Commenter Maddie asks about the disorienting strangeness when limerents – especially ones who have embarked on affairs – rewrite the history of their marriage. Suddenly, a life together that had involved all the usual ups, downs, joys and tragedies, becomes instead an unbroken series of disappointments and insults. It’s like someone went into their memory banks and deleted all the happy bits, so that they can only remember the negatives. Plus, of course, they were powerless to act on this at the time (for some reason) and my god what an insensitive spouse you must have been to have not noticed the deep well of misery they were trapped in. Possibly, the fact that they cunningly disguised this misery behind a facade of behaving as though everything was basically fine made it harder to spot how desperately stifled they were. No doubt it’s a testament to their amazing forbearance that they lasted this long before telling you.
Well, it’s easy to mock the absurdity of these claims, but it’s not funny when you are living it.
So, what’s going on? Why are they behaving like their memory is Swiss cheese with holes where all the good bits should be? Why are they selectively re-editing your history? What can the betrayed spouse do about it? And – perhaps most meaningfully of all – why does it hurt so much?
1) They’re trying to manage cognitive dissonance.
A betrayer has to at some point confront a difficult truth: they have done something incredibly hurtful to someone that they pledged to love and support. That creates a conflict between their self-image as a good person, and the knowledge (and evidence in front of them) that they have disrespected their partner and caused them emotional harm.
There are two ways to resolve that dissonance: recognise that they are not as “good” as they would like to believe, or persuade themselves that their partner is a bad person and therefore not worthy of care and respect. For most people, the only way to reconcile their harmful behaviour is to reorganise the marriage dynamics into the only form that allows them to feel justified in their misconduct – i.e. You mistreated me first, so I’m just getting my own back.
The pernicious thing about these mental gymnastics is that nobody is perfect, and so there is always a little hook of doubt that can be used against a good-hearted spouse. Sometimes, the attempt to blameshift can be comic (you never make my coffee the way I like it!), but other times it can be uncomfortably persuasive (you are rude to me in front of the children). Either way though, the basic truth of the matter is that any such concerns should have been handled at the time, by adult communication, not by running off with someone else.
Especially as the problems only became Problems after the someone else arrived.
2) Limerence gets strengthened by barriers.
Limerence is fundamentally a drive to bond, which has become perverted into addictive behaviour. One of the big factors for strengthening limerence is the presence of barriers to consummation. Obviously, being married or in a long-term relationship is a pretty significant barrier for most people.
With the force of limerence pushing them to bond, anything that bars access to LO becomes hateful. This causes the limerent to see their partner as hateful, and thus the devaluation begins. Once the partner is pushed into the role of “irritating distraction from LO-fantasy time”, all interactions become frustrating and argumentative. So, from a certain polarised perspective, the “logic” makes sense: I can currently only see my spouse’s negative qualities, and that reminds me of all the times in the past when they irritated me too, so that must be what my marriage was really like.
3) Limerence can literally change your partner’s personality.
I’ve talked before about the neurochemical cocktail underlying limerence, and about the fact that the lying and cheating and sneaking around associated with affairs deranges the moral compass of the sneak. The combination of altered brain chemistry and altered psychology does, literally, lead to a change in identity. Add to that the tendency of limerents to exaggerate the excellence of LO’s ideas and opinions, and adjust their own worldviews to accommodate this new information in an effort to impress LO, and it’s not altogether a surprise that your old partner can seem to have undergone a personality transplant.
This kind of chameleon-like behaviour does rather suggest that the limerent was lacking in character before the arrival of LO – but to be honest I sort of assume this is true of any limerent that refuses to even minimally examine their own conduct.
4) Why it hurts so much, and what can be done.
I’ve talked about limerence from the perspective of bonding, but the big, painful, truth is that there was already a bond here: the one between the limerent and their partner, and that bond has been forcibly broken by the limerent.
It is no wonder that this is so painful. In addition to losing what the spouse thought was a source of support and care, there is also the sudden loss of certainty: what does the past, present and future mean now? What was my life really like? What will happen to me and my family now? What will the future be like, now that I can’t trust the person I love?
Coupled to that is helplessness. If all the certainties have gone, and my spouse is now denying our past, how can I ever plan or build things? Why the hell did they do it, and why can’t I get them to see reason?
Well, for all the reasons outlined above, your spouse may not be reachable. An attempt is noble – tentatively exploring their attitude to preserving (or recovering) your relationship. Watch their actions, rather than believing their words. Whose feelings are they prioritising – yours or LOs? Do they genuinely seem confused or conflicted, and are they behaving in a way that suggests they are ashamed or depressed? If so, it may be possible to find a bridge to them, because they appear to be suffering from the limerence rather than revelling in it.
If there is something to work with, you can try making them aware of limerence, talking to them honestly about how the devaluation is hurting you, and asking them to honestly reflect on what they are doing. It’s possible that you might be able to get them to concede that your life together was not as bad as they are claiming.
But here’s the uncomfortable truth: it’s almost certainly not worth the effort. If they have embarked on an affair, they may have already broken the marriage beyond repair. That is undoubtedly sad, but – without meaning to be trite – life often is monstrously unfair. The only choice we get to make is how to respond, and whether we try to make it better.
Do you strive for a new future free from a partner who has betrayed you, or do you try to decontaminate the bitter past and hope you have enough soap to scrub away the taint? Do you ignore them and focus on what you will do next, or do you spend your energy fighting the injustice of their lies?
They may snap out of it. You could consider rebuilding. But, the only safe way of deciding whether it’s worthwhile is to assume you won’t take them back (short of a miracle) and plan accordingly. Live purposefully, and when it comes to love, think about it from this perspective: what sort of person do you think who would make an ideal partner? Then, try to be that sort of person yourself. That’s the best hope for finding an actual, genuine partner, who you can build a better future with.
