There can be lots of reasons why people fall into limerence: anxiety, uncertainty about what they want from life, midlife stress that time is running out, problems with their long-term relationship.
One reason I’ve not covered much before is limerence as an act of rebellion. Here the limerent falls into a burgeoning limerence affair, and instead of slowing down and reflecting on what they want, they rush onwards and justify it as an act of self-actualisation. They are defying convention! They are asserting their need for independence! It’s their turn to take what they want from life!
This thinking can be potent – not least because it is sometimes true; possibly even justified. Here are some of the sorts of thoughts that are expressed by people giving in to limerence:
I’ve always got to behave, but other people do whatever they want
I feel trapped by my marriage/job/family
My spouse doesn’t give me enough affection/sex/respect
Everyone takes me for granted
Everyone assumes I’m boring and never do anything exciting
I am bored and never do anything exciting
I’ve given so much to other people and never take anything for myself
Why do I always have to be the responsible one?
These are all legitimate complaints. Seriously – that list is a litany of some of the most common and psychologically-destructive beliefs that people hold about their lives. Who wouldn’t be tempted to rebel?
The problem is that correctly diagnosing an underlying malaise in life is only the first step; the difficult bit is to find a cure. A limerent affair is likely to not only fail as a cure, but also to make things worse. Rebel limerents make some key errors of judgement. This is not too surprising, given that limerence and judgement are like oil and water.
1) Everyone feels stifled by responsibilities sometimes
You only live once. A cliché so worn out it’s become a meme.
Here’s the thing about YOLO: life doesn’t usually end after your exuberant act of rebellion. You do only live once, but most people learn in the course of that life that the consequences of reckless self-indulgence are more painful and longer lasting than the pain of resisting temptation. Everyone feels stifled at one time or another. Everyone has to make sacrifices in order to thrive in the long term. Everyone is involved in a long game of trying to find the optimal way of getting through life without falling prey to disaster. Some people are better at this game than others, but those people that think that hedonistic pursuit of pleasure is a good game tactic, rapidly learn that they are wrong.
Equally, running away from your old dysfunctional life, and hoping that a new, wonderful LO will swoop in and rescue you is also a futile game strategy. Responsibilities can be a burden, no two ways about it, but responsibilities appear when you decide to commit to something worthwhile. You can’t have the benefits without the sacrifice. Anyone who ever achieved something worthwhile did it by willingly taking on responsibility and discharging that responsibility to the best of their ability. The most fulfilled and content people are the ones who recognise and accept that cost and don’t see it as an unfair demand imposed on them by circumstances.
So, the first error of this way of thinking is to assume you are unusual in the burdens you bear.
2) What happens in Vegas never stays in Vegas
The repercussions of acts of rebellion ripple out, and harm the rebel as well as everyone else. There are not many people that can contain a life-altering transgression within themselves without the knowledge of it “leaking” and affecting their behaviour. There are some sociopaths who can compartmentalise their emotions, or even get a kick from the deceit, but most people find that living with the knowledge that they have betrayed their partner (and possibly, family) is too dark a secret to conceal. They behave erratically. They push limits. They get careless. It’s as though they can’t bear the fact that they are getting away with so big a lie, and some part of their conscience wants them to be found out.
Even if the limerent doesn’t succumb to this self-sabotage (a sort of act of counter-rebellion by their better selves), they can also be found out by events. The LO is careless. Evidence is discovered of illicit trysts. They are seen or overheard or gossiped about. Another common one is that one or other of the affair partners wants more from the relationship. Blackmail, threats, coercion; it can get ugly quickly.
All the rebel wanted was a moment of life-affirming connection with another romantic soul (neatly contained in a fantasy time bubble), but – whoopsie! – other people are involved, and it’s all got much too Real and spiralled out of control.
The second error is to think that the consequences won’t outlast the rebellion.
Destruction is rarely creative
There’s this idea in silicon valley that “disruption” is the cause of the most significant advances in society. “Disruptive technology” is a breakthrough that upends old ways of working and ushers in a new era – think the printing press, or personal computers, or smart phones. This tech gives rise to industry-killing disruption, like Amazon, Uber or Airbnb. The silicon valley types gloss over the damage wrought by disruption, of course (the booksellers, taxi firms and hoteliers put out of business). The Price of Progress.
