It’s not an easy thing to abstain from bliss.
For limerents in a long-term relationship who are suddenly struck by limerence for someone new, the neurochemical high from early limerence is intoxicating. A common way that they cope with this temptation is to tell themselves some variation on the theme of:
It’s alright, I know nothing is really going to happen.
The “thinking” behind this is that you know there is a line that you won’t cross, and so it’s OK to indulge the flirting and fantasising a bit. Just a sip of liquor to give you a nice glow. Ride the wave for a while, to liven things up. Who knows, it might even invigorate your long-term relationship by boosting your libido a bit?
Another way this impulse can manifest is as a compartmentalisation of life. When you are with LO (at work, college, gym, etc.) then you are that version of yourself, but when you are at home, you are totally committed to the relationship and have left all those limerent indulgences behind. Bubble world.
Laid out like this, it’s kind of obvious how self-serving and delusional this is. Under the mind-altering influence of limerence, however, your critical faculties are too busy rationalising why it’s fine to carry on, to notice the self-evident fact – you are playing with fire.
In actual fact, it’s worse than that. You are playing with your psychological health.
The limerence training regimen
I talk a lot about the power of habits, and how much of our lives is actually governed by them. Well, one important aspect of habits is that they form. They take time to develop, through repetitive actions, and we often don’t realise that it’s happening. Slowly, through our choices and actions, we are subconsciously programming ourselves.
When it comes to limerence, there is a master script being written: when I am with LO, or daydreaming about LO, I feel really good. LO is super rewarding.
The neural circuits regulating reward are an ancient and deep seated part of our brains, and control one of the most powerful forms of motivated behaviour that we have: when we identify something rewarding we seek more of it. So, by indulging in even compartmentalised or demarcated access to LO, we are training our brains into a new habit. Seek LO.
After a while, that reward-seeking habit becomes our default setting. The urge to seek LO kicks in before we are consciously aware of it, and before we even realise what we’ve done, we’re addicted.
Habits are hard to break
That leads to the next big problem. You’ve been riding the wave for a while now, surfing the peak, trying not to wipe out, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the wave is more powerful than you are. That is when you learn that the line you were so sure you would not cross is rushing towards you. So: time to break away from the current and paddle back to safety? Turns out, you’ve left it too late.
For the vast majority of limerents, there is no simple off switch. The habit that you’ve trained yourself into is stubborn. Trying to detach will cause emotional pain. You will encounter profound psychological resistance whenever you make an attempt to distance yourself from LO. As with any other addiction, withdrawal is a struggle, and deprogramming yourself is slow and careful work.
You need to have a good understanding of the psychology of behavioural change, and you need to take strategic action to reverse the reward-training – just winging it and hoping for the best is likely to go as well as your brilliant “playing with fire” plan. All that time indulging in limerent thrills was building up a mental debt. It takes time and discipline to pay it off.
Doubts creep in
Faced with the scenario of accidentally training yourself into infatuation with another person, most limerents also find that their previous confidence that nothing is really going to happen begins to falter. Old certainties about what kind of person you are, what future you want, and what love really means, begin to crumble. After all, it is true that when you are with LO you feel giddy and excited (even if that’s starting to be tainted with anxiety and compulsions), whereas when you are with your long-term partner you feel guilt-ridden, short-tempered and ashamed.
This is the risky point at which devaluation of the relationship begins, and the journey past the tipping points of a limerent affair speeds up.
As Joe Beam observed: the old insult “you’re not the man I first met” at the end of a limerent affair can be literally true, if you have coped with the cognitive dissonance of breaking your promises by breaking your moral compass.
Compartmentalisation is unhealthy
Finally, the mental gymnastics involved in segregating your mind into different personalities when you are with LO or with SO comes with another cost – the price of your self-identity and mental coherence.
At an extreme end, this can lead to a dissociative disorder, but even just the everyday discomfort of pretending to be someone you are not erodes your sense of self and your self-esteem. Not many people can go through life lying to themselves and others without some psychological harm.
This is basically the opposite of purposeful living. It’s faking life. At best you can try to retain your true self deep inside, while presenting an avatar to the world that says things you know to be untrue. For most people, though, keeping that up for long enough leads to a profound demoralisation and self-loathing. It’s common that when affairs are finally revealed, the cheater expresses relief – even though their shameful secret is out and wrecking havoc on the people they betrayed, the lifting of the burden of their own dishonesty is a liberation.
For those who are in the early stages of this fire-seeking temptation, pay heed to the painful lessons of those who’ve been burned, and put the matches away. For those deep in the trap, there is help if you are ready to start the labour of deprogramming.
Song of the Day: “Ring of Fire” – Johnny Cash (1963)
Sometimes, it’s just too easy…
This was my introduction to Johnny Cash. There was a burger joint down the block from my grandparents. My mom would put this on the juke box while we waited for our order.
What a great and insightful post this is and so true.
In my case it was all to easy to stumble into an emotional affair. A chance meeting with someone I had the glimmer for 25 years ago. Reciprocation that she used to feel the same. Months of chatting, flirting and fantasising happened, whilst we declared to our loved ones we were “just friends”.
Then the inevitable happened. I gradually felt more and more anxious but didn’t realise this was because of the affair, so confided more and more in her.
She used to say she was able to compartmentalise her feelings so it was fine to have feelings for two people at once and after all we would never act on those feelings.
Then the inevitable happened and her SO called her out on it as he was worried she would run off once lockdown ended. Cue withdrawal and all that shame, anxiety and loss of self esteem came crashing out leading to a mental breakdown for me, then months of crushing depression and questioning my life up that point.
While it was brief, four intense months, I am now six months into NC and only now finally seeing the green shoots of recovery. She is still on my mind lurking there, feeding the obsession but it is getting easier.
Learning to reconnect and remember all the great things about my SO is hard as you can’t help but devalue the relationship.
I urge anyone who thinks an emotional affair is less damaging than a physical one to stop, take a step back and don’t do it. The pain is excruciating for everyone involved.
While I can’t change the past now, I can ensure I never follow that path again.
Yes, this is another unexpected consequence – if you have started seeking emotional support from LO it will also make it harder to detach.
I think the problem with limerence is that “the fire” is exactly what can make it so alluring, especially if it’s with someone you know is inappropriate. The “feels so good to be bad” situation.
@Marcia. For me, personally, I don’t think the transgressive aspect of limerence played a massive part. For me, the appeal was what I was hoping to get out of the other person – love, attention, affection, etc. I felt trapped by my current life and circumstances and was (unconsciously) looking for a rescuer/protector figure. Someone who would make my life easier while also nurturing me emotionally. 😛
For me it was exactly a combination of the two. I thought my LO was a little “bad”. I mean I hoped he was. That’s the only way he would get anywhere near a married woman (i.e., me, and I was wrong; he didn’t) and respond to my insane advances. But I also felt trapped by my life and circumstances and I wanted him to be my rescuer, make my life easier, and nurture me emotionally. It was a weird combination of transgressive and just wanting a hug.
Me, too. I wanted a combination of the two. The transgression was a big part of the attraction, but I also wanted a big love story. And also to prove the naysayers wrong, the ones who dismissed me and told me nobody felt that way (limerent) about someone once they were older than the age of 16 — to show them that you CAN feel this way and it CAN result in something big and that they were lacking because they’d never felt something this life-changing. I’m laughing at myself as I’m typing this.
I was looking for the same thing, I realize now. And when I successfully changed things (job, move) on my own, I sought his emotional support.
I knew then that I had to distance myself. NC was so, so hard!
We want someone who does it for us. Our person.
Readers may find this interesting and germane:
Ann Brookfield Golding was an analytical chemist – no slouch in brains herself and she supported him and his aspirations for decades.
I watched that documentary about Golding a few years ago. It was very good. As you say, Ann stuck by him through his dark periods, and he responded in later life by getting into a strange relationship with a young student. As presented, it was clear the family felt she had pursued Golding and cultivated his interest (either as a fan, or for more calculated reasons). Either way, he behaved as an old limerent fool.
The interview with his son David was the most powerful part – a life blighted by depression, but interviewed as an older man he looked (of course) like his father, and he was obviously a kind and sensitive soul. There was a passage when he was talking about suicide and a moment where he came close to taking his own life, and the documentary maker broke the silence and said “I’m glad you didn’t.” I was thinking the same thing.