“you never make my coffee the way I like it!”
Ah yes, the old “bagged salad made me do it” justification. From the Midlife Club about 15 years ago. I swear cheaters all use the exact same handbook.
Yeah, once they’ve had an affair, go find the divorce lawyer all the other divorce lawyers don’t want their spouse to use. Your spouse is gone and honestly, once they’ve devalued YOU to that point why would you want them back? Release them to find their bliss AFTER you have found good legal counsel. If they want you again someday they can try and win you. I bet they won’t put in half the effort for you that they did when they pursued LO.
Your heart may be torn to bits so use your head. At least guard your assets. Money spent dating someone while married is money you may be able to recover as marital assets. Run a credit check on yourself too. Never have a joint credit card. Ever. Remove wayward spouse as an authorized user if you added them in the past.
They may never cheat again, but they cheated on you and your own experience counts 100%. They’ve shown you who they are when they know they can get away with it. I bet it’s popped up in other venues too. Fudging time spent at work, time spent working, donations of goods to charities, etc.
“Especially as the problems only became Problems after the someone else arrived.”
I’m not sure I would agree that problems aren’t Problems before LO’s arrival—at least not in my case. My wife and I had serious issues, a lot of conflicts. And we all know it’s never REALLY about the coffee (or the bagged salad). That’s just the overt excuse when something “uncomfortably persuasive” is too hard for the limerent to acknowledge—either to the SO or to himself. “My SO is unkind.” “He has real anger management issues.” Or more subtly, “I’m bored/not able to be myself in this relationship with SO.” Whatever. If nothing else, I believe the problems with my SO definitely contributed to my being open to actually acting on my limerent feelings. I knew the risk, but I was unhappy enough in my marriage to be willing to take it (foolishly perhaps, but nonetheless). Are Problems the open door to or effect of limerence, who knows? But yes, we should be adults and confront this stuff head-on when it happens, try to fix things, or end the relationship.
Yes, that’s a good point. It would be better phrased as “Especially if the problems only became Problems after the someone else arrived.”
Also, good point about the lame excuses. Sometimes, complaining about the coffee is a cover for much deeper problems. Still indicative of problematic communication skills, though!
Read the entire page to get the joke.
Pitch black humour, but definitely funny. I especially liked:
The “You’re so perfect it’s exhausting” gambit!
Lisa C. says
This is perfect! I’ve heard plenty of these excuses.
I laughed out loud. Thank you.
This is 100% what my partner has done, I feel sick after reading it. She has done everything on that list. I can’t believe how close it is
For my case, the limerence is ultimately an internal process that happens when a set of conditions are reunited, and it counts on intentional/non intentional/non-awareness of external participants: SO and the LO.
The non-aware role goes to SO, at least in the beginning. And the non intentional/intentional role goes to LO. For my 2 limerences, i believe the LOs were actively feeding my Limerence in order to get their own ego fed as well. They would get the intentional type of role.
Nevertheless, other times we come across other people that try to seduce us, or manifest feelings for us and nothing happens internally. Why do we feel this urge to bond with our LO and not to others that could be more successful with? The barriers as Dr Limerence mentions must be also really important for this as our attachment type.
I also believe that the suffering comes not only from culpability in regard of our spouse/ our values, but mostly from a kinda self-pity and feeling of worthless derived from non-reciprocated feelings from LO.. and that hurts as hell.
Regarding the effect of Limerence in our personality, I feel each LE changes my core, in many ways:
– attachment type (reinforcing the avoidant type for example)
– the expectations regarding the feeling of love ( if I don’t feel for my SO feelings as strong as for my LO, than I must not love my SO)
– also makes me want to become or live whatever I “rationally” identified as factors to admire LO in first place, per example, I also want to travel more, and learn about history, become vegan, smoke weed,etc. I say to myself that if I get to do/become whatever I admire in him than maybe it will arrive a time that I don’t need to admire that in him as I also possess those virtues… I become the person I loved in him (not always possible to achieve, but I try it). Would this be a fallacy, and I just trying to keep myself “closer” to him through his activities?…
– These days I have been thinking about the movie “Cinema Paradiso”, a wonderful movie where the main character male falls in love deeply (Limerence???) and fails to be happy with the girl, resulting in him to never want to love again… could this be a outcome of my LE or will I thrive to search for this over and over again, until my Limerence results into reciprocal love?…
Thank you so much for this detailed blog about re-writing history… in our case it was an emotional affair followed by a quick exit from the marriage… LO lives on other side of the country so hubby hasn’t pursued as yet… we had counselling today and yes, some of the reasons for demise of our marriage were laughable… I threw some truth bombs about limerence and it’s role in his decision to leave and re-writing history to justify what he did… he has a great deal of guilt and shame about the EA, but also about our failed marriage and what it is doing to our 6 yr old daughter who regularly asks her daddy when he is coming home… hopefully I made some inroads today in helping him see objectively what is going on- but I also doubt it while he is surrounded by this fog… thanks again for the detailed view of the processes at play… many of your posts about marriage & limerents seem aimed at the betrayed spouse… are you able to write something we can share with the limerent spouse to help them see sense?? Ps – I did read out several paras of your ‘married but limerent about someone else’ blog at counselling today… just to help him to see that what he has done is far from original and follows a well-beaten path.., thinking of sharing that link with him… i’m not giving up on who he was before this happened!!
Most of DrL’s early blogs are focused on limerents seeing the light and understanding what’s happening.
