going to fix most of them.
Did I answer your question?
Thanks Scharnhorst and Vic Lim, that’s quite comforting. I always think that to a degree lots of other peoples relationships are full of challenges beneath the surface. It’s always a hard dilemma when you are in an otherwise very good relationship on paper, but something isn’t quite right in reality, and it always bothers you. To be grateful and stick with what you know, or to go nuclear and blow your life up and start again from ground zero, that’s the question.
Every choice is also a sacrifice.
Thanks so much for sharing that Scharnhorst, parts of your story bring a tear to my eye. I love your view on what really counts in a marriage – all the key qualities you mention are so easy to take for granted when you have them, but would be so devastating to lose. It boils down to what truly matters to us.
Song of the Day: “You Shook Me All Night Long” AC/DC (1986)
Before things went south, we had our moments.
Hi SerialLimmer, and welcome.
I think this is a situation that many couples fall into. It might be a kind of learned version of the Westermarck effect (that siblings raised together develop an inhibition against sexual attraction), wrapped up in incest taboo.
It’s very difficult to reverse, as you’ve found. The only real option is to slowly reprogram yourself (rather like for limerence) into perceiving your spouse differently. It’s possible to do in degrees, but both partners have to be motivated to try…
Thank you, I appreciate your reply. I have found yours and the other replies to my post really helpful and give a lot to think about. Just talking about, thinking and recognising the situation for what it is, rather than burying my head in the sand, is a good start. Knowing others are going through the same thing helps.
The situation doesn’t always bother me that much, it is more the stigma of being in a sexless marriage and worrying what others might think and that we are not ‘normal’, which is why I have never told anyone before, even close friends. Just pretend that everything is ok in that department. Never thought I would be writing about it on a public forum but hay ho!
I was thinking about how the no sex thing originally started and I think a large part was gaining a bit of weight after marriage and no longer feeling ‘sexy’ or wanting to show my body. Ironically, thinking about my current LO has started me losing weight as I suddenly realized how much I had let myself go and I needed to do something about it for him (even though he is a stranger who I will never meet and doesnt know I exist!). Maybe my LE will have a positive impact after all.
Vicarious Limerent says
SerialLimmer, I could have written the exact same post. My thoughts and experiences are eerily similar — so you aren’t the only one!
You are so definately not alone here SL. I really feel for you. It sounds like there is still love in your marraige which gives you something to work with. More emotional sharing and physical affection without sex might be a goal? Could you talk about this with your SO? That alone might make you both feel closer.
As an aside, it is so odd how lack of marital sex is something we all feel we must hide. Almost like it makes us a failure in some way. Crazy when you think about it as I bet many many long term relationships either have minimal sex, or only reluctant sex just prove all is Ok.
Why is this? Cultural expectations again?
I can relate to all of this, a loss of intimacy.. Married 38 none for over 10 years. We are friends that care.
Anon90, just to clarify, you are 38 years old and havnt had sex in 10 years? Just need to check I’ve read that right…did you ever consider making the big move? What holds you back?
60 years old, married 38. I am making the big move, which is not easy. I think she will be fine. I have great kids, she has a wide circle of friends and family. I am the one at fault.
I’m honestly not being horrible, and certainly wouldn’t want to make you feel worse, but aren’t you scared that you will just be alone and lonely? Does your age make you feel vulnerable? Im in my 30s and to be honest, starting again in the world of love and dating makes me feel massively like crap. I just feel like damaged goods and who will want me or something. The older we get the worse the prospects, no? God limerence is so inconvenient!!
Feel like crap I do, but it’s done.
Hi Anon. So sorry you are feeling low. Limerence is a menace. You say “I am the one at fault” – may I ask what happened?
I had a PA, SO found out. Move out next week.
Once again, so sorry Anon90. That must be incredibly hard on you. Limerent infatuation can present such a temptation, especially when in a sexless marriage. It sounds like you have regrets…..is there any chance of a future reconciliation with your SO? This is not a popular view on this site but personally I don’t believe a PA is quite the heinous betrayal that so many believe it to be (we are culturally brainwashed to believe this), and it doesn’t have to mean the end of the marriage so long as both partners still love each other and are prepared to put the effort in to repair things. And of course providing the unfaithful partner is still fully committed to their SO.
If it really is too late, I am sure you will adjust, create a new life for yourself and find ways to enjoy your newfound freedom.
Thankyou so much.
” (we are culturally brainwashed to believe this)”
If you haven’t been on the receiving end of it, you have no idea what you’re talking about. None whatsoever. When I found out, I vomited.
And in MY case it led to paternity testing and finding out that the first and third children weren’t mine. Which means we WERE having sex and she still cheated and got pregnant with other men’s children. That I paid dearly to raise and I am on the hook for TWO more years in child support for her youngest child because the law hasn’t caught up with the science. I have no legal or financial recourse.
That beyond sucks. Prior to DNA testing, the concept of “presumptive fatherhood” made sense. Blood testing could only prove someone wasn’t the father and the sins of the mother shouldn’t be visited on the child. But, now there’s no excuse for not changing the law.
If you had the identity of the real father and could prove it, I wonder if it would be possible for the presumptive father to bring a civil suit against the real father on the assumption that the real father would have been on the hook for child support and attempt to recover damages based on the amount of child support that would have been paid. But, that’s something that probably only a men’s advocacy group or an attorney with an ax to grind would take on pro bono.
At least you have an end in sight. Good luck and hang in there!
I have been on the recieving end before.
How nice for you. Did you find out that your partner had fathered a child on the side and had been financially plundering your future at the same time?
It is good to know that the child support is limited and my attorney got me out of paying for anything past 18 for her youngest. I’m still out the university fees for her eldest. My kid took a different route and has been living independently since the year after high school.
No – unless he happens to make his DNA public on one of the sites that his kids use I’ll never know. She gets more money for her youngest though as I moved across the country. No custody issues.
No, it was not nice – the relationship ended and I was heartbroken about that.
I am sorry for what happened to you Patrick. Your wife’s deception over the paternity of her children is a tragedy for you and the children.
I get the impression that you felt my response undervalued your pain. If so, that was not intended – I suspect your and Anon’s SO’s circumstances are very different. I believe everyone deserves kindness and compassion and I shall continue to practice that regardless of how it is perceived by others such as yourself.
My “cultural brainwashing” comment was as a reference to how our upbringing, culture and beliefs provide the lens though which we experience and perceive our world. i.e. changing the culture and beliefs changes the experience.
“I get the impression that you felt my response undervalued your pain. If so, that was not intended”
Except that is exactly your intention.
“I believe everyone deserves kindness and compassion and I shall continue to practice that regardless of how it is perceived by OTHERS such as yourself.”
Patronizing and smug.
