We talk a lot here at LwL about the gulf between intellectual acceptance that a limerent episode should end, and the emotional willingness to walk away. Many limerents come to the point of surveying the rubble of their previous lives, watching their LO behave outrageously, or just generally reaching the end of their emotional tether, and admitting “this has to stop”.
But that knowledge is intellectual. The lizard brain couldn’t care less. It knows what it craves, and it’s a right little bloody-minded drama queen.
Those sorts of junkie impulses are hard to deal with, but we can at least see them for what they are – primal drives, like lust or greed, that must be civilised if we are to live socially well-adjusted lives. We let them out at appropriate moments, but know that they must generally be constrained by discipline.
Far harder to deal with are the subtler emotional pains. Those are the ones that cause doubt, that weaken our resolve, that fuel the subconscious resistance to going no contact, breaking free, resolving to recover. One of the biggest is the fear of loss.
Fear of loss
The decision to recover is the end of a dream; the death of hope. Intellectually, we can come to realise that it was always a false hope, that it was mostly illusion and fantasy, that we were projecting our desires onto LO in an unrealistic way, but until that moment of realisation arrives, limerence is the dominant emotional drive in our lives.
Even when there was never any prospect of a good outcome – if the limerence was unrequited, or the limerent was married, or there were insurmountable barriers in the way – the fact remains that the extraordinary force of the romantic craving is life changing.
LO represented the promise of transformation, of adventure, of novelty. It could be an absurd dream, an ignoble desire to escape responsibilities, a misguided belief that this magical other person can somehow make us feel right, but none of those logical objections to the validity of our feelings make any difference to their potency. Fundamentally, limerence is a powerful romantic longing that offers ecstatic union. Resisting it – doing the right thing – means losing a dream that enlivens us.
We would have to finally admit that we will not be with them, that the ending will be a defeat. No heavenly choirs or earthly pleasures. All that emotional energy spent for nothing.
That sense of loss is a classic example of disenfranchised grief. For married limerents, it is a shameful grief. Those are powerfully aversive sensations, and unfortunately, one of the main methods of mood repair that limerents have trained themselves into is daydreaming about LO and indulging in rumination fantasies. A nasty little trap that is difficult to escape.
Fear of closing doors
Another aspect of the fear of loss is the loss of opportunity. Decisively ending the connection to LO means losing all future opportunities to be with them. Perhaps you cannot be with them now, but maybe things will change in the future? Maybe they will change, and be less difficult? Maybe they’ll get divorced (they do always complain about their spouse after all), and if you go no contact, you will miss out on the chance to leap in and rescue them from their singlehood. What’s the sense of burning bridges?
Furthermore, many of the best methods for ending limerence also make it impractical to remain friends with LO. That means that many limerents sabotage their recovery by trying to keep the option of friendship open. It’s a natural impulse, because friendship is one of the best things in life, and LO is someone who you really like to spend time with, so the hope that you can somehow sustain some sort of relationship without suffering emotional catastrophe is understandable. Maybe if you put off making the decision for a little longer, your feelings will fade…
This hesitancy to make decisions can become corrosive. Reluctance to take action does not preserve opportunity; it just delays recovery. Paralysed by indecision, you end up taking no action, and instead stay trapped in limbo.
The comfort of the status quo
One comforting feature of limbo is that it is familiar. The highs and lows of limerence are old friends. You know what it’s like, and you can keep going through the motions on autopilot without risking making things worse.
It takes courage to change. You have to leave the security of the known and strike out into an unknown future with no guarantees. That’s one of the reasons I advocate so strongly for purposeful living. You are far likelier to feel courageous enough to strive forward if that future life offers the promise of fulfillment, growth and freedom than if it offers nothing but uncertainty. Taking control of your fate means there is a direction to your escape plan, a goal to aim towards.
Staying where you are is easy. Moving on is disruptive. The trick is to look forward to something new with excitement, rather than dwelling on what you’ve left behind with regret.
You can’t always get what you want
All these subtle sources of emotional resistance come down to the basic truth that you can’t always get what you want, but you still want it. Reconciling yourself to this unedifying fact of life is of course what wisdom, maturity, and adulthood is all about.
But, there’s liberation in accepting the limitations of reality. You stop chasing rainbows and instead focus on what you can actually do to improve life, and realise that happiness is most reliably built by your own efforts, and not gifted to you by an angelic LO.
Hope for a better future, not for an LO you know isn’t right for you. Let false hopes die, and cultivate better ones that actually do offer the promise of a positive transformation in your life.
Great post as always, Dr. Right now I’m guilty as hell on the first two points, so this can’t come in a more timely manner.
Interesting read on what is described as limerence.
Some of my limerence feeling are hoovering and the moment. Wondering if Christmas is bringing it up as last Christmas we were in contact. However very pleased to be NC still and loving life without limerence.
Interesting article, Rachel. Thanks.
The idea that rejection can heighten limerence is an interesting one. Especially for those who have maybe dated their LO a bit, so started on the road to romance, but then been rejected. I can totally see how that would send limerence into overdrive…
That pretty much IS all my limerence experiences. I’ve sometimes pursued unavailable people but in other cases wonder whether I’ve actually precipitated break ups to move into that phase. I wondered this before I’d heard of limerence. But… yeah. Rejection or ambivalence..? I’m yours (for the long haul) 😀
I think there’s a lot to that article which resonates with me. Perhaps feeling rejected as a child. Chasing that person (LO) who has rejected you, turning into a deep need then addiction. I’m sure it’s combined with many more reasons on why we are susceptible to limerence.
I’m sure. But it’s a recipe for a lot of grief! My current LO suggested we get together after dating a while last year. Now don’t get me wrong, he’s flakey as hell… certainly not a good prospect. But it was after I rejected the idea, and he backed off that suddenly my limerence intensified (his flakeyness had always been a trigger anyway…)
So I can see from the outside what a nightmare I can be. That plus choosing flakey/genuinely unavailable guys has meant years of self-inflicted heartache, and often confusion for my friends and LOs who must (quite reasonably) wonder what the hell I’m playing at.
I’m back on NC, but if I’m honest that is mainly because current LO is completely ignoring me at present. Long may it continue… but I just worry what happens if he flip flops and gets back in touch (as he has when needing validation himself…)
In reference to this topic… I don’t even really know WHAT I’m hoping will happen. I know he’s definitely not the one… I just struggle to get unstuck…
I think this is LE no. 5. For me… they generally follow this painful trajectory…
This rings a bell with me. I told LO at the end that I’d thought I was in love with them but really I was just gorging on rejection.
I can confirm that impending loss/implicit rejection from LO can worsen limerence. I was limerent for someone for five years. There were definitely mood swings, but it was sort of manageable too. E.g. I was still working and studying successfully. Then my LO got married and pretty much dropped out of my life, probably to do married-person stuff, and that’s when my limerence intensified to the point of being unbearable.
This is a really weird thing that can happen in limerence that might merit more research I think. Just when my (always platonic) relationship with LO was over (and over for a good reason), my desire hit ridiculous new peaks. Everything and everyone started reminding me of this guy, etc, and he wasn’t even in my life anymore. It’s like the loss of LO triggered whole new waves of intensity – not that my feelings weren’t intense beforehand.
I suppose the evolutionary logic behind this situation is that it might inspire some people to “fight to get their mate back”. I didn’t fight because (a) I didn’t want to be accused of stalking, (b) I didn’t want to be with someone who didn’t truly want me, (c) I didn’t want to be with someone who was attached to someone else and (d) I felt enormous guilt over the “wrong sex” of my LO (couldn’t reconcile my sexuality with my religion). Eventually, I broke free of obsession – but, yeah, talk about a rough ride!
2006 was my darkest year. I don’t think this site existed back then. But it would have been a helpful resource had it existed. I’m glad it exists now. Thanks to everybody who contributes here. I’m not in immediate danger of relapsing into limerence or anything, but I value the chance to make sense of my own personal history. Twenty years is a long time to feel confused.
This post could not come at a better time for me. I kept telling myself that no hope is better than false hope, I understand it, but I couldn’t let go, couldn’t close that door and move on. There is just that part in me that screams “there is still a chance for us, just hold on”. All of this based on fear of losing LO for good.
Now solid, painful 2 months of no contact wasted in one moment at the end of long tiring day when I lost control and reached out, followed up next day with my final (I hope) Goodbye email. Back to square one.
Don’t be too hard on yourself, Michal. Look at it like this: you are starting on round two of NC and the first round lasted for 2 months. That’s a really solid achievement. Now, you accept the relapse, but resolve to try and last more than 2 months next time.
Eventually, you’ll realise you’ve stopped counting the time. That’s when you are truly free…
2 months is nothing. Try years! You may relapse again. It’s okay.
