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I've been with my wife 7 years, married for 4. She is the type of person who usually gets obsessed with other people, not always romantically, but (now I realize) she has experienced limerence before. Until recently she would tell me about her feelings and intrusive thoughts and after me demanding she stops contacting the LO, it would stop. Unfortunately we did not seek therapy right away. I always told her it's ok to be attracted to other people, it's not ok to act on these feelings. Beginning of November, I found out she is having an affair, and after that revelation she moved out (she rented a flat for herself). She told me we are not together anymore, that she is in love with LO and doesn't want to stop seeing him. This was a huge shock for me. I thought we had a great relationship, (sure we were facing some financial stress, but I thought we were committed to facing it together) we were on the same wave length, never had fights, etc... Suddenly it didn't matter to her what happens to me. I'm sure it's limerence.
I convinced her to spend the holidays together in her home country (we live abroad). I wanted to try to reconnect with her and understand what is going on. We went there together, visiting friends and family. With them, she pretended that nothing was going on and that we were still together. We had a really nice time together, she asked to sleep in the same bed, and she started kissing me again. She told me she still loves me, she is still attracted to me, that we are not done with each other, and that she is hoping this is a "teenage thing" that will go away. But she insisted that upon return to the country where live, she wants to have a period of no contact. She said that we will miss each other a lot.
After our return, a bit over a week went by, and then she contacted me and asked for a divorce. I asked why she wants a divorce now, when a bit over a week ago she was saying we are not done with each other. Her reasoning was that she wants to be free again and start "from scratch" and we can remarry. However when I mentioned that I will get a lawyer, she panicked, I guess because suddenly she understood the implications of divorce. I managed to change her mind about divorce for now. But it was clear to me she is not thinking clearly at all, having problems concentrating, and memory problems.
I found out though the reason she asked for a divorce. The LO found out she had spent the holidays with me, confronted her angrily and called her a liar. He then gave her an ultimatum to divorce me. She told me that he has been checking her phone constantly to make sure she is not in contact with me. She asked again for a period of no contact (she said "6 months") but said I could contact her in emergencies, and only via e-mail. She called herself a "drug addict" and said she needs to get rid of the chemicals in her brain. She did mention she has seen some "red flags" about LO, being controlling and possessive, and she thought it probably will not work between them long-term. After a long discussion she also admitted she think i'm better for her long-term. However she also said if she leaves him now to come back to me, she might forever be resentful not knowing whether she would have been happiest with the LO. When we parted, she said she could see I've been working on myself and she thought it was attractive.
I'm pretty sure that she doesn't want me to contact her because she is afraid the LO will leave her if he finds out she is contacting me. But I'm worried if I force it, she will resent me for being the cause of the breakup.
It might be relevant that my wife turned 30 in September, and this has been a crisis for her. She feels that she wasted her 20s (she does not have a career but has inherited money from her grandmother which she is using to support herself at the moment). Her parents split up shortly after she was born, she has a very tense relation with them, her dad is a narcissist and her mom is a hoarder (my wife's characterization of her parents), so she also has anxiety and attachement issues.
Do you think I should respect her request for no contact? Should I try to explain limerence to her and help her understand what she is going through? Is it possible to tell which stage of limerence she is in and whether the fog is lifting?She seems to be aware on some level that this is something chemical happening in her brain, but she doesn't seem to be willing (or strong enough) to stop it.
Any thoughts or comments appreciated.
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- Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Age: 50
It's very, very good that you took the time to try to understand you wife's behavior and found out about limerence. I'd say that your diagnosis is exactly right. Read here as much as you can because the best way to help her is to fully understand what this is (but I should tell you that is probably impossible for you to really understand the nature of this if you haven't experienced it yourself, so keep that in mind)
Though in reality she is definitely doing something to you, that's not the way she sees it now from inside the so-called "fog". Confronting her won't work the way it usually does, so, better avoid that. A positive fact is that a real, day to day relationship with an LO is a speedway out of limerence. And this guy in particular seems way too possessive.
So, if you just let her "shoot herself in the foot", she'll get rid of limerence really really fast.
Having said that...
