It’s fair to say that limerents think about their limerent objects quite often. Say, every moment of every day. OK, maybe every other moment. The point is: they invade your mind.
The nature of this invasion tends to change as the limerent experience progresses. By the time limerence has advanced from euphoria to obsession, the limerent is often plagued by the classic “intrusive thoughts” that define limerence. You don’t want to think about LO. You really want to concentrate on defusing this bomb in the basement of the orphanage, but god damn it that red wire reminds you of the rakish tassle he wore around his wrist at the gig last night, and you suddenly realise the clock has counted down to 3 seconds without you noticing.
Or even worse, you desperately want a break from thinking about them, but it turns out to be like that “don’t think about a pink elephant” psychological trick, and the harder you concentrate on not thinking about them, the more insistent the thoughts become.
Or, it could be just that any time your mind wanders from the task at hand it always wanders to the same place. In fact, it’s not wandering at all. It’s stuck in an LO-shaped cage.
But there are other times – particularly early in the limerence experience – before the intrusive thoughts have become established, that we bring this on ourselves. Limerent reverie (or rumination) is the mind loop that many limerents happily indulge in, in an attempt to get some of their bliss-brain-drug feelings when LO is not around. A way of feeling connected to LO when you can’t be with them. A way of getting some of the (watered-down) reward that your brain is urging you to seek.
It’s an understandable impulse, but comes with a few downsides.
1) It establishes the centrality of LO
Our brains aren’t all that good at distinguishing fantasy from reality. This is easily demonstrated by vividly imagining a stressful thing that isn’t actually happening, and noticing that your body responds as though it is happening. Your heart races, you feel queasy and anxious; you have a striking physiological response to something imaginary.
There are very good reasons for this, from an evolutionary perspective. Rehearsing events in your imagination and predicting the outcome is a very powerful way to shape your behaviour to a complex environment. But memory is a weird thing, and imagined and real events can get mixed up.
All of this means that while greedily seeking the physiological response triggered by thoughts of LO, we end up filling our minds with a curious amalgam of actual interactions with them, imagined interactions with them, and fantasies about alternative lives in which our desire to be with them comes true.
That is a very effective way of programming your subconscious to accept LO as the most important thing in your life, because they are the most conspicuous presence in your mind’s eye. It’s a positive feedback loop that takes the “glimmer” that they provoke, amplifies it in your imagination, and makes them central to your internal as well as external world.
2) It’s a very biased account
Another defining feature of limerence is the idealisation of LO. Despite the evidence of LO’s flaws, the limerent has a remarkable capacity to gloss over them or rationalise them away. I think reverie is partly to blame here too.
The nature of fantasy is wish-fulfilment. We rarely idly daydream about a future where LO continues to behave selfishly, or is boorish, or emotionally cold, or exhibits any of the other red-flags that we willfully ignore in our intoxication.
In keeping with the real/fantasy confusion noted above, the more we imagine LO as we want them to be, the worse we become at seeing them as they actually are. This can be particularly striking after a period of no contact – you “remember” the fantasy version of LO because they are an old familiar friend that you spent so long thinking about, that you start to get hazy about the real actual living version of LO that exists in the world. And the temptation to get back in touch builds, because you remember the good times (polished to a shine by your imagination) and forget the bad times (discreetly shrouded with a tarpaulin by your imagination).
Smothering real memories with perfectly tailored fantasies is a great way to idealise someone.
3) It doesn’t work
If the purpose of imagination is to allow us to rehearse the outcome of future experiences without actually having to have them, then limerent reverie often fails dismally. Especially when dealing with a very common rumination: what will I say or do next time I see them? Is there a way I can find out whether they reciprocate through some super clever tactic? If I can just devise a masterful conversational dance then I can lead them to reveal themselves!
Although our brains can be poor at recognising it, fantasy and reality are usually very different. In our limerence-fevered imaginations everyone behaves correctly, plays their role according to our script, and our cunning plans come effortlessly to fruition.
