Stupid brain, stop it.
January 23, 2013 2:03 PM   Subscribe

I am done with letting limerence rule my life. Tell me your stories of conquering limerence. How did you cope? Is it even really possible to say "no more limerence" if you're prone to it?

Recently I became limerent over a new friend. He returned my feelings, so we just fed off each other. This led to a state of almost indescribable euphoria. Every time I saw him, it just got crazier and crazier until it built up to a fever pitch. Couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, couldn't concentrate on anything.

However, I have a boyfriend too, and we've been together for more than a decade. He recognized that I was "falling in love" with this other guy, who he also knows. He sat me down and told me that this was not going to work for him and that I needed to make a decision about what I wanted.

I fell back to earth pretty quickly, and I can recognize it now for what it was. Then I start reflecting back on my life and I realized just how many times I have gone through something like this, going back to my teenage years. Reading more about limerence, I think that I seem to suffer from it over and over again. It's normally one-sided, so the guy becomes an obsession for awhile until it fades. In any case, it's a problem in my relationship because when I am the throes of it, I put this other person ahead of my boyfriend and that's not fair to him.

Well I am done with this. I'm angry that I let my stupid brain do this to me over and over again, with the pain that it causes me and my boyfriend.

I am planning to seek therapy, and my boyfriend and I are working on our relationship. But right now I could use some hope that I really can kick this habit. Have you successfully conquered limerence? Do you have any techniques to recognize it early and short-circuit it?

Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Think about him pooping.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:05 PM on January 23, 2013 [13 favorites]

Most of the people I know who have described this issue have made the decision to not be in monogamous relationships, and instead surround themselves with a community of people who support and encourage multiple intense romantic relationships. They seem very happy.

I do know a few people however who experienced these as part of ongoing manic episodes, and their lives didn't get any better until there was serious psychiatric involvement in their lives.
posted by Jairus at 2:10 PM on January 23, 2013 [8 favorites]

I just told myself 'limerence' was silly Internet buzzword, got treatment for my depression, and got cognitive behavioral therapy. And when I crush on someone I ask them out, and when they reject me I give myself a week to feel sad and then get over it.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:45 PM on January 23, 2013 [13 favorites]

I got married. Knowing that my relationship is safe and secure in addition to being all kinds of wonderful did the trick. Actually, for me it was like flipping a switch the day we got engaged.
posted by halogen at 2:52 PM on January 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

They're just crushes. You cannot really "fall in love"—real love—with someone under these circumstances; you can obsess over fantasies and idealized visions, you can even be caught up in interactions that seem more and more amazing all the time, but with most super-intense attractions like these, the record comes off the needle at some point. When you're a teenager, it's when your crush object tells you he's never read your favorite book or loves that band you despise. When you're an adult, it's when he otherwise behaves in some way inconsistent with how you picture him.

The point is, it's not real. That is, your feelings are real, but they're not based on reality, they're based on an appealing fantasy. It's basically like crushing on a celebrity or a fictional character. Which is fine and normal. But you need to realize that real, non-object people that you're in real, non-objectifying relationships with need to always, always take precedence over make-believe.

I believe crushes are healthy and normal and fun—when they're kept in the appropriate no-external-damage part of your brain. If you seriously struggle with this and know you can't be trusted to behave well in your relationship when you're crushing on someone else, I suggest a strict no-interaction policy with crush objects. If that's not possible, do whatever you can to hasten the popping of the crush balloon—picture them in unflattering situations, whatever helps you see them as a real person. Anything less is really shitty, and insanely unfair to your (very patient) long-term boyfriend—honestly, realizing that and acknowledging to yourself that the way you are acting is hurting someone you love should be enough to get you to knock it off.
posted by peachfuzz at 2:58 PM on January 23, 2013 [23 favorites]

1. I started taking Wellbutrin. I think getting my dopamine straightened out helped my brain to be less interested in being flooded with whatever delicious brain chemicals that are generated by limerance.