Song of the Day: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – The Rolling Stones (1969)
You had to see this song coming.
“The three verses (and the varied theme of the fourth verse) address major topics of the 1960s: love, politics, and drugs. Each verse captures the essence of the initial optimism and eventual disillusion, followed by the resigned pragmatism of the chorus.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Can%27t_Always_Get_What_You_Want)
Not the catchiest tune but a really profound one. In college (late 70s), I typed the chorus on a 3″x5″ index card and taped it over my desk.
I think I went through all the phases. But, now, my last LE is at “The End of the Quest.” I posted about this before but couldn’t find it. It’s like the end of “The Return of the King” where Sam comes home after saying goodbye to Frodo at the Grey Havens.
“And he went on, and there was yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor upon his lap.
He drew a deep breath. ‘Well, I’m back,’ he said.”
Sam knows where he belongs but I can’t help but think he’s wistful. A significant part of his life is over and he knows it. Just like LOTR, my LE with LO #4 was fantasy but it seemed epic at the time.
This entire post is so very relatable to me, making it quite painful to read. While I am reading it my mind is desperately arguing against the rational truth and logic of this blog, trying to come up with a plethora of ways that allow me to cling on to my LE for that bit longer. And my limerent mind is masterful at this. Its most compelling argument is the pandemic. Like many, I have put my life on hold to a degree since March….since my purposeful life goals became impossible…since interacting with real LO in person on a regular basis, and facing the reality of his choice to distance from me, has become a (recently re-awoken) distant memory. Since March, that uncomfortable reality has morphed into ruminations where anything can be made possible LE wise. I suspect my limbo will continue for now, until we are back at the office together, and I once again see that my ruminations are a stretch too far from reality, even for my optimistic mind.
Turning away from something so incredibly compelling, when you are fully prepared to accept the risks and compromises required, when you have managed to tame the LE beast enough to live…no rational argument on earth seems to work on that limerent mind of mine darn it.
“You are far likelier to feel courageous enough to strive forward if that future life offers the promise of fulfillment, growth and freedom than if it offers nothing but uncertainty. ”
I think you can definitely find fulfillment and growth with a purposeful life and freedom from the LE but you won’t find the kind of freedom your LO has promised. They have tapped into something repressed or unconscious that is the antithesis of purposeful living, and it can be very seductive, particularly if you have been very disciplined for a while. A kind of throwing off of all the chains and saying, “To hell with it.”
Yeah, that’s true Marcia. A purposeful life goal doesn’t offer the same intensity or urgency as an LO’s promise. But once you realise that promise is an illusion, having those purposeful goals can really help detach.
That something at all will happen with the LO, let alone something meaningful like a real relationship, yes, that’s usually an illusion, unless you are very lucky. But the fact that the LO has triggered something in us that’s repressed and yearning to be set free (not to overstate it), that’s no illusion. Years ago I had a friend who brought the devil in me. 🙂 I think I have been hoping one of my LOs would do the same. 🙂
What an eye opener this blog has been for me – thank you Dr L and all the contributors. I thought it was only my way of falling in love but I understand more now how this way of reacting has not been in my self interest. I was limerant for both my long term partners, neither of whom represented any compatibility. After the last, a professional musician who ran off with a backing singer, left me with a pile of debt I told myself “never again” but somehow, here I am !
I met the latest LO by chance in a local pub and we embarked on a casual relationship. I can remember feeling in a state of arousal almost immediately and he was up front about not wanting a relationship as he was not yet divorced (although separated for 2 years). He didn’t act that way though & having been susceptible to manipulative men previously, I’m now wondering if he knew exactly how to play me. I certainly know him to very clever and have heard him mention “sowing seeds in someone’s mind”, in terms of business. Anyway we had an intense fling but I recognised I was in trouble ( the last time I saw him he actually indicated, we were having a great time precisely because it meant nothing), so I ended it. He said we could still be friends but I declined. Thereafter Scotland went into lockdown and I’ve had to delete his number so I can’t contact him without a bit of effort. To be fair he’s not tried to rekindle anything. Never-the-less I can’t stop thinking of him (10 months later) and can’t help clinging to hope that there may be a chance in the future. After many years on my own, part of me doesn’t want to let it go and my brain seems to constantly default to the dopamine hit of fantasising about him. Hopefully this new found knowledge will help.
Best wishes & strength to all.
Hi Caluna, and welcome.
I think many of us have quite a shock when we realise that limerence is not just “how love feels at the start”, that it’s a strange mental state that some people can trigger in us, regardless of whether those people are good prospects for a relationship. Hope you manage to turn that new knowledge into a handy protective shield against both this LO and future unworthy prospects!
I relate to unhealthy choices and the odd disconcerting sense of knowing something is wrong for you but feeling stuck on it.
Tbh I don’t think LOs have to be particularly smart (though there are plenty who love our intense focus on them – understandably). I think most of it is fairly easy from their point, and the answer lies (somewhere) within us to break away.
My LO is obviously desperate for validation (his Instagram says it all…) and I can provide that on tap. He doesn’t have to work at wooing or trickery. He just has to text. I need to address my response, the power rests with me… and you.
Thank you Thomas. Your reference to power is interesting as on my down days I feel totally powerless, as if life is conspiring against me. This is despite having much to be grateful for in every other aspect. Oddly I hadn’t set eyes on him in 9 months but have passed him on the road 3 times in the past 2 days and even that has unsettled me somewhat. To be fair I am looking out for him – lol.
James Afourkeeff says
Abruptly cutting off all contact with LO does not alleviate the the sense of loss, especially if they continually inhabit your dreams (REM sleep).
And BTW, from my own personal experience, the surest way to end contact with an LO is to “disclose” your feelings to them — and then just wait for the piano to drop!
The NC sense of loss is truly the most excruciating thing I have encountered. But as far as ending contact by disclosing….Not in my case. When I disclosed I thought the relationship would just ‘fade away and radiate’ but he intensified his attention, daily phone calls, thoughtful gifts, planned trips for us to take, and maneuvered our work situations to intersect, constantly. If I knew then what I know now I would have gone NC then and there. Instead the next few years were a wild rollercoaster of euphoric thrills and nauseating drops. Then he abruptly went NC on me and quickly got married! And then reappeared, wanting me to be buddies with him. That’s when I went NC. After the psychotic obsession cooled I ever so slowly started healing and I now feel better than I have for many, many years, friends say I look better than I have in years, (stress reduction?) and despite pandemic lockdown and flying solo, I am very truly and authentically happy, and that happiness is not hinged on another person, it’s coming from within me! I feel so pleased and proud of this achievement! Limerence is so overrated.
James Afourkeeff says
There have been a few stretches of time in my life where I have not been limerent for anyone, so I know what that freedom feels like — you feel invincible. But here is another problem: Because you are now your own person, other people (potential LO’s?) start to admire you. Then comes along a person you admire who also admires you, you become totally discombobulated, and then you are right back in the emotional quicksand of limerence. It is a vicious cycle.
James Afourkeeff says
I think I need to say that I was mainly speaking for myself in this reply, in case it was not clear that I was using “you” in a general context.
James, you are right to say “you” in both a general and specific context, as you have reminded me that I am indeed a serial limerent and that my last LE started several years ago where I was feeling very confident and secure and settled within myself. That apparently made me attractive/vulnerable to the LO. He did appear to become fascinated by me (in the frustratingly intermittent way some LO’s become fascinated with limerents), and unfortunately offered the drug of choice to me…the mercurial limerence potion and yes….soon I was sinking in emotional quicksand. (How is that for mixing metaphors?) I truly appreciate your reminder as now I am armed as never before and perhaps the vicious cycle can be broken. I don’t think I can survive another LE.
All this is very true for me also. I totally see the value of finding purpose and using it as a weapon. But I fall into LEs just as easily when life is good as not. I have a passion for geology, and have studied it part-time most of my life. It gives me immense joy. But my recent limerent experience totally derailed my recent PhD studies, and competed fiercely and successfully for that space in my head… but conversely I am now using it to try to move my focus away from my LE… but bloody hell it’s hard.
@Jaideux- perfectly said. I couldn’t agree more, and I am so happy to follow your progress to freedom in these comments.
DrL- You’re so incredibly spot on in this post. This hits it exactly. Bravo
Jane, thank you for that! I come back to post here to let others know that there is hope and recovery is possible….and that one must always keep shields up!
Thank you both. Dr L, a strange mental state is a good way of thinking about it. Looking back to the highs & lows while it was on-going I can remember telling friends I felt so unhinged that I needed therapy – thankfully I’m a lot calmer now.
