Submitted: My Limerence and Advice

*All submitted stories are shared anonymously.

This is an overview of my limerence experience and the steps I took to overcome it.

My story, like everyone’s I guess, is long and complicated. The short version is I’m a 50+ executive and I became limerent for a female intern that came to work for us right out of a nearby Christian college. I’m also a Christian. I was her mentor and something clicked between us. I didn’t let it become physical or even romantic, but I became hopelessly infatuated before I realized what was happening. I certainly thought about a physical relationship and had she offered, I think I might have given in. It’s scary to think about how my life would have fallen apart had I given in. The infatuation got worse and worse over six months till I thought I was going to lose my mind. I was in hell and thought I had no way out.

I finally worked up the nerve to confide in a very close female friend, who is also a minister to the aged at a local church. I’ve known her for 30 years in a purely platonic way and she is a long-time friend of my wife and me, so I trust her completely. She listened and then kindly gave me the swift kick in the @ss that I needed to do something. Even then, I dilly-dallied for another three weeks while I worked up the nerve to talk to my wife. We took a long walk and after a lot of talking around the subject (I was terrified) I disclosed to my wife of 26 years. To my shock, she simply accepted it as a problem we needed to solve and took that attitude that, if I was coming to her with it, then I valued her more than the LO. I’m still amazed at her acceptance and forgiveness. I love her more every day as a result.

With the support of my lovely wife, I began to dig my way out of limerence. It took more than ten months to finally get to a point that I felt it was no longer controlling my life. Now, more than two years from when it began, I’m about 99.9% over it and much, much happier. As you might imagine, there are many more details to the story, but I won’t bore you with them now.
Some Observations
Much of the limerence experience is the same from person to person, but each of us comes from a different starting point (personality, existing relationships, preferences, life history, etc), so the recovery process is little different for each person. Overcoming it is definitely a process–almost an evolving process with stages along the way, at least for me. I had little insights and epiphanies about limerence, my desires, my preferences, contributing factors, habits, etc as I dealt with my limerence. Those were pretty important milestones because they suggested I was making progress, but they also gave me a new platform for recognizing the next step. What worked for me may not be the perfect solution for someone else, but nearly everything I did came from an idea or feedback from some other person.

From what I can tell, there doesn’t seem to be a one-time fix. It’s more like a long process of healing–at least it was for me. Oftentimes, the steps of the “cure” you are trying feels as painful as the limerence and it seems like you aren’t making any progress much of the time when in fact you are healing inside. It’s kind of like dieting–part of the time you see results on the scale and part of the time you don’t, but if you stick with it, the results come. Fighting limerence reveals a lot about your deepest weaknesses and underlying issues. Ultimately, that’s a good thing I suppose, but it often feels like you’ve had open heart surgery without anesthesia.

One key point is that, you don’t have to do everything at once. You are fighting a war of attrition that has many battles. Start with what you can do now and phase in other steps along the way. Try to step outside your emotions and observe how you react to various situations and actions. I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here and let you dive in.

My Suggestions, Advice to Overcome Limerence
1. Cut off contact with your LO as much as possible. It’s hard, but it’s really important. Why? The main reason is that contact with LO stimulates your limerence. Contact with LO just re-energizes your emotional ties. By the way, if you slip up, just dust yourself off, forgive yourself and go back to your plan. Contact means every kind of contact. You’ll do well to cut off all social media contact, too. No texting, no searching for pictures, etc. I often say that, for a limerent person, Facebook is of the devil. It’s just too easy to get a quick fix of LO and find yourself back on the emotional roller coaster.

2. You need to work to break the habit of thinking/obsessing/fantasizing about LO. I’ll hit the high points here, but this is a MAJOR part of dealing with limerence, so don’t skip over it. Habits are all about triggers that stimulate an action which leads to a reward. In the case of limerence, something (a trigger) will cause you to think of LO (the action) which will bring you pleasure (the reward). First, identify as many as possible of the triggers that stimulate your obsessive thinking about LO. There will probably be a lot of them if you’ve been limerent for very long. For example, you may associate LO with a particular song. You need to stop listening to that song while you are limerent. The key is to take a way as many things that trigger your limerent thoughts. You may have to change some of your routines. For those triggers that you can’t take away, you need to work at substituting another action to break the habit. I found that substituting another pleasurable thought or fantasy in place of thinking about LO sometimes worked. Breaking these habits is a long-term effort. It’s not about being perfect, but just breaking down your habitual thinking about LO. There are two good books that I read that might help: “The Power of Habits” and “The Willpower Instinct.” As I said, this was a critical step for me and I could write a whole book about it.

