“He’s just a friend”, Jenny tells Richard every time he asks about Mark, her work colleague. While this might be valid and actually true, Richard feels that the way she speaks and acts towards him is different than it is with other colleagues and friends. Although he can’t read her mind, he is visibly concerned. He tried to express his feelings, but in those moments, she immediately dismissed them.
Jenny fantasizes about Mark a lot. They met a few years ago when he started working at her current company. During time they became friends and, while Mark is kind and always a good friend to Jenny, she secretly and deeply wishes that he, at some point, would want more as well. She found herself thinking and obsessing about him, every time he smiles or tells her: “You look beautiful today”, she is excited and feels the highs. But Mark is married as well and many times in company events, such as the Christmas Party, he has come with his wife and proudly introduced her to everyone, holding her hands or constantly looking at her and smiling during the whole night. In those moments, Jenny felt that her world was falling apart. She didn’t even want to be around him, she felt shy and embarrassed, as he was rejecting her.
What Jenny might be experiencing is called limerence. You can get limerence towards a friend, a colleague or a stranger. When you get limerence, your entire focus and point of attention become your Limerent Object (LO). You get a euphoric connection with a new person and you are constantly looking for them to reciprocate the same. Everything they do takes new meaning for you, every word, smile or action. Even though you might not have the power to stop these thoughts or feelings, you have the power to decide how to manage them.
This is highly dangerous when experienced in a committed long-term relationship because if the person is not aware of their limerent symptoms, they might take some actions that they will regret later. Luckily, Jenny realized that she doesn’t want to jeopardize her marriage, or involve herself in Mark’s marriage. Her relationship with Richard has not been always good, but she deeply loves him. She asked herself: Can I remain friend with Mark, though?
If you are experiencing Limerence right now, you might ask yourself the same question right now: Can I remain a friend with my Limerent Object? Like platonic friends?
Whatever you decide, the hard truth is that it will be better not to. Friendship is defined by a strong interpersonal connection between two people, based on mutual affection and trust. The trust in a friendship is often built based on personal self-disclosure; being vulnerable with each other or sharing intimate information. This is why remaining a friend with your Limerent Object is unlikely to happen.
At this point, there are a few things that you can do to accept the situation and start to heal from it. Remember that limerence can last between 3 and 36 months, so you need to give yourself the time and patience to be able to move on.
- You can “break up” or stop any contact with the Limerent Object. This might be very painful, especially if you are currently in a close relationship with them. Doing this doesn’t have to involve necessarily any conversation with them, but it does mean interrupting the relationship for at least a period until you feel that your feelings are not that strong anymore.
- You can limit the contact or time spent together – This is a good option in case it is not possible to “break up” completely since you are in the same circle of friends or work colleagues.
- Last but not least, you can choose to maintain a friendship with your LO. However, this situation can turn very delicate, since you’ll keep idealising them, wanting a real romantic relationship with them and constantly asking yourself how can you stop the feelings that you have for them
When you choose to maintain a friendship with your Limerent Object you have to accept the fact that this will mean for you to carry an emotional burden and might create within you an internal conflict. If you keep being a friend with your LO you must know that interactions with them will give you the high dopamine that you crave, but also that you’ll have to cover your true feelings for them, which, in time, can affect your mental wellbeing.
It is not recommended to try to maintain a friendship with your LO, even a platonic one, as you’ll always want something more and not be able to see the other person as purely a friend and nothing more. Also, it is important to remember that there will be a lack of sincerity within the relationship, since your friend will want to spend some time together, while you’ll want more, always. An authentic friendship cannot thrive in the context of limerence. Disclosure, at least for some time, can be a good option for you. This time will allow you to learn how to process your emotions rather than being controlled by them. When you feel that the limerent feelings for that person are over, you can try to get a bit closer again and see how it feels.
If you find yourself in this situation, it might be very helpful to involve your spouse/partner in the process. This will show them that you are taking their feelings into account and that you are willing to work on yourself and the relationship. When someone experiences limerence it is difficult to focus on the partner’s emotions, since their main focus is the LO and getting their feelings reciprocated by them. Your partner can help you by giving you space, and it will also help them understand you! At this point, you can even decide together how to approach the situation and if it would be useful to see a couple of therapist or individual therapist.
In conclusion, it is hard to keep a wholehearted friendship when you crave a romantic relationship! Even if you admire them and you believe they are a good person, you’ll always want something more, a desire for something romantic or/and sexual. If your LO is available and reciprocates your feelings, the relationship can easily evolve into something more, from a Limerent Object they can become your Significant Other. But, if your LO is not available, the friendship will most likely make you suffer. You’ll have the desire to have more and deeper intimacy, which can cause conflict to the friendship and create agony and inauthenticity for yourself. As hard as it can be to let someone go, for the greater good of your soul you can learn how to look for new friends with whom you can create a deep and trustworthy relationship where you can truly be yourself.