When Dorothy Tennov published her book, Love and Limerence, her goal was to systematically analyse romantic love and define the experience of being in love. She ended up articulating the pattern of behaviours and sensations that characterise limerence, contrasting it from the experience of non-limerents falling in love.
The relationship between love and limerence is complex. More recently, those few psychologists who have researched the phenomenon have tended to focus on the pathological aspects of limerence – the intrusive thoughts, irrational behaviour, and distress caused by person addiction. They tend to contrast it unfavourably with healthy, mature love. I’ve commented on this before, but I just recently realised that two of the commonest dilemmas that people contact me about are actually linked by this ambiguity between limerence and love (although they don’t obviously seem so at first glance). This is quite a big topic, so I’m going to tackle it over two posts.
Here are the dilemmas, summarised by comments from two recent correspondents:
My problem is that I lose all romantic feelings and attraction for my partner after a year or 2. I completely lose interest no matter how much in love I was at the beginning.
The heart of the problem here is the strong mental association between limerence and love. When falling out of limerence, the conclusion is reached that they have fallen out of love, and that leads to the final conclusion: this romantic relationship is over.
For some people, this can be the truth of their lives: serial monogamy for one LO after another, but no longer-term relationships that have lasting romantic connection. In contrast, limerence can give way to lasting romantic love of a more stable but less exciting kind, which leads to long-term bonding.
For others, though, there is a less satisfactory compromise: a few limerent love affairs, until one results in legal and/or social commitment (perhaps precipitated by external circumstances), which then settles into a lasting relationship that has lost its romantic impetus, but persists because of duty and responsibilities.
That scenario commonly leads to the second dilemma:
I love my husband and he is a good man but we haven’t had sex for nearly two years (he just doesn’t want to, but refuses to talk about it). I’m now deep in an emotional affair with my boss and nearly going mad with lust!
So what links these two dilemmas? Well, even by just spelling out the different scenarios above, the basic issue is obvious: there are multiple different kinds of love.
This is not a novel observation.
The Greeks classified love into seven principal forms – eros, philia, pragma, storge, agape, ludus and philaupia – and since then there have been many other attempts to demarcate or classify love into different types (such as color wheels, triangles, languages and, indeed, limerence).
There’s a good summary of the ancient model here, but very briefly, here’s how the forms break down:
- Eros – erotic, sexual love.
- Philia – emotionally deep, life-enriching friendship.
- Pragma – practical, co-operative commitment, for mutual benefit.
- Storge – affectional bonding of a familial, unconditional nature.
- Agape – spiritual or altruistic love that transcends (e.g. love of God).
- Ludus – playful, but casual love, without deep commitment.
- Philaupia – self-love (in the self-esteem, rather than masturbation, sense).
One further type that some psychologists and philosophers include is mania – being a sort of obsessive, possessive, and jealous love of the insecurely attached.
In reality, of course, most of our meaningful relationships are characterised by some blend of these various forms of love. That is the tension at the heart of much of the pain caused by limerence, including for my two correspondents. How much do the different forms of love matter, how do they change with time, and how does limerence relate to it all?
Well, as promised, I’m tackling this over two posts. Today is how limerence relates to these classical forms of love, and part two will cover what to do about it all.
Let’s jump in…
How does limerence map on to the different forms of love?
Oh my, it’s complicated. Only way through this is to take them one at a time.
Eros: obviously relevant, as limerence almost always involves sexual desire. Philia: commonly essential for deepening the emotional bond and for singling out an individual as a desirable LO rather than just an object of lust. Pragma: the least relevant form – practicality is rarely a consideration in limerence. Storge: of little relevance early on, but as limerence progresses the feeling of bonding becomes more and more important. Real storge takes time, though. Agape: many limerents report a feeling of selfless admiration, and a numinous, transcendent quality to their longing for LO. Complicated to disentangle this from idealisation, though. Ludus: more obviously a non-limerent form of casual romance, but playfulness and teasing is very attractive to many people, so could stimulate the glimmer. Philaupia: most relevant to how resilient limerents will be once they succumb. Those with low self-esteem are more vulnerable to predatory LOs. If we also include mania, then we can add the obsessive thinking and unstable moods of limerence too.
What a tangle! For me, the obvious conclusion is that limerence does not map simply onto any one of the long-established forms of love. So, limerence is not a separate form of love or a phenomenon that is only experienced by people who love in a particular way, it’s a combination of many of the different forms.
Limerence as a concept seems to fits much better with the three stage model of romantic love proposed by Helen Fisher where a relationship progresses through lust, attraction and then attachment. Limerence colours (possibly even, determines) the experience in each of those stages, through a personal combination of the forms of love that we are all variously prone to.
As a final note, though, I can’t not comment on the killer combo of a LO with ludus and a limerent with an eros/philia blend.
So, what is limerence then?
If limerence isn’t a distinct form of love, what is it? Well my argument has always been that it’s best understood as an altered mental state – a change in psychological “affect” caused by the neurochemical response to a hyperstimulus (LO). Limerence leads to an increase in libido, an increase in physiological arousal, an increase in motivational drive, and a general intensification of feelings that will impact on nearly all aspects of mood, and even cognition.
It’s likely to be a volume control or amplifier for all aspects of love. Most immediately, eros will spike, but limerence will also ramp up desire and attraction, singling out LO as an object for philia – emotional as well as sexual connection.
In fact, true philia or storge (and even pragma) takes time and experience to build to being meaningful, but limerence seems to intensify the promise of those forms of love. In the grip of limerence, the LO seems a source of emotional succour and thrillingly interesting and attractive. Someone you want to spend time with and bond with, someone who seems to offer the promise of lasting philia, coupled to eros.
When limerence fades, what remains of that promise? That’s where my first correspondent finds herself: repeatedly disappointed by the residual feelings that remain once the limerence amplifier is unplugged.
This could be due to a mismatch between people who stimulate eros/ludus excitement and people that stimulate philia. Or, it could be due to a very close psychological association between limerence and libido, as I’ve speculated before, meaning that sexual desire only lasts as long as limerence lasts. But, it could also be due to a mismatch between expectations and reality when it comes to long-term bonding.
And that leads us to the end of part one. Next week: how to respond purposefully to our twin dilemmas.
I do appreciate the breakdown of all of the various sorts of love, but I do question the constant leaning of this site against limerance as a gift, tool and healing element. I was reading the comments on the post just before this and there was one that jumped out at me, saying essentially that everyone on this site was committed to maintaining the primary SO relationships. But why? We are no longer in a situation where our survival is contingent on partnering and bringing in food for the winter. This push towards the SO above all feels very archaic and deeply insecure. The sparkle of a LO comes from somewhere, in my experience there is tremendous personal growth that comes from engaging with it. It feels dated to “stand by your man(person),” it seems to
Me like the push to maintain the SO relationship above all else is fear based and quite unhealthy. Fear on the part of the non limerant partner that they have been replaced but insist on holding their ground. And all of this talk of limerance running out after a few years, well yeah ok, at which point maybe you play along because you’re very in love and no one else sparkles or maybe you stay when someone sparkles, or maybe you go but I don’t think it’s healthy to have this intense down with limerance attitude. Also why is the point that instead of staying with your SO above all if you feel all twisted and unwell from limerance then be single and alone for a time. Seems like SO are afraid of being alone. And also for those who have never been limerant or a LO for someone else, is it perhaps a jealousy and resentment over the fact that you don’t sparkle? I really do think that given time neurology will discover that there are very real reasons why some people sparkle, and that following that sparkle to it’s safe and natural conclusion is of great personal benefit. I would like to see some consideration that this idea of limerance as being problematic is not entirely fair or reality based. Because I have yet to read, and I have read most of the site, why staying with a SO is actually preferable over not. Sure if you follow limerance you may end up alone, hurt, disappointed but how much better to be alone then to stagnate. And there are no guarantees that primary relationship could fall apart for a million different reasons. It just seems a better plan to living as daringly as possible.
Lifeistricky- “I was reading the comments on the post just before this and there was one that jumped out at me, saying essentially that everyone on this site was committed to maintaining the primary SO relationships. But why?”
I think you misunderstood, dealing with Limerence is not about only and always choosing your SO over your LO but choosing wisely and treating your SO with integrity and respect while maintaining your own self respect and moral values. If you are hell bent on pursuing your LO then the decent thing to do is end it with SO before pursuing your LO, that’s if LO reciprocates and is available.
I can only answer this from my perspective and my own LE journey.
Both my LO and I are married, we both have children and love our SO’s and family. Yes we are attracted to each other and have a lot in common but it’s not enough to destroy two families to pursue this spark. Why would I disclose to my LO how I feel, it’s disrespectful to my SO, to his SO and I’d be forcing a reciprocal disclosure from LO. I don’t want to open that Pandora’s box, perhaps if both our marriages were miserable then yes I might have disclosed, but that also means disclosing to my SO and ending my marriage. So I’ve chosen to work on the issues in my marriage which has led me to limerence, because I love my SO and I don’t want my marriage to end. It doesn’t mean I don’t want my LO, if we were both single we probably would’ve ended up together, but we aren’t.