3. It helped me to think of limerence as a creature – sometimes called the limerbeast – that you are battling for control of your mind and emotions. The limerbeast is big and strong and living comfortably in your brain like a hookworm (I envisioned a dragon for what it’s worth), so it’s virtually impossible to fight it head-on. I found that the best way to fight it was by small acts of defiance, such as: distracting myself from thinking about LO for a few minutes, resisting the urge to text LO, not looking at her, etc–kind of mental guerilla warfare. I envisioned each little act of defiance putting a dart into the beast. You’ll know when the dart goes in because the beast will react badly to the defiance. Over time those little darts take a toll on the beast and you can fight harder. It also makes fighting limerence a little more fun because you have a tangible enemy to target.

4. You need some common sense rules to guide you when your limerent desire is really heated up. One rule of thumb for me was: If I want to do something related to LO, it is usually a bad idea. If I don’t want to do something related to LO, it is usually a good idea to do it. It’s nice to have rules like that to fall back on when limerence skews your thinking and feelings. Limerence causes very, very strong emotions and your desires seem totally justified because they come from within and are so intense. But, those emotions really aren’t based on reality–they are based on a lie (that LO is the perfect fit for you and will meet all your needs). At the height of my limerence, my emotions pushed me to want to give up my wife for LO, even though my LO (like yours) doesn’t hold a candle to my lovely wife. I knew that, no matter how I felt, that was wrong and, because I had some non-emotional principles to fall back on, I was able to resist the urge to throw my wife away for LO. Having some good things to calibrate to helps you from doing crazy things.

5. Your limerbrain probably sees LO as perfect, idealized, even godlike. Your rational brain knows LO is not perfect, but your rational brain is pushed into a corner by all your intense emotions. One way to visualize it is to imagine the limerbeast has taken over your brain and pushed your rational brain and normal emotions into a corner where they are cowering. Give your rational brain a fighting chance to bring common sense back into play. Make a list of LO’s flaws. Look at it every now and then to remind yourself that LO is not a god. It may take time for it to sink in, but it will eventually.

6. It seems like limerence often feeds on low self-esteem and past hurts. There are lots of ways to work on that. One simple and free way is to make a list of all the things that are good about yourself. Don’t hold back. You a good person, made in the image of God. You really are. Make the list and take joy in your good attributes. Read it daily and add to it. No one else has to see it but you.

7. Pray fervently. I’m a Christian. The fact is, God exists and he cares about you whether you believe in him or not. Even if you don’t believe in God, just humor me and tell God about your limerence in detail. It’s okay to cry, scream, pound the table, etc. There is nothing you can say that God hasn’t heard–he created the universe for goodness’ sake. He understands and wants nothing more than to have an intimate relationship with you. If you want a good book, get “Jesus Calling” and read the short daily message each day. God will help you, but understand that he helps on his schedule for reasons that you and I can’t understand, but that are ultimately right. I look back now and see that God did indeed help me, but he did it very slowly and deliberately mainly because I was so stubborn and such a blockhead. I don’t believe God made me limerent, but I do believe he allowed it to happen because of my foolishness. If nothing else, I needed to really hit rock bottom before I would put the work in to get my marriage on track. The thing is, my marriage was pretty good, but I had been lazy and sloppy as a husband. Fighting and overcoming limerence helped me become much better as a husband and father.

8. Use the wonderful people on The Limerence Experience Tribe for advice, comfort, insight, etc. I’ve found that reading and commenting on other people’s limerence has given me much greater insight into my own limerence. You might also want to keep a journal of your feelings and experiences along the journey. It helps to note what works, what is hard, what you learn, etc.

9. Ultimately, limerence is about you, not LO. That may seem crazy at first, but I can assure you that it is true. Limerence is your psychological response to an unmet emotional need or hurt. You very likely have more than one needs or hurt that is creating a gap in you and feeding your limerence. Those things may go back years in the past, even to childhood, and you may not even recognize them. It’s often hard to see what our personal gaps are because they have become so integral to our thought patterns and life assumptions. You may also have some habits or other behaviors that make you more susceptible to limerence. I certainly did. Some people on Tribe feel it is best to address those gaps and needs from the very beginning. I found it difficult personally to delve too deeply into those things until I had made some progress dealing with the emotional symptoms and habits I had. That may have been the slow way, but it felt right to me, so I focused on the immediate issue of limerence and waited to delve into my past hurts. It took me ten months to get the emotions under control to the point I felt I was no longer limerent. I did learn some things about my emotional hurts along the way, but I didn’t make that my primary emphasis. During that time I saw a psychologist for a while (for CBT) and then a Christian marriage counselor (who I found to have a better perspective on relationship issues). Eventually, as I got my limerence emotions under control I began to see where my limerence was coming from and how to deal with it. It isn’t easy even now to peel back the scabs, but I’m no longer helpless or an emotional basket case. Others here will tell you to dig into your psyche to figure out where your limerence comes from. Nothing wrong with that approach if you can do it. If you feel you are spinning your wheels, I’d suggest dropping that for a while and dealing with the limerence symptoms again.

