It’s an unhappy truth that limerence is worst when you’re unhappy. Limerence can often start during a time of of trial: when you are exhausted, overwhelmed, stressed, lonely, grieving, or depressed. It’s also more likely that if you are already limerent, the craving for LO will be strongest during periods of emotional hardship.
Anecdotally, this is familiar:
“I had a really bad day today, and texted LO as soon as I got home. That’s no contact wrecked.”
“I really missed her, and spent all afternoon stalking her on Facebook.”
“Everything was going wrong and then he called and I couldn’t resist…”
Why? Well, it’s easy to make an analogy with a smoker or alcoholic craving their poison of choice under the same circumstances, and I think that is a useful way in to understanding why we seek LO during times of sadness. Basically, we use limerence for mood regulation.
It’s an attempt to self-medicate. Limerent reward is a comforting mechanism that always used to work well, is readily available (especially in the case of reverie), and overpowers other thoughts and concerns. The impulse is pretty clear: when stressed, depressed or upset, our brains seek comfort. Negative mood is an aversive state, by definition. It feels awful. So we seek escapes, we seek relief, we seek ways to counteract the low mood. And as limerents, we have repeatedly trained ourselves that there is one particular habit that gives excitement, hope and reward – seeking LO.
This is a very unsophisticated mood-regulating strategy, of course. It’s our lizard brains taking charge, and ignoring the fact that we now have a much more nuanced and wise understanding of the harms of limerence. We may have learned that those past pleasures are no longer effective, but that doesn’t stop us wanting them. In fact, we may even have a plan for limerence withdrawal, may have been methodically making progress with no contact, and have a very clear intellectual understanding of the fact that limerence will cause far more long-term harm to us than any short-term benefits from a mood boost. But when we’re struggling, expecting our lizard brains to carefully weigh all that nuance is somewhat naive.
This is a problem. Beyond the fact that it is obviously keeping us trapped in limerence, there is an even worse outcome: it’s a vicious cycle for wrecking your mood even further.
If you’ve reached the point where you have recognised that limerence is unhealthy for you, you are likely to come out of these relapse periods feeling worse than ever. Even if you managed to secure some fleeting and shallow relief from LO contact, once it passes, you have to face your recovery setback. This usually comes with some shame, anger, self-loathing, or just plain sadness and regret. Obviously, that can exacerbate the depressed mood that started the whole thing, and make you want to seek some relief…
It’s a horrible cycle: helplessly seeking comfort from a behaviour that is actually making things even worse.
What can be done?
One of the principles of this site is that even if we feel helpless, we aren’t. There is always action we can take, always options we can choose, even if the steps are modest and initially tentative. The first and most important step is to find better, healthier strategies for mood regulation. We all of us will hit rough patches in life. They are unavoidable. So we should experiment with other mood regulators that can give comfort when the “black dog” comes to visit. Some good examples:
- Listening to uplifting music
- Watching films
- Spending time with friends
- Spending time in nature
- Perpetrating bad art (especially if it gets better)
- Lifting weights
- Daydreaming about a better life
The second step can be linked to these alternate mood-enhancers: find new hobbies and interests. Novelty is rewarding, and arousing, and if you can find a new project that is fulfilling you are far less likely to fall back into old habits and routines. Distraction can seem like an evasion, but it certainly works to disrupt established patterns of behaviour that are keeping you trapped. You need to get out of the rut of circling back to LO when bored or sad, and throwing yourself into new hobbies and adventures is a good way to shake things up.
The third step is to be wise to your limitations. It is hardest to muster the willpower to resist the LO craving when you are depressed, so you have to plan for what you will do ahead of time when your mood is better. Try to identify the triggers that make you most vulnerable to LO-seeking. Is it loneliness? Is it abandonment anxiety? Is it insecurity? If you can spot the triggers you can anticipate times of vulnerability and protect yourself. Deploy your new tools.
If you frequently get lonely on a friday night, sitting at home with a box of chocolates and LO on speed dial, join a friday night Argentine tango club and step and pivot the loneliness away.
And that brings us to the final point. The universal solution. The panacea of LwL: purposeful living.
There’s really only one lasting cure for low mood, and that’s finding something that makes you want to keep going even when you feel bad. Finding a purpose, a goal you care about, a vision of what your life could be like if you took control of your destiny. That shift in mindset moves you from a state of passive dependency to one of active motivation.
Living with purpose means you stop depending on LO for comfort, stop following their lead, stop letting their behaviour dictate your mood. When your energy is focused on achieving something worthwhile that you care about, the need for mood regulation decreases, along with the appeal of shallow gratification. When life has a solid foundation, you no longer lean on unhealthy crutches.
Unshackle yourself from the false comfort of LO. Seek out new passions, new rewards, new directions to take your life in. Find a new northstar, and follow it to freedom.