It’s a choice, just like it’s a choice if you choose to chase each spark, but then this website should be called “living with affairs” (if you or LO are unavailable) rather than “living with limerence”.
Lee-Anne: Your LE journey mirrors mine — both married and have children, no disclosure, no reciprocation, just me internalizing everything. The internal turmoil trying to resolve emotions about my real life SO and fantasies of my LO lead me to neglect my family, my job, and my marriage. I determined that NC was the only way to get some breathing space before I even discovered a couple of days later that I was experiencing limerence. I think that I have read every page of this website to understand what I’m going through and what I now have to do to repair the damage that I have done (Thank you Dr. L). Tomorrow, I will disclose to SO during our marriage counseling session — in my case, it is necessary to not continue a lie by omission.
Goodluck Kramer, glad you were able to make the decision to disclose to SO and I hope it goes well for you. I’ve chosen not to fully disclose to my SO, I am afraid he will lose his shit and then go on a warpath. I am also mortified I’ve let this thing spiral out of control and shudder to think how much this confession would hurt him.
I don’t want a public confrontation between LO and SO, and besides LO might deny he had any part in this. I partially disclosed to SO early last year, he knows there’s a spark, just not how much this has really affected me.
Recognising that we are experiencing a LE is the first step to recovery.
Lee-Anne, “I shudder to think how much this confession would hurt him.” That’s how I think too. But I find you did very well to disclose partially, “he knows there’s a spark, just not how much this has really affected me.” In my case because there is no reciprocation from LO and it’s all entirely in my head only, there is nothing I *should* disclose. My opinion is that I’m free to my thoughts, as long as my actions remain respectful to all, including myself. But I can’t help to feel guilty about what’s happening in my head because SO feels that there’s something occupying my mind. My imaginary LE *does* have an impact on my behavior, undeniably. It takes a lot of space in my mind and makes me be less available for my family. I’m doing a huge effort constantly to combat the daydreaming. LwL has been so helpful in this.
Kramer, if you want to disclose to your SO, I think using the counseling session is a good idea. Perhaps the counselor can help putting some perspective and make sure both of you can express their feelings. As Lee-Anne wrote, you probably don’t need to tell all the details. I wish you good luck with it. Hopefully I will be in your situation soon, my SO has recently accepted to try a few sessions of couples therapy.
My LE has caused a very rough patch in my marriage, not the other way around. When fully in limerence, I had conversations with my SO about whether or not we were both getting apathetic about our marriage and treating it as a transactional, sexless arrangement, and questioned her if she still loved me instead of internally looking at myself as pursing a fantasy, that’s why I feel the need to disclose. I was considering a separation to find out what I wanted: SO or LO. Luckily, I talked about it with a counselor that I was seeing for a medical issue, and he said to not just give up on over 20 years of marriage, but to try marriage counseling first. I’m fairly confident that LO has no idea what was going on in my chemically altered mind, so there will be no disclosure to her — it would be pointless — and I should be able to manage to never see her again. My SO will feel blindsided again, but if I can’t get the LE squashed and she would find out in the future about my LE, it would be worse as I would have omitted a quite pertinent detail (stressor) of our marriage difficulties. Two hours to go.
I can’t help but ask: why now? Why more than 25 years after what I would consider my prior LE did this have to occur? Hit at a perfect storm moment with major life events going on these past four years. Opportunistic affliction?
Kramer – ” I can’t help but ask: why now? ” Oh my Lord I ask myself that very same question each and every day for the past two years. Like you I’ve had some pretty big upheavals/events occur in the past 4 years, I guess my LO came into the picture at the right place but the wrong time, I was vulnerable. My biggest question is why him, what is it about him in particular that sets me off, I’ve never had problems “blocking” sparks before, I was quite good at ignoring them. This one crept under my defence mechanism and has lodged and caused me so many problems. I already had issues in my marriage but fairly minor, but this LE has cast a huge shadow and made me doubt my love for my SO, my integrity as a person and my moral compass.
I really don’t like the person I’ve become, a needy, validation seeking clingy vine. Wish I could slap myself and snap out of it.
Let us know how your session went if you feel up to it, goodluck.
Lee-Anne: you speak from my heart: “My biggest question is why him, what is it about him in particular that sets me off, I’ve never had problems “blocking” sparks before, I was quite good at ignoring them. This one crept under my defence mechanism and has lodged and caused me so many problems. I already had issues in my marriage but fairly minor, but this LE has cast a huge shadow and made me doubt my love for my SO, my integrity as a person and my moral compass.”
Same as you, I have had many crushes where there was a spark but so far from ever turning into an LE. What was so special about this particular LO that got so deep under my skin. Although there must be definitely something wrong with me for letting this LE happen with everything it entails, I do see partial blame in my LO’s personality. As far as I have researched, I do feel that LO may have a personality disorder that caused his boundaries to be inexistent, seeking closeness from his side and letting me inch closer and closer. I feel that the answer to the question why I became limerent lies within me, the answer why I allowed this LE to become a PA lies in the dynamic that happened between me and LO. Not that I don’t want to take the responsibility of what happened or blame someone else for it, not at all, but it was an unfortunate combination of the both of us that led to it.
My SO, unsurprisingly, felt blindsided by my disclosure and there is hurt and trust issues. I didn’t have to sleep on the sofa, which I hope is a good sign. She wants to learn more about limerence before we can really have a discussion. Now, I nervously wait and expect a lot of questions that I will need to honestly answer. It was the right thing to do — I created the wedge between us. Declaring that I am committed, has overcome recent thoughts more along the lines of “I should be committed”. We can get through this. Working on us. Remodeling our marriage.
I think that’s the same reasoning that leads people to take drugs: once you’ve experienced being high, why not live your life that way, in spite of the risk? That is the attitude of the Peter Pans of this world, they inhabit Neverland and refuse to grow up. They have Tinkerbell, a fairy who doesn’t exist unless people believe in her…
Speaking for myself, I’d rather grow up and adapt to reality through facing and overcoming challenges and becoming mature and eventually wise, rather than remain a perpetual child chasing highs and sparkles. There certainly are many adult children who’ve grown old but never grown up but they’re ridiculous, no one trusts them because they’ve flaked out on so many people, jobs etc.
They’ve been selfish all their lives but always end up depending on unselfish people to take care of them.
Agree with Lee-Anne and Satch,
If one operates on pure selfishness, leaving chaos and destruction and suffering in ones wake and somehow justifies it as one’s right, and that ones own happiness is paramount and then, even more disturbingly, congratulates oneself saying “well look at you! you lived daringly!”, then loneliness and lack of self respect as well as lack of real true authentic love will eventually be the price of moral bankruptcy.
Good heavens I have read that over and over and it’s so full of truth. I wish I could just accept that and move on. But one who wants to “live daringly” rarely is satisfied with simply taking someone else’s word for it on how best to live one’s life. This is no exception I’m afraid.
Hi LifeisTricky, I agree about viewing limerence as a gift, and not a pathology. But for me, limerence only embodies two of the 7 kinds of love described by this post (Eros and philia — and maybe a bit of ludus and agape). If I want to continue to experience pragma, storge and philaupia, I want to stay with my SO. So limerence may allow me to experience a higher level of Eros, but I want all the other kinds of love I am currently getting from my SO. Some people may value certain kinds of love over others, but I value Pragma and storge, so that is why I choose to maintain my relationship with SO, and use limerence to understand which of the 7 types of love are currently lower in our relationship (Eros, philia, agape) and try to work on those to increase them.
This perspective is similar to the first scenario of the post, LifeisTricky, where the sparkle of limerence is the most important aspect of love, and once that’s gone, finding that no feeling of romance remains. And yes, you can see that as a blessing, and continue to seek it in new people after limerence for old partners fades.
The reason this site focuses on managing limerence, though, is that many people find philia, storge and pragma to be more profound and meaningful than ludus and eros, and so prioritise long-term bonding over short-term excitement. For me, too, there is still eros in my relationship, and so my marriage has the full package, even though that takes work to maintain (and work seems unromantic).
It comes down to what you want your life to be like. Serial limerence is incompatible with building a long-term monogamous union, which is still what many people want more than any other lifestyle. I’m biased towards that view, because it’s what I want. I have no fear of being alone (I’m a happy introvert), but I do have a fear of losing my wife, because I love her and want to be with her. Limerence was an unwelcome interloper for me that threatened my happiness.
