[Two Pronged] Love, Lust or Limerence?
Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,
I'm 33 and working on the night shift so my sleepless night is actually in the morning. About a year and a half ago, I saw this girl in my office: pretty, angelic face, demure and looks prim and proper, the kind of physical traits that attracts me the most. I know her by name, that's it. I see her mostly during lunchtime, but not often. Her station was on the same floor where the main pantry is and I was stationed 3 floors above. Indeed, she was a sight to see.
Last year, their team relocated to our floor, so I get to see her a lot of times in a day. I walk pass by their station every so often since they are located near the men's restroom. I see her multiple times, and my admiration doesn't wane. I developed this "crush". I always look forward to see her since it makes me feel happy inside, like there are butterflies in my stomach.
Recently, this feeling of "crush" develops to something more intrusive. I cannot stop thinking about her. Great scenarios wander my mind, like we were on a date or traveling somewhere. The thoughts that keep pouring in are things you want to happen with her. The thoughts are involuntary. I see her in other people, like somebody smiles at me and I instantly imagine that she's the one who smiling at me.
These thoughts are bothering me lately because iI'm having a hard time to sleep. I really like her. I know that the simplest and easiest solution is to personally talk to her. Truth is, I'm "torpe" (literal translation: clumsy; colloquial translation: gauche in courting women). It takes a lot of me to talk to somebody that I really like.
All of those things I mentioned above, I've experienced it. The things that I'm going through right now are similar, if not identical, to what I've experienced before. Back then, I did the easiest solution. I talked to the girl. I did it, and that's why I'm married now for 4 years.
In other words, the easiest solution to my current dilemma can destroy a relationship. My enemy is myself. I have to control myself by not entertaining "good" thoughts. I'm having trouble because my mind won't stop thinking about the girl. It came to a point that when I hugged my wife, I was thinking of hugging the girl. And it really bothers me. I'm resisting the temptation to at least talk to her but on hindsight, I really do want to talk to her. I don't want to go to the office because I'll see her, but I really like to. It's driving me insane.
Now, I'm on a point where I'm asking myself if I love my wife. I know I do, but I'm unsure now. My wife is great. She's loyal, loving and caring. Nothing more you can ask for. Yet I'm having this "feelings" for that girl. There is no history of cheating from both sides and we haven't argued for some time now. If there are any arguments, mostly are petty ones, nothing major. So I have no idea what drove me to this path. All I know is that this feeling, this level of craziness, is similar with what I've experienced back with my wife.
I'm thinking of ways to get rid of her in my mind, but a part of me is resisting. I hugged my wife this morning before she left for work, and I cannot explain the feeling, if there was any.
I asked for an advise from my friends, but most of them cannot give one. I heard one, and he told me that I should just talk to the girl and maybe I can find something that will turn me off. I'm entertaining the idea, but I'm too afraid that I might really fall for this girl.
I read some articles about Limerence and I can conclude that my situation is the definition of the word itself. There was a statement there that says 'only the people who've experienced limerence can tell the feeling, as the others who don't will find it ridiculous'. I'm asking for an open mind from the both of you and I hope you can give some advise.
Thank you for your email.
One of the keys to your situation seems to be that you are shy when it comes to women and so everything gets bottled up in your mind, where your fertile imagination plays out all sorts of possible scenarios without any resolution.
Were you to engage with the object(s) of your desire, these scenarios would gradually be replaced by the reality of the relationship that you establish, though admittedly some fantasies might easily remain unrealized.
Marriage is traditionally supposed to require fidelity though this has since time immemorial been much honored in the breach. For those who attempt even the bare minimum of restraint, fantasy is often a substitute for the foregone reality. A study of the percentage of spouses who are thinking of third parties while making love to their legally anointed partner would undoubtedly make interesting reading.
Fantasies come in many sizes, some conjured up to fit the moment but others remain with us almost permanently. Most are manageable but when they are not, it is probably time for professional intervention.
In your specific case, Nic, you found a solution last time - you spoke to the girl and then married her. Clearly this solution is no longer available since a) you live in the only country on earth that does not permit divorce b) bigamy is not encouraged either and c) you claim you ‘love’ your wife although your words are scarcely reassuring: “I know I do, but I’m unsure now”.
Most people would consider that you are dealing with a crush or obsession but when it reaches the point where you cannot sleep, it would be wise to seek help from a mental health professional.
Your last paragraph mentions limerence, which you seem to have adopted as your diagnosis of choice. Coined by Dr Dorothy Tennov, a US psychologist, in 1979, limerence has since then come to be defined in a number of different ways, leading one to wonder at the usefulness of the term. More worryingly, 29 years later Wakin and Vo, in their 2008 paper entitled The Wakin-Vo I.D.R. Model of Limerence, state that “In spite of the public’s exposure to limerence, the professional community, particularly clinical, is largely unaware of the concept.”
Thus it seems as though limerence, a little like sex addiction, suffers from less than universal recognition and less than universal agreement as to its characteristics. Believers seem to consider that it is akin to OCD or substance addiction, suggesting that activity in the brain and/or chemical imbalances are at least partly responsible for any aberrant behavior. Non-believers think that it is merely an attempt to avoid responsibility for aberrant behavior.
Given that your problem is causing you sleep deprivation, which will affect your ability to work in due course (if it has not already), I suggest you seek treatment immediately, regardless of whether you are suffering from love, lust, obsessive love/lust or indeed limerence.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your email. I wholeheartedly agree with Mr Baer’s answer, and even more than wholeheartedly with his suggestion that you seek professional help. In fact, Mr Baer mentioned this twice–a rare occurrence for a normally reticent, stiff upper-lipped Englishman who believes “less is more.”
There are two main reasons I feel treatment –or maybe even a counseling session or two – might be in order.
But before I go into said reasons, a caveat: My only basis for my echoing Mr Baer’s suggestion is a single letter - yours - thus, hardly sufficient for a thorough clinical picture. In other words, caveat emptor. (At the risk of sounding defensive, this warning, of course, is true for any “advice column” one reads…though admittedly, for some it is more true than others).
The first reason is that at this early stage you have a rationalization to discredit anyone who does not believe limerence is a truly new description for your supposedly rare kind of love/longing/emotion. You have told yourself, “Only the people who've experienced limerence can tell the feeling, as the others who don't will find it ridiculous” In other words if a person does not treat the emotion I feel with sufficient awe and wonder, then s/he has got it wrong.
This is the basis for the absurd pronouncement that, unless the therapist her/him self has gone through the experience, s/he cannot help another person currently going through said experience. Thus, “Only former drug addicts can do effective therapy on drug addicts” or “Only those who attempted suicide themselves can help those who attempt suicide, etc. etc.” Mr. Baer has a succinct answer to that: “neurosurgeons vis a vis brain traumas.”
The other reason is that you were practically halfway through your letter before you mentioned your civil status: that of a married man. This hesitation in sharing a fact that colors your own state of limerence (limerence-iosity?) again shows a possible predilection for presenting facts in ways that convince people that, indeed, limerence is your feeling for your colleague.
I do not know the exact route that your journey with a professional would take you, but I am sure it would be much more gentle (and thus more open to your concurring) than what we have offered.
True, the start of a new year encourages the acceptance of new concepts. However, we now live in a country where fake-news is arrogantly presented as fact by people in power. Thus, the discernment of fact from fiction, of distinguishing a breakthrough in research from an age old emotion dressed up as newly discovered feeling, is far more important.
I promise to explain further in a Clinical Notes in January 2018. (Read [Clinical Notes] More on the abusive uncle)
All the best and happy New Year.
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.