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Here are some thoughts I’d like to share with you with respect to how one might go about trying to be friends with an LO, assuming that it is possible to do so (which it might not be). These thoughts are based on my experience with my current LO, and I am thinking of them as “probably necessary but probably not sufficient conditions” for being friends with an LO. (In other words, following these guidelines won't necessarily allow us to be content with being "just friends" with LO, but not following the guidelines probably guaranteed to fail in that respect).
I’m from the perspective of an LE with an SO (as opposed to an LE who is single and does not have any constraints on what s/he can do with an LO). I would also add that I'm not necessarily suggesting that we should always try to be friends with every LO: it might sometimes (if not always) be the case that we should pursue NC instead. Without further adieu...
1. We have to want to be friends with our LO
This might seem like a strange/obvious/redundant thing to say, but I posit that we can’t be friends with an LO if we still want to (or still fantasize about) being “more than friends” with that person. We have to accept that we will never be romantic partners, and it will also help if we are able to convince ourselves that LO would be a worse (or at least, no better) romantic partner for us than our SO. As long as we tell ourselves that our LO is superior to our SO, we will probably not be capable of successfully being (just) friends with our LO.
2. We need to avoid viewing friendship as an inferior type of relationship
It is common for people to use phrases like “more than friends” (as I did in the previous bullet) and “friends with benefits” to describe romantic and/or sexual relationships. These phrases seem to imply that friendship is inferior to romance, and that platonic friendships don’t have “benefits” (because sex is apparently the only thing that counts as a benefit). The more we buy-in to this line of thinking, the less able we are to accept the idea that a non-romantic friendship can be fulfilling and satisfying and the more we will continue to focus on what we can’t have in the relationship rather than on what we can have. As long as we are focused on what we can’t have, we will not be able to be content with a non-romantic friendship.
One of the things that I am learning with my LO (who is really more of a friend now than an LO) is that it is possible to have an intimate relationship (with an interesting/attractive person of the opposite sex, as a heterosexual) without passion or romance being involved. For all of my life up until now I have confused intimacy with passion, and I have only recently learned the difference between the two. The older I get the more I realize how little intimacy I have experienced in my life, but how much I have always longed for it.
Mutually supportive friendships that involve sharing and an emotional bond do not have to be thought of as being inferior to sexual relationships: they can simply be thought of as something different, that can bring just as much (if not more!) joy and fulfillment to our lives as a relationship that involves physical touching (with no holds barred).
3. Do not entertain the question of whether (under different circumstances) you could have had a romantic relationship with your LO
Fantasizing about living happily ever after with our LO is probably a hallmark of the limerence experience, and I’m sure most of us have spent a lot of time wondering whether (1) our LOs are attracted to us, (2) they have feelings for us, and (3) they would have been interested in having a romantic relationship with us if we were both single and available.
There are many reasons why this kind of fantasizing is a bad idea, starting with the fact that it harms our relationship with SO. (It also probably harms our relationship with LO). Rather than focusing on the issue of why it is a bad idea to ponder the question of whether we could have had a romantic relationship with LO, I’d rather share some thoughts I’ve had regarding the impossibility of being able to know what our relationship with LO would have been like had we met under different circumstances.
For convenience, let
X = The relationship you have now with LO, subject to the constraints that result from your relationship with SO (and/or LO’s relationship with his/her SO)
Y = The positive things you think you are missing out on in your relationship with LO, because of existing constraints
For those of us that have established a positive rapport with LO, it is common to think something like “If I had been single when I had met LO, our relationship would have been equal to X + Y”. In other words, it’s tempting for us to think that if we had met our LO when we were both single, the relationship would have had “All of the good things that it has now, plus all of the other good things that we are prevented from having now because at least one of us is not single”.
One of the major problems with this line of thinking is that we can’t know for sure that we would have had X with our LO had we both been single. In other words, the rapport that we have with LO was developed under existing constraints that might (for example) have created a non-threatening and “safe” dynamic that might not have existed without those constraints. Maybe (just maybe) we were both more comfortable getting to know each other in a platonic way under the constraints in a manner that might not have happened if both of us were single. Maybe our relationship would have even been worse if we had both met while single. We’ll never know for sure, but I think it’s a mistake so automatically assume that our relationship with LO would have been equal or better if we had met them while single…
4. Learn to appreciate the freedoms that come with constraints, rather than focusing only on what you can’t have
It’s tempting to be frustrated by the things we can’t have with LO, and to focus primarily on the things we can’t do with them because we are constrained. But this only serves to exacerbate our LE, and to prevent us from being content by having “just a friendship” with LO.
I have learned an important lesson with my current LO, which is that the constraints that prevent me from having a romantic relationship with her nevertheless create some liberating freedoms that cannot be experienced in a romantic relationship. When I am with a friend (such as LO) rather than with my SO, I don’t have to worry about being attractive. I don’t have to worry about keeping her interest for the rest of my life. I don’t have to hide parts of personality that might be a “turnoff”. I am free to only talk about things that are fun and interesting, without having to deal with the yucky/boring/sad parts of life that married partners have to confront together.