Updated to add that my wife just brought me a cup of coffee as I was writing the last comment, and read it over my shoulder. Her response:
“If your off chasing butterflies you can’t build anything.” A reasonable sentiment but not entirely true, your building yourself, constitution, self reliance, identity, beliefs and value systems. I would argue that the classical idea of building a home, family and life of substance is something that is going the way of the dodo. Just because one isn’t building a primary, cohabitational and romantic relationship doesn’t mean that they aren’t building a life that can be of great value, perhaps not to you but to themselves. Living by the old metrics in what is obviously a very broken paradigm for most seems rather self defeating. (Divorce and it’s messiness Vs a less messy single life.) To oversell the importantance of Pragma or to believe that Storge or Agape are even possible in romantic relationships seems slightly misguided. It would seem to me that ones own children and pets are the only truly unconditional loves in most people’s lives. And the idea of agape though great in theory for romantic love seems largely impossible, Eros is messy and complicated and has a lot of insecurity implicit in it. Agape seems much more probable for Philia, I’d question and be inclined to argue that Eros is the least trustworthy and certainly the least selfless of all. Also dependence on Pragma would seem to undermine the cultivation of Philaupia, which would seem to be the great line that most things are built on, “you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else.” I suspect it is the very rare soul who has got it all wrapped up in one nice neat little relationship, we need a large collection of them to give our lives depth. The greatest failing I see to come out of our modern age is the focus on the marriage type relationship to the detriment and often the exclusion of all others. So yes, I am a chaser of butterflies, I follow whim, glimmers, the wind, my mood and whatever seems right to me at the time. I’ll never have the 25th or 50th wedding anniversary celebrations; but I have relationships that have lasted over 30+ years in my 40 odd years of life, I have built, torn down and rebuilt a great many things in this life. And for argument sakes, the friction, discomfort or occasional upheaval that has come from either being limerant or a LO for someone else, I see it all as growth, mine and theirs. We are all responsible for our own lives.
LifeIsTricky, your opinions contrast a lot with the common values of traditional marriage. I find it interesting to think outside the box. I wonder though why you would be interested in a blog about limerence? Your lifestyle seems like the perfect way to never be limerent! But you could be a LO… Or limerent for a non-reciprocating or non-available LO perhaps?
Emma- I’ve explained my circumstances to some extent on previous posts. I am someone who has been limerant my entire life, but I feel as though the glimmer is a remarkably important and valuable thing. I’ve learned and grown a great deal from these situations. I’ve also been a LO for more than a few people. Most of my life I’ve stayed well away from anyone in relationships because I wasn’t interested in being a complication in anyway. However a few years ago someone entered my world and it’s been an ongoing mutually limerant situation where they have put a lot of effort in being in my life. We’ve taken weekend trips, fairly significant gifts have been exchanged, extreme emotional connection and a very high degree of physicality -just shy of intercourse has become the nature of the thing. They have a SO and for a long time I pushed them to a distance because of that. However as the years went by I relented. I do love this person a great deal and they love me, the relationship has brought a lot to both of our lives there is a great multitude of expressions that it all takes on and many would consider it inappropriate, I am very much their side piece. I’ve been judged plenty by my friends and the term limerance has been thrown around by several which is what started my engagement with this site. It’s almost always cast in this very negative light. But I don’t see it that way. Every person who has ever glimmered for me has brought issues within me, my life to the surface and been great catalysts to growth, change and healing. (I suspect or would like to think that everyone I’ve ever glimmered for feels the same) Now there have been a few instances in my life where a LO became somewhat problematic for me, but no more so than what I constantly see with my non limerant friends and associates, only I’ve had the objectivity to know that they have come into my view for a reason. It isn’t always to do with them, but something in them triggers it. I don’t believe in making it work, nor do I believe that many people will ever grow into the wishful dreams that most SO try to impose on them; for the most part we all are what and who we are. I am someone prone to limerance, who also triggers it in others. With the circumstances surrounding my current LO, yes they have a SO who they live with but I don’t feel guilt or remorse for the way we are. As I told I am not doing anything wrong, it’s up to them if they are, but I owe nothing to their SO and everything to myself. I’ve also told them directly that I wouldn’t tolerate the situation if I were their SO, at all. When I started reading this site it made me feel wretched, being bombarded with the idea that it was something to remedy, a frailty of the mind but then I read on and I realized how lacking in Philaupia most everyone with those sentiments seemed. It is naive, archaic and sad to think that it is best to hold tight to broken relationships with half hearted people. True, many may consider me selfish and plenty including my friends have considered me scandalous just for the appearance of impropriety. But I’m not kidding myself, nor am I holding on to things out of a fear of being alone or economic necessity, those two points seem to be the glue to far too many very relationships. I believe that given time we will discover the neurological reasons why some people glimmer for others, I believe there is a corresponding piece to our personal puzzles that resides within those individuals. Now this also speaks to neurology progressing well beyond where it is, but I know from when I was in college many years ago that the landscape of neuroscience 20 years from now will make much of the work of today seem like when we’d randomly scramble peoples brains with lobotomy, knowing that it had good outcomes some of the time. And attraction I’m very sure that we have much more comprehensive models of where attraction comes from than what we have been operating from. The things we post in response anything is both an opportunity to engage in a very broad conversation and a chance to be a voice that whispers and idea of opposition that may grow in someone’s mind and help them along their way to their place of peace. I grow weary of being judged and raise my voice in opposition to it particularly because it doesn’t seem like anyone else is. Also one last and I think very important point, this model of monogamy as THE MODEL, it’s one that isn’t holding up in the world we live it, it serves several purposes mostly child rearing and economic, for some it is great; but I’m very sure that is the exception more than the rule. So yes I am very interested in what a site led by a neurologist can add to the conversation even if I don’t agree with all of it.
This one’s for you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2e490Meuzc8
So, what point are you trying to make? It’s a pretty good explanation but not much of a justification.
If you don’t like being under a stigma, don’t engage in behavior that carries it. See https://thoughtcatalog.com/melanie-berliet/2016/05/if-youre-going-to-hate-the-other-woman-please-hate-the-dude-too/ It’s important for some people, it isn’t for others.
Philaupia carried to the extreme is narcissism. Telling your LO that you wouldn’t put up with the crap his SO is putting up with is condescending and demeaning. You must be something really special for her to put up with that crap. You obviously don’t respect her and she doesn’t appear to have much respect for herself. But, hey, you’ve made full disclosure and she can never claim she didn’t know what she’s doing.
“As I told I am not doing anything wrong, it’s up to them if they are, but I owe nothing to their SO and everything to myself.” No arrogance there. This line has always been one of my personal favorites. It’s like the person who drives the getaway card claiming the didn’t rob the bank. You may not be the perpetrator but you are an accomplice. I was the guy LO #1 cheated on her BF with in college. What you say about not owing LO’s SO anything is true. You don’t owe him anything. I liked the arrangement. It worked for me. But, I was under no illusion as to what I was doing and since she didn’t get pregnant, I didn’t suffer any consequences. I have no idea whether she did or not.
LO #2 claimed she’d told my successor, the guy she was sleeping with, that I was still her best friend and she wasn’t ready to give me up. I told her that if she’d ever said that to me, I’d have kicked her in the ass so hard she’d still be bouncing across the street. I don’t take being demeaned well.
If it works for both of you go for it. Choices have consequences. Live with them.
Thank you PS and Dr.L, by articulating the relationship between limerence and the 7 forms of love in your respective comments,
you make me better understand this. It wasn’t totally clear to me from the blog post itself.
“Many people find philia, storge and pragma to be more profound and meaningful than ludus and eros”.
I agree, although we could argue if “building a long-term monogamous union” is the only lifestyle to experience philia, storage and pragma. Agreed for the “long-term” part, as those 3 forms of love need time, while limerence is supposed to die after a few years max. Monogamy… I’m not sure! Long-term monogamy is the most chosen lifestyle generally and on this blog, and amongst my family and friends. I wonder though if that’s the best lifestyle for me personally. It’s ideal for raising kids (honestly I would have struggled big time to do it alone!). But what about when kids grow up? Is it my midlife crisis / limerence blindness telling me that I would feel sooooo much better living alone, or having a “live apart together” relationship? Pragma probably needs a more traditional relationship system, but honestly, this is the least attractive form of love to me. I would argue it kills eros and ludus a lot.
“Pragma probably needs a more traditional relationship system, but honestly, this is the least attractive form of love to me.”
If you have it, give it up. If you don’t, make certain to spell that out in future relationships.
“Is it my midlife crisis / limerence blindness telling me that I would feel sooooo much better living alone, or having a “live apart together” relationship?”
Not necessarily. You may be best served by living alone. Be prepared not to have the second one – someone else gets a say in it and may not be interested.
Lee, it’s not that simple right?
“If you have it, give it up.”
I wouldn’t just throw away 20 years of marriage because with time pragmaa has taken over eros and ludus. There are still philia and storge which are the deepest bonds.