In reality, of course, LO doesn’t behave the way you expected them to, and even more unsettling, you don’t feel the way you expected to feel. Suddenly, instead of the nicely rehearsed scene you had in mind, you find yourself wildly improvising. You’re flying blind.
Under those circumstances, we default back to our habitual behaviours. This usually leaves us vulnerable to the same mistakes and emotional traps that we always fall into when around LO, and then castigate ourselves for once we are alone again (and doomed to sink back into rumination).
4) It’s a downward spiral
Here’s the real trap: reverie establishes the habit of thinking about LO. It’s a learned behaviour for seeking reward. You’ve reinforced it through repetitive indulgence of pleasant fantasies. All of this sets you up for when the limerence tips into addiction, and it becomes hard to stop. It’s speculative, but I don’t think it’s too much of a reach to propose that intrusive thoughts are the children of reverie. Once you program your brain to think about LO for pleasure, it is hard to make it stop.
As I’ve discussed before there are ways to undo the ingrained habit of reverie by overwriting old memories, but it’s a slow and careful process. Much better not to start. So, next time you find yourself at the start of a limerence adventure, be wary of the dangers of reverie, and recognise the role it has in cementing limerence habits.
This is so good! Just like any addict, best not to have the first hit. I’ve suffered feom limerence too many times, I am determined and armed (thank you) to never ever go down that road again!
Since I already linked The Babys, “Every Time I Think of You” in “Limerence music”, we’ll go with this one.
It sounds as though limerence is not unlike people who play RPG’s to the detriment of their careers and social lives. You have control. If you don’t like the result, restart it or return to wherever you last saved the game. You can customize your player and become whoever and whatever you imagine.
It’s like eating ice cream or pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sure, you can get sufficient calories, or even excess calories but you’re still going to be malnourished. It takes some time to figure it out though.
So the flights of fancy regarding an LO are a lot more fun than real life. Particularly when it intrudes in some manner or another. It catches up with most people eventually.
I definitely feel like the limerence as addiction analogy hits the nail on the head for me. I recently read a book (title, Irresistible) about behavioral addiction and while the author doesn’t discuss limerence – all of the addictions – including RPGs really hit a nerve.
I think it’s important to note that with any addiction – including limerent reverie – after a while the addiction is NOT pleasant anymore. At least not all the time. I think it’s easy to imagine that a limerent is enjoying their fantasizing but I know for myself that’s not always the case. Far from it. I used to enjoy it a lot. But after a while I saw that it was ruining my life and I started to have all this guilt whenever I’d think about LO, but by that point the habit was ingrained and I couldn’t quit. After I disclosed to LO and he rejected me, all my fantasies were about how little he liked me and how he must think I’m an idiot and everything I could’ve done differently. Those limerent reveries were/are incredibly unpleasant, and yet I just can’t stop them. So I just wanted to point that out. Limerent reveries are not always enjoyable, and they can become 100% painful.
Another really good point from Irresistible was that ALL addictions are rooted in some kind of emotional pain or lack. The reason we turn to LO or to chocolate cake or to RPGs is because we NEED that dopamine hit for whatever reason. Something in life has us depleted, and the book says that it’s crucial to figure out what the root cause is and address that. For me, I think that it’s rooted in some mix of low self-esteem and a history of rejection and lack of independence. I think that if I (purposefully!) work on those areas of my life that my reliance on limerence will subside.
Anyway, I highly recommend the book for anyone else who associates their limerence with behavioral addictions. Cheers!
Thanks for the recommendation Stella. Sounds good.
I also agree that the “reverie as reward seeking” completely breaks down and becomes painful once the limerence has progressed – but your brain hasn’t learned that yet. And like a junkie, it keeps trying again and again for some small hit (or at least relief) even though the same behaviour doesn’t work anymore. The habit is just so ingrained.
This bit really hit a nerve:
“This can be particularly striking after a period of no contact – you “remember” the fantasy version of LO because they are an old familiar friend that you spent so long thinking about, that you start to get hazy about the real actual living version of LO that exists in the world. And the temptation to get back in touch builds, because you remember the good times (polished to a shine by your imagination) and forget the bad times (discreetly shrouded with a tarpaulin by your imagination).”