10. Counseling and therapy can help. The right therapist is important as previously note. As mentioned, I had a wonderful female psychologist who practices Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (if you are interested, read the book “Feeling Good” by Dr. David Burns) and that helped for a while with my depression, but eventually I concluded that I wasn’t making any more improvement when it came to limerence. I then switched to a Christian marriage counselor on the basis that she would probably know more about dealing with infatuation and romantic relationships. She was and is terrific, although she came at the problem from a different angle than I expected. As it turned out, it worked. I’m seeing her now to work on the underlying issues that feed my depression and set me up for limerence.

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Cathartic Apologizing

Sometimes things go wrong in limerence. Maybe a disclosure led to no contact or your nervous behavior was off-putting to your LO. Even more likely, your limerbrain has convinced you that LO is mad about something, anything. You don’t know what, but you must have done or said something. (Damn it! I used too many exclamation marks in that last text! I knew it!) This leads to the urge to apologize.

Apologizing to your LO for an unknown cause is not good. It is odd. I have done it and I promise you, you will feel worse after apologizing and finding out they were never upset to begin with. I imagine it made me seem overly sensitive or overly emotional.

Apologizing to end NC is not a good way to get over your limerence. If the urge seems overwhelming, I recommend writing out the apology, but do not send it to them. If it helps, post it online, but where they won’t see is. Share it in a limerence group. Post it in Craigslist “Missed Connections” section. Getting the feelings out there is very cathartic.

My experience revolves around one of my first limerent objects. All contact had to be stopped. My life went from seeing LO during the day and talking to him every single night until I went to bed to absolute zero. I still saw him during the day, but I could not talk to him. It was an absolutely miserable time for me. I felt the need to apologize, but how when I couldn’t talk to him?

I ended up writing it out and posting it as “Note” on Myspace (yeah, it was way back in the day).  I am sharing it here now in case it can help anyone with a similar issue.

If I had known to begin with that I was going to lose you completely, friendship and all, I never would have asked you your name. I would not have said a thing to you, not looked at you, not given you a second thought. But I did not know. And now that is how you are treating me. I’m sorry she got upset. I never wanted to mess up anything between you two. You know that. I said it before.

You’re so damn smart and I felt like I could ask you anything and you would know the answer. I don’t know who to go to now.

You were having issues and I tried to help. I worried about you (still do) and was willing to brain storm with you to better things.

I loved just talking to you and not just about stupid stuff, but about your work, your day, my day, my work, science, religion, lifestyles, whatever! It didn’t matter. I could carry on an intelligent conversation with you.

Now you won’t speak to me. You probably won’t even look at me.

I’m sorry. I cannot say it enough. I’m sorry I can’t change time. Sorry I kept you awake last night when you were tired. Sorry that I even care this damn much. Sorry that it ever started. Sorry that we got so close. But more then anything, I’m sorry that now I don’t have my friend.

(klyb)

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What Causes Limerence?

What causes limerence? There is actually a simple answer. Could it help you learn how to look for the signs of a potential LO, learn to avoid situations that could lead to limerence? No, it is not that simple of an answer. More often than not, a person learns about limerence when it’s too late…when they are in the throes of the whirlwind.

Are certain people more prone to experience limerence?

There are a few characteristics that seem to come up more often than others. Having one or more of these characteristics may mean you are more prone to limerence, but it is not a for sure thing. Likewise, not having any of these does not mean you will not experience it.

General Characteristics

  • Introvert
  • Unstable/Dysfunctional Early Family Life
  • Depression
  • Personality Disorder
  • Creative
  • Active Imagination
  • Low Self-Esteem

These are just a few qualities that seem to be brought up often among limerence sufferers

Knowing what might cause a person to be more prone to limerence gives us some insight into what causes limerence to develop. Despite the person a limerent is interested in being called the limerent “object”, the limerence itself has little to nothing to do with that person.

A limerent person craves validation. This is why the episode is not about the LO. No matter how much we want it, validation has to come from within ourselves. For the majority of people, that is a constant life struggle. It’s one of the reasons limerence affects so many. It would be so much easier if this person who walked into our lives could just say, “Hey. You’re awesome. In fact, you are so awesome that we should be together,” and magically your life is better.

That is not how life works.