This is very helpful for where I am right now Dr L. I find early evening – a time when I’m tired, hungry & a little cranky that I start to want an LO fix. (In the recovery community the acronym HALT is often used to assess why you suddenly crave your addiction – are you hungry, angry, lonely or tired? Addressing those healthily – eat something, do some deep breathing, reach out to a friend, get your jammies on – can sometimes remove the craving.
I’ve also used music recently as a limerence enabler – songs about doomed romances & thwarted lovers. It provides the perfect backdrop to LO reverie. I’m planning on switching to some intellectually stimulating podcasts in the car instead.
One caution I’d maybe highlight for myself is to pick one or two max improved behaviours to inhibit limerence. If I decide to meditate daily, go to the gym, eat healthily and write my gratitude journal for eg – invariably it’s too much, I fail and end up feeling rubbish again. So I’m planning on starting with podcasts and getting back to meditation (will be interested to see if I can do this without the mind flicking back to LO).
I’m in an odd place at the moment, as my 6yr old son has just undergone major surgery. What surprised me, once I eventually had some headspace, was I didn’t resort to limerent revere as a coping strategy. I’m guessing that is progress.
I also thought LO was blocked on Facebook, but turns out he was just unfriended. A close relative of mine still works at the same place (different department) as LO and seems to have said something about what was going on, as whilst my son was in theatre I got around to looking at messages and discovered I had one from LO – in much the same time/style as some of my female friends – just sending best wishes as a friend and to let him know if he could help in any way.
What surprised me there was how little I felt about it, no high feelings but no (distinguishable) lows either. Just a “Oh that’s kind”.
Is this likely to be because my head’s already in a mess so distracted? Or because SO and I are unusually close at the moment? (I’m wondering if I should have told SO about the message, but couldn’t see what good would have come of doing that.)
Don’t over think your LO, focus on your son.
I hope everything goes well!
Sophie: “Is this likely to be because my head’s already in a mess so distracted? Or because SO and I are unusually close at the moment? ”
I think it’s true that LE has less control over our brains when our thoughts and emotions are forced to be where we really know they should be. In your current situation, caring for your son and bonding with your SO for this parental need.
Do not tell your SO about text from LO, definitely not now during this traumatic time for both of you with your sons surgery (I assume by this you’ve told SO about feelings for LO).
Sending prayers for your son’s full recovery.
Thank you all. He’s doing well considering.
@Bob yes, I completely disclosed to SO before I quit the job. I disclosed because I knew I wanted to improve things with SO but he didn’t see there was a problem. Since then we’ve had marriage counseling and things have improved massively. So in that instance it was worthwhile. In this situation it would add stress and insecurity to one that’s already stressful (but not as bad as it would have been if we’d been faced with it a year or two ago) I haven’t and don’t intend to say anything. NC has been resumed.
Wishing your son a speedy recovery. Sounds to me like you’ve made massive progress judging from your reaction to your LOs message. Take that as a win. 🙌
I think it’s a great sign that your brain is learning the right lessons. Your focus is on SO and your son, and you are appropriately responding to LO as a peripheral distraction. Go with it. Reinforce that (correct) perspective by continuing as you are, and keep building and enjoying the closeness with your husband.
A silver lining to a rough period. Wishing your son a full recovery.
Thank you for this post. And the site in general. So insightful and very, very helpful!
The concept of limerence is new to me, although I’ve known for years that the way I fell in love was unhealthy and addictive. It all makes sense now – and by knowing the monster, I find myself able to fight it.
No wonder I have been using LO fantasies to lift my mood. I was a lonely child and grew up in a family with very little affection, feeling like I was invisible most of the time. Of course I fantasized about being loved, appreciated and really seen. And it lifted my mood.
I brought the isolation and fear of not being lovable with me into adulthood, falling in love only when pretty sure it couldn’t possibly lead to a secure, intimate relationship. And then I fed off the fantasies to comfort myself. As I said to my therapist, I only needed the smallest grain of reciprocation to cultivate a fully fledged love affair in my mental petri dish at home.
I thought I comforted myself. But how I’ve made me suffer!
I feel ready to bond in a healthy way now. Going slow, looking to find an actual match for me. But I also worry a little – what if a new LO turns up when I’m in a calm, loving relationship? I hope I’ll be able to see it for what it is. All siren song and painful highs. Losing myself, basically.
Thanks for your comment, and welcome!
It sounds like you’ve done a lot of good work already on getting to the root of your limerence triggers. Your worry is understandable – I guess it comes down to who you become limerent for. If your typical LO is emotionally avoidant, and makes you feel insecure (which might match the pattern of your family background) then that would likely be incompatible with a calm, loving relationship. In which case, LOs are best avoided as potential partners. You may have to deal with limerence for someone else after forming a healthy bond with a good partner, that’s true, but… we all have to face that prospect. In fact this site exists because of that exact scenario!
