A good discussion broke out in the comments a few weeks ago about obligation. Scharnhorst argued that obligation is one of the most powerful forces that directs our behaviour – more so than fear, guilt or shame. Having ruminated on the implications for a while now, I’ve found it’s one of those ideas that rewards reflection. The more you let it percolate, the more insight it yields. The more you worry at it, the more layers peel away.
Even the concept of obligation has multiple meanings. It can be a worthy responsibility, willingly accepted. It can be a burden, regretted later but hard to set down. It can be a promise, or a duty, or a commitment of some sort (financial, emotional, social, moral).
Obligations can be self-imposed, or grudgingly accepted. They can strengthen your connection to others, or isolate you from the wider community.
Obligations can tie you in a right old tangled psychological knot, basically.
When it comes to limerence, and the central theme of this site, the most obvious kind of obligation is for partnered limerents to remain faithful and resist the temptations of a new limerent object. But there are more subtle issues too.
Many limerents who contact me find themselves caught in an awful emotional trap – having overshared with their LO to the extent that they now feel obligated to both their partner and their LO. This is commonest for Rescuer limerents who realise too late that they have bonded with LO carelessly, and now feel sick with guilt at the prospect of cutting them off – even if they understand intellectually that their duty to their partner takes precedence.
Obligations can sometimes conflict, presenting yet another level of complexity and knottiness. It’s quite a puzzle to pick apart what the impact of obligations will be on limerence, and how they would shape the experience of individual limerents.
Let’s figure it all out by making a list!
1) Obligation as a driver of limerence
If existing obligations are a barrier to the pursuit of a limerent object, then they can feed the limerence fire. Barriers can make the limerent object seem more desirable, and existing responsibilities seem like unbearable burdens. Obligation can also increase uncertainty – one of the major driving forces for limerence.
This scenario is most common when the limerent was already discontented with their day to day lives. When LO seems to offer the promise of escape from an unhappy life, obligation is yet another demerit for the status quo. You’re not happy, but you’re also not free to find out how LO feels without compromising yourself, and so you obsess and ruminate and wonder and hope and then end up ashamed and less certain than ever.
That kind of limerence reinforcement could be seen as selfish indulgence, but sometimes it could be a spur to take difficult action that is necessary. If you feel burdened by obligation – say to demanding friends, or selfish family, or a job that drains your energy and enthusiasm – then the limerence could be the push you need to make your life more purposeful.
2) Obligation as a brake on limerence
The flip side of that first scenario is limerents who were actually happy with their lives. For them, limerence came as an unexpected and unwelcome surprise. It caught them out.
For limerents in this situation, existing obligations can be blessing. If you are happy with the commitments you’ve made, and taken on the obligations willingly, they actually provide protection against worsening limerence. The resolve to meet your obligations acts as a brake on the progress of limerence, and encourages you to withdraw from LO. Obligation can act as a moral and psychological compass, and helps you recommit to your responsibilities, and work to maintain your integrity.
Managed well, this can lead to another unexpected benefit of obligation…
3) Obligation as a short-cut to action
When you’re conflicted, feeling emotionally torn or uncertain about what you really want, you can use obligation to simplify decision-making. Think of it as a kind of casting vote.
If you are hesitant about how to act, you just do the thing that helps you meet your most important obligation. If you are married, that means commitment to the marriage. If you have children, that mean protecting their security and their best interests. If you are the boss of your limerent object, you commit to professionalism and set appropriate boundaries.
Obligation can be exploited as a mental short-cut. You solve the tangled problem of limerence the same way Alexander the Great solved the problem of the Gordian knot.
4) Obligation as a tool to steer behaviour
Finally, obligation can also be viewed as a tool. If you want to steer your life away from LO – for everyone’s best interests – you can deliberately take on an obligation that protects you against backsliding. Make yourself accountable for your behaviour.
If you are married, disclose to your spouse and commit to keeping away from LO. Or, recruit a friend, hand them a cheque made out to the political party you disagree with most, and ask them to mail it if you make contact with LO again.
Obligations come with accountability built in, because people will notice if you don’t fulfil your obligations. That can be a useful psychological push to keep you from giving in to the temptations of limerence. Sometimes an external force can be valuable for bolstering your resolve.
Ultimately, obligations will intersect with limerence in multiple complex ways. The dominant outcome is likely to depend on how you felt about your life before the limerence started. Obligation could be a net benefit or a net hindrance to recovery, just as obligation can add to or take away from your purpose in life.