What’s the goal with the therapist? Are you doing individual or just joint sessions? Have you ever discussed the LO in the sessions?
If he’s really a limerent, his LO has a “glimmer.” As a SO, understanding the glimmer can go a long way to answer the questions,
– “What’s she appear to have that I don’t have?”
– “What does our relationship appear to lack that makes her appeal to him?”
– “What was going on in our lives that allowed this to blossom?”
Understand those and you have a pretty good idea of what you may be dealing with and have something to focus on. If you study the process, you can look to see what things fuel the factors of limerence. DrL says above that limerence thrives under adversity and SOs provide that. But adversity is a later characteristic of limerence. You have to have an LO for an SO to become an obstacle.
Now, just because you understand it, doesn’t mean he will understand and be willing to do anything about. If he doesn’t, you have some difficult decisions to make. But, they’ll be informed decisions.
“If he’s really a limerent, his LO has a “glimmer.” As a SO, understanding the glimmer can go a long way to answer the questions,
– “What’s she appear to have that I don’t have?”
– “What does our relationship appear to lack that makes her appeal to him?”
– “What was going on in our lives that allowed this to blossom?”
“Understand those and you have a pretty good idea of what you may be dealing with and have something to focus on.”
I couldn’t agree more with Scharnhorst here. But this works for limerents, too. Answering these questions has certainly been essential for me as the straying limerent working to improve my marriage. (I never disclosed, but SO knew I was unhappy about something.) Now that I’ve been able to stop ruminating continuously on LO, I’ve been able to focus on creating/re-discovering in SO what had been lacking in our marriage. Answering Scharnhorst’s questions above here:
– Youthful joie de vivre, newness. My youth is behind me and it’s impossible for any SO to be new again after 20 years. At first that grief (and that’s what I see it as) seemed insurmountable with SO. But I’ve found it’s possible to reconnect on things that have always brought me joy with my wife—like good food, travel, and having fun, say, playing bridge or tennis.
– Adventure, a blank slate where I’m concerned. It’s exhilarating to get to know someone new, but it’s also wonderful to get to BE someone new. Not being (pre)judged is hard to pull off with an SO; they know you too well. LO gets to witness my best qualities and doesn’t know my bad sides. So now I’m trying to use that awareness as an opportunity to figure out what I would like to develop more or even change about myself, for my own and SO’s benefit. I’m definitely trying to have more fun with my SO but now also having adventure with friends. My SO’s always been too anxious to really do adventure the way I’d like, but I see now I don’t have to get that with LO. This LE made me realize that I NEED adventure in my life somewhere and I hadn’t been getting it. But that can be fixed.
– Way too much stress and isolation for me. As Dr L noted (I think), limerence often kicks in when one is under stress or lonely. (Or bored, I’d add.) For me, I was able to appreciate that the stressor(s) is something that will pass and the loneliness I can address by getting out more with friends or colleagues (I work alone from home). And boredom…well, that can be addressed by living purposefully, right?
Bottom line: I believe a limerent episode (disclosed or not) can provide excellent grist for the therapy mill, as it were—either as an individual or a couple. And it can be a great opportunity to improve a marriage if both partners can manage to recognize that a good marriage is something that cannot be taken for granted. You both have to work at it.
And being aware of the glimmer should also, hopefully, help the spouse realise that it isn’t that the LO is superior in any meaningful way. LO just has some combination of traits that activates the limerent brain in just the right(wrong?) way.
Another good idea! I’ll definitely have a think. In the meantime, there is the “Take Control” guide, which lays out the key points and has some specific recommendations. It will probably be most useful to limerents that have “reached awareness” as it were, though. Not sure if a reluctant limerent would be so open to it.
This makes so much sense now to my experience as a spouse, who was devalued when he was having an affair. He was intolerant of me, irritable and I felt like he only saw the worst in me. I believe it was a limerent affair as he threw away all his values and personality over this time, and has rewritten the history of our marriage. He said things like he’s not sure we ever belonged together (we had been together 20 years), and asked if I was happy in the last 5 years (over which time we – I thought – lovingly conceived two children).
I experienced a funny (not so funny) excuse/accusation from my spouse upon discovering his affair. In his mind he did not believe I loved him, so his screwing around could not possibly hurt me. He reached this conclusion because I always spoke highly of him to our family and friends. Since he obviously wasn’t as good of a person as I believed, then I didn’t really love him but rather the idea of him. “My wife doesn’t really love me, she always speaks highly of me and lifts me up, encourages me and tries to make me feel good about myself.” That’s up there with him saying how it was my fault we bought the house and it was only me who wanted it. I felt like I needed to apologize for having nice stuff. “My wife is such a bitch. She forced me to save money and buy a house in a great school district that we have over 100k in positive equity.” Poor guy! I forced him to be successful and have nice stuff. It’s like these people lose their minds and try very hard to make us lose ours in the process.
My Limerent Brain is An Idiot says
Wow, the power of rationalization reaches new heights! He’s got some serious ninja powers he’s using to avoid his own responsibility for his actions.
Sorry to hear about the painful accusations. We have to reject calumny and recriminations without getting sour or bitter–which is a tall order.
Some of this stuff falls outside the heading of limerence. While it contributes to the problem, we still have to honor our commitments, vows, and generally act like decent people.
Many of the people here on this site are struggling to overcome the effects of limerence, or negate it before they overstep the bounds of their marriages or other significant life commitments.
People who rationalize their atrocious behavior or tear down decent and honorable spouses in pursuit of limerent fantasies — well, they’re in a whole other category of bad.
