One of the difficulties in understanding and overcoming limerence is the problem of clearly understanding what it is. Part of the reason that this is so challenging is that love and romance is an area of research (and life) that is bedevilled by ambiguity. What do we mean when we talk about love? What is the difference between a crush and an obsession? When does the normal elation of attraction turn into something more worrisome?
Another complication is that many different authorities have described the same phenomena (heartache, euphoria, lovesickness, obsessiveness) from different perspectives, sometimes looking at romantic distress as an ordinary part of the spectrum of love feelings, other times as a psychological derangement or attachment disorder.
A good example of this ambiguity is the term “love addiction”. Some commentators use this interchangeably with limerence to describe a state of romantic distress characterised by obsession, but others link it more to co-dependency, relationship OCD, or sex addiction. I think it is useful to understand whether we are all in that parable of the blind men trying to describe an elephant, or if there really is a distinction between limerence and other manifestations of love addiction.
Love addiction is most commonly defined as compulsively seeking the experience of “falling in love” and craving the feelings of euphoria and elation caused by connecting romantically with someone new. Limerence is a description for the altered mental state that people can succumb to when experiencing profound infatuation for another person.
Limerence is better described as person addiction than love addiction, as it is the company and reciprocation of the other person that is craved above all else. Love addiction is seeking the euphoric hit of romantic excitement, (that can in principle come from anyone who can serve as a romantic vehicle); limerence is a psychological state of obsessive desire for a specific person.
As ever, I think that approaching this question from the perspective of neuroscience is a worthwhile approach to digging deeper.
Love as addiction
The first point to address is the idea that love itself is an addiction. This is a idea that is given some credence in the medical literature, and it’s founded on two pillars – first, people in love display a lot of the same behaviour as addicts, and second, drugs of abuse act on the neural circuits that are also the basis of the pleasurable sensations of being in love.
So, the concept is pretty straightforward. A very long time ago, in evolutionary terms, our ancestors developed systems for reward recognition, which trigger the sensation of pleasure when rewards are secured. As brains became more complex, the simple recognition of reward expanded to also include remembering rewards, and seeking them, in order to improve the chances of survival in a complex environment. We are now equipped with very elaborate reward and motivation systems that are linked into most of our other brain centres (meaning we can also make sense of rewards and give them emotional context). But fundamentally, these systems are simple, ancient and powerful; when something really good happens to us, we feel pleasure, and want more of it. This applies to almost all rewarding things.
The common drugs of addiction like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine differ in the details of how they work, but all of them have one thing in common: they overstimulate the reward and pleasure systems. This is why it’s a hackneyed journalistic device to say “chocolate activates the same brain regions as sex” or “love lights up the same neurons as heroin,” because everything rewarding does. We have a built-in mechanism for detecting and responding to rewards, and drugs of abuse artificially make them hyperactive.
Some researchers therefore argue that any stimulus that powerfully activates the reward system could be seen as a potential addiction. Their view would be that when love causes intense feelings of pleasure and euphoria, we are in a mental state akin to abusing drugs, because the activity in the reward system is ramped up.
The alternative view is that there is something fundamentally different between your reward circuits maxing out during a romantic high (which is a natural stimulus), and introducing a foreign chemical that deranges the normal functioning of the circuits by messing with the function of your brain cells.
Limerence as an altered mental state
While there is no denying the fundamental difference between naturally occurring euphoria and a chemical high, the critical point is whether the reward circuits can be pushed into an abnormally active state by a natural stimulus. The argument I routinely make, and which fits with Tennov’s original conception of limerence, is that limerence occurs when the circuits controlling reward, arousal and bonding have been continually reinforced for so long that they are in a state of hyperactivity.
The desire to seek contact with your limerent object is so compulsive it feels impossible to resist. Your daydreams about them become relentless, intrusive thoughts. Your mood see-saws between elation and despair depending on their attitude to you. These are all symptoms of the reward and arousal systems functioning outside the normal parameters of healthy physiology.
Most people do not have this experience during the onset of love. They can handle the giddy excitement and pleasurable reward without tipping over into involuntary obsession. Their circuits don’t get stuck in an addictive feedback loop. Quite why limerents are different is a very interesting question, with probably multiple answers. Perhaps some of us have an inbuilt propensity for limerence because of how our brains are built. Perhaps we meet a limerent object who acts as a supernormal stimulus. Perhaps their behaviour, or our behaviour, reinforces the reward signalling so much that it never settles down.
The same principles apply with other behavioural addictions. It does seem to be the case that certain stimuli for certain people are enough to push the reward and motivation systems into overdrive. The desires for gambling, extreme sports, internet use, sex or shopping can be so powerful that they can become compulsive. Even though the stimuli are “natural” rather than chemical, the circuits get stuck in a hyperactive loop regardless.
Love addiction as euphoria-seeking
In common usage, love addiction describes an obsessive desire to constantly experience the sensations of giddy euphoria when falling in love. It could be described as addiction to the honeymoon phase of relationships. Love addicts seek the tingles of a crush, and the thrills of being swept up in a grand romance – the romantic idea of love being far more appealing than the reality of an actual relationship.
Looked at from a neuroscience perspective, love addiction could actually be formulated as addiction to limerence. If limerence is the psychological state of unfettered infatuation, love addiction could be the craving to re-enter that state as often as possible.
It’s getting a bit meta now, but the love addict craves the natural high of early limerence, and is trying to sustain the euphoria for as long as possible. Their focus is on securing a new limerent object as soon as the old limerence begins to fade. If limerence is a rollercoaster ride, love addicts are always looking to jump on a new rollercoaster during the up phase, to avoid having to face the sickening descent.
