One of the topics that comes up frequently in discussions about limerence recovery, is the issue of guilt.
Sometimes arguments about guilt focus on assigning blame, or what constitutes a moral transgression, or how and when to disclose shameful secrets – but these are all just different aspects of a larger problem: wishing you could undo actions you regret.
In the absence of a time machine, coping with regret and finding some route to atonement are the only ways to recover from the past. Unless we want to live in a world where redemption is impossible, we have to be able to make amends and move forwards, and really there is only one mechanism for doing that: forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a complex subject. It should be earned, but can also be withheld unreasonably. It can’t be demanded, but shouldn’t be given carelessly. Is it an internal or an external thing? Is it something you feel, or something you give? When has someone done enough to earn forgiveness? Are some sins unforgivable? Can you forgive conditionally?
As with any other moral quandary, opinions differ.
The philosopher and writer Hannah Arendt contributed much to our current conception of forgiveness, both in terms of her intellectual insight, and in being an unwitting case study of its complexity in action. Arendt argued that forgiveness is the only way that we can act freely in the world. Being imperfect beings, we will all inevitably make mistakes, hurt people unintentionally, be morally weak, ignorant, or stupid. Without the possibility of forgiveness, we would be paralysed; trapped by a suffocating fear of committing an error that resulted in permanent ostracism.
In practice, she experienced such ostracism first hand. As a German Jew who had escaped the Nazi regime and fled to the US, Arendt was keen to attend the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem, and reported on it in a series of essays for the New Yorker. She coined the term “the banality of evil” in her characterisation of Eichmann as an ordinary bureaucrat, motivated by unthinking obedience and personal ambition, rather than an exceptional monster driven by dark malice. Her perspective that atrocity can arise from mundane causes, her criticism of Jewish leaders who cooperated with Eichmann, and her distaste for the politicisation of the trial by the leaders of Israel, led to outraged condemnation. Her reputation was permanently damaged; some people never forgave her.
Most of us do not have to worry about such momentous events, but we do have to navigate our own personal disasters. So, how does forgiveness fit into limerence? Who deserves forgiveness, and under what circumstances should it be given? What can be done to atone for transgression?
Well, these are non-trivial questions. One way to break them down is to examine the roles of forgiveness for each of the parties involved. I’m working from my usual perspective: a limerent who regrets their behaviour towards LO.
Forgiveness by an SO
If limerents have crossed the red lines of their partners, then a reckoning is due. It can be very hard to negotiate what can be done to make amends, and that will of course depend on the depth of the betrayal. It needs to be an honest and respectful discussion between both parties. My view is that the discussion should err on the side of favouring the SO’s emotional needs, given that they have had this unwelcome and destabilising revelation thrust upon them.
There are a couple of guiding principles that help. First, the person seeking forgiveness should only expect it once their behaviour has meaningfully changed, and they are committed to being an honest and open partner. If you were really hoping that your SO will just kind of get over it and relax their vigilance so you can get back to a life of secrets, idle flirtations, and plausible deniability, then obviously you are hoping more for forgetfulness than forgiveness.
Second, forgiveness does not mean the relationship has to continue. You can be forgiven by someone who still decides that they no longer want to be with you. That’s an outcome you just have to live with, bluntly. You can make your case, and try your best to earn back the trust that you broke, but you may not succeed.
Forgiveness of yourself
Even if you have a partner who forgives you, it can sometimes be just as hard to forgive yourself. Some people torture themselves with regret. Given the central role of obsessive rumination to limerence, it’s plausible that limerents could be especially susceptible to this problem.
I’ve written before about how to objectively assess the severity of what you’ve done wrong, so I won’t repeat that, but the question remains: how can you forgive yourself and move on purposefully?
The answer is to accept that you cannot change the past, but you can change yourself in the present, and you can change how you conduct yourself in the future. If you keep behaving in the same way, you will get the same outcomes. If you continue to be secretive or withholding, you will remain vulnerable to falling back into limerence.
A facile way to respond would be to just say “everyone makes mistakes, nobody’s perfect, don’t be so hard on yourself,” and those platitudes may all be true, but they are more like wallpapering over cracks than actually sorting out the subsidence.
If you resolve instead to act with integrity, you will be able to actually believe at a fundamental level that you are worthy of redemption. You’re no longer a victim of fate, you are responsible for the direction of your future life. Making a meaningful, and purposeful, change in how you approach life is the best way to begin the personal transformation needed to forgive yourself at a deep level.
Forgiveness of LO
The final person involved is, of course, your limerent object. They could be completely oblivious to what is going on, or a supportive friend, or an active participant in cultivating your limerence. Whatever their background, and whatever their conduct, you are almost certainly going to have a complex emotional attitude to them that needs to be resolved.
I recently had an email from a limerent wrestling with this issue:
Has anyone else thought about the question of forgiveness – forgiving the limerent object for sending mixed signals, most likely unintentionally, and creating unbearable mental chaos in another’s life?
For them the central problem was (as ever) uncertainty:
This person disappeared from my life 15 years ago for reasons unknown, not necessarily to do with my limerence, though I was pretty annoying… Their disappearance (and my inability to trace them) meant NC and the eventual death of my limerence.
There are a couple of ways to respond to this. The first is that if the LO had been unintentionally sending mixed signals, then they can’t be held responsible for causing your limerence, and so they have nothing to be forgiven for. Another – and probably more constructive – way to look at this is that regardless of their intent, you’ve been left with years of emotional confusion and uncertainty that you need to resolve in some way to make progress to a better life.
This helps illustrate the internal aspect of forgiveness. Just as we can build up unrealistic fantasies and expectations about an idealised LO that lives in our head, we can also choose to forgive that imaginary version of LO who has been haunting us. From this perspective, the real person who became our LO is a bystander. It’s an internal process of forgiveness, and in many ways, it’s more a sort of an act of forgiveness of our own subconscious for getting so compulsively hung up on them.
Even in the most egregious example of a narcissistic LO who is actively encouraging the limerence, the decision to forgive can still be an internal one. You can accept that LO is free to act as they will, and that reflects on their character, but that you are not going to hold it against them anymore, and are instead going to move on with your life.
Ultimately, if you want to free yourself of limerence, you have to free yourself of the need to “work things out” with LO or force them to atone for their alleged wrongdoing. You need to leave them behind, and the best way to do that is to no longer link your feelings to their behaviour. You don’t need closure, acknowledgement of the pain you’ve been through, or revenge. You need to let go.
Forgiveness is a great way to emotionally detach.
If you live in a purposeful way, you will take responsibility for your own feelings and you will extend that same consideration to others: they must live with the consequences of their choices and you won’t hold it against them unreasonably. Everyone else in the world is in the same position as you: free to associate with who they will, but also responsible for how their behaviour affects those relationships.
The culmination of these arguments is that forgiveness can be a negotiation or it can be a unilateral decision. Forgiveness can be a way to restart a relationship on a new footing, or a way to end a relationship without rancour.
Forgiveness is liberating.
Song of the Day: “Heart of the Matter” – Don Henley (1989)
This version isn’t his album release but it gets the point across.
“There are people in your life who’ve come and gone
They let you down, you know they hurt your pride
You better put it all behind you, baby, cause life goes on
You keep carrying that anger, it’ll eat you up inside, baby”
One of the biggest benefits of therapy was legitimizing the anger and resentment I had toward my mother and LO #2. Once the therapist convinced me it was ok to be angry with them, I could work toward the forgiveness necessary to finally get to acceptance.
Thanks for this Dr. L,
I’m 10 days into NC, and today isn’t so bad (yesterday was the pits). I’ve mentioned my current LO here recently and suggested he’s a bit narcissistic, not full on NPD territory, but certainly craving attention.
I have good reason to think this. First of all he told me! He was very overweight as a teenager young man, and after working hard to lose wait and get fit for the first time in his life he got some serious action/flirting etc. It dawned on him that people could find him attractive, and of course that’s a great feeling. So then the social media, he’s very active on Instagram, and takes selfies for all manner of apps, (clothes optional depending on the app!).
So… when in my angriest parts of my LE I was fuming! What a narcissist! He’s only getting in touch because he wants reinforcement! He only wants contact because he knows I fancy him! Actually I was being unreasonable. Because he’d told me in so many ways, directly and in his behaviour that this WAS important to him.
Funnily Scharnhorst made the comment ‘people treat you the way you let them’ which is of course true. But I wonder if some limerents go further (myself included)and actually exacerbate behaviour in the LO. What I mean is, I overtly fetishised LE, whenever things were ‘on’ between us I fed his ego, and if I’m honest it was to keep him coming back. Our interactions were not authentic, I assumed what he wanted to hear, and could be relied upon to give him sex, plus a barrage of compliments.
Then was angered that he basically used me for that!
I think as well as forgiving the LO in our heads, forgiving the real people is sometimes important, and helpful. Because a young man, discovering being fancied after years of feeling unattractive was actually responding as many of us would. I honestly think he saw the whole situation as being a bit of a ‘player’, but it was me who progressively became more and more heartbroken. Because of what was in MY head, not really his actions.
So I don’t want to see him again. But I don’t blame him for being ‘horrible’ anymore because he wasn’t. I’m still upset that he’s not crumbled in my absence, but at the same time – that’s me. Not him. Objectively I hope to God he doesn’t text. In my heart, well… sometimes theres a bit of a stab. But today is a good day.
Yeah, I think it ties a lot with what was talked some weeks ago in regards to limerence and entitlement. Most LOs are really just normal human beings who act like normal human beings, which it means that they’re not perfect. I could get angry and vindictive atmy LO for apparently acting as if I stopped to exist but in the end, it wouldn’t accomplish nothing. It’s better to think “Hey LO, that thing you did was a bit callous of you but I admit that we didn’t have that much of a meningful connection, so it doesn’t matter that much” and move on.
“I’m still upset that he’s not crumbled in my absence”. Same here with my LO, a lot. But as you said, it’ all in our heads. Glad to see you having a good day.
I started NC by phoning my LO to sort of clear the air… it was only half as satisfying as I’d hoped (as Dr. L’s post on ‘the illusion of closure’ would have suggested. But I’m glad I did it, partly because of what I realised about myself.
I picked him up on being flakey and letting me down a lot (which he had), and managed to say that my feelings were too strong for such treatment (also known as ‘tell me you feel the same PLEASE PLEASE…’)… and he apologised and was a bit grumpy (again… he’s getting me grumbling so… fair.) But then there was a long silence and I said I didn’t want to talk for the foreseeable…
I was sat on the phone every muscle tightened like I fell I was going to snap and had I attempted to carry on talking I would have started shouting. I was so f*cking furious… I wanted to shout ‘HOW CAN YOU NOT SEE THAT I LOVE YOU? HOW CAN YOU TREAT ME LIKE THIS. WHEN YOU MUST KNOW? HOW CAN YOU BE SO HORRIBLE? SO AWFUL? BUT I LOVE YOU!!!’ I grimaced, I ended the call… and tried to compute what I’d just felt.
That was all me. I’m so relieved I didn’t go nuts on the phone. Years ago I did that with a couple of LOs. On one occasion being escorted from a venue by security. It’s not a great look!
Even a few days of NC has helped I think. Obviously a big part of LE can be oversharing and yep- I’m a big one for that (did you notice?). My LO was overweight from ~18-25yrs, he showed me pics, talked about the shame and that he had been celibate because ‘nobody wanted him’ (in his perception). He told me how he’d grasped at being sexual once the opportunity was there, and even how important validation online had become, which worried him. He never once implied that we were exclusive… and our social lives remained stubbornly separate. So yeah… just glad I didn’t scream down the phone at him ‘WHY ARE YOU NOT HELPLESSLY IN LOVE WITH ME YOU UTTER MONSTER?’
@Thomas. Sounds really painful, mate. But your post does highlight one awkward truth – just because we really really love someone, and are arguably good to that person, that doesn’t mean they have to love us back.
Love your post Thomas….it is so true that it always takes two to create a bad relational dynamic. Never easy to admit ones own share of the blame.
When I see people posting selfie after selfie, being utterly dependent upon social media “likes” and seeking attention purely for their outside appearances, I feel quite sad for them. To me, this sort of behaviour speaks of neediness and lack of inner self-worth. It will not lead them to find genuine happiness, only more self doubt and more need. When you love and accept your whole self, all that stuff becomes unimportant.
Saying that, it never hurts to be admired by someone nice 😉
Yeah, that’s another important point of self-awareness, Thomas. We often enable and encourage our LO’s behaviour to feed our own craving. And then we bounce the enabling behaviour back and forth and then finally get upset when it doesn’t work as well any more.
I like the song & this forgiveness post.
Was yet again in my head , thinking my LO will have to do somersault for me.. yes having a limerence moment.. oh dear. So keeping to the Acrobatic meataphor- Trapeze- swinging…letting go between bars. Real Forgiveness approach with intelligence could break me away to challenge my beliefs & limerence brain, drive us towards the next bar of truly letting go. Thanks.
I sometimes wonder if this desire to get our LOs to do somersaults comes from frustration that we’ve been frantically doing a whole elaborate floor routine to get their attention, and we want to see them make some effort for a change…
When, of course, we totally chose to get on the mat in the first place and can’t really complain that they don’t think they owe us anything.
One thing Dr. L said somewhere previously that stuck: resolve is about going in the right direction. I need to forgive myself for the past 2 months…and then find my resolve and move forward in the right direction.
Its also interesting RE-solve, as in to solve again. I am going to start doing things right again and hope for more consistent results. What choice is there?
I love the concept of forgiveness. It is a deep topic and I wish you had gone more into the Hannah Arendt story; fascinating.
I came close to asking forgiveness to SO last night, but backed off. It was the smart thing to do. It would just cause her pain and de-stabilize her, so I am not sure about forgiveness and SO, esp in the case of an unrequited love. Forgiving myself? I think I do that too easily. Forgiving LO? I can see this will be the tricky one. She has definitely been complicit. I think if she admitted this complicity, it would allow me to forgive. If she doesnt, I am sure I will in time. But the sting of this denial is so fresh and sharp, that forgiveness is sometime off in the future. She claims to be an ’empath’…yet this denial has put the burden of all my bad behavior on my shoulders, without acknowledging how much harder it was made by 2 people going along with the game. In the rear view mirror, if it ever comes, this will be a minor distinction, but now it is a sticking point. Like everything else, it just doesnt sit well.
Today, I miss her intensely and I just want to see her beautiful face and great smile.
Memories of her lay savage waste to another day.
Glad to hear you are having a good day, Thomas. You kinda deserve it.
I notice you prefixed the ‘deserve’ with ‘kinda’. I definitely deserve it! 😉
…. and you do too!
I honestly believe that in many (not every) cases we can’t blame our LOs for responding to our interest, our flirting etc. I mean, for example – I’m a funny, good natured sorta guy. Not statuesque but not grotesque either. So if I’m enthusiastically showing interest in somebody, what they do, what they think, how they’re feeling. That’s going to be quite a draw, not just to narcissists, but many other sorts of people… and then they’re drawn in.
I reached a point where I couldn’t honestly conceive that my LO didn’t get the situation. Hence to use your term – he was in my mind ‘complicit’. But I now can’t be sure. Of course he knew I fancied him, maybe even would have wanted to see him more etc. But did he know I was thinking about him so much that my university study was grinding to a halt? Or that he was the sole of object of my fantasies? Or that waiting 12 hours to respond to a text left ne in a state of utter angst?