I actually read “The Inheritors” as a consequence of the documentary. I’ve never been a fan of Lord of the Flies, but The Inheritors blew me away. Stunning. I still can’t recall the ending without welling up.
The real life instance of a band of boys marooned on an island was far less bleak than what Golding imagined.
Off-topic comment: The late Dr. Virginia Marie (Connor) Tiger’s husband (XH?) is that vile POS, Dr. Lionel Tiger. Makes me wonder WTH was going on in the background of her life to be cooing over William Golding – particularly in front of his wife and family. Not that Golding was any better, trotting her in front of his wife and family.
I will have to look for that documentary. Do you happen to remember the title?
I think it was called “The Dreams of William Golding”.
If you can find it, it’s worth watching.
“In actual fact, it’s worse than that. You are playing with your psychological health.”
This is an interesting angle from which to approach limerence. Not the harm we do to others, which should never be downplayed. But the harm we do to ourselves by indulging in “just another sip” from the goblet of the gods!!
Like Spadge, I experienced something which to me felt like a mental breakdown at the time, a feeling that my personality had become fragmented somehow, shattered into a thousand pieces that no team of experts could ever hope to repair. Although my psychiatrist told me I wasn’t suffering from a breakdown because I was too young and too single to have had a breakdown. Apparently, mental breakdowns are the luxury of people who actually have lives to begin with. (Older people with established careers and families, for example. Bless!)
“For the vast majority of limerents, there is no simple off switch.”
Yes, I think that’s what I was looking for. An off switch? Where’s the off switch on this thing? What do you mean there’s no off switch? 😛
It seems to me that once the limerent fire has been ignited, it’s very hard to extinguish. It’s like a bushfire raging out of control. Of course, sometimes we might feel that this fire has been lit inside us (or, God forbid, under us!) without our explicit knowledge or consent. We may even struggle to identify the person responsible. By the time we feel real discomfort from the heat, the flames are too big, half the forest has already burned down, etc, etc.
“At an extreme end, this can lead to a dissociative disorder.”
Yes, upon reflection, I think I was a different person while experiencing limerence. I was much less inclined, for instance, to feel empathy automatically for others. I was self-involved. I felt angry and aggrieved all the time. I wonder if such a large proportion of my “mental resources” were taken up by limerent brooding that I didn’t have enough energy left over over to be nice to neighbours who just wanted to chat about the weather, say, or kids who want to show off some new skill they’d acquired? I was uncharacteristically grumpy, in other words. But I didn’t perceive myself as grumpy – I perceived other people as annoying! 😛
This is me !
As I think I’ve mentioned before – compartmentalising to indulge an LE can also be quite a problem for the LO on the receiving end. My recent experience was one of gradually becoming more of what I thought LO was seeking. In this situation we were both single – and this compartmentalising took some effort (though it wasn’t a conscious, manipulative campaign – honest). LO was probably some kind of avoidant type – tbh their dad had abandoned them (as they saw it) as a kid, there were clear family issues with his mum/siblings etc. To me he was catnip – I thought him quite stunning, but also periodically and inexplicably available. On one occasion I remember he described me as ‘persistent’. A funny word – but at the time I took it as a compliment – because aren’t fairy-tale suitors persistent? Aren’t damsels in the movies often uncertain? Needing to be won round? Convinced of their own mistake so that eventually they surrender to their suitor? They escape the evil stepmother/abusive husband/dreary hum-drum life and find happiness by surrendering?
Yeah. Persistent. Probably a bit heroic actually. That’s me!
Of course – to my friends I was a fool. Because LO would – periodically fall off the face of the Earth. Stop returning texts/answering calls and I would chew their ears off about how ‘I was so over it.’ Until LO swung around again in need of (well, probably) validation. In a non-LE situation I wouldn’t have put up with that – or more correctly I suppose I’d have understood this was not going to end well. But as you might expect instead I simply scoured clubbing websites, kept my ear to the ground as to where some of our mutual acquaintances might be drinking or carousing and make sure I was there. On hand, available. I learnt not to nag, or chase. I learnt to appear aloof, but visible. Then LO would (maybe during a dry patch? Or against his better judgement? Or because of our easy familiarity?) periodically strike up relations again.
Finally after dropping his guard and dating me fairly regularly for a few months LO offers more. Suggests embarking on a relationship.
…and voila! Suddenly all the painful memories of his unpredictable behaviour, all of the misgivings. I guess that was my compartmentalisation. They’d been boxed away until that very moment. It was incredibly confusing, and I became ‘that person’. The one who says they are ‘totally into you’ (of course, my limerence for LO was still driving me towards him), but you know… maybe not ready for a relationship, suddenly acknowledging that I had found their behaviour hurtful, and maybe they were untrustworthy (though I didn’t state that explicitly).
Basically I’d become the person that would ‘put up with their shit’ to the point where they were almost convinced that I might be worth a shot. But only by entirely divorcing myself from a large part of my normal functioning (I’m struggling for words here). Once the possibility became ‘real’, a sense of self preservation kicked and I withdrew. But assuming we accept the model of limerence, the more I withdrew – the more messy and obstacle strewn the whole situation became, the more my limerence intensified. I was miserable and confused and of course – so was LO. It turned out that I didn’t just not want to solidify things with LO, I didn’t really know why. I could describe all of the reasons it wouldn’t work – but I didn’t know and couldn’t explain why these things were suddenly a problem. There was nothing that I hadn’t known for most of our entanglement, yet now they were problems that were unsolvable when for the previous 18 months they’d been the very ‘quirks’ that had dominated our intimate conversations – and issues I’d always approached sympathetically and supportively, suppressing my disquiet and even at times (it’s a horrible word) disdain.
I feel like I have had enough LEs now. But by repeatedly pursuing romance with people who won’t give me what I need the hard part is I’m not even sure what it is I actually want anymore.
It’s probably in a box of its own. Somewhere.
‘I thought him quite stunning, but also periodically and inexplicably UNavailable.’
Thomas, you’re speaking my language. In my experience, ALL of my LOs have been unavailable in some way or another- either completely not interested in me but giving me just enough to feel like I want to be closer, or I just can’t tell if they’re interested because they’re “complicated” and “have issues” that might keep them at a distance. This plays right into my need to re-create my own belief system and narrative about love: I desperately want and crave connection with another, but people will always disappoint me and it’s not possible to really have what I want. So even if the possibility presents itself, I self-sabotage and reinforce the belief/narrative all by myself. On a very deep level, it’s too frightening to think it’s possible to have because then, I guess, what if I can never “achieve” it? How tragic would that be? Better to stay in limerence and torture myself with the reassurance that my belief system/narrative is true and valid. Even though I know it is not. That’s what Fearful Avoidants do, though- the push/pull of craving closeness and being petrified of it at the same time. But maybe that’s just me : )
“I desperately want and crave connection with another, but people will always disappoint me and it’s not possible to really have what I want. … That’s what Fearful Avoidants do, though- the push/pull of craving closeness and being petrified of it at the same time. But maybe that’s just me : )”
But don’t you find that people are always disappointing? I mean, at the very least, maddingly inconsistent. For example, my dad got sick about five years ago. I had 3 friends and a family member contacting me daily to see how he was. Of those four people, only the family member is still in my life in any meaningful way. There’s an ebb and flow to how people are in your life. It’s just the way it is. THe same can be true of dating. Someone is all up in your business … and then, crickets.
“But don’t you find that people are always disappointing? I mean, at the very least, maddingly inconsistent.”
@Marcia. Yes, I do find people maddeningly inconsistent. Actually, I find most people to be “shameless hypocrites”, but I think that’s a strong term and might come across as a tad offensive, especially the “shameless” part. I should probably lighten up. 😛
Let’s see if I can express my opinion in less acerbic tones? Here goes. I think most people go through life on autopilot, not really thinking about what they’re doing or how their behaviour impacts others. If a limerent goes through life on autopilot and a non-limerent goes through life on autopilot, they’re going to end up in radically different places, and misunderstandings will likely occur.
Was my straight boy LO maddening inconsistent? Why, yes, indeed! If he wasn’t inconsistent, I wouldn’t have fallen for him. However, HE wasn’t being inconsistent from HIS point of view. He was just going through life on autopilot, doing what comes naturally…
I do find his behaviour problematic today, when seen through the eyes of experience. I do think straight men have a moral obligation to be sensitive to the feelings of gay men, just as straight men have an obligation to be sensitive to the feelings of women and girls.