So, limerence could be a component of love addiction, but the two conditions can also exist independently. Most limerents I hear from are not love addicts, in the sense that they tend to only come upon limerent objects occasionally in their lives, and get completely blindsided by them. But, people who become limerent frequently could well fall into a life of serial limerence that becomes a pattern of behaviour that they can’t escape.
To end on the same point that we began on – part of the difficulty of understanding behavioural addictions is that there are rarely clear boundaries between the conditions different researchers have defined to capture a particular collection of symptoms. This problem of labelling leads to a lot of confusion, but also helps highlight how each individual’s personal history will determine how they are affected by an addictive stimulus.
And that brings us to the last important point. Whatever our individual propensity to experience these phenomena, the outcome for us in our lives depends on how we respond to the relentlessly urgent impulses. When unexpectedly bowled over with euphoria, do we blindly seek more, rationalise why it’s OK to carry on even though we have misgivings, or recognise it as a threat to existing relationships?
We can understand the neuroscience that pushes us into a limerent mental state. We can uncover the childhood experiences that shape our attachment styles and the emotions that we feel during romantic bonding. But we need to understand both those processes and learn how to respond purposefully, if we are to succeed in integrating those parts of ourselves into a healthy whole.
Only then can we embark on a wise and fulfilling future.
Figuring out how best to “treat” limerence
Limerence and emotional attachment
I think of love addiction as co-dependency. For some it may be seeking the high of falling in love but for others it’s just not being able to be on their own. I had a friend who was almost 50 and hadn’t been on her own since she was about 16. She went from boyfriend to boyfriend, husband to husband. She would not leave one relationship until she had something else lined up. She technically wasn’t cheating, but she was definitely putting the feelers out before she left the relationship she was in. But one of the marriages lasted nearly 20 years, so I don’t think she was seeking the high of falling in love. But every new guy was the love of her life, so there was definitely a romantic fantasy component to it.
I have a friend whose going through something a bit similar. Her marriage ended a few years ago and ever since she’s had multiple 6 month relationships… But honestly if I hear her say one more time ‘I’ve never felt like this before, my new love is unlike any other!’
I mean. I’ll probably just let it wash over me at this stage until the next one comes along!
Which actually has just triggered a thought…
When I get intense feelings of what I identify as limerence I don’t think’ this is new and amazing’. I now think ‘Oh Christ. I’ve been here before’, before carrying right along revelling in it until the inevitable car crash. I wonder if love addiction is believing or chasing something you imagine is new whereas limerence junkies… I mean. New face, same game.
To be fair, as I’ve said elsewhere I only spot it as what it is once the negative compulsion kicks in. By which point I’m a fallen man. Speaking of which there might be another LO on the horizon… Glimmering, and I’m already occasionally back on the ‘when we’re they last online?’ bandwagon.
I should probably run, right?
Of course I should. 🤔
“I mean. I’ll probably just let it wash over me at this stage until the next one comes along!”
I did the same thing. I suggested maybe taking a break from relationships after the 20-year-marraige ended to maybe figure out why her situations don’t last, but it fell on deaf ears.
” I wonder if love addiction is believing or chasing something you imagine is new …I mean. New face, same game.”
Idk. I didn’t know what limerence was until recently, and I haven’t even come close to a new glimmer since, so I’m not sure how I’d respond, now being educated. 🙂 I think a certain number of factors in my life have to be present for limerence to happen, and many aren’t there right now. For one thing, after the last LE, I have become insanely self-protective. As for my friend, it is “new face, same game. “She was on match.com THE VERY WEEK she moved out and left her husband. And he moved a new girlfriend into their home WITHIN FOUR MONTHS. And, no, he wasn’t seeing her before the the marriage ended. So he had to meet someone, date them and get serious enough to live together …. within four months of a the marriage ending. Is there any real attachment to any of their partners? Here’s another question: This woman he moved into their house. Why would she sign up for that? I think love addition is a compulsion that is felt with every partner, whereas limerence is not felt with every partner.
“To be fair, as I’ve said elsewhere I only spot it as what it is once the negative compulsion kicks in. ”
You can’t tell when you feel the overwhelming feelings of attraction, the longing, the highs, etc. ?
Limerent Emeritus says
“To be fair, as I’ve said elsewhere I only spot it as what it is once the negative compulsion kicks in.”
Have you ever looked at why that is? Do you know glimmer when you see it?
Personally, I can tell you that it’s one thing to understand glimmer. If you’re inclined, it helps you identified threats (i.e., PLOs). That’s better than doing nothing.
But, if you dig deep, understand what compels you, and deal with that, LOs are no longer a threat.
When LO #4 told me her BF was cheating on her and started confiding in me, she wasn’t the first woman to tell me that, she was third. I knew where that could go.
I know what it feels like to straddle a woman and hold her hair out of the toilet while she puked up half a bottle of Johnny Walker. I know what it feels like to have that woman bury her face in my shoulder and cry so hard I could wring the tears out of my shirt. I know what it’s like to have that woman show up at my door a week later, tell me what a great guy I am, and ask to spend the night.
I like those feelings. A lot. But, I didn’t do any analysis of it at the time.
Fast forward 25 years. I’m married with a family. We were having problems but I wanted to stay married.
So, when LO #4 started confiding in me, I knew I was on shaky ground. But, it was too compelling for me to walk away from. Why? LO #4 wasn’t offering me a damn thing and I wasn’t asking her for anything. I had to find out what was compelling me to do this when all it offered was downside. I was willing to risk blowing up my life for absolutely nothing.