We like to think of limerence as a wake up call. So, when their fantasy-driven, addictive relationship burns--and it will burn--she would have probably had passed through, or be going through, a very deep crisis and transformation. Where will you marriage stand after that is impossible` to tell. She might come out realizing you are the best that ever happened to her, or just the opposite.
If I were in your shoes--specially now knowing what limerence is--I would set her free to let her burn out the fantasy with LO, hoping that she'll go through the crisis and found herself, leaving the door open. And, in the meantime, I would take the split as my own wake-up call and see what my own transformation needs to be, so that if she does come back, it won't be to the same place as before but a much better one.
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Though I haven't replied, it was helpful for me to read what you wrote. I've been reading as much as I can about limerence, and working on taking care of myself. I've contacted a therapist and I'm scheduled to start next week.
I've been determined to let her "shoot herself in the foot" as you said. But it's been really hard. I can't stop thinking about them together, and how I've gotten thrown out so suddenly. From the last meeting, she said she knows she has caused me pain.. But it's just so surreal to me the degree to which she takes it to be a fait accompli, that seeing me now amounts to being unfaithful to LO, or that I can just move on... And even though she expressed hope in a future together, she seems to think that our relationship can just restart if we get back together, without understanding how this experience is changing me inside and damaging me.
An update. Two days ago, she contacted me after 2.5 weeks of silence. She wrote me on email (to hide her communications, I guess). She said she wants to meet me, "nothing special, I just want to see you". We met and talked. She said she realized she doesn't want to cut the contact and that she missed me. She said that she feels there is a strong bond and a special warmth between us (this made me even more convinced that it's limerence). She said that earlier she didn't want to see me because it makes her confused, but now she realized it's not confusion she feels, but that it makes her "confront" what's going on inside her. I was really tempted to tell her about limerence, but I didn't do it.
She said she had been thinking about the things I said in our last meeting. I had talked about why we shouldn't divorce and that we should try to fix our marriage. She said she agreed with everything I said. She said she was shocked that I mentioned a lawyer (I think that shock worked in waking her up a little bit). I explained why I asked for a lawyer: "I hope you understand, I've been hurt and I have trouble trusting you. Not because you are a bad person, but because I believe you are not thinking clearly. I need to take care of myself." She agreed and said "yes, I am happy that you are protecting yourself." But she said she no longer wants a divorce, and that it's no longer important to her.
Among other things, she said she can see how much I'm working on myself, and that it's very attractive. She said she is working on herself too. She said that the biggest problem now is the involvement of the "third party" (the LO), and that she wished he was not involved, because he is a distraction (!!)
She asked me: "if we find our way back together, would you be willing to go to couple therapy?" I shook my head "yes", while thinking "that would be absolutely necessary!" I had mentioned couple therapy to her before all this happened, when she first started to withdraw, and she never really agreed to it, just saying "maybe later".
She also mentioned she is starting to think about having children again. This was the biggest positive sign for me. We had always agreed that we want to have children, and we had been discussing it starting a year ago (maybe that was one of the triggers of the LE?) However over the holidays, we visited two couples, friends, who just had babies. I was really surprised that she started talking about how much trouble kids are and that she didn't want to have babies. That was so out of character for her... She had always told me she wants children. But now she said she starts to think about it again.
One more thing, she told her mother that we are having some issues and we are temporarily living apart. I asked "did you tell her you are seeing another guy?" She said "no". I asked "why not?" She said "because things are not clear at the moment, and I don't want trouble in case we are back together."
When she left, she kissed me. I expect we will see each other at least once a week from now on..
I had a good feeling overall... I'm still anxious and hoping she will end it with the LO asap... but I felt she was much more lucid and rational than the last time we talked. Maybe she is starting to wake up from the fog? I really hope so....
Meanwhile I will continue caring for myself. No matter what happens... I need to be strong. Even if we get back together, I have a feeling that when the LE ends for her, it's going to hit her really hard. I need to be strong for myself first, and then for our relationship.
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It sounds like your wife is deeply in the "fog" where she is only following her emotions and not rational thought. LImerence is like any other addiction, the addict will do or say anything for another "fix". I was fortunate that upon discovering the affair I confronted my wife, she denied it at first but I had the emails as proof. I told her to leave and that I wanted a divorce. She left and spent the night at her sisters house. That might have been a mistake but it seemed to snap her out of the fog. She returned the next day very apologetic and remorseful. We agreed to counseling, both individual and couples. It is definitely a help in the early stage of getting back together.