But there are other ways to be disruptive too. The Taliban disrupted the educational system of Afghanistan very effectively. Isis recently disrupted centuries of history in Palmyra. Often, disruption is just destructive.
There is sometimes an impulse in the rebellious limerent that taps into this urge to destroy: I don’t care anymore. I’ve nothing to lose. Burn it all down.
People that want to shake their lives up are people that do not feel they are in control of their lives, or who feel unable to escape from the person (or people) they hold responsible for trapping them. Rather than confronting that person, or leaving them, the rebel decides to attack them and smash the life they had together.
The third error is to believe that someone else is to blame for your plight.
What are you rebelling against?
So if embracing limerence as an act of rebellion is not the cure to frustration with life, what is? Well, surprise, surprise, I think the answer is purposeful living. The real problem with feeling stifled, undervalued, taken for granted, or unfulfilled is not “I haven’t embarked on enough destructive affairs,” it’s “I don’t feel in control of my life.”
Rebelling against passivity is good. Finding ways to take control of your life is good. Asserting your needs more clearly is good. Blowing things up with a grand gesture is likely to cause more destruction than rebirth. You may be able to build a new life from the ashes of the old one, but you may also just be left sitting in the dust.
If limerence has woken you up to the fact that you feel victimised by your current lifestyle, take it as an opportunity to understand yourself. You’ve tapped into something important: you are not satisfied with your life, and that is a realisation to be taken seriously. If you can use the awakening wisely, you can start to figure out how you want your life to be. What purpose will you pursue? What responsibilities would you willingly take on? What part of yourself is LO connecting to, that needs to be given more attention?
It’s far better to rebel against your own destructive urges, and to take control of your life, than to satisfy the craving for limerent reward. That’s the way to win the game.
Excellent. My favorite takeaway is this “ Here are some of the sorts of thoughts that are expressed by people giving in to limerence:”.
Giving in to limerence.
So yes, we indeed have a choice. I now realize that I have repeatedly chose limerence. I chose it! How idiotic! What I thought was beyond my control, a force of nature so huge that I was helplessly swept into it, was actually my choice. And I could have chosen not to become limerent. That seems preposterous, but apparently is so. May I (and all of us) never choose limerence again!
“Rebel limerents make some key errors of judgement. This is not too surprising, given that limerence and judgement are like oil and water.”
And, one of the truly insidious things about limerence is that your LO doesn’t even have to try to send you over the cliff. All they have to do is hit the right trigger and they may have absolutely no clue to what your triggers are. They’re just being themselves.
One of the most disruptive events in my LE with LO #4 came when she sent an email that included, “I drank port and listened to Martha Wainwright until I passed out.” Now, while not exhibiting the best judgment, that statement wouldn’t be expected to have much effect on most people. It threw me for a loop.
Remember I said that LO #4 wasn’t the first woman to tell me she was being cheated on, she was the third? The first woman to tell me was in 1986 and the couple were friends of mine.
I know what it feels like to straddle a woman and hold her hair out of the toilet while she’s on all fours barfing up a bottle of Scotch. I know what it feels like to have that woman bury her face into my shoulder and cry so hard I could wring her tears out of my shirt. And, I know what it’s like to have that woman show up at my door at 11 PM and ask to spend the night with me because I was such a great guy.
It’s a heady feeling. When I read that email, part of me was ready to do it all over again and if she was 25 miles away instead of 2500 miles away, I might have.
Sometimes, things work in your favor and I got a hold of myself before I did anything really stupid.
I cannot yet admit that I truly had a choice in my powerful limerent experience, as it sure felt at the time that I did not have a choice. I do however understand that there isn’t anyone else but myself to “blame”, though circumstances and actions and intentions by my LO played key roles. I do believe that any limerent experiences in the future will be a choice, as I am now much better informed and armed.
Killing me softly with this blog
Telling my whole life with these words
Killing me softly, with this blog
The song “Empty Chairs” by Don McLean is a beautiful song about the end of a relationship, and it evoked such a powerful reaction that it served as the inspiration for the song “Killing Me Softly With His Song”. This blog is absolutely telling the story of a significant part of my life, where DrL had “found my letters and read each one out loud.” This blog entry about rebellion is so spot on for me. I cannot overstate what I have learned about myself from this blog.