That’s why when she told me what happened, I booked an appointment with the EAP counselor. I thought I might be overreacting and asked a married co-worker if she’d be concerned if a woman was confiding something like that to her husband. She said, “Hell, yes. I’d be concerned…for her to confide in a married man is way inappropriate. It’s too easy for that to go sideways.” I asked the EAP counselor why this was causing me so much anxiety when LO #4 was 2500 miles away and we’d never met. I didn’t think she’d be showing up at my door. The EAP counselor said it was precisely because I’d seen it twice before and knew what could happen and how I respond to it.
After 25 years, I had found out I still had a vulnerability that I needed to identify and correct. That took time and effort but it was worth it.
Expanding a little, Shari Schreiber contends that people who generate co-dependent feelings (i.e., glimmer) in someone don’t create those feelings, they reactivate suppressed ones. It seems like once they’re activated, the tendency toward co-dependence/limerence doesn’t disappear on its own. Once those reward centers get activated, you can’t turn them off on your own, junkies that we are.
Which brings us back to the question of if you have the tendency to be a limerent but never encounter an LO, are you a limerent if you have the tendency but never exhibit the behaviors? How would you know?
Which brings us back to another question that comes up periodically, “Are you capable of responding to and forming stable attachments with suitable candidates or are you incapable or uninterested in suitable candidates?”
If you can respond to suitable candidates, you have a fighting chance and it’s largely a matter of luck which you find first. If you only respond to unsuitable candidates, you’re pretty much screwed.
A question for DrL: Is there a “gateway drug” for limerence that sets you up for things to come?
“Is there a “gateway drug” ?
Cocaine, as an experience, is most similar, but –
vastly inferior to “that old Black Magic”.
” Speaking of which there might be another LO on the horizon… Glimmering”
Reminds me of that song by Billy Joel. “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” “Didn’t light it … trying to fight it.” Stay strong! 🙂
Allie 1 says
“love causes intense feelings of pleasure and euphoria, we are in a mental state akin to abusing drugs” vs “there is something fundamentally different between your reward circuits maxing out during a romantic high and introducing a foreign chemical that deranges the normal functioning of the circuits by messing with the function of your brain cells. ”
I also think “uh oh” when I sense the onset of an LE.
The first 1-2 weeks of my current LE were incredibly euphoric. It felt thrilling but extremely disturbing at the same time… a complete system overload, akin to being constantly high on drugs (I tried a selection in my youth) but without the ability to stop using. So for me personally, early LE euphoria is the former: an unhealthily amped-up version of love that I believe can derange our brain circuits like drugs can. The latter theory clearly came from a non-limerent! 🙂
I do wonder DrL… could some limerent minds either be extra sensitive to love neurochemicals, or able to generate them at higher levels than normal?
I am so very grateful that this site exists and that I found it so quickly! It instantly cooled things down sufficiently for me to function fairly normally again, although of course my addiction remains.
Oh, I have a friend like that too. More than one probably but I’m thinking of one in particular that I’ve addressed my observation to. She said, she doesn’t think she falls in love easily but she has a problem ending relationships even when they more or less are over and she hasn’t been emotionally invested in a long time. Finding a new love interest is what helps her “find the strenght” to end the commitment because there seems to be something “waiting on the other side”. This is rather foreign to me and I find it hard to evaluate or judge her experience. But knowing her a long time, she seems rather limerent than love addicted to me though displaying the same behaviors as you describe. Other than in your example her relationships tend to last longer. Yet this “warming up someone new before leaving the old” and not being able to be on your own could be a sign of both love addiction and limerence, right? I guess, I’d distinguish whether jumping wagons serves as a function in itself or whether it’s a consequence of limerence with the idealization of LOs and devaluation of SOs.
“Yet this “warming up someone new before leaving the old” and not being able to be on your own could be a sign of both love addiction and limerence, right? ”
I think it’s co-dependence.
carried away says
I think if I could lump all my LEs together as one it would be the white elephant in the room – how’s that for a parable upon a parable😂
Like the above comment, even I can’t get over an LO unless the limerence has been transferred to another LO. No matter what, I only get over my LO when another LO comes along.
“The desire to seek contact with your limerent object is so compulsive it feels impossible to resist. Your daydreams about them become relentless, intrusive thoughts. Your mood see-saws between elation and despair depending on their attitude to you. These are all symptoms of the reward and arousal systems functioning outside the normal parameters of healthy physiology.”
This paragraph is absolutely perfect, in my opinion. It probably won’t make a whole lot of sense to non-limerents, or people in stable relationships. But it will make perfect sense to anyone who has lived through it…
“… relentless, intrusive thoughts.” That’s exactly what limerence feels like. It feels like LO has turned on some tap inside the limerent and the limerent can’t find a way to turn off the tap, so water keeps gushing out, and the physiological “excess water bill” keeps climbing. One’s inability to control one’s emotional experience during limerence can become a source of panic in itself. 😛
“It’s getting a bit meta now, but the love addict craves the natural high of early limerence, and is trying to sustain the euphoria for as long as possible. Their focus is on securing a new limerent object as soon as the old limerence begins to fade. If limerence is a rollercoaster ride, love addicts are always looking to jump on a new rollercoaster during the up phase, to avoid having to face the sickening descent.”