This is happening to me right now. He turned to be someone else over night from loving/caring husband to some alien personality. Blamed me for everything and even Changed his name on Facebook, deleted our photos etc What can I do to make him come back to his sense?
Vicarious Limerent says
This thought really scares me. My wife and I love each other, but there were definitely some major problems in our marriage before my LO walked into my life. No, things weren’t all bad, but there certainly were many warning signs (constant fighting, very few shared interests, different outlooks on life, no real intimacy for several years and a constant power struggle, as well as major issues between my wife and daughter). I know there was/is love, tenderness, good times, nice memories and companionship, but the fact is we are two people who want different things in life, enjoy doing different things and have conflicting schedules so we’re often passing ships in the night. We also seem to be moving in opposite directions with our lives, our personalities and interests. I don’t think I would ever engage in revisionism regarding the narratives of our marriage and life together, but that might be the difference between someone like me and people who have actually acted on their limerence in the form of an affair. At least I recognize that it isn’t ALL bad – far from it!
These days, I am actually more focused on my relationship with my wife than my LO (although I still think about her a lot). Things recently changed in my circumstances and social life so that I now believe running into my LO in the near future is going to be a distinct possibility. My wife doesn’t mind if I visit the pub where I met my LO and I just made some new friends who are regulars there (one claims to know everyone there, but I didn’t have the guts to ask him about my LO, although I believe he probably does know her). Somehow that makes NC a little easier to take. Knowing there is a strong possibility of some limited contact in the future is making it easier to take for some reason. Thanks to the advice of people on this site, however, I am going to avoid declaring my “undying love” (obviously an exaggeration) to her if/when I do see her.
If you’re really worried about it, is there anybody you can use as a picket? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picket_(military)
When I was in training in the Navy, we’d often grab lunch at the deli in the mini-mart across the street. One day, I’m in line with my buddy when I heard my name in a loud whisper. My buddy was behind one of the aisles motioning me to come over. As I walked over, I saw an attractive woman with an equally attractive teen-aged daughter down one of the aisles.
My buddy asked if I’d seen the women. I said they were very attractive. He said they were his ex-mother-in-law and his ex-sister-in-law. The marriage had not ended well and he was a persona non grata with them. I had to pick up his lunch and wait for them to leave while he hid in the mens’ room. After that, whenever we went there, I had to go in first to sweep the place.
It’s extreme but it works.
Vicarious Limerent says
@ Scharnhorst: I am actually not worried about it. Despite being super nervous in some ways, I would actually welcome some contact with my LO (I know that goes against the prevailing philosophy of this community, but absolute zero contact for all time is just too bleak and depressing for me; I can’t bear the thought of never seeing her again). Still, I have learned enough to realize that a full-on declaration of my feelings is totally out of the question and entirely inappropriate. For that reason, I would need to be careful not to drink too much if she was ever in my presence. It is possible that her seeing me would be too painful for her because it would make her think of my brother in-law’s rejection of her. For that reason, the reception might be frosty, but I am alright taking that chance. I don’t think I did anything to her to make her hate me personally. As mentioned, I loved the place where I met her. The only thing that would be difficult is if I saw her engaging in public displays of affection with another guy (I would be fine if it was my brother in-law, but not anyone else, although I wouldn’t cause a scene or anything ridiculous like that).
I think you are in denial. You think you can handle seeing your LO, but it’s your limerent brain craving a ‘hit’. I speak from experience…it’s a slippery slope and not long after even the smallest of ‘hit’ you undo all the progress you have made in your head and any peace of mind you have gained is lost as your brain is now back on drugs, and the LO will be all you can think of. At first you will feel calm and in control (because you got the hit) but when it wears off…watch out…..the misery returns…tenfold. Such is the life of an addict!
Vicarious Limerent says
@ Jaideux: That’s quite possible, but it is also still possible I never see her again. What’s keeping me going is the thought that I MIGHT get to see her. I am still not going to go out of my way to try to see her because I recognize there are potential issues and problems and I am not even sure if I would get a friendly reception from her. She may even ignore me completely. I am working with an EAP counsellor, and I actually am starting to feel better about my marriage, so things might be improving on that front. I may even be able to kick this entirely (although I have thought that before and I ended up right back at square one).
I agree that you’re playing with fire inside yourself emotionally by even hoping to see her- so many imaginary scenarios and so much time lost on someone you’ve invented who may or may not even really remember you. That’s limerence, but it’s such a fiction. I’m glad that you’re getting help and beginning to feel some relief in your marriage. It’s so crazy how real this can feel. My SO and I were talking this morning about the vast difference between what we believe about what’s real and what’s actually real. I made up my LO in so many ways- and I had an EA with him!!! It hasn’t been until this NC that I’ve begun to see that actual truth more clearly. And I see all the ways that my LO made me up as well- and how truly incompatible we would be in reality. He wouldn’t want me if he had me- because I’m so much more real and flawed that he thinks, and we have so many fundamental differences in the way we see the world and what we believe… not to mention the practical things that would get in the way of the fiction in our minds…. I’m grieving all the time I lost in my imaginary world.
I’m also thinking how prideful these LE’s are. They’re really a way of me thinking about myself ALL THE TIME. When I’m in them it’s all me, me, me. What I want, how I feel, what I imagine getting, feeling, how I imagine myself looking and acting. It’s almost like LO is a prop in my self-centered play. It’s gross. And unfair, and not real. When I’m in it I can’t authentically think of or love or serve the actual people in my life (unless I’m imagining myself being watched and worshiped by LO- so not authentic). I can only muse on how poorly I’m being loved and cared for and attended to by the people in my life- how they don’t appreciate or see or understand me the way I deserve.
Limerence is a great teacher, but the lessons can be a bit hard.