James, you’re spot on with both comments, I often recall dreaming about him but I always awake with a sense of him. I realise now not to read anything into that, other than it’s just my limerant brain.
I didn’t exactly disclose my strong feelings but I’m sure he knew hence, as he likes to control situations, his blunt comments – the piano did indeed drop !
Yep. That’s a classic symptom I get (and see on these forums)… thinking of LO upon waking. I’m in one of those phases right now. Tbh this whole community on here has given me a lot of comfort, support and advice. So thanks Dr. L and all the super folks who contribute so honestly, sensitively and kindly here. Xxx
I’ve been reluctant to post because in a way it’s an admission that my current LE is and was nothing more but a fantasy. It’s been going on since 2015. That’s when it I caught it. We’re both married and initially both very smitten with each other. It’s been a hell of a roller coaster. I can relate to almost everything on this blog and really sympathize with some people on here. The pain can be very excruciating and I’m so ready to be over it. I’m reading and working on my situation and hoping this post can be the start of some sort of recovery. I want to be able to say soon that posting my story helped. Reading everyone’s certainly does. Happy Monday and I hope everyone has a good one.
@Arr, it took me so long to actually get started on recovery because I couldn’t bear the thought of the multi-year dream ending. Somehow letting it live (and poison me) seemed more romantic and beautiful than cold bloodedly killing it. What I didn’t realize back then, is:
1. This episode in my life was not a beautiful and tender romance . It’s a grotesque and toxic psychological phenomenon that had me in its grip. If the feelings were mutual, and honorable, it could have been beautiful, but that was not the case.
2. By ending the LE I expected to experience an everlasting wasteland of heartbreak and loss. Instead, the opposite has been proven true. After the initial agony I am slowly reclaiming my life and recovery is accelerating and I am feeling more at peace with the limerent episode, definitely more at peace within my mind, and feel my self esteem building every day. It’s a whole systemic recovery. I feel my relationships with friends and family are stronger and healthier (we are rarely talking about LO now, YAY), and my work life is more pleasant and rewarding than ever, I am daily learning new things and finding joy in small things, like my plants and cooking and so many other little happinesses that make up the fabric of life. I am not angry anymore or heartbroken, or feeling like I was the protagonist in a tragic tale of heartbreak.
It’s been very hard recovery work, but so worth it! You can do it!
Thank you SO much for your reply. I can relate to everything you said. The more I come out of this the more I understand everything about what I was experiencing (still am). It was and still is a constant battle of that deceitful feeling of being in love and the knowing that it was all wrong. I recently started to realize how I haven’t been fully present in my life for the past 5 years. I have moved to a whole new city, got an awesome job, bought a house and made some really good friends but it feels as if I have been on auto pilot this whole time. It’s as if I literally took my brain out out of my head and told someone “here, hold this”. Even at this very minute I’m still hoping to hear from him and in a way hoping that he will say everything that I want to hear so that I don’t have to accept that this was all just a LE. Logically, I know that’s not going to happen and even by a wild chance it did, I know I would be in deep doo doo. I have a lot of work to do but I feel optimistic about it because I am getting little twinges of hope and enlightenment that helps me carry on.
Cheering you on, Jaideux. Your progress is inspiring to me!
Ok, so it’s time for the Hallmark Channel’s annual overdose of Christmas movies. My wife often has the Hallmark Channel running in the background. In one of the movies, the heroine, who’s engaged to some snob, is snowed in at an airport where she encounters the wounded hero who’d been dumped by his fiancée for his brother. The movie is about them driving from Buffalo to NYC and realizing they’re meant for each other. It’s a typical Hallmark double-rescue story. They rescue each other. Hallmark heroines often have marginal taste in fiances but come around in the end.
I remember hunkering down in storms with my wife and LO #2 before her. They’re some very pleasant memories. Duraflame logs, down comforters, and a few bottles of booze can make for a really nice time. I’ll never forget the warm glow of candlelight coming from the bathroom after telling my wife we had a gas hot water heater and there was nothing stopping her from taking a hot bath after we lost power in a storm. She told me to pour myself a glass of wine and bring the bottle to her.
After a double Scotch, I decided to run a scenario to see what it would take to pull off something like this with LO #4. Logistics are a bitch. I think LO #4 and I are still 2500 miles apart. To make this work:
1. My marriage somehow has to end in the near future. I don’t want that.
2. I’d have to relocate across the country within striking distance of LO #4. We have a house I need to do something with. It would also put me within 30 miles of LO #2.
3. I can retire now but the plan is for 2022 so I’d need to find another job or retire early.
4. My young adult children, currently living at home because of Covid, need to get out.
5. Resolve the medical issues I’ve been dealing with for the past 2 years.
I somehow miraculously manage to pull those off. The next step would be to get LO #4 to re-engage me after what would be7 years of NC. And, she has to be what I thought she was when I was in the LE with her. I’m not the same person I was when we were dealing with each other. LO #4 and I had some conflicts that we could gloss over as online pen-pals that we’d have to deal with if we ever really got together. Finally, there were have to be the right storm at the right time with us in the right places.
No matter how I tried to twist things, I couldn’t make it work. I just couldn’t.
Your post is interesting. I too have tried to reconcile giving it a real go with my LO. It’s actually been more of a quick thought because my brain has a way of cutting out all reason when it comes to my LO and steers me in the direction of “but I know we could make it work”. I’m going to try and write it down and attempt to be brutally honest with myself. Thanks.
Limerence Writer says
“The Death of Hope” perfectly describes what dropped me into the biggest bout of depression I ever experienced. I had been pinballing from high (manic elation) to low (sulking desperation) throughout my LE from November 2012 to early 2013, but as I realized it was truly over and there was never going to be a reconciliation of our friendship after my LO acquaintance realized how obsessed I was with her (along with being a hot mess of a married man with two children, even if my wife was ready to throw me out and I was meeting with a divorce lawyer and tens of thousands of dollars in debt already) and my LO blocked me on social media, my life’s downward spiral took a nose dive. I lost the will to live. I didn’t eat for a week. I was waiting to die. It really was The Death of Hope. When I started eating again, I only did it as a necessity so I wouldn’t get headaches. My life-long joy for food disappeared for that year.
Definitely the husband/father shame was there too, but it felt more like a concrete block of responsibility and duty that was pulling me to the ocean bottom while I drowned; my LO was a distant life preserver floating on the surface. (I clearly remember that image in my mind a lot back then.) I went to marriage counseling sessions and sat there; I felt like the psychologist and my wife ignored me completely. They focused on her situation; I was expected to either get my shit together or leave, and since I was coming to the sessions, I was told that I wouldn’t leave. That made me feel suicidal.
It was nearly impossible to escape into fantasy during that intense depression because I could no longer suspend my disbelief that my LO and I could ever be together… “even if just to be friends” I would sigh to myself. I couldn’t sleep. I always hear people talk about depression where they can’t get out of bed. That was not my experience. I couldn’t stay in bed (or the couch or the floor, wherever I was sleeping) for more than a couple hours. I had to get up, but I was too tired to do anything but walk. I live in a big city, and I would walk for miles in one direction, sometimes crying, and then walk back, during the night or daybreak. This lasted over six months.
I lost 30 pounds by the end of it, which actually put my weight where it really should be. Unfortunately, as I emerged from my depression and started writing again (often inspired by thoughts of my LO), I put the weight all back on in a few years. It’s nice to know I can take it off. I look back at the whole experience now and call it my mid-life crisis, giving it her name but I don’t tell anyone that. And of course I still think of her and how she knows none of this, which is for the best. She’s inspired some good characters and stories, some that have fans on youtube even, which makes me smile. Even while reading this post, I got to the phrase “chasing rainbows” and I imagined telling her that she had been my rainbow. And although I feel much better these days, she is still my rainbow, and I think that’s all right, as long as I’m not chasing. She told me once (back in 2012) that you can’t change how others behave, only how you react to them. It was advice meant for me in my marriage, but it feels much more apropos for our non-relationship.
i so relate to your story. i have been suicidal over LO 3x over 13 years. last time was six months ago. i understand the pain. and especially that your LO was a life preserver for you. mine filled this role too. i always said to him i want him there when i die. i said he would in spirit if not physically. i HAVE to say goodbye to him in my heart though. i have intellectually realized this is over. he’s married. married. anyways. so glad i found a name for this specific affliction.
Question for DrL:
So, if there are all these neurochemical contributions to limerence, what extinguishes them? I’m not on any psychoactive drugs. Prior to doing the heavy lifting, I could put myself into a state where I’d physically ache ruminating and revisiting the past. Now, after doing the work, understanding what happened and the mechanics involved, and allowing myself to grieve and mourn, I’m not getting the chemical hits, anymore. Whatever was being activated before isn’t being activated now. It’s like the neurotransmitter tap turned off. “Hope” died of starvation. It’s not being chemically fed now.