Let me try to summarize what you might be going through: Many racing thoughts, how did this happen, how can she do this to me, what do I do now? First off, don't make any big decisions while you are going through such anxiety. Take care of yourself, eat well and get sleep. Let time pass, it is the healer. Realize that YOU did nothing wrong. Limerence is probably the reason for her behavior but not an excuse. She crossed boundaries and she knows that. She is also going through turmoil similar to you and if she comes to you looking for comfort, be prepared to give it to her. That is the best therapy for both of you. I know how you are hurting. I am still hurting after one year. For me the remaining issue is: Does she love me? She was planning a life with someone else that she was in love with. When she is unaffectionate toward me it still reminds me of the way she behaved during the affair and triggers my anxiety.
Best wishes for you and keep us informed. Another website that has been helpful for me in finding answers is affairrecovery.com.
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- Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Age: 50
I'm so so glad to read about your update. Your wife seems to be starting to come around. It seems to me that if you keep the door open she will get back to you and possibly with a more clear idea of what she needed and what wasn't working. As you said, it won't work to go back to the same spot, but you can rebuild a new marriage. Let her know that you can do that and work things out. I also recommend that at all points, leave her LO completely out. Don't mention him or anything about him, and just pretend she just run away to be alone and find herself (which sort of is in reality). As you must have read by now, limerence is an addiction and currently she is addicted to him.
When she gets back--and I think she will, in time--the important thing is how you two manage to fix whatever needed to be fixed. Counseling and therapy is a must, but is just a guidance, and at the end of the day you both have to heal, get better and rebuild your marriage with your own hard work.
My own limerence experience, close to 3 years now, provided me with many lessons, but there is one in particular which is really significant.
The extremely short version of the lesson is just this: drop the necessity and illusion of external control. Let your wife (and anyone else actually) be whatever she is and do whatever she does. And if she loves you (in spite of herself, which is the way we all love), you'll be together being as happy as we humans can be.
The long version is this...
Though I never really wanted a relationship with LO, and I never even considered for a second leaving my wife, I did question over and over what was wrong with my marriage since something had to be wrong. We had our huge storms and terrible fights, but that was many many years ago. Something had to still be wrong. Eventually I realized that there were tons of small but daily things that had me unhappy. And just like the gentle but steady flow of a water stream, will erode, without notice, even the hardest of the stones, those small unhappy moments were eroding our relationship.
The very first thing to do was to start talking about it. Let her know what things, even if apparently small, were not making me happy. But that's pretty standard and is not the lesson I'm talking about.
At a deeper level, what things make me happy, and in contrast, unhappy?
At some point it seemed pretty clear that LO made me happy, because she did this or that, or was like this or that. But, after I disclosed, almost a year ago, she just never ever talked to me again, started to expressly avoid me, and clearly showed her disdain and discomfort very vividly whenever I was around. So, I got angry and wanted her to fuck off right? well, no... not at all, not for a second. I still wanted her, I still wanted her to go back to the way things used to be. At some point I even tried to get angry at her... but it just didn't happen.
But that didn't (still doesn't actually) make any sense. Nothing about limerence makes any sense, but that is like the greatest paradox of it all. How come I get so easily, and so much, upset when, for instance, my wife does something I don't like, but when LO does that, I still want her like she did nothing? And not just my wife.. with regular people, friends or family, I had no problem reacting in the way we people normally react, and yet, it seemed like LO could wipe the floor with my face and I would just come back for more.
There actually is a perfect explanation for that related to the way in which LOs are strange psychological surrogates for our unfit parents.. but that was still not the lesson.
The monumental paradox that is the difference in the way I react to my wife vs LO made me explore very very deeply how we do that.. react.
If there is one thing that seems to be the very core of our human nature is how we expect, demand and require other people, specially the ones we have a deep connection to, like our SO, to value, respect, like, love and want us.
And that's OK, isn't it? how wouldn't I require my wife to do all that? if she didn't then she wouldn't be my wife right?
Well, not quite.