Vicarious Limerent says
@ Janesays: I recognize the truth of much of what you are saying. How can I really know this woman when I spent such a short time with her? I did manage to learn a lot about her life (through entirely legitimate and accessible channels), but that doesn’t really tell me much about her personality or what she is like as a person. Still, this is all my mind playing tricks on me, and the rational, logical side of my brain recognizes that. My situation is so different from others because it isn’t like I worked with this woman for months or years and got to know her, and she never gave me any real validation (although a few things she said did give me some reason to think there might be a spark there in an “alternate universe”). Because of that, I am thinking recovery might be easier than it has been for some, but in some ways the uncertainty might make it tougher.
Nevertheless, I learned a lot from this experience. It really was a “canary in the coalmine” moment telling me some major things needed to change in my marriage and life. It was a distraction from my other very real problems, which haven’t gone away. Still, I would say in the last week or two I have started focusing more on those things again. My thoughts are no longer 80% about her, and when I do think of her now it can be pleasant rather than that longing and pining away for her (at least most of the time anyway). That has to be an improvement. Perhaps seeing her would derail some or all of this, but at least acknowledging the possibility of bumping into her some day makes it easier to take. That may be different from how others feel, but that is how my mind works (completely abandoning all hope for all time isn’t working for me). I would NOT go out of my way to try to see her, but I wouldn’t go to great lengths to avoid her either. I really don’t need someone to scope out a place to ensure she isn’t there before I enter.
I have had limerence before maybe four or five times in my life, and if I ever ran into those ladies there is no way that would rekindle anything. The feeling is totally gone, although I would at least be curious to know how they are getting on with their lives. I am hoping and assuming this current LO will end up the same way at some point. Still, who knows what the future will bring?
“I would NOT go out of my way to try to see her, but I wouldn’t go to great lengths to avoid her either.”
Your SO looks you straight in eye and said, “I don’t want you to have anything to do with LO ever again.” You know your LO will be at the pub at a specific date and time.
What do you do?
That’s pretty much what my wife said to me after I disclosed to her about LO #4. Now, based on her last known position and the fact we never actually met, there’s little chance of an accidental meeting. So, if LO #4 was in striking distance, to engage her would mean I would either have to lie to my wife and cover it up or deliver the message to my wife that engaging my LO was more important than honoring her request. Neither of those works. So, I’d have to avoid LO #4.
And, seriously, so what if you never saw her again? We’re not talking grand opera here.
Vicarious Limerent says
@ Scharnhorst: I would respect my wife’s wishes if she asked me not to ever have contact, but that isn’t what she said. She trusts me as long as I don’t cheat on her (which I wouldn’t do). I agree that nothing would happen to me if I never see my LO again. It isn’t like I am going to die, but it feels like a hardship. As mentioned, I am not going to try to seek her out. Other people on here have their LOs as Facebook friends, neighbours and colleagues, and that seems to be fine for them (and no one gives them a hard time for it). The double standard here seems a little unfair. It was hard unfriending someone I liked as a human being who did nothing wrong to me. That was what made it so hard. Still, I am basically continuing with NC; I’m just not going to be obsessive about maintaining it.
We’re back to the question, “If you could write the ‘fairy-tale-ending’ to make this situation whatever you wanted, what would that be?”
Vicarious Limerent says
@ Scharnhorst: Fairy-tale ending? That really depends on how things go with my marriage, but either of the following two scenarios would work for me, depending on what happens:
1. A much better marriage and life with my limerence gone and my former LO being a nice acquaintance who is friendly and happy to see me once in a blue moon if we bump into one another (but NOT best friends or anything like that); or
2. My marriage being over and my LO agreeing to go on a date with me and maybe exploring a relationship with her.
I know some people would be dead set against Option #2, but I really don’t care. I am 99% sure I would be shot down in flames, but life’s too short and what would I have to lose? Even my EAP counsellor agrees. Still, I am leaning towards reconciling with my wife and having a happier life with her rather than pursuing the unknown with someone I hardly know.
“Should two courses be judged equal, then the will cannot break the deadlock, all it can do is to suspend judgement until the circumstances change, and the right course of action is clear.”
— Jean Buridan, c. 1340
How long are you willing to wait?
Vicarious Limerent says
@ Scharnhorst: That is the million dollar question and a great quote. Being in a midlife crisis, I really feel like life is passing me by. I know meaningful change takes time, but I am not willing to be in limbo for years. I believe 6-12 months should be enough time to see if there is meaningful change in my marriage and if it’s worth salvaging. As I had commented elsewhere on this site, I have recently had some validation that I may have interest from other women at this point. Believe it or not, I am not 100% hung up on my LO, and I don’t believe the choice is only between her and my wife. I have started to see what’s out there and how many women my age are looking for love; I really don’t think I need to be alone (but that won’t stop my trying to repair my marriage).
Vicarious Limerent, we aren’t judging you , far from it, we empathise because most of us are or have been where you are. I know how you feel, I am currently in the same boat, it’s called the boat of hope and it’s not a boat I am 100% willing to give up just yet even if it’s sinking.
I had a very good conversation with my SO yesterday after a particularly shitty day, it was about why I get such roller coaster feelings of depression when I don’t see my LO. I’ll spare you the boring details but I felt pretty good after my chat with SO, confident, quite cocky even, that if I bumped in LO I’d be ok, I’d be friendly next time it won’t affect me. I am cured right………well today I caught up with my regular friends and knew 99.9% for certain LO wouldn’t be there, his car wasn’t there so I strutted into the building brimming with confidence. Well………..10 min later I caught the reflection of his car zipping past followed shortly by him strolling in, I felt my heart lurch as my brain scrambled what to do next. I had my back to him but he solved the problem by actually calling out my name and greeting me and I responded back. A fairly innocuous 5 second encounter by my books, but it shook me to my core and took me a good 10 min to get my heart rate back to normal. I am not good with surprises! The result, ruminating throughout my catch up, ruminating in my car and now here at home. My point is even in small doses your LO can have a significant impact on your recovery, it shits me that I saw him and I was actively avoiding him.