We can’t just “write off” people we don’t really understand. However, during limerence, I romanticised his insensitivity. I saw this LO as elusive, mysterious. He was glamorous somehow.
I also see now I have three options when processing my feelings for him. I can:
(1) Get all angry and political and rant about how society mistreats minorities, etc. This could potentially be a purposeful path, but not one consistent with my temperament, which is more playful and analytical and conciliatory in nature.
(2) I can wallow in endless self-pity, talk about how tragic the whole situation was/is, and write a prize-winning first novel, which will then get widely parodied by other, more talented writers for being so syrupy and over-the-top. (I can see the reviews now: “Sentimental drivel!” “Pretentious hogwash!” “The ravings of a semi-illiterate lunatic with unresolved Daddy issues!”) 😛
(3) I can see the comic aspects of the situation and exploit them for laughs. I.e. I am a man who falls into futile infatuations with men who are programmed to pair-bond (and reproduce) with women. The thing I desire is the thing Mother Nature says I can’t possess. None of my most earnestly-desired love objects will ever desire me back. It feels like the myth of Narcissus all over again. How is that not farcical? How is that not comedic? Let’s embrace the funny side!
Of course, when misunderstandings happen in real life, there will be a ton of hurt feelings involved. I don’t want to minimise the hurt feelings, because they are real. The point (for me personally) is to not make an idol out of these hurt feelings, to not play the martyr. From reading this blog, I’ve come to the conclusion hurt feelings are universal. Men hurt women. Women hurt men. And so on.
I was very disappointed in my straight boy LO. He was a shameless hypocrite – nope, sorry. That was too judgy of me. Let’s try it again. I was very disappointed in my straight boy LO. He was “maddeningly inconsistent” and living his life on autopilot. 😛
But he was only “maddeningly inconsistent” by my standards and not by his own standards. By HIS own standards, he was delightfully generous, spontaneous, and open-minded. He probably thought he was doing me a favour (or three!) Now should one judge him by my standards or by his? Do my “hurt feelings” give me the moral high ground? Does the person with the “most-est hurt feelings” automatically win and, if so, what do they win? What kind of sick contest is this anyway? We’re a bunch of grown-ups, aren’t we? 😛
Sorry about the long post – must have felt inspired! I’m not finding fault with your point of view, btw, just bouncing off your words/ideas to “enlarge” my own perspective in a way that was previously impossible. I.e. just because my LO’s behaviour was problematic, that doesn’t let me off the hook, morally speaking. 😛
“Lurking beneath the surface of every Caregiver’s attachments is often the question; “when’s it gonna be my turn?” They erroneously presume that the more they give, the more they’ll eventually/some day get back–but that cannot happen, due to the type of person they’ve chosen to love. This issue is never resolved, because reciprocal relationships actually make him/her feel uneasy, and are summarily avoided.” – Shari Schreiber https://sharischreiber.com/do-you-love-to-be-needed/
Read “…due to the type of person they’ve chosen to love,” again. Sound like anybody you know? At least on this site, LOs appear to make lousy candidates for LTRs and limerents don’t always make the best choices. But, for a serial limerent, LOs can be wonderful influences for informing your world view. You can build your identity on it.
Based on Schreiber, we really don’t want to save them, we want them to save us. It’s usually a losing proposition but If done correctly, we can get a lot out of trying to save them. We look good, suffer nobly, and they’re the villain. And, then we do it again! We may like to think we’ve learned something from the experience but we usually don’t. Limerence amps this up.
I think LO #2’s affinity for cheaters was rooted in her mother. Her father was in an open affair for years. It’s pure speculation but I believe that LO #2 was raised to believe all men were cheating bastards and she unconsciously chose men who reinforced that belief, either by cheating with her or cheating on her. When she met someone who didn’t cheat on her, me, she couldn’t handle it. After we split, she claimed my immediate successor cheated on her. From what she told me about him, Ray Charles could have seen that coming. She picked someone who’d cheated before, almost dared him to cheat on her and, when he did, she threw the flag, and claimed victimhood. From what she’d told me about her past, I don’t think it was the first time. I even explained it to her and she looked at me like I came from Mars.
You go with what you know.
It’s scary to think that I knew most of this before I asked LO #2 to marry me and I asked her anyway. The was probably the biggest mistake I’ve ever made that I didn’t have to pay for.
A friend once suggested that when confronted by the possibility that our caregivers were seriously flawed in some way we recoil from the discomfort. By acting on warped messages we comfort ourselves that our caregivers were good characters. By suffering the consequences of those actions our reality proves it right. Sounds like she’d been reading similar stuff to you.
It made a lot of sense, then and it does now. I can certainly see the link between some of my more screwy behaviour and messages from childhood. Annoyingly, though I see clearly now how damaging some of those messages were… I still fall foul of acting in ways which validate them.
Though less so, over time.
One of the biggest benefits of therapy was the therapist legitimized my resentment and anger toward my mother and helped me work through it.
She said that it didn’t matter that my mother was an unhappy alcoholic. That was an explanation, not an excuse. The therapist said that the primary person who should have been there for me wasn’t. She wasn’t abusive but she was neglectful and she took off. My mother did what she did and those are facts. I was allowed to be hurt and angry. I could choose to forgive her but I didn’t have to excuse her. It helped. A lot.
The therapist said that I turned out as functional as I did was a tribute to the people that were there for me, most notably, my father and my grandparents. My father was also an alcoholic but he was there for me until the day he committed suicide.
I always forget this is a site about limerence, love and romantic relationships. I guess that’s my shortcoming. I always expected LOs or crushes to bring heat or passion or excitement but … not much else. I expected friends and family to fill in the gaps. So friends and family are maddeningly inconsistent. You get sick and they are attentive one time, but the next time you barely get a three-word text. Or you have a friend you talk to every day, see almost every weekend, for a couple of years. Your closest friend in the world … and then the person fades away so that you hear from them twice a year. There’s no big argument. They just get distracted with something else or someone else.
“I always forget this is a site about limerence, love and romantic relationships. I guess that’s my shortcoming. I always expected LOs or crushes to bring heat or passion or excitement but … not much else. I expected friends and family to fill in the gaps. So friends and family are maddeningly inconsistent.”
@Marcia. Ah, I see what you’re getting out now…
If you always expect LOs/crushes to bring the “heat”, then maybe you’re just grasping ideas faster than me. An LO, by definition, has to be seen as a potential sexual partner. So one would hope there’s a little heat, right? You’re looking for the right thing at least. 😛
I realised just the other day I was getting “lust” and “euphoria” mixed up. For example, I thought when I felt sexy sparks for somebody, that’s euphoria. But I think sexy sparks isn’t euphoria as such. Sexy sparks is lust. By sexy sparks, I mean that fiery feeling. In Sappho’s famous words: “A thin flame burns under my skin.”
So what’s euphoria then? I guess euphoria is the passion and excitement you speak of – manic energy, feeling alive, joy.
I have a little theory. I believe a man who makes me feel equal parts lust and euphoria will become an LO. A man who makes me feel euphoria but not lust will be a friend. A man who makes me feel lust but not euphoria may become a casual sexual partner. I guess this is just a gold-plated version of the old “date, marry, or dump” game.
We select our LOs from the general population. So if people are inconsistent as a rule, that doesn’t really make the limerent’s job any easier. Also, in a perfect world, I think we should be able to count on friends and family for the majority of our intimacy needs. I think people may be more susceptible to limerence when they’re lonesome and feel they don’t have that extended social network…
I once read a Christian book that described lust as a “hot and spicy” feeling and love as a “warm, melting” feeling. For my LO, I felt the latter. Just thinking about him “made me melt inside”. This kind of justified my LE for me in moral terms. I was loving and not lusting.
However, I’m a little older now and I see limerence ALWAYS made me feel super-guilty whereas I never felt guilty about pure lust! Lust is a very honest, uncomplicated emotion. Limerence – not so much!
So here’s my question. Which is the real “sin”? Lust or limerence?