The desire for that self-validation can be seen in the LOs we choose. LOs are usually self-confident, vibrant people. They are successful in life. They are comfortable with themselves.

My belief is that when these types of people give us personal attention, that is when limerence starts to take seed. The things that we wish about ourselves is right there in front of us in that person, that person who {gasp} perhaps even likes us. Could it be?

I won’t go too much into how we view the LOs since that will be a different article, but suffice it to say we put them on a pedestal at a height that they could never truly reach.

Even people who aren’t in limerence can be struggling for validation, in their job, their marriage, as a parent, as a human. Limerence is merely one form of dealing with that.

What you need to do is find out how you will deal with your limerence. Some people just live with it. Some struggle to get out of it. Some actually seem to enjoy it (though this is usually only in the beginning). Still others choose to focus on themselves and make themselves emotionally stronger so they do not need their LO. None of these options are wrong or right. Whatever helps you through is what you need to do. Do what feel right for you and makes you feel better regarding the situation.

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The Sudden LO

I mentioned in the explanation, “What Is Limerence?” that it can develop over time or come on suddenly. This is my experience with the latter.

I had a situation that I needed to hire someone to deal with and to teach me along the way how to continue with the situation. (Yeah, it’s vague, but I would be so embarrassed if he ever actually knew.) The search began for someone with the expertise to do those things. That is when I met Kyle*.

Before I actually met him, I got to see Kyle work and see how he handled clients and how they reacted to him. He was good at his job and the clients seemed to adore him. That was a good start. I usually don’t like meeting new people, but he made me feel very at ease and welcome. He walked me around his place of business, explaining how he worked and what he did, asking me questions about my own situation.

As I was walking around with him, a thought floated into my head. I noticed that he was fairly attractive. I immediately tamped down the thought though because his looks had absolutely nothing to do with the skills I was needing him to have. Kyle was definitely qualified and I liked his demeanor so he was hired.

For about a month, everything was fine. He was someone helping with a situation and imparting knowledge unto me. He was friendly, nice, and fun to banter with. It was a good experience.

Then…it happened.

Kyle and I were standing in a walkway, talking about the progress made. Something about the way he was standing or the way his head was titled or just the tone of his voice…something prompted the thought in my head, could he be attracted to me?

Limerence thrives on two things – hope and doubt. That was the spark of hope right there.

Now, looking back on it, he was probably standing that way because it was comfortable, his head was tilted because he is tall and tilting his head allowed him to see who he was talking to, and his tone was probably just the way he normally talked in that setting.

Add to that mess that he was in a serious relationship with a girl who I adored. She was absolutely kind and beautiful and they made a great couple. I didn’t want to steal him away. I just wanted to have some fun. {wink, wink, nudge, nudge} However, I would never have done anything to upset their life together and honestly, I couldn’t have anyway. They were solid.

That was when the obsessive thoughts started. It is actually what reminded me about limerence. I knew about it and had experienced it before, but it had been long ago. After a few days of my mind being filled with thoughts and fantasies of Kyle, I knew something was not right. I was obsessing. I decided to google “obsessed with someone” and I was reintroduced to limerence.

I didn’t want to feel that way. I mean, it seems fun at first, but you eventually learn that no, it isn’t.

There are three ways to end limerence:

  1. Transference (shifting your limerence to someone else; this is usually not voluntary)
  2. Reciprocation (disclosure (admitting your feelings to LO) and finding they feel the same way)
  3. Starvation (the onslaught of evidence that LO does not return the limerence)

A note about starvation, some take it to mean “no contact” (NC) with the LO (i.e. starving yourself of their presence). However, starvation is about the loss of hope. Without hope, limerence dies. It is possible to experience starvation though NC though. If you decided to completely cut off contact with a person and they make no effort to contact you, that can be considered evidence that they do not feel the same as you. Often times though, this is not enough. Many a person has talked about seeing a former LO years later and the resurgence of feelings is almost overwhelming, knocking them right back to the way they felt at the height of their limerent episode.

Back to Kyle. Disclosure was not an option so reciprocation was off the table. Like I said, I wouldn’t rock that boat even if I thought I could. Transference is not easily forced and there was no one around to transfer to anyway. Starvation through NC couldn’t happen because I hired him to do a job and he was damn good at it. I could have hired someone else, but I truly felt Kyle was best suited for the job. I knew our time would eventually be up anyway and then NC would start.

Starvation through the “onslaught of evidence” that LO does not feel the same way is hard to get without disclosure. There is so much an LO does that can give a limerent hope without even meaning to.