2. I don't flirt any more. Ever. It never leads anywhere good for me.

3. I stop myself whenever I notice the beginnings of those crushy sort of thoughts, like "hmmm, he/she's kind of cute and I think they kind of like me... I wonder what it would be like... " towards someone I'm going to have to spend time with or get to know or interact with. Passers-by on the street can be eye candy... people in the office, not so much.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:00 PM on January 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Does it really come out of nowhere at random for you, or is it related at all to the rest of your life? You know, some people cope with stress or rough life situations by drowning their problems in alcohol, or gambling or doing drugs. Everyone has their own way of coping. Alcohol doesn't really "do it" for me, but getting crazy crushes totally does. My last year of college was a really fucked up year in pretty much every way - I was so broke that lots of days all I ate was bread, I had a truly terrible job that was insanely stressful, I was in an unbelievably bad living situation, I was lonely, I was having bad anxiety problems, etc. But I pretty much floated through that year and I remember very little of it, because I had this behemoth of an all-consuming crush on someone in my life. I would think about it constantly, constantly, but at that time it was a really good thing because it got me through that year. If I hadn't used that mental energy on the crush I would have just used it for ruminating on everything that sucked in my life and working myself into an anxious and despondent mess. It would have been bad if I had actually needed that excess mental energy for other things, like you need it for your relationship.

Once I had to fly for work (which I hate to do) so I went to the doctor to see if he could prescribe a pill for me. He asked what I wanted, and I said, "I want something that will make me just not care, like the whole thing could be going down in flames and I just wouldn't care." He replied, "Heroin."

If there were a drug that could make you totally stop thinking about your problems, and could make you totally not care about anything else, and this drug was free and socially acceptable, I think millions of people would take it. If you relate to any of this, that you might use crushes to avoid other things (if you have no particular problems in life to be avoiding, you might just be avoiding boredom), then it might help to work on those things in your life directly.
posted by cairdeas at 3:45 PM on January 23, 2013 [14 favorites]

A couple of thoughts on this:

1. Thinking of my crushes pooping has not actually ever helped me get over them.

2. Is it possible to talk to your partner about the boundaries of your relationship? Sometimes, I think the thrill of budding affairs comes from being naughty, having a secret, etc. If you were allowed to have a bit more freedom (whatever that means for you guys), then maybe the excitement of the forbidden would be tamed, and you'd be less interested in feeding the limerence.

3. That said, the "yay poly" thing on AskMe is pretty standard, but it doesn't work for everyone. I second also evaluating your general life situation and seeing if there isn't something else that you're trying to escape from with these crushes.
posted by too bad you're not me at 3:51 PM on January 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

Is there perhaps something lacking in your relationship with SO that you are perhaps not aware of or are avoiding dealing with? Yes maybe you are a bit poly, but maybe you aren't. And maybe if you were absolutely content in your current relationship your brain wouldn't be going gaga on you in these ways.

I wouldn't get married as a "solution" - that's not the right reason to get married in my opinion.

Your SO is a standup person for getting furious, not because you deserve it (AT ALL) but because your SO must be understanding that a) these sorts of things happen and b) when we are in a relationship it's not just chemicals but it's the conscious choice we make to be with the person we're with.

So if he's your choice - that's really great. But look at what you miss about it. What are the things you wish you had that might be connected to this limerence thing? Perhaps you want more excitement with him. 10 years is a long time and it's easy to get complacent. I speak from experience. Things can seem great and you can write the small things off until you can't write them off anymore. In my experience I've found that not dealing with those small things can manifest as other crushes.

Anyhoo, have a think about it. 10 years with a great person (assuming he's great) is totally worth concentrating on (I'm not saying you're not! I'm just saying it's easy to gloss over things without realising it might bite you in the ass). My guess is limerence is your brain trying to tell you something. It's different from thinking someone is just a bit of all right.