So, I guess I’m saying, it’s possible, but it’s also manageable.
Good luck and best wishes in your search for a worthy partner!
Yep. Limerence is a direct consequence of being unable to regulate one’s moods and emotions healthily. For me anyway. Anyone else here been looking into Borderline PD and/or c-PTSD? Not diagnosed yet, but so many of the BPD key traits sound horribly familiar to me…
There are more than a few posts about BPD and personality disorders in general on the site but nothing specifically dedicated to them. I have two professional opinions that LO #2 was either a borderline or a narcissist. The one professional that actually knew LO #2 when we were dating said she exhibited symptoms of PTSD and NPD. One therapist I worked with said, “You’ve convinced me she’s a borderline, quit trying to convince yourself she isn’t.”
Have you looked at some of the really early blogs? You have to get to them from the Blog link via the menu. Some of the best stuff is there but it’s not easy to find.
Oops…there is one related to PDs.
I am convinced my LO is a high functioning quiet borderline. Didn’t realize it until Lee prompted me on this site. “Classic” bpd didn’t fit, but the “quiet version” of it, internalizing everything fit perfectly and made all of a sudden sooo much sense.
Today I had a first talk with a therapist, that was a disaster. I told her I was a limerent, she never heard of it and reacted very sceptical, hostile almost, she told me I more likely have an attachment problem, which I’m not sure off. I doubt that to be honest, she told me I was not open for therapy and I left unfinished business.
I’m afraid it’s rare to find a therapist who knows limerence.
Now I’m in doubt to maybe go along with the attachment theorie because my relationships always end after a few years ( of LE) when I loose my sexual desire.
Or maybe this is just something I have to live with..
Any wisdom Dr L?
Find a new therapist.
Attachment issues and limerence are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Personally, I think co-dependence and limerence have the same origins and where you drop depends on how your self-esteem develops. All things being equal, if you come out of childhood somewhat whacked and with fragile self-esteem, you tilt toward co-dependence. If you come out of childhood somewhat whacked but with your self-esteem relatively intact, you tilt limerent. But, that’s just my theory. Have you read DrL’s https://livingwithlimerence.com/2018/05/21/limerence-and-emotional-attachment/ ?
My EAP counselor had never heard of limerence either and labeled me a co-dependent. But, her attitude was if it made sense to me, supported doing the right thing, and helped me, she was all for it. Co-dependence didn’t explain the real life dynamics of my LEs but limerence did, in spades. A therapist can help but you may have to forge your own path on this one. Some things may make sense to you and others may not. This has a good explanation of the difference between co-dependence and limerence,http://www.andreaharrn.co.uk/co-dependent-limerent/ . Some therapists don’t like you driving your own bus the the good ones will.
Don’t give up!
Thank you so much Scharnhorst, I feel a little desperate in seeking help, no one seems to know what to do with me within our dutch healthcare system. And meanwhile the LE is so exhausting.
But co depending sounds plausible and workable.
I’m not going to give up.
I’ve been to Amsterdam once and I spent a week in Almelo on business. I tried to learn a little Dutch but all I remember is,
“Waar word ik van bechuldigd?’
“Ik heb het niet gedaan.”
“Hiz was het!”
I pick up accents pretty quickly. I’d pop off some phrase I’d memorized and some people thought I really spoke Dutch and would start talking to me in it. As long as they stuck close to one of the expected responses in the phrase book, I was ok but if it wasn’t I’d shrug and they’d switch back to English. My Dutch business associates thought I was a riot.
One of the hotel clerks was visibly pregnant. I looked at the phrase book and the next time I stopped at the desk, I asked, “Is dit je eestre kindje?” I got it was the second child and I think it was going to be a boy since those were about the only two words I recognized in her reply.
Like Steven Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.” Go with what works for you. 🙂
On a lighter note:
Limerence can be overwhelming. But, remember Rule #52, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help…”
Clip of the Day – “Zombieland: Doubletap” (2019) I’ve watched this movie twice in the last 4 weeks.
…and hope your LO isn’t a “T-800.”
Agree with Scharnhorst…find a new therapist, not all are made equal.
From a personal point of view, I got through childhood with no particular issues, have a secure attachment style, have high self worth and have never been co-dependent. In fact, before my LE, I would have said I am mentally and emotionally very healthy. But I have always been a romantic (“in love with love”), I daydream way too much and my life was a little flat – I think that is what made me susceptible to limerence.
Maybe tell your next therapist that you have an addiction i.e. person/love addiction? Liken it to gambling addiction as I think that is similar. Might result in a better targeted therapy.
Wishing you luck in finding someone suitable!
Thank you Allie,
I’ve always thought I was quite stable mentally too, except when I loved, than I totally lost it , and it seems to get worse with age. But indeed I don’t want to put disorders on me that I do not have.