But yes, we do have work to do on our marriage and I’m not sure at this point, if we will be able to save it or if we will end up ending it. That’s a decision we will have to take together. My husband is only very recently accepting the idea that we need therapy to help us.
Oh, you do value it despite no longer having children to raise. It sounded as though you felt otherwise. You can see below why I thought that was your conclusion.
“It’s ideal for raising kids (honestly I would have struggled big time to do it alone!).”
“Pragma probably needs a more traditional relationship system, but honestly, this is the least attractive form of love to me. I would argue it kills eros and ludus a lot.”
“But yes, we do have work to do on our marriage and I’m not sure at this point, if we will be able to save it or if we will end up ending it.”
Best wishes. I separated from Mr. Lee. For me, it’s been a very healthy decision.
While there’s sadness at any marriage ending, I’m glad to hear you are doing well, Lee. You’ve inspired a lot of us here, and are continuing in that vein by living with purpose!
Wishing you all the best for the future.
Holy S–t, Lee!
I don’t know what to say except I hope everything turns out ok for you.
I no longer have to hear him complaining about how unhappy he is with his life and how it turned out. Daily. Many times per day. Our children are adults so that is no longer a consideration.
It is worth more than diamonds and pearls.
I’m pleased that it’s been a healthy decision for you, and hope things continue to work out for you.
Thank you kindly.
Oh dear, really Lee?? I remember your story from some time ago on this blog. You’ve been the example for many of us, of a couple that had successfully surmounted a limerence episode. (beyond Dr.L of course) Especially seen from the SO standpoint.
I hope it’s for the best for both of you.
Yes you are right, my comment sounded very negative about my marriage. I discover a lot about my thoughts recently by writing here more often. I should do some journaling actually.
Let’s say I’m struggling with my SO a lot at the moment. Thanks for the feedback.
My Limerent Brain Is An Idiot says
Lee, it saddens me to hear it.
Mostly for the time that you invested in your relationship with him. I can tell that you brought a lot to the table, and it is so sad to think that all that effort from you wasn’t reciprocated. I know I’m ashamed of developing limerence for another. I’m horrified that I let it into a solid relationship. I have rededicated myself to loving my wife and making her feel valued and supported and honored.
I can’t comprehend that he didn’t figure out your hurt and your feelings of being devalued, and bend over backwards to change and make amends.
Clearly, you’re an amazingly smart person with a strong personality and a great sense of morality.
I wish you the best in the future, and happiness.
I really hope you continue to serve us on this site with your clear commentary and uncompromising take — your interactions are a gift to many, many people!
Emma – It is rarely a bad idea to write down one’s ruminations and see if there is a theme running through them. Or an unhelpful habit in the making.
I do have my fingers crossed for you!
Thanks to you all. Between his far too frequent complaining about how much he hates his life and honestly – reading how much time and effort is spent by some rehashing former LO’s and how marvelous they are/were – it seemed to me that it was time to agree with him.
You were shortchanged. Your life does suck. You settled for someone (me) when you longed for someone very different. It cost you social standing with your family and possibly socially to settle for someone who wasn’t a great beauty. You’re not getting any younger (well, I always agreed with that one!). If not now, when?
Life is short. Carpe femme.
So I told him I felt it was his turn to take care of himself and only himself. That to stay in a relationship that made him unhappy wasn’t good for him and I wanted to put an end to it.
As I say, it has been much better for me. My stress levels have dropped considerably. If there are questions, we email. If he huffs and puffs and casts aspersion on my character, I look for the question within and answer it. If there is none, I ignore it.
The house will be sold and the retirement assets equitably divided so he may still be able to retire early.
He says I’m selfish. It may be the case. On the other hand, if he felt that continuing to be married to me was the equivalent of martyrdom, then he was a coward. I don’t really have any more patience for cowardice, waffling, false equivalencies or being treated like a rather dull, but very useful, spousal appliance.
It has been very interesting reading and participating on this board. I’ve learned a lot about limerence and have decided that being the SO of someone who is prone to limerence (he told me about others in his past before I made this decision) and not shy about sharing his feelings of misery, it’s not worth it to stay around.
I am sorry to read that, Lee, but it sounds like you have been trying everything to stand by Mr. Lee and he does not seem to appreciate or value you. It sounds like you made an informed and well thought-through decision that it is for the better for you! I wish you all the best!
It may have been possible if he didn’t have other chronic diagnosed mental health conditions. But the limerence on top of everything else – well – enough is enough.
I don’t glitter. I never did glitter. Glitter is what he wants and he is finally free to find and enjoy it without any social condemnation. I hope he doesn’t later on try to foot drag about finalizing the divorce. If he has a new LO or someone he fancies, then I doubt I’ll have to worry about it. That would be one area that his limerent tendencies would work in my favor.
Lee- congratulations to you! As someone who’s been in a mutually people pleasing LE for several years now, and the other person has a SO I couldn’t be happier for you. Not because your now ex will be with someone else, but because I just don’t see the sense in staying with someone who doesn’t cherish and respect you fully. I’m not with my LO we are both toys that the other plays with when whim dictates, I can and do choose plenty of NC time. I know we’ve crossed lines before where you’ve not held my sentiments in the highest regard, but believe me when I say cheers to you! I enjoy my LO, and even have a couple of forms of love for them. However, I’ve also told them to their face that I wouldn’t ever tolerate what their SO tolerates. I have no interest in being their SO, I wouldn’t be able to endure their selfishness, childishness and indecision. And now you don’t have to endure his. Being alone is hard, but it sounds like you have sufficient assets and resources to soften your landing. I wish you great bliss, and when you do let someone in your life let them only be someone who doesn’t mistake lightening bugs for shooting stars.
Lee – I am sad your marriage ended over all this but glad you were able to make the decision to kick your selfish, arrogant, whingy Narc soon-to-be ex where to go. He sounds like a right Royal piece of work. You may not glitter for him but you do glitter for someone out there, he’s not worth your glitter in my opinion. Goodluck with your next journey, you deserve so much better than him.
I actually don’t disagree with a lot of what is said here. In fact you’ve probably hit upon what happens a lot in the real world. I think the difference is that those people are able to cope with that situation and so don’t use this website.
However there are a small number of us who have a very extreme and adverse reaction to this ‘everyday occurrence’ or the opportunity for it. I have lost 20% of my body weight in 2 months and may have to quit my job over it. I’ve lost countless hours with my family and when my son was born any excitement came from how I could use that to initiate contact with her. All over something that is totally non reciprocal and just a fantasy in my head.
The dilemma over living dangerously or not I’m not ready to address. The paragraph above needs sorting first, hence why a lot of us are here.
Song of the Day: “I Gotta Be Me” – Sammy Davis, Jr. (1968)
Interestingly, I remember the line “I’ll go it alone, that’s how it must be” as “I’ll go it alone, IF that’s how it must be.” I remember him singing it at the concert I was at with LO #2. Maybe he sang it that way live or maybe I added the “if” in myself because I wasn’t ready to resign myself to that. But, it makes a difference.
On a somewhat related note, the literature says extreme self-reliance and “this is who I am, take it or leave it” are often used as defense mechanisms of choice by avoidants . It also says they breed conceit and arrogance. I believe that. Coming out of high school and lasting well into my late 20s, I used them both. Both LO #2 and my wife noted it. My wife says I’m a lot better now but they surface once in awhile.
Hey, LifeisTricky. What you’re describing sure sounds like polyamory to me. I brought this issue up on LwL a long while back and…not too many people responded with understanding (although a year after the post, there were a few). I agree with you that this site has a bias toward monogamy and a focus on “recovery” from limerence. Not that that’s a bad thing. But it means you probably won’t get a lot of support here for “living daringly.” Can one ride a limerence wave to its “safe and natural conclusion” without a whole lot of hurt? I wouldn’t say it’s impossible, but I think it’s really really rare.
Hey all, I totally get it about polyamory as ethical non-monogamy: people having multiple lovers and relationships, sometimes within marriage, provided that all concerned are giving informed consent to whatever arrangements are in play (otherwise it’s merely cheating, which is not the same as polyamory). In fact I’d like to try it someday, but I’d need to be either single or with an SO who is also into it. I see no moral objections against polyamory and certainly recognize no categorical imperative to pursue a monogamous lifestyle! And I bet most people on this site would agree with me. I also think many people on this site have self-selected to be here because of a hypothetical imperative: IF you are in a monogamous relationship AND want to preserve it, AND you are limerent for someone else, THEN you need to figure out how to manage your limerence without cheating. I think nobody here holds monogamy to be in itself morally superior to polyamory. I see no evidence of that. The key moral value I see here is to do whatever you are going to do with integrity and with respect for all concerned. Thanks to everyone for all your comments!
Thank you, Landry, and best regards.
