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The LE and root causes
I’ve come to realize that LO and I were inhabiting a virtual funhouse of mirrors. And we definitely played some games, of which I was an active and willing participant. The big epiphany for me though was learning about projection identification.
Below from: http://drs-oleary.com/Projective_Identification.htm
...comes away from the interaction feeling hurt, angry, and embarrassed, when he in fact has nothing to feel hurt, angry, or embarrassed about. He literally gets stuck "holding the bag" of uncomfortable feelings that do not even belong to him in the first place.
...we literally begin to lose our ability to trust our own perceptions, views, thought, and feelings. We begin to lose a fundamental grasp of the contents of our own minds. This speaks to the fundamental importance of being able to trust one's self, and to form effective boundaries in the face of projections that are launched at us.
This, and the ghosting, was the rocket-launch attack of LE. Pure psychological chaos. When LO levelled her condemnations and questioned my character, I went into a downward spiral dealing with the negative projection. The only way to regain my sanity in the face of the confusion that LE wrought was through reconciliation – of any kind. LO was the one that broke me, so only she could put me back together. Hence my strong desire to stay friends. When it became clear I wasn’t going to get that... well.
I was very far from innocent. LO’s accusations weren’t made up. I identified so strongly, largely, because she brought to light some truths about me that I’d been avoiding. But at the time, LO insisted she wasn’t judging me. We were in this thing together, whatever it was. That said, I know I projected a TON onto LO as well, which likely caused her backlash in the first place. I think these mutual projections were unconscious turf battles to take control of, and protect, our own minds.
Intellectualize the problem
I needed to stop thinking about LE as some sort of grand operatic love story, where two souls that are meant to be together, constrained by the unfairness of the world, struggle to… blah blah blah. Oh, and probably not a good idea to take too much stock in the concept of soulmates and ‘twin flames’ either. This kind of thinking just fed and kept the fantasy going.
Write it down
I’ve written pages and pages of thoughts. While I feel doing this has been helping me understand the problem, it has also, I think, prolonged the healing process a little by keeping me inside my own head. One positive: I often have to write for work, so it’s been great practice. I’m developing a skill!
Beside seemingly being pre-dispositioned to LE, I learned about the thinking-feeling feedback loop. The constant replaying of events – looking for clues into LO’s feelings and motivations. It’s like listening to the same song over and over, hoping the tune will change eventually. I looked back at what I journaled months ago and was surprised to see I was covering the same territory even then, despite the fog I was in. I needed to get out of that particular groove with more extroverted thinking. Many of the other thoughts in this post have to do with this.
Make a list
I listed all the things I like and dislike about LO. It was very hard to come up with a long list on either side, and the things I did come up with were vague and unspecific. The most compelling on the ‘like’ side was simply that she was very attractive and took an active interest in me. There were no deal breakers on the negative side exactly, but quite a few red flags. I was clearly in love with a feeling and not LO herself. My view of her was built on little concrete information.
Imagine a realistic future
I tried to imagine a future life with LO – one or two years from now – after all the amazing sex has been had. I have a pretty good imagination, but couldn’t dream up a plausible scenario where either of our lives would be greatly improved by being together. And this is not even considering the destruction it would have caused to other aspects of my life.
Giving myself the time to heal. I felt guilty about letting responsibilities slip a little, like work and other relationships, but this was a major life-event for me and I felt it was important to focus on figuring it out. I’m amazed at how slooowww and gradual the recovery is though. The overall trend is upward (where up is good) but the graph is VERY spiky. It’s two steps forward and one step back – all the time. Sometimes it’s six steps back. However, this month was slightly better than the last, and last month was slightly better than the one before. I look forward to how I’ll feel next month and the one after.
I couldn’t really do this very well. Checking my phone and SM for texts and updates (not only LO related) is like a sickness. It just fuels desire when you see others living supposedly happy lives doing interesting things with attractive people.
Disclosure to LO
My situation might be a little different than most. I disclosed after I was already ‘dumped’, so felt I had little to lose. And I really wasn’t even fully limerent until this happened. Of course my inquiry into LO’s feelings towards me was a kind of Disclosure Lite, and to this day I’m not sure if LO took it that way or not. I then wrote a series of letters, basically saying I felt love as a friend, admitting to entertaining a brief fantasy of being together, but that it was a temporary thing and could we just try to work things out? I apologized profusely – even though I didn’t know exactly what for.