How you process the conflict, how you prioritise your actions, and how you use obligation will determine the results you get.
This came at just the right time for me. I can see this playing out in my own life in two ways. First, over the past couple of years I’ve been in a home situation over which I had no choice – taking in an aging mother-in-law with erratic behaviors due to slowly-increasing dementia, piled on top of all the work at home and in my job. On top of that, my support has been erratic from a spouse who is, at times, borderline emotionally abusive. As my therapist has said, I was already vulnerable when I found a way to meet my own needs – and exercise control over something – in LO. So home life remains a struggle because it feels like an obligation, even though I realize intellectually that’s not completely true. I have two wonderful kids whom I love dearly. They are a welcome obligation and a good reminder of what I could lose if I push too much. But I also function on a daily basis on obligation. As I phrased it to my therapist, there are things you just do, regardless of your emotions. The therapist argued one can only go so long acting against one’s feelings, but I think plenty of people have done it throughout history and lived at least reasonable lives.
So I guess that means obligation is working at cross-purposes in my life. I’m glad that now I’m working through all these things with outside help – I think that will help me establish a more purposeful existence – but I’m also realizing my situation was far more complicated than I even realized. No wonder I don’t want to let LO go. Anyway, thanks for blogging through all the nuances of this. It’s a real help.
Yes, cross-cutting obligations is yet another complexity, RCA. I suppose that’s the reality for most of us: some obligations are welcome (kids) but others are more equivocal (borderline spouse). It’s balancing everything that’s the skill…
It does sound like you have a good rapport with your therapist, though, so that’s cause for optimism. Good luck navigating your way through.
Thank you for the encouragement! I’m recently new to therapy after being forced to admit to myself that I couldn’t just work through it on my own. My friends that I’ve asked for help seem to assume that, if I don’t discuss it, I must be fine now, when all that means is I’m afraid to bring it up because they won’t understand why/how I still struggle with it at this point. But the counselor’s job is to harass me. Given that the only other person in my life who asks me regularly how I’m doing (aside from my kids – clearly a bad idea) is LO, this course of action seemed to be the best if I don’t want to disclose and really blow things up….
Another thing about obligation is that between Fear, Obligation, Guilt, and Shame, it the only one externally focused.
You’re afraid OF something.
You’re guilty OF something.
You’re ashamed OF something.
You’re obligated TO someone or some thing.
Of all the components, it’s the only one that can directly cause or contribute to resentment. If you perceive your SO as an obstacle to your perceived pursuit of happiness, that resentment can cause you to vilify your SO so you can justify your behavior. Get some woman pregnant and you can be financially obligated for the next two decades. You resent her and the kid for incurring that obligation on you.
You don’t have to fulfill your obligations, you just have to be willing to accept the consequences if you don’t.
Lawyers make fortunes off contract law.
Song of the Day (redux): “Amore Scusami (My Love, Forgive Me)” – Jerry Vale (1967)
“Amore baciami, arrivederci amore baciami,
E se mi penserai ricordati che amo te.”
This one’s over the top but I still really like it.
“Carelessly?!” It was unintentional but it wasn’t “careless.”
Obligation is an interesting concept. However, I can see it shaping the behaviour of LOs more than the behaviour of limerents. E.g. a kind-hearted LO might be reluctant to kick a troubled limerent out of their life due to professional obligations (we work together) or social obligations (our families know each other) or loyalty (he/she was a great friend to me before limerence happened).
Of course, one shouldn’t go around “kicking people out of one’s life” – that’s fairly obnoxious behaviour. Still, if you’re an LO for someone who’s experiencing grave distress because of limerence, then voluntarily (and graciously) removing yourself from that person’s sphere might be an immense act of kindness. Obligation makes it more difficult to recognise and perform this act of kindness.
My main LO did try to repair our friendship, get things back on track, etc. Except it didn’t work. Limerence is like a storm – at some point, darkness takes over. Rain starts pelting down and you just have to wait for it to finish. You can’t wish the rain away. You have to let the storm run its course. It’s better I think if non-reciprocating LOs are not around while such storms are in progress.
So, yes, in a nutshell, obligation can prevent a well-intentioned LO walking away when that’s really the best course of action for everyone involved.
