Uncertainty is a central feature of limerence. It acts as a fuel for deepening the obsession (constantly ruminating on what every word, gesture and meaningful look might mean), and seems to be necessary for limerence to move into full blown person-addiction territory.
Beyond its role in initiating limerence, uncertainty is also a major barrier to recovery. In part, this is because the best options available for resolving limerence carry uncertain outcomes.
First, if you decide to disclose to LO (or your SO), you don’t know how it will go. How will they react? Even people we know very well can surprise us when confronted with such emotionally volatile news as “I have very strong feelings for you/someone else”. LO, of course, may also respond in an ambiguous way, thwarting your best attempts to end the uncertainty by disclosing. To heap the uncertainty even higher, LO may not even know what they want. They may be just as confused and conflicted as you. The outcome: dangle, dangle, at the end of the limerence string. Will you ever be pulled up or cut loose?
Similarly, although No Contact is the safest path to resolution, it does have an inescapable feature: you don’t know what’s going on anymore. What is LO doing? Do they miss you? Are they depressed? Even worse, are they happy? Argh. It’s agony. Just a quick Facebook stalk to find out for sure. After all, if they don’t know about it it doesn’t really count as contact, does it? Well, they look quite happy in that picture, but maybe they’re just putting on a brave face. After all, remember that time when they told you… and you’re drawn in again.
A big step in mastering limerence is coming to terms with uncertainty. Embracing it, even. Philosophically-inclined people have recognised the value of this idea for centuries, of course. It could be the Stoic principle of not worrying about what you can’t control, or Stephen Covey’s emphasis on concerning yourself with matters within your “sphere of influence”. Life comes with a very large random element to it, and accepting the capricious nature of fate is a surefire way of reducing anxiety about things you can’t predict. We’ve even established this into everyday language with the concept of “being philosophical”.
As desperate as you are to know how LO really feels about you, if you want to move on and leave them behind you, it’s much better to accept the uncertainty and be fine with it. “I don’t know, and that’s OK” is the mantra here.
Partly, this is about letting go of the desire to be in control, generally. Purposeful living helps here. Focussing on your life, your goals, and how you are going to act to realise them helps in letting go of worries over what other people are up to. “I don’t know if LO reciprocates, and it’s torture,” becomes “I don’t know if LO reciprocates, but I’m married, so it doesn’t matter.” Beyond limerence, the choice to focus on your goals, rather than other people’s opinions, needs, and feelings, is a healthy way to live.
Lack of consideration for others is not purposeful, but putting your priorities ahead of other people’s priorities is. It’s caught up in the same principle as being proactive rather than reactive. Act on something because it will help you achieve what you want to achieve, not because someone else’s behaviour has made you angry or stressed. Once you decide that LO is not the author of your life (because you are the author of your life), then what they feel and what they want become secondary concerns. So, not knowing with certainty is no problem.
Finally, it is a fundamental truth about life that no-one knows what’s coming. Uncertainty is unavoidable. There’s nothing you can do about it, so the best strategy is to build your life up into something you are fulfilled by, and proud to live. Fate toys with us all; react to emergencies when you need to, but during the stretches of time when you have your health and vitality, work towards your own goals, and live with purpose.
Become reconciled to uncertainty as a constant companion, and you’ll be much more resilient to the challenges of limerence.
“I don’t know and that’s ok, I don’t know and that’s ok” must be my chant. I have a previous LO whose LE ended when he married (I have never been limerent over an attached person) but as he is a minor celebrity he has a Wikipedia page and once married I no longer allowed myself to look at it. So hard!!!! One day I got a notification that he had reviewed my LinkedIn profile!!! (He had previously been interested in me but there were solid reasons why we should not be together). It took all the strength I had not to look at his page! I have since moved through several LO’s throughout the ensuing years (such a curse to be a limerent) and my current LO desperately wants to and feels entitled to be BFFs and doesn’t really understand why we cannot. We have so much fun together, we help each other through life’s travails, we share the same friend pool, we even ebjoy each other’s families and we are both single! But of course I am limerent and LO is not. It’s not healthy but it’s nearly impossible to do NC. I’ve disclosed but as I behave with the utmost restraint and dignity and lack of drama LO doesn’t really believe I suffer. How could I when LO is the most generous, thoughtful and fun loving person this limerent could ever have in their life? (His presumed thoughts- I suffer aplenty).
This may be a topic of future posts (please?!) but is it possible that a limerent subconsciously chooses the unavailable LO (over and over in my case) because of the guaranteed outcome of failure, there is actually less risk? A real relationship is fraught with danger and will require really hard work, a strong constitution and a mature willingness to face disappointments. And after romances first blush, all without the giddy dopamine rush of limerence!
My greatest horror would be to have survived endless years of limerence with various LOs and then finally have a real relationship and then have limerence strike again as a married person. Unbearable!!!