Good luck! It's kind of a mind-fuck, that whole thing you're in. You get pulled in all directions, doncha?
posted by mooza at 5:01 PM on January 23, 2013

I have totally had this problem, and I have mostly gotten a handle on it. Here are a couple of things that I've done that have helped:

- Most important: I know that this is a thing that I'm prone to, and I remind myself, when I start getting into a loop about someone, that this is a totally internal pattern of thought and not an indication that the actual relationship is important or special or, well, in existence. This helps me keep some perspective, and perspective is the limerance-killer.

- I make a special point of fantasizing about non-ideal situations - the other person is in a happy relationship, they don't feel that way about me, they don't even show up at the event I'm anticipating, whatever - so my expectations don't get sky-high. It also helps to figure out what my real-world desires are - I mean, sure it'd be nice to fall madly in love and move in together and feed each other bonbons all day for the rest of our lives, but it's way more realistic that we'll remain casual friends who occasionally go see Resident Evil movies together because no one else wants to. And that is honestly something I am almost always perfectly ok with when the fog clears. There have been very few people I got super-limerant about that I didn't still want to be friends with once the limerance faded. (There was one. It was bad, and very much a lesson learned for me.)

- Mutual cases are particularly hard. I haven't been the married one, but I've been the "other" one, and what the other person did was, ultimately, be really super clear about where the line was for her. Flirting was fine, cuddling was only fine if it wasn't emotionally fraught (and when I couldn't guarantee that, we just didn't touch one another any more) and sex or anything like it was totally off the table. This requires that you be sort of unromantic and direct, but it is the only way I've seen to make it work. My situation worked out fine - we managed to get past the peak and now are super close friends and have a normal, healthy relationship that doesn't threaten her marriage at all.

Really, this is ten+ years of lessons learned, and the most important thing is just the self-awareness that this is a habit you have that needs to be managed. You're heading in the right direction for sure.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:21 PM on January 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

A married friend of mine does this. She's happy with her husband, but she gets crushes all the time, usually when she is in a fantasy, "I want to be rescued and swept off my feet" sort of mindset. Which is something a solid, reliable SO can't do, so she has the crushes. Is that what's going on with you? Are you bored, or in need of a fantasy or rescue? How's life with the SO going? Is the rest of your life not great right now? That stuff's pretty much for going to therapy, but it helps to know what brings on the crushes and why.

I hate to say it, but I think you need to do the following:
(a) cut this crush guy off utterly, cold turkey. Same way everyone else has to get over crush/love feelings.
(b) stop having male friends. If you do this alllllll the time with guy friends, maybe you are just not up to trying to handle platonic intergendered friendships. At least, not until you've worked this shit out in your own mind.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:31 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's biology. Recognize that crushes happen, everyone gets them, and you have to set your personal boundaries BEFORE you get them so you don't do something stupid.

I'm in my fifties so friendships with the opposite sex are not so problematic these days, but I still have certain boundaries for those kinds of friendships for precisely that reason. My husband has female friends but he does the same thing I do with the boundaries. You don't have to let biology dictate what you do.

And do remember, limerance really is fantasy. Not reality. Has nothing at all to do with real life whatsoever. Kudos to you for realizing what is important to you.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:53 PM on January 23, 2013

Do you find your boyfriend exciting? Some people will tell you that a relationship is more than stable companionship and understanding. Love needs excitement and the feeling that you're dating a great person. This more of a message for your boyfriend: Your wandering eyes might be a symptom of something missing in the relationship.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 9:13 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would print out a copy of this comment by thehmsbeagle and refer to it whenever this happens.
posted by Mayor West at 5:26 AM on January 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

I think someone here recommended the book Attached to me and it seems to apply to this.
posted by melissam at 1:03 PM on February 4, 2013

« Older What graphic/icon will look wrong when mirrored?   |   Songs that can be played on a baby toy? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.