One of the cornerstones of purposeful living is having a clear understanding of your own goals and motivations. This principle might sound self-centred, but it needn’t be – your purpose could be helping others, or caring for your family, or volunteering, or throwing yourself into charitable work. The idea that you are spending your time doing something meaningful and fulfilling, does not mean that you are indifferent to the success of others.
I don’t often write about the foundations of a purposeful life – being more preoccupied with limerence recovery for the most part – but recently I’ve been thinking about why purposeful living provides such effective psychological resilience against limerence.
Locus of control
One important aspect, I think, is that purposeful living corresponds with developing what the personality psychologists call an “internal locus of control“.
The idea here is that individuals who interpret the outcome of events as being caused by internal factors (their choices, their behaviour, their effort) are better able to cope with setbacks than people who believe that external factors (other people, government policy, cultural forces beyond their control) are more important.
Obviously, circumstances will vary, and all important events will have some blend of internal and external forces, but the basic idea is that we each have a propensity to favour one or other extreme when we are trying to make sense of why things have gone wrong.
For people with a purposeful mindset, they will look first to how their behaviour contributed to the situation – and even if there really are external forces that are impractical to overcome, they tend to anyway ask “OK, that’s unfair. Now what?”
For limerents struggling to cope with emotional overwhelm this is a very helpful attitude. Yes, LO could be deliberately cultivating your infatuation for selfish purposes, yes, you work with them so you can’t simply avoid them, but what can you do to improve your situation, within the limits of your sphere of influence?
A less obvious corollary of this principle is that the self-sufficiency and self-confidence that naturally grow from taking responsibility for your fate can lead to greater tolerance of others. Why this helps with limerence is subtle, but important.
Tolerance versus respect
Having an internal locus of control tends to shape your outlook towards others into a “live and let live” perspective. Society becomes a collection of individuals trying to work out their own lives, and helping each other in a voluntary and cooperative manner. I’m figuring out what’s best for me – you do you.
I think this promotes tolerance. Other people can be different, can believe different things, and that’s fine. You don’t have to agree with them, you may think they are completely wrong, but you don’t seek to control their behaviour or manipulate them into changing. You can strenuously disagree about religion, politics, infidelity, and any number of other emotionally-charged topics, but you accept other people’s freedom to hold their own beliefs.
People with an external locus of control can struggle with this tension. They often prefer respect over tolerance as a guiding principle for regulating interpersonal disagreements, and feel that a lack of respect is antisocial and destructive. This fits with the idea that social harmony is important for regulating the mood of people who look outward for comfort or relief. The difficulty, of course, is defining what is meant by respect – a term that could range from due regard for other people’s feelings, all the way up to requiring active endorsement or admiration.
This might seem like a pedantic, semantic distinction, but there is currently a battle raging at the University of Cambridge over exactly this issue: should academic discourse be tolerant or respectful?
Disagreement doesn’t damage self-worth
A benefit of favouring tolerance over respect is that disagreement doesn’t threaten your self-worth. To give a personal example, when I was younger I was confounded by the fact that some of my friends were Christian. Being an atheist, I naturally assumed that this obviously reflected childhood brainwashing, and that it was my duty to explain to them why they were wrong. The disagreement between us clearly came from them failing to understand the self-evident truth that I could see, and so if I could just get them to listen to reason, everyone would be happy.
I consider it a milestone in my maturation when I finally realised that their beliefs took nothing from me, did not diminish the validity of my own decisions, and that they had access to all the same information that I did, but had simply reached a different conclusion. My world expanded immediately, as I could now disagree constructively, learning from them rather than debating them, and refining and improving my own understanding of the world and the people within it. I ended up marrying a Christian, which would no doubt amuse some of those old friends whom I used to tire with rhetoric.
Since then, I have occasionally experienced the counter-phenomenon. People who become angry and defensive when they learn that I made different decisions to them, who are infuriated that I listened to their advice about parenting but didn’t follow it, or who take my different political viewpoint as a personal attack, or critique of their beliefs.
When you only expect (and offer) tolerance, you insulate yourself from the danger of feeling disrespected and undermined when someone disagrees with you.