If she didn’t want to be monogamous and honor the vows we BOTH made, she should have said so and we would have divorced. No cultural gun as held to her head. I kept my promises to her. Want to get your ashes hauled by someone else? Get a lawyer. She was free to go. In fact, if she had, I may never have found out about the paternity because if there was no adultery there was no reason to question it. Unless you are suggesting that no one should trust their female SO and DNA testing should be done at birth.
Which is pretty good advice. Trust (sorta), but verify.
Ease up on the venom, Patrick.
Allie is a victim of infidelity too. You don’t know her intention, but she’s tried to clarify that she didn’t mean to devalue your pain. Would be good if you cut her the same slack.
Article of the Day: https://thoughtcatalog.com/brianna-wiest/2020/05/if-your-biggest-relationship-challenge-is-deciding-whether-or-not-you-should-be-together-you-are-not-actually-in-love/
“We meet a dozen soulmates in a lifetime, but the people who we are meant to be with — the ones we really, legitimately love — are the ones we commit to without precedence, without pause, and without justification.”
I met my wife and I knew in 3 months she was the one. I asked myself if she was the woman I wanted to come home to at night, wake up next to in the morning, and grow old with. The answer to all of those was “Yes.”
And, when I ask myself those questions today, the answer is still ‘Yes.” Sometimes, I have to remind myself of that.
This article is absolutely amazing
Thank you Sharnhorst.
Where do you find them ? :).
I don’t remember how I ran across Thought Catalog. I’m old enough to be the authors’ father, if not grandfather. Some of the authors have a lot of good insight. I have my favorite contributors. I scroll through the Thought Reel section at least once per day. I really enjoy their Horoscope and MBTI blogs.
Other sites I reference are ones I ran across while doing research.
I was totally limerent for my husband 15 years ago, that totally masked the complete mismatch we on fact where, after 3 years my desire for him died, now after experiencing a new LE , I see what I all missed in my marriage. The connection the talks the sex, feels a bit like I’ve waisted 15 years on the wrong person. The scarry thing is I know I’m not a match with LO L 2 either. But the craving is so strong, I totally crystal everything.
I’m in NC contact with LO now because I want to make healthy choices and work in therapy but after 15 years of no sex no connection I indeed feel like a bobm ready to explode in yet another LE.
Keep in mind that sometimes it’s how someone doesn’t make you feel that makes them different from the others.
If you thrive on uncertainty, if the process is more important than the result, and if you like the exquisite twinge, that slightly achy feeling you get from thinking about them while listening to those songs that drop you through the floor, someone who is reliable, consistent, available, and wants to be with you often doesn’t come across as appealing. There has to be something wrong with them.
After my first two LEs, I didn’t have much confidence any relationship would work for me. Even scarier was that after meeting my wife, I realized that the only thing in the way of my happiness was me and if it didn’t work, I’d only have myself to blame. I didn’t like that much.
Going slightly OT, I think DrL should do a blog of LOs as villains.
“If you thrive on uncertainty, if the process is more important than the result, and if you like the exquisite twinge, that slightly achy feeling you get from thinking about them”
Yes yes and yes.
It’s like I’m in competition with myself, to see if despite the barriers and uncertainty I can make it work.
I will make it work. Even if I have to suffer, I want the prize.
And I must say most of the time it did work, my LE s resulted most times in long term relationships ( well long-term till my LE faded after 3 years and I was done )
But your story about your wife gives me some hope Sharnhorst.
I don’t want to be alone forever , I have so much love to give ( yep, that’s a limerent ).
Four years married, two almost entirely sexless (we started trying to work on it a few months ago with little success). I am the one who doesn’t want sex, but I am also the limerent. After our child was born two years ago, I didn’t care about sex for a while. But now I do want sex, just not with my husband. I was getting very hopeful reading your “work on the marriage” section of this article until I came to these words: “This obviously requires trust and vulnerability on your part.” I think this is at the heart of our problem. I don’t trust my husband and I don’t feel safe being vulnerable with him. I also see him more as a co-parent, i.e. family, than an object of desire, but that is surmountable. Not trusting and respecting him (and feeling like he doesn’t respect and value me, though he claims he does) is what makes me feel unable to be intimate with him.
My wife is such a beautiful woman, inside and out, with such an amazing body, that you’d never guess she hasn’t had sex in over 6 years. You’d also never guess the same of me, a fit runner and mountain climber, with loads of accolades in that direction. I’ve saved over 10 people from death in the mountains just by being in the right place at the right time. I’ve actually have teenage girls chatting me up. – According to my female friends.
So how does this happen? – Age and asexuality. My wife, I suspect, has always been asexual, but played the part of a dutiful wife. I was always the initiator, but eventually she said sex started to become painful with menopause, and eventually I stopped completely, because even though we had non-penetrative sex, eventually it felt like I was raping her. She stopped enjoying it and now she won’t even hug me.
Yet, we are still firm friends. And I’m a loyal husband, but I honestly don’t know why.
This isn’t what I wanted from life. I desperately miss sex. It shouldn’t feel dirty for me to say that, but it does, because that is how she’s made me feel: That’s it’s dirty, and always was. I’m 47, I’m too young to think like that.
So what options are there available to a man who wants to have sex?
-See prostitutes? – Well, no actually, because Justin Trudeau made that illegal.
-Have an affair? – I’ve tried, but it’s impossible. Believe it or not my wife gets incredibly insecure if I’m out late, AND I’ve never found a woman willing to have an affair. And I don’t lie, not to anyone. So the minute they ask the question, if I’m married, I’m practically a goner.
-Porn? Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.
So, with all this as background, a young woman came up to me 2 years ago and introduced herself in the library, where I’d been doing some programming work. I’d never noticed her before, but she noticed me. Her smile, her confidence, I fell in love with her within 45 seconds. I couldn’t believe how she made me feel, so comfortable. I couldn’t let go of her hand, I just wanted to hold it. After that first meeting, she disappeared for 2 months. I couldn’t get her out of my mind and looked for her everywhere.
2 months later she appeared in the library. She put her bag down next to mine and sat next to me. OMG. As soon as I had the opportunity, I asked her out and we had lunch the next day. I loved every second of it, it was so natural, we clicked on every level. I’d found someone so aligned with me, I’d found my best friend, my soulmate.
Before we parted, I couldn’t hold the guilt any longer. I told her I was married. It killed the whole moment. – Boy, was she mad, but controlled. No matter what excuse I made, she told me in no uncertain terms she did not want any relationship with a married man. We parted on that agreement.
A week later, I saw her again, and she asked me for some advice. This soon became a friendship, where I’d help her with her assignments. But within 2 months, I realized I couldn’t keep this up. The desire was so strong. I felt like a baby in the womb, so incredibly comfortable in her presence, yet my heart ached when she wasn’t around. I lost sleep for months. We saw each other once a week or so, for lunch.
Eventually things changed. She started becoming moody, she’d deliberately, quietly insult me, or pick holes in me. I took this as her trying to get over me, to put some distance between us.