Love your post 🙂
Excellent article Dr L. In my opinion limerence is not love. For the past 4 years I thought I was in unreciprocated love with my LO. In the midst of my LE I was pining for her 24/7, I was in a zombie state when I was not with her, seeing her with other men caused anger and distress. Every time she left me I felt sad and depressed. Is this love?
I unsuccessfully tried to apply LC but always failed.
Eventually I started having panic attacks and finally decided to force NC even if it killed me, and despite working together in the same building I am now 3.5 months into NC and she no longer contacts me. I do not think about her 24/7, my mind is so much calmer, I’m able to think about other things. All this pain and suffering and almost having a mental breakdown, this is not love, this is something else, something sinister and unhealthy, its limerence.
Thanks fellow Lin for your post and I’m sure it will inspire others who work with their LO’s or have to in some way involved with LO.
Ive been thinking and I feel every limerent has a point where they reach when they finally realise enough is enough. I like what you said about going NC even if it killed you. I feel that this is my mind set now. I am going through some pain I haven’t initiated contact for 3 weeks and have not really heard from LO. I am of that attitude where I’m going to crush this LE even if it breaks me. No matter how long or how hard it is. I need it for my self respect and to have my mind returned to me.
Thank you Rachel, I also hope my post can help others stuck in this nightmare. Yes as Dr L stated something or an incident wakes us up to take action. In my case after years of suffering, I started having claustrophobic dreams in which I was stuck in a very confined space unable to breathe, and after a few days suffered a few panic attacks during which I thought I was going to die.
I finally decided to let her go, no goodbye speeches, no ultimatums, I Just disappeared, which meant no calls, no txts, no social media, and importantly no replies to anything, I removed all reminders including some common acquaintances, I made an effort to avoid this person by making changes to work schedule etc.
In the beginning it was hard, as expected I only thought about the good times but I countered that by always thinking this connection will destroy my sanity due continuously thinking and ruminating about her. Each time I thought about her I told myself I have burnt bridges with this person and there is no way back, I initiated the NC and I have to stand by my decision, it made be feel powerful.
You can do this I promise, just keep going. People say it gets better as time passes and it is true, yes life may seem a bit boring and that is where you need to think about purposeful living. You will feel free and it is an unbelievable relief.
FellowLim, I couldn’t agree with you more. I feel better now than I have for years….NC is the trick although the withdrawals were agony. I finally have peace of mind after years of rollercoaster highs and lows. And I have my self respect!
“You will feel free and it is an unbelievable relief.”.
This is very comforting fellow lim. I have just had some news that I will be able to go fully NC very shortly. Which has kind of shook me. The choice has been taken away from me. I know this is for the best but ATM it kinda hurts. Really need to remind myself of the prize. Freedom!
I hope I reach complete indifference… This will be a day of absolute joy
Rachel, it sucks that the decision has been taken out of your hands but I guess it’s a blessing in disguise for you.
“I hope I reach complete indifference… This will be a day of absolute joy.”
Amen sister! That is also my goal, feeling indifference towards LO, I’ve forgotten what that feels like. I’ll do a happy dance the day I reach this goal!
Is he moving to a different town, Rachel?
Even not your decision, it’s a blessing, take it as that! Life will be so much better!
I am so glad I am fully NC now (after staged LC), that I was able to convey the message that I don’t want LO in my life anymore so he can quit trying, there is nothing to hold on anymore, from both our sides! Out of sight, out of mind (slowly).
Thanks guys. I know it’s for the best but why does it hurt so much? I’ll get though this.
How are things with your Sarah?
And you Lee? Do you have to see your LO?
It hurts, but NC makes it better.
I am mainly good, but by coincidence heard that LO was going to meet up with his LO and that group of friends, and I noticed that I was slightly agitated and moody on that day, I couldn’t really pinpoint why, but I figured it must be the fact of them meeting, which tells me, this is still not fully done. I don’t see any other outcome than NC at this point. I do not want to have LO in my life in any capacity. If we happen to cross path at work (unlikely), that is fine, but meeting each other based on contact initiated by me or him should not happen anymore. I am mostly fine and I also don’t ruminate about him anymore. I am fine with him meeting his LO (despite feeling some effect about it) and even if they end up together (which they most likely won’t, but even if), so be it, none of my concern. But the less I know about it, the better, NC is bliss. Instead of wondering if he ever thinks of me (and what he thinks about), or imagining that he is miserable because I abandoned him, I just imagine he is living his life and possibly even meets a person that he can spend a good time with. I wish that he finds his happiness that he so desperately seeks.
Rachel, currently NC for me but that will change back to LC in February due to our circumstances . I’ll then initiate staged withdrawal from LC to NC, only way I can go NC without raising suspicion with LO and his SO.
Sarah and Sophie, I am so happy for you both. I can’t wait till I am at that stage of my journey. Well done to you both!
I’m also very happy to hear your feeling better! It’s been a rough old rude. We will get there Lee-Anne!
I have a very real question for you, did you disclose your feelings to you LO? If no why? If so what was the outcome?
I sort of disclosed, but very indirectly – when I left my job I wrote a card to LO. Whether he read that or not I do not know. I thanked him for his help, support and friendship at work, and also said “I’m struggling with a problem (if your “never-ending quest for knowledge”™ needs to know, research ‘limerence’) and I really need to cut contact.”
I managed that for about 6 months, then I slipped up multiple times. My last message was asking him to block me on Facebook messenger (as me blocking him wasn’t working, he was still respecting my need for NC and hardly ever initiated conversations, but I kept slipping up whenever things got tough. LO has now blocked me so the only means I have of contacting him now is by phoning or visiting my former workplace in person.
As a result, I don’t know whether LO knows or not, it would be very unlike him to not research something, but even if he has I don’t feel I’ve disclosed in a way that my SO would consider disloyal.
Hi Sophie, yeah you can pretty much assume that LO knows how you feel, and I think any ‘normal’ person would look up what limerence is under these circumstances. Your LO seems pretty decent in respecting your need to go NC, that speaks for him. My LO did as well, and I was very glad for that. I did break NC once during that time (for his birthday) thanking him for respecting my wishes (as it was my bday shortly before and I asked him not to contact me on my bday) and then went on LC after we met again for a charity event. I’d say I needed all these months, the NC, the staged LC withdrawal of myself to get a grip on my emotions and to recalibrate my focus on what is important to me. My relationship with SO is improving continuously and part of what LO gave me (what I missed from SO) I am getting from SO again.
That’s good to hear you’re getting there Sarah.
I know I’m lucky that my LO is a decent guy and has respected my wish for NC.
I’m also lucky that my SO and I have made a lot of improvements and I thought that I was now getting what I needed from my marriage instead of LO. However this last weekend has highlighted to me I’m probably leaning on my female friends too much! Still, at least LO is only popping into my head now and again. Much easier to manage.
Serial Sufferer says
I have disclosed to four LOs. (I’ve had lots of LOs.) I generally concoct some rationale justifying disclosure but in hindsight I can always clearly see that I was seeking the emotional intensity of the experience of disclosure.
Three times, I disclosed because I thought the LO would be scared off and would reject me and that would end the limerence. The results: It did not. Twice, it led to a fling (which I didn’t really want). The third time, I did get the rejection I was hoping for. (Once I disclosed because I was free to pursue a relationship. But he wasn’t.)
Disclosure is never complete. If I disclose a “crush”, I haven’t disclosed the depths of my feelings. Two examples:
1) After disclosing a “crush”, having a fling, and going No Contact, I had constant ruminations for YEARS about saying, “I love you and I miss you”. Therefore, I made a point of saying “I love you & I miss you” when I disclosed to another LO (a “No Contact” failure) so that I wouldn’t be haunted by those unsaid words for years. The results – to this day I’m super embarrassed that I said that!
2) After getting the hoped-for rejection I mentioned, it didn’t kill the limerence immediately: “Well, I just want a fling, not a relationship, maybe he’d still be interested in a fling!” Which is ridiculous – if I got the fling, I’d want more.
The lesson is, limerence is never satisfied. It always wants more!
Disclosure is like scratching an itch. I had as much power to not disclose as I do to not scratch an itch. Note that “seeking an affair” was NEVER a reason I disclosed. “Seeking an affair” happened after I disclosed, and it wasn’t the affair per se that I sought, it was the emotional intensity of the pursuit I craved.
Having had these experiences, I am now aware that:
a) Disclosure to elicit a rejection is risky and likely to fail.
b) Disclosure will never bring “closure”. I’ll always want more.
c) Full disclosure will leave me feeling embarrassed for a very long time. Perhaps forever.
I did, by first sending a definition of Limerence. Then explained the progression of my feelings, and apologized for any game playing on my part. She asked if she cold give me a hug and we did. We have been NC since and I still think about her all the time but she has respected NC( or she was happy to be rid of me)🤷🏾♂️. The NC has really helped me figure out MY issues that make me prone to Limerence.
It is truly a nightmare. Often a matter of meeting the wrong person at the wrong time.