Religion often implies the main sin we should be looking out for is lust. Limerence, on the other hand, barely rates a mention. But I think my own conscience had a problem with limerence but not lust. Isn’t that weird? I guess a smart person would argue lust is a key ingredient of limerence, so both lust and limerence are “sinful”. 😛
P.S. I don’t want to drag religion into the discussion. That’s not my intent. I’m merely using the “sin” reference to highlight how difficult it is sometimes to unpack emotions when we’re feeling a lot of them at the same time. Is lust a single emotion and limerence a mix of many emotions? I think limerence FEELS LIKE an alloy of both love and lust, and that’s why our thinking becomes clouded. 🙂
“If you always expect LOs/crushes to bring the “heat”, then maybe you’re just grasping ideas faster than me. ”
My point was that I never expected them to bring anything else. I never expected support or closeness or understanding. I expected friends to bring that. But as I’ve gotten older, the nature of friendship has changed. I consider the friends I have now more like friendly acquaintances. I’m fond of them, but I don’t see them often enough that feel I’ve really gotten to know them, and they aren’t in my life enough to feel a supportive presence. They have their own stuff going on.
“So what’s euphoria then? I guess euphoria is the passion and excitement you speak of – manic energy, feeling alive, joy.”
That is exactly how I would describe limerence. But to me, there’s also a whole motivating factor to it. Almost a compelling factor. I’ll go after the person. Plain lust is … Yeah, he’s pretty cute, and if he made a pass I wouldn’t turn it down, but I’m not necessarily going to do anything about it.
“Also, in a perfect world, I think we should be able to count on friends and family for the majority of our intimacy needs.”
I think a good number of people expect intimacy needs to be met in a romantic relationship. In fact, some people don’t look to family to provide much of anything, and they have no interest in friendship. Or it’s all met with family and romantic relationships.
” I think limerence FEELS LIKE an alloy of both love and lust, and that’s why our thinking becomes clouded. 🙂”
I don’t think limerence has anything to do with love. It’s almost the polar opposite of love. Love is emotional support, yes, but a deep intimacy, knowledge and understanding of each other. A connection. I think limerence blocks love. You can’t see the person clearly because you’re so high from the euphoria, let alone able to show them who you are. You’re too busy trying to get and keep their attention. I think love can emerge from limerence, but that’s if you were lucky enough to pick someone you also have a connection with after the fire of limerence dies down.
Really interesting discussion! I experience limerence as both intense passionate lust combined with warmth, caring and connection. The euphoria comes from my romantic and sexual fantasies, each of which I have in equal measures. Lust is essential and is the starting point for my LEs, but I also need to have some hope of real romantic love happening to have an LE for someone.
I agree with you Marcia, LE warmth and connection is not the same as that you get from long term “real” relationships – in limerence it is a bit empty as it is neurochemicals making you feel warm and connected rather than that feeling being rooted in a shared history, mutual caring and secure commitment.
But all LEs are different… some are real love to a varying extent, some are solely self-centred neurochemical love (a.k.a. “in love”).
Interesting discussion! I would argue that limerence is stronger than lust and can lead to actions, and therefore “sin.”
I might lust after a hot waiter or co-worker but I know exactly what’s going on. He may fuel a fantasy or two. That’s it.
Limerence leads to real or imagined emotional attachment of the most peculiar kind. And, as married people here have stated, it colors their world. They often forget or abandon what’s truly important for the sake of an LO, who has become everything.
“LE warmth and connection is not the same as that you get from long term “real” relationships – in limerence it is a bit empty as it is neurochemicals making you feel warm and connected rather than that feeling being rooted in a shared history, mutual caring and secure commitment.”
I definitely wanted a real relationship and did feel the warmth you mentioned, but looking back, in hindsight, it was the neurochemicals. I never really knew my last LO. I don’t know how it’s possible to talk with someone every day at work for over 4 years, with some long, one-one-one conversations, and only let your guard down maybe once or twice, but that was the case with him. I was too nervous around him to be myself, and after he shot me down, I never trusted him again. I also think there was no “there there” with him, to quote Germaine Greer. He skated completely on the surface. And that would have driven me crazy had I actually been in a relationship with him. But at the height of limerence, I ascribed him all these hidden, mysterious depths, which is almost comical because we talked about nothing. I think limerence (and sex) make me anxious and morph into someone who is tying to be sexually entertaining. Love, on the other hand, makes me feel completely relaxed and capable of being myself. And I mean love that exists even if you take away the sex.
@Marcia. The following two lines you write are so on the money it’s not funny. All I can say is – yup, that’s definitely limerence!! 😛
“You can’t see the person clearly because you’re so high from the euphoria, let alone able to show them who you are.”
“But at the height of limerence, I ascribed him all these hidden, mysterious depths, which is almost comical because we talked about nothing.”
I wanted to believe my limerence was love because (1) it felt so darn good (2) culturally, love would make these forbidden feelings legitimate somehow and give LO a stronger reason to be in my life.
It’s a bit embarrassing to think my “relationship” was with the chemicals in my head more than it was with LO. But what you’ve written also reminds me of one thing – in the early stages, before the more painful feelings of constant rumination take over, limerence IS the most magical feeling in the world, a truly delicious sensation. As the years have rolled by, and I’ve engaged in endless self-flagellation, I’ve almost forgotten that magical feeling. As Beth says, limerence is much more powerful than mere lust. I also agree with Beth that the “sin” tag should be reserved for actions. 🙂
Limerence in its early stages feels like … flying. Weightlessness. No longer being subject to the laws of gravity. It makes time pass so much more quickly. Mundane and repetitive tasks become pleasant – if LO is going to be around. Need me to chop up pumpkin or feed the chooks? Sure thing, dude! I can understand why people want to experience the rush time and again, even at the cost of intimacy.
I like how Allie makes the link between euphoria and our romantic fantasies. I haven’t thought about the euphoria/fantasy link before. But fantasy can … allow us to gain access to feelings of euphoria? 😛
“I wanted to believe my limerence was love because (1) it felt so darn good (2) culturally, love would make these forbidden feelings legitimate somehow and give LO a stronger reason to be in my life.”
Why are the feelings forbidden? You didn’t have an SO at the time, did you?
“It’s a bit embarrassing to think my “relationship” was with the chemicals in my head more than it was with LO.”
I almost think that my feelings of limerence had little to do with the actual LO as a person and almost everything to do with how he made me feel, the stirring, luscious I-want-it-but-it-scares-the-hell-out-of-me conflict he created in me.
“Limerence IS the most magical feeling in the world, a truly delicious sensation. … I’ve almost forgotten that magical feeling.”
Yeah, me, too. I am a bit worried what will happen if I experience it again with an unreliable LO.
“I also agree with Beth that the “sin” tag should be reserved for actions. 🙂”
I don’t agree with that. For me, it would be irrelevant if a limerent SO had actually physically cheated. Now, that’s limerence. Not minor crushes or attractions.
“Mundane and repetitive tasks become pleasant …”
Totally agree. I have met most of my LOs at work. I think they helped me get through jobs I no longer had much interest in.
“Why are the feelings forbidden? You didn’t have an SO at the time, did you?”
@Marcia. Not forbidden-forbidden. I didn’t have an SO at the time. Nor did LO. Something still felt taboo about the whole fantasy, though, from my perspective. Like LO and I had this “secret” we couldn’t share with other people, this secret we had to guard.
A few years into limerence, I pressured him into admitting he and the girl he eventually married were “an item”. I felt him “slipping away” from me, and I wanted to know the reason. He reluctantly admitted he was seeing the girl. (Previously, he mentioned her name in letters, but never really indicated whether she was a friend or something more significant). My LO was a closed book in the best of times. Getting information out of him was like pulling teeth…
I was growing tired of guessing games. I wanted their relationship status out in the open if they were indeed together. Why wasn’t he flaunting his “great love”? Usually, when a man’s in love, he spends a lot of time talking up his love interest to his friends – how he’s met somebody wonderful, etc. I couldn’t understand his lack of enthusiasm. As a limerent, I’d be over-the-moon to find The One.
Still, getting LO to admit he was “taken” didn’t stop the longing and the intrusive thoughts on my part. You’re right – limerence does seem to override or sidestep the moral part of our brains. And even the purely rational, commonsensical part of our brains. Reconciling one’s romantic desires with one’s moral code is a great challenge.
My LO’s extreme reticence about his love life gave me (false) hope he liked me better than the girl he was seeing, a girl he talked about only in the most casual tones. In my lovesick little brain, I believed I was the “long-term mistress” he truly loved and this girl could only be the “flashy new bride” he had to take for dynastic reasons. He didn’t really care for her. I was Camilla, the “competition” Lady Di. I saw my LO as so high-value I was willing to share him with rivals! 😛
As you can see, I have a very vivid imagination! Neither LO nor I are heirs to dynasties. Nor are arranged marriages common in my part of the world. (Though I wouldn’t say no to one, given my advancing age and my lack of financial security!) I just wanted to believe really, really badly that I was the person he cared about above all others. Turns out that belief had no basis in reality. Oh dear! The little lies we tell ourselves that turn into progressively bigger lies.