Vicarious Limerent says
@ Lee-Anne: Thank you for your understanding. This all seems so illogical and ridiculous to me. I am normally a pretty rational, logical person, and I am quite disappointed in myself having these thoughts about another woman. I really thought my marriage and life with my spouse would be forever, but now I’m not so sure. I know I would be foolish to seek out my LO (at least at this stage; things would be different if my marriage ended), but I still retain that faint hope that something could come of this some day. I also really like her as a person (aside from feelings of lust, which are definitely there as well). I am angry that I can’t just be her friend. I meet tons of women all of the time and I am able to be totally platonic friends with so many of them (even if I find them physically attractive). Why can’t I have that with her? It seems so unfair (I know the answer to that question, but I find myself asking it anyway). I do recognize we are all here for one another as a community, but everyone’s situation is a little different. I am still maintaining NC, but I personally believe at least the thought of some limited contact in the future might work, especially if my limerence starts to die down a bit (which it has maybe by 5%, which doesn’t sound like much, but it is enough to stop the pining away most of the time anyway and allows me the ability to think of other things and plan my life without my LO). I understand that seeing my LO might derail some of that, but if I see her, so be it. I am not seeking her out though.
Limerence Writer says
I am seriously guilty of rewriting history. I have my story constantly going in my head, slowly molding it over time to the way it feels best, convincing myself not to feel so guilty. I do feel guilty, but I’m not sure how much I’m to blame. Once I had my LO experience, I gave my wife an ultimatum: either we start doing therapy or I’m leaving. We did the therapy, I stayed, but I talked with friends and family about the whole experience. To my wife’s dismay, my family and friends were quick to side with me, many of them never sure why I stayed with my wife over the years, frustrated with certain aspects of my wife that they’d never voiced before. I found myself in the very weird situation where I was defending my wife to people while informing them I was considering divorce and obsessed with someone else. I should probably have tried to hide their support of me over her, another thing for me to feel guilty about, but at the time, their support felt good… probably because I felt like I was losing everything as well. The fact I couldn’t get away from, the betrayal, it was all because of me. If I just shut up about being miserable, then everything could stay as it was. My LE was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Probably the main reason I’m able to stay with my wife, the way we can end up respecting each other after all of this, is inherent in one of the first things she said when I confessed to her about my LO and demanded therapy with that ultimatum. She calmly, rationally stated that we should have seen this coming, that at some point, after going celibate and ignoring the problems for so long, that one of us was bound to meet someone who made us feel special. I wish it had been her who had met someone else and wanted to leave. I still wish that. I feel so much less invested in our marriage that my guilt and sense of responsibility together prays that she could find happiness elsewhere, so I wouldn’t be the bad guy who wants to leave. But as a later therapist (who I went to see on my own) told me, “You’ll always be the bad guy. There’s no getting around that.”
Vicarious Limerent says
Again, so many parallels with my situation. Even my wife’s own family often sides with me. She is bossy, mean, controlling, abusive, lazy and negative, and we too are no longer intimate, but I still love her. I need to give her the same ultimatum about therapy, but I am not sure if it will really work. I can try to have a good life outside my marriage (not talking about an affair here, just socializing and pursuing interests she doesn’t have), but I want us to do things together and have at least one or two common interests. My biggest fear is that we will manage to improve our marriage just enough to no longer be completely miserable, but not enough to truly be happy. My own approach focuses on laying my cards on the table, giving her some ultimatums and establishing some non-negotiables for things to work out. I would also like to see if we can get the intimacy back and try to stop all of the fighting and negativity in our family (most of it caused by her). But is that enough?
Limerence Writer says
Yeah, that’s the big question. Thankfully, my wife and I don’t fight. But it’s a very Cold War of passive-aggressiveness for us. The only time we raised our voices at each other in the past decade was a couple of times in therapy, which I think helped release tension. But that therapy was seven years ago, and we’ve just been stuck where we’re at. A couple of years later, I went to therapy on my own, because I felt miserable again and wanted to talk to someone. It definitely helped; I preferred it over the couple counseling probably because I could overshare on my own, and not have my wife there. My therapist taught me to watch my mood spikes, and gently tried to persuade me that there would never be a future relationship with my LO.
I might have a big test of willpower coming up. Eight years ago, my wife took our kids across the country for a visit with her family for a couple of weeks. That’s when I reconnected with my first girlfriend and had a brief online affair. When my family returned, we ended that affair but I was faced with how alone and miserable I was with my wife back. A couple of months later, I met my LO and suddenly, it was like I’d lost my mind. But the devastating highs and lows of those two months of knowing her gave me the gumption to give my wife the ultimatum of counseling or separation; otherwise, I’d probably never have had the nerve to confront my wife like that. In the very near future, my wife may take the kids across the country again, which is shocking in this troubled time, but one of my in-laws has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and the other has physical issues. She wouldn’t be going because of the pandemic, but they really need someone to come and help, and it is a good time for my wife to do it in her job. I’m not pushing them out the door, and trying to hide any sense that I would greatly appreciate an empty house for once. Like a vacation. (I’m still working.) Besides, it’s dangerous no matter what. Either way, if they do go, I do not plan on contacting either my first girlfriend or my LO. I’m pretty sure neither would appreciate that. Likely, I’ll be able to relax alone and continue to write my LO-inspired stories without distraction.
