affair recovery · Limerence

Honest Adventure – The Love Addiction Trilogy, Part 3

“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip, that started from this tropic port aboard this tiny ship. The mate was a mighty sailin’ man, the Skipper brave and sure. Five passengers set sail that day for a three hour tour. A three hour tour.”


The frustrating thing about watching Gilligan’s Island is that all the rules for what would actually happen in this scenario seemed to have been been tossed overboard in the storm. Of all the adventures ever documented, it is by far the most dishonest. When the passengers found themselves stranded on an uncharted island, the rules for how people would actually behave in this dire situation are not authentic at all.

Who among us has not questioned Ginger’s mindset when she chose to bring not just one evening gown, but a broad assortment of gowns for a three hour trip on a tiny sea craft? And what about the Professor? He helped the castaways build a private shower stall, an entire working kitchen, a television which was powered by a stationary bicycle, but he never inspired them to build a boat, or for that matter fix the small hole in the S.S. Minnow.

While we could see the plot holes and the inconsistencies, we were captivated by the iconic sitcom and it garnished its own cult following. The reason is as simple as Gilligan himself. We love adventure. We are intrigued by the idea of an uncharted island and the mystery of being stranded. Who among you hasn’t played the game, “If you were stranded on a desert island, what’s the one item/person/book you would want to have with you?”

In 2004 ABC gave us the chance to be stranded all over again with the TV show LOST. With the passengers of Oceanic Flight 815 stranded on the island with The Others, thousands tuned in week after week eyes fixed. Hurley was just as lovable as Gilligan had ever been, and this time we were seeing a more honest adventure amid mystery. We rooted for them to find answers, but, the truth was, as badly as Jack, Kate, and Sawyer wanted to be found, we needed them to stay LOST. We were fascinated by their remarkable adventure. Lost_by_laFada

As my husband and I live with the anomaly labeled Limerence, we often feel as if we are on an uncharted island. LOST would be an honest description for how we felt much of the last year. One thing we knew we HAD to do was to be honest in the aftermath. After any marital indiscretion, honesty is the number one requirement for building trust. It’s also mandatory for getting to the root of the dysfunction brewing beneath the surface. Our journey was not merely about forgiving & forgetting what had happened, but also about dealing with the issues that led me to that place in the beginning.

The frustrating thing about being in a real relationship with a person who struggles with an obsessive love addiction is that the traditional rules of romance are thrown out the window. The spouse of a person who struggles with Limerence can spend a lifetime attempting to unravel the mysteries of the obsessive personality. It would be similar to taking someone like yourself and placing them in their own bamboo hut with the castaways on Gilligan’s Island. Imagine it was you. Within the pilot episode, you’d realize something was amiss.

Now imagine you can’t fix it.

Now imagine you have the normal trials of having small children.

Now imagine you live in a fishbowl called, “Ministry”.

Now imagine your family is treading through the ridiculous heartache of burying a toddler.

Meanwhile, the hole in the S.S. Minnow just keeps getting bigger and bigger, and both of you feel more LOST than ever.

For almost three decades, I never understood why the obsession monster wasn’t unleashed in my marriage. I recognized I was obsessive and a bit of a perfectionist, and I figured if I could channel my obsession towards my husband or towards the Lord, I would be healed. My overwhelming insecurities would be flat-lined.

Once I had an understanding of Limerence, I understood why it wasn’t so easy. Limerence is an attachment disorder. Attaching oneself to a spouse who is stable doesn’t feed the monster. The monster is fed when it is attached in an unstable situation. The dysfunction is confused with words like romance, attraction and love. Emotional responses pave pathways in the brain and it becomes a Catch-22.

My husband has never made me feel insecure in his love for me. Not one day. From the moment he made his vows to me he has loved me as Christ loves the church. He believed that if he loved me enough, I would one day see myself through his eyes. This is why it is a dysfunction, the safer my husband made me feel, the less food there was for the obsession monster.

It sounds a little terrible, doesn’t it?

Actually, it’s been less frightening now that we understand it. Every thing I had previously read about a woman who would allow a self-destructive lie to enter into her marriage had explanations which included descriptions of men who were distant, unloving, abusive, or cheaters themselves. This wasn’t our story, and knowing this wasn’t our story made me hate myself even more for my choices.  Once we stripped away the stereotypes of people who enter into an affair, we could have honest conversations about our own marriage and it was through those conversations we came to fully understand Limerence. Understanding Limerence helped my husband to stop feeling like he was stuck on Gilligan’s Island and it made both of us feel a lot less LOST.