The physical and emotional pain were vast and real.
I’ve read posts from people who are enjoying the highs and…I don’t know what to say. I last felt that complete high last March during the heights of the pandemic. I’d reached out after months of no direct contact (I’d sneak peeks at social media). That was my excuse.
I can’t tell you the intense JOY I felt. We talked, reconnected. I can handle this, I thought. I can be his friend and in fact promised him I’d stick around. I won’t flake again, I told him.
His passive aggressive hurtful behavior began soon after.
I couldn’t do it. He thrives off the attention. It’s a game for him.
Never going back again. Even now, a stray thought will hit and the pain will shut me down.
Working on the ruminating thoughts.
For someone who has led a life with pretty healthy relationships, limerence is nothing I want to develop or embrace.
Anonymous Limerent says
I’ve sort of given up commenting and venting here because so much crap happened every day and it just got (gets) worse and worse. When i think there’s nothing that can happen that could surprise me anymore, there’s always a surprise waiting around the corner. So I’ve completely given up. Now, I just stay away from my LO and try my best not to look at her or listen when she talks.
Question, though – next month is Valentine’s Day. Is that normally hard for anyone because of what the day is? Or is it just another day with a special name?
AL, my first bf that I was very much in love with dumped me on valentine’s day to go back to his ex. For years (probably a decade) I hated that day with passion. And now, it’s just a day. I don’t believe in giving presents/show feelings just because a day requires me to do so. I love receiving and giving something randomly, when I actually feel that way, I find that much more meaningful.
It’s a “Hallmark Holiday” as far as I’m concerned. As a kid I never had a “valentine” and felt soooo left out and unwanted. With the latest LO a couple of years ago we had started “dancing” after 3 mos on NC just before V day. My limmerbrain so desperately wanted to send her secret admirer flowers on that day, but due to the advice of wise, fellow limerents I DIDN’T! I was really frustrated over the fact that I couldn’t develop the same emotions for my SO.
Serial Sufferer says
The Greeks had too many categories of “love” for me. I only need two! Limerence and affectional bonding explain it all for me. Limerence potentiates affectional bonding. Affectional bonding can happen without limerence. Limerence does not always lead to affectional bonding. Limerence and affectional bonding are not mutually exclusive. Limerence has a short duration (typically). Affectional bonding can last a long time – and it can fade, even after a long time.
Just talking to a relative who still works at the same place as LO (different dept) I asked how a different colleague was but my relative said the big news is that my LO is getting divorced.
I wanted to remain calm, but feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. It makes no difference to me or my life.
Why is it bothering me?
Part of me wants to know why now and who called it a day. The rest of me knows it’s none of my business and has no bearing on my life.
“Why is it bothering me?”
Pure speculation: Part of the defense could be that not only were you not available, they weren’t available. Yeah, you’re married so it shouldn’t matter but knowing they weren’t available was icing on that cake. If they’re not available, it helps dodge some of the moral dilemma about what’s going on. But, now they might become available and that brings up all the “what ifs?”
When we were going back and forth, I told her that it was easier when there was nothing for me to pursue but now she might be available and she was reaching out to me. When her relationship collapsed, the game changed. It wasn’t too hard to maintain my boundaries as long as she maintained hers. Whereas, your LO’s SO might have helped keep things in check, now, the only thing between you and potential disaster is you. And, you have/had a vulnerability.
Be really careful if he contacts you. The urge to be there for them can be almost overwhelming. I wanted to be the shoulder LO #4 buried her face in and hold her as she cried. She was 2500 miles away but that didn’t stop me from from thinking about how I could get to her. If I was patient, I could swing the first 2300 miles but not those last 200 miles. Also, I couldn’t reconcile the betrayal doing that would be. I’m pretty good at rationalization and I couldn’t do it.
Keep your head down.
Thank you @Scharnhorst – sound advice!
I’m so pleased I’m in a position I can’t contact him because as you said, I want to be the supportive friend but at the same time, that would be dangerous for me. I think it’s unlikely he’ll reach out. Since I first asked for NC when I left the job, he’s initiated contact 3 times. Once took me completely by surprise, once was to send best wishes for my son’s operation and the third was following up a professional matter that I’d spoken to him on the phone about (not strictly necessary!)
I’m fairly sure that as he’s heeded my request to block me on messenger, and we don’t have each others numbers I should be OK. Nevertheless, I will be careful.
Thanks for your insights
Serial Sufferer says
I just had nearly that same experience. When I heard that LO was separated I had a physiological reaction, face flushed & out of breath. Like I’d been hit. I resisted fairly well the overwhelming desire to call him and tell him how sorry I was to hear the news. But I hung back after a meeting and gave him a chance to tell me, which triggered a massive limerent relapse! In hindsight, telling my SO immediately that LO was separated and that the news triggered strong feeling would probably have warded me from the rest.
Question for the both of you: Do either of you feel any sense of impending doom?
When LO #4 told me that her BF had (allegedly) assaulted her, that she was moving out, and told me how grateful she was for all my support and encouragement in the past, my reaction was, “F–k! I don’t need this.” I could see a giant snowball coming down the hill at me. I hoped I was overreacting and there was nothing to worry about. Just because I’d been through this twice before I was blowing it out of proportion in my mind and nothing would come of it. It would all blow over.
I was wrong.
@SerielSufferer I can completely relate to that reaction, and to it triggering a major relapse. I’m fortunate that the only way I can contact him (visiting or phoning my former workplace) would be way too awkward. I’ve a million and one questions, none of which are actually my business. And yes I tested, I’m still blocked.
“Do either of you feel any sense of impending doom?”
Not exactly. Initially it was shock, especially at my overly emotional response.
It felt like the plaster had been ripped off, I’d been reminded that LO exists (in my head i think I’d convinced myself it was all my imagination) Then there is misplaced guilt, “if I’d been a better friend I’d be there to support him”
I was also surprised at the twinge of jealousy – don’t get me wrong I don’t need anyone to tell me that my not-perfect-but-improving marriage is much much better than a messy divorce – but a small part of me wouldn’t mind the freedom of starting over, although with two children I know full well from divorced friends that life is never as simple as it was before.
I’ve opted to focus on gratitude for my improving marriage. Still undecided whether to tell SO as I don’t want him thinking it’s a big deal.
Serial Sufferer says
“Do either of you feel any sense of impending doom?”
I did not have that experience.
“Or, it could be due to a very close psychological association between limerence and libido, as I’ve speculated before, meaning that sexual desire only lasts as long as limerence lasts.” I also read through your post on limerence and libido referred to earlier in this blog post; however, I am an outlier in that I met my LO after I had started hormonal therapy which completely destroyed my libido. My illicit wonderings about my LO only consists of (trying to get that to past tense) holding hands, strolling arm in arm, warm hugs, and how a smile on her face would light up my world. Not exactly libido driven lusty thoughts.
Hey Kramer. Yes, I do hear from limerents from time to time who don’t have much, if any, lust for their LOs. It does seem to be a minority though – most limerents are mad for their LOs. Some even admit that they don’t think their LOs are especially attractive, objectively, but they still lust after them.
This fits with my basic argument that limerence is more an amplifier than a particular type of love. For some, like you, eros just isn’t that big a part of the “blend”.
I have a question. In a situation of mutual limerence where the first has moved out of the limerence faster, is it possible to go back to earlier stages again?
Great question! For me the answer has been No, especially if there was any physical consummation. Not to say I couldn’t be attracted to someone from my past for whom I was once limerent. But as we know, mere attraction isn’t at all like full-blown, mind-consuming limerence. (Thank god.)
I guess it could be possible to exploit uncertainty to drag someone back into limerence, but it probably wouldn’t work if they were fully out. Joe Beam did talk about a “wavy line” where partners in a limerence affair go up and down in intensity and try and pull each other along. Scenarios where there is uncertainty built in would tend to prolong things, but once the limerence has burned out naturally I doubt there’s much hope of reigniting it.
That’s interesting. A situation I’m in is that limerence seems to have burnt out (almost on both sides now – i’m getting there) but my LO who burnt out faster claims to want to go back to how things were… somehow. I don’t really understand why he says this, if I’m honest, because I can’t see it happening either. Whenever i talk to him about going no contact, he claims that the feelings are all still there somewhere and we can go back to that. This is after he, from what I saw, lost limerence and suddenly started acting cold and evasive, leaving me spinning and wondering what the hell had happened. I’m only assuming he was also limerent ofc, but viewing it that way makes sense of alot of things. What puzzles me now is why he still thinks we can rewind – or if there’s something more sinister and manipulative behind saying that.
Sounds like he is interesting in pulling you back in. Very common behavior of LOs. They miss the adoration when we take it away…. I think limerents adore like no others do….and some
LOs crave that adoration like their life depends on it! So, please, beware. Intentions may not be honorable. Protect your heart.