I agree with you Thinker! On every level. This blog is a comfort and a healing, but also a bittersweet confirmation that the glorious and magnificent subsuming ‘romance’ was just a slightly pathetic fantasy. That being said, I am still eternally grateful to Dr. L and this blog for said revelation.
Another one from http://www.despair.com
I’ve always been a fan of this one from their line-up:
That’s my personal favorite.
I would have loved to send that to LO #2 after her divorce.
The thing is, it applies as much to us as it does to them.
My Limerence was not just an act of rebellion, but revenge. I’m pushed into the position of being the Wallflower in the room. Not due to the fact that I’m shy or quiet, but because the people in my life are overwhelming. My five aggressive older sisters, my defiant teenagers, and my dynamic husband. My SO is a well paid individual in a position of authority. He’s in charge at work and home. His nickname is General Stonewall Jackson. He finds it a compliment.
I’ve had a great deal of reflection and realize why this Limerence happened. It was my way of acting out. I had a hand grenade, ready to toss it at everyone. Only I couldn’t hurt them. These are the people I love with all my heart. The hand grenade goes off in my hand. I suffer an injury and now have PTSD. The mere mention of LO or thought of encountering him, sends me into a state of anxiety. The Limerence has made me weary and exhausted. Everyday is a battle. Now I have my everyday stress, in addition to the mental and emotional stress of Limerence. Sadly, the everyday stress is easier to handle. I have nobody to cast blame but myself. My only question is; When will it go away? The Limerence has diminished with NO Contact and awareness, but it still clings to me. Will it always be a part of me? Should I continue to fight it like the flu? Or just own it and control the condition?
“Not due to the fact that I’m shy or quiet, but because the people in my life are overwhelming. My five aggressive older sisters, my defiant teenagers, and my dynamic husband. My SO is a well paid individual in a position of authority. He’s in charge at work and home. His nickname is General Stonewall Jackson. He finds it a compliment.”
What about your LO appeals to you in light of what you just said? What about him makes you think that he’s going to somehow make things different/better? Do you actively confront the overwhelming people in your life or do you fight a passive-aggressive guerrilla war against them?
Have you ever told a therapist what you just posted? It’s huge and could provide a starting point for moving ahead.
I fight by passive-aggressive tendencies. I’m looking into a therapist. The Limerence is lasting too long for the short time that I’ve actually interacted with LO. Ten minutes in one long year. That’s a clue that the problem is with me. Thank you for your post and thoughts. Wish me Luck.
I’d say it’s a clue that your life is not meeting your emotional needs, triggering this fantasy escape. But yes, a lasting solution is likely to be found within you, rather than in other people. Wishing you the very best of good luck.
I wish you the best!
There’s a lot of info online about finding a good therapist. A good one is worth their weight in gold and a bad can make things even worse.
Taking this on could lead to a lot of changes.
Something to keep in mind and discuss with your therapist. These relationships are linked. Moving one lever regarding your LO could move other levers and those effects may not be what you’d expect or want to see. If you’ve been in a role for a long time, other people may not like Irene 2.0. If you’ve been the family punching bag at Thanksgiving forever and you’re not willing to take it anymore, something will have to change.
Also, don’t be surprised if the people who are supposed to be happy for you aren’t. Not only will they not be happy to see you happy, they may actively work against you. It’s a pretty sinking feeling to realize that, but it happens. One clue is that things that seem to be pretty straightforward and easy to accomplish mysteriously don’t happen. Or. you give someone what they say they want. and they’re not happy about it. Watch out for shifting goal posts. Somebody working against you can really thwart your progress. You pursue this and it won’t take long for you to figure out who’s on your side and who isn’t.
With respect to your SO, does he know the Stonewall was (accidentally) killed by his own troops?
Yes, Stonewall knows it and thinks it’s hilarious. When he enters a room, the work room becomes tense and silence. Productivity is at an all time high. I told him he was like Stonewall Jackson and his co-workers would shoot him in the dark, if given the chance. My SO is a piece of work.
You are absolutely right about the vicious fight ahead of me. I declined to go on a family trip with my sisters, and they went ballistic! The group text was insane. I started walking out of the room whenever Stonewall interrupts me mid-sentence. It’s very effective. He has to apologize and then, we can continue our conversation. Yes, I’m slowly but surely progressing. I think it would help to get counseling for me. Then, tackle the marriage issues.