It almost sounds like true-blue love addicts are people who are trying to beat the system/cheat evolution. I.e. they’ve subconsciously worked out some aspects of infatuation are really pleasurable and some aspects of infatuation (or committed relationships) are quite dreary and draining, and so they’ve decided to do whatever they can to prolong the highs and avoid the lows…
To me, it sounds like love addicts are motivated as much by the “avoidance of pain” as they are by the “attainment of pleasure”. And as far as this is true, I would describe myself as a love addict as well as a limerent. Two powerful motivational forces are acting concurrently in my head at all times, like two possibly-incompatible computer programs running on the same machine.
I feel like Mother Nature is dangling a great big juicy carrot in front of my eyes, (no jokes about Freudian slips here please), but at the same time she is also beating me with a great big stick. Seek pleasure, avoid pain, seek pleasure, avoid pain. The result: a highly-conflicted personality and a struggle to integrate all the different parts of my personality into a coherent and well-functioning whole, although the latter has increasingly become my focus in life.
Like the classic love addict, I’ve often felt the desire in life to “move on” from people and experiences before the inevitable disillusionment kicks in. However, the problem with this approach is one ends up running away for the rest of one’s life – running away from painful emotions one doesn’t want to experience.
I think it’s the emotional part of my brain telling me “Seek out pleasure” and the rational part of my brain telling me “Quit while ahead”. However, I think both the emotional part of my brain and the rational part of my brain are liars equally. I’m robbing Peter to pay Paul, (Again, no jokes about Freudian slips here please). The physiological “excess water bill” is still piling up and eventually I’ll have to pay it in full. There’s no such thing as a free lunch … or a free hot shower, apparently. 😛
In sum, I think there can be some overlap between limerence and love addiction. But limerence is definitely about wanting one specific person and one specific person only, whereas love addiction – as the article suggests – is more about wanting the emotional buzz associated with the early stages of romance.
The true limerent still craves the LO even AFTER the emotional buzz has worn off – maybe that is the critical distinction between limerence and love addiction? 😛
Limerent Emeritus says
Songs of the Day:
“Love is the Drug” – Roxy Music (1975)
“Addicted to Love” – Robert Palmer (1985)
Crank it up!
Usually, I’d link a video with embedded lyrics but the original music video is too classic not to use.
I am so glad to find this website. My husband of 26 years told me about a year ago that he has a kink (I am not into it) and wanted to open the relationship. I wasn’t super thrilled but went along with it for a variety of reasons. Then I started seeking out my own sexual adventures and that is where I met my LO (website for people in open relationships). Only I haven’t even met him. We have been exchanging very intimate (but not sexually) emails daily for a few weeks. And I couldn’t stop thinking about him. We disclosed to each other just a few days ago and my brain has been on fire ever since sounds like it is the same for him. He told his wife he wanted to meet me (should have been fine since we are open), but she could sense his emotion and is super upset . I would be too.
Neither of us wants to leave our spouses. We are both in our 50s. We haven’t had sex. But neither of us has felt this way in decades.
I work in addiction and read a lot of neuroscience and I knew this might happen. I also know that it will run its course in 6 months or so. We don’t want his wife or my husband to be hurt by this but I can’t imagine cutting off contact. What I want to hear is that we should just have sex and let it run its course for 6-12 months. Is that a horrible idea?
“What I want to hear is that we should just have sex and let it run its course for 6-12 months. Is that a horrible idea?”
If you really want limerence to run its course … the more time you spend with him, the better, and most definitely out of bed. If all you do is meet up for a couple of hours a week for sex, that will increase limerence. Your time together is limited and you have to get it in while you can. That will increase the feeling of intensity, ratchet up the emotion. You’ll be dying to see him, and you’ll be thinking about it all week. But if you can really get to know each other as people, that can help decrease the intensity of limerence. I don’t mean to sound sarcastic, but the best thing to do is go on a week-long, car trip with him. You can really get to see the whole person that way.
It’s not a horrible idea, especially as you have both already established open relationships, but I think there are lots of reasons to think it might not work out.
Sex can sometimes dispel limerence effectively because it removes uncertainty and erotic tension, but I’m not sure that is the driving force for you. It sounds like your limerence has been founded on emotional intimacy, not erotic desire. That tells you that it is the emotional connection that matters most (to the limerent part of your subconscious).
Spending more time with him is likely to deepen the limerence. So, spending quality time together is not a great plan if you want the limerence to fade rather than strengthen. Sex could help or hinder – it’s sort of a wild card. If it’s really disappointing it might “break the spell”, but if it’s good, it might make the limerence worse.
Your strategy seems to be to try and burn through the limerence as fast as possible, rather than pull back from it in the early stages and deal with the emotional disappointment of that sacrifice. The risk of your approach is the damage that could be caused during the limerence inferno.
On that last note, there are a couple of points for pessimism. It sounds like his wife is super wary of your connection. Does that mean she has been through this rodeo with him before? Maybe not, but it certainly sounds as though she thinks emotional intimacy breaks the “contract” they have about other sexual partners.
The second point is that you sound as though you were reluctant to open your marriage (no judgement meant – I don’t think that open marriages are any more or less enlightened). That makes me wonder if you would be happier with a close, emotionally secure, monogamous relationship. Is that what LO might be offering your subconscious?
Hope those thoughts are some help. Good luck!
“Spending more time with him is likely to deepen the limerence. ”
It could, bit it will most likely kill it. Limerence is about romantic projection. The way to get over limerence is to see the person for who they are. Limerence when there are barriers is like being on a diet … you’re dying for the brownie. Once you give yourself permission to eat brownies whenever you want, the brownie holds the same emotional weight as an apple. Most dating situations never move into anything serious. The likelihood this is anything more than limerence is low. I don’t say that skeptically. It’s just reality. Exposure is key to kill it. Best case scenario: She sees this guy for a while and then determines, “Oh, is that all it was?” once the intensity dies down. It’s happened to me.