Is it time for some gratuitous moralising? Yes, I think it’s time for some gratuitous moralising! The “wonderful secret” of limerence sooner or later becomes the “ghastly burden” of limerence. And only one person is carrying that ghastly burden – the limerent. 😛
I’m beginning to see how my behaviour was nosy, inappropriate, and ridiculous. How LO arranged his personal life was none of my business. He must have thought I was bonkers, quizzing him about his emotional allegiances. But, in truth, I must have been trying to squeeze reciprocation out of him by any means possible. Arrgh! 😛
“My LO was a closed book in the best of times. Getting information out of him was like pulling teeth…”
Mine never mentioned his wife ONCE. Not by her name. Not by the words “her” or “she.” I talked to him every day for over 4 years. Occasionally, he’d say “we went to ….” but even that was rare. Though he would talk about his kids. So, like you, I had this vison of him being in a cold, for-appearances-only relationship… and only I could provide him what he really needed! HA HA HA I am laughing at myself as I write that. Part of what he needed from me was to be turned out sexually as he’d married his high school girlfriend. Surely, their sex was perfunctory at best. Ah, the lies I told myself.
“Reconciling one’s romantic desires with one’s moral code is a great challenge.”
Yeah, I didn’t have that issue. When I met my last LO, I hadn’t been limerent for anyone in SIX years. This guy overwhelmed me. I wasn’t going to walk away, despite the moral obstacles. It sound selfish. It was.
Allie 1 says
It sounds like both of your LOs rather enjoyed your attention thus avoided talking about partners to ensure your continued devotion. In Sammy’s case, there might also have been an element of LO not wanting to hurt your feelings. Especially since that might involve him admitting to himself that he is encouraging you, even if it just a little?
“Reconciling one’s romantic desires with one’s moral code is a great challenge.” Am curious – what moral code does having fantasies transgress?
“It sounds like both of your LOs rather enjoyed your attention thus avoided talking about partners to ensure your continued devotion”
Actually, another co-worker, independent of anything I ever said because I never told her I liked him, told me he never talked about his wife. She also said, months earlier, that he told her he thought I was “pretty” and “cool.” Geez, I was on cloud nine when I heard that. If this all sounds very “high school,” it was.
Limerent Emeritus says
“Reconciling one’s romantic desires with one’s moral code is a great challenge.” Am curious – what moral code does having fantasies transgress?”
Betrayal is in the eye of the beholder. If you can keep from leaking, there’s nothing wrong with a fantasy. But, if you can’t…
Early in our marriage, my wife caught me with a Playboy. She saw it as a sign of betrayal that I found other women attractive let alone be aroused by one. It wasn’t just a betrayal of my wedding vows, it was an attack on her self-esteem. I didn’t cause my wife’s fragile self-esteem, I just sailed into the mine.
For awhile, I’d walk around the mall looking at my shoes. She’d accuse me of wanting to have sex with every attractive associate, and some of the not so attractive ones, in the mall, as well as most waitresses under 70.
It was so bad that I told her if we didn’t go to marriage counseling and fix it, I was leaving. We did but it had a permanent effect on our marriage.
“For awhile, I’d walk around the mall looking at my shoes.”
Most men are very, very bad at cruising subtly. I have seen men stare, openly gawk, do a 360 degree swivel to notice other women — while their girlfriend or wife is standing right next to them. Some even openly flirt with other women in front of their SOs. One female co-worker told me her husband would comment on other women with their teenage son! That is all stuff a man should do when he is on his own or out with his friends.
“Am curious – what moral code does having fantasies transgress?”
@Allie 1. You’re right – fantasies alone don’t transgress my own personal moral code. That’s why I suggested fantasies (and also feelings to a large extent) should be distinguished from actions.
With limerence, though, things do get a tiny bit tricky on two fronts:
(1) The fantasies can become obsessive. I feel like I’m not in control of my own mind. I.e. I feel like I don’t have the level of self-control I’d like. Self-control is one of the virtues I’d like to cultivate. If I have OCD, I feel guilty about having OCD. Is guilt a feature of OCD?
Maybe I should accept eliminating all fantasies is not a desirable and realistic goal? Maybe I should instead strive to be at peace with my fantasies, let them come and go like birds, and not pay them undue attention? Obviously, the guilt angle isn’t helping me get better in the form of reducing obsession. 😛
(2) If I decide I want to pursue a relationship, I can’t seem to give anyone I date a real chance, because I’m still “stuck” on someone from the past. The “soul tie” established with LO can linger long after it’s useful, and long after that person has gone from my life. I keep trying to find some “grand meaning” in my limerent episode. But there is no grand meaning – I simply liked someone too much.
So, um, I guess what I’m saying is … I’d just like my feelings to be less messy and my fantasies to be more politically correct? I don’t want to feel strongly connected to somebody I can’t be with. 😛
Also, there’s a part of my brain that clearly confuses “love” and “limerence”. Unless I correct this, I may not recognise love when I have it. I’m going to feel all my relationships fall short because they’re not intense enough. I’m also going to judge other people’s laidback relationships. Love is comfort and limerence is excitement maybe? Excitement mixed in with lots and lots of anxiety?
Fantasies are great and mostly harmless. But I suppose if I’m relying on a single fantasy to give my life meaning i.e. the fantasy of being in a relationship someday with LO, that’s a big, big problem if said LO isn’t interested. I’m painting myself into a rather small corner.
Obviously, I’m only talking as a single person. People in established relationships might have different ideas about what’s acceptable in terms of feelings and fantasies. These are just my own thoughts…
Allie 1 says
“Betrayal is in the eye of the beholder”
Not always. Sometimes a spouse sees betrayal where none has actually happened and their demands and expectations are just downright unreasonable. Marriage is not ownership and it is not being completely responsible for your spouses ego and happiness. We are still responsible for ourselves, and we still have agency and autonomy.
I am sorry that is how it is for you. I would suggest yourself and your spouse google “Toxic Monogomy” and read a few articles.
Allie 1 says
(1) “I feel guilty about having OCD.” Yeah limerence is certainly super obsessive! Maybe re-frame it in your mind as a mild form of mental illness rather than a moral issue? It is not like any of us woke up one day and decided to become limerent… no-one on earth would do that!
(2) “I can’t seem to give anyone I date a real chance, because I’m still stuck”. Yup I can relate to that. Had the same issue when I was younger. Eventually though the right circumstances transpired to make me fall in love with someone that was very keen on me too. He played it just right for me, admired me, kept his feelings to himself and became my friend at the same time as giving me plenty of space for my feelings to grow.
“there’s a part of my brain that clearly confuses love and limerence” – oh yes, I think we can all relate to that! Real “love” is what happens after the limerence ends, once you have fully bonded. It is about caring and giving, security and commitment. Limerence a.k.a. “in love” is a phase that happens in relationships too, in those early months. Limerence is not not limited to an LE. For me, “falling in love” and “limerence” are one and the same if you are a limerent. Euphoric limerence first then over time, it becomes real love.
“I am sorry that is how it is for you. I would suggest yourself and your spouse google “Toxic Monogomy” and read a few articles.”
That’s how it WAS for awhile. I told her we needed to see a marriage counselor and get this fixed or I was leaving. I refuse to live that way. It would have been a shorter marriage than any of the 5 marriages my parents had and several of theirs were pretty short.
I have too much self-respect to put up with that for long. Want to really piss me off? Go after my self-respect. When LO #2 did it, I had to get out of the car to keep from backhanding her with my fist.
But, my original point stands, just because you see something one way doesn’t mean someone else will, or has to. They’re as much entitled to their opinion as you are to yours and they can respond accordingly, whether you accept it or not.
When push came to shove, my wife did what she had to do to preserve the marriage. I was important enough to her.
Allie 1 says
Am confused… Limerent Emeritus = Scharnhorst?
Limerent Emeritus says
You are correct. The success of LwL as the first hit on a Google, Scharnhorst is the first comment on several of the most popular blogs, and there are several people who know that name, I decided it would be better to cover my tracks a little.