Letting go of unreasonable LOs
Bringing this cloud-level philosophising back to street-level limerence management, one of the best ways to protect yourself against unreasonable LOs is to accept them as they are. They could be behaving abominably, lying to you, leading you on, giving mixed messages, but… being a jerk isn’t actually illegal.
You can choose to tolerate them as they are – don’t expect them to change, don’t demand respect they’ll never give, and don’t waste precious time and energy trying to get them to admit the error of their ways. You tolerate their poor behaviour, but choose to avoid them. You have your own goals, your own purpose, and they have theirs. Clearly, your values and goals don’t align, but there’s nothing to be gained by being outraged about it. It’s fine to dislike someone, but tolerance means you don’t grant them the power to manipulate you anymore by overreacting to their unreasonable conduct.
Cultivating an internal focus of control is very freeing. You can work on developing your purpose, and seek out other people who align well with your true self. When other people let you down, you tolerate their failings and get back on with your own work. Just as you hope others will tolerate your own blind spots, frailties and shortcomings.
When you let go of the urge to control other people, you find that they are less able to control you too.
And that is a massive benefit in overcoming unwanted limerence.
Great post as always Dr.L. I certainly wouldn’t mind having more talking about purposeful living and how to achieve it, because sometimes I feel like the concept is a bit nebulous
Regarding that last point about letting go unreasonable LOs, that is exactly what I’m trying to do with LO. I mentioned before that, while our conversations are friendly, it was always me the one making the effort to keep in touch (and she even pseudo-ghosted me twice). And then, when I broke my 4 month attempt at NC, she answered me telling me about how she’s been wanting to text me for a while but couldn’t because she was so busy with her studies -a pretty obvious lie-. And while I’m sure that the limerent urge to connect plays a big part in this particular resentment of mine (we’re basically acquaintances, after all), let’s assume for a moment that she really is a pretty flaky person. So what? If I’m tired of being the one pulling the wagon of our “friendship”, all I have to do is just leave the wagon as it is and let nature take its course. She knows my number, so if she wants to contact me, she knows how. The fact that this mental strategy also gives me resolution to keep with NC is just a side benefit.
I don’t have sufficient words to express how much I love this post DrL. How different would the world be if we were all taught this principle at school!
I particularly enjoyed your points about debate and disagreement. It is all too easy to get entrenched defending our own opinions and end up missing out on learning from others whose life experiences, and therefore views, are very different from our own. I could wax on all day so better stop now.
Lifelong Limerent says
I think when you gain internal locus of control you are able to forgive yourself and others around you. I think it also gives you a sort of 20/20 hindsight you wish you had when you were falling for those idiot LOs.
Forgiveness is everything, especially of ourselves.
I’m sorry to be completely off topic but I initially misread the word maturation and got quite a start!
Apologies. I’m an awful person. 🤷♂️
@Thomas. That is too funny! 🙂
Thanks for another fascinating post, Dr L. Much like you, I was always somewhat frustrated with my religious friends. How could they behave so irrationally? But after experiencing my latest LE, I find myself more understanding. After all, who’s more irrational than a limerent?
I remember one of my Christian friends returning from a religious retreat in a rather frenzied state. The euphoria, the obsession, the rapture… it all seemed a little too familiar. I realized we had a lot more in common than I thought. Might we both simply possess some neurochemical quirk that predisposes us to crave a mystical connection with a perfect being? Perhaps God is simply the ultimate LO…
Like the God / LO comparison.
Or an LE is our own private religion where we believe in, and have complete faith in, our LO.
Until you hate them. I’m currently hating my LO. (Because it’s all their fault obviously)…
At the same time as also wanting to call them. Or send a pointless text which goes unanswered for days.
Tonight is a rough night. Sorry.
Ooh, I feel you. I hate my xLO too and I’d LOVE to tell him off, but I’m trying to heed Dr L’s advice:
“It’s fine to dislike someone, but tolerance means you don’t grant them the power to manipulate you anymore by overreacting to their unreasonable conduct.”
Sorry for the rough night. 🙁
Yeah, I had complete faith in LO– until he did the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing. In retrospect he did me a favor. I think it’s a lot tougher to break free of an LO who’s decent, like yours, Allie.
…but I think in some cases there’s this situation where an LE almost circumvents normal functioning.