“This may be a topic of future posts (please?!) but is it possible that a limerent subconsciously chooses the unavailable LO (over and over in my case) because of the guaranteed outcome of failure, there is actually less risk? A real relationship is fraught with danger and will require really hard work, a strong constitution and a mature willingness to face disappointments. And after romances first blush, all without the giddy dopamine rush of limerence!”
There is in my husband’s case a lot of that going on. Marriage is hard to do for decades. For some people it’s even harder individually or as a particular couple.
Giddy romance is a lot more fun than gritty reality.
Have you ever taken the Grit Scale? It’s not the be-all, end-all some people tout it to be (is anything with the possible exception of chocolate?) but it can still be informative and you might find it useful.
Wait, this is a better link.
Lee, Thanks for sharing! I’ve endured awful jobs and long long ago a difficult marriage but a 2 on the grit scale is sobering!
As Amy Winehouse once said fairly bluntly: “Life happens. There is no point in being upset or down about things we can’t control or change.”
Vincent I suppose Amy’s philosophical view is best. Easier said than done!
In fairness she had the drink and drugs to distract her 😉
I judge not. I have my addiction as well, that’s how I stumbled on this wondrous site.
Maybe we covered this somewhere else. If we, did I don’t remember it.
How many of you have ever apologized to your LOs?
When I go back over my last LE, I apologized to her on numerous occasions, often during periods of uncertainty. At least as many of them happened before I disclosed as did after I disclosed.
I started early in the LE and apologized to her in my goodbye. I pushed a boundary early on and later apologized for it. Her telling me I had nothing to apologize for was a factor in entering the LE.
As a habitual apologiser (I know why and I’m working on it!) I’m probably not the best person to answer this!
I have. Pretty much every time I felt I’d pushed the boundary and been more intimate than I should have. (With hindsight those apologies should have gone to my husband- but I’ve done plenty of apologising to him too.)
Unfortunately, LOs responses of “Don’t be sorry, I’m always up for hugs” and “Don’t worry, it was special for me too”
Didn’t exactly help the limerence.
I think I said in my parting card that I was sorry to be going NC but couldn’t see another workable way forward. However, how he felt about and wanted to respond to that card is uncertain, and best left that way.
Hmm, interesting one. In a way, apologising for boundary pushing is sort of an oblique disclosure isn’t it? An admission that you know you did something that crossed a line, and are now trying to row it back. I can see how getting a “no need to apologise” could also lead to limerent reinforcement, because it is (in kind) a sort of oblique reciprocation.
In my case, I can’t remember ever apologising to LO for my behaviour – only for things that I would apologise to anyone for (like refusing invitations to social events etc.)
I pushed the boundary when I got the first hint of glimmer, that her SO, wasn’t really there for her when she needed him.
I told her, “Heaven help the man you ever really trust.” That’s a pretty ballsy statement from a relative stranger.
I apologized for being out of line. She came back with, “You weren’t out of line and have nothing to apologize for.”
That was pretty much the beginning.
I apologized to my LO when (in hindsight) she initially became my LO (I had never heard of limerence at the time). I became a wreck when she announced she was leaving my work and I actually went in and out of the 5 stages of grief. Well, actually 4 — not Acceptance. The close (not yet intimate) attachments between us already existed, then the uncertainty of how we would stay in touch was completely devastating. I had never felt anything like it before, and it had total control over me until plans to keep in touch were made. I apologized for how emotional I had become. No apologies since then, over a very long year+ later (felt like a lifetime at times), now in the early stages of (almost) NC. There are some natural times for us to connect, but I try not to extend conversations and I am not initiating contact. I have seen her this week, for the first time in 4 weeks, but it was a fun group setting with no “extra” communication.
This blog has helped me understand why I fell into this state, and how I can avoid doing so in the future.
Mrs A says
This contemplative post helps me think about my current state. Since I initiated No Contact 4 months ago, I felt an empowered sense of self-generating certainty, as it was my own decision, which was strong enough to stifle the uncertainties mentioned in the post. However, because of our mutual contact – my mother – the risk of contact (even indirectly) is ever-present. For example, he contacted my mother after I ignored his text messages and blocked him. He then offered my mother an appointment out of the blue. A degree of uncertainty is re-introduced which is irritating to me. In a weak moment I even thought maybe itms not so bad to reconnect (limerent brain at work!). I strive to achieve a stoical indifference. But it seems to be more a battle of wits at this moment.
Yes, I’m sceptical about ever feeling stoical indifference towards an LO where the uncertainty wasn’t resolved. The hope is to become stoical about uncertainty itself. In your case: he may continue to try and reconnect via your mother (which is pretty unpleasant behaviour, btw, if that is his motive), but you can’t control that, and should try not to expend too much mental energy on planning for every contingency. If he does try it, know that you have settled on your decision to maintain NC and can stick to it.