A few weeks later, we met by accident and had a coffee together. It was love, there’s no doubt about it: Love was thick in the air. Despite how much she tried to hide it, she was crazy over me. It was one of the best moments of my life. The intense eye contact was amazing.
I texted her after and said I want to do it again. She said no, and listed what she wants of a man. “A” being that he is single. I couldn’t give that to her, at least not yet. Our son had to finish school first. It was the deal-breaker, after days of communication back and forth, she said she never wanted to see me again. “I want nothing to do with you” she said, and she ignored all my emails and texts thereafter. I didn’t see her again. – That was 2 years ago.
I still think of her almost all the time. She’s had boyfriends since, and I have seen her on the street 4 times since. We both ignore each other, and it visibly hurts both of us. The last time I saw her, 4 months ago, she seemed to have an anxiety attack when she saw me approaching. She was with her boyfriend. I guess they live together, because she dropped all her groceries she was carrying with him when she saw me.
It hurts everyday, and I miss her. She is my LO. But I try to hate her too, it’s the only way to get over her. But 2 years later, I still think about her, I compare everyone to her too. I’ve been on a few dates with other women, pretending to be single, but there’s nothing I can do while still married, so I soon drop it. And I unfairly compare those women to the girl I miss.
Is this limerence?
Limerent Emeritus says
It could be limerence but given you’re circumstances, it might not be.
To me, it comes across as your LO, if she is indeed an LO, is a distraction to take your mind off your real problems. Check out the Blog Archive below. Limerence can serve multiple functions in our lives. My last LE/EA started out as a distraction from problems in real life.
Have you seen a professional about this? You have way too much life ahead of you to live it as an unhappy person. People can contribute to your happiness or they can detract from your happiness. But, it’s your happiness and you own it.
You’re going to need to figure out who you are and what you want. Then, you assess the likelihood of getting it and act accordingly. You may not like what you find but you’ll be able to make an informed decision.
These kind of choices are rarely easy to make and usually come at great cost.
Thanks for your reply Limerent Emeritus. You could be right, I have some real unhappiness in my life. I am surrounded by friends, I have a great social life, but at home, my wife has no desire for me other than friendship. It dents my confidence that the person who used to adore me, and I still adore, doesn’t even let me touch her. We’re basically roommates.
I may be projecting this onto the other woman, my LO. But I’ve never met anyone who made me feel so complete and happy as the few times I spent with my LO. I know because I’ve dated a few other women just to see if I get a similar feeling. Despite trying to open myself up and be receptive to that feeling, nobody even came close.
I wasn’t physically attracted to my LO. She’s not my type, it’s how she thinks that was the attraction. Incredibly unique.
Am I morally right, dating women while still legally married? No. – But I don’t consider what I have a marriage anymore. If my wife acted the part that a reasonable husband would expect, then yes, I’d be in the wrong. But after 20 years of being the loyal husband without fault, I’ve had enough. It’s my life and there’s only so much left of it.
3 years ago, I was the most stable person around. – Happy, content. I’m trying to get back there, but I was affected by my brief experience with my LO in more ways than I ever knew would happen. If I knew she’d have such a lingering effect on me, I’d have tread more carefully, or avoided her completely, but it’s all too late now, what’s done is done.
I think you’re right, I need some kind of therapy and to change my life (at the real cost you mentioned). I never thought I’d be the person to need that. It’s a bit scary.
Limerent Emeritus says
“I never thought I’d be the person to need that. It’s a bit scary.”
Nobody does and it can be very scary.
But, that’s why at some point, you call in a pro. Some things are just too important to wing it.
Thanks Limerent Emeritus. It’s good advice, which I appreciate.
I’ve got to get this girl out of my mind. I sometimes think about finding her and approaching her, because that might help both of us, but she asked me to stay away 2 years ago. She said “stay well, and away from me”, which I want to respect. But it all just feels so unresolved, it keeps nagging me.
You’re right, I need to see someone who can help with this. Winging it hasn’t worked, no matter how mentally strong I thought I was.
Limerent Emeritus says
Prefacing this with the caveat that I’m not a mental health professional, I’ll say a few more things.
First, stay away from your LO. She’s made it clear what her position is. Nothing on your end has changed and contacting her might come across as lame or possibly creepy. If you become available, you can rethink that position. She is not the cause nor is she the solution.
As for the bigger issue.
You say you’re 47 and your wife is post-menopausal? Is there a significant age difference? You say she played the part of a dutiful wife. Did the relationship ever have the intimacy you appear to want?
If you can find it, check out “EMOTION IN ROMANTIC PARTNERS:
INTIMACY FOUND, INTIMACY LOST, INTIMACY RECLAIMED” by Dr. Marion Solomon. It’s a chapter in “THE HEALING POWER OF EMOTION : AFFECTIVE NEUROSCIENCE, DEVELOPMENT, AND CLINICAL PRACTICE .” You might be able to relate to it.
There’s a lot in your post to sort through. If you do see a therapist, I recommend you take what you posted here, show it to them and sort through it. That’s going to take some time. The article I refenced can give you an idea of how deep these things go and the process for change. If he/she recommends superficial things like a “date night,” etc., or recommends couples counseling right off the bat find a new therapist. Only 11% of any iceberg is visible above the surface and it’s not what you see that sinks you.
Do you have access to an Employee Assistance Program? If you do, I’d recommend using it. Your wife may sense your discontent but if she knows you’re seeing a therapist before you have an idea about things and have some kind of plan, things could go sideways on you. It’s not if you tell her, it’s when.
You tell her when you know what the issues really are and what you really want. Intimacy is fragile. She may agree to work with you or she may not.
That’s when you’ll face the really hard decision. Your LO has nothing to do with it.
Whatever happens, I hope it leads to everyone’s eventual happiness.
Yes, my wife is 10 years older than me, although she looks quite a lot younger than anyone my age (lucky her). Perhaps asexuality is the key to eternal youth. She has zero interest in sex, with anyone. Her private parts no longer stretch, and she has no interest in having a doctor do anything to help. What else can I do? – It’s her body and her choice. I do feel sorry for her though, if ever she wanted to start a relationship with someone in future. Not sure how any relationship could survive that.
My wife is from Korea, and would always blame her not initiating sex (ever) on her culture, saying women never initiate. In future personally, I’m avoiding that culture.
Thanks for your great advice about therapists. I’ve read so much over the years, and I think there’s a lot that the internet is missing. The usual advice online is “Learn to love yourself”, then “Try a new activity / Go to gym”. All seemingly generic advice which doesn’t seem to relate to or help my situation.
Thanks, I’m going to look into everything you’ve recommended. I really appreciate your time and help Limerent Emeritus!
I really miss my LO, but I won’t approach her.
Limerent Emeritus says
Don’t underestimate the age and cultural factors. Those will make finding the right therapist more difficult. If you can, I’d recommend finding a Korean therapist or a therapist who practices in an area with a large Korean community. For example, areas near US Army or Air Force bases often have a large population of service members married to spouses of different cultures so therapists in those areas might be more familiar with the cross-cultural dynamics.
