The previous post presented a particularly thorny limerence dilemma, and inadvertently also highlighted some of the difficulties presented when discussing emotionally incendiary topics. Like limerence, infidelity, and personal responsibility, for instance.
Unfortunately, it also failed in its explicit intent: to help the person who had contacted me, seeking support. A few days after the post went live, “Creative limerent” got in touch with me about her situation, but also apologetically admitted that she did not feel able to enter the discussion on the post for fear of being attacked by some commenters.
My general philosophy for commenting on the blog is fairly laissez-faire, but CL’s response is a message I’m not willing to ignore, so I think it’s time to spell out some ground rules, and outline my view on what is appropriate conduct.
What I am hoping to achieve with this blog
When I started out, I was mainly just expressing myself, and trying to help understand the experience I had been through, by writing my thoughts down and organising them in a way that helped me make sense of limerence. But it has grown (happily!) and my primary ambition now is to help other people make sense of the experience too. The purpose of the blog, therefore, is to help people affected by limerence – both limerents themselves and those suffering because of the behaviour of limerents in their lives. What it is not is a forum for critiquing other people’s conduct and character.
Who is welcome
Everyone. Genuinely. I absolutely believe in a pluralist approach to problem solving, and cordially dislike echo chambers. I think all voices and all perspectives add value to the discussion around limerents, and have said before that “chumps” (i.e. victims of infidelity, as per chumplady) are not only welcome, but make an especially important contribution; by spotlighting in stark relief the impact that selfish limerents have on their loved ones and friends. But.
While I dislike echo chambers, I also dislike the current social trend of equating victimhood with moral authority. I do not believe that misconduct by a limerent erases all their positive contributions to life, or that having been a victim of infidelity grants chumps the insight to dictate what is right for everyone else. I suppose my worldview on this is that most of us are stumbling through life, trying to figure out what we’re doing, and being variously favoured, victimised, and buffeted by random chance. The way through that is not to sort people into goodies and baddies, and then eulogise the goodies and dehumanise the baddies. A bit of humility is always a good idea. Caring about the wellbeing of victims is easy; caring about the redemption of transgressors is when your compassion is properly tested.
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
Some people are unreachable, of course, but I’m going to assume they won’t be coming here, and certainly won’t be asking for support.
I am anti-infidelity, as I would think the vast majority of people are. I’ve joked before about being a judgy judge on this topic, but there’s nuance in every situation. The first grey area is that not everyone agrees what constitutes infidelity. For some, thoughts are betrayal enough. For others, words. And then, there’s the sliding scale of physical acts from hugs to long-term sexual affairs. For myself, I fall on the “your thoughts are your own, but once you externalise them you take the consequences” line. But I also recognise the difference of opinion, and would rather learn from someone with a different view than correct them. The second grey area is that there are degrees of betrayal. That does not mean that some betrayal is OK. It does mean that mitigating circumstances matter.
The extreme cases are easy. A player who has multiple affairs, puts their spouse’s health and finances at risk, and is unrepentant, is obviously despicable. A neglected spouse who admits their inappropriate feelings to a co-worker they have become limerent for may not have acted perfectly, but there’s room for forgiveness. However, the mass in the middle is the tricky bit. Those people who know they have broken their own moral codes and are trying to cope with the guilt, but don’t know what to do. Those people who feel like they’ve lost control of their senses, and desperately want to get their emotions back under control. Those people whose LOs are actively enabling the limerence. How far is unforgivable? How little a transgression should be confessed?
I am far from convinced that shoving all the grey area cases to one or other of the extremes is the right response.
One of the points of contention in the last comment thread was around disclosure – specifically whether (and when) the limerent should disclose to their spouse. I have a post on the topic here, but to summarise: the limerent and spouse should be working as a partnership, or the relationship is going to get into serious trouble. I would advocate disclosure at a time and in a way that maximises the chance that an honest and constructive discussion can be had. But, I also think that there is a reasonable case for the limerent trying to stabilise their own emotional problems before disclosure – or if the limerence has not progressed to disclosure to LO (or a physical affair) then not disclosing at all. I think it is probably best for the long-term health of your relationship to disclose even limerent feelings – because they are symptomatic of an unresolved romantic longing in the limerent that is best analysed and understood – but choosing your moment is also important.
To give a specific example: I heard from a cheater spouse who disclosed to his wife while they were driving home from a concert. His distraught wife leapt out of the car at a stop light and ran out into the traffic. If you know that your spouse is emotionally vulnerable, it is reasonable to take care about when (and where) you disclose. Other examples would be: while the partner is working abroad, if the LO is the partner’s boss, or partner’s employee, or partner’s friend. Yes, these are all undoubtedly unpleasantly disrespectful betrayals, but thoughtless disclosure could compound the damage rather than limiting it.
Basically, betrayal is really really shitty, so don’t do it, but if you have, try not to make it even worse. A good rule of thumb is: if you are not disclosing because you are scared of the consequences for you, then you are making the situation worse. If you are not disclosing because you foresee even worse damage from doing so, then think deeply about the best time and circumstances.