“LO was probably some kind of avoidant type – tbh their dad had abandoned them (as they saw it) as a kid, there were clear family issues with his mum/siblings etc. To me he was catnip – I thought him quite stunning, but also periodically and inexplicably available. On one occasion I remember he described me as ‘persistent’.”
@Thomas. It almost sounds as if you could have some rescue fantasies regarding this particular LO? 😛
It sounds like he wants you to be available for him – when and if he needs you. But he’s not available for you in return. This dynamic would probably be unhealthy even in a friendship (too one-sided). In a limerent-LO set-up, it must be torture. (For you!)
I don’t think people can save other people. People have to save themselves.
If he’s unavailable SOMETIMES, he must have at least appeared available at other times, no? Is that where the intermittent reinforcement comes in? At some point, you must have felt there was the possibility of reciprocation if you tried harder. And hence the persistence! 😛
Very interesting comments (both your reply to Marcia and to myself), thank you!
…you have me bang to rights, I do love a good ‘fixer upper’. Which is a bit rich considering I’m hardly the whole picnic myself a lot of the time!
Your point about who gets to determine who did what wrong etc. (In reply to Marcia) is so relevant here, and throughout my LEs.
I’ve never really smouldered in silence, I tend to go full throttle into my LEs, and be quite open in my intentions. I did with my last LO. But following on from your autopilot idea, and putting myself in LOs shoes… here’s some other things that happened:
If you asked LO, he could quite honestly state:
‘Thomas showed a great deal of interest in me, more than most other people do. Calling me/answering my calls daily, enquiring about my life, my ambitions, my worries, and sharing the details of his own life. Very freely.’
‘I felt anxious about intimacy, and withdrew. But when I returned Thomas was always really forgiving, and understanding and seemed to ‘get me’.
‘After several months of dating I suggested we should go further. Thomas’s attitude changed. He became much more hesitant- though still wanted to have sex, and cuddles a lot. It seemed like I was being used for that. At times he said quite hurtful things, ‘explaining’ how my faults and his uncertainty were why we were ‘great as we are.’ Even though I wanted something different, and ‘more’.
‘After I told Thomas I wanted nothing more, he wouldn’t leave me alone. I was sore, but every fortnight like clockwork I’d get some stupid text, or a meme, or some meaningless WhatsApp. I had to text him firmly to tell him to stop, because it wasn’t fair.’
‘After 3 months or so, and a chance meeting with a mutual friend, Thomas indicated that he wanted to meet me. I agreed and we went to the pub. Thomas told me that he couldn’t stop thinking about me, that he wondered every day what I was up to, how I was getting on, hoping I was well. Thomas said that he had realised that despite his reticence he couldn’t live without me. I felt validated, and happy, and agreed to give him the chance to make it up to me. I agreed to be his boyfriend.’
‘I was Thomas’s boyfriend for a few (three? Four?) weeks before he ended it. Saying ‘it wasn’t working ‘. Which it wasn’t, from day 1 Thomas seemed freaked out about the whole concept. I just wanted a small commitment but he couldn’t handle that, and acted like we’d had a shotgun wedding. We argued for most of those four weeks.’
‘Thomas still texts me sometimes – usually stupid short messages as if nothing has happened. But I’ve blocked him on most things.’
So… yeah. When I moan about my recent LO…
Wouldn’t it be funny if we genuinely could get a different one of our LOs to do a Q & A each week? 😀
@Thomas. Listening to you recount things from your LO’s (possible) point of view is very entertaining. Thank you for writing that! 😛
I would have loved to hear my LO describe our friendship from his perspective. But he wasn’t limerent for me, which probably means he never constructed some big story in his head about what was happening between us … because, from his point of view, nothing significant was happening. What could he say?
“I made friends with this guy once. He seemed like a really nice dude, a bit shy perhaps, immature for his age but sweet. Both my unofficial girlfriend and I enjoyed teasing him, because he had such quaint emotional reactions to things. He was like a child in some ways. Also, he wasn’t as mean-spirited as the other kids at school. He felt like a safe person to be around. He always made me laugh.”
“However, this guy came from a dysfunctional family and was clearly very, very lonely. He didn’t have enough friends in his life. He seemed to have mood swings. His depression and anxiety made me feel a bit uncomfortable. In the end, I started avoiding him because he was too needy and I had a lot of other things on my plate. I felt a tiny bit guilty about ditching him, because he seemed to idolise me. Sure, I enjoyed the attention – but only up to a point.”
“I’m a passive-aggressive man, a lifelong people-pleaser, a follower. I can’t set boundaries with people and I often allow myself to become unhealthily enmeshed with loved ones. My own mother is a narcissist. Because of all the emotional manipulation I experienced as a child, I have trouble saying ‘no’. I tend to avoid people when they annoy me or put demands on me. I resent feeling pressured.”
“At the same time, I’m not in touch with my emotions. I’m in denial about my anger and can’t express it. Thank God the woman I married is slightly more assertive than I am – I can now leave all the difficult decisions and boundary-setting to her! In fact, that’s one of the reasons I married her. I needed someone in my life to play ‘Bad Cop’ so I can stay ‘Beloved Mr Nice Guy’ forever and ever.”
“I am deeply puzzled why Sammy liked me so much. I felt kind of neutral about him – no strong feelings either way. To the best of my knowledge, I never flirted with him or led him on. The insinuation is absurd! There was no sexual component to our physical contact, which was negligible anyway. I give reasonably nice gifts and cards to everyone in my social circle – blame it on my posh background.”
“I had no problems moving on with my life after school/university ended, and I assumed the same about Sammy. I wish people wouldn’t become so attached to me. It’s embarrassing. At the same time, I can’t seem to attract people who aren’t ‘clinging vines’. Where does one go to meet ‘normal people’ for friendship?”
I realise some of the things I say here might come across a bit cheeky, but obviously I’m exaggerating for comic effect. 😛
@Thomas. And if you’re curious about how come I have such good insight into my LO, it’s because he was a carbon copy of my father. I’ve realised, upon reflection, the two males are almost identical psychologically. My LE was literally a “little bit of history repeating”.
I was pretty good about savoring the intense crushes that would happen at work. I tended to keep that information to myself, and the relationships rarely veered into inappropriate territory. My work is based on contracts, so when a contract ended, it gave me a break from the person, and the crush could fade into a nice hazy fondness. The problem came when the work crush was mutual, that person leaned my feelings, and was intent on pursuing more. It was disastrous, and eventually both spouses found out (PA), but it also caused me to look at myself and really dig into my patterns and examine what I need to change in my own life to prevent destruction. As odd as it may sound, and as painful as everything was for myself and everyone involved, I don’t regret the experience, however I will always regret causing harm to my SO.
Vicarious Limerent says
This post really spoke to me and my relationship with LO #2. Recently I received some feedback from her that our friendship is completely platonic. I kind of suspected that, but she was very pointed about it and she said it several times (although it was in response to me telling her about my wife’s jealousy). Several people on the private discussion forum basically confirmed that this was her way of friendzoning me forever (regardless of what happens with my marriage, which isn’t in a good place at all). The belief is that if she wanted to keep the door even a little bit open she wouldn’t have been so pointed in how she said it. At this point I agree with their assessment.
At the same time, LO #2 and I were paradoxically getting quite a bit closer there for a while. She seemed to suggest we should hang out one-on-one, but she also talked about wanting to go places to meet men. Where would that leave me? It would be awkward if she wants me to be her wingman. She must know I have feelings for her, and I think she enjoys having me fawn over her. As a response, I unfollowed her on Facebook and decided I’m not going to kiss her ass anymore. I still like her and want to hang out once in a while (probably not one-on-one), but it will be on my terms and I won’t open myself up to getting hurt. I am not even tempted to check her Facebook posts or call or message her. I am also redoubling my efforts with fitness, weight loss, home improvement, my job, my career and my marriage/family life (that whole purposeful living thing). Let’s hope this lasts!
Plausible deniability between two people is both the fragile fence that prevents escalation and consummation, yet at the same time, is the volatile fuel that prolongs the uncertainty and continues the limerant dance.
Love this. It is so very true!
Vicarious Limerent says
@ Allie, I thought exactly the same. This comment from FlashbulbEyes is so incredibly profound. All of the flirting that LO #2 and I did was cloaked in plausible deniability. It could have all been taken for being completely innocent. I think it fueled my feelings for her.