Sammy I really agree with this:
“Still, if you’re an LO for someone who’s experiencing grave distress because of limerence, then voluntarily (and graciously) removing yourself from that person’s sphere might be an immense act of kindness.”
It would indeed be an immense act of kindness! How many limerents would be saved from prolonged agony if their LO’s would clearly state there was no romantic hope and then leave them alone? The limerent would be crushed for a while and maybe reach out and try to reactivate the ‘friendship’, but the LO is in the position to save the poor limerent from themselves and should do so.
It’s the honorable thing to do.
“LO’s would clearly state there was no romantic hope and then leave them alone? The limerent would be crushed for a while and maybe reach out and try to reactivate the ‘friendship’, but the LO is in the position to save the poor limerent from themselves and should do so.”
I have never in my life had an LO leave me alone when it was clear I was struggling with getting over them. Whether the LO was married and was just loving my attention or single and totally down to hook up if I was (and very well knowing I wanted more). You have to put up your own boundaries with the LO.
“You have to put up your own boundaries with the LO.”
Marcia, this is excellent advice. I completely agree with you and it’s pretty much the only thing that works in the long run. However, because of the emotional “bond” apparently forged with LOs, I think many limerents want to believe LO has their best interests at heart. Sadly, this often isn’t the case!
Yup I completely agree you Marcia.
I am responsible for me, LO is responsible for LO. The reality of life is that 99% people have there own best interests at heart. And there is nothing whatsoever wrong with that.
I don’t expect an LO to understand my LE craziness, or the harm they may inadvertently cause me by being nice, and I certainly don’t consider them responsible for solving it for me…I really wouldn’t want them to take the decision to choose to end my LE away from me.
“The reality of life is that 99% people have there own best interests at heart. ”
Yes, I agree. Most people are inherently selfish and it is a waste of time to expect them not to be.
“And there is nothing whatsoever wrong with that.”
I don’t agree with that. My last LO relentlessly flirted with me. It gave him a charge. He liked the attention. He asked me to go places with him but had NO intention of ever following through. Was it my responsibility to avoid and ignore him? Of course. But it would have been nice if he had a shred of decency and didn’t lead me on forever.
“However, because of the emotional “bond” apparently forged with LOs, I think many limerents want to believe LO has their best interests at heart. ”
The LO has his/her own interest at heart, and often (at least for me) this emotional “bond” I thought was there was really the hormones talking! 🙂
@Marcia and Allie. I find I agree with some of the things said and disagree with some of the things said.
Perhaps I’m hopelessly unrealistic, but I always thought relationships should be an exercise in consensus-building. And if an LO has taken things to the level of physical intimacy, they have an obligation to take the other person’s needs and feelings and desires into consideration. I.e. if partner A doesn’t care about partner B’s feelings, then partner A can’t be much of a lover. Who doesn’t want to understand the mind of their sexual partner?
I don’t put my own interests first in dealing with people, probably because of the way I was raised. I try to put the good of the collective first. It shocks me a little bit that people can be unashamedly selfish and still consider themselves good people. I know individualism (narcissism?) is on the rise in Western culture, but it sits very uncomfortably with me.
Having said that, I recognise my views could be seen as old-fashioned and paternalistic, and I might even be tempted to make unilateral decisions on behalf of other people “for their own good” without consulting them e.g. automatically rejecting a limerent partner without asking them what they want or trying to negotiate some compromise agreeable to both/all parties.
Allie, I feel what you say is both valuable and intriguing – how you don’t want your LO to take that decision (of ending an LE) away from you. I guess it’s respectful to assume people still have agency, even if they’re experiencing lovesickness, and to ask them for input: “How would you like things to play out from here, etc?”
Life is about being a responsible adult. But it’s also about joy and pleasure and play and fantasy. If I had a limerent friend and we were both single and they wanted to linger a little longer in the beautiful garden of limerence, I’d like to think I’d be understanding enough to give them that option, thanks to what you’ve written, Allie. Who am I to deprive another of happiness?
A middle-of-the-road, consensus-building approach to the problem of limerence sounds good to me. Everyone who has a stake in the limerent pie (including non-limerent SOs) should ideally be given a say. I can’t force anyone to love me, and vice versa. But the idea of acting out of pure self-interest is anathema to me. There must be a better way.
I think both limerents and LOs incur obligations to each other as two human beings acting in good faith (except in cases where limerence has been nothing but a one-sided fantasy). In fantasy cases, the LO can truly be said to owe the limerent nothing.
