Over the last couple of posts, I’ve concentrated on the issue of disclosure. The focus was on disclosure to the LO, but if the limerent is in a relationship, then the question of disclosure to their partner comes up. What are the benefits and risks of disclosing the fact that you have become limerent for someone else? When should you do it? How should you do it?
I think the guiding principle here should be respect for your partner. That means being honest, not minimising the issue or being evasive, and not forcing them to painstakingly extract the facts from you by withholding key information. However, the opposite challenge is recognising when being honest becomes oversharing – “I’m struggling to cope with strong feelings of attraction for her”, is obviously preferable to “I can’t stop imagining her beautiful, smiling face and how ardently I want to kiss her perfect lips.”
The other big challenge is that everyone has their own line about how much information is too much. Some only want to know the big picture, others want to analyse conversations word by word. Some limerents want to downplay their responsibility and blame LO for everything, others want to admit to every little indiscretion in a self-flagellating (but also self-indulgent) emotional purge. The only safe path through this briar patch is to develop good communication skills. Actively listen to what your partner is saying. Check that you understand them properly and ask for clarification if you don’t. Resist the urge to defend yourself when they say something hurtful. They probably will want to hurt you, because you just hurt them, hard. Don’t escalate that – you will be mutual masters at wounding one another, and both leave the field bloodied and defeated.
So, managing the disclosure requires honesty, diplomacy, and humility. What is the best strategy for doing it?
1) When to disclose
I suppose it’s a bit redundant for anyone reading this, but the first important point is to only disclose once you are aware of what limerence is and how it is affecting you. It is far more constructive to be able to explain that this is an issue you are having with managing your emotions, rather than declaring that you have met Someone Wonderful. You should also be at the point where the euphoria is fading, and you are starting to get a grip on the scale of the problem you have. Once the limerence is impacting your life so much that it is affecting your behaviour and your ability to be a decent partner, you should explain yourself to your SO. It’s highly probable that SO will have noticed your mood swings, distractedness, and apparent change in personality, but they will probably have attributed it to stress or work or – even worse – some shortcoming of theirs that is affecting the relationship. Finally (and now I think about it this should probably have come first), you should have made a purposeful decision to re-commit to the relationship.
2) What to disclose
This is where tact is needed. You need to disclose enough to convey the seriousness of the situation, while making clear that you remain fully committed to SO. You have to take responsibility for allowing the limerence to escalate, but make it clear that you want it to end. The most difficult disclosure is going to be if you have done or said anything that has made the limerent episode “public” in some way. If you have said something fruity at an office party, or confided in a friend, or through your actions made it obvious to bystanders that there is an unusual level of intimacy between you and LO, your partner needs to know that. The principle is that SO should be the most well-informed person in the world about what has happened, aside from you. If you have already crossed one of your SO’s red lines, you are going to have to deal with the consequences of that. You may not get the outcome that you want, but then you are not a child, so should have developed the maturity to deal with that by now. If not – now is the perfect opportunity to learn! Be honest, and take the consequences. Life will be better in the long run.
3) What not to disclose
As I said earlier, everyone has a different idea of how much information is needed for honest disclosure. Withholding information that your SO wants is duplicitous, but whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of obsessively talking about LO with your partner. Disclosure is not a free pass to now spend all your time ruminating out loud about your infatuation, and seeking support through the emotional ups and downs of your limerence from the person it is harming most. Similarly, if your partner is agonising over all the details, becoming distressed, but still wanting you to talk at length and in detail about LO, it’s a good idea to tactfully put the brakes on. A possible way would be to say (respectfully) “is this really going to help in my plan to get away from LO?”
Making LO central to your joint life is a big mistake. Don’t fall prey to the drama triangle. You are a partnership, and someone outside it is a problem for you to jointly solve. Don’t triangulate.
4) What are the benefits of disclosing to SO?
The biggest benefit is to your SO: they now understand the truth of their own life. It may take time, but they will also come to realise that you are trustworthy, and they are still safe with you. The biggest benefit for the limerent is that you no longer have to fight to conceal strong feelings that you are ashamed of. That in itself is a relief, a much healthier way of living, and a more emotionally stable basis for dealing with the limerence. The next major benefit is accountability. No more deniability; you have stated your resolve to the most important person in your life, and they are going to be motivated to hold you to your word. That can help you stick to your plan.
Ironically, taking the risk of revealing your shortcomings as a partner can have the effect of helping you re-bond with SO. I really wouldn’t advise becoming limerent for someone else as a way to strengthen a relationship, but after the initial heartache has lessened, it can rejuvenate the “us against the world” feeling of a close pair bond.
5) What are the risks of disclosing to SO?
Discovering that your partner is limerent for someone else is a major blow for anyone. Even the most stable, emotionally secure, and patient SO is going to wonder whether you are still worth the bother. They may decide not. Frankly, you are just going to have to take that – especially considering you’ve been thinking about the prospect of a relationship with LO. Your SO may also react very badly, or in ways you didn’t expect. They may go a little crazy, getting jealous and angry and expressing their new hatred for you in profane terms. They may go too far, becoming threatening or violent, or responding in kind (in their mind) by going out and have a one night stand to teach you a lesson in humiliation.
All of those risks are real, but the toxic ones are actually symptomatic of much more serious problems with the relationship. Anger and jealousy are perfectly natural reactions to learning that your partner is infatuated with someone else, but responding by dragging more people into the mess, becoming abusive, or blowing the whole thing up are not healthy coping strategies. If these disasters happen, then you are probably going to have to accept that the relationship is wrecked, and was anyway built on shaky foundations packed with dynamite. Limerence was just the match that lit the fuse.
Ultimately, if you are serious about your relationship, and serious about being rid of LO, then disclosure to your SO is probably a necessary step. Done thoughtfully it is your best hope of coming out the other side intact, and enjoying a healthy and happy future.