This sums up where I’m at at the moment, except I’m aware of it, so much so I almost want to see him to ground me back in reality again.
BUT – I know that breaking NC wouldn’t actually benefit anyone and would mean I’ve thrown my career away for nothing.
So back to trying to reprogramme my mind.
“BUT – I know that breaking NC wouldn’t actually benefit anyone and would mean I’ve thrown my career away for nothing.
So back to trying to reprogramme my mind.”
I have my fingers crossed for you Sophie. Would it help to write down a list of the unpleasant things he said, did or the after effects that were uncomfortable?
I have a list of LO #2’s most memorable quotes. It’s 3 pages double spaced but, then again, we were together for 4 years with another year on top of that for the body to stop twitching.
When I’m feeling more favorably inclined toward her, I’ll take a look at it. I also remind myself that my dead father came back in a dream to warn me not to accept her Facebook friend request.
I replay the scene right before LO introduced me to his new girlfriend. I had touched his arm to say goodbye. He stared at it in disdain and irritation. It was a look that clearly said, “How do I get this married woman off my back? “ He was done flirting with a married woman and had started dating a single woman. (He had made the decision to live a purposeful life)
I cringe every time that last encounter is replayed. Trust me. Reprogramming LO=reward to LO=pain works. Magnificently successful in keeping me from seeking his company.
That’s a really powerful one, Irene, and gold for reprogramming!
Thanks for the suggestions.
I struggle to remember anything unpleasant that LO said or did. Whether that is the limerence talking I don’t know.
I’ve tried leading the daydreams to inventing LOs reaction to my leaving card (that he’s repulsed by me for that) however I then wonder what his real reaction was, which is counter productive!
I’m reluctant to write anything down in case it is found.
The sooner my new course starts the better – hopefully that will use up some daydreaming time/brainpower!!
“I struggle to remember anything unpleasant that LO said or did.”
Go back and re-read this one.
https://livingwithlimerence.com/2017/03/22/emotional-affairs/comment-page-1/#comment-1064 July 27, 2018 at 5:40 am
He was way out of line.
It almost certainly is the limerence talking, but you can also use uncertainty to your advantage. So, the thought pattern could go: “he may have liked my card, but he may have also been appalled, and shown it to other people who all laughed at how delusional I am and how unprofessional my behaviour was. It’s better if I never go back to that place.”
Whatever scenario works, you want to try and end the rumination feeling bad.
Here’s something else for a newly Post-LE to consider.’
If you’re LO is no longer an active part of your life, it isn’t because they probably couldn’t be.
They’re not an active part of your life because they don’t want to be.
Why they don’t want to be isn’t really important. Maybe they respect the sanctity of your marriage/relationship, maybe they don’t. Maybe somebody else got their attention. It doesn’t matter. If you were important to them, you’d know.
If I was all that important to my ex-LOs, they’d be trying to find a way into my life and they aren’t. If they were all that important to me, I’d be trying to find a way back into theirs and I’m not.
LOs are a speed bump on the highway to happiness.
“They’re not an active part of your life because they don’t want to be.”
Oh yes. Absolutely. This. This is what I need to remind myself of. LO knows how I feel. He knows I’m single. He’s single. He has fingers and is able to dial my number. He has a car and knows the directions to my house. The fact that he is not here means he doesn’t want to be.
I think I’m one of the delusional limerents. I KNOW that all the evidence points to the fact that he just doesn’t like me. I’m just not sure why my brain won’t accept it. Thanks, Scharnhorst.
Dirty Little Secret:
There’s nothing cooler than being with someone who genuinely wants to be with you.
Love it.. so true xx
Anyone has heard about rejection therapy? I did some exercises on this recently and noticed I struggle a bit with rejection. No social anxiety, no issues with shame (to reasonable limits of course) but rejection exercises hit me immediately.
The idea behind the rejection exercise comes with accepting and living well with ourselves even when rejected by others.
