*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.
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.