I have a passion for geology, for years and I do some lecturing and research and enjoy it immensely. I also would think of myself as more on the tolerance side of things, considered fairly easy going, I would also probably be described as quite gentle, cheeky, a bit playful… that sort of thing. But the whole LE thing it… I don’t know. I’m back chasing my old LO who’s back to blowing hot and cold, picks me up, puts me down… and it’s just not what I’m like in any other situation…
Maybe that also contributes to the whole LE infatuation… it feels like you’re changed… and as has been written elsewhere here it can make you feel changed in a really stimulating or sparkling way when things are on track (which probably looks different depending on the limerent and the LE…) but when things aren’t good…
It can twist you into someone who quietly really doesn’t like themselves.
“It can twist you into someone who quietly really doesn’t like themselves.”
I could have written that. In fact, I did. I told LO I was turning into someone I didn’t like at all, just before I went NC.
“Cultivating an internal focus of control is very freeing. You can work on developing your purpose … When other people let you down, you tolerate their failings and get back on with your own work.”
I think it is good to have a side hustle, or something that personally motivates and fulfills you, but I don’t know if that can take away from the disappointment you will feel when other people let you down. And after you are disappointed enough times, you withdraw from the people who have disappointed you and retreat into yourself … ha ha ha … into the fantasy of the LO. Someone may say I need more realistic expectations, but, when I logically step back and look at the expectations, I don’t think they’re too much. For example, I have a friend who called me on Thanksgiving. He left me a voicemail message, as I didn’t hear the call and was eating dinner with the family. I called him back a few hours later. Left a voicemail for him. Has he returned the call? No. Will he? Who knows? Maybe … in an hour, in a week, maybe never. I wish I could say this was an isolated incident with him and other friends, but it isn’t. There just isn’t all that much consistency or follow-through. And so, over time, I’ve learned that I can not count on them. I have decided I am not going to cut them off. I am fond of them, but I don’t put a tremendous effort into the friendships. Why would I?
Yeah friendships become very different as you get older don’t they – I do miss the intensity of my young friendships. I can see how this would get you down – you want to get back what you give.
I guess what you might consider a “side hustle” is to many people their main reason for being. Perhaps that is underlying your disappointment in friendships?
I know I can be a bit of an ad-hoc friend these days because of children, wider family, work, home, other commitments…I just don’t have a lot of spare time or energy. I still love my friends dearly and I am very grateful that they completely understand that I have a lot of other commitments and they love me back just as much regardless of how infrequent our contact and meetings are these days.
“I know I can be a bit of an ad-hoc friend these days because of children, wider family, work, home, other commitments…I just don’t have a lot of spare time or energy.”
Thanks for clearing that up. It’s what I’d long suspected — that friendship is a really low-level priority. I think I am going to let that friendships go. I had another friend make a big production a few weeks ago — we were gong to have a phone call. Her suggestion. The day arrived — no phone call. And no email or text to even provide an excuse. A week later, I get an email about an entirely new topic. As if the phone call suggestion had never happened. Again, this is not an isolated incident. I don’t think I’m asking for too much. Just basement-level I’m-going-to-make-an-effort-because-I-give-a-crap.
“I guess what you might consider a “side hustle” is to many people their main reason for being. ”
Yeah, the side hustle should definitely take the place of interpersonal relationships. If I sound sarcastic, it’s not aimed at you. Society, really, because if you don’t value what everyone else does — namely family — your kind of on your own.
I’m sure it’s not intentional, but you’re kind of illustrating my point here, Marcia.
You and Allie disagree about how much attention is appropriate for a friendship, and your response is defensive. You also assume that her side hustle comment applies to commerce rather than social activities (like clubs or music or church or whatever). And you end by implying that society having the wrong values is the cause of your sense of alienation.
“You and Allie disagree about how much attention is appropriate for a friendship, and your response is defensive. ”
Well, maybe it is. I just thought there would be more people who valued friendship the same way I did, and I have been searching for those people years.
“You also assume that her side hustle comment applies to commerce rather than social activities (like clubs or music or church or whatever). ”
I’m not sure where you got that. I wrote nothing about money. To me, a side hustle is an artistic endeavor. But if the side hustle is social, which it certainly can be, I have found that it simply produces more friendly acquaintances. That may be meaningful for some people. As you pointed out, it would depend on what they are looking for.