Sorry for writing whole essays, but this thread has sparked all sorts of interesting ideas in my head and I just had to write them out.
“And if an LO has taken things to the level of physical intimacy, they have an obligation to take the other person’s needs and feelings and desires into consideration.”
I don’t think people always feel that way, especially if the situation is casual. I think there is such a thing as sexual responsibility — the abiding principle not to use people — but that’s my own philosophy.
“if partner A doesn’t care about partner B’s feelings, then partner A can’t be much of a lover.”
Not necessarily. Partner A might not be a good partner/boyfriend/girlfriend, but if partner A is partner B’s LO, and partner B is really attracted to partner A and the sexual compatibility is strong, (and also adding in the dopamine high from the LE that partner B is feeling) … the sex can be very hot.
Being selfish is not the same thing as causing harm to others. You can both put yourself first AND be compassionate and caring to others. It is not being selfish that is undesirable, it is being cold and uncaring.
My favourite analogy is the depressurised aircraft – you always put your own oxygen mask on first before you help someone else with theirs.
@Marcia and Allie. Thanks for further elaborating your remarks. You both make really good points. I understand the good sex partner/good relationship partner distinction (just a little too well!) and also the oxygen mask analogy.
Still, I think I might sit on the “honourable behaviour” bus with our dear friend Jaideux, as it appeals to my own quirks. I can see that one can be selfish, though, and not automatically cause harm to others. I can see how my LOs were at once selfish and good people. Maybe “chivalry” for me was part of the whole limerent fantasy?
The dopamine high from limerence is so intense I think communication goes out the window. Sometimes I wish that limerents and non-limerents, if they are involved in some way, could just talk about the situation and kind of meet halfway. I don’t know if that is possible. Limerence can be difficult to explain.
@Marcia. Maybe it’s the hormones talking. But maybe it’s a perfectly reasonable desire for sincere love from a man who takes you seriously as well as delivering all the other goodies? Haha! 🙂
“Maybe it’s the hormones talking. But maybe it’s a perfectly reasonable desire for sincere love from a man who takes you seriously as well as delivering all the other goodies? Haha! 🙂”
I’m paraphrasing Esther Perel here (she’s a therapist and writer) … lust and love are two different things. They can run parallel to each other but they don’t necessarily intersect. I’d put limerence more in the lust category (a very powerful lust with a strong emotional component). It can grow into love, but I don’t think you can love someone while you are limerent because you can’t see them clearly, and love is about knowledge and intimacy. Lust is about distance, about wanting to get at something. Throw in the limerent’s uncertainty, and you have a powder keg. 🙂
@Sammy This is a good debate on a subject close to my heart but I don’t feel I have expressed what I am getting at properly yet so will plough on, just in case anyone is listening 🙂
I understand and really appreciate your desire for a world where honourable behaviour is the norm, and everyone is altruistic…I really do. I wish it was that way too. But answer me this….Is it honourable to place unrealistic (and I would argue potentially mentally unhealthy) behavioural expectations on other people and then judge them as lacking or weak when they don’t live up to them? I am not saying you do this, just that this type of “selfish=bad, selfless=good” thinking often leads to judgemental behaviour in many people out there. You see I believe that having a high level of compassion for yourself, and allowing self interest to be important, is essential for good mental health. Add to that a faith that all people are mostly good and capable given the right environment. I also believe that people with high levels of self-compassion and self-acceptance are more tolerant and better at being deeply, non-judgementally empathic to others, even when others have not behaved ideally. So to me, it is having tolerance and compassion for yourself and others, not honour, that leads to a more peaceful world.
I guess I dream of a world where people feel a deep compassion for everyone, no matter what bad deeds they may have done…including for themselves.
I must also add (as I have received this argument a few times before) having compassion for someone who has done a bad thing is not the same as approving of what they have done or enabling them. You can be compassionate and set boundaries at the same time.
@Marcia. I think you’re spot on about the lust thing. Honestly, it’s taken me a long time to wrap my head around that aspect of limerence because, you know, you’re not supposed to feel lust for a friend, let alone a same-sex friend, etc. That’s just weird and creepy, right? However, I’ve learnt that if I’m not honest with myself about my feelings, then I have no chance of resolving said feelings.
