Another tough topic today. Limerance is what A LOT (not all) unfaithful spouses are experiencing when they are having the affair. It certainly was the case in our affair. He was fully in the throws of limerance when he was in the affair, probably from pretty early on, right to the end. In the early days of our recovery, he said it was like a drug, SHE was like a drug.
That every ego boost, every stroke of his self esteem was addictive. It made me role my eyes a lot. Very sad and pathetic I’m pretty sure most would agree, including my husband. My husband, and his recently separated affair partner, both provided this drug for each other. Believe me, reading their messages was like reading pitiful teenagers, desperate for attention, but unsure of each other and knowing that they were probably overstepping a line. Tentative and bold all at once.
Today I want to explain a little bit about Limerance, my husband is going to address it from an unfaithful point of view on Friday.
Limerance is very hard to explain….but I’ll try.
Limerance is infatuation. That feeling if you have a crush. The feeling that makes you blush when they smile at you, the rush of happy hormones when you’re around them (the giddy feeling). The constant feeling of wanting them to like you back, even insecurity. Whilst in high school, it’s pretty innocent stuff, but when you’re already married and you start to develop this on a coworker for instance, it gets dangerous.
Types of Limerant Affairs.
Limerant affairs are generally one of two kinds. The limerant affair – usually an emotionally driven affair but often physical as well. The other is the love addiction affair.
Limerant affairs are ones where people think they are in love, emotionally aligned and subject to feelings they have no control over. They start to detach from their spouse, and this is what a lot of people recognise. Their usually loving partner becomes critical, argumentative, lies, becomes overly assertive. I saw him turn in to a Jackal and Hyde. He picked daily fights. Gave up on things he needed to do, or his responsibilities around the home. He did the basics and didn’t care about anything else at all. Our sex life died and he wouldn’t talk about our problems.
His affair started in the January, by the April I was ready to leave. I was acknowledging so many problems and felt like I was banging my head against the wall. Desperately trying to fix things and getting no where. I thought I was failing at every thing in my life and he let me think that whilst digging deeper in to his affair. I’ve talked about this type of affair in the post split self affair which explains why it’s so dangerous.
Drugs in the Brain
The role of dopamine is important here. I’m a nurse and a woman of science so the role of the brain is really important and fascinating for me but I won’t bore you all and I’ll keep it short.
Lots of unfaithfuls describe a “fog” that fog usually being limerance. Like their brain is taken over by the fog and they can’t think straight. Their thoughts often on the affair partner, anxiety about the affair partner or looking forward to their next interaction. That stomach flip at the thought of it. Here is some science on dopamine:
One of the functions of dopamine is to heighten the sensation of pleasure. Dopamine also increases energy, hence that first animated, exciting conversation. Another interesting part of the dopamine response is that the next time one sees that person, before even talking to them, dopamine again floods the system. This person has now become associated with intense pleasure.
You see where that ends up right? The unfaithful spouse will get a kick just thinking about the affair partner, they’ll daydream and get the butterflies in their stomach, and they’ll get that rush of dopamine.
What happens along side this is that serotonin starts to decrease cause you can’t have too much of both without becoming clinically manic. Now here’s the science on serotonin decreasing:
The first is the subjective feeling of emptiness. The second is obsessive anxiety. The brain literally runs the person away from the emptiness towards the person who has become the object of the obsession.
So rushes of excitement mixed with the clinical causes of depression.
If the affair becomes physical, then Oxytocin floods the system, and starts bonding the two together. It just accelerates things generally. Oxytocin is associated with love. It is released during hugging, kissing, and cuddling and it makes you want to do these things more. It makes you more emotionally open in general, which is why many people during the earlier stages of affairs experience an enhanced sense of well-being and believe that the affair is good for them or sometimes even for their marriage. The more time spent with the affair partner, the more oxytocin is released, which again increases the desire for emotional intimacy with the person who is the object of the obsession.
Add those things to constant compliments to fill that void, and suddenly you’ve found your soul mate right? Well no. You’ve found the perfect shit storm.
The Affair Partner Becomes Perfect in Limerance
Lets get this straight right away betrayed spouses. The affair partner is not better than you. Nothing about them is the reason that your partner had an affair. I’ve talked about my feelings towards the affair partner here and here and here. I need to write about her today. As much as I don’t like to focus on her she is a part of our life now. Let me tell you this absolute truth though: The affair was with her because she made herself available to it.