A fully fledged LE, (…and Steve you’re going through a doozy right now)… most people just don’t get it… can conceive of it… and would probably label it as a form of madness. So unless the LO really gets it, they’re not complicit in what you’re experiencing… they’re complicit in they’re version which will be different and possibly a bit more (to use Hannah’s word) banal.
It’s your beast Steve. How’s NC going…?
Back at Day 1 NC after crashing and burning spectacularly last night. I feel rational for a moment and just want to re-cap:
-limerence emerged full-fledged in Dec without warning. Was intense, with some highs, but always dark current running through.
-got worse in January, unmanageable in February.
But the thing was, I was playing it by the book (as opposed to now). I was exercising religiously, trying to read, journaling, talking with trusted friends and keeping as busy as I could. It was text book and there was some progress. I even had quite a few NC periods then, but didnt really even know what NC was. Then I fell off the wagon a number of times and contacted LO in agitated limerent state. Then I stopped a lot of the stuff I was doing and Covid licked into high gear and I ruminated and drank for about a month (April-May). I dont remember being very sad at that time. I mean, of course I was, but in some way, I could function.
Lockdown ended and door was open to meeting up with LO and business had sudden uptick so I was feeling high and somewhat manic (June). That is when I doubled down on LO, gave up any pretence of distancing myself from her and threw myself into speculative fantasies on how I could make it ‘work’. From then til now has been a descent into hell and madness. June was the GREAT RELAPSE after many small relapses. As you know, I really have struggled in recent weeks to get back on track. I guess a part of me lost faith in the process. I accepted that it would be hard going, but I never expected such a u-turn right back into the insanity.
Limerence vitiated my front-line defences (hanging with daughter, sport, journaling etc) and left me feeling pretty hopeless. But now I know there is only 1 common denominator : proximity and contact with LO leads me back into unrelenting darkness, not even so much by what she does or says, but where my mind takes me. I know I have to slam on the brakes and turn around urgently because it is critical. Re-hab is looking like a more real option every day. At least they take away your phone and it is a quiet time for reflection.
…are you going to be working alongside this person in two months?
Because if you are then something is going to have to change…
…and you need some support, like on-the-scene in the flesh support, therapy (?), a trusted friend or family member or even your SO? (Though I gather that’s a no-go).
I’ve never experienced limerence for a co-worker. Thank goodness I just… I just can’t even. But something has to change, right? For you to be OK?
The question is what, and how…
Good post, Dr. I think it’s very easy for a limerent who is aware of their behavior to end up thinking being very hard on one’s self. And I’m not even talking on the obvious cases like when there’s a SO in the picture, but also on a general sense as we sometimes feel that our limerence is something really childish and immature and not worthy of being considered a real problem. Not to mention the whole addiction aspect of limerence, what with all those setbacks, relapses and broken promises to ourselves. So remembering to have some self-compassion while striving to become better is something really important to keep in mind.
Yes, I think there’s also a particular phase in early recovery when the need for self-compassion is especially important. When you’re first seeing the situation more clearly and looking back on what you’ve done, the sting of regret can be particularly strong. That can go two ways: acknowledgement and striving to improve, or despair and disgust at yourself.
The first leads to recovery, the second to a prolongation of the pain. But, the first only works if you are able to judge yourself fairly. And justice needs forgiveness, or it’s draconian.
Hi Thomas, yes about 1.5 months now til daily contact. Yeah something very fundamental and huge will have to change.lm not even fit for proper day job work in this condition. Seeing LO (same office none the less) on daily basis freaks me out big time. It actually terrorizes me. I dread it. Yes sthing needs to change in order for me to be ok. I would say lm at high risk for breakdown or possibly major scene if there is no improvement. I’m trying to come up with new game plan for next week. I need to calm down, breathe and yes, get some kind of defence in order.
When l said “kinda” l was just teasing…you absolutely deserve a good day! I look forward to hearing you deliver ing body blows to your LE. LO does not sound horrible – as with most LOs – but they just don’t bring anything good to us. It’s very specific to us and rarely says much about them.
My LO is my boss so have experienced that challenge. I find when we are focused on and talking about work we are comfortable with each other. I even find work conversations with him quite soothing and calming. As soon as the conversation turns away from work it all feels awkward for me despite my really wanting non-work chit chat. So Steve you need to try and focus on the job at hand and limit conversation to the professional as much as you can. Easier said than done of course! Good luck!
A really great article. I’ve read a lot of self-help books, but never delved quite this deeply into forgiveness before! Amazing!
I think, strictly speaking, only behaviour requires forgiveness. The problem is us limerents sometimes feel the greatest guilt about longings and feelings and fantasies never acted on, NOT about actual behaviour per se. For example, I was raised a Christian, and so during the height of my limerence was tortured with quasi-religious guilt about “this friendship that seems to matter more to me than a friendship should”. (Why does this friendship feel inappropriate even though no flirting or overt sexuality is involved?) Limerence was like some awful grey zone between friendship and romance. One couldn’t be sure of one’s own innocence.
I was worried my limerence was sinful somehow because the bond felt too intense. even for me, although my LO never said anything or otherwise indicated discomfort. I felt guilt because I judged myself (correctly I believe) for becoming excessively attached to somebody unavailable. I also felt guilt-ridden over LO’s lack of interest. (Did I do something wrong? Have I offended with some careless word or deed? ) I constantly vacillated between wanting to keep and wanting to end the friendship. Really, I wanted LO to say that she wanted me to stay, period. I wanted HER to make up my mind for me, and of course she never did.
It’s true naive LOs can’t be blamed for anything. But I still found it helpful to forgive mine on the grounds of insincere behaviour in general! I know she was just being nice. But niceness that ultimately results in a broken heart is not so nice for the recipient of said niceness! (Should humans perhaps be less nice to each other to prevent limerent episodes from occurring in the first place?)
The pain of limerence is absolutely real, while the real-world triggers for limerence are often flimsy e.g. a smile, a look, an attractive friend being sloppy with boundaries. I can understand why resentment builds up. Who wants to admit one’s emotional responses are rooted in nothing more than wishful thinking? It’s hard to concede the limerent connection is a glittering illusion…
Once again, Dr L, thanks for a great post!
Yes Sammy I can relate to all of the above. Are you ok now? Have you done anything to consciously combat limerence?
Hi Steve. Yes, I am doing a lot better now. Thanks for asking. And I’ve tried a lot of things to consciously combat limerence, from analysing my family background to forcing myself to mix with lots and lots of people. At least now when I experience “the glimmer” and that initial “rush of happiness” around someone, I know what’s going on – a chemical reaction.
In other words, when I feel euphoria now, I know that euphoria isn’t a sign that I’m meant to be with such-and-such a person. Euphoria is just euphoria. Both the happy feelings and the sad feelings will pass, like ocean waves. I’ve taught myself to not “read into things”. I can see clearly now LO#1 wasn’t limerent for me, and all her apparent niceness can be easily explained away in terms of run-of-the-mill friendship and good manners.
My LO#1 wasn’t a narcissist. She didn’t use me. I think she was a people pleaser and she needed approval from people. Maybe she felt validated by her friendship with me? However, that approval-seeking-and-getting wasn’t a sign of something deeper. We both had unresolved issues from childhood. Maybe our weird “bond” was the fact we both had overcritical mothers! We were both trauma survivors and didn’t really know it.
I didn’t see my LOs as soulmates. I saw them as kindred spirits.
We shared things in common on a really deep level.
LO #2 and I didn’t have to talk because we just KNEW. It was like there was this subconscious conduit between us.
I should add that my limerence, at its worst, meant I dropped out of uni because I couldn’t concentrate enough to study anymore. I couldn’t follow the words on the page of a book, and I was studying literature!
Shortly after that came the suicide attempt, the first of many. By that stage, I didn’t even want LO anymore. I just wanted to be free of the angst, the storm in my brain that wouldn’t quieten down. I wanted to be at peace. I survived suicide attempts and found alcohol was probably the only thing that could reliably “numb” my intense feelings. I did rely on alcohol and cigarettes and junk food to control my moods for quite some time. Limerence left me feeling out of control.
In hospital, doctors couldn’t find a diagnosis for what was wrong with me, so they just said I was having trouble adjusting to some major life changes and prescribed me antidepressants. Nobody mentioned limerence and since I was a virgin, no one believed that my unhappiness could be the result of relationship issues.
So, yes, I do know how dark the limerent night can get. I was 23 at lowest point. I’m 37 now and pretty much free from limerence. I was 17 when the limerent episode that defined my life started, the big one. Previous LEs (early teens) had been pleasant rather than painful. And subsequent LEs (20s/30s) were sometimes painful, but never on the same scale as the one during early adulthood.
Makes me think there’s a strong genetic component to limerence. In Mother Nature’s eyes, securing a mate is more important than self-preservation apparently. I wonder how many tragedies in art and life stem from limerence?
Sammy, I wonder if your limerence was self-medication for something greater that you couldn’t handle in your life at the time. When you stopped wanting the LO, you moved onto other forms of self-medicating (alcohol and cigarettes and junk food) to approach this greater issue.
I’ve had three LOs in my life. LO1 was just a silly crush at first that subsided… but after I had a major life-altering event that impacted my self-esteem, it bloomed into a full LE with this girl. LO2 was about the same thing – just kind of an admiration that became an LE after another life changing event.
When I look back on it, I understand now that my younger LEs were just another form of self-medicating. LO2 ended so embarrassingly that it cured me of LEs for 18 years – I became very self-aware about what I was feeling, and why. However in the absence of LEs, I was drinking a lot, like my self-medicating strategy shifted. When the drinking stopped, I turned to sex – just another shift in how I was self-medicating. It sounds like maybe you were experiencing the same thing I was, shifting forms of self-medicating for a bigger problem.
Thanks for your kind words, Matt. I agree that there was some bigger issue at stake – possibly undiagnosed autism. I went through school not being able to connect with my peers and not being able to understand why friendship was so hard for me and so seemingly easy for everyone else…
I probably fell for my LO because she was just someone who was casually nice to me at a point in my life when I felt lonely. I didn’t realise that she was nice to everybody, and there was no romantic subtext in her gifts, her party invites, and her compliments. She is actually the one who initiated the friendship. Maybe she saw I wasn’t fitting in and just felt sorry for me? Who knows?
My LO did end up getting married fairly young to someone else. In hindsight, I’d say she’s a lifelong non-limerent, and so is her husband. So theirs is a happy companionate marriage. Neither of them likely to understand limerence even if it was explained to them. Such intense emotional reactions would be alien to their own personal experience.
I did feel a sense of betrayal when LO stopped being so available. And I couldn’t make sense of my feelings until I found Dr Tennov’s book “Love and Limerence” in a second-hand bookshop. Suddenly, the whole weird scenario made sense!! Being around LO definitely made me feel “high”. It wasn’t love or lust; it was an addict’s response to an unlikely drug.
Evidently, I have the genetic potential to becoming addicted a lot of different things. However, I try very hard nowadays to live healthy!
“So theirs is a happy companionate marriage.”
You have no idea what goes on in another person’s marriage and to call their ‘companionate’ because neither are limerent is really insulting.
She didn’t burn FOR YOU but that doesn’t mean that she and her husband weren’t or aren’t hot for one another. People don’t have to make out, or put on a live show for others to demonstrate their sexual attraction for their spouse.
Hey “Opus” not sure how you managed to find the insult in Sammy’s description there. It means their marriage is one of equals, both being non-limerent. There was no pejorative.
“Such intense emotional reactions would be alien to their own personal experience.”
You simply don’t know that. It may be what you want to believe, but just because you didn’t set her life and loins on fire doesn’t mean either of them aren’t capable of burning love or even lust for someone. Preferably each other.
“Companionate describes relationships that feature intimacy and commitment, but not passion.”
This is the source of my ire. If Sammy was using it in a different manner, I’m all ears.
I see why the phrasing of Sammy’s comment might have seemed assuming or presumptuous. But I didn’t read it as saying that limerent passion is unique to limerents, and non-limerents lack it. But the internal experience of people who get ‘stuck’ in that phase is often sadly quite destructive to long-term stability of relationships… it is at this point, where the other person pulls away (or simply reinforces their preset, preagreed boundaries that the limerent may have ignored or minimised) that the internal intensity of the limerent experience goes into overdrive. I have enough non-limerent friends to have seen healthy, loving and passionate relationships blossom. But the people I’m talking about haven’t ever stalked anybody (I have) or thrown completely inappropriate tantrums at social events (I have) or still woken up thinking immediately of somebody they last slept with a couple of times 3 years ago and feeling it as a pain in their heart. That is the intensity I think limerents (maybe like Sammy) refer to, and it’s no insult to say that they don’t see it forming a part of other people’s healthy relationships.
When I was younger I did arrogantly let my feelings affect those around me. As I’ve got older I’ve learnt to hold those feelings and not act out. Thank goodness. But they are nonetheless intense, and when they cease to be appropriate hugely painful. It says nothing about anybody’s loins, however hot or wet or otherwise- its what’s in the head. It’s also why a community of people has sprung up here to find some solace, which includes all of us either experiencing, recovered or affect by limerence in ourselves or people we care about.
I hope that helps you feel less annoyed.
@Opus. Thanks for your response. I appreciate it as I see the point you’re trying to make. I think limerence can give a person a false sense of “ownership” over LO and we might assume we know LO better than we do. I’m certainly guilty of the sin of presumption in my life (regarding LOs at least!) So I welcome and respect your criticism here.
All that fantasy can certainly prevent an objective understanding of LO’s emotional and relational reality. Maybe she did “burn” for another! I’m certainly not a mind-reader. If I were a mind-reader, I probably wouldn’t suffer from limerence to begin with! Haha!
Thanks for your comments, Sammy. It’s clear you went to a dark place, but seem to have emerged with a good amount of wisdom.
Yes, that resentment is often a combination of feeling foolish and refusing to acknowledge that your imagined connection to LO is a delusion. The cognitive dissonance turns to anger.
Thanks, Dr L. The great thing about Limerence Theory is it helps me put all my feelings – both positive and negative – into context, and move on.
Interestingly, after high school graduation, my relationship with LO was mostly conducted by letter. (We saw each other about once a year). What she did once say was that I came across (in my letters) as very sincere and that sometimes (in my letters) I seemed really happy and sometimes I seemed really sad. She never realised, though, that she was the unknowing cause of me swinging between happy/sad (euphoria/despair).
Anger probably kicked in during the withdrawal phase – when my limerent brain realised it wasn’t going to get any more hits of euphoria from this source. I see now it was very unfair of me to expect another person to be my only source of happiness. What a terrible burden to impose on another!
That’s very insightful Sammy, and yes it is.
“I even wrote down (for myself) an apology for LO: ” I’m sorry for objectifying you, for making you my rescuer, for creating a false sense of intimacy, for oversharing, for saying I love you before I really knew you, for manipulating you, for being only focused on how I feel, for labeling you, for giving too much meaning
And after blaming you for not connecting enough while it is my attachment wound ”
And it’s all true, when in anxiety I get selfish.