So, for those who have persisted through this study in centrism, here are my thoughts on commenting. Please be constructive, supportive, and civil. I don’t want to mod, but I will in cases where the conduct or character of contributors is being attacked. Look on it like this: if you hector people, you are not going to persuade them. If you dictate what they should do, you are robbing them of the opportunity to figure it out for themselves, and anyway, you don’t know what is best for them. The call for civil discourse seems recently to have been taken by the media as evidence of a right-wing powerplay to suppress minority voices – another one of those moments where I feel the zeitgeist is leaving me behind – but to me, civility is part of the bedrock of civilisation (it’s sort of implicit in the word). My definition of civil discourse is not “no swearing”, it’s assuming that the person you are addressing is acting in good faith, and responding accordingly, even when you vehemently disagree.
With all that out of the way, I’ll end with a belated thank you to everyone who has contributed to the discussions on the blog to date. Thank you all. It is incredibly moving and gratifying to read the messages from people who say that this blog and this community has helped them get their limerence-wracked lives back on track, and given them hope for the future.
Long may that continue…
Having got all that pontificating out of the way, I am going to be very liberal about comments on this post. Please feel free to attack my positions and stress-test them for inconsistencies 🙂
Firstly, I think now is an ideal time to say an enormous thank you for this blog. It has been transformative in terms of me understanding and dealing with Limerence. I come back to old posts as they become relevant to me on my own journey, and they are like a guiding light to me. So thank you.
I think part of the problem is just how much Limerence warps the decision making and behaviour. To an outsider, such as an SO or even someone who used to be limerent and no longer is, it must just seem so illogical.
Many of the comments are essentially saying “snap out of it”, “surely you know this is wrong” or “just cut the LO out of your life”. I get it of course, to the detached observer the answers seem so simple. But to the addicted, and this is Person Addiction at the end of the day, logic doesn’t come into it.
The very definition of addiction is feeling compelled to do something despite the adverse consequences. That is Limerence to a T. If I could snap out of it I would, I know some of my behaviour was inappropriate but I did it anyway. Can I explain why? Not really. Can I just cut out someone who I’ve become so fond of and feel compelled to look after? It’s incredibly hard.
Unless you have gone through it, I think your empathy only stretches so far.
I appreciate all the hard work you put into the blog, Dr. L.
What drives me bonkers is that if you (singular, plural) feel limerence is an addiction then it would be better to address the secrecy that fuels it. At an AA or NA meeting, secret-keeping is backsliding. They also take family involvement seriously. Addiction (and limerence) rarely happen in a vacuum.
Admittedly, Mr. Lee is an outlier. He did tell me early on but not early enough that the habit of lying to me and to others wasn’t starting to take hold.
I’m not a fan of Margaret Thatcher. I can agree with her on this point though,
“Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become…habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny! What we think we become.”
Gandhi wasn’t a particularly nice guy either if you really delve into what he believed about certain castes and his views on women, but again, the quote has merit:
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
Anyway, people need to be mindful of their thoughts because it instructs their walk.
Except for exercise. So many people think about exercising but don’t do it. Which is a pity. It’s great for thinking and working off some angst and frustrations.
I would echo what has been said in thanking Dr L for the hard work that goes into this blog.
Regarding the idea that “Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,”
The biggest thing I’ve struggled with is that my thoughts were at odds with my true beliefs/values and were clouded by the limerence.
The LE is something that developed quite slowly in my case (we worked together about year before the ‘glimmer’) so if I didn’t normally give my husband a detailed account of every conversation I had with colleagues, was it lying by omission that I’d spent lunchtime chatting to LO?
In the early stages I just thought “Oh it’s a random crush, it will pass” and tried to ignore it. If I had disclosed then, what good would that have done? It would have made SO insecure and I truly believed if I ignored the crush, it would pass.
When it didn’t and developed into this full blown obsession I did eventually summon up the courage to disclose, and my husband reacted exactly as I thought he would, and completely downplayed the whole thing as he didn’t see chats and hugs as betrayal like I felt they were. Eventually he came round to understanding my point of view. And 6 months of marriage counselling later, we are pretty good (had our last session this week, but the counsellor has left it open if we ever need to go back we just have to get in touch)
Good point about exercising though… that is spot on in my case!!
“6 months of marriage counselling later, we are pretty good (had our last session this week, but the counsellor has left it open if we ever need to go back we just have to get in touch)”
That’s great news and congratulations to both of you!
It’s easier to exercise when you have company. At least most dogs do well with nice long companionable walks even if it’s a tougher to coordinate with people.
“Eventually he came round to understanding my point of view. ”
Question – did it take him as long to see your point as it took you to realize you had slid?
““Oh it’s a random crush, it will pass” and tried to ignore it. If I had disclosed then, what good would that have done?”
Mr. Lee disclosed less than 3 months after Miss LO appeared on the scene and while it wasn’t pleasant, it has led to many fruitful discussions. It hasn’t been all pleasant since then but more issues have been addressed since he did so.
In answer to your question Lee, I honestly can’t remember how long these things took as they were both gradual processes.