Lost as Ever says
I have been struggling horribly the past few
Months to a year. I met my person randomly. We began a friendship based on mutual respect for our work ethic and inspired and enhanced one another professionally. (We do not work at the same place). We then had a moment of weakness and said that would be all- the one time but then it carries in for more than two years. He rented a condo, asked me to put it all together and doctorate for a place for us to begin our lives together because he wanted a life with me. I waited for more than a year and he finally moved out of his home. For fourteen weeks, we were living together, but in that time, he kept going home back to his wife, & I found out rather than trying to leave her, he was repairing the relationship. Upon learning this I lost it… this triggered my biggest fears of abandonment and I lost all sense of reason. I ended up destroying any chance of him leaving and in a box of hopelessness. He has since reached out- said he does not know why he went back. Wakes up wondering why he is there. Anyone that knew about our relationship says we need to move on. He has since had four different one nighters, which is how he deals with stress, frustration and boredom. He said he has been depressed, empty, listless and unable to motivate himself without me kn his life & how was I able to cut contact with him for a few weeks. Those few weeks were a struggle for me. I didn’t just cry each night, but tore myself to pieces in the inside & had diffficulty functioning myself.
We reconnected, spoke, which is how I know of his actions and feelings. Said I can’t understand why you can’t leave because you feel guilty but feel okay with the one night era to distract yourself from your pain & frustrations. I know I am really giving much credit here to his actions. He says he is addicted to me. But is it really an addiction when we have such a connection. He says he is not settled without me & I feel the same. The feeling with him is one of completeness- mentally, physically and emotionally. I, for once, felt settled with my person and we looked so forward to one another at the end of the day. The room and our spirits just lighten when the other walks into the room . Love, laughter, motivation and inspiration for life once again comes back. The days are no longer empty. It felt like without one another, we are just living whereas with one another we are living life!
I can’t figure is this live, or liner Eve. I do know it is messed up, for certain & after the affair coming out & his wife not letting him go and saying she forgives him, this was her fault, etc, where does this leave us. Without one another, we are just trying to get through each day filling coins in any way possible.
Limerent Emeritus says
Article of the Day: https://thoughtcatalog.com/holly-riordan/2021/11/love-vs-in-love/
I like this article. I had to read it a few times. It helps explain the ILYBINILWY difference.
I especially like some of the quotes Riordan includes.
When I thought about it. I can see the differences in my relationships. I loved LO #2. I’m in love with my wife.
LO #2 took off, my wife stayed. LO #2 ran rather than fight for us, my wife fought for us.
I told LO #2 we needed to see a marriage counselor. She declined but claimed to have undergone a Past Life Regression and had a Tarot Card reading done for us [I can’t say LO #2 never sought “professional help.”] My wife and I were in a marriage counselor’s office less than two years into our marriage but it’s what we needed to do and we’re still together.
When I disclosed my EA/LE with LO #4 to my wife, my wife asked me if I loved LO #4. I waffled. My response was implied I wasn’t in love with LO #4. I hadn’t gotten near that point. But, against the article criteria, I did love LO #4.
LO #2 was the first woman I said “I love you” to who said it back. I’ve always wondered if she meant it. After reading this, I think maybe she did. But, I could never get her to fall in love with me although at times, I thought we were getting close. One therapist said that I may have gotten the best from LO #2 that she had to offer. I’d like to think that but I have no way of knowing.
Not that it really matters, anymore.
Learn something new every day.
Limerent Emeritus says
I’ve been thinking about this a lot.
This makes a lot of sense to me.
I’ve attached to 4 women in my life. I’m pretty sure I would have attached to LO #3 if she hadn’t shut me down so quickly. I invested in two of those women, LO #2 and my wife.
I loved the women I attached, LO #1 and LO #4. But, I was in love with the women I invested in; LO #2 and my wife. One of them fell in love with me, one didn’t.
Limerence defined my behavior with two of them.
It took decades but it all just comes together.
Allie 1 says
Interesting. For me, this article muddied the waters rather then cleared them. But maybe different countries have different definitions of what “in love” means?
My understanding of the term “in love” is more along the lines of the Tennov definition i.e. it is the limerent phase of a relationship – that early obsessive, idealising, hormonal phase of love. If you are lucky, over time, this gently fades out and morphs into real bonded romantic “love”.
I always considered ILYBINILWY to be a confusing way to tell someone you are not romantically or sexually interested but have deep, caring but purely platonic feelings for them.
Limerent Emeritus says
It’s not going to reflect everyone’s experience but it really reflects mine.
Maybe it’s the engineer in me. I have criteria I can evaluate my experience against. I find that helpful.
LO #2 said I couldn’t keep things platonic. Thought Catalog had an article about that. Against the criteria of that article, she was correct.
I agree. Being “in love” is like being on fire. 🙂 Love is what remains when the fire dies down.
“Being “in love” is like being on fire. 🙂 Love is what remains when the fire dies down.”
What you say here dovetails with my own experience/understanding. 😛
I think love and being “in love” are almost at two ends of the spectrum. Being “in love” is about being off balance, nervous, giddy, high. It’s about trying to make up for the distance between you and the other person. Love is about comfort, security, understanding, knowledge, closeness. Being “in love” is largely physiological, with all the brain chemicals. I can think you can love two people at the same time. I think you can love one and be “in love” with another, but I don’t think you can be “in love” with two people at the same time. Your brain is too busy trying to hyper-focus on one person.
“Being “in love” is about being off balance, nervous, giddy, high. It’s about trying to make up for the distance between you and the other person. Love is about comfort, security, understanding, knowledge, closeness. Being “in love” is largely physiological, with all the brain chemicals.”
Very well put! I like the contrasts you draw between love and in-love here.
I think feelings of in-loveness are largely physiological, too.
“I can think you can love two people at the same time. I think you can love one and be “in love” with another, but I don’t think you can be “in love” with two people at the same time.”
Yes, very well-put, once again. I agree with all three observations.
I thought the article got “love” and “in love” back the front, to be perfectly honest! What the article calls “love” I’ve always understood as being “in love” and vice versa.
For me, feeling at ease with a person is love. Getting butterflies around a person, on the other hand, belongs to the “in love” box. Butterflies, to me, is a sign of infatuation/physical attraction/lust. I see “being in love” and “infatuation” as the same thing, basically. Infatuation isn’t love, but it can eventually turn into love, if time and emotional intimacy is added to the mix. Infatuation is the honeymoon phase/fun-filled early days of a relationship. Or infatuation can just mean excitement around a stranger.
We could also put it another way. When we’re infatuated with someone, we want to touch them all the time. But usually what happens is we shy away out of fear of rejection. When we love someone, we can hug them (with their full consent, of course!) and sigh deeply when we hug them and they’re okay with that. A person I love knows the real me, in other words, so I can be unguarded around him/her. If I’m infatuated with someone, I’m definitely not showing them the real me yet, so I certainly can’t relax around them, or sigh while hugging! Anxiety undermine true closeness.
I know I love someone when I’m no longer putting on an act to impress them. When I’m okay with someone seeing my flaws and imperfections. When I trust the person is going to stay even though they’ve glimpsed my imperfections. When I believe the person actually likes me for myself.
The article seems to think there’s some difference between “in love-ness” and “infatuation”, but doesn’t do a very good job of describing it.
Maybe, for this author, being in love is the same thing as mutual limerence that has settled down into a satisfying committed relationship? For me, limerence has never really reached the “comfortable stage”, so I find it a bit difficult to consider what’s being said without feelings of incredulity! 😛
Limerent Emeritus says
“I thought the article got “love” and “in love” back the front, to be perfectly honest! What the article calls “love” I’ve always understood as being “in love” and vice versa.”
When I first read the article, I saw it much the same way. It’s a matter of perspective and semantics. But, I agree with her sentiments. The author appears to come at this from a slightly different frame of reference.
We’re all different. We want different thing from life. If we’re lucky we find someone who wants at least most of the things we want.
Back then, I was trying to escape the overwhelming sense of loneliness I felt as the sub was pulling in and I saw all those women and children waiting on the pier for their husbands, boyfriends, and fathers to come down the brow.
Nobody was waiting for me. I wanted somebody to care that I existed, someone who was glad to see me, someone who cared that I came back. Passion and excitement weren’t really a consideration. I learned those could be part of the package but that wasn’t the first problem I was trying to fix.
LO #2 and I had a 4 year courtship. Pretty much all we did was fun stuff. If I’d put the money I spent on her in the S&P, I probably could have bought a [insert luxury car of choice]. We were sorta kinda there for each other but we never planned for making it over the long haul. If she was looking a forever relationship, it wasn’t with me. I don’t begrudge her the sentiment, I just wished when she realized it she would have gotten out of my life and stayed out. But, she didn’t. I think she wanted to keep me in the game and she did. That, I do begrudge her for.