My LO did me a favour,Can’t do the hot & cold anymore & lucky there’s this community who shares their stories & insights. Looking at forgiveness I found this https://youtu.be/h-RBTd23RN0.
How does it feel ten days into a NC? Any easier any better?
On and off. I’ve broken NC commitments before so I’m avoiding the temptation this time. I’ve pretty much eliminated LOs contact details but of course some things demand extra commitment, like blocks.
Tbh I’ve reached a point of humiliation. In terms of I really would look (or feel?) like a bit of an idiot if I initiate communication.
I still think of LO a lot. I’ve started on dating apps (couple of months now…) and got chatting to someone I find attractive but worry that they look a bit like LO, and are the same age (30, I’m 42). But at the same time they aren’t LO… and there’s differences too. We’re meeting for a drink on Thursday. I think it’s one of the advantages of being a single limerent- you can force yourself back out there. Obviously if I had an SO the option of easy novelty/distraction wouldn’t be available.
But at the same time I worry about transferring my LE. I don’t really want another LE… I seem to have had a chain of them! But a distraction from LO will be welcome.
I worry though that if LO reaches out to me, I might come unstuck.
Yeah… Every single LE is the worst for particular limerent 🙂
I went NC abruptly after couple months od light EA (I’m in long term relationship), I’m on my day 7 and feeling like throwing up, being in fetus position, crying or screaming alternatively. My God, it is so f*cking hard. I want so badly to hear some encouraging words, like it’s getting better in few weeks, months or so…
Is this your first LE?
Actually, it’s a third one, I think. The thing is, previous two were reciprocated, I was/am in committed relationships with those guys, so limerence “died” quietly and naturally.
Likopa, I have been on the floor for days, screaming and gasping for air. Collapsing in the shower, I thought I would die. But it actually does get better, for me after 1,5 months I got significant better, and after 9 weeks I could enjoy life again and feel a calmer self and see glimpse of a life a actually really enjoy.
It’s an opportunity for new things .
I know it doesn’t sound very believable. But it does.
Can we do something for you ?
Remember it’s the hormones in your brain and body trying to get back in balans.
So everyday is a step closer to feeling like yourself again.
“Can we do something for you?”
Actually, you just did.
Thank you so so much.
I’m actually crying right now, you’ve touched my heart, you really did 🙂
I guess I never expected this to be so freaking hard, with all emotional and physical pains and symptoms. Also, I’ve chosen not do disclose to SO so I have to pretend most of the time. I think right now the hardest thing for me is to “destroy eternity thinking” (from Pete Walker’s book), to turn off that cruel voice in my head saying YOU’LL NEVER GONNA FEEL BETTER.
Yes we all think it will never get better, and than it does.
It is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I even had suicidal thoughts at some points when my body could not take it anymore, when I would just stare at the ceiling, overwhelmed and surrendered to the whole thing. But somehow sometimes I think it had to be done . But maybe that’s just me trying to get something spiritual thing out of it or something.
This little film helped me a lot in the first weeks:
Maybe it will help you too.
And I started to journal, I had a strong urge for rituals and routine so every evening I still write down positive things or just my feelings so I don’t numb anymore.
You will get out of limerence rollercoaster hell. One day at a time.
I told myself, I am allowed to contact Lo just nog today.
I have the same, sometimes I think I should date to get over freaking LO but I feel like a volcano ready to transfer every bit of frustration to another person.
I have seriously looked for monasteries, but being an atheist maybe that’s not the solution.
Oh, it is an option. They are thrilled to take your money. Women aren’t welcome at monasteries but plenty of abbeys need the cash even more desperately.
They aren’t in a position to be picky even if they wanted to be.
I have a date on Thursday… its probably bad to start with ‘you look just like this guy I know called…’
Some time passes…
“…and the I said him, i said ‘well if you’re going to…'”
…some more time passes and I’m suddenly aware that my date hasn’t actually returned from the toilet.
Which is fine because I’m explaining all about LO to the bartender…
I’m NOT going to do that.
Pls let us know how the date went Thomas!
I know your comment might make some people laugh, Mia. But I guess it would work in theory – no LO around and nobody to transfer limerence onto! Genius! Limerence would have to die a slow death without fuel.
Well that is to say, being a serial monogamist (or love addict) I would probably fall in love with one of my sisters.
Its always hell Lipoka. If we think it will be easy, we always get a sharp reminder. Its playing chicken with the devil.
Yep, relapse time here, time to set things straight again, after 10 weeks NC I wanted to test the water, it was not impulsive, I thought about it and knew chances where I could not handle it. LO was super nice and enthousiastic but within 24 hours i felt the addiction creeping up. I felt like an alcoholic with a whiskey.
So pulled myself out again, stopped replying.
So frustrating I have to come to terms that I probably will never be able to have nice calm and possibly romantic contact with LO because I freak inmediatly.
LO is not my guy and thats what limerence is trying to tell me, i just dont want to listen.
To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest. It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and anger. These emotions are all part of being human. You should never hate yourself for hating others who do terrible things: the depth of your love is shown by the extent of your anger.
However, when I talk of forgiveness I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person. A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred. Remaining in that state locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator. If you can find it in yourself to forgive then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator. You can move on, and you can even help the perpetrator to become a better person too.
But the process of forgiveness also requires acknowledgement on the part of the perpetrator that they have committed an offence.
-Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Emotional affairs are courtship. Courting another person while married to you is either a deal breaker for you, or it isn’t.
Quite agree Sparky,
I’ve forgiven my dad for things that my friends cannot begin to fathom. I’m an only child and now hes elderly and vulnerable I even do his shopping for him! Sometimes I surprise myself. Sometimes I’m even still angry (because lord knows he’s ungrateful at times!).
But the poisonous bitterness had to go, for my own sanity… but also when confronted once I was adult, and able to directly challenge him (after a decent whack of therapy) he did meaningfully apologise, and I’d known he regretted certain things for years anyway.
But yes. His acceptance and apology made forgiveness possible in my eyes. But I knew I needed to forgive him, for me.
… and it worked.
This comment isn’t really connected to the other comments, but I loved this blog post and have been thinking about it a lot. I think that forgiveness is one of the most important elements of any successful relationship, and I also think that forgiveness and truth are siamese twins. I’ve never done anything in my life as harmful as my EA- I knew that I was not doing the right things, that things could potentially come out, and I had a vague idea of that being a painful thing… but I see now that the limerence fog made all those things fuzzy and unclear to my besotted, addled brain. It seemed way less risky than it was, I was more convinced of my control over the situation than I should have been, and I downplayed the consequences immensely. When everything came out, and I had to look at my thinking and behavior in the light of truth- it was so painful. It was painful for my SO, for my LO (whom I used and couldn’t commit to), for his SO…. for me. I was so ashamed and disappointed in myself. I wanted my marriage to survive. It was so difficult to tell the whole truth, because with every truth I was terrified that it would be the last straw and the thing that made forgiveness impossible. But, it ended up being so different than I expected.
“First, the person seeking forgiveness should only expect it once their behaviour has meaningfully changed, and they are committed to being an honest and open partner. If you were really hoping that your SO will just kind of get over it and relax their vigilance so you can get back to a life of secrets, idle flirtations, and plausible deniability, then obviously you are hoping more for forgetfulness than forgiveness.”
I read somewhere that the cure for guilt is right behavior. Telling the truth was the obvious first step. One of the things that was so alluring about my LE was that I believed my LO really saw me (I realize now how curated that was) and that was something I craved desperately. And I had convinced myself that ly SO didn’t really see me and didn’t really want to. But I wasn’t letting him. I was swapping admiration for intimacy. I lost the admiration and gained the intimacy, and it’s a great swap! I hope that my SO can completely forgive me one day (for me that would mean that he is free from the pain he feels from this and that the past is over in his mind). My responsibility is to live in integrity moving forward so that I can forgive myself (accepting myself as I am and allowing the past to be over).
Here’s the part that I struggle with a bit. I don’t want to think that my marriage is more than I thought it could be BECAUSE of my EA, but I sometimes have trouble regretting it because through the recovery from it, and all the things I’ve learned about myself and my SO..and learning about the limerence that I’ve struggled with throughout my life, my whole life has changed for the better. This whole experience has ended up making my life so much better. My relationship with my SO is so great- and I get to keep it. What I’m trying to say is that I think this whole thing has meaning. I really wish the meaning would have come a different way, but it didn’t.
Just writing/think I guess.
Ah yes, the ends justify the means school of philosophy. That played out in US policies under “Manifest Destiny” too.
Imagine if you had pursued the policy of honesty with your SO from the start instead of a last-ditch effort to salvage your public social standing and finances from the cost of a divorce. So much pain and years of rightful distrust avoided.
“ Imagine if you had pursued the policy of honesty with your SO from the start…”
You just said a mouthful. To have been given any kind of heads up that this is going under your SO’s nose and they have no clue, would be monumental in protecting the SO’s respect for the limerant. The blatant disregard for the feelings of the SO is something that they NEVER forget, and they should NEVER have to experience. Every aspect of their self is altered, and no one should hold that power over them. But when it is the person that they love and trust the most…. the pain is immeasurable.
It’s nice that limerants eventually realize the damage they’ve caused by obsessing over their LO’s and of course, most “wake up” to the implausibility of the LE and then move on happily, but in my opinion, the guilt they experience should last as long as their SO’s suffering—- usually indefinitely. Somehow, I think limerants bounce back a lot quicker than the loved ones destroyed by their foolishness rumination and fantasies.
Or in an ideal world both limerent and SO reconnect and work it out?
It seems irrational for an SO to hold onto a lifetime of pain & vindictive to wish the limerent a lifetime of guilt.
If that’s the prospect then they should stop clinging painfully to each other. Everybody deserves to recover, right?
Everyone does definitely deserve a chance to recover… but ponder this…
If I am walking down the street, enjoying the day, and you run over me in your car. Yes, you are sorry and may truly feel repentant, but I’m still dead. Or let’s say I survive. My recovery—the time, effort, etc. required for me to heal will be much different for me than for you who will basically walk away unscathed. Will you suffer from PTSD? I probably will. Will I feel that if I had taken a different route I could have avoided it? Will I feel comfortable if I see you come toward again on another day? Will I trust you not to hit me again? Probably not. Will I ever really feel safe walking down the road with other drivers around and you nowhere in sight, or have you cost me that freedom from worry and stress? My perception of you is changed, whether you meant to commit this act or not. And that’s if you hit me unintentionally .
In the beginning, limerants with SO’s do have a choice, to live purposefully or wallow in their fantasies and compromise their integrity and drag their SO along, without regard. So, that’s really not an accident. That’s just hoping not to get caught.
In an ideal world, both parties reconnect, but to be honest, that’s really rare. If the posters on this site polled their SO’s, how many would feel that they or their relationship will ever really be okay. The choice to leave a relationship belongs to both parties, but the choice to irrevocably compromise a relationship, only requires the selfishness of one. So the limerant, who has an SO who truly loves them, has forcibly trapped that SO between accepting or leaving, when maybe they shouldn’t have had to do either. Do I live the compromised life I never wanted or do I leave the person I love who put my needs behind someone else’s? Both possibilities really stink.
“It’s nice that limerants eventually realize the damage they’ve caused by obsessing over their LO’s and of course, most “wake up” to the implausibility of the LE and then move on happily, but in my opinion, the guilt they experience should last as long as their SO’s suffering—- usually indefinitely. Somehow, I think limerants bounce back a lot quicker than the loved ones destroyed by their foolishness rumination and fantasies.”
Limerents dish it out but they are loathe to be on the receiving end of it. Honesty and fidelity – they count on it being accorded to them but act as though they had no idea it was expected of them.
Wow some sweeping generalisations flying around here! Whoosh…
How many limerents do you know “Sparky”? First hand experiences only.
Six if you include my STBXW who kept sending me emails pleading for a second chance. I told her to contact my lawyer and blocked her. Then I blocked her friends and family who were “so worried” about her but strangely reluctant to take her in or help her out financially.
“How will I afford to live!” is no longer my problem. So glad I owned my condo before I married her and we never got around to adding her to the deed.
She’s probably too old for you, Vincent. She’s in her 30’s.
Wow, 6 (SIX)? An affliction that affects 5% of the population and you know 6 verified limerents? What do you do, run a limerence support group?
Can we go back to helping and supporting people who are miserable.
It is ironic that a post on forgiveness provoked a rare bout of comment bitterness.
Or perhaps not – cheaters do sometimes weaponise it to try and guilt-trip betrayed spouses. It fits that something so profound should be so contentious.
When you say “limerents” you actually mean unrepentant cheaters, though. There are literally hundreds of people commenting here that don’t match your characterisation.
I’m so sorry that your ex was so unfair and unkind and it seems deceitful.
Please don’t generalise about such a large number of users hear, who it sounds are nothing like the character who hurt you so badly.
Find another punching bag. Maybe even a real one. It sounds like you’ve got a lot of steam to be letting off somehow.
From my own view and from what Ive read here, limerents including with SOs have trangressed to variable degrees, sometimes barely at all.
You clearly have been incredibly hurt by your SO.
My current and only LE, I attribute to my own poor self esteem and self awareness, a hurtful SO and me refusing to accept that sometimes marriages do end.
My LE begun at an unconscious level, I tried to explain to SO my peculiar social anxiety with this person and was ridiculed. I could not make the thoughts around LO stop, I could not sleep. I desperately tried to hide these feelings from LO who I barely knew. When LO showed signs of reciprocation, I went to therapy and limited contact. Ive read somewhere that limerence is regarded by some as temporary insanity, and certainly thats how it felt to me at the time. Never before have I had suicidal thoughts or experienced depression.
Looking back now, I realise that LE was a wakeup call for me to look after myself, and for me to expect more from my longterm relationship and spouse.
Vicarious Limerent says
I echo the sentiments of Panicked. Many of us married limerents have done nothing to consumate our “relationships” with our LOs. These thoughts are just that — only thoughts in our heads. And some (like me) experience limerence because things are really bad at home and there are deep problems with our marriages and lives. I understand that limerence must be incredibly hurtful to a spouse or partner of a limerent — and some limerents will engage in an EA or PA even in an otherwise happy, healthy, stable, committed relationship while attempting to rewrite history by devaluing that relationship — but not everyone’s situation is like that. For these reasons, I firmly believe in reserving judgement on people until you have walked a mile in their shoes. Everyone’s situation is different, and in many cases limerence is only the canary in the coalmine telling the person something is wrong in their relationship and life.
Copied and pasted from elsewhere.
“My ex-husband was a study in serial limerence. Throughout our 35 year marriage there was always another woman whom he idealized and admired. In pre-cell phone days I was once left waiting in the hallway of a classroom building for over an hour past the time we’d agreed he would arrive to pick me up because he was “conducting a tour” of the Cornell herb garden for one of them; another time he left me in the T-Mobile store to wait for the salesman to finish setting up our new Iphones because he’d promised to have coffee with another, an ex-student who’d started up a Facebook page “Fan Club” for him, who was having Daddy issues that he’d been helping her with. Yet another was a ceramicist at our university whose master’s thesis he was editing, as a “professional favor to a colleague.” I heard how witty and well-read a junior professor at the communal lunch table was (but he could never find time to have lunch with me), I was told how guilty he felt that another didn’t use her air conditioning while we had ours on, with the clear implication that I was a lesser being, because I can’t tolerate heat.