I found a new therapist today and she is at least willing to read about Limerence, she already knew the term. Hopefull!
Good luck, am interested to hear how it goes. I also meant to add that I always lose my sexual desire after about 3 years too. I married my SO at the 3 year point and the whirlwind of wedding, house renovations and kids distracted me for the last 14 years but I now feel like I am missing out. I think many couples feel like this. I love SO and we are affectionate but zero desire – contentment, familiarity and routine have killed that dead. Might try sex therapy after lockdown but kinda feels like I am trying to force myself to want him when I don’t. Maybe LE sex is so good limerents struggle to accept ordinary marital sex?
I hear you Allie! It’s the main reason I’m divorcing my SO after 15 years, we have a really good marriage, but 12 years without feeling any desire is too much, I miss it more and more, feels like i have a body and I don’t use it anymore for pleasure. And I knew no sex therapist in the world would bring it back. It was just gone, unfortunately. The therapist today ( the one I almost got in a fight with ) told me people with attachment problems need the dramatic sex instead of the marriage sex like you said, I’m not sure she is right, I’ve also read that it’s just nature’s cruel trick it plays on woman that woman mostly want sex when in love and after it fades. That sounds kind of pessimistic but I tend to believe in my case it’s true.
You definitely need to find a new therapist, Mia! Some see everything through their preferred lens (disordered attachment, co-dependency, sexual repression, etc.) and are determined to fit their clients into the box. Yours sounds downright rude!
Re. sex in marriage – I wrote a post on limerence and libido a while ago which could be interesting. Basically, I think a lot of limerents associate the heightened libido during limerence as “authentic desire”. When the limerence fades, the lust for LO goes too, and the sex dies.
I think this topic is worth a new post…
” ik heb het niet gedaan”. ( I didn’t do it) is always handy to know 🙂
Thank you for the light note and smile ! You contribute very much on this site for your fellow limerent!
So does that mean you’re basically doomed for maintaining a satisfying sekslife for a long period when you’re an limerent? And your relationship started with limerence? Isn’t there anything one can do?
I would love to read your post on libido and LE Dr L.
I don’t want to have to chance my partner every 3 years because the desire dies! More stuff to talk about in therapy!
Mia I highly recommend you read an Esther Perrel book “Mating in Captivity”. This lady really seems to understand eroticism & desire, and what a highly individual thing this can be. She doesn’t dole out the usual couples therapy advice about increasing marital intimacy, scheduling it in, etc. I found it a very refreshing read.
She also did a Ted talk on the subject: https://www.ted.com/talks/esther_perel_the_secret_to_desire_in_a_long_term_relationship?language=en.
Nope. Esther is an advocate for infedelity under the pretext of “we all need sexual gratification.” Fuck her rhetoric. I’m sure her ted talks destroyed many marriages.
Thank you Allie, LO is a big fan of the book, he read with his ex girlfriend that’s why I didn’t read it yet, too much emotions, but I will put my big girl pants on and read it. 🙂
I do find limerence changes with my mood – if I’m anxious it’ll go round my head in a desperate loop. If I’m depressed all seems hopeless and that he’s the only one who can rescue me. If I’m relaxed it’s just there as a background disappointment. It’s been 8 months since I met LO and 7 months since I went NC. It seems to be gradually lessening, though can come back with a vengeance at times!
Finding this site has been a God send. My story is the same as most:
* Unresolved issues in my marriage.
* Sexless marriage
* Stress in professional life
* Financial issues
Hence, I was ripe for Limerence. I met my LO searching for a sugar baby and/or started as an arrangement/mistress for pay (Glorified prostitution0. I graduated to this after the unfulfilling chase to ease pain through prostitutes.
Once my feelings for the LO grew unexpectedly. I was like “what is this?” She’s, in so many words a Prostitute. Yet I’m developing feelings.
Long story short Dr. Google led me to the Limerence channel and WOW. That’s me! This was a month ago. if nothing else, I know what I have now. That’s been comforting in and of itself!!
And, the more I research and study LE I’m almost convinced that my LO has been purposely and intently manipulating me into my limerence with all the classic signs of being my slot machine and jacking up my reward system; love bombing; unpredictable; etc..
But yes, my mood regulation is definitely the easy fix of illicit sex and chasing my LO. Now that the LO chase is more pain than pleasure I gotta get over this thing.
What do you do when your LO is a new friend that you actually really love and admire? She is married to a man (25 years) and I am straight, and I developed this platonic crush on her which I disclosed to her, and she told me she feels the same way. Neither of us is interested in sex, but we feel romantic towards each other and sometimes hold hands. It’s very confusing and I feel like I want to be her partner, but obviously she already has one. Do I need to break off the friendship? That seems so extreme, but I’m having a hard time always thinking about her and missing her. Surely I can get this under control on my own?