It’s, “This is how you got there. This is how it affected you. This is how you responded to it. You transcended it. There’s nothing more in this for you.”
Why is that?
YES! I too want to know the answer! The action physical sensation of painful longing and nostalgia that used to be triggered by a mere thought can no longer be conjured up. Curious as to the science of it.
Feels good, doesn’t it?
“Evolving – Clients would start noticing an absence of
pain~ and they had to adjust to it. It wasn’t easy or
comfortable at first.
Every client who is committed to Healing reaches a fork in
the road as they’re transitioning from unwell to Well. It feels
uncomfortable for a little while. This part of genuine recovery
can be challenging, because we’re navigating terrain that’s
feeling foreign, and it takes some getting used to.
My clients began noticing a sense of contentment and peace
at this stage of healing. They began feeling their emotions,
rather than hyper-analyzing them or acting them out. Being
‘alone’ stopped triggering dread and fear, because their
friendship with Themselves had grown far more solid,
rewarding and comfortable on many levels.
Getting well means you’re no longer observing yourself
through another’s eyes. You’ll learn to take your
own emotional temperature, rather than everyone else’s!
Trying to make sure everyone likes you (people pleasing),
isn’t a priority anymore. New feelings of respecting and
liking yourself, is.
Clients who improved quit starving and striving for
acceptance and approval from others, including their parents.
They gained the desire and capacity to give approval to
themselves–and they owned it.” – Shari Schreiber (https://sharischreiber.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Owning-Happiness-By-Shari-Schreiber.pdf)
The article promotes her business but there’s good information in it.
Also, I’ve recently reconnected with my first ever LO (24 years on…). Just crossed paths, so went for coffee. Not even a glimmer, not a twinge. Actually a nice time, and have met his long term partner etc. Nice, nostalgic, no glimmer whatsoever.
So that circuit is no longer being triggered…
Whereas current LO changes his profile picture and I’m climbing the walls for some kind of attention… I might need to take a look at the reprogramming course…
Thomas it’s really really good. I feel great (even a bit giddy!) after every module. Highly recommended.
A little off topic, but I recently had one of those moments when I saw a familiar word as a new construction all of a sudden.
I’d been reading about neuralgia (pain caused by damage to neurons), and then read “nostalgia” and a lightbulb went off.
Sure enough, nostalgia literally translates as “homecoming pain”.
A little more off topic, speaking of the word “nostalgia” and its literal meaning, one of the greatest scenes in recent television history:
I can see Draper’s point but I don’t ascribe to it. To be nostalgic about something, you have to like it in the first place.
I’ve ached over people and times in the past but I’m not nostalgic for any of them. Nothing would be better by actually revisiting them.
Thomas Wolfe wrote a book, “You Can’t Go Home Again.”
For me, Alan Parson’s says it well in “Time.”
If we could answer that, Scharnhorst, we could solve the problem of addiction 🙂
The best explanation I can muster is that there is a slow extinction of the potency of the stimulus. After a while (a long while, depending on the circumstances) the reward system undergoes adaptation, so the same stimulus is no longer as effective at triggering excitement. But, that process can be disrupted by intermittent reward and the stimulus can be reinforced by the wrong kind of feedback (that’s the basis of the deprogramming strategy – stop doing the things that reinforce limerence and start doing things that accelerate extinction).
Why some stimuli lose their power quickly but others take an age is a very good question.
The death of hope, that’s a really powerful phrase. Something I have most definitely been grappling with. I dare say the reason for my severe depressive episode which has got so bad that I can no longer look after my children. Hope is what makes us keep going and so now I find myself struggling to position my life in a way that can persuade me to keep going. I am literally fighting for my life. We are limerents, it makes us tick, it his who we are. I am attracted to unavailable people and for whatever reason feels like my sole purpose in life and the way I can achieve happiness. The conclusion that I’m coming to is the ultimate catch 22 situation. I can only be happy with someone that is unavailable. That sentence doesn’t make sense but for me / us it’s true. So now I have to reprogramme myself like we tried to do with homosexuals decades ago? Why do we have to fight it? I have been cursed with this condition and in some ways I’m proud of who I am. It’s a harsh realisation to discover that the fabric of who you are and what would fulfil you by definition is impossible to achieve.
For me I am stuck in this world where I have to interact with this person daily. I use a cocktail of drugs just to get through the day so that I can provide for my family. It is very traumatic and has done permanent damage to me mentally and physically. I can’t even go near the town she lives in out of sheer terror. I simply want to die and see no way out. Yes I can do no contact but what happens the next time and the next? Whilst inbetween your limerent episodes you’re generally unhappy as you’re not getting the limerent fix you’ve been born with to hope for.
Sorry to hear what you’re going through, AboutAGirl.
I do know what you mean. As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t choose to stop being a limerent and – as you point out – I’m not sure you can ever exactly stop being a limerent. But it is possible to reprogram yourself out of limerence for a particular person, especially if that person is harmful for you.
You say that you become limerent for unavailable people, and that’s a starting point for understanding your triggers. This is something that a therapist could potentially help with – why you feel drawn to such people. We all have a limerence archetype I suspect, probably laid down when we are going through adolescence, but I’m not convinced that it is set in stone for all time.
Despite my downbeat title, there is always hope. The hope that you could be with a specific LO who is wrong for you can die (and probably should), but that isn’t the end of all things, and all hope. But you do have to do the work of finding a healthy direction to strive towards.
Wishing you both resilience and good luck.
“You stop chasing rainbows and instead focus on what you can actually do to improve life, and realise that happiness is most reliably built by your own efforts, and not gifted to you by an angelic LO.”
So impressed by this article and the comments too. Such great work, guys – I feel inspired by all the ideas and stories. I can see how I’ve used limerence almost as a way to avoid adulthood. I.e. I wanted LOs to protect me and/or make me happy. Now I see it’s my job to do these things. I’m a grown-up – gotta act like a grown-up.
Thanks, Dr L. This is a good post. Hope was the nickname of my LO I used in my journals. I didn’t pick him, he picked me. I knew it was too good to be true. I just knew it. I hate it when reality backs up your skepticism. I had been praying, sometimes aloud, for someone to come- a comfort- someone in real life. And he just dropped in on me like an angel. And he absolutely was the definition of limerence and a LO from the first few words I read- I was like, wow, is this for real because Im getting ALL THE FEELS. He knew everything I longed to hear, even saying things like I wrote in my journal that no one knew. I ascribed some otherworldly aspect to his showing up- an answer to prayer- it was so confusing. He pulls back, has pulled back about 4 times in 8 months. This time, because I am very ready for a real in person true blue relationship, I called him on it. Blocked him on media and sent him this article. He can’t play with me anymore. It’s a terrible thing to do. I saw a Bob Marley quote that said It is a coward of a man who stirs up the love of a woman with no intention of loving her.
I hate this coming at me right now. Im in such a state of vulnerability and at a low point in life. But I am relieved for him to be gone. Either he was in or he was out. He is out now. Now I can live the life I need to live without this torture. I have to say, I loved having a place holder for my love and my care while I divorced. I loved having a recipient to lavish attention on. I love that. so great. I will miss him. But he was taking up so much important psychic space.
This is right where I am! I’m realizing the dream is dying for a lot of reasons, #1 being she has shown very few signs that I mean as much to her as she does to me. #2 being I know my real choice is my wife and kids. #3 is the best reason though – I’m realizing this is an addiction that is ruining my life. The ups and downs, the intrusive thoughts, the insomnia. The habitual checking. Just ruinous insanity.
As I mentioned in the forum, I am really, really doubling down on viewing this as an addiction, and I am reading the work of the brilliant Allen Carr, who helped millions quit smoking and drinking and more. I recommend his “Easy Way to Mindfulness” book.
Johann Hari’s book Chasing the Scream. Addiction is needing to escape your present reality. I totally get this angle on limerence. Also helpful is Dr Ls course- I took it. It helps.
I missed Love this go round by mistaking my love Interest’s limerence for love. This time I fell in love with a man who was experiencing his confusion in limerence. Mercy. This is all too complicated. But that is what happened. I believe I actually experienced love based on his limerence for me. So gotta watch out there, too
Ugh and eek. I need to take action to remove myself from LO. We each have spouses and this is purely platonic on her end. I am the “super, supportive friend she’s lucky to have”…her words.