For decades I blamed myself for being irrationally jealous. My father was a controlling and abusive man who regularly accused my wholly innocent mother of “making eyes at” other men, so maybe, I told myself, I had learned my bad habit from him. I had male friends myself, and I knew how to keep our friendships within bounds (I never had to actually counter an attempt to take it further, but I was conscious of it as a requirement for being friends), so why shouldn’t my husband?
It wasn’t until the last of these serial infatuations that I saw how his idealizing her was accompanied by his devaluation of me, because by this time he regularly compared us, out loud, or delighted in exhibiting to me his admiration of her. I spent my married life with him being devalued and implicitly found wanting, while simultaneously being blamed for not making him happy.
How I wish I’d heard the phrase “emotional affairs are courtship” many years ago. That’s exactly what they are. And no one should be courting another person while married.”
Think about what this person wrote about her husband who “only” had emotional affairs and apparently copped to being limerent.
If there is something with your relationship and life and you are aware of it – then do something about it. Before you get to the point of justifying lying hurtful behavior in order to spare your spouse’s feelings (which is just another way of saying you don’t want to discuss it because you don’t like consequences). You are defending someone LYING to their spouse on the daily while you spend hours and days of your life fantasizing or even courting someone else.
I note you aren’t willing to walk a mile in the SO of a limerent engaged in an emotional affair or even spending most of their waking hours with their mind anywhere else.
Hey Sparky & Carole,
I see the truth in what you have both written. I also can’t argue with the truth that betrayal acted out is incredibly painful for SO. One of my own exes cheated on me repeatedly and oddly this was also relevant to limerence because I was so infatuated with him that I allowed him to treat me quite terribly in the end. At one perverse stage I took his infidelity as evidence of his attractiveness and… I’ve not really thought about this in this way before… devalued myself.
I’m honestly thinking for the first time in terms of devaluation… but I did. My limerent fantasy demanded that my own needs be altered, my own role changed… I morphed into that awful people-pleasing, rescue figure (he can’t control himself, I’m the only one who’ll help him, I just have to ride through this…) finally he went on holiday with some mutual friends and conducted a holiday romance in pretty much full view of them at which point I couldn’t go on, it was too humiliating and suddenly very public. I once bumped into him years later and we had a brief conversation where he explained there were problems in his current relationship because his partner was ‘paranoid, and didn’t trust him…’ I remember being speechless and moving away quickly.
So in a way, we are all, limerent and non-limerent capable of suffering, and inflicting suffering. Plenty of non-limerent married people have affairs too.
I guess what I’m saying is that if the transgression of either party is too damaging, then leaving is probably the only right course… and no limerent should ever expect a ‘get out of jail free’ card.
Equally, 90% (ok I made that up) of disordered LEs end without a relationship forming. At that point, the limerent will not necessarily ‘bounce back’ more than the SO. Who knows how they’ll feel, having lost that relationship because of their inconsiderate, selfish behaviour.
…and unless you believe in ‘the one’ who’s to say SO doesn’t find someone better suited, and look back on their lost relationship with some grief, but also relief.
A friend of mine lost his relationship to drug addiction. After 17 years his partner became addicted to crystal meth, started stealing money, devaluing him, spending all his time with ‘new’ (I.e. drug taking) friends. My friend has a plaque on his wall…
‘Better to have loved and lost than stayed with the psycho for the rest of your life.’
…I still know (of) his ex, and rumour has it he’s in a bad way. I have the luxury of sympathy (this guy is not MY ex, he’s a junkie I once knew), but I totally understand why my friend cannot stand to hear his name mentioned out loud… and why he can’t forgive him… yet, maybe never.
…it’s all pretty sad.
Vicarious Limerent says
But I haven’t had an emotional affair with my LO. She is a stranger to me and someone I met in a bar one time eight months ago. We are completely no contact. I liked her on behalf of my brother in-law (she was totally into him the night we met her). It was only a fantasy and I disclosed everything to my wife. I have complete empathy for her and feel incredible guilt for the situation, but she has been awful to me for many years (I have shared my experiences with my wife elsewhere on this site). I am also having a very difficult time with my feelings. It isn’t like I set out to feel this way. I am not really hiding anything other than perhaps my comments on this site (and my innermost thoughts and fantasies). Dr. L has talked about the dangers of condemning people for thought crimes, and I am inclined to agree.
“she has been awful to me for many years”
Then be an adult and divorce her already. It’s cowardly to live a half-life. You’re not happy in the marriage and want out. Do it already.
Hanging around your wife while pining over your lost life isn’t doing her any favors either. Not really. I doubt she’s any happier with you than you are with her.
I’d tell her the same thing but she isn’t the one posting.
Vicarious Limerent says
To give more context, when I mentioned that I liked my LO on behalf of my brother in-law, I really wanted the two of them to date, but when he decided he wasn’t interested it was only then that I began to develop feelings for this lady. Even after that continued, I still wanted them to be together because I thought so highly of her. I figured that if I cannot be with her at least someone relatively close to me could be with her and we could at least have friendship. But it wasn’t to be. So no, I did not “court” her.
Vicarious Limerent says
Fair enough about divorce. It may come to that. Things are not going well, but the problem is that I still love this woman. You don’t give up on all of those years together, marriage, a house, a child and a dog that easily — especially over something that’s just a fantasy.
I didn’t communicate very clearly, I’m afraid.
My SO and I are much better for having gotten through this together. If I had a time machine I would use it only to go back and be totally honest and transparent with him from the moment we met. His suffering at my hand is my greatest failure. It was inaccurate for me to write something that sounded flip about that. I was wrong and I hurt him. Period.
What I was trying to say is that I and we are better as a result of what we’ve learned from this. We both agree on that. Not that we’re better because of what I did.
Marriages are incredibly complicated- and there are so many things that only we know about us. My SO and I have taken this as an opportunity to really learn how to love each other in good times and in bad, and this has been the hardest thing we’ve ever gotten through together, and we’ve gotten through a lot. Forgiving requires great strength. Not forgetting- not excusing- but forgiving. Everyone needs to be forgiven for something at some point. Everyone without exception. In all the work we’ve done, and all the sessions we’ve completed, the message we hear again and again is that couples who work through infidelity honestly and rigorously together can come out stronger and happier than they went in. That has been my, just my, experience. The ends don’t justify the means, but meaning and purpose and redemption can be found in any circumstance in which it’s allowed in.
Do you take a Ming vase, shatter it into a million pieces, glue it back together and declare it to be better than it ever? Smash a Stradivarius? Do you ever again trust someone who stole your money behind your back?
That’s what an EA or a PA is to a marriage. Trust, once lost, is never fully regained. For good reason. I bet there are all sorts of tracking apps employed by your spouse that you don’t know about.
“… but meaning and purpose and redemption can be found in any circumstance in which it’s allowed in.”
Forgiveness does not mean that I am obligated to give the individual who tore my heart out and stomped it with her stilettos a SECOND SHOT AT IT. She did it, she’s “sorry” or maybe she is sorry, that’s fine and I still told her to get her stuff, get out and we only communicate through our lawyers.
Here’s your share of the money, you are free to go courting or seeking groinification without having to worry about my feelings. Go be a distant unpleasant memory.
I don’t think we can presume to know what anybody else’s SO feels, nor erect weird fantasies about tracking apps… its rather cruel.
…and if at any point, for whatever reason I found my SO was tracking me without my knowledge I’d help them pack the ming vase (carefully) and call them a cab.
Limerents need to take responsibility but so do SOs. Don’t stay in a relationship and basically become an abusive control-freak because you’ve decided not to forgive, or leave.
It sounds like you opted to take the out-route that worked for you, so well done. Others in other relationships may find solutions that you couldn’t ever accept, but it doesn’t mean they are categorically unacceptable. Nor that the people who plan, agree and implement them are wrong.
It’s only right that you have separated from your ex, though. Her actions clearly devastated you in a way that couldn’t be come back from. I hope the distant unpleasant memory fades as quickly as possible and you find happiness.
I understand the pain of this Sparky, though it never happened to me in the context of a marriage, it did in a normal relationship and I remember being totally floored (even though I had done the same). Somehow a woman cheating seems to hit a man even harder (in my case, I think its ego rather than pride). It is a horrible thing to experience and everyone here would agree with that. You will feel the pain of this for some time to come. But if I were you, I would focus on all the lovely women out there who will be loyal if you are in a good relationship. When I have been ‘cheated on’ or sorta cheated on in the past, it was often my own fault. I could never admit that at the time. Im not saying this is the situation with you.
I also am quite flexible on cheating (I dont take a hard line on it at all…dont really know why, just am). For you it is a red line and you took decisive action. This is in line with your point of view so there will be no dissonance and it should help you get past it. Good luck during this painful time.
I absolutely understand your point, but I’ve never really liked that analogy. I’m not a ming vase, nor am I a violin, and neither is my SO. I am married to a flawed human being, and we have decided that we’re in this together. I am not saying that my experience should fit everyone, but I do have my own experience, and I feel that my experience is relevant in a discussion about limerence and forgiveness. I am sorry for your pain. A lot of people who are here are in pain as well. But maybe someone here is in the situation I got in and could use a little hope that things can be ok- that people do survive this and even come out of it stronger. Maybe someone just needs encouragement to be honest, or to forgive someone who is truly and authentically repentant…. I don’t know. But, to be fair, you don’t either.
The TRUST was the precious thing, not either person. Smash the trust through your actions and it will never be entire. Glue it and pretend otherwise all you want.
Unlike a Ming vase, relationships can be antifragile. Yes, you are quite right that the trust is broken and can never be as it was in the prelapsarian days, but trust can be regained (through earned forgiveness) and a partnership can be more healthy, open and frank after the stress-test of limerence.
I think most people who are in Janesays situation really wish that they had been wise enough to understand the importance of being authentic, open and emotionally intimate with their partner beforehand. Instead, it took a destructive limerence episode to force the lesson to be learned.
That they now prefer the new basis of their relationship is bittersweet: they’ve gained something of value, but at a serious cost.
You clearly value fidelity and faithfulness as a cardinal virtue, Sparky, and it’s good that you understand yourself so well. Other people can disagree, but still be making positive progress with their marriages.
My Limerent Brain Is An Idiot says
A Ming vase or a Stradivarius are items that cannot be changed in any way, or they become lesser. Therefore, the analogy isn’t apt…
Trust, on the other hand can be improved through difficulties. For example, if my SO has an affair, and I see that they are broken-hearted over it, and their behavior changes towards me, and they regularly express how much more they appreciate me now that they see the grass isn’t greener, it’s possible that my trust in them actually deepens.
A better analogy might be a muscle. Stresses and micro-tears in the fibers actually cause the muscle to grow back stronger. Some injuries are so bad that the muscle is permanently diminished.
It depends on both parties, how they react, and how they perceive the injury.
Funny how none of the limerents here state how their SOs have cheated on them and how much better they feel for having experienced it and how much stronger their union is as a consequence.
Vicarious Limerent says
@ Sparky: I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of us on this forum believe cheating is wrong, whether limerent or not. While there is some overlap in the Venn diagram of cheating and limerence, they are NOT the same thing (many limerents never cheat and many cheaters are not limerent). There are many people on this forum who are single and suffering with limerence, as well as others (like me) who have not acted on our limerence and come here to this community for support and understanding to help overcome what Dr. L sometimes refers to as “person addiction.” We didn’t ask for limerence or want it. I am glad there are some members of this community who are SOs (or former SOs) of limerents because it provides a different perspective, keeps us grounded and reminds us that it isn’t just about us. I understand you are hurting, and I do empathize, but you have to realize that everyone on this forum has their own unique story to tell.
Nevertheless, since you asked, if my wife ever cheated on me, obviously I would be upset. However, I think I would completely understand why given the circumstances of our marriage. Things are not great at all. I believe I could forgive her, but I also would think there is a good chance our marriage would be over (just because I believe if it ever came to her cheating on me, my wife would probably be at the point where she would want to end our marriage). But the difference is I have NOT cheated on her and never would (not even an emotional affair). Could I see our marriage possibly ending some day and making a play for my LO if that were the case? Absolutely. But not unless and until my marriage was truly over. I shared earlier this week that I believe there is a good chance we will end our marriage some day, but part of me still wants to reconcile with her and try to improve our marriage through counselling, dating one another again and being totally vulnerable and open to each other. But would that be enough to change her nagging, negative, mean, dictatorial, abusive, unfair, lazy and hypercritical behaviour or the way she treats my daughter? I suspect not, and that’s why I am not sure if we can make it. My LO really has nothing to do with it.
I’ll have a go but answering slightly different question…..
It seems to be assumed that other people (Limerents, SOs) in a vaguely similar situation will all feel the same. That is not true at all. Our beliefs, values and experiences provide the lens though which we perceive and experience the world. I will use myself as an extreme example…I have never cheated myself but if my SO admitted he had had a fling with a colleague, I would forgive quickly. So long as he was still committed to our marriage, I would honestly not worry too much about it. If he had strong ongoing feelings for someone else, so long as his behaviour towards me was consistently good, I would accept it. I would prefer him not to feel that way of course, but it is unrealistic for me to expect him to never have loving feelings for another during a lifelong marriage. I may even allow him to consummate his feelings depending on a number of conditions being met. I would consider that a gift to him – life is short and we should make the most of it, so long as we do not harm others in doing so. And I can’t see how this harms me, so long as he is still also loves me and is committed to me long term. I have experienced infidelity from a past long term SO and it had no effect on my self-esteem or ability to trust. My heartbreak was because the relationship ended and not due to how it ended.
I realise I am unusual in how I feel and I am not trying to devalue the pure agony experienced by those destroyed by their partners infidelity. I am just trying to point out that we cannot measure someone else’s wheat with our own bushel. Everyone is different.
I’m not asking for hypothetical examples.
Have any of the people who state they are limerent, also state that their SO cheated on them (EA or PA) and as a result their relationship was better for it?
That is a gross oversimplification. Nobody is saying that cheating on somebody improves the relationship. But what SOME people are saying is that what came afterwards strengthened it. There is so much diversity out there. Two university friends of mine are married (husband/wife), but their libidos are mismatched (yes, they’re shocking oversharers) so the wife has some permission to play away which I gather she has used rather sparingly. But they have lovely kids etc, with all the outward appearance of a monogamous married couple. Open/alternative arrangements are more explicit I think among LGBT people, particularly I think gay men.
But even there relationships can suffer breaches of trust. People break the rules agreed with their lover. There is a sense of betrayal. There is pain. None of which in the moment makes a relationship stronger. But what comes next is what people refer to as the opportunity… because if a person goes against the best interests of their partner then that is a big sign that needs or responsibilities are not being met.
The ‘straw that broke the camels back’ in my marriage was when my husband discovered I’d spent half the night snogging a co-worker at a staff Christmas party. I was portrayed as a villain for that… though he’d been withholding of sex and physical affection for almost a year before. He took the excuse and left, which I’m ok with. Because actually it was a way out for him, and our relationship had broken down, it wasn’t in either of our interests to save it, because we’d grown apart in a way that we knew was irreconcilable.
