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For a little background, I have been married to DW for more than 20 years. We have a DS who is a teenager. DW and I have had a great marriage. We love each other very much, we enjoy each other’s company and we like to do stuff together. She is my best friend as well as my wife. We respect each other and are very good at resolving issues without major conflict. We have had people tell us that our marriage is THE example of what a marriage should be. Of course it’s not perfect and it has had its ebbs. However the ebbs have always subsided and the marriage has gotten it’s ‘flow’ back.
I think things started to really go awry in the last two years or so. During that time, and in the two to three years prior, we went through some major family crises and major life changes. My DW’s father became ill and passed away, her mother became increasingly unable to care for herself and there was drama that involved DW’s siblings. DW’s brother became involved in a major custody battle. We also focused heavily on school for DS. While we were very proud of him when he graduated, I also felt bereft. I loved watching DS participate in all of his sports and other activities and now this had ended forever. Add in turning 50 (hel-lo middle age crisis) and some financial issues and we certainly had a load that would have put a strain on any marriage. We could have handled it, except that we took our eye off the ball (i.e.: our marriage).
A key element in making our marriage work was ensuring our scheduling time to do things together. We even scheduled time for sex when things got really busy. What started to happen when the crises started was DW and I began to spend less and less time together. When we did spend time together, our conversation was dominated by issues that concerned DS or finances or how we were handling the family crises. We stopped doing the things together that we enjoyed, we stopped talking about us and we stopped having sex. In short, we stopped working on, and neglected, our marriage. Definitely in a major ebb there.
So in my work I see and work with a variety of staff on a daily basis. Some of these staff are employed on a casual basis to fill in for the regulars who are away for some reason. LO is one of those casual staff. Now, throughout my marriage I have worked with a lot of women who are the very type I’m attracted to – intelligent , confident, independent, good communication and social skills and a sense of humour. My DW fits that bill nicely and is beautiful to boot. So I haven’t been attracted to any of the women I have worked with throughout my career. No crushes, nuthin’. LO fit the above characteristics and she was physically attractive (although DW is better looking). She was divorced, single, with kids, and was going through a custody battle of her own. Throughout last summer, LO and I worked together a fair bit. LO and I ended up talking a lot about her custody fight and the custody fight of my BIL, which, at the time, was taking a significant toll on me and DW.
I think these conversations were a significant factor in my limerence. David has talked a lot about “wound mates” on this site with respect to FOO issues. My FOO issues were fairly minor, and were dealt with through therapy years ago. In this instance, I believe that LO became my ‘wound mate’ and initiated my attraction to her. Still, while LO and I got on well, there was no indication to me that anything was wrong. Neither of us crossed any boundaries in our professional relationship and showed no inclination to do so. LO went back to her regular job in the fall and I didn’t see her very much until Christmas. During that time, we had two short text exchanges regarding my BIL’s custody fight. Nothing to be concerned about. However, things were about to go sideways.
DW and I were not having sex, all our focus was now on crisis stuff, and the intimacy we had shared throughout our marriage had dwindled away. In about November last year, I started fantasizing about intimacy with LO. These weren’t sexual fantasies – these fantasies were about being wanted and needed. I wasn’t fantasizing all the time; maybe once every couple of days. Christmas came along and LO worked a couple of shifts with me. It didn’t seem like a big deal. Then, in early January, limerence hit me suddenly and at high speed. It seemed that one moment I was fine, and the next I was going crazy.
It was horrible. The thoughts I had been having about LO became constant and intrusive. I had to strain to concentrate on anything. My heart would pound and I had tightness in my chest. I felt constantly anxious and I yearned for reciprocation. I had trouble sleeping. I actually called in sick on a couple of days because I couldn’t sleep the night before my shift. To make matters worse, my thinking was starting to skew. I started to feel resentment toward DW. I magnified her faults and didn’t see any in LO (in retrospect, I do believe I was starting my descent into the affair fog). I didn’t understand what was happening to me. I have a great deal of self control and this was terrifying me. To top it all off, there was no pleasure at all here; only pain.