We are former cowkrs and Ive been crushing for about 3-4yrs, she’s a stay at home mom now. We mostly text memes, her kid stories, In law stories. She had a lil postpartum depression and confided in me, so we also have mental health checkins. I tell myself to text and check in when it’s been a few days but it’s really me trying to connect (honestly with anyone), she gets me but I am aware that I have put her on a pedestal.
She has never shown a hint of interest in me which is fine cuz life would be HELL for both homes. I am ready to check out and redirect my energy, mind and heart. My problem is I don’t know how, what do I say (“It’s not you it’s me”)? I do. It want to disclose but if I simply say I need to work on some things she will press and want to help or possibly want to check in with my SO about my well being. Perhaps not, but after over 5yrs of friendship I think I’m spot on with that reaction. The two don’t text or chat regularly (not at all) but sometimes share book recommendations. My point is she has access to my SO via FB or text.
Sooo how do I create the distance and break free from LO? What is a effective approach to moving forward??
If she’s going to tell your SO, I wouldn’t disclose. But if she isn’t, tell her the truth. “Over the course of our friendship, I’ve developed romantic feelings for you. I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to be in contact. I value our friendship very much, but I hope you’ll understand.” And then don’t respond if she contacts you.
Good point and I don’t think she would reach out to my SO but I’m risk adverse and would rather not disclose. Also I don’t want to just ghost her. She deserves an explanation …right? Or is that just me caring too much.
No, if you have been good friends, you shouldn’t ghost because if you do, she’ll think she will wonder what happened to you. Then she may contact your SO. You aren’t disclosing to find out her feelings. You’re disclosing to give her a reason that you can’t be friends and to close the door. And you’ll probably tell her over a text or email, right? I don’t understand people who think disclosing over text or email is so brazen. But it is up to you. What could you tell that would be reason enough to end the friendship?
Personally I would absolutely not disclose to LO, for her sake as much as yours. Throwing that hand grenade at her might set her off onto a path of self destruction also which would make everything so much harder for you in turn.
Staged withdrawal is the LwL recommended method here. Reduce contact gradually over time. You will feel guilty to do it, but you are choosing your SO over your LO in doing this which is as it should be.
Have you considered disclosing to your SO? I did and he was very supportive. I framed it very carefully by explaining to him what limerence was and the compulsive , addictive nature of it. This has made my LE much easier & simpler to handle, and it really improved the intimacy between my SO and I. It will also make sure you are held to account which is a great motivator.
Wishing you well.
I’d echo this, Ang. The best bet is to gradually withdraw – no big romantic declaration, no confession, no sudden cold-turkey no contact. The goal is to cool the relationship so that she becomes less dependent on you for emotional support that you are not really equipped to provide (because it triggers your limerence), and you wean yourself off the limerent reward that you get from being her super-supportive friend.
It is sad to accept that you are not able to be close friends with someone good, but it is better for both of you in the long run to break up a dynamic that is unhealthy for you and inauthentic (as you cannot share your true feelings honourably).
I appreciate this feedback and I certainly not the grand gesture type so gradual but focused withdrawal sounds like a realistic option. He me hubby now has COVID so we’ll likely not have our annual dinner & gift exchange anytime soon. I won’t initiate any contact unless she does. Thanks all & be well.
She just text “happy winter Soltice” … now I take the remainder of the day to consider a response or persuading myself not to respond. 🤦♂️
We usually have bday and Christmas gift & dinner meet ups so likely to do in person (eek) and be able to walk away. And you hit the nail in the head ….what can I come up with without disclosing?? I’m struggling with this.
You now have 2 handles, so I’m not sure if you are the original poster, but you are not required to meet up face-to-face. It may be best to send the email and disclose. It depends on whether or not being around her is difficult for you due to your feelings. It certainly isn’t uncommon for romantic feelings to develop in a friendship so it’s not a wackadoodle reason.
Editor interjection: I’ve now edited Ang’s earlier posts to stick with one name, and avoid confusion.
Sorry about the two handles and thank you for confirming and editing.
Again, being risk adverse I prefer not to disclose but if I did, it will NOT be in writing. She’s a good person and I honestly don’t think she would share what I say and go back to her hectic home life and 3 toddlers. So I’m the one doing the work (as I should be) and she’ll only miss the random text and occasional lunch.
I can be vague in saying I am going through something that requires we disconnect for a while but that seems to leave the door open for me….I’ve read enough to know that is not good.
Seems the reason comes down to what I’m willing to share and how vulnerable I’m willing to be.
I have to disagree with the staged withdrawal. That is confusing to people and kinda wimpy. But that’s me.
You are correct, Marcia. Being upfront is fair. Anything else is unkind.
If you care about the other person at all, be honest.
Also, I finally read the post “Closure is an illusion” oh my. Spot on, and exactly what I needed to realize and it’s that the closure is really mine to sort out. Closure on the relationship dynamic that has pained me so much. No specific words or reaction from her is going to change my mindset and desires – that is my work to do.
I’ve come to this ‘disclosure vs NC’ many times before and chicken out every time. It’s really a lazy and controllable perceived way of getting out of limerence.
Honestly I’m doing self harming work by: Texting her “wyd”, “how’s your day”, memes, and asking for wine, book or dinner suggestions. All simple things that friends do but not healthy when one person is seeking attention or validation from the unknowing LO. I’ll even have an internal tantrum when the LO is slow to respond or admittedly forgets to respond.
I’ve deleted her contact info from my phone many times though I’ve got the number memorized. When I add it back to my phone instead of saving as her whole name I just saved it as first initial….like a temporary entry (have I mentioned that internal mind games are my specialty :).
This site is so helpful and I don’t remember how I got here but am happy I did. That you for listening and reading and this is no doubt a (my) work in progress.
Great post, thanks Dr. L! Sorry to say but I haven’t been able to go NC with LO like I planned to do in my previous comment. Instead, we’re now closer than ever!! We actually did a job thing together which of course included ”planning” and ”feedback” and other ridicilous stuff disguised as ”work” and I was so happy to be in contact with LO and he seemed happy too. Things have cooled down a little, but I do think of reasons to contact him all the time. He’s been initiating contact lately, which I absolutely love. It’s hopeless, we’re hopeless. I just love him so much, I can’t help it. My rainbow that I would chase ’till the end of the world. It’s very painful knowing we will never be together, but I’ve never felt like this for anyone before. He knows how I feel and I know that deep down he feels the same. Maybe it is not limerence, maybe it really is love, who knows.
Why can’t you be together? Didn’t see your OP.
We live in different cities and have families, jobs etc. It’s just too complicated I guess. I would leave my SO for him, in fact, we have filed for a divorce already, (not because of LO). I guess I’ll just have to be happy that I get to be in contact with him as ”friends”, we share so many interests and I learn from him every single day. It’s true that this ”friendship” has brought me so much pain, but I am just not ready to walk away from someone so special.
I felt that way about my LO for months. I believed I could be his friend. The highs were incredible. A profound joy. The lows were devastating, however. It’s not possible for me to be his friend.
It’s interesting because my rational brain understood something was wrong. I tried two therapists, neither of whom recognized or helped me through what has now been two years of agonizing limerence.
It was a romance that ended but my LO strung me along with excuses. We were both unattached. At one point, I asked him to please tell me that he would never love me. He wouldn’t. Tried intermittent NC. Thought I could remain in the same social media groups and it would fade.
Left them months ago but would cheat by checking his FB page (unfriended him way back) because of the pandemic.
I’ve dated, had sex with other men. Been attracted to others. Always, always he’s top in my mind.
A firm rejection would have helped me. Reciprocation of my caring (which he at first gave) would have ended it eventually, I believe.
Uncertainty made me anxious and the pain was deep. Why did he reject me when he said he cares? Endless questions. He’d evade direct questions.
The intrusive thoughts, in particular, have been destructive and a joy thief.
The manual will be helpful and I may try CBT.
I felt insane at times. Really alone.
I’ve read other posts and some of these are limerence. Others are not.
We’ve all had crushes, fantasies, attraction to other people.
Limerence is an insufferable need. A true addiction to a person. I didn’t even want sex with my LO (we had it and it was fine). I wanted to be near him because it felt good. I felt safe. It was not normal or rational.
I’m not a serial LO chaser.
Who he was tapped a need deep down at a time in my life (newly separated) when I was vulnerable. At a healthy time, we would have been friends or I could have walked away and been fine.
Now I know I can never be friends and why.
Clarity is important and helps me a great deal.
Thank you for this site. You may have saved my life, literally.
Just a quick question. My limerick brain wants to inquire…can anyone ( do you feel) ever have that ecstatic love in this lifetime? I’m for the first time learning what an LO is after years of suffering with him. The loss of hope i am wading through now. But, in general, do you feel people who have a reciprocal ecstatic just hit the jackpot? And the rest of us have to settle?