In my case, LO has been a catalyst for a lot of changes, but things are feeling and looking better now.
I hope the discussions and adressing of issues have positive outcomes for you and Mr Lee as they have for us.
Wow, I could have written the first half of your comment almost word by word! Like you, I worked with LO for over a year before this silliness started, and the beginning thought it would be harmless –hell, I may have even encouraged it a little in my head as some sort of midlife rebellion. Have I paid for that one.
I also disclosed to SO, emphasizing that it is an issue in my head (and it is. LO is fully oblivious and my actions toward him are mostly neutral. It’s the thoughts that kill me). SO was somewhat hurt but also kind of let it go; I don’t think he understood how painful this is for me and potentially damaging for my psyche and our relationship even if nothing will ever happen with that other person. Perhaps I can convince him to go to counseling.
If I may ask: do you mind sharing more details on the marriage coounselling? What was the focus of it? Was the limerence discussed at all or was it more about preexisting issues in your relationship with SO? I’m kind of doubtful that that last angle would help much in our case. Our marriage is in good shape, the main problem is my tendency to escapism and limerence.
Firstly well done to you for managing it Marianne! It is so ridiculously painful.
I had had counselling about 12 years prior to all of this,so when I was struggling with the limerent thoughts, and my best friend said to me ” Hey Soph I think you need to get some proper help now” it wasn’t too daunting to get some help.
I disclosed to SO partly because I knew he knew something wasn’t right, and partly because I knew I needed individual therapy. I was only working one day a week at this point, so therapy took up 90% of my wages and therefore I needed his support!
Whilst working with that counsellor I began to see what it was about LO that appealed so much, why it surfaced at this time and despite my efforts to ignore or pretend otherwise, how much my husband and I had drifted. It also became clear (although even now I still have moments when I forget this) that the limerence is all about my own issues and NOT about LO.
I hasten to add I’m not blaming SO – he was working a stressful job and was entirely wrapped up in that, even when not at work. I was at home 6 days a week with the kids, and although SO helped around the house and with the kids, I wasn’t feeling supported.
I hit a block with my individual counselling as I was so bogged down with day to day stuff, all opportunities to talk to my husband led back to him ranting about work but never doing anything to change it, I felt completely unsupported at home but no idea how to tell him. After all, he helped out with the kids and some of the chores when he was home, but he wasn’t emotionally available to me.
In the end, I basically said I’ve reached the stage I think we need to see a marriage counsellor – my individual counsellor has recommended someone – as I struggle to get my point across and we digress onto mundane stuff when we try and talk at home. I left the idea with him, didn’t push it, also suggested it may be helpful in working out a way to change jobs and leave the toxic environment he was working in. Eventually (about 2 months and him changing his mind a few times) we had our first appointment.
Initially he was a bit reluctant, but we gradually made progress. I have never used the word limerence in therapy. With the marriage counsellor, when we discussed background I briefly mentioned the “inappropriate crush and friendship” I’d had with a colleague, but by that point I was no contact. (More details of my story are in the comments on this post: https://livingwithlimerence.com/2017/03/22/emotional-affairs/)
Some sessions were quite painful, I felt so bad knowing what I needed to say was going to hurt SO, particularly that I felt we were more like friends than lovers, but having the counsellor there helped me to communicate it better, and stopped SO from avoiding it. We’ve both learned that it is OK and in fact healthy to have feelings, the need to allow ourselves to have them, to share as appropriate (even if painful) and undoing our programming from our families that says otherwise. My husband is now in a new job, much better environment, less stressed and more emotionally available. We both still have individual stuff we are working on, but we are able to support each other with it and are much closer to the 50/50 partnership that we want.
If it’s your tendency towards escapism (very familiar to me!) then maybe seeing an individual therapist may help in uncovering what you’re trying to escape from?!
Obviously I’ve no idea of your individual circumstances, so ignore me if that’s inappropriate for you.
Either way, all the best as it’s a very difficult situation!
I too want express deep thanks for this blog… it’s so nice to intellectually know what is happening to my vulnerable heart and have a body of work to substantiate that it is in fact just a mirage.
And I am deeply grateful for the cry for civility. I too have felt wary of posting (although my limerence has never involved a married person and I myself am single). I have felt wary due to the critical and nearly vitriolic responses posted from time to time. I am a gentle soul and limerence is painful enough…. to feel attacked doesn’t help, if anything it hurts and makes one seek comfort … and we all know where a limerent seeks comfort.
I have very high moral standards, and long, long ago was a victim of an unfaithful spouse so I heartily agree that controlling thoughts is the foundation of controlling behaviors. I have a zero tolerance policy for unfaithfulness.
However I feel the cry for fidelity and integrity must be laced with kindness, compassion and respect. I think one is more apt to listen to that cry when done so.
Looking forward to continued learning and growing from this blog!
My desire to “come clean” led me to causing a lot of pain to a woman whose only mistake was liking me.