He’s found someone who he’s happy with. I’m still bitterly single (in case you need the baddy punished). But we’re in touch, we’ve moved on, it’s ok.
But for some people infidelity is not an indication of a hopelessly flawed marriage, nor is it always conducted in a cruel, mean-spirited way. Sometimes human fail, and monogamy is something humans are really good at failing at. But if there’s the will, there’s the way… and the opportunities to take stock allow some people to go on into relationships which are closer to what works best than they were ‘before the affair’.
Of course… forgiveness is key.
“Two university friends of mine are married (husband/wife), but their libidos are mismatched (yes, they’re shocking oversharers) so the wife has some permission to play away which I gather she has used rather sparingly. But they have lovely kids etc, with all the outward appearance of a monogamous married couple. Open/alternative arrangements are more explicit I think among LGBT people, particularly I think gay men.”
That isn’t cheating. That is an arrangement they made. I’m not asking about people who are playing within the boundaries of agreed upon rules.
I am asking if any limerent here can state that their relationship with their SO/spouse was improved as a consequence of their SO/spouse cheating on them. Not anecdotes about friends’ relationships. First person experiences only.
You both had a dead bedroom and knew it. You acted on it while married instead of stating that it wasn’t acceptable and either things got livelier or you were going to seek a divorce.
You’re fighting a strawman, Sparky (with a touch of no-true-Scotsman). No-one has claimed that an affair made their marriage better, or that their SO’s life was improved by it. But it’s undeniable that many married couples are forced into the situation of communicating more honestly, frankly and deeply by the catastrophic fallout of an affair. And some realise that this makes them closer, and is a fuller, richer and better way of relating to each other than the previous autopilot mode that their lives had run on.
For some spouses, this does not make any difference to the betrayal and the marriage ends.
For some, it partially mitigates the pain, and they decide to keep trying.
For some, the betrayal was not so severe, and they actually do end up with a stronger connection afterwards.
Some of the commenters here have been cheated on, so they can answer to that. I’m not aware of any case where the limerent thinks it was a good thing or that they are glad for the affair. They tend not to be seeking support on this site, so there’s an obvious selection bias.
It’s obvious that you think this is all just sophistry. You would clearly fall in case one, above. I wonder what you are trying to prove? And to whom?
@Allie: I don’t think you are unusual, rather realistic. I share your opinion.
“it is unrealistic for me to expect him to never have loving feelings for another during a lifelong marriage”.
Sorry- obviously my SO is married to a flawed human being as well.
…oh I think it’s a bit late for modesty now Janesays!
Right now I am 5 months and twelve days into low contact. (We only text once in a while.) I am feeling much better than I did before and I think I am strong enough to see him again in septembre when the sport season starts again.
I actually notice that it annoys me pretty much that he sometimes starts a conversation on whatsapp but then does not reply anymore. I kind of keep waiting for his reply so I can close the chapter again and can proceed with my recovery. Right now I am for example waiting since last sunday for a reply (it’s thursday today). Do you have tips for me how to cope with this? Let me know!
Another question I have is: when do you know you are over your LO? I feel like I am not completely over him, but I am not making much progress anymore. He is still on my mind often. What can I do?
I would say, if you dont wait for a reply anymore. If you really dont care much if he will ever reply or not.
I think if you would go NC you might make the last steps in progress, now you still wait ( and with the waiting come the hormones)
Would that be an option?
Otherwise it will just need more time.
I think I can’t go into NC. Since the Corona crisis he doesn’t live in the same city (and neighbourhood) which gave me the space to recover as far as I am right now. We used to be friends, but his definition of friendship differs from mine. We haven’t seen eachother in such a long time and he doesn’t put any effort to arrange a meet-up. For me it’s perfect because I do feel less guilty when I don’t look for contact, but I think he doesn’t understand that I want to end the friendship (because for him it’s normal to invest this less in a friendship). Unfortunately I will see him again on a weekly basis from septembre, because he is my trainer and the season start again by then.
its a difficult situation Velentine, since you are friends but you also have these feelings. So you are waiting for a text and the guy has no idea you are waiting.
With a normal friend you would not stare at your phone and wait for a reply.
I used to do cognitive excersises, write down my thought and than write down more realistic thoughts ( he doesnt have to replay, he is just a friend etc)
Problem is that doesnt change how you feel. He is a friend but you want more.
Besides accepting that you are just friends end nothing more (thats hard I know) you can also give it more time and meanwhile enjoy your life as much as possible.
May I ask how old you are?
Thanks for your reply, Mia! I am 23 years old. How are you doing?
Im okay -ish thank you. Its still hard work, its still difficult to accept that LO and me will probably never be. Meanwhile I concentrate on myself and making my life better and more fun.
very young but very wise, and a lovely soul.
I pretty much went NC because of my own frustration at LOs inconsistent answering of texts. If you haven’t already check out the post ‘on entitlement’.
My LO was the only person I felt this way about. Other friendships drifted into and out of my life. I’m a bit older than you (I’m 42) and many of my friends have families and children etc. So we’re in touch, but I don’t expect them to always be on hand for casual whatsapping. With LO it was completely different in my mind. In fact, I felt a prolonged gap was fundamentally a rejection. Which in a way it was, it was clear evidence that the bond I had constructed between us was not on fact really reciprocal. Which upset me.
I decided to go NC because I couldn’t handle feeling like that so much. Sending a text in the morning could ruin my whole day if LO only replied that night. I’ve written of him elsewhere on the site, and I do think that he was ‘playing hard to get’, but actually at my end it was agonising… and I knew we weren’t right to be in a formal relationship. So I stopped the contact, because intermittent reinforcement is the last thing somebody recovering from a limerent episode needs. It risks drawing you right back in.
It may also be why your progress has stalled.
I would archive any chats (this doesn’t sound like you want to block him). Archived chats are just stored out of sight until somebody continues the conversation. Out of sight is not always out of mind with limerence, but I’ve found archiving a useful first step to not being confronted by unread messages to LO every time I open WhatsApp. I know FB messenger also permits archiving. Try it.
Thank you so much for your reply, Thomas! I have already found out that archiving the chat is really helpful to me. I think NC is really hard for me because the only way of going into NC is telling him I don’t want to see him ever again or trying lower the contact just as much so that we will be in NC in half a year (or something like that). The last option will cost me more effort and will take more time, but is easier to him to. I actually hope that I won’t get a relapse in my recovery when I see him in real life. Do you have tips for me how I can handle it to see him again in septembre?
‘prolonged gap’…yeah, it is Los way of showing you how little they care, Thomas. You have been smart to kick that asshole (sorry) from your life. My LO is an asshole too, BTW. She was positively jolly last night, oblivious to the hell coming my way. Why would I expect differently? When it comes to creating and nurturing an LO monster, I wrote the book.
low contact…I love that, hilarious.
I guess to some extent it was inevitable. LO is fully back into my life. I invited her back into my business and what is worse, I made investment in it that assures she will be around for a while. Add to that the fact that next month we will see each other daily in our day job. I will meet with therapist Tuesday and try to re-group. At the moment I am back in lime rent hell, more than doubled down on it all. She is delighted and thinks all is right in Denmark. But we know better than that. Already, the jealous thoughts that had recently subsided, are back. The f-ing weepiness seems to have re-surfaced. There is somewhat of a buzz for being near to LO, but as always, it is nothing compared to the pain.
I know I have gone completely in the wrong direction, and against the good advice of my friends here. But this is the reality so no need to BS you. At the very least I have taken a major detour on my recovery (which, to be honest, was always a pretty dodgy thing anyway) and at worst I could be months back. Dunno. Right now its like a dream. I guess it will bite pretty hard when reality sets in. What should I do…seriously?
Dr. L….do you do personal sessions?
I feel like I have sold my soul to the devil and collection is near. I sold it cheap to get some short term gratification. God damn it.
Steve, can you disclose to SO?
Yes she will not like it but at least it will feel more serene and you have an extra goal to fight this.
I’m also sucked back in the depression. After I finally felt joy again, after months, 2 little text from LO and very nice ones also reminded me I’m an addict . Back to the no energy boring but necessary gray world.
Now putting all my energy and focus on not responding to LO, it’s so hard because I’m sure he would like to have contact. I just can’t have contact without the highs and the lows. I cant.
I heard someone talk about letting go and she used the phrase “let go for it”.
Im sorry to hear that. It is dishertening because you really seemed to be on right path. I mean, come on, if you have trouble, how the heck can I do this?
It must be so tempting esp with reciprocating LO…OMG, cant even imagine.
But I would trade with you in a second haha…reciprocating LO oooohhhh
A reciprocating LO but knowing it will never ever work is hell actually. If he would straightforward reject me I could move on more easily. Now I’m stuck in the grey zone and the yes / no war in my mind.
Thank you Sharny, I know I don’t want to be in the friend zone and LO knows for sure I love him, it’s just that I don’t know how to deal with my own feelings, I get all cramped up, ignoring him because I think I’m too eager, I change my mind about wanting him in my life all the time.
Lo is just not the right fit for me, my limerence is telling me this loud and clear. Unfortunately the same limerence makes it hard to let go.
@Steve What would happen if your LO reciprocated? An EA, a PA? Then SO finds out and leaves you, or your LO makes you leave your SO?
SO & family are all devastated and very unhappy. Everyone you know blames you and thinks very badly of you. You feel totally responsible for your SO & family’s deep unhappiness and hate yourself for it. You are stuck with LO who treats you badly and makes you even more unhappy. Eventually the Limerence wears off, LO moves on and you are left contemplating the arid desert that is your life.
A bit dramatic maybe but not inconceivable.
Awful. I think I mentioned but my LO in Feb, suggested being together and I just knew it wasn’t going to work, but tried anyway, ended it two weeks in, then (of course?) fell straight back into limerence. That’s one thing that convinces me that for some of us at least an LE is not always rooted in finding the right partner. Going NC with somebody because the intensity of your romantic/sexual feelings is too much after having established you don’t want to be with that very same object of those feelings is such a headf*ck. Of course in the cold light of day I realise that the emotions I feel for LO are warped versions of those emotions, but they’re still hard to live with.
Can you temporarily block LO without it being a drama?
Song of the Day: “Take Me For A Little While” – Dave Edmunds (1979)
This one’s for you!
I heard it while I was binge watching “The Sopranos.” It sounded familiar. It turns out it was released the same month I said goodbye to LO #1.
Thanks for the song Sharny, (love the sopranos) I am definitely not letting LO “take me for a little while”. I love LO, I love myself more.
@thomas, I don’t believe in blocking, I think it’s 7 th grade, I just did not respond to LO and have not heard since, I’m pretty sure I will one day, and that’s ok. I don’t hate him at all. He is in safe distance, I will never have to see him.
I’m ready – ish to implement the next step, accepting it will never be, letting go.
It will go slow for sure but that’s ok. And if there will be a setback, or relapse ( hope not ) but I will survive, I want to do this with compassion not with hard demands on myself making me want to do the opposite.
If one thing I learned there is no quick fix in limerence. Meanwhile I have nice new projects and if I want to cry my eyes out, I will . Of course my limerent brain whispers ” if you let go that’s when they come back 🎉.” But I also know from past LE once I let go, I will not go back in LE, I couldn’t care less .
@Thomas and Steve, like I mentioned before, I think LO is on the spectrum that’s why I can’t read his behaviour and my anxious attachment goes of the roof.
It’s just a bad match, my ex husband was also on the spectrum, I learned later, and our marriage began with a full blown LE from me, it was hell and it took me 2 years to get normal. ( While I was with him(!) and he was very sweet, but somewhat unreadable)
So I know, being with LO is not an option, I will stay in limerent hell for years, till he will dump my emotional ass or I don’t want him anymore once the fog wears off.
He is just not my person.
Unfortunately not. I really wanted to but it is impossible for real reasons
Steve, Why is it that you can’t divorce and be with LO, if she’s the one you love? Not implying that divorce is an easy choice, but you don’t seem to be happy in your marriage, are you? My question is without any judgment I don’t remember all details of your story.
It’s tempting not to answer in behalf of Steve on what kind of person his LO is.
Know what you mean Mia! As I understand it from Steve’s story, his LO does not reciprocate. However, she does actively encourage his LE and presumably very much enjoys the various rewards she gets as a result of his affection for her. Am going to try not to judge her as fr many people blind devotion, easy employment and generous cash gifts is a hard combination to resist.
yes, all created by me, my trickiness. I knew (or sorta) what I was doing. I dont blame her for that. I also had some very flimsy ‘plausible’ reason for the ‘gifts’
Well, first of all, LO has said repeatedly that she is not interested in romance with me. If she were…who knows what would happen, but the likelihood is so low that I do not think about it much. The plan was to move away from LO and try to stabilize with SO….in that order.
Steve, for how long have you been in NC before your relapse? Can you explain your situation more specificly?
@Steve how are you doing now / today?
@ Thomas, how was the date ???
The date was really good actually. Drinking and laughs and we’re meeting again on Tuesday.
I know it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but if you’re single and up for it I’d get out there. Even if you think not much will come of it, the process is quite distracting.
Still thinking of LO a lot…
BUT… dating reminds you that alternative futures are possible, and actually my limerent brain is capable of seeing how lovely this person is.
My big worry is LO messaging. It has happened in the past after weeks of NC. But at the moment I’m doing ok. There’s pros & cons to having an SO in an LE situation, but one of the pros of being single is there us the opportunity of hassle-free novelty with new people.
…I’d also say that as I’m never (seemingly) limerent for co-workers my NC is also fairly straightforward. As in it’s hard emotionally, but always quite practical once the situation demands it.
Engaging with this site has been hugely helpful with keeping up NC. So thank you guys/gals/etc.
So… maybe depending on who you’re after, fire up your smartphone and have a dig about. 😀
I would like to thank everyone who contributes to this site. I always felt guilty about not being able to “move on more quickly” from a particular LE in my life that ended badly (the main one). However, now I see that the problem was in my brain and thought patterns, etc, the very biology of limerence, and I’m less inclined to judge myself harshly. Hearing other people’s stories has been extremely helpful.
Thanks heaps, Dr L, and other posters who have been so generous in the comment section sharing their experiences!
The guilt (and self loathing?) of being hung up on somebody loooooong after any prospect of anything has fizzled is just the worst. Totally feel you there. Awful self judgemental unkind emotions I’ve carried around in times past!
But yes. It’s in your power, and with practice and effort it’s certainly recoverable.
Im doing ok Mia, thank you for asking. I hope you are over the rough patch. I think in your case, those are to be expected, but should be less and less.
Although I have gone deeper down the limerent trail, I feel I have found way to shake LO. It would just take a massive leap in resolve.
I feel pretty dumb about the massive relapse, esp as there is absolutely nothing in it for me. I think I just did it so I could have friendly messages back and forth with LO…but all pointing to the same end. You wrote some very gushy stuff that I think was just designed to hook me. And it worked…but I dont see it working again after the inevitable breakdown comes again.
she wrote, not ‘you’ haha
I can leave it all behind me. I could do it just now and deal with the repurcussions and other forms of loss. I can leave LO and just keep a distant relationship with her at office. The massive damage and setback caused by my relapse is reversible. Me thinking it isnt is just limerent brain trick. Maybe now when it seems most unlikely is when I most need to do it. Im getting psyched again…im very contrarian, so at the most unlikely moment, I am capable of shifting course. Beaten down, exhausted by LE, quite broken…
And yet, I could wake up tomorrow and change the course of it irrevocably.