Vicarious Limerent says
I think the pandemic has forced people together more than they should be. I am really glad of a break when my wife goes to work (although she works nights and I am forced to work from home these days). A break could do you good because it feels like most of us are spending far too much time with our families these days. We need some alone time and time to think and stop getting on one another’s nerves. One of the things I like to do is take my dog for long walks. I also go for drives now and then just to get out of the house, drive aimlessly, listen to music and think. However, my biggest problem with being alone is I invariably start to ruminate over my LO (although I have started pursuing some new interests and have returned to some earlier passions and pursuits to keep myself busy). I am glad individual therapy helped you. For me, it felt like trying to fix a bullet wound with a band-aid. The only good to come out of it, I thought, was validation that my feelings were totally understandable and “normal.” I hope your alone time can give you some peace and some time to think.
With regrets says
Dear all of you, Stop acting like teenagers with a bad crush and get invested in your relationship and the person you made vows to. Especially if there are children involved. Cheating rubs off and runs in families, I know! Communicate you thoughts, fantasies and fears to your SO and live your best life together.
I told my SO more than two years before I left that our marriage was not working for me. No intimacy and decades of me initiating sex. He went to counseling at my urging and even after I left, I asked about reconciliation. He wasn’t willing to give more. He still isn’t.
I met LO after I separated.
What I wouldn’t give to have the switch flipped back with my SO and to not have met LO, who I do not contact.
Wish it was as simple as you stated.
Wow… my 1 year long addiction has been instantly cured! Must be your wise, empathic and supportive advice. Thanks so much.
With Regrets is obviously a non-limerent. 🙂 I have told non-limerent friends about my LO and they were equally dismissive.
If someone had described their limerence to me a few years ago, I would have been disbelieving. I would have thought them weak, silly or something. The unkind trick my brain has played upon me. Not cool.
Does the rewriting ever go away?
When the limerence fades, do the rewritten memories go back?
It’s extremely painful to think that my husband actually believes that our once beautiful marriage was as terrible as he has made it seem…
Good question, Spouse. I suspect it depends on how much the limerent psychologically commits to the “new history”, in terms of the consequences they cause by the devaluation.
If the rewriting leads to a physical affair and the breakdown of the marriage, then even when they emerge from the limerence fog they kind of have to cling to the belief that the rewritten history is real, because otherwise there would be no justification for the harm they caused.
Demoralising, I know, but unless the limerent is self-aware enough to realise what they are doing and why, it can be very difficult to get them to see reason. The denial is too useful.
In my case, it is the other way around. The physical affair lead to the rewriting and over time, the breakdown of our marriage – which was great (or so I thought) before he met the LO. Looking back, in the beginning, he seemed just as confused, conflicted and hurt by his feelings and behaviors as I was. He seems to have felt guilty at first and like he was trying to fight against it. Within a few weeks, empathy for my feelings and the devastation he is causing faded and before I understood what was going on and how to respond appropriately, I became the enemy.
Limerent Emeritus says
Unfortunately, you’re in a difficult situation. You can’t turn him, he has to turn himself, which leaves you the following options:
1. Accept the situation, share him with the other woman and live with it.
2. Give him an ultimatum. Her or you. But, if you go that route you better be prepared to carry it out. A threat you aren’t willing to carry out is a bluff and he may call you on it. If you’re a villain now, you’ll be a bigger villain after trying to bluff him. If he didn’t have a legitimate reason to diminish you before, you’ll give him one.
3. You wage a guerilla war, keeping a constant but subtle pressure on him to turn. It might work and might not but it leaves the first two options open. This option requires a fair amount of finesse to pull off without him realizing what you’re doing. Don’t go head-to-head with his LO. Leave her out of this. This is between you and him. You rise or fall on your merits, not hers.
One of the most telling things you can learn about someone is by watching who they defend. The therapist said that one of the most powerful messages I ever sent LO #2 was defending my new girlfriend, now wife, against LO LO #2. The therapist said that LO #2 knew she was in trouble because it was the first time I ever chose and defended another woman over her. The therapist said that’s when LO #2 knew she’d lost me.
Poke around some of the blogs related to affairs, mid-life crisis, and spouses. Look for posts by Lee. She’s the SME on this topic.
Option 4: Walk
Option 3: too much work.
There are those of us who don’t become more engaged when a 3rd party enters the picture. In fact, quite the opposite. If there’s someone else you’d rather be with, I ain’t gonna stop you.
Limerent Emeritus says
I pretty much agree with you but it depends on how much you love them and have invested in them.
I was invested up to my eyeballs in LO #2 and I would have taken her back right up to when she admitted I was Plan B. After I almost backhanded her with my fist and cooled down, I knew she had to go. I would never trust her again.
My twice divorced father put it to me this way. If a woman plays you off against another man, you:
1. Tell her that if that’s who she wants to be with, that’s where she should be.
2. Point her to the door.
3. Don’t ask her to stay.
4. Don’t tell her she can come back.
5. Change the locks and get an unlisted phone number.
I didn’t follow it too well but it’s good advice.
Smart man, your father.
I guess I never saw myself as competing with my LO’s wife. I realize that doesn’t make sense, but I knew the limitations. I was willing to work around them … Yes, I can hear myself. 🙂 I just wanted some big, sexy thing and … I had no interest in blowing up his life.