The woman and I started seeing each other when LO #2 and I had broken up. LO #2 made noises about getting back together and, based on our history and my belief we had a future together, I agreed. But, I chose to announce my return to LO #2 at a really inappropriate moment. I just couldn’t stand not telling the woman because I was feeling guilty for being with her when I’d decided to return to LO #2. So, I just let it out.
I’ll never forget her standing in my living room with tears streaming down her cheeks, telling me, “She’s using you!” It turned out she was right but I wouldn’t know that for almost another 2 years.
If I could have one “do over” in life, it would be to somehow spare her the pain I caused her by the way I disclosed. That event influenced my decision not to disclose to my SO. I never want to be responsible for something like that again.
Thanks all for the comments and good wishes.
I agree with Vincent that the experience is very hard to describe without experiencing it, and that it would stretch anyone’s empathy. It is fundamentally irrational. And it ironically made me better able to relate to an addict in my family, who we had all beseeched to just “stop doing the bad behaviour!”
Re. thoughts leading to action – yes, that is true. In fact, that is the way into the limerent trap. You think and think about the LO until they are the centre of your mental space and then you realise you can’t stop anymore. Even though you really want to.
So, for future episodes of limerence “beware about even starting on the thoughts” is good advice, but for people already caught in the trap, the solution has to be a slow and painful rewriting of your internal narratives. Disclosing to a spouse can be a very helpful step. But not always.
I also suspect that many limerents feel “I’ve brought this on myself by indulging in fantasies, so it’s my responsibility to sort myself out, rather than putting it on others.” Unless a physical affair (or disclosure to LO) has happened, it is all going on in the limerent’s head. I don’t consider this as keeping a secret, and don’t expect to be privy to all of my wife’s thoughts either.
But, if the limerent has crossed the point where their behaviour is jeopardising the primary relationship, then yes, explanations need to be forthcoming.
I cannot thank you enough for this blog! I am currently in LE and found this term when I was trying to figure out what is wrong with me. What a painful battle this it!!!
Another big vote of thanks to Dr L for keeping this blog. It has been a tremendously useful resource through this experience. I only wish we could have a forum to discuss with like-minded people about this!
(And yes, I do know about the limerence.net forum, but the focus there seems to be on attachment wounds and narcissism, and I don’t see that applying at all to my situation).
“While I dislike echo chambers, I also dislike the current social trend of equating victimhood with moral authority”. Very well put. I have to say all exchange I’ve seen around here has seemed civil, but well, I’m not the moderator.
Hahaha – this popped up for me this morning.
Highlights that seem immediately applicable:
3. The Most Important Factor in a Relationship is Not Communication, But Respect
3d. No secrets. If you’re really in this together and you respect one another, everything should be fair game. Have a crush on someone else? Discuss it. Laugh about it. Had a weird sexual fantasy that sounds ridiculous? Be open about it. Nothing should be off-limits.
4. Talk Openly About Everything, Especially the Stuff That Hurts
“Trust is like a china plate. If you drop it and it breaks, you can put it back together with a lot of work and care. If you drop it and break it a second time, it will split into twice as many pieces and it will require far more time and care to put back together again. But drop and break it enough times, and it will shatter into so many pieces that you will never be able to put it back together again, no matter what you do.”
5. A Healthy Relationship Means Two Healthy Individuals (shout out to Sophie who leads the way!)
I love the title to his book.
Trust is so important and often taken for granted. You may not notice it until it’s gone.
When I dropped the dime on LO #2, I didn’t tell her I didn’t love her anymore, I told her I didn’t trust her anymore.
When it looked like my wife and I weren’t going to make it, I told her I couldn’t live the last third of my life with someone I didn’t trust.
“Have a crush on someone else? Discuss it. Laugh about it. Had a weird sexual fantasy that sounds ridiculous? Be open about it. Nothing should be off-limits.”
This one comes loaded with caveats. I learned early in my marriage my wife had a pretty low bar on what she considered betrayal. At one point, it was so bad, I’d walk through the mall looking at my shoes rather than risk her making some comment about me and the woman at the Clinique counter. It took a marriage counselor to get through that phase. We did it but it reinforced that some things are better avoided than confronted.
Remind me, did any of your limerent episodes occur while married?
The last one. The condensed version can be found in:
“What Can Spouses Do” Comment: OCTOBER 11, 2018 AT 11:29 AM
“We did it but it reinforced that some things are better avoided than confronted.”
That appears to have been mentioned.
A Healthy Relationship Means Two Healthy Individuals
“A good marriage is one in which only one partner is crazy at any given time.” – Heinz Kohut, “How Does Analysis Cure”
OT: If you want to watch something interesting, watch his video, “Reflections on Empathy.”
It’s all good but pay particular attention starting at 1:45.
Like the limerence addict I am, I come back to this site’s various postings time and again when I feel the need for group support. And it really is helpful. Like, I just found this post from Lee about successful relationships. What a great summary of wise advice! So so true about respect and trust. The two are way more intertwined than I understood before. Thanks, Lee, for including the link.