My wife and I were married less than a year after we met. I remember a few things about those days but we built a life together. It could have been better but it’s pretty good and I don’t see myself with anyone else.
Yeah, I have some “What ifs?” Only one other woman got inside my head in 30 years of marriage and she wasn’t even trying. It says a lot for what limerence can do.
There are things in my life that I’d like to change. I might be able to change some of them but I know I’ll never be able to change others. And, that’s ok. What I don’t live with is much guilt or regret.
“It’s likely to be a volume control or amplifier for all aspects of love. Most immediately, eros will spike, but limerence will also ramp up desire and attraction, singling out LO as an object for philia – emotional as well as sexual connection.
In fact, true philia or storge (and even pragma) takes time and experience to build to being meaningful, but limerence seems to intensify the promise of those forms of love. In the grip of limerence, the LO seems a source of emotional succour and thrillingly interesting and attractive. Someone you want to spend time with and bond with, someone who seems to offer the promise of lasting philia, coupled to eros.
When limerence fades, what remains of that promise?”
This is all so terribly interesting. I like the notion of limerence as an amplifier.
As a gay man, I find I am drawn to men of any orientation who appear to offer me hints of eros/ludus. If I have a man in my life who offers me absolutely no eros/ludus, I find him so breathtakingly dull I can hardly bear to talk to him. It’s like … sorry, nope, no mental connection … and I instantly lose interest in a friendship. This is patently unfair to the “boring” man, because he might be a really good person, and his affection might be sincere and long-lasting.
No reserves of storge or philia can accumulate over time, in other words, because I lose interest too quickly. I want to be mentally stimulated by my male comrades.
On the other hand, I find I bond intensely with a woman who offers me storge, pragma, philia, and absolutely no eros/ludus. If a woman offers me eros/ludus, I start to feel a tiny bit queasy. I don’t see the eros/ludus a woman offers me as a potential route to philia for both of us.
I do find some females sexy. But I realise I’m not responding to their sex appeal per se, but to a really strong maternal element present in their personalities. (I’m attracted to sexy and beautiful women, but only if the sexy and beautiful woman in question is also extremely maternal. I’m not attracted to sexy and beautiful women who lack maternal qualities. I’m not intrigued by femme fatales, in other words. A strong maternal streak is what clinches the deal for me. Happily, there are women in the world who are both stunningly attractive and maternal).
In my mind, there seems to be a really sharp divide between eros and philia.
I imagine there are straight men who are deeply disturbed by any hint of eros/ludus in their relationships with other men, and there are other straight men who don’t mind a low dose of eros/ludus, as long as it remains unobtrusive.
It seems like my perfect woman is the Virgin Mary/a Madonna. (Am I unconsciously looking for a mother in every woman I meet?)
Is seems like my perfect man is Narcissus/a mischievous satyr type. (Pure Eros/Ludus and very little of the other forms of love).
My most stable relationships seem to be with … the female partners of the men I superficially desire, as long as she embodies many of the Madonna traits.
It seems like I’m chasing “Daddy” because I secretly hope he’ll lead me home to “Mummy”, and “Mummy” is actually the person I want to hang out with! But I only want a platonic relationship with this supreme maternal figure. 😛
Homolimerence could be defined as an usually strong drive to form romantic attachments to the same sex. But what about the flipside? What if homolimerence is an unusually strong drive to form platonic attachments to the opposite sex? What if my sexual orientation is less about forming romantic attachments with men than it is about forming non-romantic attachments with women? What if Evolution wants a few men on the ground who aren’t trying to woo/win over every Eve they meet? I feel like I play a very important role in the cohesion of the tribe. I feel like I make a very good go-between for the sexes…
Sorry. Absolutely no idea where that weird ramble came from! 😛
Limerent Emeritus says
I’d love to know what respective takes a Freudian and Jungian would have on it.
I find Jungian archetypes fascinating. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jungian_archetypes
“When limerence fades, what remains of that promise?”
Well that is the conundrum. Sometimes, not much. If you look for love first, you might feel very close to the person but not be all that keen to have sex with the person. If you look to be “in love” first, you may not in fact end up “loving” them when the limerence fades. The Creator did a number on us. 🙂
The bond between gay men and straight women is a beautiful thing. I adore the gay men in my life. I’m grateful for their friendship and companionship.
Limerent Emeritus says
As LO #2 put it to me, “A man’s best friend is a dog. A woman’s best friend is a gay man.”
“The bond between gay men and straight women”
When I was in my 20s, my best friend was a gay man. He was a lot more fun to hang out with than the straight guys I was dating. 🙂
Marcia, its usually the case. I am fortunate to still have a gay bff. I was able to confide in him about the kid. But now I’m just lying and telling him we are not in contact.
Allie 1 says
Yes yes yes! Ditto to all the above. I so miss having a gay male bff!
I wonder why this is? Maybe because we are non-competitors with zero sexual potential?
“Maybe because we are non-competitors with zero sexual potential?”
Noooooo! 🙂 They aren’t trying to get in your pants, so they aren’t kissing your butt. Nobody will call you on your crap better than someone who is not invested in your undercarriage. 🙂
Limerent Emeritus says
Clip of the Day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWSx0bBiNIs – “A Few Good Men (1992)
Something tells me Jack Nicholson never kissed a woman’s butt in his life.
Allie 1 says
“Nobody will call you on your crap better than someone who is not invested in your undercarriage.”
So true! I likewise much prefer the company of people who can call me out on my crap, and take the same from me without making it personal.
I propose an exception to both of the above statements: a spouse!
Limerent Emeritus says
LO #2 said I was her best friend right up until the end. I told her that I’d stopped being her best friend when I stopped being her boyfriend. I didn’t like the demotion.
One of the things she said right before I got her to admit that I was Plan B was, “You didn’t always tell me what I wanted to hear but you always told me what I needed to hear.” But, the nicest thing she ever said to me was, “You taught me how to stand up for myself. I’m grateful to you for that.”
That’s another odd thing about that relationship. Even if I was Plan B, I never felt unappreciated by LO #2. Even though we couldn’t seal the deal, LO #2 was well aware of what she had and what she was walking away from.
I taught my wife to stand up for herself, too. But, my wife was a lot younger and wasn’t anywhere near the people-pleasing pushover that LO #2 was.
“I propose an exception to both of the above statements: a spouse!”
I’ve never dated anyone who I didn’t think was holding a bit back and vice versa. Writer Truman Capote said something interesting in an interview about the difference between romance and friendship. I’m paraphrasing, but in friendship you can reveal all of yourself. In romance, it becomes more difficult. Your friend might know about the hottest sex of your life, but you wouldn’t tell your partner about it unless it was with them. I had a friend who was married to her third husband. He thought he was her second husband. She’d been married for less than a year when she was 18. The marriage was annulled, but she didn’t want him to know about it. I don’t know why.
Allie 1 says
You like a sexy, beautiful, maternal Madonna? Hmmm… 3/4 ain’t bad… I am your near perfect woman in that case 🙂
Limerent Emeritus says
Which one’s missing?
You beat Meatloaf. He only got 2 out of 3 and that ain’t bad…
Allie 1 says
Ha ha! I don’t think anyone would ever describe me as a Madonna/Virgin Mary type.
Limerent Emeritus says
” I don’t think anyone would ever describe me as a Madonna/Virgin Mary type.”
Sammy will just have to project that one. As a limerent, that shouldn’t be a great leap.
“Most immediately, eros will spike, but limerence will also ramp up desire and attraction, singling out LO as an object for philia – emotional as well as sexual connection.
In fact, true philia or storge (and even pragma) takes time and experience to build to being meaningful, but limerence seems to intensify the promise of those forms of love. In the grip of limerence, the LO seems a source of emotional succour and thrillingly interesting and attractive. Someone you want to spend time with and bond with, someone who seems to offer the promise of lasting philia, coupled to eros.”
Such great analysis. Another example of why this blog is so great.
I think I’ve traditionally had trouble telling the difference between Eros and Philia. But I didn’t realise limerence can ramp up the Philia drive too. I think I’m more trapped by the promise of friendship than by the promise of sex. Then I start to feel really guilty as true friendship isn’t meant to have a background sexual component, no matter how subtle that background sexual component is. Nor is true friendship meant to make people painfully shy/self-conscious.
I wonder if limerents are people who have trouble separating Eros out from Philia or Philia out from Eros, and yet limerence seems to increase the desire for (and expression of) both these forms of love?
I have come to the horrifying conclusion that my LO was actually … a terrible friend. I actually don’t like him very much at all.
“As a final note, though, I can’t not comment on the killer combo of a LO with ludus and a limerent with an eros/philia blend.”
Hm, yes. This resonates with me strongly. I ‘m drawn to the playful types and somehow end up in some weird no man’s land that’s neither Eros nor Philia, but mimics both feeling states. I guess we could define that as limerence. 😛