I guess thinking LO’s sweat smells amazing definitely counts as lust. Hahaha! But there seemed to be so much else going on as well – all the intense emotions, etc, the dream of being loved on some rarefied spiritual level. Is lust an emotion? Maybe lust can be an emotion. I hadn’t thought of that. Because so much of limerence takes place in our heads, the link with lust doesn’t always seem obvious.
Plus the paralysing shyness – that can make physical intimacy seem completely out of the question. Limerence feels exalted and “above sex” somehow. But to dream about someone constantly – oh, yes, indeed, how can that not be an (often troubling) form of lust?
@Allie. I would say that it isn’t honourable (or conducive to good relationships in general) to “place unrealistic behavioural expectations on other people and then judge them as lacking or weak when they don’t live up to them”.
But gosh, judging other people can be so much fun! (Which is why us humans probably do it so much!) 🙂
Honour is obviously nice. Altruism is nice. But I can only adopt certain values for myself. I can’t impose them on or require them of other people. Also, selflessness can also be misguided at times. I.e. an overprotective parent who refuses to let a child grow up. If you beat limerence on your own, too, instead of relying on LO’s “divine intervention”, you’re probably going to value that triumph a lot more than if it was handed to you. You’ve gained self-mastery.
Compassionate relating sounds like a great strategy for getting through life. I can see how empathy and compassion are more helpful as guides to human behaviour than strict rules. Hopefully, as we mature, we all drift toward this approach. (Though one again I may be imposing my ideals upon others! Hahaha!)
I can see, in hindsight, how selfish and insensitive limerent behaviour and/or assumptions can be. (Particularly if only one person is getting high!) Still, while experiencing the worst parts of limerence, I was completely overcome with negative emotions. Never experienced anything like it – anger, rage, jealousy, envy, self-pity, self-loathing, dread. And, of course, when you can’t get relief from pain, the desire to judge the apparent cause is strong!
Limerent-non-limerent attractions have an in-built asymmetry (the non-limerent LO is a lot more “emotionally free” than the limerent. Hence the LO can kind of take or leave the relationship. This “liberty” I think is devastating and heart-breaking to the person experiencing “compulsory longing”. But, as Pawel points out, LOs may be entirely unaware of the obsession they’ve inspired. (And others may feel baffled or frightened by their friend’s mental state).
Self-compassion sounds great! I’m working on that one! 🙂
@Allie. I admire your willingness to take responsibility for your limerence. I feel that your approach is a healthy one. You seek to domesticate the dragon rather than slay the dragon, which is a valid approach – and one that Tennov suggested in her research. (Limerence can in theory do a lot less harm to us if we tame it).
I feel what you’re saying is: if we make friends with the complicated humanity lurking within us, then we don’t have to rush to label ourselves, other people and situations as either good or bad. You’ve developed your own moral code based on compassion & empathy, which also doesn’t exclude a modicum of self-interest at times.
I think your approach is maybe more suited to cases of mutual limerence than unrequited limerence? In unrequited limerence, generally the obsession has ceased to yield any pleasure and it’s just never-ending torment. People in this situation just want the madness to end. Getting rid of the pain is pretty much the only goal because the pain makes it impossible to focus on anything else.
I think maybe there is something tragic about limerence when it reaches this point. But the fault doesn’t lie with LOs, strictly speaking. The fault lies within human biology itself. In Mother Nature’s eyes, pair-bonding is apparently a more important goal than happiness – at least for some people. It’s a no-win situation.
Unhappy people are probably going to do a good job of making the people around them unhappy as an inevitable outcome of their own unhappiness. (Humans being are social creatures). I think as a species, we all have a vested interest in helping unhappy limerents (so their suffering doesn’t diminish our own peace of mind). There you go – helping unhappy limerents is a form of self-interest!
(Maybe my “honourable behaviour” is just self-interest dressed up in disguise?) Other people’s happiness affects our own. 🙂
@Sammy Thank you for your (as always) well considered and thoughtful response. I love the dragon analogy! I think what I really want is the tame the dragon and then ride it 😉
Good point about the unreciprocated limerence…that does have a different edge to it. I must admit that my LEs have never caused me long-lived pain, whether reciprocated or not, but I have teetered on the brink of that so do understand the feeling.
Wishing you well.
“Honestly, it’s taken me a long time to wrap my head around that aspect of limerence because, you know, you’re not supposed to feel lust for a friend, let alone a same-sex friend, etc. That’s just weird and creepy, right?”