Two former co-workers were married to Korean women and they both had challenging marriages. One of the women was also a co-worker so I got to know her somewhat. One marriage survived and one didn’t. Not long after the divorce, the woman I worked with started seeing another co-worker who was from a culture closer to Korean, if he wasn’t Korean. Did it play a role? I don’t know. My point is culture can’t be ignored and likely outside the experience of most therapists.
You know a lot about what’s going on. The right therapist can help you put it together and help guide you along. You pay them and they work for you.
Thanks, sage advice Limerent Emeritus.
The cultural factors do loom large, especially as my wife is approaching 60. Her old group of friends are “happily single” in Korea, and my wife misses them (and sometimes longs for that life, nostalgia or just tired of having 2 males at home most of the time). 10 years ago she didn’t care for Korean culture or events, now she watches Korean TV shows, news and politics almost all day on her phone, yet we live in Canada. – I’m British. So she’s missing her home country.
There’s no way we could all move there though, my son and I wouldn’t be happy.
So yes, there’s a real mixed bag of issues here.
My situation is identical to yours with respect to intimacy. I completely understand.
For more than 8 years of marriage my wife remained completely asexual and didn’t like sexual touches. We have moved a bit but she refuses to initiate and it is a chore rather than a shared experience.
This is in part triggering my LE
@Limerick, I feel for you man.
I know, I used to overlook the rejection, to ask some other time, have a nice meal out, but eventually it just became too much of a hassle. Eventually after many years, I’ve gotten fed up of her wriggling out of hugs, the small peck on the cheek instead of a proper kiss, her pulling her hand away. I’m just tired of trying now.
I’ve spoken to her about this almost every year, how the fire seems to be dwindling, how can we stoke the flames. It’s awful, because my wife is still insanely hot, but I can’t touch. Honestly, I now think it would be easier for me to have an affair, it’s become that hard, and I’ve had enough of feeling rejected.
I’ve never actually had a physical affair, but I’ll be honest, I sometimes think it would be a welcome boost of confidence.
I know nobody’s going to like what I just said there.
I just sometimes wish my wife wasn’t such a good friend, that would make things simpler.
Allie 1 says
“I now think it would be easier for me to have an affair”… “I just sometimes wish my wife wasn’t such a good friend, that would make things simpler.”
You are very much not alone in feeling like that. I am the equivalent of your wife and I feel exactly like that too.
@Allie 1, I’m sorry to hear that. Deep down I think all we want is something simple: For us to know we’re needed by someone we love.
Feel free to open up if you want to.
Allie 1 says
I am sorry for your suffering Confused. You know your wife best but I would like to give a woman’s perspective on this issue…
There are many reasons why a woman may no longer want sex with their male partner. Issues with intimacy, trust, etc are common ones, as LE says.
Lack of novelty, romance and/or ‘separateness’ can also be a cause. Strangely, too much intimacy can kill desire just as effectively as too little!
The woman’s mindset related to sex is another blocker… this can be very complex but is potentially solvable with good quality counselling.
Over many years, marital sex may fail to satisfy a woman. This is very common and everyone, including the woman is led to believe that it is her libido that is the issue, or that she just does not desire her partner. But often that is not the underlying issue… google “the orgasm gap”.
Often women soldier on sexually for the sake of their husband and marriage but this type of unsatisfying unwanted sex can generate a mental distaste for it.
Feeling they are under pressure to have sex they do not feel a desire for, can also turn a woman off sex in the long term. And I am not saying the man is at all to blame here. There are a lot of cultural scripts in play where sex is concerned.
There is a lot of talk about the man always being the one to initiate sex. This does not necessarily mean he has more desire or a higher libido the she does. There has been research on this: Male desire is mostly spontaneous desire, whereas a women’s sexual desire is mostly responsive and not spontaneous. It is most often sparked by touch, physical closeness, or sexual contact. i.e. the mental interest in sex comes after an external stimulus. Hence why it is so often the man that provides that initiating external stimulus and not the woman.
There are some good books on the issue of woman and lack of sexual desire. A man wondering why his partner is off sex with them may find hope in the pages of one. So might his partner.
Wishing you well.
(Book refs: ‘Mind The Gap’, ‘Untrue: why nearly everything we believe about women and lust and infidelity is untrue’)
I think it’s just simple psychology. Think of sex like apple pie (or whatever dessert you like). You think about the apple pie. You’re desiring of the apple pie. You start a mental list of where you’ll buy the apple pie. You have to get dressed, get in the car and go out to the store to buy it. Or maybe even make it. It’s sort of the equivalent of when you’re first dating and maybe not living together and don’t have access to each other all the time. And you’re thinking about sex and getting ready for it … and plotting what you’ll do. 🙂 But then people move in together (and/or get married), which is the equivalent of the apple pie being there every day, requiring no effort to obtain. In addition, it’s also waving at you to remind you that it’s waiting to be snacked on. (That’s a metaphor for the person in the relationship who is initiating. 🙂 ) Is it any wonder that at least one party will lose interest in apple pie?
A very good analogy @Marcia.
I don’t think I’ll look at apple pie quite the same again!
The odd thing is, I’m in the best physical condition I’ve ever been in, but the physical is only half of it, perhaps I’ve lost her mentally / emotionally.
I sometimes wonder if one of us should go on a holiday / extended holiday for a while to see if we miss each other. Covid19 also hasn’t helped much, and I’d imagine there’s a lot of families out there that are just plain tired of seeing each other at the moment.
“The odd thing is, I’m in the best physical condition I’ve ever been in, but the physical is only half of it”
Sorry, I laughed when I read this. I had a male friend say the same thing — his wife hadn’t had sex with him in months, but he couldn’t understand why because he wasn’t ugly. For him, I think the physical was almost all of it, actually. But he was a deeply shallow person. And, to be honest, the physical is probably a small part of it for women. At least with an established partner. You’re together so she already ostensibly finds you appealing.
I don’t think the sex itself is what some women are focusing on (because it’s not common to find someone who, for whatever reason, knows how to push your buttons). For a lot of women, it’s the wanting, the longing, the thinking about it. I’m not sure how to fix that in a long-term relationship. And none of this may be an issue for your wife. But it is probably an issue for some women.
Thankyou for the deep insight, from a female perspective @Allie.
It used to be quite a lot easier to have my wife warm up to the occasion, and I used to be pretty good at it, but it’s impossible now, to say the least. My wife’s a great roommate and friend, full-stop. I’ve spoken to her about how I desire her, but she laughs it off in almost some kind of embarrassment.
I’ve avoided the subject for weeks / months hoping that someday she will miss it, but nothing. Eventually we discussed in at great length and when I listed the traits that other asexual people have revealed about themselves, she’s said yes, yes and yes, she thinks she’s asexual.