I guess that is something like hope cuz alternative is hoplessness
Almost every moment affords the chance to do things differently. You broke NC, but you can start it again just as quickly.
LO might genuinely start to think your nuts, but that might work in your favour!
It’s your needs that matter.
You can do what you need to, when you want to.
Do you have a separate work mobile? If so block her on all your personal devices. Don’t even think twice about it. Just do it.
Thank you Thomas for framing it correctly. I think it is acceptable to disappear without a trace. She will ‘get’ what is going on and I am well beyond the point of her thinking I am nuts. Blocked you are, dear!
Valentine, I think the longest I went NC was 10 or 12 days during Covid lockdown. Lately, I have been stumbling after a few days, think I went 6 a week or two ago. Its all kind of hard to remember and a few months ago I wasnt really counting NC, so it might have been longer. Point is, I need to make it stick for a lot longer than I did in past. Really, all I can tell you is that the highs disappear, even the high of being back in contact with LO. There is little joy in it. Even breaking NC becomes monotonous.
Being so young, it makes most sense to me that you just get back on your horse and start dating again. Yeah, for sure. I have pretty much ruled that out as being undesirable in my context. It would feel like ‘real’ cheating, absurd as it is to say.
I guess everyone has experienced this; resisting letting go of LO – as it would show what a sham the whole thing was. I guess at some point the whole thing comes tumbling down and its pretty hard for us to face the fact that we lived in such delusion. And then there is just the mess to clean up. Maybe the end of limerence is a retreat into the mundane world of getting stuff together after months and months of trying to fly close to the sun.
Vicarious Limerent says
I think that’s a great description of the situation, Steve! Most of us know deep down that our LOs are only a fantasy, but we often don’t want to drop the thought that somehow we could possibly be together in an “alternate universe.” Once limerence is truly and completely over, I imagine most of us must feel an emptiness and void and also a sense of a tremendous waste of time and energy for all those months or years wasted pining away for someone who was out of reach. Even though limerence brings us a lot of pain, we resist completely getting over it because on some level we enjoy the fantasy and ruminations. But when we are in a committed relationship with someone else and/or where limerence is causing us to neglect other much more important aspects of our lives, it really is problematic. For me, I wish I could completely get over my LO but still retain a certain fondness for her in the back of my mind in case my circumstances change and I begin to feel like I might have something better than a snowball’s chance in hell of being with her.
Yes, limerent, I feel it rumbling just over the hills; that confrontation with reality. I think its perfectly natural that you still have some fondness. That sounds healthy enough. Im nowhere near nostalgic about LO yet. Im still deep in the clutches. Day 2 NC.
Yep, the last piece of acceptance is the hardest I think, the inevitable the cold hard truth when there is no way around it anymore. No more numbing.
I’m there with you Steve, cold hard truth it will be.
And we know it’s good to move forward and not fake move forward.
Cold hard truth. It was always going to come back to that, wasnt it? It has a way of demanding our attention, however reluctant we may be. Cold hard truth is a formidable collector who cannot be avoided. Gottya on the fake moves forward. Keeping it real-ish…
Two steps forward one back, back in the good old withdrawal, hot cold wanting to vomit. I tell myself it’s actually a good thing that I had brief contact with LO, I tried, I tried to handle things normal, I failed miserably, and it’s okay now I know. No more drinks for the alcoholic.
Now I know it’s over, done, no more delaying and distract myself with hope.
Time to implement the last step, acceptance and letting go.
I do worry about my future love life, I dont ever want to experience this again. But than again, this LE came along when All the signs said DANGER. it was the perfect toxic mix of literary all the limerence triggers. My position has changed since than.
Oh Mia, yes, it often comes at the worst time and most unexpectedly. Can I ask you a question? Is there an unusual perception of time within your limerent phase? I mean my life looks like this:
-past 8 months and a bit seems like an eternity or at least equal to the 4 years prior.
-April seems like an eternity ago and so much – but really incredibly little in real terms- has happened. I guess the hundreds of ups and downs in my head account for this.
-And when you do NC (at least at beginning – I cant speak for anything beyond that), the days seem unbelievably long. Like, I am going along all right, keeping busy, and then she comes into my mind. I can literally feel myself submerge.
The day just seems so long, as if by limerent design. Could not some days pass quickly, pleasurably and effortlessly? I have never attempted sthing that requires such attention. Oh, and the time and our perception. 1 year ago I had no idea who this person was.
good luck Mia. we are all rooting for you
@ Mia, you’ve got a load of us rooting for you. So have you Steve.
@Steve – yeah, the time thing it does stretch it out. Also memories – like I remember details of events and things during LEs in much greater detail than other times. Leading to this illusion that it’s just been one LE after another… but I objectively know there were gaps.
Well if I think back on going NC the first of June ( when my friend had to come pick me off my floor ). it feels like 2 years ago it’s hasn’t even been 3 months. But there have been so many feelings and development and journaling and new awareness I guess. I also completely dived in to the proces because I find human behaviour so incredibly interesting. The first month I didn’t do much more than journal and cry and live in my little safe place on the sofa. Lately I developed a load of new hobby’s and interest and a new studie so the last 3 months a lot has happened. And yes there where good days or good part of the days .
Sometimes I get up super depressed and go to bed super happy. Or vice versa. But also on the good days LO is always, always in my mind.
Was that your question ?
Yes, I think it does Mia, thanks. Imagine if, like a lawyer, I could bill my LE for the time…Oh my ( :
Of course grief and lost have a lot of overlap with depression.
I absolutely felt depressed but more out of grief and not so much clinical.
I’m not depressed anymore I’m okay most of the day and I can really enjoy things while simultaneously still thinking automatically about lo.
I’m now practicing to stop the resistance, to stop working, to stop swimming upstream and release.
And it works :).
Great stuff, Mia. You are inspirational with your honesty, open mindedness and determination.
Thank you Steve, good to read, my self asteem took a massive blow in this LE I must say. But building it up again, and hopefully to a higher level.
I take some comfort in the idea that everyone would have been confused with our ‘situationship’, also non limerents would have been very confused, I never begged or pleaded, I never got very angry or made big accusations nor was I unreasonable. I think I handled it gracefully. (Good thing he could not see me the days after, not much grace there, drooling on the floor 😀 )
But still my ego is hurt.
Guess thats also human.
It sounds like clinical depression.
Well, in that case, most of us limerents would be the same. But to me it sounds like a healthy recovery process with stages. I just hope I can attain such a trajectory. Yes, it sucks to think that this will be with me for a while yet, but I have seen a few green shoots lately. Day 3 NC.
As long as you send her money, you’re Bargaining.
Sorry Scharn, I didnt quite understand. Yeah, Im trying to get rid of that nasty habit, as well.
You’re paying her to keep her in the game. You’re buying her time. Why do you do that? It’s not a rhetorical question.
But, it’s your time, your money.
Yes, it is a form of illness. It is the first thing I need to stop. I am 4 days NC and after a most horrific relapse, it feels good (or rather right) to be on this path. I had nasty intrusive thoughts for an hour today, but otherwise I am trying to leave it in the past, all of it. It was madness. Now I just want to get well again. There will be plenty of time to reckon with my own cunning, absurdity and desperation. For now, I do get pretty overwhelmed with all that. So, its stick to the basics time.
Susan W says
So it’s been a little while since I checked in on this blog, but wow, I’m so glad I found this post! It was a revelation for me and I just have to thank you, Dr. L, for once again having amazing insight into Limerence and all the tricky little paths it can lead you down.
I’ve actually been NC for a year now, and doing quite well after completing all of the course materials and really focusing on myself and purposeful living. It’s been quite an accomplishment considering I’ve had the same LO since my teens and have hung on to unrealistic fantasies my entire life. I’ve even been able to part (happily) with sentimental objects that I had kept around as reminders of him and can’t explain how freeing that has felt.
I guess the only last thing that I have struggled with somewhat has been the matter of forgiveness- on all 3 points that you mentioned above. Forgiveness of myself seems the hardest and I’m continuing to deal with that. Forgiveness of my LO has also been a tripping point and tends to lead me to angry feelings when I happen to ruminate on how things ended. And it is here, where this blog just blew me away!
I know I will not ever see him or speak to him again, so the angry feelings of how he let me down, broke promises again and again, etc. etc. just swirl around in my mind at times and have been holding me back from complete freedom. But then your blog post helped me realize that I am holding these angry feelings against someone that I have idealized my entire life – the imaginary LO that I created and has truly haunted me for a lifetime. My actual LO is honestly just a bystander and did what he does and has always done. He was just being himself and I can’t change that or hold that against him. This was a profound realization for me! My feelings don’t come from HIS actions but my own unrealistic expectations of him. I really feel that this revelation will help me continue to move forward and beyond this last stumbling block of linking my feelings to LO and being angry with someone who was just being himself. I made the mistake of expecting him to be what I had created in my mind and just couldn’t let go of that.
Thank you again for your amazing work. Now, time to get on with life!
Hi Susan. Thanks for your update – really happy to hear that you’ve made lasting progress. That’s great.
Like so much of limerence, the battle is really in our own heads. It’s amazing the progress we can make with just a slight change in mindset – even just a clear expression of an idea that you’ve kind of understood for a while but not been able to quite capture or articulate. That was what reading about forgiveness did for me – the understanding that I could make the decision to forgive (and earn forgiveness from my wife) by my own actions and my own mental work. As you say, LO becomes a bystander when that idea properly sinks in.
Good luck with that great life you’re busy getting on with!
Day 6 NC. Lo lurking, a few msgs, but I did not respond. Intrusive thoughts only now destroying about 30% of my day. I do not feel depressed, but the whole LE still hangs there like a dense fog. From time to time, it lifts for a very short period. I cannot say the sun shines through, but I have an hour or so when I just dont think about it. Im still definitely reeling from the whole thing, but out of the panic situation I was in a few weeks ago.
Only 30% of your day and an entire hour not thinking about LO is fantastic progress! And well done on resisting the urge to respond. You are well on the way out of that pit…yay! The LE will probably hang around for quite a while so just accept that but know that it will decrease in intensity over time making your life gradually get better and better. Well worth reading some of Dr Ls purposeful living blogs (again if you have done so already) and maybe trying finding something new to add to your life? Happy to hear things are getting better for you…long may that continue.
My father used to say “every world-spanning travel starts with a first step”, and you are making yours. Congrats, man, keep it up.
Allie is of course right. LEs f*cking drag on. The trick is managing them as smoothly during that time. You’ve been bashed about a bit my yours this year, and I’m sure a lot of us have really felt for you. It sounds like you’re finding your feet and repairing your defences though.
6 days is excellent! Policing your own NC even when LO messages is the hardest thing I think we can ask of a limerent mid-LE.
Proud of you, buddy.
Thank you very much to all. It has been a harrowing experience that just came out of nowhere. Im managing much better than I was a month ago. A lot of the darker parts of LE have subsided and I finally feel that the tide has turned somewhat. It is still quite exhausting fighting urges and always thinking how to avoid relapse. I guess that just has to be accepted. I wish you all success in your limerent struggles and others as well.
One of the good things that came from my LE was being able to gain new perspective on my previous, abusive marriage. I needed to embrace forgiveness, for myself and how I wish to proceed my own life.
Recently, I gifted my ex spouse a handcrafted item, with a handwritten letter, both apologising for my transgressions and forgiving them theirs, should they ever need to have either apology or forgiveness. And thanking them for all the goodness we shared and genuinely wishing them well and hoping they would find joy in their life.
It took me days to make the item that was given, with the full knowledge and acceptance that they may simply choose to throw the gift away, or destroy it, rather than accept it. And that I would never know.
It turns out that we can make our own endings and closure.
For me, that is liberating.
I am dealing with a horrible Limerence situation. My husband (57yrs old) was Limerent with a 24 yr old co-worker, where I work as well. I think she was an opportunist and thought, at first, that he would help her career. They started a physical affair two months after she married another age appropriate man. Fast forward 7 months and their carelessness resulted in pictures given to me. When caught, he immediately left me and went to a hotel to begin his “happiest life ever” (she text/emailed me the details). He claims within 2 days, he had his wake up call and realized he had walked out on the best thing in his life. Now he is begging for reconciliation. I have a very hard time believing this intelligent man “ lost reality for the high of this young girl ” and had no control over his thoughts/feelings. Doesn’t any affair cause a high from engaging in the forbidden? How is limerence any different? The most confusing part is that we did have the best marriage and we were happy together and were planning on retiring in 2 years and even bought another home. How does limerence contribute to a man living two separate lives? Claiming to love both and planning two very different futures.
I’m sorry peg. Well I’m in a situation like your husbands. But not totally the same.
I had an affair with one of my wife’s friends. Both emotional and physical. I do explain it on another blog here. The survey one I think.
I’m living limerence at the moment, its like a mental block the logical part of your brain fails to kick in.
I tried to leave my family three times, I’ve stopped contact with my AP and I’m getting therapy.
Stopping contact is the most important thing your husband needs to do, change phone numbers delete email accounts, quit his job, delete Skype, Facebook everything.
Hopefully the fog has lifted for him and he’s thinking clearly.
In the end it’s your decision, my wife and I are working together to save what we have, she’s supporting me through limerence, how amazing is she! I’m so lucky to get this chance and I’m gonna try my hardest to take it.
I wish you all the luck in the world.
One category missing above is the desire for forgiveness from a LO. My LO is a kind, outgoing & emotionally intelligent colleague. I have acted really hot and cold with them (as opposed to the subtle scaling back that Dr. L recommends.) I feel so guilty that someone who gets along with everyone has to bear with my awkward mood swings, which when I replay in my mind feels like really rude behavior in my part that I would never display to someone who isn’t my LO.
Background: both of us are married and it’s not even close to anything inappropriate. I only had a late realization that it was a strong crush & the embarrassment/shame brought out really weird awkward behaviors in me. No disclosure whatsoever.
Allie 1 says
Yes I agree, LOs often deserve better too.
Although I think our occasional odd limerent behaviours seem far far worse to us than they do to our LOs. I have sometimes been overly guarded around my LO which he may well have interpreted as me simply liking him less than I do the rest of the team, with whom I am more warm, relaxed and friendly.
Do you think your LO picked up on your behaviour and guessed why?
My co-worker LO has behaved in an awkward, hot and cold manner towards me so I relate this.
Where are you in your LE now? Still battling with it?
If my wife can’t and/or hasn’t come to terms yet (I disclosed to her back in January when I found this community) than why should I do it for myself? My wife and LO are the ones that deserve an apology from me, not their forgiveness. Every which way I look at this scenario it is on my shoulders. Sure maybe our marriage is going through a rough patch. But that’s no excuse. Sure LO is an attractive woman, physically, intellectually and emotionally. But that’s no excuse to get attached.
I care about both of these women so much and now look one I have done? I have hurt and upset wife, and LO who left the situation abruptly and I have not seen or heard from her in 9 months. I ____ed it all up. And now look what I am left with. If anything the cold shoulder from my wife and abandonment and isolation from LO are my punishment for hurting two wonderful women.