BTW, Sophie, I read all the comments and sometimes post a “Like”, just to tip my hat to the blogger. It’s also to let you know that someone is reading and hears your angst.
I think if the limerence is still causing distress then you do need to work on trying to resolve it – at least for this LO. That said, I am reconciled to the fact that the capacity for limerence is a part of my personality, and that it’s not always a destructive force. The challenge is aligning it with an LO who would make a good long term partner. So, to an extent, I’m helpfully saying it’s both the flu and a long-term condition 🙂
From what you’ve shared, I would take the limerence as an indicator of deeper concerns that you have about your life. A lifetime around domineering personalities is a challenge – to put it mildly. I think you are doing a good job of starting to assert yourself (the walking out of the room strategy is great) and it will be painful to deal with the fallout of releasing Irene 2.0 into the world, as Sharnhorst puts it. The attraction of reverie about LO is that this is a habit that once gave you joy and reward. That would have a strong subconscious pull when you’re seeking solace from everyday stress.
My instinct is that continuing to work on improving yourself and developing Irene 2.0 into the purposeful and fulfilled person that she should be, will be the best way of dealing with both problems. You will meet resistance for others, you may lose touch with friends (or even sisters), but having a more rewarding and happy everyday life is going to help enormously in abandoning the false reward of limerence.
“Rather than confronting that person, or leaving them, the rebel decides to attack them and smash the life they had together.”
There are other reasons. I had confronted LO #2 numerous times. It had absolutely no effect on her. I explained things to her in spades so she couldn’t plead ignorance. I never got the faintest hint of regret or remorse from her.
Since I didn’t understand the nature of personality disorders then, I decided she had to be doing it out of malice or spite. Oddly enough, I never detected the faintest hint of those, either. But, since she couldn’t use the ignorance excuse anymore, I decided she had to be screwing with me and if she wasn’t smart enough to stay away, two could play that game. The thing was, I was better at it than she was and I knew where to plant the mines. But, when my wife came along when she did, I never got the chance to lay many of them.
LO #2 had the bad habit of not knowing when to keep her mouth shut and ask questions she didn’t really want to hear answers to. I’d known my wife less than 3 weeks when LO #2 asked the wrong question, and I gave it to her with both barrels. Her expression looked like someone had hit her between the eyes with a baseball bat. The thing was, my response was completely spontaneous. If LO #2 hadn’t asked the question, I don’t think the episode would have happened. But, when she came around a few seconds later, she had doubt about where things stood.
The therapist explained that Borderlines and Sociopaths are/were in the same DSM-IV axis so what I saw was entirely possible.
“…she had no doubt about where things stood.”
I think my inner rebel and inner toddler have teamed up. Yesterday I narrowly avoided contact with LO in person, then felt guilty as I’d probably seemed rude so messaged him to apologise. He was fine with it and said he more than understood my need to cut contact, but would always be a friend for me if I wanted.
So yesterday I was high as a kite and today I’ve come crashing back down as the reality of my stupidity has hit me.
I know this probably isnt the most appropriate post to comment on with this, but I need to voice it.
Small setbacks are inevitable, Sophie, so don’t be too hard on yourself. It sounds like you have used this one as another opportunity to learn, which is a good thing. A well-meant gesture of friendship from LO is not helpful in recovery – better to avoid any chance for connection, even if it may seem a bit rude. You have a good reason, so normal social niceties can be suspended until you are on firmer ground.
I haven’t had any contact with LO #4 in almost 3 yrs. Last Sunday, I was checking emails and I had one from her. It was a shotgun email about the site I met her on. Apparently, I was still on her mailing list.
I sent a 1-line response asking her to delete the account. When I tried to log in yesterday, I couldn’t. I have to give to give her credit for that one.
I wonder how many limerents are actually addicts in their everyday lives? What percentage? Issues of choice would be relevant. I am an alcoholic and have some understanding of substance abuse, mental health issues, diagnosis etc. Am sober at the moment and things are ok.
It did not cross my mind until I had my own intense LE that a person could become addicted to another person – similar highs and lows and little in between – but the parallels are striking – as is the hard and at times painful road to recovery!
Personally, apart from maybe drinking too much coffee and tea I’m not an addictive person. I maybe used to get mini bouts of obessision over say a new video game or other activity. But they died out quickly. The only two lasting “addictions” have been people related. My current LO and my ex who on reflection became an LO after we split.