Limerence (according to my experience) is related with rejection issues. In some cases will even get stronger after a rejection from LO.
Just an example below:
I definitely had a fear of rejection, which in turn guided me towards not putting myself in a position of being rejected. Which made rejection even more difficult to take. Continue cycle…though it has improved somewhat as I’ve gotten older.
I can see the link between limerence and having rejection issues.
“in turn guided me towards not putting myself in a position of being rejected” – the same here.
My SOs (that I kind “select as boyfriend material”) would always be very committed to our relationship whereas my LOs would be quite opposite, playing HotNCold, “like you, like you not”… those behaviours hit my rejection issues and associated with my emotional state at that time (And other factors) = all there for perfect Limerence cocktail!
Anyway just wanted to point that out… It’s definitely not about LO but about myself. His rejection/intangibility trigger the need to be loved/accepted specially by him. (Even if in very beginning couldn’t care less about him)
Rejection is an issue with me. My Limerence went into overdrive after I meant LO’s new girlfriend. They are such an ill-fitting pair, it’s insulting to my ego. But, the cold hard truth is that she is the better catch over me. I am married with two teenagers. I could look like a super model (sadly I don’t) and still not qualify to compete for LO. I have a gold wedding band on my finger. But, I still feel like he rejected me. My fantasies (drastically reduced with NC) compose mainly of me rejecting LO after I am recently widowed. He is left feeling terrible for his lack of interest and neglect of me. Which is absolutely ridiculous! I would be a shell of a human being if my husband passed away.
With time and educating myself on Limerence, I’m actually very happy that LO is happy and in a fulfilling relationship. They’ve been together over a year and a half now. She’s traveled to Europe with him and his parents. I couldn’t wish for a better outcome for my LO.
There’s a big difference between someone “declining” something and someone “rejecting” something.
Declining something is simply an action. It carries no value judgment. Rejecting something, whether it’s an auto part or a person carries a big value judgment. Rejection implies there’s something deficient or defective in the offer or the person making it.
He made a choice. It’s not an indictment of you.
When I told the story about LO #2 rejecting my marriage proposal and moving across the country, the therapist corrected me. She said, “LO #2 didn’t reject your proposal, she declined your proposal. There was nothing wrong with either the proposal or you for making it.”
PS: If you do ever find you’re both available again, I have $5 that says he won’t be the one you reach out to.
How much of our inner fear of rejection plays a role in identifying rejections in our daily life?
Let’s use a silly example: i’m afraid of Sharks, so whenever i am in the sea i would “feel” a Shark getting closer.
If my leg touches something, immediately my thought would be: “is that a Shark?” or “that cannot be a Shark” but the word “Shark” will always pop-up in my mind.
Maybe if my sister was next to me, she would immediately think: “is that an anaconda?” as she is more afraid of that than Sharks.
So our self-preservation make us analyse the situations in relation to our fears… and i have a fear of rejection.
Also, the feeling of rejection comes with our interpretation and fears more than facts themselves. Do we “choose” to feel rejected?
When it happens, then Limerence gets fuelled and everything in our life becomes worthless. Why?
I was rejected because i am not a top model, i have 2 children, i have no children, i am married, i am divorced, my teeth are not aligned, my nose is long…
It’s like everything we are or have has no value anymore. We chose to devaluate everything in our lives and we need to explain why we “were rejected”.
Possively there was no rejection, possively the other guy saw your happy married life, children and understood he had nothing to offer you that you didn’t have already.
Or possively you were right and he thought: i want to construct a family life with someone that has no family,
or possively other reasons. So, how much of this is real?
Whether the Limerence was caused by a rejection or a “feeling” of rejection, why should it be so overwhelming and hurtful for us? Why should it take so long for us to accept whatever made us feel that way?
Shouldn’t we like ourselves and be grateful for all good in our life first of all?
Very thought-provoking ideas, Carla.
I can see how the fear of rejection adds extra potency to the uncertainty that always drives limerence. The ups and downs would be even greater as they play to such a deeply embedded fear. I also think your last question “why should it be so hurtful for us” is the key psychological insight. It’s obviously working at a subconscious level (like the “deep down” child analogy from the previous post) and comes as quite a surprise to your rational mind.