No. You want who you want. The other person might not feel the same way or might be with someone else, but that doesn’t stop you from having your feelings. We can’t always act on all our feelings, but we still have them.
“Because so much of limerence takes place in our heads, the link with lust doesn’t always seem obvious.”
I don’t know how lust couldn’t be a part of it. Aren’t you dying to get your LO in a room and go to town? 🙂 I agree that there is a lot more to limerence than lust — the longing for reciprocation, the idealization of the person– but lust is a huge component of it. And if you ever do have sex with an LO, it will have an intensity that is much different than with a regular crush or person of interest.
@Marcia. “I don’t know how lust couldn’t be a part of it. Aren’t you dying to get your LO in a room and go to town … And if you ever do have sex with an LO, it will have an intensity that is much different than with a regular crush or person of interest.”
I get what you’re saying. But what actually happened with my biggest LO/LE was a little different. I think I liked the idea of potentially having sex with this person, but didn’t actually want to have sex. (Did I just want LO to give me that option so then I could refuse it? Did I want power over my LO? Goodness, this is getting deep! That’s the other dark side of limerence – the mind games).
It was other emotionally-laden things that sent me into flights of ecstasy. E.g. receiving a nice gift, receiving handwritten letters, an embrace that blurred the lines between friendship and romance, and other friends sort of seeing us as an “old married couple”.
I think there’s this mysterious grey area between friendship and romance, and that’s a very fertile breeding-ground for limerent feelings. I think I wanted LO to desire me. I wanted to be desired. Desire might have been enough. And limerence would have faded instantly once desire had been indicated (and firmly rejected).
When LO got a girlfriend/wife/sexual partner, I wasn’t jealous. I didn’t see her as a threat. I know that sounds ludicrous (and is probably very insulting to the poor woman). But, if it’s any consolation, she didn’t see me as a threat either – she just thought I was her partner’s eccentric friend who should probably move on now that he (LO) is married and has real responsibilities.
In other words, LO was ready to move onto the next phase of his life whereas I wanted to cling to the adolescent friendship indefinitely.
“It was other emotionally-laden things that sent me into flights of ecstasy. E.g. receiving a nice gift, receiving handwritten letters, an embrace that blurred the lines between friendship and romance, and other friends sort of seeing us as an “old married couple”.”
I’ve had friendships like that. They were very intense and very emotionally fulfilling, but they were platonic and I had no sexual interest.
“I think there’s this mysterious grey area between friendship and romance, and that’s a very fertile breeding-ground for limerent feelings. ”
Hmm … not for me. Friendship is separate from the LO. The LO’s job is to bring the sexy. 🙂 Unfortunately, with the one LO I had who became a boyfriend, once the LE wore off, we ended up as friends (as not as close as the platonic friends I mentioned) who were having lukewarm sex.
“When LO got a girlfriend/wife/sexual partner, I wasn’t jealous. I didn’t see her as a threat. ”
Every time one of my super close platonic friends got an SO, the friendship was over. Sometimes slowly, sometimes almost overnight.
“In other words, LO was ready to move onto the next phase of his life whereas I wanted to cling to the adolescent friendship indefinitely.”
Cling on, my friend, cling on. Adulthood is boring.
The honorable thing for a limerent to do is to take responsibility for themselves and walk away from the LO. You do not need to be rescued by others. This is like stating because you have diabetes, no one else is permitted to eat a piece of cake. Or because you have bipolar disorder, everyone has to tiptoe around you and not set you off.
I agree with your first two sentences, Pawel, but not your second two.
I think a better analogy for the honourable behaviour of an LO, would be to say it’s honourable to not keep offering a diabetic cake. Sure, the limerent needs to take responsibility for their behaviour, but we all know people who enable alcoholics and diabetics by offering them “treats”.
To extend your analagy…..some people are compulsive feeders, maybe due to some kind of childhood food related trauma. So they can’t help but offer people cake all the time. To them, it is necessary.
I guess what I am saying is that we all have our own individual s**t to deal with. Some LOs inadvertently enable the limerent because of there own compulsive or subconscious needs. It is not necessarily a deliberate decision to behave that way. Our crazy limerent behaviour may in turn be enabling LO behaviour too.
But if limerents don’t tell their LO what the problem is and that they wish to avoid them it isn’t incumbent upon the LO to read their minds, study their issue and make it their problem to solve.