Those that cheat aren’t usually doing it to hurt their SO. So I believe disclosing an affair or infidelity that having been disclosed causes no chance in relationship status change, SO will not leave you or separate or what not, will create only negatives and pain for everyone. If my SO cheated on me but had no intentions of leaving me I’d prefer not to know. Sometimes being a unsuspecting fool is better then living a life full of anxiety and stress wondering what your SO is doing at any given time they are not with you. I’ve seen people in them type of relationships and I’d never want that level of stress you can never get rid of except threw changing your relationship and some don’t want that. However if you are cheating with the thought of leaving your SO that is using them until you don’t need them and tossing them aside that is not how you treat someone you love. So the first time you seriously think about leaving your SO for LE It’s only fair to your SO that you come clean. Now you may ask who are you to decide if your Infidelity will make them leave you? I say make the best guess from past situations.
So – cheating is okay as long as your partner doesn’t know about it, or they aren’t caught/revealed? How do you feel about theft?
My Limerent Brain Is An Idiot says
“Those that cheat aren’t usually doing it to hurt their SO.”
But that is the end result.
In my case, what ended my digression into limerence was the realization that if I let things continue in the direction they were heading, I *would* be cheating, and I *would* hurt my SO.
Cheating is thin ice, and the risks are way way higher than any perceived rewards.
Plus it’s wrong, so the risk/benefit analysis is moot.
“Heresy involves not only an error of the mind but also a stubborn deviation of the will.” – Torquemada
Infidelity is much the same. Maybe because heresy is theological infidelity?
Sophia Morris says
Really interesting read! Agree with what you’ve written. I believe the most important thing for rebuilding your relationship after infidelity is taking responsibility and making a sincere apology. This helps convey that you’re aware of how wrong your actions were and that you’re willing to do what it takes to rebuild the relationship with your partner.
Humble sinner says
There’s another, slightly sadistic approach to a consensus – you start by openly talking about your desires, intentions and try to determine your spouse’s flexibility.
If there is at least some latitude, openly admit some “light” transgressions – I, personally (am i male) like chats to other women with carefully constructed sexual allusions. Carefully, meaning not against the other women’s will or desire.
I do it rarely and the only reason is arousal, ego confirmation of your self-perceived charm and some other selfish and irrational objectives.
I always describe the the content of such a discourse to my spouse.
Over time she learned to tolerate. In the early days she despised that and we had heated moral discussions. However, I never cross that boundary – tried to persuade her into swinging, threesome, voyeurism, exhibitionism etc – she refused all of that very strongly. I learned where the boundary is.
I also learned I can get away with stretching her forgiveness and tolerance , but only to its known limits.
The moral would be – try to assess the tolerance and limits of your spouse’s desires and use that space to indulge your little experiments.
Very interesting. I am doing something very similar. I don’t see it as sadistic though – why do we always have to assume our partner’s needs are the valid ones, and our own needs are ‘wrong’ and invalid. You are just being pragmatic. In any partnership it is important for both sides compromise and find the middle ground which is exactly what my SO and I are doing. Like yours, he has turned down my suggestion of a completely open relationship so the boundary is not quite where I want it, but by being honest about my needs and desires with him, I am am being given some flexibility leaving me able to openly indulge in an EA if I so wished. I also have one non-expiring (and unused) hall pass. The end result is that I feel very grateful that my SOs love for me is generous and that he values my needs and happiness as much as I do his.
“If there is at least some latitude, openly admit some “light” transgressions – I, personally (am i male) like chats to other women with carefully constructed sexual allusions. ”
Do the women you chat with know you are married? Are they aware the chats are entertainment and not to expect anything else?
“I don’t see it as sadistic though – why do we always have to assume our partner’s needs are the valid ones, and our own needs are ‘wrong’ and invalid. ”
I agree with you, but did you discuss boundaries with your spouse before marriage? Or have yours changed over time and his haven’t? People change over time, but what happens if what you are suggesting (the universal you) is morally repugnant to your spouse? What if what one spouse wants is something the other can’t compromise on?
No we naively didn’t discuss boundaries before marriage, although we both had our private doubts about lifelong monogamy. We both wanted kids and marriage seemed to be the prescribed approach to that. I guess my tongue-in-cheek opt out here is that we actually do not vow sexual monogamy in a UK civil wedding ceremony, we only commit not to marry someone else 🙂
The change in me over time is that aging has a given me the insight and confidence to reject the cultural scripts I have always been brainwashed with, and that everyone holds onto so very tightly, and start writing my own script. If I knew then what I now now after 17 years together, I would absolutely have talked about this before marriage, agreed to potentially flex boundaries and maybe even insist on a “contract re-negotiation” at the 10 year stage.
“What if what one spouse wants is something the other can’t compromise on?” Keep trying, forced compromise, leave the marriage or live dishonestly… there are no good options are there. This is what makes me now reject the whole traditional institution of marriage.
I guess the big lesson here is to choose who you marry very very carefully!
I must add that my SO agrees with me from a cognitive perspective, but is unable to detach from the (incorrect) cultural belief that if I loved someone else and had a relationship with them, I would not love him any more. He can’t live with that risk. But he already is… we can stop loving our SO regardless of what we actually physically do with someone else. There is plenty of room in my heart for two children, two parents, two friends and of course, two men! 🙂
“No we naively didn’t discuss boundaries before marriage, although we both had our private doubts about lifelong monogamy.”