I disagree. The experience of most of the people I hear from is that it is almost impossible to get enough of them during the euphoria phase.
Familiarity will eventually lead to the idealisation passing, but it takes time and tends to only happen once the “limerent peak” has been topped. Until then, it’s all positive reinforcement.
Unless you can literally spend 24/7 with them, the saturation/desensitization will take ages.
“The experience of most of the people I hear from is that it is almost impossible to get enough of them during the euphoria phase.”
Yeah, in the face in the brownie pan phase. You can’t get enough … but you eventually do get enough. A couple of dates a week, everything out in the open, no hiding, nothing clandestine … it will wear off, a few months, tops.
Yeah, I get the argument. But, don’t you think that some people struggle with their weight precisely because they can happily eat some brownies a few times a week and never get tired of them? They would literally have to binge till they were sick to kick the habit.
I think the most direct risk for Didi is that she dates her LO a couple of times a week, passes through a period of deepening limerence that further erodes her emotionally inferior marriage, and then she properly falls in love with LO.
It might be a better outcome overall, but it might also be disastrous if LO does not want to leave his wife, and/or Didi doesn’t want to end her marriage. Is it wise to hope you will tire of LO rather than bond ever closer?
“I think the most direct risk for Didi is that she dates her LO a couple of times a week, passes through a period of deepening limerence that further erodes her emotionally inferior marriage, and then she properly falls in love with LO.”
That could happen. But to assume limerence leads to love or a big thing is wrong. … She could fail to really connect with him after a couple of dates and lose interest, the sex could be bad, he could say or do something that turns her off. Just because something starts in limerence doesn’t mean it automatically goes into anything.
Hmmmmm. OK. Tbh I can maintain an LE pretty solidly through the dating phase and willfully ignore and overlook any potential problems or issues. I don’t think it would be practical for Didi to commit too strongly either. Both she and LO are still married to other people after all, and I’m assuming there is an implicit primacy of their marriages in this situation. Which means a significant (symbolically) barrier exists, how ever much time they find for each other.
From my experience, I could imagine a scenario of a limerent becoming entirely wrapped up in LO, ending the marriage and only then crashing out of the LE, possibly to be confronted by the complete devastation of their lives. Or not. Maybe discovering their marriage has run its course and hence the limerence. Had a function.
Also Didi, why the 6-12 month limit? If it were to genuinely be casual and occasional you could be lovers for years probably. In fact I think linerence in that setting can be quite lovely. It doesn’t have to be rapacious or demanding. Though it risks warping your priorities over time I think.
Also… I’m curious about the wife detail; she could ‘sense his emotion’ and is ‘super upset’.
These are red flags for me. I think open relationships demand some level of compartmentalisation. Some couples never even mention their outside interests in detail. I like the model where this is out in the open (I’ve been involved in such a set up and enjoyed it), but actually there needs to be some respect of privacy. In my case I was not privy to my lover’s husband’s emotions. I developed a strong closeness with my lover but their marriage was always private to me, even though I had met and socialised with the husband and we were on good terms throughout.
She ‘sensed’ his emotion could be read as in he ‘broadcast’ his emotion. He has also now potentially drawn you into a shared confidence that is a bit of a violation of his wife’s privacy; precisely because of who you are.
Oversharing is a real issue for limerents (articles on this site). But if a sense of conflict and stress builds up because ‘the wife’ becomes a ever present antagonist…
– I’ve done that in the past. Experienced heightened limerence as mine or others’ relationships have strained, increasing barriers. It has ended horribly… And seemed so bizarre at the time – hurting others (and eventually myself) for what fizzles one day rapidly to nothing much.
Anyway Didi, a safeguard is not to make his wife’s business yours or your business her’s. Because she is a barrier, and the more resentful the more of a barrier she becomes.
I can’t help but notice that two female posters are advising her to go for it while the male posters are advising her to “proceed with extreme caution.” I’m not sure what it means, if anything, but it is interesting.
Well Marcia, you and Allie are clearly the gung ho caution to the wind types!
Allie 1 says
“you and Allie are clearly the gung ho caution to the wind types”
I prefer to label myself the “risk tolerant, so long as the risk is well managed” type! Not as catchy of course.
Limerent Emeritus says
“I prefer to label myself the ‘risk tolerant, so long as the risk is well managed’ type!”
Risk = Threat x Vulnerability x Consequence
If any factor is zero, there is no risk. The problem is few people can accurately define risk in a particular context to a degree that they can manage it. Risk has to be assessed in context. Especially, when the context is limerence.
Threat x Vulnerability = Liklihood of Exploitation
What’s the chance/probability that the Threat will encounter the Vulnerability? Why does No Contact work? Easy, it separates the threat from the vulnerability. If you can’t eliminate the Threat or the Vulnerability, you keep them apart. Influence is proportional to access. Under normal circumstances, no access means little to no capability to exert influence.
That’s what makes limerence a bitch. LOs get inside your head and can exert a lot of influence with little or no direct access and you can’t seem to shake them. Less contact feeds uncertainty. So, even if you attempt the right thing, it’s often ineffective. It’s the Limerents Crucible [DrL should do a blog on it].
Risk management hard under the best of circumstances. Toss in people often don’t think through the unintended and/or possible unforeseen consequences and it gets even harder.