The key... the colosal but subtle key, is in the difference between recognizing, wishing for and enjoying something positive, like being loved, and demanding it. I don't just enjoy my wife treating me like someone she loves, I need her to do it. And if I need something, I demand it and get mad if I don't have it.
Everytime my wife (or anyone else, but here the focus is in my marriage) yells at me, or blames me, or ignores me, or lies to me, etc.. I feel like "you can't do that... I won't accept this".. I might not even get noticeably mad, but it adds to the "stream of eroding water" nonetheless.
Now you'd ask: "but of course she can't do that, and you shouldn't accept it, so how is this a problem with you? is a problem with her"
Setting aside (for the moment) the fact that she could say the exact same thing since we all treat each other just the best we can, which often is far less than ideal, I wondered: is might be her responsibility, yes, but does it mean that I should fight it and not accept it?"
Seeing that I have no problem whatsoever, and naturally, accepting whatever LO does, couldn't it be that I actually, can, if I wanted, accept and not fight what my wife does? I re-act, and it just happens, but could I hold the horses and act instead? Well, as it turns out, yes, I can.
So the remaining question is, should I? doesn't she HAS to treat me the way I'm set up to treat her?
Well, of course, she has to... but, so do I... yet, can I say I never fuck it up myself? not at all.
So, we both have to treat each other in a positive way, but, in reality, we just do what we can, and fail, even miserably, when we cannot.
So, couldn't I accept and take what she does, whatever that is, even if it hurts me, if and for as long as I know that she tries to do better? (and accept what I do in turn knowing that I also try to do better)?
I've been trying to put this in practice and the very fist thing that I noticed is that things just aren't as bad as they seem like when you fight them. Situations where before I would feel like they are outrighteous, and I wouldn't stand them for a second because I don't deserve them, now feels and look totally insignificant.
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Thank you all for your replies.
Pattihopeful: Thanks, I know Marriage Helper and their youtube videos have helped me understand a lot of things.
John: Thanks for sharing your story. Sometimes I do regret that I told her I will stand for our marriage and won't give up... I think that just convinced her she could do whatever she wanted and take me for granted... But I felt that when she mentioned divorce and I mentioned a lawyer (and the possibility I could take her apartment and summer house from her in case of divorce) really shocked her and pulled her more back to reality.
You are right about the thoughts going through my head.... The worst time is in the evening... I start to think about all these questions, my future plans are ruined, my past doesn't make sense anymore, I feel as if my wife has died and I don't know this person who looks like her. I am easily triggered for example if I'm watching TV and see people kissing... I can't stop reliving the events of that night when I found out.... I was completely broken.
Mr Spock: Thanks for sharing your story. I am taking your advice, so far I have avoided talking about the LO at all, even when she herself brings him up.
I've always felt that it's very easy for her to say "no" to me when I suggest things, but it's very hard to say "no" to others... Like for example I ask her if she wants to see a particular movie with me, she would "no i don't like this kind of movies", and later she would go and watch it with someone else. She is so easily influenced by others and I realize that she has taken me for granted for a while.
The thing is, this affair came at a crucial time in my life. Just to mention some purely practical matters (as opposed to emotional):
Since before I found out about the affair, we had decided we want to move back to her home country. I want to move back for myself, not just for her, as I feel very attached to the place... I am the working one (she could never hold down a job for more than a couple of months) and so I have to find a job in her home country... In order to do that I need to switch careers and I have been in the process of researching new career opportunities, taking online courses, writing applications... It is not easy at all.
Before D-Day, I was asking her to use her citizenship to apply for family reunification and bring me back to her country, and that would make it easier for me to get a job there. Even though she agreed we should go back, she wanted me to get a job and take us back all by myself, which I never really understood. She kept pushing the matter aside, and now I don't have the guarantee that she would help me at all. She knows how important this issue is for me, but she pulled her support from me at the most critical time...
Well there is nothing to do but wait. I've been to two therapy sessions so far. My therapist is helping me cope with anxiety and to understand my feelings and I realize I need to put firmer boundaries and stop planning my life according to her behaviour.
It's been 2 weeks since I saw her. Last week, I thought she would come to see me (she goes to ballet class on Wednesdays close to where I work) but she wrote me and said she was busy and is skipping the class. I'm still waiting to see if she would come today.