You may also want to discuss with your mother why she continues to professionally associate with someone who has acted very inappropriately towards you…
Mrs A says
It’s a difficult situation as my mother is thinking mainly of her own needs and benefits as she is quite ill, lonely and vulnerable, not to mentiom living in a different country far away from me. I have already had long discussions with her, and she thinks I don’t need to be involved in her dealings with this specific person (or my ex-LO, for lack of a better term). And she thought I could just ignore him, while she continues to use his service. Of course it brings up the question whether she should trust his professional judgement, if his motivation involves getting to me via my mother. At some point, I may have to insist that she should associate with someone I can have open discussions with, as it will probably be necessary eventually. I will maintain NC and stick to it.
Anonymous Limerent says
This was a good post, and a lot of it relates to my current feelings.
I have been limerent (LE#1) for 216 days now and I am finding it impossible to get over. At first I thought it was that my LO was perfect in every way, and I’d never get over these feelings, in spit of the fact I kept telling myself I knew they weren’t reciprocated (and still do).
However, after reading this blog, I thought it was because my LE mainly due to the inability to go NC and fear of disclosure. Following this ‘discovery’, I tried to go NC as much as possible: I altered my routine so I didn’t bump into her; I stayed as far away from her as possible in every situation; and I tried my hardest not to look at her. But despite my efforts, and the fact she kept appearing everywhere I went to avoid her (just my luck!), I couldn’t resist glancing at her, not infrequently, in class. I punished myself for this, and knew it was bad for my emotional state – because every time I see her I immediately feel sad for some reason, possibly because she never shows signs of reciprocation – but still couldn’t help myself.
And now I know why.
I am still uncertain and continuing to dwell on LO as she shows some signs i.e. Looking at me quite a bit, but the main reason for my uncertainty is this: A few months ago, I overheard her talking to one of her friends and she seemed to say that she “would never put herself up for rejection”. This obviously filled me with uncertainty, as my subconscious now had a rationalisation as to why she did everything she did. She would never ask me out, even if she did like me. And she wouldn’t show any signs of it, either, depending on the magnitude of her fear.
So, even though I keep telling myself she will never like me, I know my subconscious is still clinging on to that sentence.
And I’m screwed because of it.
Hi Anon limerent,
Yes, the uncertainty is a central part of the torture. Trying to interpret meaning from glances and overheard conversations is going to be almost impossible, but it doesn’t stop us trying. If you are confident that she doesn’t reciprocate your feelings, then your best hope is to try to focus on new goals and a positive future that you can work towards purposefully, and have as little contact with LO as possible. Alternatively, if you want the uncertainty to end, there is some value in disclosure – but you would still have to study with her so that may be difficult.
Finally, there is the transference option. Any other eligible people around who do seem more into you that could be potential LOs? If you can direct that limerent energy towards someone who does reciprocate, life will get pretty exciting…
Anonymous Limerent says
Hi, thanks for your advice.
Working through it anti-chronologically, I could hardly imagine anything worse than transference as LO has caught me looking at her more than a lot of times, so I’m pretty sure she has an idea of some understated level of my feelings towards her. Ergo, if I renew my limerence and restart torture, I would start looking at someone else, earning me the reputation of ‘class creep’.
Also, I’m not actually attracted to anyone else in my class, and being limerent for someone I’m not attracted to just seems weird.
Obviously, I will not disclose, so that only leaves purposeful living and trying to go NC. But both of these are problematic due to the fact that:
1) My lofe is pretty much as purposeful as it can get at the moment. The only way to try to extend its purposefulness would be to abandon most of my friends, my main source of happiness, sanity and distraction from thoughts of LO.
2) In addition, I can’t go much more NC than I am right now i.e. Not looking at her in class or at break (and punishing myself with every lapse, as negative reinforcement failed me) and giving her a wide berth, for the same reasons as in 1). LO’s usual hangout spaces are in the same area as my friends’, so we all pretty much always stay within a 50m radius of one another. So true NC would require leaving all my friends behind, which I’m not prepared to do.
Today I tried not looking at LO at all, which went well for the most part (except from once at Lunch, and a few minor lapses in English), and this seemed to make me feel okay by the end of the day, so I guess I’m on the right track?
My worry is that my limerence won’t fade and I’ll have to restrict my eyes to one vicinity, all day, every day for the rest of school life, which would make me feel rather trapped from day to day. So, if my limerence doesn’t fade, I’ll be damned to an eternity of imprisonment in life!
Diary of a limerent : up and down the hormonal rollercoaster.
Im so done
I’m so sick and tired of obsessive thinking of having you as the centre of my world
I’m so done with being nauseous of trembling of hoping.
I’m so done wanting you to love me more and more and more and no matter and our NC just keeps adding fuel to my LE and my feelings are spiring out of control.