Disclosure for me was about getting it all out. I thought LO should have as much information as possible to base future decisions on, for better or worse. I realize now that this was also about putting things back onto her so I could regain some control (more projection) and move on. Also, if I was going down, I wanted to go down in dramatic fashion and be remembered.
This was not imposed by me – in fact I’d never heard of the concept before. Instead of simply telling me to go away or f*ck off, LO’s directive to “Please stop contacting me” seemed syntactically specific, so I Googled those exact words. I didn’t know this was SOP on jettisoning a person from your life – or getting over a relationship. The thing that hurt most was LO blocking me on LinkedIn the day after I posted a new profile picture. Being disappeared like that, especially considering how we began our relationship, made me feel like a creepy stalker (PI again!). Female friends I’ve talked to think LO may have had strong feelings that she needed to escape, rather than thinking I was an actual threat. While the net result is the same, and still sucks, the distinction made me feel better – this is a thing that happens to normal people apparently. Even my SO, who thinks LO’s actions were a little immature, implied as much when she told me, “welcome to humanity – you’ll get over it”.
I’m still on the fence. I think I could have gotten back to emotionally neutral (more or less) in the context of a friendship, but then I likely wouldn’t have had the time to reach the level of enlightenment that I’ve been able to achieve since. I’m going to choose to call it a gift, for now.
Disclosure to SO
We are a long-time couple with a good relationship that recognizes we can’t get 100% of our emotional needs from each other. What couple can? We also both have some underlying ‘it’s now or never’ issues around our sexuallity and desirability. She has been through similar things in the past and understood completely how this could happen. I told SO I’d still like to work on a friendship with LO if she was ever receptive. SO is not entirely convinced I could navigate it but wouldn’t stop me from trying. This episode has actually opened up a whole new line of communication and openness with each other. It’s been kind of remarkable.
Small love vs. Big love
Love yourself, love your family – or at least forgive them. Love everyone. Love the world. Even free yourself to love LO, in the grand sense, and not the needy possessive one. Make connections, not attachments (I keep repeating that to myself). Thinking about the quality of the people that love me and those who choose to be my friend also made me feel better – LO is just plain wrong!
Reflecting on the past
I did a lot of reflecting on my past relationships and childhood issues. My parents, while being a bit distant and emotionally avoidant, were always there when I needed them and super-supportive. I can’t complain too much. If I’m wounded because of how I was treated as a child, then I suspect most of the world is in the same boat. And maybe they are….
Do stuff, meet people
I admit to being paralyzed at first. For the first few months I felt unfit to be in human company, and retreated to a hermit-like state. Few people noticed the difference. Since then I’ve been trying to talk to as many people as my personality will allow. Not about LE exactly, but definitely things around mid-life pressures.
Prior to LE I had joined some running groups, a sports league, volunteered as crew for a charity bike ride, and attended some work-related conferences. I’ve met more people in the last year and half than in the last 10 combined. It’s been really good and I will continue to do this, but I think opening up to more people so fast was a precursor to my current situation. Hopefully with more experience I’ll be able to handle it better in the future. (Connections, not attachments)
On at least three separate occasions I saw people openly weeping in public during the first few weeks of LE. Was I tuned in to human misery?
Almost 20 years ago I had a too-brief affair with an LO – whom even now I’d probably call the most intense love of my life. During the first few months of LE I’d get my current LO and xLO mixed up in my mind. Their images would literally toggle back and forth as if they were the same person. Just a very weird feeling.
I know LO has some deep issues of her own. I saw evidence of this early, but glossed over it because, well… because it fed nicely into a fantasy of me being her rescuer. I think I felt this almost from day one, as she came into my life literally asking for help. Practical things at first, emotional things later. Sometimes I don’t even understand my own self, my motivations, or the nature of my feelings and how to deal with them. Why should I expect an extreme amount of understanding, clear thinking, and maturity from LO? Why would I hold her to a higher standard than me – or the rest of humanity? I gave too much of myself, all at once, for LO to process. Not fair.
One of the great sadnesses of this whole thing is that I feel we still had much to learn about ourselves, with each other being catalysts for discovery. But maybe this was the extent of the lesson? And now class is over.
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And you are very lucky to have an understanding SO.
Onwards and upwards.
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You wrote "Almost 20 years ago I had a too-brief affair with an LO – whom even now I’d probably call the most intense love of my life. During the first few months of LE I’d get my current LO and xLO mixed up in my mind. Their images would literally toggle back and forth as if they were the same person. Just a very weird feeling."