Also sex became more and more painful for her many years ago, the skin doesn’t stretch down there as much as it used to. And apparently I’m “too big”.
But penetrative sex wasn’t a necessity, so we tried other ways. But it became like she just laid there waiting until it’s finished.
But you’re right, me raising the subject could well have been causing her to pull away. Almost feeling smothered.
I sometimes wish I had the same lack of sex drive. When everything was happy at home, I wouldn’t even look at another woman. Now I keep looking at all women around me! Too much.
You aren’t saying anything misplaced.
Even as I am repeatedly rejected and lovemaking is a chore, or dare I say duty, it is deeply unsatisfying. It makes me feel that I am forcing something that isn’t needed and I am just the provider for the house.
This has made me deeply resent her and I feel robbed off an essential marital experience.
We have a child together and our conversations revolve only around him if we aren’t bickering. I am now short tempered because I resent the lack of intimacy.
I really want to feel good about myself. Fate seems to have other plans though
Allie 1 says
It sounds like you have done all that you can Confused. I really feel for you, rejection is painful. You are in a tough spot really… you like yourself must initiate if you want anything but with that you risk rejection and initiating may be perceived as pressuring so a bit of a no-win scenario.
It is also painful as a loving spouse to reject your partner and thus cause them pain. I think for some women that is why they start to shrink away from any physical affection – to avoid being in the position of having to reject the man they love more directly. My SO and I only very rarely have sex but we do share plenty of physical affection which gives me a crumb of hope.
Ultimately this is for your wife to resolve – the books I suggested may or may not help her but they at least may allow her to rule out a long list of potential root causes that would make her feel like she is asexual even if she is not.
@Allie, I think you are right. Even today, I can feel we’re drifting further apart. Now my wife spends all day staring at her phone. I’ve suggested let’s go here, there anywhere, but nope, the phone is more important.
I miss the days of mutual adoration. I can clearly see why people break up now. There’s only so many days in our lives.
Perhaps my attitude will change.
Thankyou for the amazing helpful replies @Limerent Emeritus, @Limerick, @Allie, @Marcia and @CH!
I really appreciate your advice and time.
Sorry for taking a while to reply back, but I’m just processing what’s been said.
My husband was my LO and previous affair partner. We had an eight month physical affair together while both of us were still married before we filed for divorce and married each other six months later. I adored him and was obsessed, often overlooking his toxic or abusive behavior (mostly fueled by his alcoholism). I had placed him on a pedestal for nearly three years, until I discovered a confession he made to another woman; disclosing how he had mutual sexual feelings towards her. Even though he went on to say, he couldn’t act on his feelings towards her, it shattered me and my perception of him. That was a year ago. I feel like I’ve accepted and forgiven him for this transgression, but I’ve never had the same feelings towards him that I once had. I love him and sometimes I feel in love, but never that intense obsessive euphoria. I miss it sometimes, but I don’t want it to come back because it left me so ungrounded and blinded by his other bad behavior. How do you balance keeping a spark alive with your partner and not letting it become a full blown LE?
I’m really sorry to hear about what happened to you @CH. Love is blind and intoxicating. My LO is still sitting on a pedestal somewhere, no matter how much I try to see the reality of how she treated me.
I really miss the euphoria, and I wonder if that’s all I had for my LO. But it just didn’t feel only like that. It was like we were twins and somehow are still joined distantly. I know, I probably sound like a cliche, but either she has a really high EQ, or she just “got me”. I find it immensely tragic and I was devastated that I lost her friendship.
I have another friend who’s been married 6 times, and she is looking once again. She is really a nice person, but unlucky in love. By that I mean, I think she loves being in love, but not the calm reality that comes later.
You know, many of these issues would probably disappear if we weren’t limited to one wife / husband.
Allie 1 says
Your 6 times married friend is probably a limerent!
“many of these issues would probably disappear if we weren’t limited to one wife / husband”. Oh yes! I am 100% team polyamory, at least within long term relationships with no or older children. If only my SO agreed!
@Allie 1, I think you’re right.
I’m on your team too!! I bet there’d be far fewer breakups in the world if we were all polyamorous.
Allie 1 says
My co-worker LO is completely stepping away from our current project 2 months from now. That devastating news has made me realise for sure that my feelings are much more than just limerent euphoria and addiction. While many LEs are based mostly on fantasy not reality, and some are a mix of fantasy/reality, there are some LEs rooted in us genuinely loving the real person.
“My co-worker LO is completely stepping away from our current project 2 months from now. That devastating news has made me realize for sure that my feelings are much more than just limerent euphoria and addiction”
Perfect time to make a pass. 🙂 I’m serious. I have done that before. Waited until just before I was about to leave a job or a class was ending. If the person says no, you don’t have to see them again. 🙂
Limerent Emeritus says
“Perfect time to make a pass. 🙂 I’m serious. I have done that before.”
Yeah, that works, too.
Why is the cause lost? I wouldn’t bother asking if the cause was lost. But I think Allie wrote she got a free pass for her birthday. And this co-worker is her #1 choice. So why not ask? If she’s soon at a point where she doesn’t have to work with him directly and see him again, why not ask?
Allie 1 says
A nice and tempting thought. But I am quite sure LO does not have a free pass. I don’t want to break his life.
Well, you don’t know that for sure. I’m not pushing you one way of the other … but what’s the worst that can happen if you ask? He says no. If you don’t ask … nothing happens and you never know. I made a pass at my LO. He said no, but I don’t regret asking. I guess, for me, I needed to know if he was walking the walk or talking the talk? Sigh … he was a talker. Talking loud and saying nothing. 🙂
Allie 1 says
I appreciate the advice Marcia and you are right. At the very least it is an opportunity to get a little more certainty. And even if I do not get clarity, nothing has been lost. Maybe the way I need to think is that it is not for me to make LOs choices for him, he should have the opportunity to decide for himself.
Dr L says
As a counterpoint, it doesn’t sound like you are looking for a quick “free pass” hook up with LO, Allie. It sounds like you want to be with him properly. So, even if he does have a free pass, or agrees to an illicit affair, getting together could end up being more agony for you in the long run if he just wants a bit of fun and you want more. Not to mention the impact on his and your SOs. Not to mention that if he says no, but tells his SO (and/or your co-workers find out), you have to deal with the fallout.
Limerence doesn’t care about repercussions, but we should.
“Maybe the way I need to think is that it is not for me to make LOs choices for him, he should have the opportunity to decide for himself.”
That’s what I was thinking.
The co-workers are not going to find out. Nobody ever found out that I made a pass at my LO, and he was a married co-worker. And I worked there of years afterward. And you described this guy as a decent guy, who will more than likely keep his mouth shut.
Dr L says
I hear from about a dozen married people a month who became entangled (to use a currently fashionable term) with an LO, and their lives blew up as a consequence. I obviously don’t hear from the people that got away with it – actually, no, scratch that, I do also hear from people who got away with it but now live with guilt.