I have my doubt about it, too, but I don’t have any interest in marriage. In my ideal world, I’d have a platonic but very close relationship with someone that the haze of sex had never muddied — we see each other clearly, we get each other, we understand each other, we are committed to being there for each other — and then had sexual dalliances on the side. I think being limerent is a very emotional experience, but when the heat of it wears off, there’s no guarantee there’s a real connection there. Now, would I be jealous if my platonic partner fell in love with one of his sexual dalliances? Probably. So … I don’t have an answer. 🙂
“I must add that my SO agrees with me from a cognitive perspective, but is unable to detach from the (incorrect) cultural belief …”
I agree with you from a cognitive perspective as well, but then there’s the emotional part of me. If I chose the route of a traditional relationship (a sexual rather than platonic partner), it would bother me very much if my partner was limerent for someone else. I’d be done. I’m a limerent myself so I am very aware of how the LO takes over one’s brain.
“In my ideal world, I’d have a platonic but very close relationship with someone”… “we see each other clearly, we get each other, we understand each other, we are committed to being there for each other ”
Exactly what my marriage is these days.
Humble sinner says
“Do the women you chat with know you are married? Are they aware the chats are entertainment and not to expect anything else?”
If they ask, I surely tell them so, but I do not speak up this fact as a conversation opener or legal terms and conditions of social discourse. They are , however, not aware that chats are entertainment only – I try to keep the implications of my chat as blurry as possible. It is the unclear expectations that amplifies the sexual expectations, in my humble opinion. We are evolutionary hardwired to the excitement of seduction, in one way or another. It is the social conventions that make us feel in violation of human moral. I reject this view, however I still try to keep the game under the rules I agreed with my spouse to avoid personal hurting (which is separate from social convention and as such more relevant to my actions than any social construct).
The issue with this, Humble sinner, is that you are knowingly using the women you chat with, to gratify your desire for seduction. They don’t know your motive is to just play till you get what you want, with nothing more. I don’t know if there is some social media platform that is designed for this sort of thing (surely there is), but if you are having these chats in real life, there will inevitably be harm done to them if they were hoping for something meaningful.
You and your wife are not the only people whose feelings need to be considered. Social conventions tend to arise after long periods of consensus-building where the “average” moral perspective gets agreed. They shift with time as social mores evolve, but disregarding them unilaterally invites a backlash.
I agree with Dr. L. You using these women. If you want to have sexual chats with women and your wife is ok with it and the women know you are married and don’t intend to go further than the chats, fine. But you are manipulating them and it’s not right. You must know that. Which is why the best advice for people who want to meet someone irl they have met online is to move on if the person isn’t amendable to meeting up within a couple of weeks. So they avoid what you are doing.
Humble sinner says
Guilty as charged, respected commentators…
However, let’s take a closer look at this interesting DRLIMERENCE’s point of view:
“Social conventions tend to arise after long periods of consensus-building where the “average” moral perspective gets agreed.”
While there are some shining examples that confirm this hypothesis (women’s emancipation and liberation, LGBT rights, open communication and tackling pedophilia etc.), there is still one predominant social convention that does not corroborate your statement – monogamy.
Monogamy is a socially imposed assumption that contradicts our biologically conditioned nature. I am not sure how this consensus keeps surviving while at the same time it clashes with our biological nature and creates so much friction in society.
This is most likely the result of an obsolete and rigid Christian doctrine so strongly implanted into our collective perception. As long as we have social conventions that deny our biological nature, we will be having “infidelity”.
Monogamy is a result of a false logic clashing with our nature. Social perception is distorted because people see their sexual desires towards multiple/other partners a one way ticket to the everlasting fires of Hell where their souls will burn in eternal damnation because they desired “other” man or “other” woman.
This is why any form of “infidelity” is wrong – either me behaving “badly” as you correctly pointed out in exploiting women’s expectations, or my spouse if I am “honest” to other women and actually commit transgression, or me being hurt by suppressing my desires altogether to keep the “peace in the house”.
There is no way out of this hurting dilemma unless the fundamental assumption is tuned – monogamy is a concept incompatible with our nature. Period.
“Monogamy is a socially imposed assumption that contradicts our biologically conditioned nature.”
I’m not telling you to be monogamous if you don’t want to be. I’m telling you to be honest. Certainly there are chat rooms for polyamorous people or chat rooms where it’s implied it’s all for entertainment for people who like to flirt/talk dirty and do nothing else. I have to admit that I don’t understand the appeal of endless flirtation, but that’s me.
“We are evolutionary hardwired to the excitement of seduction, in one way or another.” No. The evidence suggests that prehistoric humans evolved to be polyamorous and egalitarian. i.e. to follow through on their flirting.
I do agree with you HumbleSinner about monogamy though.
