Is your spouse infatuated with someone other than you? How long does limerence last? Your spouse’s limerence doesn’t need to be a barrier to your building your relationship.
Can you compete with your spouse’s limerence (infatuation) for someone else? Yes, you can. But you can’t do that by putting down the object of his or her affection. That would only make you even less attractive than the other person. Limerent relationships interfere with your connection with your spouse. You can’t directly compete with a fantasy, but you can help the limerence to be more short lived.
You also can’t end your spouse’s loving feelings for another by trying to rationally explain that your spouse’s feelings are unrealistic.
Your spouse’s feelings are very real and the only way you are going to end them is by helping your spouse to feel more attracted to you.
What is limerence?
Limerence is a strong and persistent feeling of love and attraction toward someone that we are not in a relationship with. If the object of your spouse’s limerence returns those feelings, it is not limerence. The old expression for this is to “have a crush” on someone. It can start as an occasional thought and reach the level of an obsession. At this level, it can interfere with concentration and cause distancing behavior in current relationships. Limerence cannot be consciously switched off by the person experiencing it.
Common characteristics of limerence:
intense feeling of love and desire
an unrealistically positive view of another
provides an emotional escape from reality
is not influenced by reasoning
is not influenced by values
can’t be changed by evidence
other person is imagined to have what is needed
can make current relationships seem worse by comparison
cannot be intentionally initiated or stopped
When infatuation becomes action
Limerence may or may not lead to action by your spouse. It mostly depends on the availability of the other person. Limerence for a movie star, for example, is unlikely to lead to your spouse’s subsequent affair with that person. Limerence for a previous partner or a coworker, however, could certainly lead to an affair. In that case, your spouse is likely to make some kind of advances with the object of his or her infatuation.
The best outcome for your relationship would be for your partner to be strongly and repeatedly rejected by the person they are attracted to. This would make the limerence short lived. Our brains are designed to shut down loving feelings when we are repeatedly rejected. This happens in many relationships.
It is also possible that your spouse’s advances will be accepted and encouraged. In that case, the relationship is likely to grow and lead to an affair. Values and obligations will determine the amount of secrecy that your spouse will use, but it will not determine whether he or she has an affair or not. Christian values, for example, do not stop people from sinning. They do, however, make us aware of our need for a savior.
Avoid coaches and counselors who advise you to be patient, be submissive, or just let things run their course. While they relieve people of the responsibility of the need to do something, they wreck many marriages. The distance and resentment that can occur during your spouse’s limerence can do a lot of damage. It makes no sense to wait for things to worsen before you do something about them.
A similar analogy can be made with affairs. If you let an affair run its course, then you will lose respect, your relationship will suffer, and the affairs will happen again and again. The best actions are the ones that deal with problems immediately and effectively. This not only improves the immediate situation, it also helps to prevent the same problems from happening again in the future.
Limerence is similar to a chemical addiction as found by psychologist Dorothy Tennov. Thinking of it this way can help you have the right attitude toward your spouse. However, just as with chemical addictions, they are not things we support or let run their course. Pornography use is also like a chemical addiction, but standing by, being submissive, or patient is not a loving or effective way to deal with a spouse.
Actions you can take to end your spouse’s limerence
Your spouse’s limerence started because of what the idealized person is believed to offer. So, for example, it would be easy for an emotionally deprived person to become infatuated with someone believed to be very loving. Poets and singers of love songs have long created infatuation for many women. Adventurous women have long fascinated men bored by the routine of their lives.
Ending your spouse’s infatuation needs to start by your being able to offer more of the need that triggered it. Your spouse did not have such an infatuation with someone else at the beginning of your relationship. That is because you were perceived as having what your spouse needed. That helped him or her to fall in love with you.
Many people do a good job of offering love and romance at the beginning of a relationship, but then stop providing it after marriage. Some people provide it until kids are born or a new job is started. Then their spouses become love, adventure, or attention starved. It is important to specifically focus on actions that promote emotional and physical intimacy in marriage.
Maintenance of emotional connection
It is not enough to be a good provider or homemaker. You must also be providing for your spouse’s emotional needs. In addition, you need to continue to be an attractive and desirable partner not only for your spouse, but for other people, too. If the only one who could find you attractive is your spouse, then you are not going to be able to keep your spouse attracted to you.
Attraction goes far beyond appearance, though that is an important component for both men and women. Being attractive usually means being more like you used to be when your spouse was first happily in love with you. Were you more social? Adventurous? Available? Independent? Active? You may note that the person your spouse is infatuated with has many of the characteristics that you used to have, but no longer do.
Besides being a desirable person, you also need to be validating. You need to make your spouse feel good about his or her ideas. Conflict, avoidance, and neglect are the enemies of emotional connection. They all signal our spouses that that they are no longer very important to us.
It is also necessary to be secure. If not, then your relationship will have become more work for your spouse. Your spouse will devalue your relationship and be less fearful of losing it. This contributes to infatuation with others (limerence) and affairs. For sure there are few, if any, women who are infatuated with men they perceive to be insecure. Many men and women have been able to become more secure simply by following my book, Overcome Neediness and Get the Love You Want.
If you still have contact with your spouse, it is not too late
Even if your contact with your spouse is minimal, there are still things you can do. Here are five things you can do to improve your relationship with your spouse today:
Learning what it means to be an attractive person and working on that doesn’t even require you have any contact with your spouse. Many times people can know what to work on by thinking about how they used to be when they first attracted their spouse.
The contact you do have will be important for increasing validation while avoiding needy behaviors. You must be careful not to be jealous or attacking of the person your spouse is infatuated with. That person is not the reason for your relationship disconnect. That happened before the limerence started. Your main validation tools will be sincere agreement and empathy. If you find it hard to know how to agree with your spouse, I recommend my book, Connecting through “Yes!” If you no longer have time for learning on your own, then you will need a coach to help you learn these skills quickly.