Allie might dodge those bullets. I hope she does – and I obviously don’t know her or her LO. But, she is walking into a shooting gallery if she decides to disclose, and lots of other people don’t escape unscathed.
Allie 1 says
Dr L that is all a bit over-dramatic. I understand where your perspective on this comes from but every situation and every person is different. I know me and I know him. Your doomsday predictions are either not going to happen, are avoidable or are subject to my free choices first – I am not someone that would ever let my heart overrule my head.
While sometimes it is best not to, I disagree with you about never disclosing where there are SO barriers and I sincerely wish I had disclosed years ago as I would probably now be free of this. This is the best opportunity I will ever get to obtain any degree of certainty – which is very much likely to be rejection in this case.
And if I got to use my free pass first, I would, even if it hurt a little more afterwards.
Limerent Emeritus says
So, what happens if he reciprocates and you cash in your “free pass?” Sometimes, long shots come in.
Let’s say it’s everything you ever wanted and more. It’s wonderful beyond your wildest dreams. For both or you.
“And you described this guy as a decent guy, who will more than likely keep his mouth shut.”
I agree that disclosure can eliminate a lot of uncertainty. Allie1 will be betting that he keeps the office secret. What are the consequences if he doesn’t keep his mouth shut. She makes the pass, he shuts her down, tells people about it and he’s a hero. Especially to the other women in the office. She’s the one who’ll take any heat.
But, risk management is what life’s all about.
” What are the consequences if he doesn’t keep his mouth shut. She makes the pass, he shuts her down, tells people about it and he’s a hero. Especially to the other women in the office. She’s the one who’ll take any heat.”
And this is based on how many dalliances you have had with co-workers? I’ve had a few with married co-workers over the years (remember: I’m old), and not one of those guys said a word. They didn’t want their personal and professional lives blowing up. Because it would cause issues at work, and some office gossip would run to their spouse, and it would then cause issues at home. And I didn’t say anything. Do you think I wanted the female office brigade of clickish “Heathers” showing up at my door? And one of these guys .. his wife worked at the company, too.
If her LO was single, it might be different. Because single guys like to flap their gums and brag.
“But, risk management is what life’s all about.”
If you take no risks, nothing in your life changes.
Allie 1 says
“Let’s say it’s everything you ever wanted and more. It’s wonderful beyond your wildest dreams. For both or you. Then, what?”
Then disclosing would have paid off! And we will do whatever we both choose to do at the time. I already know what my choice would be and no matter how good the sex was I doubt that would change.
If you knew this man LE you would know as I do that there is absolutely zero chance of him gossiping and even if there was… I couldn’t care less.. there is no crime in loving someone and seeking clarity. I will be telling my SO after the fact and I am fine with LO telling his if he wants to as I am not going to make a pass anyway… no opportunity and I would not put him in a potentially awkward position. I know what I am going to do and it is subtle and dignified but he will understand it.
Limerent Emeritus says
“Allie might dodge those bullets. I hope she does – and I obviously don’t know her or her LO. But, she is walking into a shooting gallery if she decides to disclose, and lots of other people don’t escape unscathed.”-DrL
Her life, her call.
“And this is based on how many dalliances you have had with co-workers?”
Not a single one. But, I have experience about when you make an assumption about an LO’s behavior when you make assumptions and they go off script.
I do risk assessments for a living and know the process. I’m telling you what can happen, you and Allie1 are telling me what’s likely to happen. Only one person in this discussion is assuming any risk and it’s neither of us. As adults, we have agency.
‘“But, risk management is what life’s all about.”’
If you take no risks, nothing in your life changes.’
We live with risk every day that we don’t voluntarily assume. You don’t have to drive a car if you don’t want to. You assume risk every time you ride in one [voluntary or not]. You could be sitting in your chair reading this and be killed by a meteor. Unlikely, but possible. You could be killed by an intruder. Again, the risk is small.
If you make a conscious decision to assume risk and it blows up on you, it’s never a tragedy.
I am the only person in this discussion who has any experience with extra-marital dalliances. So your actuarial tables mean nothing.
Allie knows her personal situation better than any of us. But this “henny-penny-the-sky-is-falling” tone is wearing thin. And didn’t you disclose to your LO? So it makes no sense.
Dr L says
He literally said it’s Allie’s call to make. Maybe she can weigh all sides of the argument, actuarial tables included?
“I got away with it” isn’t exactly a slam-dunk argument.
“Maybe she can weigh all sides of the argument, actuarial tables included?”
Why would she want to do that? 🙂
The minute I posted the suggestion, I was aware of the response it would get. I’ll bow out. I don’t have anything else to add.
I think it’s important to be really honest with yourself, do I do this in the hope for more connection / bonding or do I really want the certainty so I can finally go on with my life even if it gets worse before it gets better The answer is between you and you. You know the answer And second question is, is this an act of self love .
This question forces me to at least not destort my reality.
Good luck Alie!
Allie 1 says
I appreciate everyone advice, thank you. But honestly it has all been a bit overblown! Mostly, I am looking certainty to help me let go once in NC. And when I say certainty, I mean that I need to be sure that LO knows I have feelings for him, and that he can discuss this with me if he chooses. Without that I fear that I will forever wonder what may have been had I disclosed. This is the loophole that my mind has not been able to let go of for the last year. If he chooses not not to engage, which I fully expect, then that is my closure. That is the end of this and I am mentally preparing myself that.
Limerent Emeritus says
I completely understand wanting to let your LO know how you feel.
I just no longer recommend disclosure.
Have your speech prepared in advance and don’t let him interrupt until you’re finished.
It seems like I’ve missed a lot since I went away!!
Ok, here’s my 2 cents, if it helps, but I’m afraid I’m going to be a little sexist here:
Why do women have to overthink and over-complicate everything?? @Allie JUST DO IT.
Men have no idea that a woman fancies them until they are told…. clearly.
Don’t live with What-Ifs. If your colleague says no, then at least you know.
My LO said no, and it hurt (and still hurts), but I am so glad I told her. I’ll never regret that.
Limerent Emeritus says
We beat regret to death in https://livingwithlimerence.com/when-to-disclose/. It comes up in nearly every discussion of disclosure.
I don’t regret disclosing to LO #4. It’s method 4 in https://livingwithlimerence.com/how-to-get-rid-of-limerence/. It didn’t have the effect I was hoping for. It made things worse for awhile. But, I got away with it. I wasn’t good, I was lucky. LO #4 wasn’t stupid, malicious, or vindictive.
WRT the regret of staying quiet. It won’t necessarily remove the uncertainty of what you’re LO is thinking. LO #4 never directly revealed her feelings. But, you took the shot and there’s no “Unfinished Business.” There’s a lot to be said for that.
So, what’s the risk of regret? Don’t disclose and risk the regret of something you didn’t do. Disclose and you can plant a seed or set off a chain of events that can affect many lives and you risk the regret something you did do. Neither of those choices comes with certainty. But, the second option is the more self-serving and the more dangerous option.