It may shed some light for me to see your view on this.
I think the answer to that depends on what you want… short term narcotic thrills, or long term companionate love?
“reciprocal ecstatic love” a.k.a. mutual limerence is only short term once you embark on a real relationship with no barriers or uncertainty. In my experience, the power of this is no indicator of the quality of the companionate love you will hopefully be left with once the LE dies.
If short term thrills is all you want, then absolutely, you have hit the jackpot (for a short while at least)… nothing can beat that feeling for me!
If you a looking for longer term love, then who knows what you have… maybe nothing. Personally, I find it hard to judge that when I am blinded by the limerent high.
Wishing you well.
But don’t you think most people want to experience that mutual, “big passionate love” at least once in their lives? That they will feel cheated if they don’t experience that, even if they know it may be short term. And I think they want it to real and special, specifically aimed at them. I dated a guy years ago who told me he was “in love” with me but he was going through a divorce and, I found out later, casting a net for other prospects in case it didn’t work out with me. How special could I have been to him? Hardly the romance of my dreams.
“But don’t you think most people want to experience that mutual, “big passionate love” at least once in their lives? ”
Yes absolutely. Personally though, if I had to choose, I would not choose an LE at the expense of long term companionate love. I get very attached to people, and I love having an SO to be my best friend, share my home, family and life with, and to grow old with, etc. For me, limerent love, while it can be so very enlivening and euphoric, it isn’t “real love”, it is addiction.
Saying that, I am not really a believer in lifelong monogamy, so I think we should all be greedy and have both types of love at the same time 🙂
“Personally though, if I had to choose, I would not choose an LE at the expense of long term companionate love. ”
But that is maybe because you’ve had the “big love” with an LO ? Perspective is everything. If you hadn’t had it, would you be looking for it?
“Saying that, I am not really a believer in lifelong monogamy, so I think we should all be greedy and have both types of love at the same time”
I believe in serial monogamy but not sharing. If I’m with someone and he wants to hang out with someone else, there’s the door. 🙂 But I’ve often wondered how people stay sexually interested for 10+ years on. I read advice columns and it is sometimes men writing in that their wives have lost interest in sex and then it’s revealed they’ve been married for 15 years, and my first thought is: Well, yeah, makes sense.
“But that is maybe because you’ve had the “big love” with an LO ?”
I have never had a big full-on mutually reciprocated limerence, have only had a lesser more hollow version (hot sex to start but fizzled out very quickly). This is what makes me utterly unable to let go of my current LE – the underlying intensity feels mutual and deep. A mutual LE consummated….that thought haunts me.
“I believe in serial monogamy but not sharing”
First 10 years I agree… but beyond that, I want sharing 🙂
“how people stay sexually interested for 10+ years on”
I reckon many don’t, but they make a good effort to in the fear that if they don’t their marriage will end. Such is our fixed view of relationships. I am not sexually interested in my SO but I am very happy with him and committed to our marriage and life together. My SO is welcome to have sex with someone else if he likes as I am secure in that he is just as happy with me, loves me deeply and is 100% committed to me and our family. He can even love them if he chooses so long as he still loves me and makes me his priority. He is not interested in doing that though.
“I have never had a big full-on mutually reciprocated limerence ”
Oh, ok. I misunderstood you. I thought you had had that with your husband.
“have only had a lesser more hollow version (hot sex to start but fizzled out very quickly). ”
That is exactly what I have had. So when they said, “I can’t stop thinking about you,” it was really, ” I can’t stop thinking about it.” I was jump-over-the-cliff infatuated. They were going along for ride for the available sex. Some had some interest in me as a person but never to the extent that I had in them. Or there were the guys who decided they wanted a relationship, looked around and … I was in their line of vision. 🙂 A thinking so foreign (and icky) to a limerent.
“This is what makes me utterly unable to let go of my current LE – the underlying intensity feels mutual and deep. A mutual LE consummated….that thought haunts me.”
I was limerent for SO but SO is a non-limerent. So really lovely and passionate, but nowhere near as deep, intense or joyously vulnerable as with a mutual LE.
Sounds like an awful lot of hopes dashed Marcia. Sorry things turned out that way.
“Sounds like an awful lot of hopes dashed Marcia. Sorry things turned out that way.”
They all haven’t been bad. Well, the ones I wasn’t limerent for, anyway. But some of the LOs still haunt me a bit … with the exception of the one I actually did have a full-blown relationship with (versus a fling or a “hang out”). Maybe that’s the secret to getting limerence out of one’s system! Sometimes I barely remember I dated him.. 🙂
Ahhh such good and valid points and thank you! This is a very helpful perspective:):).
Song of the Day” “Higher Love” – Steve Winwood (1986)
“I could light the night up with my soul on fire
I could make the sun shine from pure desire”
LO #2 and I were in the car when this song came on. When Winwood hit that couplet, she said, “That’s me. I can do that.” to no one in particular. I thought if she was capable of it, I certainly didn’t bring it out in her.
To actually experience intense passion you have to be willing to risk having your soul crushed. A lot of people think they’re capable but they’re not. It’s just too frightening. So, they look for partners incapable of delivering intense passion and blame them. It also helps if you have the ability to sacrifice others in your pursuit of passion and not be bothered by conscience. That’s not a necessity but it helps and most people won’t admit it if they have the capability.
As far as how long it lasts? If limerence is akin to addiction, those neurotransmitters only work so long before they start to lose effectiveness. That’s why addicts need more frequent hits and higher doses. DrL, please correct me if I’m wrong.
How do you define “settling?” In the extreme, any choice you make is settling. My definition of settling is accepting something less than you’re willing to compromise on or feel you’re entitled to. There’s a difference between compromising and settling. I might compromise and buy a green car when I wanted a blue car because the green one was $5000 cheaper.
When LO #2 admitted she wanted to look around some more and if she didn’t find anything she liked better, she might come back and settle for me, I knew I’d never trust her again. If we were together, either she’d have one eye on the door or I would always be less than she felt she deserved. When she said it, I had to get out of the car to keep me from backhanding her with my fist.
LO #4’s ex “future faked” her for years. He was divorced and they were living together. He could have married her and he talked about it but there was always one more thing that had to happen first. Allegedly, he started cheating (likely not the first time) with the editor of the book he was writing. Things got bad, LO #4 confronted him, and he allegedly assaulted her. She said she had pictures but she never showed them to me. She moved out. Interestingly, he ended up marrying said editor within a year of the breakup.
That says something about LO #4. In a strange coincidence, I spent 4 years with LO #2 and was married to another woman within a year after kicking LO #2 to the curb.
“How do you define ‘settling?'”
For a limerent, wouldn’t settling be partnering with someone they never felt limerent for? Depends on the person. Based on some of the posts on here, I get the feeling some people like to experience feeling limerence (the positive aspects of it, anyway) but are perfectly fine never acting on it. And not all of these people are married or have an SO. Maybe it’s experiencing the limerence from the safety of a certain distance ? I think once you get much over 30 and most people are paired up, experiencing an actual relationship with an LO is … well, the stars would have to align. I haven’t felt limerent for that many people, so that really narrows the field right there. Then the person would have to feel strongly about me and be willing to leave his current situation and want an actual relationship. That’s a lot of variablesvwhen you look at it in the cold light of day.
Sometimes, the stars do align.
I was in a club a month or so after LO #2 made her admission. I saw a woman walk across the dance floor. I still remember what she was wearing. I asked her to dance. I got her number. By the end of the year, we were married.
I’m 9 years older than my wife. She was a freshman in college when I started dating LO #2.
You want to talk about fate? LO #2 was keeping me busy while my wife grew up. When the time came, LO #2 took herself out of the picture. When LO #2 declined my marriage proposal, she set off the chain of events that led me to being in the bar when my wife walked across the dance floor.
I can’t say that I wouldn’t be married to my wife if LO #2 hadn’t declined. Even more metaphysically intriguing is the idea of what might have happened if I hadn’t proposed to LO #2 that Xmas morning? If I hadn’t proposed, LO #2 couldn’t have declined. I only know that I’m married to the woman I am BECAUSE I proposed and LO #2 declined.
Destiny is usually what you make it but not always.
But weren’t you around 30 at the time? That was my point. If you are much older, your LOs tend to be taken.
As a function of age, you’re correct. There are fewer available candidates. Attachment Theory predicts there will be even fewer suitable candidates.
Of my 4 LOs, I could say that two of them were “already taken.” But, one of them was willing to cheat on her BF with me and the other became available.
My first 3 LEs were in my 20s. I got married at 32. My last LE was in my mid-to-late 50s.