If someone consistently offers everyone cake, or there is cake at the party, an adult diabetic says, “No thanks!” and doesn’t presume that their medical issue must be at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
Right. And you are regularly advised to stop associating with people who do this because they are enablers and not in your best interest. You are to avoid them; they are not obligated to change their life to accommodate yours.
“While going through rehab and developing strategies for recovery, a person may realize that they have few if any friends who supply positive support. If this is the case, the addiction counselor will probably recommend that the alcoholic in recovery intentionally seek out new supportive relationships. This can be a challenging process, but its rewards are substantial.
Your mental problem. You deal with it. If that means dropping family, friends or avoiding co-workers, so be it.
@Pawel. I see what you’re driving at. You are capturing something that no doubt goes through the mind of many a non-limerent LO. One of my LOs complained he “didn’t owe anything” to any of the various people he’d slept with. Then he wondered why his partners sooner or later dropped him in disgust.
The problem with this view is that, while it is technically correct, it is selfish and ignores the fact we live in a society. Society has a vested interest in successful marriages, for example, even if the participants don’t personally value the institution. There’s an unwritten rule: “Don’t pursue people who are already attached.”
This “disclaiming of all responsibility for other people’s morality” in the realm of Eros is a libertarian view. I understand it. It’s legitimate up to a point. (Shouldn’t adults be allowed to make up their own minds regarding romance?) But if everyone adopted the view, we’d cease to have families and communities altogether.
Really, you’re highlighting the conflict that exists between individual rights and collective duties, the individual verses the group. How does one balance competing needs? Where does one draw the line? I don’t think an addict is going to exercise their individual rights very responsibly and yet they’re full grown-ups.
Your views, while a bit harsh as DR. L suggests, do express the more cynical opinions held by at least one of my LOs. Still, I don’t think a true friend would want to be an enabler. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t think about the moral implications of their actions. They’re probably “unwitting enablers” more than conscious villains.
But both you and Marcia are absolutely correct: at some point, limerents have to learn to set boundaries with their LOs.
I notice you skipped right over bipolar disorder.
As it is a mental condition and so is limerence, it is for the diagnosed person to deal with 100% of the time. Soliciting help is wise but burdening someone else with the responsibility to manage your issue for you?
No. No one here is a child who needs daddy or mommy to check their glucose levels multiple times a day and be in complete control of their diet.
I skipped over bipolar because it’s the least useful analogy. Pretty clear pathophysiological basis to that, and not much that anyone else can do to help or hinder.
You’re taking a very hard line stance on this Pawel – and that’s perfectly legitimate. But, I think Sammy and Jaideux were looking more from the perspective of how an LO who knows that the limerent is struggling with their feelings can make the experience easier.
Look at it this way: if you were an LO for someone, would you rather help them by withdrawing gracefully, or would you keep contacting them, asking to spend time with them, but then say “it’s up to you to handle your feelings – I’m not your parent”?
If I am a co-worker assigned to work a project with them I would do my job.
I don’t read minds to tell them their fantasies are just that and to back off.
If they tell me to please not contact them, I am fine with that.
But if a married woman comes on to me it is not my responsibility to shut her down. I will do it because I’m not a rat and if someone cheats with me they’ll cheat on me.
Thank you drL for your analysis.
I have an obligation towards my So, my kids, my parents, my community, my Los wife to not ruin peoples lives by getting as far as possible from my Lo. Yet we keep on getting closer because I cannot act to put an end to it. Hes the same i guess. 5 yrs and counting.
Ive just accepted to live with my LE , hide it from SO. Its morally wrong I didnt like that idea at the start but getting used to it. I would never have seen myself as a person that has a double life, have 2 partners etc but i cannot let go of LO, we give each other some emotional support , some distraction, some pleasure something and i do love him for that
I can see the obligation thing from various sides of the cube. As a limerent, or a “person addict”, I’m obligated to educate myself about my issue and make good choices based on that knowledge. Ideally, I should stay away from, say, attractive men with nice eyes who appear to like me and give off mixed signals. (Maybe I should just stay away from anyone I find attractive?) I certainly don’t have a right to dictate the social life of LOs or potential LOs, and nor would I want to try.
There are a few caveats, however.