Limerent Emeritus says
“She is really a nice person, but unlucky in love.”
For someone married 6 times, “Unlucky” is not the correct word. People aren’t who they are because of the relationships they have, people have the relationships they have because of who they are.
“You know, many of these issues would probably disappear if we weren’t limited to one wife / husband.”
Maybe, maybe not. Check out https://livingwithlimerence.com/limerence-and-polyamory/
Circling back to limerence…
Now it’s time to play one of my favorite games: “What’s the “Fairy-Tale-Ending?” If you were a lawyer, you could apply the “But-for” test:
“The but-for test asks: but for the defendant’s action, would the harm have occurred? If the answer is no, then the action caused the harm.” https://www.enjuris.com/personal-injury-law/the-but-for-test.html
If your wife was more physically affectionate and your relationship more intimate, would you be seeking a distraction in your LO? LOs can be a great distraction because they’re often unsuitable for various reasons providing a convenient barrier to actually acting on something. LE’s can have the unexpected effect of becoming very real when someone’s situation changes.
If you can write the FTE script to get whatever outcome you want, what would it be? I agree with Allie when she says you may be in a situation you can’t change. If that’s the case, do you believe you’d be happier somewhere else with someone else?
Rational people make those kind of changes in the hope of a better tomorrow, by whatever definition “better” is for them. Again, those kind of decisions come at a price.
If you can’t get the FTE you’d like, what are you willing to do about it?
Honestly, if my wife was more physically affectionate, I very much doubt I’d even have a LO, which does make me wonder if I have true feelings for my LO.
However, the thing that nags me every day, is just comfortable I felt with my LO. We used to have lunch every week for 3 months. Platonic, just lunch. I tried a little experiment, and said nothing for about 5 minutes, and she didn’t say a word either. Yet there was no awkwardness, it didn’t feel uncomfortable, it just felt serene, extremely comfortable in fact.
I think that may have been the turning point for my LO, because I think after that day, she realized she had feelings for me. And I think that’s when she started pulling away because I wasn’t available.
I think ‘unlucky’ in love starts with her partner choices, I learned that just going where the wind blows me is not the way for me limerent to find a partner. I have to make a list, I have to have a plan, as clinical as that sounds.
-no long distance
-Avalable, twice a week
-wants to have a long term relationship
-not a fixer uper / project/ if only/ traumatised / avoidant
– taking things slow , love bombing is a huge red flag.
etc. And off course you cant always predict if this will last but for me its a good way to start. And im not afraid (anymore) to ask someone on a first date if they want to be in a relationship ( I mean not with me 😀 but in general) I cant afford to date sloppy and incautious of first falling in love and after try to bend and fit this person in my life , that cost me the last 3 years of my life. Another skill im learning is to learn to leave ( preferably not after 3 years)
“taking things slow”
Yeah, that’s code for … they are down for sex and hanging out but they probably don’t want a relationship. At least not with you (generic you). They say that to bide time because they know you want a relationship.
Allie 1 says
I agree with this too but here is nuance to this. Early on, my SO was very slow to commit, hence why he was my LO first. Yet he did commit and has been my loyal and faithful partner for 17 years. Sometimes early in a relationship you start off wanting someone you enjoy hanging out with and have fun with. And if it is fun, you end up not wanting it to ever end.
I mean I have to take things slow, and not go crazy, I don’t have a lot of experience with men who just want to have sex luckily but if men fall crazy in love just like me it completely blinds the fact that we are not a match and I use the attraction as my prove that we should be together.
“taking things slow , love bombing is a huge red flag.”
I was looking at “taking things slow” and “love bombing” as polar opposites. “Taking things slow” … meaning we’ll go on dates and have sex, but this will never become an actual relationship. Four months into it, he’s still only contacting you once a week and you’re only hanging out once a week and he’s not your boyfriend … because he doesn’t want to be and knew that the whole time. But you thought it would move into something more serious, and it was never going to .
Whereas “love bombing” is someone pushing for too much, too soon. That’s all about their immediate need for validation and attention.
Ideally, you find a happy medium where you meet someone, mutual interest is expressed, and things build over time … more frequent phone calls/texts, more frequent dates, you’re getting to know each other as people, etc.
@Mia, perhaps I’m foolish in love, but there’s no way I’d have a plan.
For me, it’s pure chemistry. How I feel when I’m near that person. I don’t care if they’re rich, poor, available on weekends, etc.
If you’re strict about criteria, then I don’t believe that’s love, that’s called shopping.
“taking things slow”.
I personally wouldn’t use the words “taking things slow” as code for having sex now, relationship later. I’d just want a good couple of dates before even thinking about sex.
I think the best experiences in a relationship are at the beginning, so why rush it? The possibilities of what’s ahead is the most tantalizing part.
Allie 1 says
I would personally never trust hormones alone to determine with whom I entrust my heart. At a minimum they must be trustworthy, sane, kind and not a narcissist.
@Mai, maybe that’s a difference between men and women? Of course, there are obvious reasons to avoid someone, but I think your heart will guide you the right way.
But yes, avoid narcissists, if it’s possible to spot them.
Sorry, I meant @Allie 1. 😉
Exactly, of course there has to be attraction, and I don’t care what someone does for a living but I don’t want to get involved with someone unavailable anymore, no matter how my hormones want it . I’m sure it can be both, being attracted to someone available. Not married nor living in Australia or both .
Limerent Emertitus says
Song of the Day: “Make Love Stay” – Dan Fogelberg (1983)
“Moments fleet, taste sweet within the rapture
When precious flesh is greedily consumed
But mystery’s a thing not easily captured
And once deceased not easily exhumed”
Fogelberg was a smart cookie.
“I personally wouldn’t use the words “taking things slow” as code for having sex now, relationship later. I’d just want a good couple of dates before even thinking about sex.”
I never said that. I said “taking it slow” is code for “We’re going to date and eventually have sex and meet up and do some ‘sharing and caring’ as friends… but this will not EVER become a relationship.” And they know that at the start of it. Because all they want to do is casually date. But they use “taking it slow” to make you think they are thinking about an eventual relationship. It bides them some time as you futilely hold out hope.
Ok, I understand what you mean @Marcia.
Everyone’s different. But it is a shame to start off not trusting his? motives. I guess that’s a problem that hookup culture is responsible for.
It’s a dilemma, because you don’t want to scare him off early by making him commit, but equally you’re not sure of his ulterior motives. I think the only way to tell is by looking into his eyes.
If I think of how I personally reacted each time I met with my LO:
-My voice deepened, uncontrollably.
-I’d get nervous, shaking a bit, even if I felt relaxed, a weird combination.
-I couldn’t keep my eyes off her, nothing else in the room mattered.
I couldn’t control any of these. I guess you could maybe use these as a tell, for male partners.