Does leaving the island mean we are sailing back to the mainland? Abso-FRICKIN-lutely-Not.


Our journey from here is truly an adventure. We are of the same mindset, and there is absolutely no one else I would rather have beside me for the expedition. We don’t know the ways God is going to use us. We don’t know how or if God is going to use our experiences with ministry, family, death and infidelity. We don’t know a lot of things, but the truth is…neither do you.

Perhaps you struggle with a mild case of Limerence, or a full blown case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Maybe you have had to cut off part of your body to keep the cancer from killing you, or you have to take a truckload of pills to keep your blood pressure under the radar. Some of you may have a family member who no longer speaks to you, or you have drive to a correctional facility to visit your child. Sadly, some of you may know the heartache of having to pick out a casket for your child. Maybe the person you’ve loved your whole life just told you it was over. Perhaps you signed divorce papers and then threw the pen in the trash. No matter how terrible the situation, it is temporal and there is a plan for your life. We are in an uncharted, full-blown adventure when we travel through these storms.  Does it hurt like Hell? Yes. Is it really Hell? No.

Heartache, sickness, addiction, and brokenness allows us to see our need for the Lord, as well as giving Him the space He needs to transform our hearts. Humility and transparency could change the world if people would stop responding out of fear. God wants to use our stories and our weaknesses to magnify His capabilities. A transformed life from a transformed heart is the greatest testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit.

So, sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a sinless man, that changed the way our lives would go when rebellion ruled the land. The Father was the mighty man of justice, His nature brave and sure. He found a way to show us grace when we felt there was no cure.

Let the Adventure continue!

This was the third post in a Blog Trilogy addressing the Love Addiction, scientifically known as Limerence. In the preceding posts I gave a brief definition of Limerence, as well the way it can influence a person’s choices. To read Honest Beginnings, Part 1 and Honest Fear, Part 2 simply click on the attached links.

affair recovery · Limerence

Honest Fear – The Love Addiction Trilogy, Part 2

I was sitting on my porch reading a Stephen King book when I had a scary thought. Ironically, the fear didn’t come from reading about an evil clown or an animal brought back to life in a Pet Cemetery. I was reading the author’s bestselling book, On Writing. This particular book is listed as one of the most notable on the craft of writing, and it’s become a staple in my life. My eldest son often teases me because I am always reading it. I leaf through it over and over, finding so much insight between its covers.

Mr. King is straightforward about the importance of writing honestly and blunt in his opinions of authors who fail to do so. He urges wanna-bees to write truthfully. Imagination is vital, but there has to be an element of truth. Even with writing about the supernatural, it’s not about whether or not something could happen, it’s about revealing secrets we would die for: the truth we know in our hearts. But then he cautions with this: “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered.”

Sitting there on my shady porch, reading his instruction, lamenting over the truths I have come to know, and sealing it with his warning was enough to bring tears to my eyes. The combination of what I knew to be true, what I knew I could share, and what that meant for my place in polite society gave me a chill.

Limerence: The Monster Within

This article is Part 2 of a trilogy of blog posts attempting to explain a psychological disorder which affects more than 5% of the population. (Part 1, Honest Beginnings is HERE) The term Limerence is used to define a distinct and involuntary psychological state that affects a multitude of people. Dr. Dorothy Tennov, an American Psychologist who interviewed thousands of people in her studies which supported her hypothesis about the obsessive drive for romance worked until the end of her life to help others have an understanding of the psychological anomaly.

Because I didn’t understand the disorder brewing in me, I assumed I was a lost cause. I was experiencing a nightmare, and there seemed to be no way out. In truth, there was a monster growing inside. That monster could have destroyed my life. Even after the affair was disclosed, the monster lived and breathed and was reliant on me keeping its ways a secret. That’s what makes a monster scary—not what you see, but what you can’t see.