I know I am suppose to forgive myself and not give in to despair, but it seems fitting. Moving on from this in our marriage is obviously to me all on my wife since LO is gone. She will forgive me or not. Our marriage may never be the same even if we do stay together. I might have irreparably damaged my marriage. I am not sure. She really doesn’t like to talk about it. I’ve never asked her for forgiveness only understanding of some kind. The depths to where limerence lead me. And yet I know I am not through yet since my limerent mind still dwells on LO and I continue to fight seeing my wife in a bad light. NC has been successful in that I have contacted LO but it hasn’t much helped with the intrusive thoughts, day dreams and memories playing in my head.
NC has been successful in that I have NOT contacted LO but it hasn’t much helped with the intrusive thoughts, day dreams and memories playing in my head.
Adam, I have read a lot of your comments here and was wondering if you have discovered the cause of your Limerence? (you may have and I just missed it)
Mine (cause) hit me like a ton of bricks after about 3 months NC. Just as the dust was beginning to settle. It was a profound realization! Mostly because I had no clue that I was still carrying my neglectful childhood around.
Now, having said that my Limerence just didn’t go “poof into the night”
But at least now I have something to work with.
This is my first encounter with it as well, so I can relate. It’s brutal!
But just knowing that it really does not have anything to do with LO at all, made me brave enough to take that first shaky step forward.
Instead of a song to relate to Limerence, here’s a poem that might be encouraging.
MY BEAUTIFUL GRIEF
Two worlds collide A spark ignites
That spreads like fire through bone, blood and vein
Dawn brings reveries swirling in like a warm summer breeze
As highlight reels resume at the stroke of midnight
Transfixed off a crumb, a look, a comment
I am crushed by the crash that left you unscathed
Anguish hits like a rocket at lift off
Blinding light still not out of sight
But peaking through distance and time I can see
The stars will shine brighter
As the light grows dim
In the aftermath of LO leaving, I have been able to, with hindsight figure out why I fell for LO in the first place.
1) Unmet needs. Our marriage has been going through a bad patch since 2020. My wife’s bipolar and anxiety have been taxing on her and our intimacy has significantly diminished. These things have been addressed but never solved. Things remain stagnant. Unresolved on the part of her apparent unwillingness or apprehension to find a solution.
2) I have anxious-unhealthy attachment style. Why I am really not sure. I had a healthy upbringing and a loving mother and father. Either way I get attached quickly and get clingy quickly. My fear that every new relationship I start (outside of day to day acquaintances) will end eventually with no way to stop it causes me to suffocate the person (especially non-romantic female relationships). Which in the end might be why a lot of them end. I don’t know how to balance my insecurities with reality. Maybe I let the person have their space and breath and they will stay. Maybe the reason they left had nothing to do with me. Some people are only going to be a chapter in your story no matter what you do. But no matter the real reason in the end I take the blame and that’s why 9 months of NC and I would still run to her with open arms if I saw her again.
3) Rescue complex. I have it big time. Every woman I have been with in my life romantically, even my wife, had an issue I felt I needed to rescue them from. Only in reading Dr L’s posts on it have I really begun to understand why I had this need to rescue these women. And in my eyes LO needed rescue big time. She was recently divorced and dealing with a toxic ex as regard to their children. Then work threw a big pile of shit in our (LO and myself) laps that we had to sort that was the result of a former co-worker not doing their job. The amount of stress and anxiety LO was under. I could save her by busting my ass at work. I really couldn’t interfere with LO’s ex and herself because I would have made it worse. But I could help her at work!
All of these issues of MINE where what put LO right in the position to be an LO. My unmet needs at home and my own fallacies in my personality made her the perfect candidate for an LO.
“Transfixed off a crumb, a look, a comment”
And then it started. Everything she said or did I took the hook on. There was nothing stopping the avalanche of dopamine. I hung on her every word and action. A simple smile and her sparkling green eyes sent me into orbit. A simple mundane request was my only focused mission. LO was perfect in every way. I defended even the most constructive criticism against her. I was her knight in shining armor. And I loved every minute of it.
“I am crushed by the crash that left you unscathed”
And now she’s gone. And my heart aches for her. When you realize you weren’t as important to someone as they were to you ……
“How can you leave without regret
Am I that easy to forget”
Am I That Easy To Forget — Engelbert Humperdink
Limerent Emeritus says
You’ve come a long way!
Limerent Emeritus says
Here’s another one for the playlist.
“Against All Odds” – Phil Collins (1984)
1984 was the apex of my time with LO #2. I didn’t realize this was prophetic.
You’re going to go to these places. But, with time and effort, you go less often, spend less time there, and you make fewer decisions because of it.
If you can figure that out, you can kind of manage it.
Wow I remember that song from the 80’s when Phil Collins was super popular. But man does it listen entirely different now that it is relatable.
“And you coming back to me is against all odds, it’s the chance I’ve got to take.”
I am at this place still. Just holding on to whatever little tiny bit of hope I can that I will get to see LO again. I would rather not be in the control of the second line of the song, and just know and accept that she is gone. And that is probably the most beneficial thing for me and my marriage.
But yet I still hold on. I would have thought purposefully doing the right things in regards to LO would help me let go of this LE and move on with my life myself. But I haven’t let go. And don’t want to.
“My wife’s bipolar and anxiety have been taxing on her and our intimacy has significantly diminished. These things have been addressed but never solved. Things remain stagnant. Unresolved on the part of her apparent unwillingness or apprehension to find a solution.”
Bipolar disorder isn’t “solvable”. It can be treated with more or less effectiveness and that isn’t 100% in the control of the patient. People become med-resistant, what once worked – doesn’t, allergies can be developed, etc.
Having someone tapping their finger and their body language saying, “Well? Fix it already!” isn’t helpful and doesn’t lessen their anxiety.
Also, a LOT of people have been thrown into a tailspin since 2020 due to Covid. Plenty of people who smugly said they were “too strong” to ever suffer (insert mental health issue) suddenly found out they were never stressed to the point of uncovering their breaking point. The waitlists for mental health professionals is miles long. I know people who won’t be seen for an evaluation for 8 months – if they’re lucky. So off to the ER they go, where they are “patched up” that day or in less than a week if they are able to find a psych bed and hold them for up to 72 hours, but there is no follow-up care.
If you’re angry with your wife because your proclivity towards limerence was uncovered due to her shortcomings (no matter the source), then yes, your marriage is doomed. Yes, she is the patient and the burden of her care is on her. That doesn’t mean you can’t be undermining her and it’s being reflected by how she feels and behaves around you.
I was speaking of the problems already present in our marriage long before the limerence every surfaced not her bipolar. I am totally understanding of that since she was diagnosed in 2009 with it.
The solvable problems such as why is our marriage loveless and sexless for the last 4 years? What can I do to make you more receptive? Do we need to end this if we don’t love each other anymore? What is it that I have done/am doing that is sabotaging our intimacy? All these issues have been present in our marriage long before limerence.
I have always been supportive of her mental health and always take it into consideration in any situation. This isn’t the first low cycle her bipolar has had. And in those low cycles with little to no intimacy she is usually understanding and explains to me how she feels. I know mostly how she acts in a low cycle when it comes to her bipolar. This time it seems different. She doesn’t want to explain herself. She’s pulled all intimacy away not just sex or other physical intimacy. Any kind. Even emotional. There is something different going on but I can’t figure out what it is when she won’t talk to me.
And now this limerence. Don’t think I don’t know I have played a part in this as well. But I didn’t do it all. It takes two for intimacy but it only takes one to pull back.
I know the part I play in the present. What I was trying to say in the post you quoted is that is one of the reasons that the limerence happened. I recognize that now. I realize the part limerence is playing in the marriage now. Whether limerence is the last straw or not, it’s not why our marriage is dying. But it might be the killing blow.
For me, limerence was the indicator that something was very wrong in my primary relationship. Especially for people who are not serial limerents (who have LEs for more fundamental reasons in their psyches I think, than as a reaction to the state of a relationship; the distinction is significant I think). For non-serials: Why would your need to pair bond surface, if you were actually pair bonded already? It is a sign that your existing bond is at risk or gone.
What you describe as problems in your marriage – whatever the cause and without blame – pre-dates the limerence. You are correct in seeing the limerence as a result of the marital problems, rather than the cause of.
What this actually means is that your two choices are NOT to choose between SO or LO (which is often how the dilemma is presented) but to choose whether to stay with or leave your SO.
If you chose to stay (for whatever reason, duty, guilt, children, love even, etc) then you have two other choices: stay with the relationship as it is; or stay, but change the relationship. And you again correctly identified that the second type of staying also depends on the other player in your dance: your SO. If she doesn’t, then your choice has been made for you. The relationship stays at it is, on SO’s terms.
There is a lot of mention on this site that we should only focus on what we can change. This comment has always been in the context of “you can’t control how you LO reacts, only what you do, so focus on that.” However, this applies too to the behaviors of our SOs. We cannot control them, either. Whether they withdraw from us, or whether they are open to make an intimate connection – that is up to them. What is up to us is whether we choose to accept their terms or reject them. We should communicate during the process of course, as in every negotiation, but ultimately that is the bare bones of the matter.
If your SO is unwilling to be intimate with you then you need to very honestly ask yourself: can I stay in this, this way? I was in exactly that position, reading the details you shared made me so sad because I went through that. I came to the conclusion that if I stayed the lack of intimacy would be extremely painful and hurtful to me and I could not do this for the rest of my life (what, potentially 20-30 years more of a marriage with no intimacy?) I also came to the conclusion that even if I got rid of this LE (which I mostly have) I am going to be susceptible to another one down the road. Imagine going through another LE and then needing to extricate yourself out of it – again. Or not. What if I fail next time – and (horror of horrors) cheat? To stay in a relationship without intimacy is like being in a desert with no water, and to be honorable within that scenario means not drinking when you come across a shimmery, glimmery oasis. Imagine dying of thirst and not drinking. I think I am not unrealistic to doubt my by own strength even if I passed the test this time.
So, realistically I think you could stay if your primary relationship was salvageable. I notice that many of the limerents who successfully stayed have said things like it has made their relationship with their SOs stronger, more honest, etc. There was something to stay for.
I am NOT counseling divorce. I am just saying case by case scenario. I would rather have stayed too. But it takes two to tango. If SO is unwilling to, it is not going to be happening. In my case I could not face the pain, and ultimately, I feel I deserve better. And the next time I feel a glimmer, I want to be able to honorably follow it (or not; but at least I can choose without compromising my integrity).
I only chose to divorce after the LE was practically over. I am not going to be running into my LO’s arms – not that I could anyway cos he is basically physically removed. I don’t know if I was over him anyway, but it feels to me that having made the decision to divorce has made me think about him even less. It’s almost like the whole thing was a dream. Is it because the LE was a message and I finally heeded it?
Wow Limmy, you gave some good insight. Well said!
I hope you’re doing okay considering all that is happening in your life right now. That is a heavy load.
Hi Lovisa! Thanks for your concern. There are ups and downs for sure, but I know I’m on the right track. I am so glad to read of how your disclosure to SO is working out so well for you! It is fascinating to see how there is not one story of limerence in the world.
I came to post about the conversation my wife and I had last night and your response to my previous posts is right on the money.
Last night I came home from work and was ready to play a online game with our 16 year old son and when I sat down with him he said “dad you should be easy around momma she said she wants to punch you in the face”. I asked what about. He said “I dont know I just know that’s what she said.” Well I went out to talk to my wife that was outside smoking on the porch. Apparently the previous night I had spoken of LO in my sleep pretty extensivly. My wife informed me that she had a “meltdown” later the next day and our son helped her through it and she told him what it was about. So now he knows too.
In the conversation I had with my wife she said that “you have already checked out of the marriage emotionally” and that she feels that she is just there and that I don’t care about her. She said that the last 15 years have not been “smooth sailing” to which I replied “what do you expect when you pair someone with bipolar and anxiety with a functioning alcoholic?” I take responsibility for my defaults in the relationship.
The thing is she wants to place all the faults of our marriage on my limerence. Even the pre-limerence issues. When I said that we’ve had issues long before I met LO she just scoffed. If the end to our marriage has to be put on my shoulders that’s fine. The way we met from the get go I knew that if it didn’t work out I would be the bad guy so this is no surprise. The hard part is that I do love her and I don’t want her to leave. But if she has had her fill of my limerence than there is nothing to stop her from leaving. And I wouldn’t. I love her too much to hold her back from the life she wants without me. No more than I did with LO.
I don’t remember who it was (may have been you Limmy) talked about how western society has ingrained in people that loving two people means a betrayal of one or the other. And I think this is the primary mindset of my wife. This concept hurts her and makes her feel unloved and unwanted. What she doesn’t get is the love I have for her and LO are completely different. I love LO like I do her sisters, my sister, her cousins, my mother, my mother in law (my wife’s biological mother), etc
I will stay out of guilt and for my boys whether the relationship changes or not. I made a vow to her. That said I fear another LE if this never changes. I don’t think another one would be as intense as LO’s because there is an immense attraction to her as a person. She (I feel like shit saying this) is everything my wife is not. I went from husband to caregiver with her and LO is the most amazingly motivated, independent and strong willed woman I have ever met. But Limmy I can’t leave her.
The hardest part is that she seems unwilling to accept her role in this dilemma and wants to put it all on the limerence and LO. Every time I countered with a valid point to one of her accusations she would go back to the limerence. She’s fixated on this being the sole issue to our marital problems.
Limmy she took off her wedding ring. She doesn’t want to wear it. I took that hard. It’s the symbol of our love. I put it on a necklace that I wear with my first wedding band (she bought me a second one some years ago when my original got so deformed to my finger that I could barely take it off.). I am afraid about being alone. I think I will settle for unhappiness over loneliness. I don’t want to go back to being alone. My alcoholism will consume me if I have no one to live for. And I don’t want to go back to what I was before I met her. I’m scared. But I will die of thirst before I leave her. The reality of a life without her is worse than the one I am living right now.
I wouldn’t got to LO either if this relationship ends. I really don’t think of her that way. It’s not something anyone that has seen me interact with LO can comprehend. They all think is infatuation. And it cuts so deep that no one, including apparently LO, can realize. I would have loved for my wife and LO to get along and be friends. My wife and I to go out and eat or drink with LO and her gentleman friend. I would have loved that. Yet I am left with one already leaving me and the other that might too. I guess you really can’t love two people at the same time.
Limerent Emeritus says
A bipolar and a functioning alcoholic…yeah, that’s a recipe for codependency.
I’ve given up on one woman in my life. There’s a post buried back there about it. I never felt like that before and I hope to God that I never feel like that ever again.
“Say Something” A Great Big World, Christina Aguilera (2014)
God damn your for that LE! Damn you!
Limerent Emeritus says
You’re in a crappy situation but it can get worse.
You may not want to read these. Seriously.
You want to know how things can play out?
Here’s the story about giving up on LO #2:
Here’s the story of where I almost gave up on my wife:
You can read them listening to this: “Love on the Rocks” – Neil Diamond (1980) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbgSxGt-sRM
Your sense of loyalty and duty are admirable. They’re good qualities but you need to think things through. Limmy’s point below about your kids is valid.