I decided one day that I was just not going to look directly at him. If I didn’t see him then I couldn’t misconstrue his body language or the looks on his face. He wouldn’t notice that I didn’t look at him because he was not interested. Seriously, at the time I thought this was a brilliant plan.

I show up and say hi, but it was a general hi to the small group of people that was there which Kyle was part of. I go near him and start petting the dog that was there. He talks to me and “in return” I more or less respond by talking to the dog. After that, I went and sat down in a chair. I was so pleased with myself that I had not given in and looked at him.

If you go out of your way to not look at someone, they will notice. They will especially notice if they have narcissistic tendencies. That is just the way it is. I know this now.

As I sat in the chair, Kyle came over and sat in the chair next to me. I kept firm and stared straight ahead. He leaned forward and looked over at me, tilting his head. It was obvious that he was attempting to get me to look at him and to ignore it would have been way too obvious. I looked over at him.

Once I looked at him, Kyle smiled his gorgeous, heart-melting smile and said, “Hi,” in a soft-voice. Seriously? I melted. I said, “Hi,” back and smiled and then things went on just like they had been every day before then. It was really a terrible plan that ended up making the limerence even worse.

It has been years since then. I saw Kyle once since the time I spent there and it was just going down the road. He pulled up next to me and waved. I spent the rest of the day reliving limerent feelings.

We keep connected through social media. It’s good in case I have a question he can answer or in case I need his services again. I also suggest his service to other friends in the industry on social media. It’s rare that any of his posts causes a limerence echo. It has happened a few times, but it passes quickly.

I know that if I were to see him in person again, I would feel those feelings again. That use to keep me from wanting to see him. However, I now know and recognize the feelings. I am much more in touch with that than I used to be. I know that it is not “true” feelings and I can compartmentalize them when I interact with him until I go without seeing him again and they dwindle back away.

I had a lot of practice with another LO, but that is a much longer story for a different day.

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Limerence Abbreviations and Vocabulary

There is a lot of abbreviations used when talking about limerence. This is a list of common ones that you may come across.

Abbreviations

LE – Limerence Experience (can refer to the Tribe or to the experience itself)

LO – Limerent Object (the person for which one is limerent)

XLO – Ex-Limerent Object (an LO that the limerent person is no longer limerent for)

SO – Significant Other (the person one is in a relationship with, usually a spouse)

LC – Limited Contact (limiting contact with LO from the usual amount spent)

NC – No Contact (all contact with LO is stopped)

T – Therapist

Words

Limerbrain – The brain on limerence, which often makes poor decisions that prolong limerence.

Limerbeast – A personification of limerence as a beast within a person that must be fought

Starvation – The onslaught of evidence that LO does not reciprocate the limerent person’s feelings

Transference – A limerent person loses interest in one LO and becomes limerent for another

Disclosure – Admitting one’s limerent feelings to the LO

Reciprocation – When the LO also has feelings for the limerent person

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What Is Limerence?

The most common question asked when limerence is mentioned is “what is limerence?” It’s still a fairly uncommon word, but many people have experienced the phenomenon at least once in their life; they just didn’t know it.

I find the easiest and most accurate description is that limerence is an obsessive-compulsive feeling of love. I use to say it was an obsessive-compulsive type of love, but that is incorrect. While I am not a religious person by any means, I do agree with what the Bible says about love in 1 Corinthians, verses 4-7:

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

These qualities are not seen in limerence.

The reason many people have experienced limerence and not known it is because they have confused it with a crush, or puppy love, or even actual love. These term are not interchangeable with limerence though some characteristics are similar.

Here are some key characteristics of limerence:

  • Constant thoughts/fantasies involving the person you’re limerent for (known as the limerent object or LO) to the exclusion of almost all other thoughts
  • Analyzing inconsequential interactions with the LO
  • Imagining more to interactions with LO than there actually was
  • Bouncing between feelings of elation and feelings of despair
  • Feelings do not subside over time (a limerent episode is normally ongoing for a few months at the very least. For many, it takes years.)
  • The LO is often someone who is narcissistic or has narcissistic tendencies (This is not a constant, but it has been seen a lot.)
  • Changing your own behaviors or habits to match LOs
  • Changing your own routines to “just happen” to run into your LO or to purposely allow time/more time with your LO

Limerence can happen to anyone at any time and in any place. It doesn’t matter what your relationship status is or your sexual orientation. You may only have it happen once in life or twice or end up being a “serial limerent.” It can happen over time or come on suddenly.

The thing to remember is that being limerent is not the end of the world. It is not the worst thing in the world. It is hard, but there is a world of support out there and more articles will be forthcoming that will examine different aspects of limerence and explore some real life situations.

Have you ever heard of limerence? Have you experienced it?

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