“And you end by implying that society having the wrong values is the cause of your sense of alienation.”
But it is. There is a huge demographic shift that’s happened in the last few years. People are either marrying later in life or not marrying at all, and fewer women are having children. And yet our value system is still the same. It’s still focused on family.
“if you don’t value what everyone else does — namely family — your kind of on your own”
So true…if you have a partner, kids and family, you put them first above anything else. And earning a living is not optional, nor is some taking some solitary down-time for oneself to de-stress.
I completely agree that friendships have been de-prioritised when they shouldn’t be, though not sure what the solution to that is. I can see how disappointing a friend like me would be to someone non-family/spouse oriented. I know I would be happier (and maybe less limerent!) if I could get more in the way of close connection from friends…wish my BFF gang & I all lived near to each other so that was feasible.
Wishing you well.
“I know I would be happier (and maybe less limerent!) if I could get more in the way of close connection from friends…”
What do friends give you that you can’t get from family life to make you less limerent? I have been thinking about my LEs in my 20s, and there more of them but they were were shorter in length than they were in my 30s and particularly in my 40s, when I’ve just had one that’s gone on forever. Of course, I had my “peeps” in my 20s and we spent a lot of time together and had much more raucous fun than the 90-minute coffee friend dates one has in middle age. 🙂
“I completely agree that friendships have been de-prioritised when they shouldn’t be, though not sure what the solution to that is.”
I don’t have an answer, either. I’m not sure there is one. I’ve noticed that many single, childfree women seem who I’ve met are very involved with their parents or siblings.
Spending time with the right friends gives me a different quality of connection and I feel like a different me….like I am more than just a role (mother, wife, daughter, sister, colleague, etc) – I am no longer the responsible one – I am more of an individual, more fun, with something interesting to say that is unrelated to family life. Family life is lovely in many ways but stifling sometimes too. Similarly, my LE has helped me rediscover my younger, less responsible, more confident, fun & outspoken self and I am relishing that. It is a huge benefit that I hope will stay with me beyond the LE.
“I had my “peeps” in my 20s and we spent a lot of time together and had much more raucous fun than the 90-minute coffee friend dates one has in middle age”
Same here! I especially miss the raucous fun. Socialising is so much tamer now.
“Spending time with the right friends gives me a different quality of connection and I feel like a different me….like I am more than just a role (mother, wife, daughter, sister, colleague, etc) – ”
We all play roles. Namely, and I think the most draining, is that of concerned and dutiful employee when really you just want your paycheck! 🙂 I don’t care about your corporate goals. Show me the money! 🙂
“Similarly, my LE has helped me rediscover my younger, less responsible, more confident, fun & outspoken self and I am relishing that. ”
I can relate to that. The LO making manifest a part of you haven’t seen in a while. It’s very seductive.
“I especially miss the raucous fun. Socialising is so much tamer now.”
Tamer isn’t the word. I’d say boring.
Thinking about it, both friends and LE basically represent novelty and an escape from humdrum and family life. Hence why more friend time might help LE proof my life. A purposeful living goal me thinks.
Just as an aside, meaningful friendships aren’t guaranteed to LE proof you I don’t think.
I’ve been very neglectful of my friends during this recent LE. I’m fortunate in that I have confidence that (like a lot of mature friendships) they’re able to be plugged right back into with a little effort. Everybody has lives running along in any case, don’t they?
Also… what about LEs when you’re young, and you do still have the bars, drinks, and frolics etc. I still had intense, disruptive LEs even though there were lively social options as a young man in a big city…
I reckon everybody is different, but I don’t think its ever as simple as boredom or lack of social options alone. They might trigger it, but I guess it’s what they’re triggering that’s the crux. Just thoughts…
“I’m fortunate in that I have confidence that (like a lot of mature friendships) they’re able to be plugged right back into with a little effort.”
Depends on the situation. If you are someone I talk to every couple of months or so and see every now and then, yes, you could plug right back in. But if you are a close friend, and we talk often and spend a good deal of time together — I have found, at least in my experience, that those friendships are hard to put back together if one person falls off the planet indefinitely. At least it’s hard to get the friendship back to where it once was.
Lifelong Limerent says
Ahhh so interesting- why are we limerent? Last December I remember having a conversation with a friend telling him I was happy with my life and things were going well. Two weeks later I was limerent. I had been limerent before, but this was different. It hit me like a brick, my symptoms were extreme almost pathological. How could I an independent strong individual become captive to another? I haven’t figured it out yet, but it was definitely the glimmer and a long eye contact which was beyond my control. It had nothing to do with friendships or lack of friendships. I didn’t know what limerence was then, but I do now. And despite the fact that I was happy or thought I was I have worked hard at solidifying my relationships be it with family or friends so I don’t fall limerent like this again.
I think limerence is an escape hatch. Plain and simple. Escaping out of our current lives, escaping to the part of ourselves that the LO lights up.
Lifelong Limerent says
It’s sad, but I have to agree with you Marcia. That doesn’t mean we can’t try to make our lives better so we don’t have to escape.
The problem is … I’m not sure what can compare to the early highs of an LE if one is a person who is susceptible to limerence.
Lifelong Limerent says
Well I don’t know about you, but I would like to think of myself as a recovering limerent. That doesn’t mean I won’t get carried away in the moment – I do like those dopamine highs. I just think I can see it for what it is now – an infatuation nothing more; and having a “side hustle” or meaningful friendships which I have to work at help keep the ruminations, daydreams, and fantasies at bay.
I hear you. I haven’t had a new LE for almost a decade. I’m hoping I’d handle myself better if I got the “glimmer” again, but middle-aged routine seems to leave me ripe for pickings. 🙂
Good one, Dr L! So sensible. 🙂
This helps a lot. I think an additional angle to explore, as an antidote to obsession, could be tolerance of uncertainty. The obsessive mind says, ‘If only I analyze this incomprehensible person just *a little bit longer*, I’ll figure them out!’ And ‘a little bit longer stretches from minutes to hours to days, weeks, months, and years, while your real life passes you by. The tolerant mind says, ‘that person is permanently a mystery to you, and that’s OK. Now, let’s develop options for more rewarding pursuits.’ Since the obsessive mind is not immediately permeable to logic, reason, and evidence, a lot of overwriting of bad old emotional habits may be needed to develop this new habit. But I can attest that it’s doable, especially with the support of a skilled and understanding therapist.
Midlifer, thanks for this:
‘that person is permanently a mystery to you, and that’s OK. Now, let’s develop options for more rewarding pursuits.’
I ran across an old picture of LO and and I and a group of friends. One of the friends just passed away and I was asked to provide some photos for a slide show at the service so was accessing the archives.
The pic shows him leaning into me, standing ever so close. I remember thinking “why is he pushing his chest against the back of my shoulder?”.
It will always be a mystery to me…and that is OK.
I needed to read that thought tonight.
Thank you, Jaideux. What a compelling example! Wishing you well.
Thanks Midlifer. All good, slowly getting better every day. The tolerance concept may be accelerating that a bit. 🙂
I can really relate to that right now. Accepting the uncertainty is a real achievement so well done both of you!
I am still in the midst of my LE, but am accepting of it. My boss LO spent a day in the office yesterday, first full one since March. Was lovely to see him though sadly he was back to being more distant with me (not that he has ever been anything other than professional with me). My limerent mind suggests the reasons for this might be that he is either trying to re-define his professional boundaries with me, or, owing to the last time we saw each other his greeting unintentionally betrayed his feelings a little, he is working hard to keep those private this time. Of course, it could be another reason that is entirely unrelated to me.
So my challenge is now to accept that I will probably never know why and be fine with that. I am not finding this easy. I was 25% of the way to that place mentally. Reading these posts and writing it down here has moved me on another 25%, so thank you for sharing.
“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans (with LO)” John Lennon
@Midlifer. I think you may be onto something here.
“The obsessive mind says, ‘If only I analyze this incomprehensible person just *a little bit longer*, I’ll figure them out!’ And ‘a little bit longer stretches from minutes to hours to days, weeks, months, and years, while your real life passes you by. The tolerant mind says, ‘that person is permanently a mystery to you, and that’s OK.”
What I’ve kind of figured out, through my own experiences, etc, is that limerence makes the LO seem mysterious. In other words, none of my LOs were objectively fascinating people. They weren’t secret agents or members of secret societies. They probably didn’t have any shocking secrets waiting to be exposed. Limerence conjures up the whole feeling of mystery (in my opinion).
You’re absolutely right. I spent a year trying to figure out my LO. He’s an ordinary man. My brain made him mysterious and compelling.
He really owes me 😉
Holland Rise says
Excellent post Dr L
The “locus of control” aspect is interesting. It makes sense.
I read the link. I have a largely internal locus of control. But, I was raised that way. I was raised to believe that bad things can happen to good people, take responsibility for your actions, nobody owes you anything, and you’re entitled to what you earn. You play the hand you’re dealt. Sometimes you get a good hand, sometimes you get a bad hand.
I’m not sure what LO #2’s locus of control was but I think it was external. When I met her, she was a people-pleasing pushover that wouldn’t stand up for herself. People took advantage of her. I never heard her complain directly directly about it but it obviously bothered her. Before we got serious, I told her that if she didn’t get a handle on that, she had the potential to go through life as a very unhappy person. At our parting meeting, she quoted me and added, “I hate you for that.” Not long prior to that she said, “You taught me how to stand up for myself and I’m grateful to you for that.”
But, what really makes me think she had an external locus of control was something the therapist said when I told her about LO #2’s claimed Past Life Regression. The therapist said that some people use things like PLRs to avoid taking responsibility for their lives and the choices they make.
The stories we tell ourselves..
Rainy day in my part of the world.
I hope the sun is out soon fella.
Bravo, Dr. L. Thank you for your insight and for all that you do here at LwL.
This is a great blog post and it touches on issues I’m trying to resolve in my own life and mind. Humans are interconnected and humans are separate. People are individuals and yet people are social creatures who work together with others to achieve common goals. And I believe humans achieve so much more when they cooperate. Working together is efficient.
So how to get the balance right? Do we all need to believe exactly the same thing in order to get along? If good boundaries are the answer, where and when to enact those boundaries, etc? Don’t autonomy and personal freedom matter too?
I grew up in a Christian environment and, yes, it did result in a very subtle “them and us” mentality among the faithful. Let me assure you that this mentality was as unpleasant to some insiders as it was to outsiders, due to the lack of respect for personal autonomy of an intellectual kind. It wasn’t until I was a teenager I started to see how suffocating that environment was – people weren’t allowed to be individuals. On the other hand, some people liked the environment because it gave them a feeling of security. Not everyone found it offensive or “too much”.
The same could be said for my family of origin. I grew up in an enmeshed family. I didn’t agree with everything my parents said, but I chose to hide my dissent in order to prevent conflict. I ended up hiding most of my personality, because most of who I am was apparently unacceptable to my parents. My mother still tries to impose her views on me, which I find quite difficult to deal with. And also sometimes amusing. She hasn’t cottoned onto the fact I’m a separate person yet! And, yes, the same old feelings of suffocation crop up when I’m around my mother or older sister for extended periods. But both women can be great fun too. Charismatic people aren’t always sensitive or paragons of virtue.
I don’t feel suffocated around my current group of friends. I don’t feel suffocated around my dad or my younger sister. I only feel suffocated when I’m around people with really domineering personalities who try to tell me what I think and feel, etc (or assume I think and feel exactly the same way as they do). However, I realise that in relation to at least one LO, who was three years younger than me, I was the domineering, suffocating party.
For example, he even told me we had “different goals, different dreams, different ambitions”, which I think is a nice way to tell someone to back off/give breathing space, etc. It was a rebuke, but it was a rebuke I deserved. I really was overbearing and I was unconsciously trying to force my views on this fellow. I was obnoxious. He had a right to different beliefs which he didn’t need to justify.
So I guess I’ve been both a victim and a perpetrator of pushy behaviour?
I read a lot and can be pretty good at debating. However, the older I get, the more I see debating doesn’t really solve problems or help relationships. (People often have an emotional investment in their own beliefs that can’t be overturned with logic or contrary evidence. Human beings aren’t robots or machines, in other words. Also, people have a right simply to be themselves, to be comfortable). I admit I’ve misunderstood issues, even when I’ve made a good case one way or the other. I admit my own life doesn’t conform to my ascetic moral code. (I am too fond of money, rich food, and sensual indulgence). I don’t want to stop learning about reality because I think I have all the answers, etc. It’s a conundrum.
I don’t necessarily see the conflict as between “respect” and “tolerance”. In my own life, I think the conflict is between “love” and “freedom”. I believe other people (friends, lovers, family) have sometimes offered me this choice. I.e. I can have their love or I can have personal freedom. I can’t have both. However, I believe in adult relationships, there should be room for both love and freedom. When forced to choose between love and freedom, I’ve chosen freedom so far. And all my LOs have chosen freedom too, interesting enough.
(Hm. My LOs and I are not so different, after all. Don’t know if that’s a gender thing? My enmeshed family gifted me a fear of engulfment; many men, conventional wisdom tell us, have a fear of engulfment. Would things play out differently in a heterosexual or a lesbian context? Would a woman make a different choice simply by virtue of being a woman?)
I don’t know how relevant these comments are to the main discussion. They are probably tangential at best. But hopefully there is some material other people can use to develop their own ideas.
@Allie and Marcia. You guys have gotten the “respectful disagreement” thing down pat I think. Always loads of fun to read and kudos to you both! 🙂
Really enjoyed reading this Sammy, I can really relate to your thought process…so much good stuff, and very relevant to the main blog.
I often contemplate the societal independence & freedom vs community & connection paradigm. It is interesting to compare opposite cultures like USA or UK and Japan for example. I like DrLs description above that allows for both i.e. I do me, you do you and we still look out for each other but try to listen and give others what they say they need, rather than what we think they should have. But you must make yourself vulnerable to ask for what you need and people are often not comfortable with that. Listening to each other is another key element that we tend to forget (though not you as it happens) in our need to self-validate all the time.
“the conflict is between “love” and “freedom””. I think love can be like that sometimes, especially love of the limerent variety where we over-focus on what our LO thinks about us and how they could make us happy. I find real long term love to be different – there is more focus on wanting your SO to be happy, and a bit less on your own needs. With SO’s you request what you need and negotiate or assume they will do their best. I absolutely believe the saying about setting free those you love the most, and having faith that if they love you too they won’t go far or stay away for long. And if they choose to stay away? Then they clearly aren’t for me.
I am lucky in that my freedom loving SO and I allow each other a lot of independence. I would like to be free in the sexual sense too of course also but SO is too risk averse for that.
Sammy – have you ever heard of the crab bucket analogy? It based on the phenomenon that if you put a load of crabs in a bucket, none will escape ,despite being physically able to. This is because as soon as one gets near to the rim of the bucket, the other crabs pull it back down into the bucket.
This is an apt description of all human cultures. We can’t handle a crab escaping our bucket as we think they are wrong to leave and/or it invalidates our choices in some way. So we try to pull them back in, by using popularity, guilt or shame. The “bucket” could be a religious or political view-point, a particular way of life (e.g. marriage & kids), or our relationship model (e.g. monogamy & fidelity).
Just coming to your comments here a little late. Thank you always for your sincere input on the blog. I haven’t heard of the crab bucket analogy before, but I love any analogy or metaphor that has a visual component, because it’s poetic and I’m a bit of a visual thinker… Visual images help me remember things. 😛
I’ve always been very struck (and moved) by your view that you don’t want anyone to take away (or end) your LE for you. Honestly … so intriguing!! If my intrusive thoughts didn’t become so bad, I would heartily share your view. It’s the intrusive thoughts that put me off, the biology, and not the morality. Although if my LO and his partner genuinely didn’t want me in their life, then stepping back would be the only respectful course of action.
I’m an iNTJ, so I like looking at things from all possible points of view, and sometimes I’ve even been known to argue in favour of perspectives I don’t necessarily believe in (playing Devil’s advocate), just to test the validity of my ideas. When I play Devil’s advocate, I often discover that arguments are more nuanced than I first assumed. I learn more about other people’s feelings on a subject (and about other people’s feelings in general). And I discover things that even my restless mind has missed – important details.
People might think I’m a ratbag or I’m being argumentative when I play the Devil’s advocate, but actually such “argument” for me isn’t argument, but “extraverted thinking”, which is a natural strength of INTJs. For me, debate isn’t conflict or aggression. For me, debate is learning. I want to learn. 😛
I know some other personality types, including INFJs – I guess anyone with an “F” preference – might struggle sometimes with debate, because they construe debate as criticism or interpersonal conflict and not as impartial learning. Society at large also perceives debate as conflict and not as learning… Because human beings often perceive debate as conflict, I’ve learned to soften my views, (not always successfully), or pick more diplomatic and compassionate language. (Again, not always successfully).
I have an INFJ older sister, which makes me very interested in the INFJs on this board. My INFJ sister is a bit amusing, though – at least, to me. When she talks, it appears she’s embraced all these wild and unconventional ideas and lifestyles, including polyamory. People might assume she’s a “social rebel”, if you will. But if one looks at the way she’s lived her life – she’s actually quite gentle, conservative, moralistic, sensitive, selfless, cares very much about other people, loses herself in relationships occasionally, can struggle with authenticity and voicing her own needs, etc.
Sometimes, I think my sister’s “rebellious side” is all a facade, and she’s actually quite traditional under all that. I wonder if this is true of many iNFJs? (INFJs see all the glorious possibilities in life, including the glorious possibilities of unconventional relationships, but don’t necessarily want unrestricted freedom). Plus, I think INFJs do a disproportionate share of the “emotional labour” in ALL their relationships, so polyamory in actual practice may well lead to irritation and exhaustion and ultimately burn-out for INFJs…
I appreciate INFJs, as INFJs (and INFPs even more so) help me connect with my feelings in a much more direct way, and put my feelings into context. Maybe that’s the INFJ superpower? Though, honestly, the way you guys rabbit on about “bittersweet this” and “bittersweet that”. (No, just teasing. I love the bittersweet seasons/emotions in life too). 😛
Seriously, though, it’s been great being exposed to so many … fellow introverts! LwL is like some kind of unique classroom environment to me. Maybe we should grab a few crab buckets for our unique classroom? 🙂
Allie 1 says
“I’ve always been very struck (and moved) by your view that you don’t want anyone to take away (or end) your LE for you.”
Just to clarify, if I could wave a magic wand and take my LE away completely, I would do that in a shot! I just would not want someone else (e.g. LO) to make that choice for me – it is about self determination, not about wanting to keep the limerence. I feel as you do, that the intrusive thoughts can be very hard to live with and I would dearly love for them to be gone.
I am an utter devils advocate also! I just can’t help myself sometimes and it often gets me into trouble 🙂
But I am an INFJ, although personally, I do not put great stock in that meaning a anything much about who I am – I am a unique individual, not a personality grouping. I find these such a crude tools.
Update: It looks like tolerance won the day at Cambridge.
Can you bottle some of that and send it this way?
We could use it.
What a wonderful post! Thank you!
It actually reminded me of my upbringing a lot. My parents very much emphasized the “live and let live” philosophy which I believe I have benefitted from quite a lot in my life, because it helps with maintaining boundaries but you also don’t get fazed so much by what other people do. This works perfectly for me except when limerent and the whole concept turn its back on me.
Reflecting on your words, I have decided to take back control and avoid the predictable run-ins with my LO. We have a natural place and time we meet every day (it’s also how we got to know each other) since it’s where our daily routines cross…small town life, I guess. And so far I believed it would make me more of a dependent individual to change my ways to avoid him rather than “put on a brave face” and stick to what I would normally do if I wasn’t limerent. But that’s not really dealing with the situation at hand, is it? Since apparently LE won’t go away by itself, I need to take action. Any tipps other than no/less contact?
Limerent Emeritus says
Tips on low/no contact are buried in a lot of blogs.
I recommend you search the archive for “contact.” You’ll get a bunch of hits.
Thank you! What would I do without you steering me through the page!
On the Lim says
Thank you so much for this
I am sick of the word respect
It’s like a taser used to enforce some kinda what?
Adherence to a flexible policy?
Admiration for Glory?
Asking politely instead of demanding?
A geometric term defining two points on an axis?
Wikipedia has a line saying it is the single most importantly confused word in the world and its misguided use is the cause for all conflict in families
Valleys and Nations
tolerance is the virtue of PERMITTING some action that we don’t personally endorse or wish to instill in our own lives.
Tolerate the MYSTERY is a massive leap forward. Thanks for this.