There is also the other background shadow talked about in “unattainable LOs”. How better to protect yourself from rejection than becoming limerent for someone who, from the outset, couldn’t conceivably say yes?
“Unavailable LO” great post! Could relate to it quite a lot.
“How better to protect yourself from rejection than becoming limerent for someone who, from the outset, couldn’t conceivably say yes?” Definitely, unintentional attraction,
auto sabotage on real relationship or subconscious wish to be accepted by unavailable LO in order to win over childhood fears/traumas?
“Although our brains can be poor at recognising it, fantasy and reality are usually very different. In our limerence-fevered imaginations everyone behaves correctly, plays their role according to our script, and our cunning plans come effortlessly to fruition.” So true, also really liked the Kamikaze analogy.
First comes the present reveries, the interpretation of any sign and thenthe feeling of uncertaincy becomes unbearable: Kamikaze “disclosure”. As if it was the only way out of the doubt, face fear of rejection and being rejected for real… we set a bomb and we decide to explode with it (Even if there’s a tiny hope he will disarm the bomb)
The bomb explodes, no contact… But somehow we are now in methaphysical universe where we can travel across the time with our reveries, and say things we should have said. Make him laugh, impress him, be more confident, reinvent the past.
I saw this on Twitter and thought of this blog.
“When I can’t stop thinking about a guy I just imagine a witch put a spell on me to like him, and that I’m defeating a witch if I switch focus.” @AkilahObviously
This morning I had LO intrude into my head while making breakfast. It’s very vivid and intimate, but a third person appears into my reveries. My husband suddenly appears in my fantasy world with LO and quietly asked,”Where do I fit in all this? What about my feelings? What about our children? We love you. Is all this fair to us?” I bursted into tears in real life.
That’s a good way to stop the seduction of Limerence reveries.
Oh my, Irene – that does cut to the heart of the matter and gut you like a fish, doesn’t it? On the one hand, I’m sorry you burst into tears. On the other, epiphanies aren’t always pleasant.
Ulysses Alves says
While reading this post I thought about using a tool which might help with fighting against the idealization we project upon the LO, and it may be effective also to fight reverie.
The tool I’m talking about is writing events as they happened related to the LO, specially those moments when she/he didn’t behave as ideally as we thought it would, maybe even hurting us in the proccess. This way we can always go back to our list of documented bad behaviours of our LO and thus have a readily available source of reality to wake us up from our limerent dreams, which could potentially free us from craving a unhealth relationship or at least increase our self awareness that, if we really want to consumate the relationship, its real version is actually what we have (hopefully) documented in our LO negative side list, and not what our limerent brain is trying to fool us in believing it as the wonderland relationship.
This may sound selfish but is there a way to recover without “overwriting old memories”? The reason I ask is my reveries are usually about our wonderful moments of physical reciprocation, her eyes shining and pupils dilated, kissing me passionately. As she then turned cold, I would remember these times and – no doubt – accelerated my descent into full-blown limerence. But now, working on my withdrawal plan and actions to deprogram and get out, I do wish that I have something good to remember. If I don’t, it seems to whole pain of the LE wasn’t worth it, that I am overwriting the good times with the bad, if you know what I mean. I want to stop obsessing about LE, stop the intrusive thoughts and depression but still able to fondly look back and remember the good times for what they were – a euphoric, once in a lifetime experience.
“my reveries are usually about our wonderful moments of physical reciprocation, her eyes shining and pupils dilated, kissing me passionately.” Please stop Fred this is torture ;-)!!! How I envy you for at least having real memories, not fantasies only! But probably those are harder to reprogram. It’s so sad to reprogram them! I agree with you, I wish you could keep the good memories without them being obsessive. If only we could control our brains to this level of precision.
You’re getting ahead of yourself.
Scharnhorst’s Law of the Swamp: When your up to your neck in quicksand, how you got there, how not to do it again, and how you’ll remember the experience only matter if you make it out alive.