I’ve been trying to figure out whether this is an addiction or whether I should downgrade it to a habit. The treatments for both are slightly different. I’ve not gone for the full addiction recovery treatment as that would involve going cold turkey – a bit hard as I sit next to my LO 5 days a week….
My therapist (who admittedly doesn’t get Limerence) thinks I should just go with the flow and not worry about what happens. “What you resist, persists” is the mantra. Their advice is to focus on me and other things and let this LE fade away. So I’m somewhat confused now, would love others take on that…
There’s a Harvard Business Review article from the 90s titled, “Successful Change Programs Begin With Results.” It’s a great article. The authors talk about a phenomenon called the “activity centered fallacy” in which companies confuse activity with results and believe if “…they do enough of the right things, good results will eventually materialize.”
Nowhere is the “activity centered fallacy” more evident than with therapy. Since a lot of people enter therapy to mitigate symptoms rather than address specific problems with identified outcomes, it’s not surprising therapy may be ineffective. Toss in that we confer expert status on therapists who may not have an actual clue as to what they’re dealing with and you can spend a lot of time spinning your wheels.
The better you can identify the problem and the result you want to achieve, the better position you’ll be in to drive your own bus. If the therapist you’re working with isn’t helping you achieve those results, go find one that does.
When I first saw a therapist to understand LO #2, she asked what I hoped to achieve in therapy. I told her I wanted to stop hurting and I wanted to remember her fondly. The therapist said those were reasonable and achievable goals. We started with the former and once that kicked in, the latter became moot. Once the pain went away, what I think of her doesn’t matter, anymore.
How long did that take?
From beginning to end, about a decade.
But, it wasn’t all about LO #2. I didn’t go back 25 years, I went back 50 years. It wasn’t continuous. I’d address one facet and another would emerge. And, during that time, I encountered LO #4 and my marriage was not in a good place.
I eventually got to the point where I ran out of questions. Discovering limerence was the icing on the cake. Probably the biggest take aways I got from all this was.
1. Just because you don’t see something as traumatic doesn’t mean it wasn’t.
2. You need to grieve and mourn when appropriate. One of the first things the therapist said was I’d never mourned the loss of the relationship with LO #2. Until I did, the pain would never go away. I would never get to acceptance. She was right. I was long past Denial and Bargaining. I was kind of stuck in Depression. Once I understood a few things, I went on to Anger. Anger still pops up periodically but I’m well into Acceptance.
3. It’s ok to be angry with people who don’t treat you well, even your parents. Addressing that one can take you to all kinds of places.
I’m not an “addictive personality” either, but limerence went way beyond a habit for me. I have an addict in the family, and so limerence was actually really helpful for me to finally get why they couldn’t just stop doing the destructive behaviour.
I’d also agree with Sharnhorst: therapists can have blind spots and be freighted with their own baggage. I can understand not getting limerence (in that it’s not mainstream and not a formal trait/disorder in psychological circles), but to respond to a situation that has already disrupted your life, and could have lasting personal and professional repercussions with “go with the flow”, is… remarkable.
What you resist, persists, eh? Better not fight the urge to lie in bed watching films, eating pizza and drinking beer tomorrow then, instead of going to work. Otherwise that urge will only get worse!
My guess (so, obviously, pinch-of-salt) is that your therapist is a non-limerent with a non-judgmental attitude to infidelity. If that’s a good match for you, then no worries, but if what they are advising confuses you and feels wrong, it’s probably wise to try some other therapists out.
I have also struggled with phone addiction, for what it’s worth. Maybe I’m just one of those people who needs something to be addicted to. XD
I am a recovering addict. I abused aderall for years. It’s amazing how similar the highs are to that of limerence. I would say it’s a more common crossover than we realize.
Did Adderall give you the same euphoria, Mary? Having never taken amphetamines myself, I’ve often wondered if the sensation is similar to limerence.
The main similarities would be the boost in energy, the good mood, the feeling of being able to take on the world. So yeah, pretty similar. The adderall is stronger, but leaves you all crashy at the end of the day. I guess you crash with limerence also, but not daily.
as in – the drinking may have been some futile rebellion against how I and others perceive myself and camouflaging the real me!!!…
It’s so much easier to destroy things than to build them.
Also, I think boredom should be scrutinized a bit further.