(1) People with addiction issues may still be in denial about their addiction issues, so they’re not ready to seek help and their erratic behaviour may be wrecking havoc on other people’s lives. A good friend might want to step in and point out what’s going wrong (assuming they know).
(2) LOs might not want to admit there’s a problem. They might be offended if told: “Hey, I can’t hang out with you. You’re toxic for me. I’m addicted to you.” Limerence is still not a widely known concept.
(3) Some LOs exploit the situation for sex, money, etc. Exploiting someone who is vulnerable or has mental health issues is always wrong IMO.
I guess I come from a point of view that I “am my brother’s keeper” and I expect others to abide by the same code. I.e. human beings, by virtue of being human beings, are obligated to look out for each other and reduce suffering where they see it. I suppose I’m more conscientious that most people, which is why I always felt so guilty about limerence. Dorothy Tennov herself suggested that LOs have an ethical duty toward limerents since limerents aren’t really completely clear-headed when pursuing LOs.
It’s a really hard thing to wrap one’s head around, especially if one is a non-limerent. But the brains of limerents are being manipulated by Mother Nature, even if LOs are relatively blameless in their actions. My solution is to encourage the LO to put the needs of the limerent first (because it leads to a quicker resolution). My emotional empathy for the limerent party would motivate me to end all association with that person and thus bring their misery to an end. (This would probably only work in a friendship, not in the workplace, etc).
However, I only feel this way as I’ve suffered very bad limerence myself and seen a few friends suffer. Of course, walking away is rough on LOs too – they may lose valued company or struggle to get in a relationship at all, since they can’t will themselves into being limerents any more than limerents can do the reverse. Both “sides” seem to want something that the other side frustratingly can’t provide.
I believe people have a responsibility to alleviate suffering in others, especially if they are directly or indirectly contributing to said suffering. That’s probably the closest thing I have to a religious belief. But I’m the first to admit it’s SOOOO much easily said that done. I mean, who wants to have awkward conversations with a friend who was okay yesterday and acting weird today because they’ve suddenly, mysteriously, out of the blue become lovesick for yours truly?
A lot of LOs don’t know “what the problem is”, but I bet they feel uncomfortable at some point around their limerent friends unless they’re milking the situation. The cake analogy could be rewritten. It’s not that people should be banned from serving cake at parties. It’s that maybe it would be considerate to bring along a gluten-free cake or two for the guests who are gluten-intolerant? Hahaha!
But let me be the first to admit – the situation is very, very complex. I’m glad we’re talking about it and I welcome all alternative insights and points of view. If I was being pursued by a limerent who was appealing enough, I know I’d struggle to break it off too. But I’d still be acting selfishly – prolonging the suffering of my so-called friend.
Watch out for the “…owe you” comment or some variation of that. They’re trying to get you to obligate yourself to something you don’t have to.
When my ex-girlfriend, LO #2, started telling me about my successor, I asked her why she was telling me. She said, “I feel like I owe you an explanation.” She didn’t and I told her I didn’t want to hear it.
When she came back because my successor was allegedly cheating on her, told me she didn’t want to get back together and I should, “Find some sweet young thing that adores you and not waste your time with a crusty old broad like me,” I asked her why she called me and we were we there? She said, “You’re still my best friend and we owe it to each other.” I told her if anybody owed anybody anything, she owed me and she could start with an apology. I never did get an apology from her. I could only admire her chutzpah and the aplomb of her delivery.
Later she told me that when she was with him, she felt like she was cheating on me. She wasn’t and it didn’t make me feel any better. I have no idea why she’d say that.
@Scharn. I see what you’re saying. It sounds like this LO wanted (or thought she already had) an emotionally enmeshed relationship with you – which is fine, unless you never consented to such “enmeshment” in the first place! Some people are very sneaky about getting past personal boundaries, aren’t they?
And, sometimes, they’re not so sneaky about it.
Toward the end, LO #2 asked me if I was seeing someone. I had just started dating my wife. LO #2 flat out asked,
“What does she (wife) know about me?”
Later, “I want to meet her.” Even better, she got angry when I told her it wasn’t going to happen.
I told that story to the therapist. The therapist said that LO #2 had absolutely no respect for boundaries. The therapist said LO #2 was looking for ways to keep me in the game since sex was off the table. The therapist also said that LO #2 was Passive-Aggressive, manipulative, triangulating, and generally bad news.
Good for you Scharny for not introducing her and your wife. LO #2 was making a power play for sure.