I don’t mean to sound preachy (and maybe I’m getting old), but I’ve reached a point where heavily flirting with people who are not available no longer has any appeal to me. It just seems like a colossal waste of time along with a potential minefield if feelings develop. Unless it’s going to develop into something, I don’t see the point. I used to be very flirtatious with the married guys at my last job (only one I was limerent for), but I look back on it now and think … what a was of my energy.
Vicarious Limerent says
@ Marcia, I agree with you. Heavy flirting with someone who is attached is definitely inappropriate and will lead nowhere, but where there’s plausible deniability, by definition, I think it means it isn’t that “heavy.” I know some people are against any and all flirtation when someone is in a committed relationship, but I think some people enjoy the feeling that someone is attracted to them, even if they never plan on doing anything about it. The problem is when feelings develop as a result. This is particularly problematic for limerents.
” I think some people enjoy the feeling that someone is attracted to them, even if they never plan on doing anything about it. ”
I have heavily flirted with people I wasn’t attracted to. In fact the less attraction the better. I wasn’t risking anything. 🙂 As sketchy as it sounds, I had more respect for the married men who actually did come on to me. At least they could follow through. Now, this is just my opinion, but endless heavy filtration — leaning all over me, heavy sexual innuendo, leaving me little notes, etc. — with no follow through just starts to seem a bit silly after a while. It’s hollow.
Words can’t express how grateful I am to have found this site. A despondent, half-joking Google search for “end forbidden thoughts”, or “escape this hell”, or some such, led me to discover the concept of limerence, and within the first few days of reading I began to feel like I was taking back some control. It’s like the classic relief of “Thank God I’m not crazy”, except it’s “Thank God, I am a little crazy”! I knew that what I’ve been going through wasn’t normal or healthy.
This post almost perfectly describes my mindset during my first limerent year. Our flirty relationship was an exciting secret thing, that belonged just to me, completely separate from my marriage. After the second year of LO dominating my every waking thought, it was clear that I had very little control. I worried about the damage I was doing, the risks I was taking, but I could still at times convince myself that there was a sweetness in the pain and that I wasn’t ready to give it up. By the end of year 3 I just felt completely exhausted and powerless. What was once exciting had become torturous, and yet still I couldn’t stop. What I’m learning here is helping me challenge that resignation.
It’s been less than a month and I know I’m not out of the woods completely, but it’s been the best month I’ve had in a long while. Even just repeating the word in my head – limerence, limerence, limerence – when my thoughts turn to LO, reminds me that my feelings are abnormal, that limerence is a “thing” that I can control, that it’s not even about LO. I feel like such a fool when I look back objectively at the past 3 years, but I feel hopeful that the next 3 will be different.
Hi Netty, it gets better. I’ve had a year of NC and have done truckloads of reading about boundaries, attachments, and addictions. I’m growing through this experience and learning not to play with fire, ummm except for a recent slip up…
I was burned most painfully, too, and it still is mystifying how my relationship that I liked so much was brought to that point! Hang in there — with your newfound awareness and insight, you’ll make it!
Compartmentalisation is definitely a thing, and while it can be a response or adaptation to the development of an LE, it can also play a key role in setting everything up for a perfect storm.
A couple years ago my SO picked up a new (innocent) hobby, and thereby gained a new group of friends, that was entirely discrete from any other circles of friends either of us had previously, that I was not also involved with, because 1. someone needed to watch the kids, and 2. I was not interested in the activity anyway.
But after a couple months there an LE formed, turned into EA and then PA, and so disclosure hit me like a tonne of bricks out of left field. For a non-limerent like me, this irrational and reason-defying attachment has been utterly baffling. But finding this website and the concept of limerence has been truly eye-opening to see things from (what I assume is) her perspective.
Even though this a good description of what CAN happen, people are still individuals and it doesn’t HAVE TO happen like this. What you don’t describe is NC limerence, which exists only as a fantasy and which I use as a recreational drug, the secret cigarette I have once in a while. SO is there for all my real and happy moments, which are more important. But from time to time (e.g. when I go for a run!) I summon my thoughts on LO for a kick and some imagined self-validation, to which LO lends a face and a type. This is why I would never tell anyone, LO or SO, anything about my limerence. LO is my secret mental happy place and they will likely be replaced by another LO following a rare and much appreciated flirtation/chemical reaction (talking about the one happening between two people, not in your brain… but that’s probably simultaneous) in real life. I use LO to counteract all the impositions that any, even the happiest relationship puts on self: monogamy, limitations of your partner (and yourself), family stresses, lack of self validation, loss of intensity of feelings, the quieter feelings. Sometimes I want loud, irrational feelings and I am grateful if I have an LO that can inspire them in my head. And I am not delusional that I would be better off with LO. SO is the love of my life, my counterpart in every respect, even though I was never limerent for him. LImerence is best lived out in my head, the only place where LO can really make me happy.
Limerent Emeritus says
Have you read:
So, what makes you think you’re a limerent? It sounds like your LO is more of an imaginary friend. The idea that Catherine Zeta-Jones is going to ring my doorbell and try to convince me to switch to T-Mobile (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2xPNEJh9eU) still pops into my head now and then. The commercial came on and I told my wife that if Catherine Zeta-Jones ever rang our doorbell and asked me to run away with her, we’d have a new cell provider and I’d be gone. My wife said that if Catherine Zeta-Jones ever asked me to run away with her, I had her blessing.
For many of us, our LOs are very real, LEs have real consequences, and compel noticeable changes in behavior, either around them or your SO.
As for what you can learn about your relationship with your SO, you can learn a lot. You can learn that some posters have seen their marriages end when their SOs let LEs get the best of them. You can learn that meeting an LE can be the catalyst for ending unfulfilling marriage. An LE can inform you that your SO isn’t too keen on polyamory and the idea of getting your itch scratched by someone else. An LE can give you an idea of how flexible your integrity, loyalty, and fidelity are and how good you are at managing cognitive dissonance. An LE can give you an idea of what your view and definition of Emotional Affairs are. I’m sure I missed a few.
But, you are correct. A well-managed LE is like a hit of nitrous oxide.
PS – new screen name
Oh, my LO is a real person who I interacted with briefly and who I would pursue if I wasn’t in a serious relationship.
” You can learn that meeting an LE can be the catalyst for ending unfulfilling marriage.”
I wonder what the statistics are on this. May be hard to get because people would have to self-identify as limerents, but I’m guessing the percentages are low. I don’t think most people leave their marriages. Divorce is just too inconvenient, and most of us are first and foremost about creature comfort. Even having to pack up one’s things, look for another place, relocate and refurnish another place is a pain in the tuckus. And it’s a big risk. What if one blows up what one has, only to have the LO disappear once one is free?
Limerent Emeritus says
You’re right about divorce being a hassle. Nobody I know has ever said they went through a divorce because it was a fun process. The one time I seriously consider it, economics played into it. My Navy buddy got divorced. He said it cost him $400K and his ex would get half his pension for the rest of her life. But, he said it was worth it.
Meeting my wife gave me the incentive to finally cut LO #2 out of my life for good. By the time I met my wife, I was pretty much done with LO #2 anyway but meeting my wife and once it showed promise, I had no reason to deal with LO #2 at all. The time from seeing my future wife walk across the dance floor until LO #2 dropped me off at the ferry after our goodbye was less than 6 weeks.
“Meeting my wife gave me the incentive to finally cut LO #2 out of my life for good. ”
A back-to-backer. 🙂 I think that is what most people do.
Limerent Emeritus says
“A back-to-backer. 🙂 ”
That was a sore point with my wife for years. I didn’t see it that way. LO #2 and I had broken up officially a year earlier. It was a topic we covered in marriage counseling.
I told one of my best friends about it. She asked what part of a rebound relationship didn’t I understand. I asked her what rebound? We’d ended the relationship over a year earlier.
My friend said she’d explain it to me. She said even though we weren’t a couple and we were no longer sleeping together, we were still in a relationship and I was in it up to my eyeballs. I was holding out hope for a reconciliation and laid out the conditions LO #2 had to meet for me to take her back. My friend said that if LO #2 hadn’t really pissed me off and my wife made me a better offer, I’d have probably stayed in the game.
My friend said I rolled from one relationship right into the next. My friend was an LCSW and knew LO #2 when we were dating. She said that I never mourned for that relationship and burying it wasn’t working too well.
But, yeah, meeting someone can provide a lot of incentive.