I had more LEs in my 20s, too, more than at any other age. Probably because I was out and about more and meeting people more and there was more available possibilities. (Life stops at middle age. :)) Three LEs were completely separate and did not overlap. The fourth lasted for 12 years, but it wasn’t constant. I really wanted him, but I didn’t pine for him the whole 12 years. He was someone I saw/would hang out with for a bit and then wouldn’t see for years. He would show up in my life when there wasn’t another LO currently on the scene. I’ve never had 2 LOs in my life at the same time. I’m not sure it’s possible to be that obsessive about more than one person at a time.
“The fourth lasted for 12 years, but it wasn’t constant. I really wanted him, but I didn’t pine for him the whole 12 years. He was someone I saw/would hang out with for a bit and then wouldn’t see for years.”
@Marcia. Twelve years does sound like a substantial investment of time and emotion even if it was on-off.
When I was almost thirty, I had a sexual relationship with a man I was limerent for. He was never limerent for me, however. Although the interaction was casual in nature, it lasted for a total of 6 and a 1/2 years, which doesn’t sound casual. Sure as clockwork, all limerent feelings I had for him dried up at the end of year 3. I stuck around for another 3 and 1/2 years – probably out of friendship.
I more or less figured out he wasn’t limerent for me because:
(1) He’d happily talk about all the other guys he found attractive in front of me. (Usually movie stars).
(2) He was never upset when I was late for dates or failed to show up at all. (Hey, our train service is notoriously unreliable).
(3) He bought me chocolates for Christmas one year despite the fact I told him I was on a sugar-free diet. (In other words, he didn’t really listen to me or remember “important things” about me, such as, oh, I dunno, food preferences).
(4) He remained on excellent terms with his supposedly horrible ex-husband. (I’ll leave that one to your imagination).
I should add this gentleman was 20 years older than me. I knew I wasn’t limerent for him anymore when I realised I’d rather see a movie by myself than swing by his place. Thirty-six months and the obsession was over, never to return. I didn’t find him attractive after limerence wore off. Even his physical attractiveness to me was determined solely by limerence. Talk about the death of hope.
“I should add this gentleman was 20 years older than me.”
Yeah, mine was quite a bit older, too. A professor. One of the most seductive people I’ve ever met. He’d walk out of the room, and at least half the women would follow. 🙂 But it was a long time ago. I’m totally over it.
“(1) He’d happily talk about all the other guys he found attractive in front of me. (Usually movie stars).”
I don’t think talking about crushes on famous people is so bad. What I don’t want to hear is the fact that a man finds a friend of mine or relative of mine or the girl down the street appealing. Not if I’m hooking up with him. That is a topic to discuss with his buddies. I always thought guys who talked about the other women they found appealing were trying to manipulate me or make me jealous. So the last guy who did that … when he talked about other women … I didn’t respond at all. (He wasn’t an LO.)
” I always thought guys who talked about the other women they found appealing were trying to manipulate me or make me jealous.”
It can also be a “sh-t test” to assess how you respond to things so, in that sense, it is a form of manipulation. They’re trying to elicit a response. LO #2 tried to run them frequently on me. It got to be a game. I ran one on her. Observing how your date interacts with the waiter/waitress isn’t a “sh-t test” but colluding with the waitress to set up your date up is.
LO #2 had gorgeous auburn hair and said she was really observant. One day in the gym, a friend of mine was brushing her long blonde hair. I asked if I could have on. She asked why and I told her. She said ok, gave me one, and added that she didn’t think I was the type to do anything that stupid. The morality of it didn’t enter the conversation. [That was the same woman who, a few years later, became the first woman to tell me she was being cheated on by her BF, showed up at my place at 11PM drunk, and asked if she could spend the night with me. ]
The next time I saw LO #2, I put the hair under the collar of my Navy Blue sport coat and rang the doorbell. LO #2 opened the door, scanned me from top to bottom and when she hit the hair, you’d have thought hell froze. I plucked the hair off and told her that she really was observant.
It was a crappy thing to do but I learned she was paying attention to me and had a touch of a jealous streak.
“ To actually experience intense passion you have to be willing to risk having your soul crushed. A lot of people think they’re capable but they’re not. It’s just too frightening. So, they look for partners incapable of delivering intense passion and blame them.”
I put it all out there for my LO. Thought we were headed in the same direction. No, and it *was* soul-crushing. At the time, I didn’t realize how deeply my feelings ran. A grave miscalculation. The pain and attachment continued. It’s such a burden. I feel it today but when it fades, even for a short time, it’s a relief.
Plus, I’ve never had overlapping LOs like that. I wonder how common that is. Usually it’s hyperfocus on one LO. For me, personally, two LOs would dilute the feeling, thus neither would be limerence. Maybe a strong crush.
so so grateful to have found this place. i’ve had NC w LO for 6 months but only bc he was strong enough to shut it off. he changed his email, which was our only mode of communication. i had it bad. suicidal when i thought i’d have to give him up or lose his respect. i’m already feeling much more FREE after reading this post. and all the others. time to say goodbye to my LO. there was only one outcome — destruction
I just realised I can’t remember when I last felt that heart squeeze and that makes me happy. I was so excited when I found the term “limerence” and discovered that it comes with it’s own unique physical sensation!
Today, I remembered telling LO at the very start of our connection, that it wouldn’t end well. Very early on it felt like addiction to me but I had no idea at the time that it really was. Back then I didn’t know it was possible to become addicted to a person. Without any science, we tend to turn to magical thinking to try and make sense of what’s happening. And I “fell” for them within minutes of our first meeting.
As it turned out for me, things did end pretty well. Someone had to die to jolt me back into reality and that was my opportunity to withdraw with good grace (though I’d tried my darndest to forge a “friendship”).
LO is the narcissistic type, so I expect they’ll try to make a comeback at some point. But I feel confident in my ability to handle the situation, protect myself and avoid any further LEs.
“Very early on it felt like addiction to me but I had no idea at the time that it really was. Back then I didn’t know it was possible to become addicted to a person. Without any science, we tend to turn to magical thinking to try and make sense of what’s happening. And I “fell” for them within minutes of our first meeting.”
@Mehg. Unlike you, I didn’t fall for my LO instantly. I knew him casually, as a classmate, for several uneventful years before finally succumbing to his (mostly imaginary) charms. The interaction was extremely enjoyable for a time. Looking back, I see this pleasurable interaction was mostly in my head. We weren’t spending masses of time together. In fact, we weren’t getting closer as friends…
What was happening was that my fantasies about him were intensifying while our relationship remained stationary. In other words, my feelings for him were changing, and his feelings for me stayed exactly the same. (He had no feelings for me). I mistook constant fantasies about him for the profoundest intimacy. Perhaps it was wrong even to think of him as a friend. He was just a classmate.
Then he started pulling back a little bit (from our admittedly limited involvement) and addiction kicked in. When that happened, I felt there was “something off” about the whole thing. Yet I couldn’t put my finger on what was off, and I wanted more and more of this man, even though my growing emotional dependency on him “felt off”. I was often disturbed by “how much I liked him”. I was appalled by my own yearning. But I didn’t “like him”, strictly speaking. It was much worse than that – I NEEDED him to feel okay. The very essence of addiction! I imagine a lot of addicts feel this way – both loving and resenting the substance they’ve inadvertently become addicted to. In my case, the substance was a person.
Also, when people recover in full from limerence, I wonder if that means our brains can’t be bothered pumping out dopamine anymore in response to a previously potent stimulus? Did my LO just wash key parts of my brain in feel-good chemicals and the experience felt so good I thought: “It must be love!”
If limerence is about escape, I think I was trying to escape from my dysfunctional family. My parents argued all the time (and eventually divorced). Neither seemed capable of carrying out their adult roles. As a teenager, I just wanted to escape all the drama and tension, the negative energy/unpleasant atmosphere at home. My “make-believe but perfect relationship” with LO provided me with an oasis of sanity. I wanted to live in a world where grown-ups interact respectfully.
Interesting, huh? I feel I’m developing a “bird’s eye view” on why younger me was so vulnerable to the seductions of limerence!! 😛
The sense of loss and grief over the LE that wasn’t real in the first place (even though she was limerent for me, albeit less intensely and for a shorter duration than I have been for her), are really huge and hard to wrap my mind around. Undoubtedly there is a small part of me that doesn’t want to give it up, but the bigger part of me, as well as my rational brain, knows I have to. I am determined to be free again. This has consumed me for 3.5-4 years (that is about 10% of my adult life!!). I have never invested so much time, thought, and energy into something, not college, not graduate school, not my actual SO or family.
Your writing is deep, nuanced, and spot on. This site is truly life saving, and I can’t thank you enough for your articles and creating this beacon of hope.