With my two LE's, experienced past the age of 30, this never actually happened, but I must add that I seemed to be limerent over each for very different reasons....the fantasy was wrapped around different scenarios in the two separate LEs. Yet most useful about what you wrote is the fact that it drives home the point of the LE not being about the LO, it's about our (the LS's) projection of our own issues around that LO. Your comment here suggests that there were common elements of both LEs that began to become confused and co-mingled within your fantasy structure....your holodeck as it were.
"The big epiphany for me though was learning about projection identification"
Interestingly and unfortunately, I think PI is still one of the more insidious and corrosive players in my marriage. Both I and SO play roles at times that seem to be deliberately subverting the marriage. My own take here is that I'm trying to recreate my parent's divorce and she is trying to recreate her father's early death. Nasty thing, the damaged human mind, when you don't check in on it occasionally to see what plans it's been making!....
" ......it fed nicely into a fantasy of me being her rescuer. I think I felt this almost from day one, as she came into my life literally asking for help. Practical things at first, emotional things later."
I think a lot of men have this aspect to their LEs for female LOs. I just gotta ask: Given that you detected some emotional avoidance in your parents, would you say that you ever felt to be in a position where you felt your mother in need of rescuing? I know my own and a few other male LO's to have commented in the affirmative for that, but wondering if it holds any key for you as well...?
" ....this was a major life-event for me and I felt it was important to focus on figuring it out. I’m amazed at how slooowww and gradual the recovery is though. The overall trend is upward (where up is good) but the graph is VERY spiky. It’s two steps forward and one step back – all the time."
I still feel at this point that my LE was a major adult transformational event. I can't exactly pin down concretely what has changed, but in one regard before the LE I was continuing to stuff feelings that would have induced arguments with my SO. I'm less prone to doing that now.....and better and being able to handle the fallout of that act. Meditation has been one leg of that improvement, but the LE was the inducement to do so. Hopefully one day your average therapist will recognize that a patient presenting with a disclosure of LE is going through a fairly monumental...and possibly lengthly....change in their life and is able to address it more appropriately. So while I too was amazed at how slow the recovery was about 1 - 1.5 years ago, I now appreciate that it was going to take that long for me, and be variable for each. Heck, after my first LE, I just buried the entire event and plowed forward with blinders on. Probably why it smacked me so hard during the second one.
Thanks for a great post.
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My own SO wouldn't be able to be so stable and mature, and her reactions to some of my challenges have been quite painful. The lack of compassion I think has made it harder to navigate this. I haven't disclosed but the shake up of it all has been incredibly destructive.
A very poignant and interesting post.
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Do your xLO and LO have a similar phyiscal profile? My LOs (and even non-LO crushes) tend to fit a certain 'type'. It IS kind of weird, but just enother piece of evidence to prove that this is a pattern.
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I've been trying to intellectualise the problem as much as possible while also being deep in the throws of limerence. Certainly that's not working right now, and the idea of twin flames or the love of a lifetime has got a hold of me. But yes, during past LEs, this has worked well for me.
Imagine the future
I like your strategy of imagining a realistic future. I might focus on that a little more as part of the intellectualising process - I know that my current LO (well I kinda have 2) is no good for me and there could never be anything after we had got our fill of each other sexually and otherwise.
Before I read this today, I made myself a small goal of not carrying my phone around with me as my life support today. I hold onto it like I need it with me, just in case of any contact at any time. So far I didn't take it with me to shower this morning, so that's something.
Disclosure to SO
This is one I'm considering, especially with the severity and intensity of what I've been experiencing and the status of my feelings for SO. I don't think mine will be as supportive as yours!
Yeah, I'm in a state of paralysis as well and have been since January, but I think I'm covering it pretty well right now and most people barely notice, although the effort to act normal is utterly exhausting.
Oh yes, I too have this strong belief that LO and I can precipitate healing in one another. That we need each other to affect the next phase in our individual evolutions. Probably need to do some intellectualising around this too.
Thanks again for this, so very helpful to me today.
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I could relate to many aspects of your healing process. Seemed like you put words to my same revelations. Got me researching PI more too.
Thank you for taking the time to post such an informative update!
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If only others including the therapeutic community knew what limerence and many affairs are all about.
Ill make this a sticky so others can find it more easily, unless i read otherwise
For Professional Coaching / Therapy see http://loverelations.co.uk/limerence
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