Limerents in the throes of an LE make so many bad assumptions that if they do make an accurate assessment, it’s more by accident than design. If they make attempt a conscious assessment at all.
It’s kind of depressing.
“Well Marcia, you and Allie are clearly the gung ho caution to the wind types!”
Jump over the cliff with no pants! 🙂
In all seriousness, if the husband is on board, why not?
Allie 1 says
“Limerents in the throes of an LE make so many bad assumptions that if they do make an accurate assessment, it’s more by accident than design. If they make attempt a conscious assessment at all.”
This is not true for all limerents.
“The experience of most of the people I hear from is that it is almost impossible to get enough of them during the euphoria phase.
Familiarity will eventually lead to the idealisation passing, but it takes time and tends to only happen once the “limerent peak” has been topped. Until then, it’s all positive reinforcement.
Unless you can literally spend 24/7 with them, the saturation/desensitization will take ages.”
This is fascinating to me, because it explains how and why limerence engenders pair bonding. I.e. two lovers in mutual limerence want to spend all their time together and don’t really want to see other people. And such lovers are chemically rewarded for this intense focus on each other…
A part of me wants to overcome limerence for good now. Not because of the social cost, but because I’m tired of having “other people” in my head. I kind of want “sole ownership of my own brain space” now, if that makes sense. Probably a very INTJ thing to say, or a very avoidant-attachment thing to say. I’m ready to leave euphoria, as wonderful as it is, behind. 😛
“but because I’m tired of having “other people” in my head. I kind of want “sole ownership of my own brain space” now”
I am just tired of putting myself in the position of having to be picked by someone. It is a very precarious place to be. At the height of limerence, it feels like life and death … and you are waiting for someone else to make up his/her mind. It give someone else far, far too much power.
“I am just tired of putting myself in the position of having to be picked by someone. It is a very precarious place to be. At the height of limerence, it feels like life and death … and you are waiting for someone else to make up his/her mind. It give someone else far, far too much power.”
Yes, you’ve definitely captured how it feels. Our brain-in-limerence is basically telling us to hang onto LO no matter what, that our very survival somehow depends on their ongoing presence in our life/securing attention and affection from them, etc.
You’re correct. It DOES feel like a matter of life and death. (The lows are absolutely ghastly, the depression, the crying jags, the absurd “bargaining with self” or “bargaining with God” that goes on, the irritation with non-limerent friends who just don’t get it). And I think the feeling of “needing someone so much” is what distinguishes limerence from all other types of situations involving romance and attachment…
I think Beth said that in limerence we feel we need LO “on a cellular level” and I absolutely love that description and I think she’s right on the money. Wanting someone so bad is agony. Not really being able to “un-choose them” (without either transferring limerence or doing a lot of personal growth work) takes a toll on one’s self-respect. Also, it makes one question one’s understanding of love… (If everyone else can love so happily, am I doing it wrong?) 😛
However, limerence can involve ups and downs, and sometimes when we’re on an up I think we can tell ourselves, “Hey, this isn’t so bad. Maybe if I make even more sacrifices, concessions, etc, they’d love me someday.” We keep throwing good money after bad. 😛
Putting yourself is a position to be picked … definitely puts you in a one-down position, and a very passive position. My younger sister studied some psychology at uni and she thought I was displaying signs of “learned helplessless” during the worst part of my early-20s LE. We sadly can’t make anyone choose us in life, but it’s also really hard to convince our lovesick brains that this is the truth of the situation. Limerence really is, I dunno, hopeless love? 🙂
Here’s an idea that might make you laugh. I’ve decided that us limerents are simply people who are “pathologically loyal”. Basically, we’re super-loyal human beings and we carry that loyalty to an unhealthy extreme. Loyalty is normally a virtue. However, virtues can become vices when not practised in moderation!! 😛
“Basically, we’re super-loyal human beings and we carry that loyalty to an unhealthy extreme. Loyalty is normally a virtue. ”
Yes, but to what end? Was your LO being equally loyal to you?
But, Mr. Sammy, I am feeling sad today. I finished watching the first season of the Apple TV show “Physical.” Two married characters are circling each other the whole season, and the man (who, unnervingly, looks a lot like my LO) gets the female lead character in a way her husband never could. There’s this strong attraction, fascination, and you’re waiting for some big moment in the finale … and boy, does it deliver! Hot AF. It’s a very specific kind of longing and lust. I want YOU. And I remember feeling that way, and I remember having that big moment, which at the time made me feel like the world was at stake. It’s so different than a generic kind of interest that goes along with so much dating …. “Yeah, you’re kind of cute. We could kill some time.”
“There’s this strong attraction, fascination, and you’re waiting for some big moment in the finale … and boy, does it deliver! Hot AF. It’s a very specific kind of longing and lust. I want YOU. And I remember feeling that way, and I remember having that big moment, which at the time made me feel like the world was at stake.”
I’m sorry to hear you’re feeling sad today. Yes, limerence is a very powerful thing, and it’s very hard to capture the complex combination of emotions involved, although you’ve done a fairly good job here when talking about this TV show…
The Netflix TV show that lights up my limerent brain circuits is “Young Royals”. I love the forbidden romance developing between the prince and his male classmate. The romance is forbidden for various reasons – social class, ethnicity, being true to oneself versus royal duty – even though it’s set in progressive Sweden. 😛
What’s hot about the show for me is the tiny, fleeting moments of emotional reciprocation between the two male characters as they fall in love. The time they “steal” from real life to be with each other. It’s a fast-moving, tightly-plotted show and every episode (of which there are only six so far) ends with a huge cliff-hanger.
