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There’s No Pill for Being Obsessive-Compulsive Over an Ex

Posted Jul 05 2010 8:45pm

Sandy fell deeply in love with Greg over the course of their romance. By the fourth date she was sure he was the one for her. He seemed to return her feelings and their relationship progressed nicely until the fourth week. Suddenly, he stopped calling as much, begging off with excuses like overwork and needing time with his buddies. The more he pulled away, the more obsessed she became with trying to get him back. He began avoiding her calls and not returning her emails, and this sent her into an emotional tailspin.

This story took a dramatic turn when she showed up at his work and demanded that he talk to her. Embarassed that this emotionally overwrought woman had shown up at his office, Greg asked her to leave. The situation escalated until the police were called, at which point she hastily left, deeply ashamed of her behavior.

After that, Sandy suffered off and on for the next three years, yearning for the return of her lover - yes, the guy who had spurned her. Though she desperately wanted to get over him, she found that she couldn’t rid herself of constant, intrusive thoughts of Greg. She idealized him in her mind and admonished herself for ruining their relationship. Sandy suffered from the downside of limerance.

Limerance is a word coined by author Dorothy Tennov in her book Love and Limerance: The Experience of Being in Love, first published in 1979. In a nutshell, limerance is the same as falling madly in love, except that the love isn’t returned equally, triggering an obsessive response in the limerant person (LP).

Tennov’s work is a bit controversial in that there isn’t much distinction between limerance and the absolutely normal experience of falling in love. At some point, however, the limerant person crosses the line into obsession. That obsession leads to suffering due to the inability of the LP to turn off the intrusive thought patterns.

Often LPs hide the problem, even from therapists, fearing that they will be viewed as crazy. Being told to “get over it” doesn’t help as the condition is much like an addiction. It is involuntary, meaning that the obsessive thoughts happen to the LP despite a wish for them to stop. Understanding the condition helps.

If you suffer from limerance, you can gain relief by seeing a therapist who understands the condition and can help you work through to a point of healing. Sharing your story helps as well. Post your confidential message below if you have been on either end of this dynamic (LP - limerant  person; or LO - limerant object).

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