(Excerpt from limerence.net, nothing was written by me)
The phases of limerence
Like other addictions, we see limerence originating from early life psychological wounding. We use it to fill a hole in our soul. We describe limerence as the mother of all distractions and when working with clients in limerence we are curious to uncover what is it the person avoiding dealing with? So often there is deep unresolved emotional pain. The client has protected themselves by covering their hearts over the years and decades with layers and layers of reinforced concrete. This was a survival mechanism necessary from growing up in a dysfunctional and often narcissistic family system.
The reality is limerence never lasts – typically it spans from 6-36 months. Just long enough for us to pair-bond and continue the survival of the species. Recent advances in neuroimaging and neurochemistry are now mapping out these pathways for romantic love. We also feel limerence is a gateway to grief. It marks a transitional phase where we enter a liminal space. Whilst the initial grieving maybe for the ending of the affair or perhaps the failed marriage, it can open access to much needed grieving from so many other losses from our own childhood and other traumas and who knows, perhaps the loses of our generations that went before us. And this explains why so many opt for the easier path, choosing never to take responsibility for our own behaviours, continuing to blame others and continuing to behave at an emotional level as children and adolescents trapped in adult bodies. Doing this growth work takes courage and determination. Its what we call the heavy lifting.
Advice for the Betrayer
Depending upon where we are at within the lifecycle of limerence will depend upon how receptive we are to appreciate that this condition is all about us, our early life attachment wounds and that there is no magical other that’s going to make us feel better about ourselves. Seeking other esteem is never the solution to building our own self esteem. In the early phase which we mentioned lasts from 6-36 months, it’s hard to break through the defences. Sadly, the neurochemicals really do distort one’s perceptions, they literally rewrite history, obliterating all the good that existed in the past relationship. The betrayer really believes they have met their soulmate. We don’t like this term and don’t believe in this myth.
We prefer the term woundmate where unconscious early life wounds are what is being activated in the person that is in limerence. They see the LO as an Adonis, as someone that is perfect in every sense and the answer to all their problems. They feel seen and validated and understood at a deep level. Their LO just gets them. And they feel like they love their long-term partner but are no longer in love with them. Limerence plays cruel tricks on the mind. They see their long-term partner as a barrier to having a life with their LO. Their unresolved anger issues are put onto their partner either by passive withdrawal or active attacking.
With time and with the diminishing of the neurochemicals, chinks begin to appear. It is here where an opportunity exists for the person to realise this is a relationship based on a fantasy. Perhaps the betrayer can start extracting themselves from the real or perceived relationship with the LO and to start doing their own self-development work. It may be possible in the very early stage of limerence where there has not been consummation of the relationship, that the addictive spiral can be broken.
This will require self-will and discipline to break all contact with the LO and to enter some form of talk therapy program to explore what led the person to develop limerence. It is rare for us to see clients at this stage. All too often, this opportunity is missed and full blown emotional and or physical affair ensues. Then it’s a case of waiting until the person comes out of what we call the fog. Where they can start seeing more clearly as to the reality of their situation. And so the journey of self-discovery may begin.
As we say what defines us as people is not what we feel, but how we act on our feelings. We are only humans and its not unnatural to develop strong feelings for other people whether we are in a committed relationship or not. – it’s what we do with these feelings that matters. The stronger you make your marriage, the more you affair-proof it, the less likely these feeling will trip either of you up.
Taking ourselves off into another dimension removes us from the present, it's a distraction and sometimes a very needed one in times of extreme pain and trauma. Humans a have the amazing ability to take their mind off to other places even though the physical body is still. A healthy way to do this is through deep meditation and relaxation. The unhealthy way is by turning to substance or drug misuse, addictive and compulsive behaviours as a means and way to distract oneself from the present.
Love addiction is just one of several types of maladaptive romantic love, which hurt rather than enhance the lives of those involved. Like all addictions, whether to substances or behaviours, love addiction can take over a person's life. We hear of the client is spending more and more time thinking about, pining for, and pursuing the person, or persons, he believes he or she is in love with. The feelings of euphoria which can accompany falling in love can also lead to obsessive thinking and "craving" the object of affection when not available.
In fact, love addiction has little to do with genuine feelings of affection or caring, but instead revolves around the rewarding sensations that are re-experienced by satisfying the cravings for being with — or imagining you are with — the person he or she is in love with, along with the belief that romance is a magical experience in which unrealistic ideals are projected onto the object of affection.
Building healthier relationships and finding ourselves.
With time, many of the members on the forum here come to realise that limerence is all about them. Their object of desire was just a catalyst. As the saying goes, when we are ready, the teacher will appear. When we have moved beyond the obsessive addictive energy, we realise we are the one with the issues and that we are the ones that have to do the heavy lifting to heal ourselves. The reality is there is no magical other. We are the ones that have to learn how to fill that hole in our soul. With time, we desire moving to healthier more conscious relationships, with ourselves and others.
Limerence creates one almighty distraction / disassociation to defend us from having to deal with our psychological pain.
And so midlife is a time when inordinate pressures are placed on marriages and many do not last the course. We are projecting our unconscious childhood needs on the other and these grandiose desires rarely can be met, leaving us feeling abandoned, rejected and betrayed. We project what is unclaimed or unknown within us. Life erodes these projections and we start appreciating we have to be accountable for this and we are the only ones that are responsible for our own contentment.
The one thing i can't stress more than anything is limerence is all about us. Our LO's are just catalysts. They are mirrors that show us our own difficulties in forming healthy relationships. There is no magical other, no quick fix through the emotional turmoil. If we leave our current relationship to be with LO, we take ourselves and all our emotional baggage with us and miss the opportunity of doing some really deep and important growth work.
Cut off all contact with your LO
Going NC is 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.
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 perceived 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) for a moment. 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 might help: "The Power of Habits" and "The Willpower Instinct."