What’s happening between the two young men is definitely limerence, and it feels strangely exciting to watch. But what I’m watching for with bated breath is … the moment when the relationship truly begins … and then all the things that threaten that relationship almost as soon as it begins. It’s like the two leads can’t relax for one moment, and I’m also on the edge of my seat.
Limerence is … anticipation. Limerence is the feeling something tremendously exciting is just around the corner. Limerence is a motivational force – it keeps pulling us along, pulling us out of ourselves, seemingly lifting us to bigger and better things.
Limerence creates the illusion of standing on top of a mountain after an exhausting-yet-exhilarating hike to the summit. But that hike feels worthless unless LO is standing there right next to you at the peak. Oh, I remember those feelings well… 😛
Limerence does feel like the world is at stake. Limerence feels like someone has set the world on fire. (And LOs certainly set our internal world of emotions and dreams and fantasies on fire).
About 3 years after all contact ceased with my straight boy LO, I was casually dating a gay man and he asked me about straight boy LO. I said that straight boy LO was “in another life”. My date thought I meant LO had died. But that’s not what I meant…
I meant that my LO and my imagined relationship with him was so charged with emotion and erotic promise (for me, not for LO) it belonged in another life. It belonged in another time and place, another realm. It belonged to the world of dreams, and the dream was over, and I couldn’t get the dream back. Still, I remembered the dream and the dream coloured everything I did and said and felt.
Maybe, when I said LO was “in another life”, I also meant he, my LO, was literally in another life – as a happily-married, Christian man working in a certain field – and there was no place for me in that life.
Must be spooky seeing a lookalike of your LO on TV, and playing a romantic role! I can understand why limerence would seem almost irresistible to a woman who feels misunderstood by her husband and finally meets a man who does get her. I think this is how my mother felt when she left my father for my late stepfather.
Of course, I’m not advocating bad behaviour. I’m just interested in the psychology behind human emotions. I think my mother, for example, could have benefited from talking through her emotions more. Perhaps if my mother spoke more about what she felt, she would have realised that passion blinds us to Beloved’s flaws. 😛
I haven’t seen “Young Royals.” I’ll have to check it out. Have you seen the movie “Maurice”? It’s a Merchant and Ivory film released in the late ’80s. It’s a forbidden gay love story about two young men who fall in love at Cambridge in the early 1900s. It’s really good. Based on an E.M. Forster novel.
“I meant that my LO and my imagined relationship with him was so charged with emotion and erotic promise (for me, not for LO) it belonged in another life. It belonged in another time and place, another realm. It belonged to the world of dreams, and the dream was over, and I couldn’t get the dream back.”
Very powerfully said. It feels like another lifetime ago, when I knew my LO. I barely know the person I was then. I am much different now. A lot less hopeful, that’s for sure.
“Must be spooky seeing a lookalike of your LO on TV, and playing a romantic role!”
I think my subconscious is playing tricks on me. A few months back, I started watching these health videos on Youtube, and shortly after I dreamed about my LO. Remembering my dreams is very, very rare for me. And then I made the connection — the doctor in the video sounded like my LO.
Your husband wants and gets kink and presumably his emotional needs are met by you.
You sound as though you want an emotionally-connected relationship, your husband isn’t offering it, LO may be able to do so EXCEPT his wife also values their emotional connection and senses you are a threat to their marriage.
If they have an open relationship with the usual rules, she is going to red card him and you won’t be in contact with him anymore. Because he is going to honor the ground rules they made and you wouldn’t want him if he didn’t abide by them. See your spouse not meeting your emotional needs.
Move on. I’d say it’s time to divorce rather than pretend you aren’t looking for someone who loves, honors and cherishes YOU and forsakes banging all others.
I think people can love honour and cherish another without restricting the banging to them alone.
I’m also sure there are plenty of sexually monogamous long-term couples where the emotional intimacy has vanished and all that remains is a functionally-performative bang once in a while… Maybe every other Saturday after Holby City.
Sex doesn’t always have to come from the person you’re married to. It doesn’t have to mean love, either.
One thing to wonder though is maybe the idea of ‘kink’ is a shorthand, for looking for something new elsewhere. Maybe she Didi should address that. As in ‘f*ck who you like, but we need to talk about behaviour and feelings in THIS relationship.’
Limerent Emeritus says
“One thing to wonder though is maybe the idea of ‘kink’ is a shorthand, for looking for something new elsewhere.”
That triggered a memory. It’s somewhat tangential.
After we broke up but were still in the “we can be friends” phase, LO #2 had the annoying habit of spontaneously telling me about my successor. The odd thing was, those things were never complimentary. They were always examples of how he came up short against me.
In one of those spontaneous revelations, she told me he had trouble getting aroused. He had been married, had kids and gave his (ex) wife an STD so he was able to function.
I told her that we all fail sometime, I did. LO #2 said that wasn’t it. She said she could spin me up by looking at me cross-eyed and the only time I didn’t rise to the occasion was when I was too drunk, exactly 3 times. She said this was something else, that he only got aroused under very specific conditions (kink?). She didn’t elaborate and I didn’t ask.
I have no idea why she would tell me that. But, I also know that it would have an appeal for her. Being able to do that put her in control and LO #2 loved nothing better than being in control.