I think of LEs as being lost in a forest (or a minefield depending on the context). All you see are trees and you spend a lot of effort dodging them. If you can escape the forest (some form of LC/NC) and gain distance or altitude, you can gain perspective. Actually, I prefer to see it as flying over the forest at a height where I see a forest, not trees. I’m above it all.
Have you ever read “The Hobbit?” Bilbo and the Dwarves are lost in Mirkwood. Bilbo climbs a tree only to find nothing but more forest on all sides. Tolkien explains that they were in a valley and in reality very close to the edge of the forest. But, Bilbo couldn’t see that.
With LO #2, I have 5 years of actual memories; some good, some not so good. With LO #4, all I have are memories of the emails I deleted and looking at my presence on her site that leave a lot of “what ifs?” “What ifs” aren’t bad if you keep them in perspective. If you’re limerent, you have a problem keeping those in perspective. Lately, when I think about them, my thoughts aren’t about reengaging them. My thoughts are how I could have said a better goodbye. It’s one of those hooks that keeps your head in the game and it’s completely independent of your LO.
First things first. Gain the distance and see what happens when you have some perspective. My bet is your thinking will change.
Awesome post Scharnhorst. I really appreciate the thoughtful reply. And of course you’re right, I need to get out of the quicksand, out of the forest and gain some much-needed altitude. I will double down on my action plan, attainable goals in conducting a staged withdrawal to limited contact. I have one more week of LO out of the office. When she returns, I aim to have come far enough that I won’t fall to pieces. If nothing else, I will have temporarily decamped to another desk out of sight, lunches booked with old friends every day of the week and a ton of work piled up that I’m now not doing as I’m spending my days on this blog or doing Dr L’s emergency deprogramming course. 🙂
“fantasy and reality are usually very different … in reality, of course, LO doesn’t behave the way you expected them to, and even more unsettling, you don’t feel the way you expected to feel.”
Spot on. I know there’s a lot of NC advice, but my experience with two LOs is … the reality cancels out the fantasy. So, after over 2 decades of NC, my (granted very low limerence by that time) for L02 was totally extinguished when we got in to contact over social media “in real life” and I really did not like how his life turned out (and I was SO glad I did not throw my lot in with him). And right now with LO3 – each time we actually spend time together, I am struck by how we are not QUITE as simpatico as in my reveries, he is not quite as perfectly gorgeous as in my fantasies, he does not behave in exactly the way he does in my fantasies … and I realize he never will because the LO in my head is a different person from the real flesh and blood person in front of me. I don’t know – did anyone else have a similar experience? This is, of course, after the initial euphoric stage where it was impossible for me to even think straight. The analytical part of my mind only managed (barely) to kick in after that (thankfully!) subsided.
Rainbows into rainclouds says
Yes Emily, I can relate that experience to most of my past LOs because in my head I have created them to be exactly what I want them to be. To say what I want them to say, share my passions, interests etc.
The reality is that there was usually only one thing about each that set me off on an LE in the first place. Something in them connected with something that was missing in my life at the time. I spent quite a bit of time with each but even more time ruminating and fantasising so the fantasy version overtook the real person in my head. A man who was very kind to me became a virtual saint in my mind, no flaws whatsoever. He was a taxi driver I took a few journeys with. I started ordering taxis left right and centre but he disappeared off the radar for ages. When I did meet him again it was a let down to say the least. He was an ordinary man compared to the image I’d been carrying.
Another LO, a guitar teacher I connected with just because he complimented me on my skills! By the end of a year with him just as a student, he’d become in my mind a romantic, gypsy like free spirited minstrel who I longed to have a relationship with. Six months of NC due to circumstances followed and then I encountered him outside the station looking scruffy and in need of a shower tbh. I thought more or less what you quoted – I’m so glad I didn’t throw my lot in with him!
So your post really resonates with me Emily, they are just two examples that come to mind right now.
There was a song I heard recently on a Eurovision tribute night called “I’m in love with a fairytale”!
That just about sums up life as a limerent!!