Limerence isn’t exactly the same for every person, but it has certain qualities that are common for the majority. Some of its universalities include:

  • Obsessive-compulsive thoughts and behaviors towards another person
  • Longing for emotional reciprocation from the other person
  • Overwhelming fear of rejection from the other person

TentaclesOBSESSION: During the time I lived the double life of an affair, I would go for days without sleeping for more than two or three hours at a time. There was an obsession about the other person hanging over my head like a canopy. I could have twenty tasks I needed to accomplish in my day, but they all had to be accomplished under the over-arching first task of maintaining and meeting the desires and the needs of the other person. Every other task fell under that umbrella.

I was consumed with this other person, and my mind was constantly spinning as I tried to understand what was happening to me. I have never been addicted to alcohol or drugs, but many of the physical attributes and characteristics of substance addiction are similar to what I was experiencing.

And scientifically speaking, I later learned that is exactly what was happening. As more and more research is being done on this disorder there is a clinical understanding to the biochemical responses happening in the brain of a person with Limerence. Imagine being in a relationship with someone where just being in their presence stimulates your brain causing your pituitary gland to release a mixture of dopamine, norepinephine, and phenylethlamine. The chemicals produced have been referred to as a cocktail of euphoria. The other person is like your drug dealer—or worse, your drug.

These euphoric feelings are misinterpreted and mistakenly attached to romantic words and ideals. Women (and men) get trapped in this addictive state because they believe they are in love, when what they are actually experiencing is a chemical addiction to the pleasurable cocktail their own brain is producing.

This obsession monster takes the form of an underwater sea creature with seventeen tentacles. Swimming to shore to catch your breath is impossible because if you look away for one moment you’ll lose sight of one of the creature’s limbs and be pulled under completely.

the blobLONGING: If you are involved in an affair and you say this to your affair partner, “All I want is what’s best for you.” You, my friend, are a liar.  You cannot truthfully declare wanting what is best for the other person while simultaneously encouraging them to deceive the people they love the most. The undercurrent of every affair in its strongest moment is dishonesty.

With a Limerence affair the lanes on the road adjust to make room for the truck with the widest load. In this instance the cargo is not about how I feel about you, but rather it’s: how you feel about me makes me feel about me.

We all have a longing to be desired, needed, and wanted. That God created longing is deep inside all of us for a reason. Peter Rollins suggests in his book, Insurrection, that our greatest desire is to be desired by the one we desire. If the one we truly desire is God, we are on sturdy pavement because His desire for us is strong and unchanging. If however, the one we desire is someone else (or something else) we are traveling down a dirt road of chronic longing. The potholes not only will leave us dissatisfied, but quite often in our attempt to maneuver around those unpleasant obstacles we can get completely off course.

With a person who has Limerence there is a willingness to overlook areas where there is a lack of compatibility. In a healthy situation a person is drawn to someone with whom they have much in common. With Limerence, the lack of compatibility is irrelevant. Unappealing attributes in the other person cease to matter because the longing of being desired is what is being fed.

This longing takes the form of a giant blob. In 1958, the horror film The Blob depicted a monster (which looked a lot like a gargantuan mound of jell-o) that would roll over people and swallow them into his sticky clumpy form. With a longing blob-monster there is a loss of identity and autonomy. Really caring for and loving the other person is not your focus, because you are constantly consumed with whether or not they love you. In many ways this longing blob-monster is the opposite of love.

the-mistREJECTION: Lingering at every goodbye, and winning the award as The Biggest Fear, the interesting and confusing thing about rejection is the way the person with Limerence responds to the act. Like a person with a split personality, the person with Limerence behaves as someone who is trying to make rejection happen. Pushing their partner to the point of rejection reinforces the strength of the Limerence disorder. “If I push him away from me, and he no longer wants me—my need for him increases.” The possibility of rejection makes his approval more desirable. Being rejected is the key to keeping a person with Limerence interested. The thing they fear the most also feeds the disorder.

This is probably the most confusing monster.  The fear of being rejected escalates the longing to be desired which increases the obsession to do whatever is necessary to keep rejection from happening. Obsession and longing become slaves to the reward of being desired–but ONLY to be desired by the one who is capable of rejecting. A healthy relationship says, “If you don’t want me, I’m outta here.” With Limerence the threat of not being wanted feeds the other characteristics.

This rejection-craving monster takes the scariest form of all. Just when you think you can see it and no longer fear it—it changes. Every lie the rejection-craving monster tells you is only meant to confuse you. This monster masterfully convinces you that rejection will not only mean a loss of relationship, but a loss of self. This rejection-craving monster tells you that in the end—you, too, will disappear. The rejection-craving monster tells you that you will be forgotten.