Vicarious Limerent says
I honestly think pointing someone in the direction of this site and this post in particular could help with the phenomenon of rewriting history. I first became limerent for a stranger nearly 22 months ago. Since then, I have experienced transference to a more “suitable” LO (i.e., an actual friend who is in my life and has given me at least some validation in the form of flirting). However, I really don’t think I am LO #2’s type, so I am probably living in a fantasy world even thinking I would have much of a chance with her. Still, our friendship recently became much closer and more intense, so who knows what the future may bring?
I have been with my wife for 20 years now. There have always been problems, but the last five years have been particularly dull, sexless and filled with anger and fighting (not just between my wife and I but also between my wife and my daughter). Limerence was only a wakeup call telling me something desperately needed to change in my marriage and frankly my life. I have never physically cheated on my wife and won’t as long as we live under the same roof. It took me well over a year to realize that my marriage is over and I want a divorce. My wife is bossy, mean, controlling, manipulative, lazy, angry and abusive. Our home life is intolerable.
The problem is I still care for my wife in many ways and don’t want to break her heart. I also don’t want to devalue our shared memories. I have been part of this community since January 2020, and so I am quite familiar with the concept of limerence and this tendency to engage in revisionism regarding one’s marriage when experiencing limerence. I was also extremely wary of making any major life-altering decisions in a state of limerence. Because I knew about all of this, I had to be completely sure I wasn’t just making things out to be worse than they really are before deciding to throw in the towel with my marriage. I agonized over this for more than a year. I am pretty sure I haven’t forgotten the good times because there were plenty of them, and I have said many times that things are relatively pleasant and cordial about 70% of the time even now. That made it difficult, as did limerence, but I think I am in a pretty good place where I recognize I am pretty unlikely to ever end up with either of my LOs. A couple of months ago, a really beautiful younger woman approached me and showed me serious interest, so I began to realize there are other fish in the sea and life doesn’t revolve around either of my LOs (I am no longer limerent for LO #1, but I still like her a whole lot). I am confident in my decision that I am looking to separate and ultimately divorce my wife for all of the right reasons, but she isn’t accepting of that just yet (and she may never accept it).
My point is that it took a whole lot of agonizing before I came to this decision. This site and this post in particular really made me dig down deep within myself and ask myself some pretty difficult questions about why I was looking to end my marriage. It took all of that time to really get comfortable with the idea that the limerence was only a symptom rather than the disease itself. @Spouse, I can see where my story might not bring you much comfort, but in some ways it should because if your husband can really do the deep soul searching I did about my limerence and my marriage, perhaps your husband can begin to see that things were never as bad as he was making them out to be and maybe they might actually have been pretty good. All the best to you as you navigate this difficult and challenging situation.
Limerent Emeritus says
“I guess I never saw myself as competing with my LO’s wife. I realize that doesn’t make sense, but I knew the limitations. I was willing to work around them … Yes, I can hear myself. 🙂 I just wanted some big, sexy thing and … I had no interest in blowing up his life.”
If you’re the attached party, there’s nothing worse than a complicit accomplice.
LO #4 wasn’t interested in blowing up my life. She just provided me the opportunity to blow up my own life. She was being herself and I responded to it.
LO #4 didn’t offer me anything and I didn’t ask her for anything. I didn’t realize we’d been building an attachment for several years until her relationship collapsed and she reached out to me. Things became very real very quickly.
Now that we hijacked Spouse’s thread….
“If you’re the attached party, there’s nothing worse than a complicit accomplice.”
I’m not sure what you mean. The accomplice has to complicit to get things off the ground.
Limerent Emeritus says
“I’m not sure what you mean. The accomplice has to complicit to get things off the ground.”
I never look at links.
So – he betrayed your trust, took advantage of YOUR fidelity and endangered YOUR physical, emotional and perhaps financial trust but you want – what? Step away from the Esther Perel (please not that during the #MeToo revelations she insisted that women need to tell men to knock it off – but if you are a spouse you are not to do the same).
Good luck. Believe me, life is better without a traitor in your midst.
Why are YOUR feelings not as important to you or him as HIS?
Because I was angry at my partner for having an affair she has rewritten history to claim I was always angry with her and because of that she never loved me. This is completely false. All the evidences that she did love me that I show her are met with dismissals based on how she is feeling now. For a split second I believe her and feel all my insides start to fall to the floor, was our whole life together a lie? Then I realise she is talking rubbish and it is clear what she is really doing.
What on Earth can I do about it?
Also if her limerence ends and we are able to work on repairing our relationship, will the correct memories come back? Will she remember who she used to feel about me?
I’ve racked my brain with theses questions for 20 years of my married life. I’ve suspected cheating for years but he’s so convincing and dismissive I’ve let it go time after time because he wears me down. Just recently I asked him what ownership he has in the breakdown of our marriage and he says “none”. Apparently it’s all me. Now I know that’s not realistic, I’m not that dumb. I was looking for hope, a meeting in between. I can’t even get that from him. He’s told me he has been a perfect husband and father and I’m crazy. My friends and family are worried about me because I am losing my grip and myself. I’ve looked into all the things I could’ve done and all my responsibilities in contributing to this breakdown. I recounted events to him where he has said things to me, especially about this co-worker, and he denies ever saying those things. I remember those events so clearly because they hurt me deeply. He is still denying defending her to me. Says it never happened. There are more times he’s rewritten past events, says that never happened. His family confronted me about the purchase of our first house together, said he never wanted to buy the house and I forced him into buying the house. This was news to me, I thought we both wanted the house. I talked to him later that day and he told me he never wanted to buy the house, he just went along with what I wanted. Now he says that conversation never happened, that he never said he didn’t want the house. But I remember all of this! How is this possible? It’s no wonder I’m confused. What do I do this?