Staying tangential Sharn,
As somebody who sleeps with men, I enjoy complimenting my beau (keeping it clean) in that sort of way. It actually works on my own arousal. Funnily though my last SO wanted to hear of really positive experiences with other men. I found that really challenging. I didn’t want to do it especially , though I did on occasion as a compromise. However, I have literally zero experience of sex with women. So… I’m wondering whether it is at all common for women to ask for reviews (positive or negative)? Also how often if ever do men deliver such verdicts out of the blue to women they are sleeping with?
Clearly a bit naive here I’m just wondering about the impact (if any) of the gender of the messenger and receiver?
(… Just how tangential can we get?)
I’m wondering whether it is at all common for women to ask for reviews (positive or negative)?
I NEVER ask. It comes off ask insecure. Now, if someone wants to volunteer the information about how things went, that is fine. (Hopefully, it’s positive. 🙂 )
Limerent Emeritus says
“Also how often if ever do men deliver such verdicts out of the blue to women they are sleeping with?”
I’ve committed a lot of transgressions in dealing with the women but I’m not guilty of that one. Actually, I committed a worse one. But, it’s documented elsewhere.
Have you ever read Poe’s “The Imp of the Perverse?” The premise is doing something you know you shouldn’t just because you can. It’s a well studied phenomenon. Check out:
How common it is in this context, I have no idea.
I’ve never read Poe’s story but I’m familiar with the concept. I’m prone to the heights one. I remember that hitting me twice. One time, the put me over the sail of a submarine on the surface and I had to climb down to the fairwater planes [http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_AxAS8qkXvUU/SluUyt9vaOI/AAAAAAAAAvA/wrvS4sMO2Yw/s1600/Sturgeon+79+swim+call.jpg]. We were underway making good speed. As climbed down, my thought was to just let go, bounce along the hull, and go right through the screw.
Used consciously, it can be used for any number of reasons, attack the woman’s self-esteem, induce induce doubt or anxiety, make them jealous. Pick one.
With LO #2, knowing I beat him in that arena didn’t make me feel any better. He was getting laid by her and I wasn’t. She also came out with classic, “When I’m with him, I feel like I’m cheating on you.” That didn’t make me feel any better, either.
Sometimes, you really do just want to whack them upside the head.
Allie 1 says
Not not a horrible idea at all. In my mind if you are both in open relationships, are being completely honest with your spouses then why not go for it? Life is so short, why suffer the pain & grief of limerent pining for someone for months or longer when you can choose emotional connection and potentially, bliss. Seeing them infrequently might kill the limerence over time or it might prolong it who knows… but to me this is a win-win scenario since you CAN have an honest relationship with them and really relish it without guilt or shame.
Loving a second person does not need to take away any of the love you feel for the first – love does not work that way, it is not a limited internal resource, our capacity for love expands with every new person of value that enters our lives. It depends on the state of your marriage – how happy is it? You need to take care to keep the new relationship in perspective, do not get deluded by the powerful neurochemicals. Make sure you both value, invest in and enjoy your relationships with your spouses. If you don’t think you can do that, then maybe an open relationship is not for you.
The spouse of your LO is a concern… in your shoes, I would offer to meet her to reassure her that you are not looking to replace her and that you value your marriage.
Have you read any books on Polyamory & Open Relationships? Some have some excellent advice for exactly this scenario.
Because that bliss might cost you all that you’ve built with your spouse?
Allie 1 says
“might” being the operative word.
Relationships ending or being unhappy long term (so maybe should end) is a risk we all live with.
This risk is inherent in open relationships, something all four spouses have chosen to participate in (though some a bit reluctantly).
The existence of risk does not necessarily mean you should not do something, just that you need to think very carefully about it and find ways of mitigating/managing that risk. It is all down to the individuals in that situation, how good their relationships are and whether they can live with that risk or not, or if the risk is containable for them. If they can’t, then in my mind, an open relationship is not for them.
Can’t disagree with any of that. There are risks and benefits with all options.
The way to choose well is to know thyself, and to live with purpose.
Allie 1 says
I also think change is not always a bad thing or something to fear. If what we have is good, then yes, work to preserve it. And while one should be wary of a “grass is always greener” mentality, sometimes it genuinely is greener. Some marriages are better off ending.
I am absolutely NOT saying that is the situation in this case, no-one but those involved know that. I am just saying that a more flexible, risk tolerant attitude to life is no bad thing.
Limerent Emeritus says
There’s a lot of speculation going on. There are 4 people directly involved in this and they’re all entitled to their visions of happiness and they all have agency.
Just because someone buys into something doesn’t mean they endorse it. Everybody has their own attachment styles and tolerance for intimacy and betrayal. Sex may be a wild card but it’s not the only wild card.
The short answer is Didi needs to decide for herself who and what’s important to her. Maybe she can make this thing work and maybe she can’t.
As Mick Jagger put it, “You can’t always get what you want.” In economics, there’s something called “opportunity cost.”
“- Opportunity cost is the forgone benefit that would have been derived by an option not chosen.
– To properly evaluate opportunity costs, the costs and benefits of every option available must be considered and weighed against the others.
– Considering the value of opportunity costs can guide individuals and organizations to more profitable decision-making.” -https://www.investopedia.com/terms/o/opportunitycost.asp
What’s the opportunity cost (i.e. forgone benefit) of trying to manage the open relationship as opposed to working on the existing relationship? The classic example is a little kid with a little money. The kid can get a candy bar or a soft drink. The kid can’t have both. If the kid chooses the candy bar, he/she foregoes the soft drink. It’s a choice.
Didi’s not deciding between a candy bar and a soft drink. Her choices may have consequences. Big ones.
What is she willing to risk to find out?
… Time in next week folks!
(Didi tied to train tracks).