In short, I experience more freedom to be myself and to only do things with my LO that are enjoyable for both of us, and while those things do not include physical touching, I get all of the physical touching I need from my wife. The friendship I have with LO contributes to my life in other ways, and it is much easier to think of her as a friend (rather than as a romantic partner that I missed out on) when I focus my attention on what I can get from her rather than on what I can’t.
5. Provide your LO with unselfish support
When I look back on my previous experiences with limerence, I can see that my relationships with LOs were primarily selfish, in the sense that I cared more about getting them to like me (and to be around me) than I did about their happiness and success in life. When exciting opportunities arose for them that would have reduced the amount of time they could give me or would have required them to move far away, my natural instinct was always to evaluate those opportunities in terms of how they would affect me, rather than how they would contribute to LO’s life. As a result, I always found it difficult to be supportive of LOs in those situations, which essentially prevented me from being their “friend”.
I’ve made a lot of progress with my current LO in this respect. I decided awhile back that I would be 100% supportive/objective in our conversations about the opportunity that has arisen for her to move to the other side of the globe to pursue a lifelong dream, without giving any indication that I would selfishly like her to stay and without trying to make her feel guilty about leaving. I’ve been at it long enough now that my own perspective has actually flipped over to the side of being mostly supportive, without having to pretend or feign support.
I will miss her when she leaves, but I am really happy to be able to be the kind of “friend” that wants what’s best for her and encourages her to go for it, even if that means leaving me behind in the process.
6. Endeavor to inform/involve your spouse(s) as much as possible in your friendship with LO
This is a tricky one for me. In the early days of my relationship with LO, I didn’t tell my wife that LO and I were meeting once every 1-2 months for lunch/coffee. I would usually tell DW that I had spoken with LO, but not that we were sitting down together for 1-2 hours to chat. I worried that my DW wouldn’t respond well to the thought of me going on (platonic) “dates” with LO, so I kept the dates a secret so that I wouldn’t risk having to give them up.
In hindsight, the things I did to keep secret certain aspects of my relationship with LO have ended up causing problems now that I am trying to be authentic friends with LO and trying to encourage my SO to be involved in the friendship. While it’s probably true that LO and I would not have developed the same level of intimacy in our friendship that we have now because of all of the time we spent alone, it’s also true that our friendship would be a lot less risky and a lot more acceptable to my SO if my SO had been more involved from the very beginning.
In short, meeting in secret with an LO is not really an act that leads to platonic friendship: it’s an act that mostly reflects a desire to be more than friends, whether in reality or just in fantasy.
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For me, point 3 would have been the deal breaker. And point 6 for SO would have been the deal breaker. she told me in no uncertain terms that if i thought i was going to be friends with LO there were gonna be consequences :o
I'm a qualified counsellor, psychotherapist, medical practitioner and leadership coach.
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I have been obsessed with someone for about three months now. I have never had an experience quite like this before. I am 46. I am female. I am bisexual in theory, but have been in a long term relationship with a man for 21 years. The object of my obsession is male.
When I was younger I used to get obsessed with people, particularly when I was a teenager. One of my crushes lasted four years (between the ages of 12 and 16) before it finally tailed off. I would do things like cycle past his house in the hope that I might bump into him, or deliberately stand on a bridge I knew he was going to cross, so I could pretend to bump into him. In fact we became good friends, and finally when we were both 17, I decided I was a lesbian (I'm bi now) and told him - at which point he told me he was gay, LOL.
Anyway I haven't been obsessed with someone inaccessible like that since I was a teenager.
But now I have an obsession with a male colleague. I can't stop thinking about him. I told him early on that I had a crush on him, because I made an aborted pass at him, and (a) I was embarrassed, and (b) I wanted to make sure he didn't think there was any possibility of anything happening between us. He doesn't know the extent of my feelings for him. I am in a long term relationship with a man who I love very much. We have been together 21 years and so we are in a bit of a rut, but I have no doubt that I love him, that he is a good man, that I have no desire to end our relationship. We have two children. I can see objectively that he (my SO) is far better suited to me than my LO, that he is in most ways a better man, that I would be insane to risk losing what we have.
The thing is, I know that I am capable of changing bad habits and have at least some control over unwelcome thoughts. Several years ago I suffered very badly from anxiety, and I managed to turn that around so successfully that I fully believe I will never have another serious anxiety attack again (I haven't had one for years). I had enough willpower to lose two stone of weight and keep it off (it took me two years to lose the weight, and I have kept it off for two years).
Having said that, although I have sometimes made progress in the last few weeks with my limerence, I have had a lot of relapses and I am dismayed with how little control I seem to have over my thoughts. This evening was bad: I didn't stop thinking about him from the moment I left work. I kept fantasising about him declaring his love for me.
He has admitted he is also attracted to me but (thank God) he has no interest in getting involved with someone who is already attached, and he mostly doesn't seem to have any problem in controlling himself (and anyway presumably he was only ever mildly interested in me, and doesn't feel the same way I do).
We have already agreed that we should just be friends, but of course the problem for me is that while I am being friendly on the surface, behind the scenes my head is full of contrary thoughts, and I'm having to exert enormous willpower not to bombard him with texts, Facebook tags, instant messages, Skype messages, etc etc.