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She did come to see me today. She wrote me she is going to ballet class and would like to see me. However when she got here, she decided to skip the ballet class. She said she came mostly to see me. She had been sick with food poisoning and a fever two days ago. She said that while lying in bed feeling horrible, she wished I were there...
Another thing she said is that the last week she had been scared of earthquakes. There is a risk of a big earthquake where we live and recently there have been a lot of minor earthquake activity and some people are talking about a big earthquake that is coming... Of course it is just people talking and no one knows if or when it would happen, but my wife is paranoid about stuff like that and gets very easily scared. Anyway, she told me she was scared there would be a big earthquake and she thought about calling me and asking me if it would be ok if she slept at my place, since it is in a safe area... I wanted to say "of course you can come sleep here!" But I chose not to answer.... I didn't know if it would be too pushy if I did!
She commented again on how I've been working on myself. I've been exercising and she said she can feel it in my "energy". She also wanted to feel my biceps which I thought was quite funny!
We didn't talk much about emotional stuff. I asked her how it's going at her "work". She is "working" for a startup where she is not being paid, has not signed a contract, and the boss will decide after launch how much each member contributed and will be paid accordingly! She started this "work" a month ago, but she was complaining about her boss. I told her it sounds like this guy is exploiting people and she should be careful. She agreed that there are big red flags about this startup... She is now looking for work which actually pays her money.
At that point she started crying and said that she is struggling to find a direction for her life. She said that she only cries when she sees me (She used to cry often I came home from work, and she said it's because I was finally there and she felt safe to release her emotions to me).. I gave her a hug and I chose mostly to take that as a good sign.
Overall the conversation was just about trivial stuff and meaningless daily life events. But there were moments where I could see she had tears in her eyes. She would say something like "I don't want to break our connection", then the conversation would be back to trivia.
One thing she said multiple times is that she really wants to leave this country soon and that has had enough of it. She said she would like to live in Spain or Portugal (she is from northern Europe). I thought "what about the LO? is she planning to end it? is that her way to end it, to run away? or is he going with her?" I thought this but I didn't ask, because I didn't want to bring up the LO. But she did ask me later if I would like to live in Spain. I could not tell however if she had in mind "living together in Spain" or was just asking me individually. I said I would like that if I could.
Her godmother is coming on Wednesday to visit "us". However, she hasn't told her godmother anything about what's going on, and her godmather believes we are living together. I was surprised and ask her what she is planning to tell her. She said "I will take it as it comes." I don't know how to handle this. Her godmother really likes me, she has been supportive of my wife at times, but at other times she has been a controlling person in my wife's life, and their relation oscillates between closeness and tension.
She also asked me if I would like to go out to a restaurant with her for my birthday next week. It will be while her godmother is here. I said I would like to go to the restaurant and that I would also like to see her godmother. I really don't know how this will go... I know my wife told her mother that we are temporarily living apart but has not mentioned her affair. Maybe she will do the same with her godmother? I have no idea.
Our goodbye was awkward. She told me she will come to see me next week. She hugged me very tight, but she did not kiss me on the lips. Instead she give me an awkward cheek kiss (if you know how French people greet each other, it was similar to that), I thought "what the ???" then she hopped on the bus. As the bus drove away, she was looking at me affectionately with her hand on her heart...
I came back home very confused. Two weeks ago when I saw her, we did talk about emotional stuff and I had a good feeling. Today, I have somewhat mixed feelings... I have no idea what she is planning when she talks about moving away. If she is indeed coming out of the fog, I don't know in which direction she will come out. I will just keep concentrating on myself for now.
Definitely things to discuss with my therapist in the next session.
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She doesn't like the idea of you working out because she knows it will likely lead to you finding someone and it's my bet she hates the thought of you being happy with someone else. It's also my bet that as soon as someone shows interest in you, you'll have her running back to you.
Whatever you do. Don't go down the manupialive track of 'tit for tat'. Don't threatened [with lawyers]. Don't show off. Don't do anything that could provoke a codependent response. Because if you do, and she returns, you'll be right back in that dysfunctional silent codependent relationship. Its good that you are focusing on yourself.
Going by what you have shared, it wouldn't surprise me if she already knows about this forum. And uses it.
"Everything is within your power, and your power is within you." Janice Trachtman