Literally NO other reason.
The affair partner is fatally flawed because she is willing to be involved with a married man. Knowingly. I don’t ever buy the bullshit excuses either. They are willing to damage other people to meet their own needs and that, for me, tells me all I need to know. Sad. Lonely. Pathetic people.
Trouble is when you’re firing dopamine at someone, or love bombing them, then they become addicted. My husbands affair partner was a great example of affairing down. Nearly everything he ever liked about me, she lacked. I don’t really do physical comparisons but we are very different body types. She is bigger, this is all I will say on her appearance, and only because it’s relevant. Over the year and a half since October 2017 I have lost a lot of weight. Like a Victoria secrets models worth. My husband on the other hand was struggling with his weight.
He describes her as keen, available to him, feeding him ego boosts several times a day, and a mirror of him at the time. Lazy, seeking easy answers, insecure. She entered his life during a perfect storm in his life and told him daily how great he was, how awesome at his (brand new) job he was, how she wished he had a single brother, how she wished she could clone him. Honestly he let it happen but she wanted it to. Limerance took hold very very quickly.
But it wasn’t because she’s prettier than me. Or that she has a better body. That she’s smarter. Or better travelled or more fun. It’s because she was available. And that’s it. She’s not your competition, Limerance is.
Limerance is what convinces your partner that the person they are having an affair with is perfect and visa versa. Think about it, one or both of them are cheating on a partner but they still think they are great people who are a great catch. They’d be furious if their respective partners cheated on them. My husbands affair partner for example thought her husband had cheated on her with a friend. She talked about this with my husband. Upset and angry. Without a hint of irony.
The reason you can’t make sense of it is because it doesn’t make sense.
Clinging to “Love” & Yo Yo-ing
So here is where the unfaithful is. Depressed but getting a rush from the affair partner. Emotions going up and down constantly. Exhausted. Probably likely to be feeling guilty on top of that. The unfaithful starts believing that they love their affair partner, that they’ve found the perfect person (cause limerance means they don’t see any of their bad sides). They then start to believe they are in love. That they don’t love their partner anymore. They become cold and distant.
Trouble with Limerance is that when times get tough, limerance gets more powerful.
Adversity makes them cling together harder so when the world explodes on dday it makes it even stronger. Thats why partners very often when faced with their spouses pain and despair run to their affair partner for validation. This is when the yo-yo-ing starts. They feel despair with their partner with the dopamine rush cut off. There is nothing to boost the serotonin and they are cut off from who they think is their “real love”.
The phrase “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is never more relevant than here. So you start to see the unfaithful spouse go backwards and forwards between their partner and their affair partner. They want to do the “right thing” at home, they probably feel a lot of confusion and guilt, but they are missing all those brain drugs (like above) and the constant ego trips, the compliments for no work.
They think they love the affair partner in limerance…
Believing they love the affair partner means they are torn in two directions. Remember they see none of their faults whilst you are likely a mess. Naturally. They rationalise the irrational. “If I’m this miserable then I must really love them”. Er no fucker. You’re miserable because you’ve realised what a fucking mess you’ve made and you’ve screwed over your faithful partner. Because you’re watching your marriage crumble. Miserable as you have to see what you’ve done.
Thats a side point, limerance makes you really very ridiculously stupid. You make poor decisions again and again and again in the belief that you love someone. You’re willing to give up everything for someone who might not even reciprocate.
My husband looks back at it and cringes.
I find the damaged respect so difficult to work though. I have always been turned on by intelligence so watching him so easily manipulated and making dumb decision after dumb decision really turned me off. Its now more of a roll of the eyes. I only get anger bubbling up every now and again.
How we moved through it.
Well I guess that is a question for him to answer and he will be answering on Friday.
From my point of view I’ve had to process a lot.
I’ve had to do a lot of hard acceptance.
Time has been a big factor.
I expressed my anger about it. To him.
He listened. Accepted. Reflected.
I realised, and spoke to myself, about how I wasn’t crazy for those six months, he was.
Realisation that I didn’t fail my family was a big one. Then I had to come to terms with the fact that he did.
I’ll hand over to him for the next post….