“My friend said I rolled from one relationship right into the next. ”
My dad did that. It’s probably a bit of a trigger for me. Two months after my stepmother died, after a 30-year marriage, I caught him on match.com. And that’s when I caught him. I suspect he was on there sooner. I gotta say it chilled me to the core because he’d moved on as quickly after my mother died. And, no, my stepmother didn’t have a long, lingering illness. She got sick and passed away a month later. I had a good friend do the same thing. The week she left her husband, she was creating a match profile. It shocked me because she had talked for TWO years about this other guy she really wanted. But he was stepping up. On the flip side, I probably mourn too long.
Other guy WASN’T stepping up.
Limerent Emeritus says
“Other guy WASN’T stepping up”
LO #4’s partner not stepping up was a contributing factor in the LE. LO #4’s live-in partner was pretty high profile. She suffered some hefty professional setbacks. From what little she said about him, he appeared to be in a position to help her through it but he didn’t. He wasn’t the cause of the setbacks, but he seemed to make the effects on her worse, not better.
She defended him saying that they kept their business affairs separate and it would be good for her to learn to handle it on her own. She was in pain and the person who should have been there wasn’t. There was nothing I could do to help her professionally but it didn’t cost me anything to provide a little moral support. What was the risk? It seemed harmless and, for several years, it was.
She picked up on it early. She asked, “What do I telegraph to you?”
Um. Ok. Not sure what that has to do with back to backers.
Limerent Emeritus says
The comment has nothing to do with back-t0-backers. Your post about not stepping up brought that topic up in my head. Entirely different topic.
Back to backers was the more interesting topic. 🙂 How does the mind of the back to backer work? 🙂 And I’m talking about back to back relationships. Not flings or one-nighters, where there are no rules.
Limerent Emeritus says
“How does the mind of the back to backer work?”
What kind of question is that? Is back to backer (B2B) a description of personal behavior or a description of events? I don’t see it as a personal mindset.
People think nothing of dating a lot people when they’re in the market. Sometimes, in rapid succession. So, my first question is how does Marcia define a “back-to-backer?”
Is it by the length of the previous relationship? If I date you twice and start dating someone I like better and it works, does that make me a “B2B?” If you think 2 dates constitutes a relationship and I don’t, who’s right? If my marriage ended tomorrow, how long would I have to wait to avoid the label? Is a week a rebound? A month, a year?
For some people, being with someone is a huge driver and they don’t like being alone. For other people, B2B would be entirely a matter of circumstance.
My recently divorced friend started corresponding with an old acquaintance after his separation but before his divorce was final. If the relationship goes beyond that, would he be considered a B2B?
“I don’t see it as a personal mindset.”
But it is. Classic back to backer: I was dating a guy going through a divorce. I broke it off. A few months later, we talked and he told me he was reconciling with the wife and they were moving away together. Three months later, I get a “I’m so in love with you” letter from him. He had moved. She hadn’t. I took about 2 or so weeks to respond for me to the letter. So from the time he mailed the letter until he got my response, it was maybe 3, tops 3.5 weeks. We got back together. I later found out, in that period of uncertainty, he was trying to get back with her. He could not be by himself for less than a month.
“People think nothing of dating a lot people when they’re in the market. Sometimes, in rapid succession. So, my first question is how does Marcia define a “back-to-backer?””
Not dating. A person who ends a serious relationship and is on the market within days. Sometimes the old and new relationship will even overlap.
“If my marriage ended tomorrow, how long would I have to wait to avoid the label? Is a week a rebound? A month, a year?”
I have had men ask me out who’d moved out of the marital home a week earlier. That was deal breaker.
Limerent Emeritus says
Do you have a “one that got away?” Is there someone in your pantheon of discarded relationships that you felt had the potential to be everything you wanted and you’d be together if they hadn’t slipped through your fingers?
We can open that question up to the rest of the community.
Some people do, some people don’t. I don’t. LO #4 thought that I might be LO #2’s OTGA. LO #4 knows more about LO #2 than my wife does.
Oh, I see we are changing lanes again. The answer to your question is no. In my opinion, if the person is truly supposed to be “your person,” you’d be together. For example, if the person is not available, it ain’t your person. Doesnt mean you wont become limerence, but it ain’t your person. If it is, they get out of what they are in to be with you.
Limerent Emeritus says
I did cross a few lanes of traffic on that one. I had a pesky random thought (PRT) on that one.
I’ll try to signal before changing lanes next time. 🙂
Yeah, warn a person when you change lanes. I’m driving in the slow lane, seat-dancing to my disco tunes. 🙂
Limerent Emeritus says
But if I time the lane change right, you slam on the brakes and end up wearing that Venti organic soy, extra hot, triple shot caramel macchiato with unpasteurized heavy cream whip, Free Trade West Indies nutmeg, and Myanmar micro business sourced cinnamon, that’s fueling your 70s retrospective. 🙂
Song of the Day (Redux): “Heart of Glass” – Blondie (1978)
“Once I had a love and it was a gas
Soon turned out to be a pain in the ass…”
I love this song!
I love Blondie, too. Debbie Harry at her platinum blonde height! But I’m not a coffee person. Never drink it. I’m a sodaholic. A fountain soda and homemade chocolate cake …. served by an LO. What else does one need in life? 🙂
I wasn’t limerent until about 2 years ago and it’s a dangerous thing when it turns down a dark path.
If it is truly L, you can’t regulate it or harness it.
I was in a long marriage and I was attracted to other people from time to time. Certainly, I had fantasies about different people and that sort of erased the doldrums.
Limerence isn’t like that.
It’s when your brain becomes addicted to a feeling that LO gives you. You crave that person all the time. You’re sad because you haven’t heard from that person. You worry about that person and you want that person to be happy. It’s the nearness, the contact, even a picture of that person can send brain chemicals soaring.
And the crash when that person isn’t giving you what you need when you go no contact. It’s awful.
I think Meredith on another post talked about how she has sympathy for drug addicts. I never understood but I can empathize now. Limerence crippled me psychologically. I could hardly get through workdays early on before I knew what was going on and before I understood Limerence.
I confided in few people, and none of them understood, not even 2 psychologists.
An LO can’t serve as a secret pick me up because your brain won’t allow it.
Your brain wants LO all the time until you work your way to indifference.
Allie 1 says
That is your experience of limerence. Everyone is different.
Mine was as you describe, Beth. It turned so dark because I was trying to suppress inappropriate feelings and actions. It was tortuous because LO wouldn’t stop and now it’s so part of my brain chemistry, that I’m trying 12 step and anti-depressants! Anything to get back to the normalcy I normally have (believe it or not).
It does hit hard when it’s something that has happened only a few times in one’s life. I was totally unprepared, even though there was a lot of anxiety along with that first glimmer. Coulda, woulda, shoulda ran the other way fast, but I was very unsure how to handle the tricky situation.
I’m very grateful for this blog and the teaching on how to go NC gradually. I didn’t feel like I could because of the nature of our working relationship, but gradual distancing would have worked so well in my situation and would have been the honorable thing to do. Instead, pervasive unhappiness every time I think of how it eventually played out, which is often unfortunately.
Now the hope bit: slowly, ever so slowly, with complete NC and an amazingly supportive SO, much work on understanding how I’m wired, what causes vulnerability to LOs, and what makes good and honest communication in a caring relationship, I feel better. Most days…
(Having said the above, I still know the pain associated with limerent longing, which is one of reasons I’m surfing this site. Also I am looking for concrete hints of what an LE can tell you about yourself and your relationship with SO. )
Allie 1 says
Hi Jo. I am a lifelong limerent that is also allowing my current LE to just be so I relate well to the above and find the idea very interesting. Limerence can be a genuine mental comfort and I see nothing wrong with it if it works for you and it doesn’t get in the way of living your life. I do think NC limerence is easier to manage than when you have regular LO contact as you are more in control of it, there is no urge to constantly look outward for signs of reciprocation and validation from an unreliable source. And of course, there is no risk of you acting on your yearnings.
Saying that, I do worry that our LEs can stop us from being fully present in life and cause us to let new opportunities, and some of the subtle sweet moments in life pass us by while we are lost in our daydreams.
I was happy and content before my LE and firmly believe it was not really any lack in me or my life that triggered my LE. The desire to fall in love again has always existed in me to some extent, marriage did not remove that completely, just temporarily. It only took meeting that rare LO that powerfully triggers me. If only we could fall madly in love with our spouses again! Sadly that is not the way it works, so the occasional LE feels almost like an inevitably for me.
Thanks Allie 1. Totally relate!