Hi, This is a question for Dr L and the group:
I’m married and so is my LO. I disclosed 2.5 yrs ago and we have been friends ever since. We have lunch together twice per week and text often, but we both agreed to never bring it to a physical affair. It’s not even an EA because I long for him so much more than he does for me.
If I’m aware that its just my subconscious addiction to my LO and I have no hope that we will ever be together, can I ask my LO to remind me on the regular and then we can be honest friends? I do spend obnoxious amounts of time thinking about him and the “what ifs” but completely accept that our timing is this world is wrong. He also a neat-freak and I’m organized but would never live up to his standard, so we probably wouldn’t even be able to make it as a real couple sharing chores. We also are different faiths, and that wouldn’t be ideal. So, I consciously am totally aware that it wouldn’t happen. Is it ever a thing to ask a LO to help me with boundary so we can be friends for many years to come? My husband doesn’t know about him, if you are wondering.
Allie 1 says
Hi Suzanne. This is a really interesting question that will no doubt elicit some very different responses.
My first thought is YES! If you are happy, not in distress, not neglecting your life or your marriage in any way as a result of your LE, then I think you can be authentic friends with an LO in the way you describe. But is the above really true? Will it always be true? I think you would be a rare limerent if it were… limerent reverie and LO contact is so pleasurable that they make everything else in life feel like an unwanted distraction that you participate in only half-heartedly. I would also be concerned that by continuing as you are, you are re-enforcing the addiction, making it harder to escape when you eventually reach a point where you really need it it end. Limerence starts off with all the lovely happy feelings but so often ends up causing us pain. But by then, it is so much harder to escape.
Are you sure you really accept that there will be nothing more than platonic friendship between you and LO? I only ask as I always thought an LE required a degree of hope to stay alive.
Suzanne when I disclosed to my LO he gave me an ambiguous/not truly encouraging response but then really made efforts for our frequent contact to continue. If I take the positive view, he was wanting to make sure I didn’t feel rejected. If I take the negative view, he enjoyed the adoration that was imbedded in our “friendship” and didn’t want it to stop. He was definitely an enabler and did NOT help me get over the addiction. I was advised to go no contact or at least low contact by a friends husband (who understands the species) and I, in my ignorance, was outraged at such a thought. I thought maintaining a friendship was the high road, proved I cared for him more than a potential partner, but for the real person he was inside, oh so noble I convinced myself I was, but the real motive I do believe is that I was hoping the friendship would one day grow into true mutual romantic love, just like in the movies. If I just hung in there a little longer…..
I ended up spending a few more years in this stupid arrangement, damaging myself emotionally and furthering the addiction.
I wish I would have cut off the relationship right after disclosure and moved on.
I will never get soooo close to a male “friend” again, and I will never ask someone I am interested in to help me set a boundary. I will take full responsibility!
Dr L says
Some great replies already from Allie and Jaideux that I agree with. A couple more thoughts from me:
The longer you carry on reinforcing the limerence habit, the more work it will be to reverse it. A predictable, twice weekly limerence hit is going to keep you well and truly addicted.
Generally speaking, it is a losing strategy to push the responsibility onto your LO to set your boundaries for you. Other people are unpredictable, and inconsistent (just like us), and it’s also a bit unfair – would you want to be friends with someone who asked you to periodically decide the parameters of your friendship?
Finally, all the reasons you list as to why you are incompatible with LO are excellent, but those of us who’ve been in your position know they are coming from your “executive brain” not from your emotional core. If your LO suddenly declared his love for you at the next meeting, how would you feel? My guess would be deliriously happy… and then frightened about what was going to happen next.
Do you really want to be friends with someone who has that romantic power over you?
Limerent Emeritus says
Not a lot to add to the previous comments but…
As for the EA, that ship has likely already sailed.
You want to reinforce an intimate connection with someone outside your primary relationship that your SO knows nothing about? Ehhhh…that’s pretty dicey.
Hiding a relationship from your SO is one of the hallmarks of an EA.
You say you’ll never take it physical and there are long term incompatibilities. The term for that is bargaining. Things change and can spiral out of control. As a limerent, you likely hold a itty-bitty hope that they do. We say we don’t but we do. As long as it doesn’t go south and, you can ride that wave, it can make you positively tingle.
And, no, you can’t ask him to help you reinforce the boundary. Put on your big girl pants and enforce your own boundaries. You disclosed. By continuing the acquaintance he’s already complicit. But, it’s still not his responsibility to keep you in line. And, it’s unfair of you to ask. However, it’s also would provide a neat excuse if something did go wrong. It was his job to maintain the boundary and he didn’t. Bad LO!
At best, you’re trying to get him to do your dirty work. At worst, it can blow up on you. I pushed boundaries with LO #2 because as long as she had hers, I could get away with not enforcing mine. Then, her relationship collapsed and her boundary dropped. I had to scramble to re-establish mine and it precipitated the end of the acquaintance. I admit, it was a lousy way to do business.
You’re in a kind of “all in” or “all out” situation. Either go for it, accept the risk and deal with the cognitive dissonance or end the acquaintance. It’s not to say you can’t operate in between but it takes a lot of effort, you have to know, what you’re doing, be relatively confident your situation is stable, and be willing to accept the risk if it blows up.
Robert Sapolsky said somewhere (can’t remember where exactly, I think it might have been his talk on intermittent rewards) that the dopamine hit is highest when there is a 50/50 chance of something eventuating or not. But, interestingly enough, when it drops to 25/75 or 75/25 (so when it becomes more less likely or more likely) the dopamine hit drops!
What this means is, the “death of hope” is potentially another lever that we limerents can use to manage the dope hit that comes with LEs. This perception of the level of hope is of course subjective to some extent. For some people, one person having an SO sits at 50/50 but both people having an SO might make it less hopeful and extinguish hope to the point where limerence ends; for others, both limerent and LO being married still places hope at 50/50. Since we can’t really influence externalities, we may need to think of how we can engineer more “death of hope” on own end.
Just a thought! I like to think of the many ways we can try to defeat this beast.
In response to Michal:
‘This post could not come at a better time for me. I kept telling myself that no hope is better than false hope, I understand it, but I couldn’t let go, couldn’t close that door and move on. There is just that part in me that screams “there is still a chance for us, just hold on”. All of this based on fear of losing LO for good.’-It’s like you were in my mind when you wrote this.
Also, I don’t think our brains understand that no hope IS BETTER than false hope. No hope is final, more like a death. Maybe taking the step by step approach is better than resigning ourselves to closing that door for ever and letting it stay that way.
I’m talking from experience. I went NC for 4 years and, during this time I told myself how cruel it is to live a life of ‘no hope’. It was too harsh for me to stay away so I broke NC and went back to them.
Instead I could have said that it may take may take my whole life to get better at staying NC from limerence and if I slip up, it’s OK. If I need to see them and contact them, it’s OK. I’m only human. I’m sure that if I thought like that, I would still be NC with them.
I am really struggling to break the habits that have kept me limerent for years now. Now that I know what limerence is, I am unsure I have ever had a relationship that didn’t start out or end with a limerent episode. My current LO has been in my life for 7 years now. We briefly dated but I always urged for more but I was never more than a FWB to my LO. I felt an immediate connection to him, the electric connection felt so tangible, how could anything be more real? The feeling was not mutual-though at times, I felt so sure he felt the same.
So I have been in limbo for the last few years, as we have went our separate ways on numerous occasions, but like magnets, the pull is almost irresistible and in a small town, we bump into each other a lot.
I have only had one relapse in No Contact in the last 14 months but every time I see him around town, I am so tempted to reach out again (but I know I will regret it if I do) and this past week alone, I saw him on 3 occassions. It definitely feels like a cruel joke by the universe every single time but I keep reminding myself that this person is being put in my life to teach me a lesson of some sort and this limerence is teaching me about my trauma bonding and attachment styles and where this person addiction is stemming from so I know that my understanding of my own self is evolving. I know these are all great strides in the direction to recovery from limerence….I just want to stop letting these LE’s effect my mood. And I want to stop wanting their attention so desperately!
I am a little bit addictive personality wise and a little on the intense side at times.
I am healing but it wasn’t just her looks that did it for me, but there was something less tangible about her- even from online I could see there was something special, something different about her.
The way in which she got rid of me on the site stung quite badly. After we met once, but the term limerence was one I had never heard of until someone asked me if I was suffering from it on a site. Looked it up or stumbled across it this week, this place.
I don’t have it for many, and hopefully this one which is on the way out will fade in full soon!
I would rather kill myself than forget my LO. I’ve been in love with her since high school; 15 years from when I first laid eyes on her. We were meant to be, and if death is the only way I can go back, then so be it.