What lessons are you and your wife teaching them?
This is why you see a professional.
“But I will die of thirst before I leave her.”
Adam, my heart aches for you, and I don’t even know who you are.
I see in you someone who has a huge capacity for love, a deep commitment to family, a very big conscience, and trying very hard to do the honorable and right thing.
By the sound of everything, your SO is the one who checked out. And she is now trying to make it out that you checked out. But she checked out first, and she needs to own that responsibility.
Second to last paragraph of this post, Dr L says: “If you live in a purposeful way, you will take responsibility for your own feelings and you will extend that same consideration to others: they must live with the consequences of their choices and you won’t hold it against them unreasonably. Everyone else in the world is in the same position as you: free to associate with who they will, but also responsible for how their behaviour affects those relationships.”
What I am seeing here is that your SO has NOT taken responsibility for how her behavior affected your relationship, and how that is related to the limerence episode.
Your SO, partially through her mental illness, but also partially by CHOICE, has severed intimacy with you. I am going to tell you how it looks like from an outsider’s point of view. It SUITS her to be in the marriage (stable, comfortable, safe), it suits her that the marriage has no intimacy (for whatever reason of her own), and she is mad about LO mainly because it threatens the set up. She doesn’t want to give you intimacy, and she wants to be be satisfied with that and stay in a loveless and sexless marriage. In a way, your limerence is a god-send for her. She can now say, it isn’t MY fault, Adam is the one who strayed with this limerence business. I even wonder if she is really reacting to your limerence per se as an outraged spouse or she is really reacting out of fear because this cushy set up of hers is being threatened. She knows you well, and probably realizes making you feel guilty about the limerence will ensure you stay. This is emotional blackmail.
One of my friends, when I told her there was no infidelity involved in my divorce (unlike you, as you know, I don’t consider what’s in my head an infidelity, and in any case, I made the decision after the LE was done with), said that the minute there is infidelity, no matter what the full story is, the chump becomes the victim and the one who had the affair is the bad guy. Your wife is clinging onto the narrative that you are the bad guy. Because then, SHE isn’t the bad guy.
One thing that concerns me a great deal in all this is that she is pulling your 16 year old boy into this. Doing this is, in my opinion, selfish. One because he is extra fodder to make you feel guilty. Two because at 16, your son is forming his views on love and relationships. She is endangering that ability for him to form a healthy understanding of what it will mean for him to be in a committed relationship if she is only giving him a one sided view (her side, which I have already pointed out I think is not the full picture). A thing you might need to do is to take your boy aside and explain to him your view too. It is not good for a boy to think his father is an unfaithful adulterer (which looks to be where your wife is placing you even though as you say you never even thought to be sexual with LO). Your son is old enough to decide for himself what he derives from this, but you cannot leave him with just one side of the story.
(Sorry, I know I am criticizing your SO, someone you love, and you might be angry with me.)
“I think I will settle for unhappiness over loneliness. I don’t want to go back to being alone.”
This fear is something that we all need to face when it comes to decision time. I know it is scary. It was scary for me too. There is no right decision in this, only the one you can live with. Your alcoholism is a complication, but not fatal. You resisted LO, I believe you have it in you Adam, to fight this addiction.
I might just leave you with one last insight. Your LO is divorced. You think she is perfection, but obviously, her ex-husband didn’t. She is, like you, most likely, an imperfect being. Yet – she is so worthy of love. She has come out of this stronger, motivated, independent. She divorced and she still has someone to live for – her children (and you won’t lose yours either in a divorce, they are yours forever these wonderful beings). She inspired devotion from you, and love from another person. Adam, you could be just like her. One thing I am learning from my divorce process (and something I wasn’t expecting) was how a world of possibilities opens up. Like shutting a door opens up a window. Not just in terms of relationships either – I’m suddenly thinking of new ways to approach finances, how I want to structure my life, what retirement might look like now, etc. Now that I am not pouring all my energy in trying to fix my marriage, and now that I am not having to deal with all those intrusive thoughts, I have capacity for a lot more, and since we are on LwL I would say, I have a lot more to pour into creating a purposeful life.
(Again, forgive me if I insulted your wife and that upset you. I was terribly protective of my husband too, and I would not hear any wrong spoken of him.)
One other thing that might be helpful. I have two teenagers too, and they are both taking this better than I feared. We are not making them feel they have to take sides. Another friend told me that for children, the stability comes not from the relationship between their parents, but from the love and support they get from their parents. Focus on the love for them, and they will be fine.
Just to clarify, it means even if you stay in a marriage and children get pulled in (which your son has been) he will be okay so long as he knows you have his back no matter what, no matter if his mom is mad at you, no matter if you leave limerence for another.
I am going to get this off my chest from the start; I did get upset at your words about my wife. I didn’t take it personally from you. Just the idea of what you said about her. It hurts.
I agree that I feel she has settled into a place she is comfortable with. The sexless marriage is okay with her and she has the corner pocket of my limerence. But that as it is, still doesn’t excuse my limerence as far as I am concerned. I still have another woman in my head and that’s not okay no matter how I feel about LO. I’ve had thoughts of what it would be like to be with LO even though my overall thoughts of her are mostly platonic.
As far as intimacy goes it has been all on her. That’s been years before the limerence. She leverages the limerence against her having any interest in it for us. Which I can get. Me having another woman in my head (despite it not being in that way) could be a turn off. But I don’t want to touch and delight LO like I would like to get the chance to with my wife again. I would love to just give her a bruised sized hickie when she is standing in the kitchen cooking. But I know she’d brush me off. Or throw her on the bed and close the bedroom door. But those days have sailed long ago.
And yes Limmy she is getting all of what she wants out of the relationship without it costing her a thing. And I am compliant. I have our boys to consider. I can’t be selfish. They need to know that their mother and father love each other. How else am I going to set an example to them? My oldest is already in his second relationship with a young lady. And that because the first ____ broke his heart. I can’t fix that. But I can at least try to demonstrate how a man should treat a woman.
As far as our youngest boy I don’t know what she told him. I asked him what his mother told him last night and told him that he could talk to me about it. I told him if you are not comfortable talking about it now that it is okay. But I told him that at anytime he can talk to me about it and I will explain whatever he asks about. But he didn’t want to talk about it at the time. So I respected that. I’m not too concerned about what she might have said to him as he at this age is well aware of her mental illness and how it effects her.
As far as being alone (or scarily feeling alone within the marriage) you don’t want to know what my addiction will be unchecked. I’m scared of what it will develop into. I know this is a whole other tangent. But it will surface is she is checked out or we are separated. I know how I was single before I met her. I was a f___ing menace Limmy. I don’t want to go back to that.
You got me on that Limmy, LO is the perfect angel. God sent her down to us. There’s no way she had anything to do with it. That pos cheated on her. And look at how strong and brave and empowered she is. Who couldn’t get enamored with this woman. She is perfect. And her daughters are a fun delightful blessing from the interactions I have had with them. Truly my loss.
“But if there is somebody that makes you feel happy
Tends to your heart in the ways I’ve been lacking
Then who am I stand in your way
The the way I feel is no longer your burden
If there is someone that can mske you feel perfect
Than who am I who am I to stand in your way”
I Won’t Stand In Your Way — Chester See
Adam, It’s so weird that you said you love LO like you do your sister, sister-in-laws, etc.
I was just thinking to-day about the strange attachment that I have to my LO
I said to myself :Wow! I love him like I do my brother!
Kinda sent me for a loop!
I’m unraveling this connection to him one thread at a time.
Yes I would love the idea of my wife and I double dating with LO and her gentleman friend. Brunch and mimosia. I’ve not have either but I do like breakfast food and orange juice! I’ve never had eggs benedict. It’s a nice thought. But never a reality sadly.
Miss Lovisa.. where are you?!!! I miss you?!?!
Adam, that is really sweet. I was on vacation with my family, but I have been checking in. I read your back and forth with Limmy and Limerent Emeritus and I thought it was good and helpful. I felt like I should let you guys keep going. They both have some good stuff to share. Painful, but good.
Wow, Adam, I am impressed that Momma opened up about her feelings. I think it is a step in the right direction. I think Limerent Emeritus pointed out that both of you are contributing to the problems in your relationship. I think that’s true for any relationship. I want to share a story with you about a time when I contributed to a relationship struggle and I actually solved the problem by adjusting my behavior.
When my foster-son was new to us, he would sometimes slip into a dissociative trance. (I hope I remember the term correctly). He would suddenly freeze and stare blankly. His dissociative trances lasted from 20 to 45 minutes and they were very scary for me. It triggered panic in me. I would desperately try to get him to move or talk or blink or anything. One time I even thought he was playing a game and I yelled at him (I feel bad about that now). Nothing I did snapped him out of it, but I couldn’t just walk away when a six-year-old boy was catatonic. The trances finally stopped when we were at Disney World and I adjusted my reaction. We were walking towards the next ride when he froze. I took a deep breath and said, “I don’t know if you can hear me, but it looks like you’re slipping into a trance. Sometimes you don’t respond and it lasts between 20 and 45 minutes. It’s okay if that is happening right now, but it would be nice if we could get in the next line before you freeze up. Can you walk?” He replied, “I can walk.” We started walking and he never did that again. He doesn’t even remember doing it, but my husband and I remember.
I think his behavior stopped because I adjusted my reaction. I wonder if you can adjust your behavior in ways that could help your relationship with Momma. Can you think of something that might help?
My SO is really good at saying things like, “I can see why you feel that way.” Or “That would be hard.” Perhaps Momma needs to hear you say something like, “I understand you are hurt and angry by my behavior. Your reaction makes sense.” I don’t know if I am going in the right direction here, Adam. You will have to decide if that would be helpful.
I’m sorry to have bothered you on your vacation Miss Lovisa. I just missed hearing your thoughts. But yeah Limmy and LE are such insightful people with this limerence thing. You three are really the trinity of my limerence stability and I thank you all so much for your insight and help.
Miss Lovisa you are such a kind soul. I had forgotten your son was a foster son. You Miss Lovisa always trying to make the world a better place with your kindness one person at a time.
I think I have said before that years of clamming up, shutting out myself, and taking the path or least resistance with her has caused me to react negatively or at least defensively. And the unwillingness for any scrap of understanding with the limerence is not making it any better. But I will try Miss Lovisa, to address things differently so as to illicit a better reaction from her. I would like be back where we were those years ago. Wow we had such an amazing celebration of our 19 year anniversary in 2018. I’d like to get that back but not sure I can.
On an unrelated note Miss Lovisa, I’ve been doing a lot of walking. Like going to corner stores and the 7-11 when we need something rather than driving. I’ve got to go for a walk to store now when I get done here. I am down to 164 lbs! That’s the lowest I have been in many years!
You didn’t bother me, Adam. I didn’t want to interrupt the flow between you and the others. It was going well.
Thank you for your kind words. I tend to get myself in over my head. My mom was recently diagnosed with dementia so we moved her in with us. I have been taking care of her since October. She began bullying my seven-year-old daughter and it was quite upsetting yesterday. It pushed me to my breaking point. We are sending her to live with one of my brothers where there are only adults to bully. It’s such a weird thing. She wasn’t a bully before the dementia (at least I don’t think she was).
“… clamming up, shutting out myself, and taking the path or least resistance…”. Do you think this habit is contributing to your lack of emotional intimacy? I really don’t know, but I wonder.
That is good news about your weight and the walking. Wow! Keep up the good work, Adam.
Happy Easter, Adam!
My SO and I talked about Momma today. My SO admitted that he has a fear that I will leave him. We both wonder if Momma fears that you will leave her.
I want to apologize for my post earlier. The song you posted got to me. I didn’t mean it sound like I was angry with you. It just really hit me hard and I hated relating to it. I always am thankful for your posts.
Limerent Emeritus says
No offense taken.
One of the many bitches about limerence is trying to a grip on all the thoughts swirling through your head. You feel something but it can be hard to express what it is. In my experience, the right song can really help you articulate a lot of what you might be feeling. Being able to put your feelings into words, even if they’re someone else’s, can be helpful.
When my friend, the LCSW who actually knew LO #2, told me that I’d never mourned the loss of the relationship, I started to. I gave myself permission to finally grieve.
I’d take the dog for a long walk, put some songs on the playlist that I knew would drop me through the floor and find an isolated place to cry. Sometimes, I’d wait in the car and cry before going in the house. When I came back and my wife asked why my eyes were red, I’d tell her “allergies.”
Yeah music has been a real help in coping. With both my wife and LO. I think until I disclosed to my wife about LO I had a hard time doing that. I felt guilty that I missed LO and the nice relationship we had. I felt like shouldn’t miss her and that I should move on. Music really helped in between the time LO left and I disclosed to my wife. That limbo there where I didn’t want my wife to know what was going on, even when I didn’t know what it was entirely. I just wanted it to go away. Now after disclosure I guess I am openly mourning LO being gone and it shows.
Limerent Emeritus says
Here’s another one for the playlist:
“Making Love Out Of Nothing At All” – Air Supply (1983)
Written by Jim Steinman. He offered the song to Meatloaf but Meatloaf’s record company refused to pay.
Air Supply did a good job on it but I think Meatloaf would have crushed this.
I love that song.
“My SO and I talked about Momma today. My SO admitted that he has a fear that I will leave him. We both wonder if Momma fears that you will leave her.”
I don’t know if she does or not. She hasn’t said as much but that could very well be a possibility. But I don’t know why she would think that after all this and I am still here. I don’t want what we had with some other woman I want what we had again for the two of us.
I also suspect she looked up LO on social media some time recently. Maybe even before she confronted me about my sleep talking. She made a comment about LO’s appearance and she has never met LO. So I don’t if that diminished her confidence in herself or in my faithfulness to her or both.
She can still get my attention. She was standing in the kitchen sometime after I went to sleep last night and I got up to go to the bathroom. I could hear the dryer running. And see she’s just wearing a tank top. She usually goes around the house in a sweatshirt or hoodie. That’s the most skin I’ve seen in a while *wink wink* But I didn’t bother her (though my thoughts tried to get me to) and went back to bed.
Hope you had a good Easter. I mostly took the time to walk more since it was such nice weather yesterday. More exercise for me!
Adam, I’m curious if you could say something to her about how attractive she is. My SO still looks at me like I’m Christmas morning and he flirts with me all the time. I love it! Can you say something like, “Dang you look good in that tank top! Thanks for the peak.” And then just let it be. Don’t expect a response. What do you think?
I’m glad you’re walking more.
I am willing to try most anything Miss Lovisa. Next time I get a chance I will give that a try. If I don’t get any negative feedback I will try again the next chance. Maybe something can be built on it.
Yes, I had a wonderful Easter. My knee is healed, no pain at all. I did 14 miles, 7 running and 7 walking. It felt amazing! We did some family stuff and church, of course. The Sunday service was beautiful! My SO has the voice of an angel and he sang with the choir. My daughters sang with the other children. It was just wonderful! I am so grateful for my church.
Already on the playlist. My folks had that record (or maybe cassette) of their greatest hits and that was one of my favorites of the songs on the album.
“I know when to pull you closer and know when to let you loose.”
I thought I did but here I am right now not knowing what the hell to do.