In case anyone is interested… monogamy was not a religious invention and did not come about through some kind of natural consensus building. It was invented and strictly enforced in ancient times to resolve a specific problem. The first step towards its creation was the removal of women from the workforce and making them the property of men. Men then took away women’s sexual autonomy (but not men’s) to protect child paternity. Monogomy then had to be enforced to prevent the social problems from the resulting combination of hypergamy and polygyny = not enough women to go around so poorer men tended to become more violent and criminal.
Of course now we have contraception to control child paternity, and we have equal rights and opportunities for women, thus removing their need for hypergamy. So monogamy is now an unnecessary and outdated construct, but the funny thing about this type of social scripts is that most participants are unable to see beyond them, and those that do are shamed into conforming by the closed minded majority.
“We are evolutionary hardwired to the excitement of seduction, in one way or another.”
What he really means is that he can’t feel the excitement if the jig is up — if these women know he’s married. I fail to see why he considers these sexual chats a seduction. It’s a bit like whipping up a cake batter but never putting it in the oven. 🙂
Love the cake batter analogy…so apt and so funny! 😂
In his defence, I suspect he would love to bake and eat his cake but, like many of us, is prohibited from doing so by the rules of his culture.
“In his defense, I suspect he would love to bake and eat his cake but, like many of us, is prohibited from doing so by the rules of his culture.”
I’m just looking at it from the perspective of a single woman. Having a married guy ramble on about the sex he’d like to have with me but has no intention of doing … no thanks. It’s ineffectual, to use a more polite term than I’d like to. Unless the women he talks to are also married and have the same restrictions, I can’t imagine that being sexy for anyone. And for me, personally, I’m not a fan of spending a lot of time talking about sex. I had one guy do that … and when we finally got down to it, he followed his game plan step-by-excruciatingly mechanical step. That was a one-off. No need to do it again. You already know the plot! You’ve seen the movie. 🙂
And if I can add one thing, per one of his posts:
” We are made of flesh and blood that operate according to biochemistry of hormones, neurotransmitters, short skirts, spirited conversations, hypnotising eyes, or the way how she holds cigarette or crosses legs…”
It sounds like he is writing about general lust for women as a whole. That is not what limerence is about. It’s very directed interest/lust/fascination with one person. Although most people might not understand the obsessiveness about limerence, I think they can understand being in a long-term relationship and hit unexpectedly with unwanted feelings for someone else.
The evolutionary origins of monogamy/polygamy are pretty contentious, and not even stable – the optimal game theory strategy depends on the relative abundance of men and women in the population and the factors controlling access to reproductive opportunities. Just because we all fancy lots of people, and can be sexually opportunistic, doesn’t mean monogamy is “unnatural”.
Where I would agree is that monogamous marriage is a social convention. But it didn’t arrive in a vacuum, or because of out of control patriarchy. Patriarchy in its worst manifestation results in a few very rich men establishing harems, and the large mass of low status men realising that their only hope for ever having a mate is to burn the whole corrupt social system down in revolution. Societies that lasted, realised that enforcing a one-partner-each social convention protected against this existential risk.
Now, you could argue that male desire to mate with women, coupled with sexual jealousy and propensity to violence, are not good bases for establishing a social convention, but I don’t think you can reasonably argue that they don’t have roots in evolutionary biology.
Reference “Sex at Dawn” by Cacilda Jethá and Christopher Ryan. Convincing and well evidenced research about how it is highly probable that pre-agricultural humans were polyamorous, and that sex was as as much about ensuring tribal cohesion and inter-tribal peace, as it was about reproduction. These theories are far better evidenced than Helen Fisher et al, and the game theorists – indeed it debunks the game theory sexual strategy completely.
“Societies that lasted, realised that enforcing a one-partner-each social convention protected against this existential risk.” The risk monogamy overcame thousands of years ago does not really exist any more in the west. We have contraception, accessible childcare and women can work and support themselves now. Where polygyny once made it harder for lower-mate-value men to find partners, polyamory actually makes it easier, because these guys don’t have to be good enough to be a woman’s primary partner.
For me, monogomy is just like a culturally enforced religion where I am a minority atheist.
Thanks for the reference, Allie. I’d not heard of it, and it sounds worth a read for sure.
My immediate response, though, is that I think we actually kind of agree. I have no problem accepting that many pre-agricultural tribes worked on a polyamorous model, as their stable social construct. With a relatively small number of men and women in a close knit group, that’s a good strategy. That said, the history of Micronesia (as summarised by Jared Diamond) also suggests that lots of different social models of sexual interplay can arise and remain stable (including matriarchy).
However, once humans started to live in larger groups, sexual jealousy became a far bigger problem, monogamy became a more attractive solution to managing the problem, and social conventions shifted.
My argument is that it’s an error to think that either monogamy or polyamory are the true innate state of human sexuality, and that deviation from either is evidence that society has tried to suppress that “true state” because of gender power dynamics. I think we are all individually inclined to prefer one model or the other, and that social conventions have arisen when the drives of the individuals within society come into conflict with the stability of the community. Compromises are found, and coercive control is exerted (religious or secular enforcement of norms) to try and protect both the common good and also corrupt privilege.