I have a chart where I give myself a big tick for every 24-hour period when I don't initiate any form of online contact. My rule is that I'm allowed to talk to him in person, because then I get an instant response. And I'm allowed to respond to any online contact initiated by him (this hardly ever happens, which tells you something). But if I initiate contact, then I just get obsessed with whether he will respond or not (he often doesn't), and that's really bad. I'm trying to get a full seven days of no online contact initiated by me (I haven't achieved this yet).
Anyway, we are quite good friends now and have a lot of chats, and he confides in me about things to do with his life, and we tell each other that we are good friends. But obviously I'm not there yet.
But I have other friends in my life - quite a lot, in fact - who I have slept with or had relationships with or even been in love with in the past, and I have no problem with any of that now - I'm not attracted to them any more and I see them purely as platonic friends. But to be fair, none of them were ever the objects of such an obsessive infatuation.
I don't know whether I should aim for No Contact. That would involve quitting my job. I've only been in my job for four months. It's the best job I've ever had. I think that's part of it: My life has changed significantly for the better, and I have become successful in a way I haven't been for years. I've lost weight and become attractive again. I can get attention from men in a way that I thought was lost for ever. My children are older. And I seem to crave attention.
I have put significant work into revitalising my relationship with SO. I try to channel my sexual feelings away from LO and onto SO instead. To be honest my sexual feelings for LO are still strong (but not as bad as they were), but I also have stronger sexual feelings for SO, and our relationship has definitely improved. Which is great. I feel very lucky indeed that I have SO.
SO knows that LO exists. He knows that I HAD a crush on LO. He doesn't know it's ongoing, and he doesn't know the extent of it. I don't want to hurt him or make him feel insecure. I love him very much.
I have invited LO to come to our house for an evening meal this weekend. He is being vague about whether he will come or not. I have also invited a couple of other colleagues, so that it won't be weirdly claustrophobic. I want LO to meet SO, so that LO doesn't feel like a secret, so that he feels like a normal proper friend. If LO and SO get on, maybe it will be easier for me to see LO as just another friend. Or maybe I am just kidding myself, and really this is just an excuse to get even closer to LO, to show him more of myself, to spend more time with him.
I want to believe that I can be proper platonic friends with LO, that the obsessive thoughts and feelings can pass, that I can just enjoy his company without obsessing over what he is thinking about me. I have managed this a few times, but it is often followed - after we part company - by an intense period of unrealistic fantasising.
When I am at work, I nearly always know exactly where he is. When I don't know where he is, I make excuses to wander around the office so I can work out where he is. When he is close to me (his desk is near mine), I find excuses to get his attention. When he talks to other people, I get jealous.
Occasionally there is physical contact. Knees brushing together, arms brushing together. Mostly I manage to avoid it, but occasionally I get kind of giddy and have a burst of flirting, then hate myself for it. One day last week he stroked the back of my hand, which is worrying. I have no idea whether he knew what he was doing. He's South American and is used to being much more physical and demonstrative with people - he says it gets him into trouble. I don't think he's messing with me. Most of the time he maintains a sensible distance. I wish I knew what was in his head, but I know I can't ask him.
I want to believe we can be friends. But the very fact that I want it makes me doubt my motives. :/
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Out of interest, when you say you've been on the other end, do you mean you were someone else's LO, or do you mean you were a limerent's SO?Lima_Rance wrote:Oh this is horrible. Why do this to him? I've been on the other end of this and it was not funny at all.I have invited LO to come to our house for an evening meal this weekend.
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So here I am, a year down the line, with LO as a very good friend. Just quickly on the first three tips. It is hard sometimes, but I remain friends whilst wanting more. It helps that I don't see her too often, although have seen her far more than I would ever imagined after meeting her - it will be nine times in a year, mostly weekends, which is considerably more than other friends who also live some distance away.
Tip 2 I would absolutely agree with - we have fostered a great friendship, again far greater than I would have imagined after meeting her. She probably should have just been 'the girl we met that weekend at X', and never really kept in touch with. But for whatever reason, she stuck, and is now a really good friend. Whilst a big part of me would like it to be more, there is much that is fullfilling and satisfying - the shared interests and sense of humour, that has resulted in us sharing and introducing a lot of stuff with / to each other. Often things that we get, that others, including my SO maybe don't so much. Even if it just stays stuck where part of me would like it to be more, I appreciate and enjoy the friendship too much now to give it up.
Tip 3 - again, absolutely. I have no doubt that the circumstances in which we met, where I was married, and she was single, were the exact circumstances which has allowed us to foster such a good friendship. me being married presumably makes me a safe male friend who isn't about to hit on her, and her being single has made her more approachable than had she been in a relationship.
I would agree then that had we met in different circumstances, we might not have become such good friends. But the other scenario would be if circumstances were different in the future, might something possibly happen then? Who knows. Whilst the circumstances in which we met may affect how the friendship has developed, the current circumstances nonetheless feel as though, were we both single now, it could become something more.
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and its hard, not to fall into old habits...