Fortunately for me, LO was back at her regular job and wasn’t around. I still had the presence of mind to refrain from texting her or searching her out on social media. I searched the web for solutions. I found a good TED talk by Maureen McGrath in which she talks about the sexless marriage. Yep, that was us all right. I continued looking and came upon the term ‘emotional infidelity’. My first thought was “Huh, is that really a thing?” So I Googled it and holy shit is it ever a ‘thing’. Down the rabbit hole I went. After some obsessive and frantic reading, it became apparent to me that I was yearning for, and was headed for, an EA. I was headed down the path to betraying my DW. Great. Just great.
I consider myself a man of integrity and honour with a strong set of values. My DW has commented on this many times with pride. Now my desperate and obsessive need for reciprocation from LO was in direct conflict with my values. This caused even more pain and angst. At the end of February I was at the end of my rope and was about to panic. I had to do something. So I told my DW what was going on in my head. She had no idea – outwardly I was my usual self. DW took it well (she later told me that my disclosure really scared her and she initially thought I was going to tell her that I was leaving her). This was the best thing I could have done. I felt my head clear and the physical symptoms ease. We resolved to work on our marriage.
I wasn’t out of the woods yet. The obsessive and intrusive thoughts were still there. Mention of LO’s name, or the sight of LO would still trigger a painful physiological response. Lucky for me I had very LC between the end of February and July. She wasn’t around the office much. I was able to resolve the obsessive and intrusive thoughts through the use of CBT techniques, and one or two others I learned online. When LO was around the office, I was able to get away with a “Hello” and a “Goodbye” and no conversation (I’m fortunate that my job takes me out of the office for most of my shift). I also read extensively about infidelity and finally came upon the term “limerence”. It was a relief for me to put a name to what I had been going through.
The physiological symptoms gradually subsided and are pretty much gone. So are the intrusive/obsessive thoughts, but I’m still on guard. Thoughts of LO have also diminished in frequency and carry no emotional weight now. There are no fantasies that involve a desire of intimacy from LO. I had two shifts last month in which I worked directly with LO. I’m happy say I survived intact and with no ill effects. Oh yeah, I’m in IC too.
This is a long post and again I apologize for its length. Writing this has been very cathartic for me. I realize I have dodged a bullet here and I am very grateful to my DW for her understanding and grace. Thanks for reading.
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Thank you for sharing your story! I am glad that you were able to fill your wife in on your internal struggle and that you have been able to get a handle on the feelings of limerence. I also like how you described that sudden onset of limerence. Its exhilarating and devastating all in one hit. Congrats on finding the path to healing for your marriage...and for yourself.
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Thanks very much. Interestingly, I found that there were no feelings of exhilaration at all. It was all pain. At best, thoughts/fantasies of LO would get me to a point of equilibrium between pleasure and pain. That wouldn't last long. Definitely a motivating factor to getting out of limerence. DW and I are currently reading and discussing Gottman's 'The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work'>
You've certainly had a long and arduous road. You seem to have been making good progress and I admire your strength and willingness to fight.
"MIssion creep". I like that. My IC gave me a similar cautionary note today. She said I would go "up and down" with this, especially if I was having a bad day/something was going wrong. I agree. I've noticed that the limerbeast knows when I'm tired and I have to put in extra effort to keep it at bay. I can't let my guard down, especially as I have a shift with LO on Thursday.
You seem to be doing well. I noticed that you had felt the need to "rescue" your LO. I had that KISA mind set too. Fortunately I'm past that.
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Id love to know what that switch is that suddenly gets flipped in our brains and we move from liking someone to being totally utterly obsessed by them.
Good you had the awareness to realise your LO isn't the magical other.
Glad you are taking responsibility and getting some IC and working through things with your SO. For sure its LE is a rollercoaster in the early phase. NC is essential to allow the love neurotransmitters to settle. Once these dissipate we stop rewriting history and can focus on rebuilding. Human biology can be cruel at times.
For Coaching, Mentoring see www.drdavidperl.com
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LE is definitely a rollercoaster. With me, it seemed the only direction was down.
I was very lucky that certain circumstances existed that allowed me the space to work my way out of this. Will be doing the heavy lifting for a long time 'cause I certainly can't rely on luck. Fear is a good motivator though as I shudder when I think how close I came to doing something monumentally stupid.
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