Finally, I also agree that the best scenario for maximum human wellbeing is the freedom that we currently enjoy in the West. Ethical polyamory is pretty widely accepted, and infidelity in marriage is also no longer legally punished (directly). That’s progress, for sure. Nowadays, social stigma seems to mostly be reserved for dishonest conduct.
I am not so sure we do agree, maybe just a little 😁
I believe humans evolved to be polyamorous, and that is their natural state, and would be the natural choice for the majority. There is strong evolutionary biological evidence for this. In modern day hunter gatherer cultures where polyamory has survived, the majority choose polyamory, and a only a small percentage choose a monogamous pair bond.
“the freedom that we currently enjoy in the West”. We are not free in the west, or at least polyamory is not a real choice in the UK. Going back to my religion comparison, we are born into the national religion of monogomy, we grow up participating in all the normal monogamous traditions and practices of our culture as we do not know any better and as humans, we have a overwhelming biologically programmed imperative to fit in. We are shamed if we deviate from this. It is perfectly legal to discriminate against polyamorists, and this does happen. I have never naturally met a polyamory practitioner so would be forever single and childless if I had known about this and chosen that way of life early on. It is only in midlife, with a real lived experience of lifelong monogamy that we can see the truth of it. But by then it is too late to choose anything else without causing harm to our families and to ourselves. Where is the choice in that?
“However, once humans started to live in larger groups, sexual jealousy became a far bigger problem, monogamy became a more attractive solution to managing the problem, and social conventions shifted.” Sorry but this is a personal view not a fact. I have not read anywhere of evidence suggesting monogamy came about to resolve sexual jealousy and indeed it does not resolve it at all. If anything I believe it indulges it and makes societies believe it should be pandered to when in fact jealousy is just a normal temporary emotional state, caused by an unfulfilled emotional need and instead of limiting the autonomy of others to stop the feeling arising, the person should work on their underlying issues, possibly with the help and support of their partner(s).
In some modern day hunter gatherer cultures where polyamory has survived, they train children at a very young age to learn to share, and to value sharing above all else. They actively shame possessive, jealous, non sharing behaviours. Sexual jealousy is not an issue in this type of culture. But in cultures that reward greed, it is an issue.
They do exactly what we do – train children into the cultural norms that have developed within their society to solve the inherent conflict between individual desires and community harmony. And you are doing just what I am doing – favouring the cultural model that suits your own proclivity 😉
But, yes, I guess we do disagree on the fundamental point. I don’t accept that there is a “natural state” for human sexuality. I think there is natural variation within the human population in preference, and that social conventions have arisen to try and maintain social harmony rather than to impose religious dogma.
In terms of the claim that sexual jealousy caused monogamy to develop, it would be more accurate to say that male sexual jealousy is linked to uncertain paternity, which becomes more of a problem in larger social groupings. There’s a good article here on the topic.
“And you are doing just what I am doing – favouring the cultural model that suits your own proclivity”. No. I have not favoured any particular model, I have just given real examples of alternatives as evidence in support of my argument.
“In terms of the claim that sexual jealousy caused monogamy to develop, it would be more accurate to say that male sexual jealousy is linked to uncertain paternity, which becomes more of a problem in larger social groupings. ” I would not call this sexual jealousy at all. Agree with this, though of course not an argument supporting monogamy now, given the advent of contraception and DNA testing.
We can go round and round in circles here but maybe the time has come to agree to disagree on this one 👍
I must add that I have enjoyed the debate… an interesting way to pass time in lockdown so thanks 😊
Agreed. Good debate 🙂
Humble sinner says
No citation – this sentence was my own construct/idea/opinion.
Actually, Allie is more knowledgeable here , she seems to have found some scientific support.
With sincere apology that this opinion of mine has not been scientifically scrutinised, it is based on the empirical outcome of many conversations I had with various people.
Sure, you can argue that all those people are statistically insignificant sample to draw general conclusions – and you would be right to say so. I also have no reason to question your explanations of historical and anthropological background, but history helps me very little to understand contemporary setup of social dynamic..
It’s like predicting the stock market price based on its historical trends.
However, I don’t need science (even less religion) to acknowledge the conflict that I (and many others, I believe, so intensely feel) in misalignment of our individual with social norms.
Deep inside, we all know and feel the same, don’t we, Doc? We are made of flesh and blood that operate according to biochemistry of hormones, neurotransmitters, short skirts, spirited conversations, hypnotising eyes, or the way how she holds cigarette or crosses legs…
I do appreciate scientific approach to this problem, but human behaviour is still more art and magic than science.
My whole case here was displayed to show one of the possible lame-man solutions how to deal with the temptations of sexual drive toward other women within given moral restrictions.
I use these chats as a spice in my bedroom where they get converted into their “dirty” interpretation. Yes, with my spouse.
It is far from optimal, but is suboptimal in balancing my desires with minimised (still existent, though) social damage.
Works for me (to an extent), doesn’t mean it will work anyone else. The idea is not intended to convert anybody’s values or beliefs,but it is there to challenge exisiting stereotypes.