Oh gosh, I wish I could experience those feelings again, but I don’t know if I ever will (since I’d never had them before).
You could ask them what they mean when they say take it slow. Then no need for using code-breaking skills. Because a lot of the time people have different meanings for the same words. If you are not sure what they mean when they say take it slow, it might help to ask.
That sounded rude, sorry. Just trying to say if you think they mean never a relationship, then it helps to clarify it, just so you are both on the same page.
Limerent Emeritus says
Have you read https://livingwithlimerence.com/limerence-and-the-friendzone/ ?
It has nothing to do with the friendzone. You’re with someone whos’ an avoidant.
“You could ask them what they mean when they say take it slow.”
I mean, you could. But I have found that someone who is serious is obvious about what they want. If you have to have the “dtr” (determine the relationship) talk, you usually already know the answer.
Limerent Emeritus says
I agree with this.
However, you have to have some experience under your belt to recognize and understand it.
If you never encounter encounter the situation, you have absolutely no need to learn that lesson. It’s worse when you encounter it on your first adult relationship and have nothing to compare it to. It’s harder, albeit not impossible, to recognize a bad relationship if you’ve never seen a good one.
I take that back that the person is an avoidant. Maybe they just don’t want to get serious with you (universal you). Maybe they have an LO they’re dreaming of, too, 🙂
and they’re hoping that person becomes available or interested and you are the “substitute attachment.”
There’s nothing wrong with casually dating, as long as everybody’s on the same page.
I had a friend who was dating this guy for 6 months but he was still only contacting her once a week and going on a date once a week SIX MONTHS into it, and when I asked her why he wasn’t at least contacting her more often, she got mad. “We’re busy adults.” And she kept calling him her boyfriend, but he wasn’t, really. They were just dating. They had never discussed being serious. But he was spacing out those calls /dates intentionally. And then he broke it off and went back to the serious GF he had been on a break from.
Allie 1 says
Agree totally. If it smells a little off then it usually is!
If someone is really into you, they want to be with you as much as possible. Regardless of what they thought they were looking for at the start. I would expect this phase to kick off within 2 months of a first date under normal conditions.
If someone stays casual for too long then they are just not that into you and there is no point flogging a dead horse.
Conversely, as Mia says, if they are too into you too quickly, then it is not about you at all, it is about them.
Limerent Emeritus says
If you read my post in the Friendzone blog, the gist was LO #2 offered friendship. I wanted more than that and told her so. I appreciated her candor. It made my life easier. She was entitled to what she wanted and I was entitled to what I wanted. We were on different pages. No hard feelings.
Then, she flipped and changed her mind. The dance was on and lasted a total of 5 years. I don’t know why she flipped but she did.
The first two years were two of the best years of my life and the last two were two of the worst. They say that you can’t put a square peg into a round hole. That’s not true. It happens all the time. You can put a square peg into a round hole but it’s always going to be a lousy fit.
Based on how that relationship started, it should have come as no surprise as to how it ended. But, I am a slow learner.
When I met my wife, it was an entirely different experience. Things fell into place like dominos. One thing just effortlessly rolled into the next.
” I think the only way to tell is by looking into his eyes.”
Uh, no, you sit back and watch what they do. It’s all you can do with anyone you are getting to know. If you’ve dating for much more than a couple of months and things haven’t progressed and he’s still contacting you, for example, only once a week and you’re going out only once a week .. and he hasn’t asked to be your boyfriend or be exclusive … I’d say cut your losses.
Hard to do if it’s an LO, but if you want the whole 9, this person can’t or won’t deliver it.
I see what you mean Marcia. Hopefully he understands.
Why would I care if he understands? If someone is intentionally breadcrumbing you (and you want more and have made that clear), it’s your job to move on.
Can I open this discussion back up?
I am brand new to this concept and blown away by the community of fellow limerants.
Yes I believe I was born and bred to to be one! Had major crushes since I was in 4th grade, my dad used me as his major sounding board for his unrequited loves from an early age. “If only your mother ….I wouldn’t be so in love with….”
I am on my third marriage (16 years) and am with an avoidant who I adore as a partner and friend but..that damn Limerence thing is threatening to blow up my world.
I was doing much better with a very purposeful life and my crushes seemed to have taken a back seat in my world. (Member of a 12 step program…really helped). I’d have periods of deep regret and longing in my marriage, but ride the waves without sabotaging my stable home life. Which I love.
However, I entered into a musical duo with another married limerent…who knew?!!? About 2 years ago and we both fell HARD. I went from nothing to magnetic glimmering magic in 8 months of weekly practice and growing success.
I asked my hubby for a poly marriage last January. I actually thought he might be relieved. He wasn’t.
Our SO are putting up with this continuing because the music is so good and it makes us both (and many others) happy.
I SOOOO want to keep our music going with boundaries in place. We both do. But… ack. It’s hard.
My close friends want to blame my partner for being unable to deliver the goods (just not interested in flirtyness, needs to be approached very carefully for intimacy, etc. ). But I now know – it’s Limerence for both of my musical partner and I.
Every song has these layered meanings. The magic of harmonies are intoxicating.
So here I am!
Grateful to join this community.
Absolutely beautiful post! What if our SO is the one who does not want sex? Mine almost did not want it from the beginning. I wasnt limerent for him too.
My wife rarely wants it. Presently it has been over a year. My issue with my wife is that when she doesn’t want sex, she doesn’t want much of ANY kind of intimacy short of hand holding. She doesn’t want to be touched unless she initiates.
I met LO in spring of 2020 but never developed limerence for her until spring of 2021 when I had to work on a project with her for four months. And I have a very confident feeling that my limerence for another woman developed because of the issues of intimacy in my marriage. Here’s a young attractive woman giving me the time and attention I’m not getting at home. And while I never really desired physical intimacy from her who knows if LO were still around if it would have developed. She left for a new job in June of last year.
This is my first time being limerent. But I am concerned that if the lack of intimacy continues that I may become limerent for someone else, provided I get over LO now. And that multiple LE might lead to a EA or PA.
I have had numerous discussions with my wife in regards to intimacy and every time I hit a brick wall with her. Currently due to my wife already having accused me of having a PA with LO (a former co-worker) I disclosed about limerence about a month back when I found this blog. Now she’s using that as the reason she’s not interested in intimacy because I at least had a EA with LO.
I get stone walled with every attempt I make to change anything about our intimacy issues. She is getting what she wants out of the marriage (taken care of in every other way) and seems content with the lack of a sex life.
In every other way we get along fine and function as parents. But I know it will blow up eventually and I don’t really want it to just sit on the back burner until it does. And I really feel like the only reason these continued rejections and dismissing of my emotional needs via physical intimacy haven’t pushed me to contact LO is because I know she is happy with the man she is with now and has made a commitment to him and it would be incredibly selfish for me to disrupt that. But I would very much like to turn to her for what I am not getting at home. She is a very attentive, kind and caring. TKO for me.