For years the Limerence monster told me that he was the one in control. That’s a lie. God not only knows secrets about Limerence, but He also knows the way this can be harnessed for use in His Kingdom.  I have always known these parts existed inside me, but rather than owning them I tried to conform to the image of who I thought I was supposed to be. When I see myself now, I feel like I look different. God has a plan for people with Limerence that not only takes all of the monsters into account, but mysteriously turns them into something unexpected.

affair recovery · Limerence

Honest Beginnings – The Love Addiction Trilogy, Part 1

Long before sin corrupted my life, a dysfunctional way of thinking had polluted my mind and my heart.

In this 3 Part Blog Series I will attempt to explain what I have come to learn about Limerence, or “the love addiction”, and the way it corrupts the thinking of those it affects, and what I am learning about living with this psychological anomaly. This is not an excuse for why some people affected and afflicted choose sin. There is no excuse for choosing sin. Let me say that again, there is no excuse for choosing sin. THAT BEING SAID, I am going to explain the obsession and mind altering affects that happen when a person is affected by Limerence.

The Beginning of Limerence

I was an eleven year old girl in the mid-1970’s, and with both of my parents working full time, my two brothers and I were home alone for long, hot summer days. The boys and I would battle and brawl from the moment we woke until our Dad arrived home from his construction job.

Dad was a Licensed Contractor, and he worked most of my life for a man named Ernie. I never met Ernie, but I grew up with an unspoken fascination of him. I witnessed the way Dad regarded him. Dad didn’t respect many people, but whenever Dad talked about Ernie he only had good things to say, and it was obvious Dad had a desire to please the man. In my memories, it was every single evening that Dad seemed to be waiting for Ernie to call him on the phone. If someone else called our home, there was an urgent feeling to end the call. We needed to keep the phone free for Dad to receive his call from Ernie. This call meant there was work. This call would tell him where he was going and what he would be doing. Dad’s mood always improved when Ernie called. He spoke to the man in a tone I rarely heard. He smiled while he talked to Ernie.

rotary-phoneOur family phone, an ivory colored, rotary dial with a long spiraling cord hung on the wall in the kitchen. When it rang we could hear it anywhere in the house. There were no vibrations or special ring tones; every phone in every house in every neighborhood made the same sound. Oftentimes, in the summer months with our windows wide, I could hear a neighbor’s phone ringing in the distance. My imagination was developing; I would wonder who was calling the neighbor’s clunky wall phone. Could it be Ernie? Perhaps he was calling the father of one of my neighborhood friends and making him smile.

My whole life I have imagined this unseen man with dark eyes and dark hair, which has always seemed irrelevant until just recently. Seemingly insignificant details of childhood become significant through varying lenses of a life lived. We experience thousands of people as we move through schools, jobs, neighborhoods, apartment complexes, civil courts, grocery stores, little league fields, shopping malls, and restaurants, but we can develop a fascination for an unknown and unseen hero in our minds based on the way his phone call brought peace amid dysfunction.

Perhaps it was the chronic sibling wars that spawned my Grandma to invite me to join her on a road trip. It was an invitation like I’d never known. I was offered the chance to travel with my Grandma, and her second husband, Cliff, as they drove from California to Tennessee and back again.

Because of the timing of the trip, I would have to sacrifice something important if I chose to travel with Grandma and Cliff. Earlier in the summer, I had come across a flyer for a local Beauty Contest. My parents consented in my participation—as long as I could find a sponsor to pay the entrance fee for the contest.

With a strong desire to know if I was beautiful or not, I was motivated to find a sponsor and enter the contest. Perhaps I would win and the millions of questions I had about my appearance would finally be put to rest. So, when I wasn’t battling the brothers, I spent warm summer days riding my bicycle to various stores trying to persuade a business owner to be my sponsor.

hqdefaultI still recall the disparaging look on the face of the mustached man working behind the Kodak film developing counter at Sav-On Drug Store when I showed him my flyer and asked him if the drug store would be my sponsor for the Beauty Contest. He told me he couldn’t, and while his words didn’t give anything away, I felt his eyes measuring me up. The moment was humiliating, and it haunted me for years. (A decade later when Sav-On Drug Store was bought out by Osco, I breathed an overdue sigh of relief.)