I’m done taking anti depressants to keep myself functioning during the day and taking valium to get some sleep at night. I’m done wrecking my body for 7 months now.
I’m done ignoring my son, staring in the mirror to see hollow eyes I’m done numming myself or keeping myself busy with things Lo will find interesting. I’m done with feeling and not wanting to feel so much.
I m going to look for a therapist to talk about this. But first I’m going by to break the NC because it’s bad for me.
Hm… interesting, today LO declared his love for me, and maybe it’s the hormones balancing but LO didnt appeal so attractive anymore after. I noticed slight thoughts as ” I have not a lot to say to him, and he looks not so appealing in this light, yeah maybe we are not the perfecht match after all, he seems kind of boring, and did he always have this weird voice “?
Uncertainty gone = LE gone?
LO declares his love equals illusion gone?
Is it really so predictable??
Yesterday I was litterary crawling over the floor in longing dispair and today I don’t care if he calls me tonight or not .
No word from LO, no text, nothing.
Obviously he doesn’t really care otherwise he would miss me as much as I miss him, he would be agonising too.
Why on earth can he let a whole day pass without contacting me!?
I miss him.
God I miss him, I feel so down.
Would be nice to hear from him and talk about where we would go on Holliday, like we used to. He is the most wonderful man in the world and I don’t understand why there are people who don’t see that. Everybody should be in love with him… I’m going to lay in bed and think about when we first met…
“I’m going to lay in bed and think about when we first met…”
When you do, make sure your son knows. Encourage him to try to cheer you up. If you can, toss in some well-timed sobs. Play the martyr.
There’s nothing better for child development than learning how to cheer up an unhappy mother. The earlier you start, the more effective you can be. If you do it well enough, you’ll empower him with the feeling that if he couldn’t fix you, he can fix some other woman. You can set the relational template he could use for his entire life. Most of the time it’s not a conscious effort, but as a therapist, you might be able to engineer it. You might be able to influence the type of borderline he becomes attracted to. I was partial to Borderline Waifs. Co-dependency isn’t born, it’s made.
Not that I’d know anything about that.
Blimey, that response is unusually harsh for you Scharnhorst…..or maybe the humour has been lost within the written word.
I enjoyed this LE diary and found it very relate-able – it certainly can be an up & down roller coaster! Thanks for sharing Mia.
We all have our triggers…
Thank you Allie, it was indeed ment to be ironic and funny.
And thank you Scharnhorst for the warning for my borderline personality disorder future daughter in law!
As if I would use my son to cheer me up! I appreciate your concern but not needed, I know how to raise a happy child inspire of my LE.
Well, if he does bring home a borderline (or any DSM-IV Cluster B), remember you heard it here first!
I’m sorry if you have bad experience with mothers and women, pls don’t project that on me, you don’t know me at all, I find your words very hurtful, again it was ment to be funny over exaggerated and ironic, (no I’m not litterary crawling on the floor) I’m not going to justify my motherhood with a total stranger for no reason, because I wrote a funny colom like piece. Would be nice to leave at this.
Thank you Scharnhorst, that’s kind.
I would rather die than let my son be victim of my mood and LE, really, but sometimes I laugh at my own LE mind, cause it does weird things.
Masterclass in good communication, you two. Thanks.
My limerence is killing me. I am married and only a little unhappy but that tiny amount is being blown open because of my feelings for LO.
He’s not right for me. Seven years younger, with the depth of a teacup and a ghetto sensibility, I find myself repulsed by his lifestyle, yet crazily drawn to him sexually and emotionally.
I need to make my marriage work! I have important goals with my husband, lots of reasons to stay. But LO’s eyes are behind everything I look at and it’s messing with my entire world.
I almost messaged him today. Almost. I’m so glad I resisted.
Is he limerant toward me? Signs point to yes. But he has a history of pursuing married women, and trapping them in his nest and then watching it all blow up when he finds the next married one and all the ladies get to fight over him. Over and over again he toys with our hearts. How can I want to be within ten miles of someone so toxic? He even told me he was in love with another married woman twenty years older than him! Didn’t stop it! Just made me mad. If he loves her then why is he toying with me?
I have many psychology degrees. They have not helped. I have lots of books. They do not stop it. The attentions from numerous other men (husband included!) does not stop it. I made a full confession to my husband with pleas for help. Didn’t stop it. Drugs and all types of medication did not work.
No contact is possible with egregious sacrifice but I fear it’s my only hope. After all, I am worth more than this and my dignity is being assaulted almost daily. Help!
There’s help here, Limerantlady. We understand the baffling madness of understanding LO is bad intellectually, but still craving them emotionally.
The recent posts are about the idea of purposeful living as a long-term solution, but there are also lots of posts on the short term emergency principles. Here’s a good place to start: