Reader Jaideux asks
“…is it possible that a limerent subconsciously chooses the unavailable LO (over and over in my case) because of the guaranteed outcome of failure, there is actually less risk?”
A good question!
I think the idea behind it is that limerence for unavailable LOs is a form of self-protection, in that the risk of emotional pain is reduced because the possibility of failure is almost certain. Is this a form of risk avoidance, so that the limerent can soak in the emotional stew of obsession without having to face the hard work of sustaining a real relationship? Is it a way of avoiding the heartache of a good relationship failing, by setting your heart on one that has no chance of success?
It’s possible; absolutely. Choosing an unavailable LO does guarantee that your romantic life is entirely internalised, rather than exposed to the world where it becomes subject to risks. This sort of evasion may particularly suit introverts, avoidant personalities, and limerents that crave the exquisite agony of rumination and longing that is also reassuringly within their control. Imaginary relationships can achieve a fantasy ideal that is impossible in practice.
Choosing (subconsciously or otherwise) unavailable LOs does mean no public risk for the limerent. Life, however, is never risk free, and by fixating on unavailable LOs the limerent simply transfers it: from the overt risk of rejection or a failed relationship, to the covert risk of jeopardising their own psychological wellbeing. Getting trapped in a limerent obsession with an unavailable LO is like revving a car in neutral – you don’t go anywhere and it’s bad for the engine.
So, the simple answer to the question is Yes, but to go a bit deeper, some reflection on the background assumptions underpinning the query throws up all sorts of secondary questions and possibilities that are also worth exploring.
1) Selection bias
A common error in statistical analysis (and logic) is so-called selection bias. The idea is that restricting your enquiries to a limited sample of people (such as those people that filled in your questionnaire, or visitors to a special-interest blog) means you get a very skewed view of the phenomenon that you are investigating. A trite example would be asking the readership of an infidelity forum whether they had problems trusting their partners, and concluding that the incidence of spousal insecurity was at epidemic proportions.
In the context of this question, the selection bias would be subtler, but potentially meaningful. Unavailable LOs are likely to provoke most uncertainty in the limerent, and so heighten the limerence to the max.
Uncertainty is the key fuel in the progression of limerence, and is often amplified by barriers to honest disclosure. Consequently, unavailable LOs (such as those who are married, of incompatible sexual orientation, or emotionally closed) will provide the bestest barriers out there. So, it may not be the case that a limerent “chooses” the unavailable LO, it may be that the unavailability is what causes the limerence to happen. In other words, limerents aren’t emotionally drawn to unavailable LOs because of subconscious fears, it’s that married people who cause the glimmer and hint at reciprocation are the most potent triggers for limerence out there. So, the sense that you always pick unavailable LOs may actually be that unavailable people are the only stimuli strong enough to drive limerence all the way to mad extremes.
2) Time dependence
Another variant on the selection bias theme is the age of the limerent. As we get older, the pool of available contemporaries declines. People marry, or partner up in a non-formal way, decreasing the number of single acquaintances in daily life that could become significant others. Inevitably, that means an increase in the likelihood of falling into limerence with an unavailable LO, simply because the number of unavailable potential LOs that we are exposed to increases. Similarly, of course, if the limerent themselves gets married then all LOs are unavailable, because the limerent is not free to act.
For the single limerents out there who are no longer in the first flush of youth, I don’t mean this as a counsel of despair. There are plenty of good people who find themselves single in midlife and plenty of opportunities to find a new partner – but by simple statistics, there is again a selection bias for unavailability at play if you become limerent for someone in their 30s or older, rather than someone in their 20s.
3) The illusion of perfection
Really? Perfect? The unavailable, unattainable person is your perfect match? As an adolescent, when you dreamed of your romantic future you thought “someone who I can’t bond with openly and honestly is the ideal choice”? Setting aside some sort of religious “transcendent love untainted by the sins of the flesh” perspective on Romance, it’s hard to accept that it’s really anyone’s view of perfection.
I think what this idea really means is that when there are no responsibilities, no compromises, no conflicts, and no consequences, relationships with attractive people we like are easy. Real relationships, of course, are partnerships, tested by disappointments, disagreements, unrealistic expectations, and miscommunication. An excellent friend can make a terrible partner. People are weird.
It may be deeper than this. It may be that actually the limerent has met an LO who does treat them well, make them feel fulfilled and special, and emotionally supported and safe. It may be that these qualities have been missing from the other important relationships in the limerent’s life, but it doesn’t mean that LO is the only person out there that can achieve this level of successful intimacy. People who are good at maintaining relationships are likely to be able to enjoy successful partnerships with many people.
Secure attachment is a virtuous cycle: it means that bonding with others feels normal, and happens naturally. So, it could be that LO is a “perfect” match because they have secure attachments and that is a novelty for the limerent. The good news in that case is that finding another available person who makes stable attachments can give you the same solid basis for a new relationship. The even better news is that if the limerent has a good relationship with LO, odds are good that they themselves have the skill set needed to form good relationships with others.
4) Why purposeful living helps
We end where we often do, with purposeful living. From the perspective of limerence for unavailable LOs, how can taking charge of your life help? Well, there are the obvious benefits of figuring out what you want and how to improve yourself to the point where you can earn it, but there are non-obvious benefits too. Most strikingly, purposeful living changes your approach to risk. If the urge to seek unavailable LOs springs from the risk avoidance, the implication is that fear of rejection, fear of being unable to sustain a lasting bond, or fear of not living up to LO’s expectations, are the driving forces that control your behaviour.
Deciding to change your behaviour, also changes your interpretation of risk. The sting of personal embarrassment is reduced, because your hopes become focussed on larger goals. If you are seeking success in an endeavour you care deeply about (be it romantic, artistic, political, social, or “idiosyncratic other”), fear of rejection – fear of personal shortcomings generally – become less potent. When pursuing a worthwhile life, you lose the habit of worrying about pleasing other people (indiscriminately), worrying about what they think of you in private, and worrying about how it would appear to others if your secret thoughts were revealed.
Bluntly, working towards a larger goal in life makes you less self-centred, and less anxious about comparing yourself to other people and what they are doing with their lives. It also highlights that an infatuation with a person who cannot offer you authentic romantic love is incompatible with maximising your own potential. Unavailable people are not worth the distraction. You do not have time and energy to waste on dead-ends.
If there is a downside to focussing your attention on living your own life to the best of your ability, I haven’t found it yet.
So much genius here! “An excellent friend can make a terrible partner”, the sad delusion of the LO being “perfect match”, seeking success in purposeful living is neutralizing to fear of failure, and so forth. I might need to memorize this installment! Thanks Dr. Limerence!
And this paragraph: just sheer profound poetry.
“Choosing (subconsciously or otherwise) unavailable LOs does mean no public risk for the limerent. Life, however, is never risk free, and by fixating on unavailable LOs the limerent simply transfers it: from the overt risk of rejection or a failed relationship, to the covert risk of jeopardising their own psychological wellbeing. Getting trapped in a limerent obsession with an unavailable LO is like revving a car in neutral – you don’t go anywhere and it’s bad for the engine.”
yes – another excellent article – and very pertinent for me to read re my own limerence!..
LO #2 & LO #4 were both avoidants.
I was in a 5yr relationship with LO #2 that included a declined marriage proposal.
It was only when LO #4’s relationship collapsed and there was a possibility that she was now available that sent things into a spin. It scared the crap out of me. That LO #4 was in a relationship was a factor in assessing her as low risk. I was married, she was in a relationship, and we lived 2500 miles apart, had never met, and had never expressed an interest in actually talking to each other.
What could possibly go wrong?
They were both unsuitable but they were both available.
“The limerent has met an LO who does treat them well, make them feel fulfilled and special, and emotionally supported and safe. It may be that these qualities have been missing from the other important relationships in the limerent’s life, but it doesn’t mean that LO is the only person out there that can achieve this level of successful intimacy.”
Yes this is me!
As my counsellor kept saying, this isn’t about LO but about what LO represents that’s lacking in my life. I’m still working on transferring the openness I had with LO back into my marriage, and keep reminding myself of this on “bad days” when I feel like relapsing.
Thanks for another insightful post Dr L.
“I think the idea behind it is that limerence for unavailable LOs is a form of self-protection, in that the risk of emotional pain is reduced because the possibility of failure is almost certain. Is this a form of risk avoidance, so that the limerent can soak in the emotional stew of obsession without having to face the hard work of sustaining a real relationship? Is it a way of avoiding the heartache of a good relationship failing, by setting your heart on one that has no chance of success?”
If you look at the topic of self-loathing and self-sabotage this pops up regularly, particularly with depression. If you look at Cluster B (DSM-5) one in particular mentions self-loathing.
“Consequently, unavailable LOs (such as those who are married…”
Mate-poaching may be at play too. Basically if someone is ‘good enough’ to be married, then ergo, they are going to make better mates than those who are single. They’ve already demonstrated they are open to making a commitment and persuaded someone to make a commitment to them too.
Good point about mate poaching. It may be that unavailable people are also extra attractive because they have demonstrated their value by successfully securing a mate. Even more insidious – it may be that insecure limerents are especially prone to needing external “validation” of this sort because they doubt their own judgement.
It gets more and more complicated, the deeper you delve into this…
“It may be that unavailable people are also extra attractive because they have demonstrated their value by successfully securing a mate. ”
It may be that, but it’s also the simple idea that people who are already in relationships usually have at least some of their relationship needs met. You don’t pick up the same internalized pressure you sometimes can read from an available person who is telegraphing “pick me, pick me.” It’s the same concept of it being easier to get a job when you have a job. You aren’t going into an interview with the same “hire me, hire me” energy of a person who is unemployed. It makes the unavailable person seem like they have a little bit of game.
In my younger days, when a woman was married/attached, yes, that showed me she was relationship material. And there was no risk (supposedly) to befriend her. When a woman is single, “what’s the matter with her? Why isn’t she with someone (so I can have a risk-free relationship?)”
Since this blog got me thinking about my LOs, another question came up?
Is your role in the relationship with the LO different than your role in your relationship with your SO, if you have one?
In “The best cure for limerence,” DrL says, “I have only ever become limerent for “damsels in distress”. Specifically, women who are bold and confident on the outside, but hiding an emotional wound within.” He and I would be chasing the same women.
One of the interesting things about that is in 3 of the 4 LEs, I saw my role with these “bold and confident” women as their consort. They had something to offer me and they were willing to take me along for the ride. And, there was enough fixer in me to think I could help them be even better. In many respects, the LOs were driving the relationship bus. At least on my end, there was a perceived imbalance in power. I was getting more from them than I thought they were getting from me.
Here’s the kicker. A lot of men chafe at the idea of being a consort to a powerful woman but I kind liked it. When my parents divorced, I was raised by my grandparents. My grandmother was the family matriarch and there was no question of who called the shots. I didn’t see my grandfather as her husband, I saw her as her consort. He was there because she wanted him to be. I don’t think he liked that much and thinking back, he waged a passive-aggressive guerrilla war against her for decades. I didn’t see being the consort of a powerful woman as threatening, I saw it as flattering. If a “bold and confident” woman thought I had something to offer her and was willing to invite me in, I must be doing something right.
I married a woman who didn’t give off the faintest hint of glimmer and our roles are as partners. After meeting my wife, one of my best friends said, “[Wife]” is nothing like LO #2.”
Maybe that’s why it worked.
It took awhile to find, but I knew there was a song for this blog!
This may be the “Anthem for the Unavailable LO:”
Ok, well…if we’re doing Barbra….here’s another limerence-related personal favorite:
These two are associated with a particular XLO of mine but, if you use some imagination, you may be able to apply them across the board.
This is one I used to listen to while I was staring at the ceiling:
I think this is key: “the unavailability is what causes the limerence to happen”. If neither the LO nor the person with Limerence is unavailable then at some point the truth should out, and you get closure either through consummation or rejection. You might not even get to Limerence.
Maybe my view is jaundiced by my own experiences but I was never Limerent for my wife, she left no uncertainty about how she felt. It only came with LO1 after we split up and she started giving me mixed signals about whether she had made the right decision. With LO2 it’s my marriage (and work situation, ok and age gap…) that is causing the uncertainty and therefore the Limerence.
Another one of Tenov’s criteria for limerence is:
“Intensification of feelings by adversity.” – “What is limerence?”
LO1’s leaving seems more adverse than uncertain. You lost access to her and that was a problem. Adversity can contribute to uncertainty.
Marriage, work situation, and age gap are obstacles to your goal, whatever that is. What’s more adversarial to LO2 than your SO?
When viewed as obstacles, two of those three can be removed with enough effort.
There’s a lot of material on uncertainty here but I don’t remember much on adversity.
Well I’m not sure if anyone has had a LO quite this unavailable, how insane is this: I’m almost 76, and LO is only 31! He is also almost 6,000 miles away, in a relationship of course….I had never heard of limerence, but it hit me like a ton of bricks 10 months ago…..how in the world did this happen and why….now how do I get out of it…I want to, but can find every excuse mentioned by Dr. L. not to…..it was supposed to be a European holiday for hubby and I, and look what happened in just one week…….of course LO has no idea, and I have only social media contact….but oh what a hold this beautiful boy has over me….it does help to talk on here, thank goodness for this site….I will expand on the details of what happened if anyone is interested…..I have posted on other pages on this site…
That’s what the place is here for. You get to say things here you may not get to say anywhere else. That’s cool.
Limerents often feel isolation, like they’re the only people in the world this is happening to. DrL talks about it in several blogs. Here you find you’re not the only one.
So this is your first ever limerence episode? Can you think of a time that you may have experienced it with someone else but didn’t know then what it was but now you know? I am curious as to why limerence hits some people for the first time when it does. It seems many of the people on this site are serial limerents. I am not. I made it all the way to midlife and then boom. Life altering. Although I sometimes am reminded of a brief infatuation I had with my wife’s sister years ago. My wife sort of discovered it and confronted me about it. It completely killed the LE and I never felt any other feelings for my sister in law since then. It was so short lived it never developed into what I’m experiencing now.
If you’ve made it 75 years before experiencing limerence for the first time, that’s astonishing.
My Limerent Brain Is An Idiot says
I made it all the way to my early fifties without developing any limerence.
And I’m determined that this LE is a ”one-and-done” experience. I am aware of my vulnerability, now. My wife simply doesn’t give me validation, and I have to learn to be OK with that. And I will never tell her that need–what is the point of demanding compliments?
So when a lovely lady is extremely complimentary to me, I have to flee that situation, or at least be very guarded around her.
Lesson learned the hard way.
I'm Taken says
I made it all the way until I was (a very young 68) without developing limerence. What I would love to know, can limerence be a one-time wonder, or if you have been sensitised to it, will it always re-occur, will you always be vulnerable to it?
That question comes up periodically. Have you read the comments in https://livingwithlimerence.com/2017/03/15/the-best-cure-for-limerence/#comments ? In one of the early blogs, DrL and I had an exchange on that question but I couldn’t find it.
Personally, I don’t believe you will always be vulnerable to it but I spent several years getting to the bottom of mine.
You were working with a therapist on something. It doesn’t seem too surprising that something you weren’t aware of previously was uncovered. One of the therapists I worked said that it’s not uncommon as people get older to revisit things and evaluate them in a different light. What seemed important or profound at 30 may not be important or profound at 60, or vice versa.
Another thing to consider is where we all are in life. I have more past than future. The arc of my life is pretty well set. Now, something could happen that could totally change the arc I have left but I don’t see that happening. At 20, a relatively small decision in your life can make a big difference at 60. At 20, you don’t know how things will play out. At 60, you can get a pretty good idea of how and why things in your life played out the way they did. At middle age, you may hit a crossroad. You have some experience but you can still make really radical changes.
If you see limerence as a kind of disease, can you develop an immunity to it? Is limerence more like the measles where you develop an immunity afterward or like malaria that leaves you vulnerable to relapse? I found it to be more like measles.
I could have another LE but I don’t think I’m going to. My life would have to change so radically that I’d be susceptible again.
Crap, I meant, @I’m Taken.
I'm Taken says
Love your replies – you are very wise about limerence.
I have come to realise that being limerent, although beyond your control initially, can be very selfish – you are just focusing solely on yourself and your LO.
I am Taken, I hope it’s only a one off for me!
I’ve wasted 2.5 yrs of my life pining for my LO, I certainly don’t want to go through this shit again for anyone else.
I'm Taken says
I seem to have lost feelings for my first & only LO. I am hoping it is permanent & this limerence is a one-off wonder as it really knocked me out of whack. I am getting a lovely rescue cat on Thursday and the excitement for that seems to be over-riding my feelings for my LO. Also he didn’t get in touch with me over something when he said he would. He did email me today though, but I didn’t feel anything like the limerent sensations I had felt over the last 3 weeks. It is fading quite rapidly, thankfully, though the blissful feelings were wonderful, they soon took over and dominated everything and became addictive and obtrusive. I am sure Dr L’s FTTF course is helping me tremendously + a new focus on my next lovely cat coming to me, and I can’t rule out the spiritual help I asked for either!!!
I feel quite normal (whatever normal is)!!!
@I’m Taken, that sounds GREAT!! You would be the first case I read about here with such an intense but short lived limerence experience. Probably because you took action very fast after realizing what was happening. Well done!
I'm Taken says
@Emma ~ I’ll keep you posted as to whether this is permanent. I have always been very intense & this experience of limerence seems to have been an extremely short, sharp shock!!!
I'm Taken says
PS Thank you for the link.
im very interested to hear your story @ Maureen. Thank you for sharing
My first LE was when I was 8 years old, most of my (serious) relationships all started with LE (and suffering, fear of abondance etc, love always came with pain) and all my relationships ended because I felt no attraction anymore, nothing, after around 2 years.
My 15 year marriage is now ending because of the same reason (didn’t feel attracted to SO anymore after 3 years but decided to stay because the marriage was not bad and I made a vow. ) but now in a heavy LE , and the desire for passion, freedom (the irony my LE is anything but” free”) and the physical love is so incredibly overwhelming, I want to act on it. I know it probably, most likely will not last but I prefer the pain over a life without passion. I’m doubtful if I have to tell LO that I’m a limerent, it will not sound very appealing ” hey buy the way, this super crazy deep love we are feeling for each other is actually an illusion from my part and I will probably leave you in 2 years, cheers!” But it also feels kind of wrong not to tell LO.
On the other hand, dont all relationships have a
change to fail, feelings can change even if you are not an limerent.
I hope my LE will transfer in an other kind of love someday but till than I will never get married again.
I am always Limerent for unavailable women. Now that I am in my 40s the Limerence is worse because I don’t think I will find anyone. The less they care about me the more into them i am. I could text my lo 5 times. She could ignore it 4 times. Then she’ll respond and it’s the greatest excitement. The Limerence just gets worse. There are no other women. The lo winds up being the hottest woman on the planet.
Vicarious Limerent says
It’s funny, Tim, because I have thought that exact thing about my LO. I sometimes refer to her as the “sexiest woman alive,” when I know she isn’t. The thing is she is that for me right now anyway. We just have to realize these are illusions and our minds playing tricks on us. Good luck in finding someone suitable and available!
Cindy Miller says
Hi, so happy to find this help.
After 30 years, I need to confess to my
Limerence behaviour… I feel better & I have this song https://youtu.be/yrPCIXnefLU
Hi Cindy, and welcome. Thanks for the message, and the tune!
Cindy Miller says
DRLIMERENCE thanks for the welcome. Please let me make confession #2 someone professional director me to the book, How to break your Addiction to a person, by Howard M. Halpern & it’s in the book limerent Attachment & googled & found this community.30 years as a one night stand to LO, the only way I hung in there was my different imagination or mindset, D/s. Outing myself but I was submissive to LO who was not a D/s so I could keep my addiction/ Limerence going on & on & on… LoL! Thanks again.
Cindy Miller says
Tracking down my unavailable LO in the 90’s, He entered a venue to a sold out show,https://youtu.be/VJTjsVSzQ1Q, I didn’t have a ticket, next minute security throws a intoxicated man outside. I spotted his ticket in his shirt & Snatched it, security let me in…in my desperation then, I didn’t help him or put the man a taxi & I didn’t focus on the concert, I was to busy trying to spot my LO …No consciousness of my action back then just a selfish path I was gripped in.
Just reflecting & sharing my Limerence experience to know..
Do you love me..! Lol.
Cindy Miller says
Bottom line. Vulnerable as I feel I wish I could delete my posts & past & All the madness , but unfortunately I can’t.
I am one year No contact with my LO. Thanks again & will continue to read here, live with mindfulness & balance & purpose to resolve my tangled mind. I need to give my self-compassions to be free https://youtu.be/j8h-Ltha_9w