I wasn’t embarrassed for having asked the drug store manager to sponsor me; I was embarrassed that I hadn’t been better looking when he rejected me. My mousy-brown, straight hair and sweaty skin sided with the drug store manager and I was certain he didn’t sponsor me because I wasn’t pretty enough.

When I made the decision to take the road trip with Grandma and Cliff, I was simultaneously making the decision to not enter the Beauty Contest, and freeing myself from having to find someone to be my sponsor. As I traveled in the backseat of Cliff’s large sedan and each day since, I’ve always known I made the right choice, but I also see how the incident was reinforcing the belief brewing in the heart of a little girl that she wasn’t quite “enough.” A cygnet among a pond of ducklings, perhaps, but the metamorphosis that would eventually come on the outside would never seep beneath the surface.

It was on this summer road trip with Grandma and Cliff when I had an experience that has stayed with me for nearly four decades. I wouldn’t come to know the name of it until it nearly destroyed my marriage many years later–but I recall it as vividly as if it happened last weekend.

blue-swallow-motel2We could have been in Nevada or Utah or New Mexico. Honestly, I have no clue which state we were in when I saw the boy. I only know we were at a motel diner. We had driven all day, and it was very late. I was eating a grill cheese sandwich while sitting in a black vinyl booth with my two elderly travel companions. I know I was eating a grilled cheese sandwich because I overheard a boy at a nearby table order the same thing. When he spoke I turned and looked at him. He was fabulous. He said, “I’ll have a grilled cheese sandwich, please.” These were the only words I ever heard him speak, but everything I ever heard him say was perfect.

His white blonde hair was glowing against his tan skin. He was incredibly good looking and once I spied him, I could not look away. The rest of his family is lost in the clouds of my mind, but he is vivid and alive and still sitting at the table just a few feet away. He catches me looking at him, but I cannot look away. A spell has come over me and it doesn’t feel good at all. Pain sears through me because I want him to want me as badly as I want him. Knowing nothing about him is irrelevant; I need him to want me. I need him to feel about me as I feel about him. I send energy across the diner which emblazes the neon lights on the building adding illumination to the desert highway. The blond boy feels it and he looks back at me. I am eleven years old, traveling across one of the less desired states, stopped at a motel restaurant, and I have found true love. The only thing I need to make everything perfect is to have my feelings reciprocated.

“Let’s go,” Cliff mutters. My step-grandfather drops some quarters on the table as a tip for the poor waitress and rises to leave.

“We’re leaving?!” I shout (in my mind).

I race across the space between the blond boy and myself, throwing my underdeveloped body into his arms. He puts down his grilled cheese sandwich. He is so happy to have found me. He tells me how his life is now complete, and we…kiss.

Or maybe I just stood up and followed Grandma and Cliff out of the diner.

Maybe I walked across the parking lot and entered our room, all the while feeling very confused at what I had just experienced.  Everything I had ever wanted was sitting at that table and the only thing I needed to feel complete was to have him return my affections.

An hour or so later, Grandma and Cliff were both asleep, and I lay awake on the roll-away cot thinking about the tan boy with blond hair. I listened to Cliff snoring and stared at my grandmother’s arm, now illuminated by the flickering fluorescent sneaking into the room through a crack in the shoddy curtains. I felt like my life was over, but really it was just the beginning.

The beginning of being not pretty enough.

The beginning of painful feelings, of wanting to be wanted.

The beginning of idolizing romance and physical attraction.

The beginning of dreaming up fantasies about dark eyed, dark haired men.

The beginning of Limerence.

Limerence is the involuntary state of mind which results in an obsessive need to have one’s feelings reciprocated. It’s a psychological disorder associated with obsession and attachment. A person with Limerence will describe feeling as if they have lost control of their senses and are bombarded by intrusive and compulsive thoughts that involve a romantic connection.

My hope is that people who see what I am describing in themselves can sort it out before sin gets a grasp on them and leads them towards self-destructive behavior. I have come to believe that the majority of “romantic” affairs that happen are a result of Limerence. I hope that by uncovering information about some of the chemical releases and addictions associated with the disorder people can discover ways to harness the hidden power and make choices that bring life rather than destruction.