When my son Leo was just two years old I had a ... well, I don't know what to call it. At the risk of understatement I'll call it a 'crush'. He - I'll call him X - was married with a child, and twenty years older than me. I sent him fond emails and he reciprocated, fondly. His approval and affection became, for a time, incredibly important to me. It wasn't a physical relationship - he lived fifteen hundred miles away for one thing - but it aroused all sorts of intense feelings in me, positive and negative, enjoyable and difficult. I think I experienced, for around the six months that it lasted, limerence. Limerence is, according to wikipedia, 'an involuntary state of mind which results from a romantic attraction to another person combined with an overwhelming, obsessive need to have one's feelings reciprocated.' I think for some people this would result in stalking, or worse. Not for me. The relevant part of limerence for me is a few lines down in the wikipedia entry: 'There is (also) a statistically significant correlation between limerence and post traumatic stress disorder.'
Some aspects of my relationship with X were stuff archetypal older-man/younger-woman stuff. He thought I was beautiful, and I know he was sexually attracted to me. I looked up to him, professionally, and he shared more than a few traits with my father, with whom I am not close. I also think we just made each other feel young at a time when he was fast approaching sixty and me a thousand, it felt like, although in fact I was not yet forty.
And then there were factors about this experience that were very specific to me. My son Leo had been diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder eighteen months earlier, and just six months before I developed my crush, he had had a life-threatening febrile convulsion, or seizure, and was at risk, at any time of the night or day, without warning, of having another one. At the time, for a period of about two hours, we had thought he might be going to die. Looking back from a distance of five years later, it's obvious that I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when I met my crush, which, amongst all welter of challenges I was facing at the time, went untreated and unacknowledged for another few years. So I'm not surprised to discover that limerence can occur in the wake of PTSD. Just as strain on a marriage can, as well.
I'm grateful for many reasons for what I experienced with X. One of the main reasons is, ironically, what it did for my marriage. In the wake of my crush my husband and I confided that we each felt we had been abandoned by the other over the previous two years, ever since my son's diagnosis, and so we took concrete, and effective steps in the years that followed to repair the damage that had been wreaked on our marriage and family by the traumas and challenges we had been through together with our son.
Another great gift of my crush was the incredible connection it fostered with my creativity. In the space of those six months I completed a novel that had been sitting, half written in my drawer for the previous five years. I have never experienced anything like it before or since, and it's one of my quests in life, and this blog, to discover how to get to that level of creative fertility again - but by myself this time, without the aid of a fantasy, let alone a man. The novel, IN THE MOOD, is about a man coming home to his wife at the end of World War II and what they go through, sexually, emotionally, and in every other way, as they try to reconnect with one another and move forward. The parallels between the story I was writing and my own life are amazing when I look back on it, as is how completely unaware I was of it at the time.
Finally, I was reawakened to myself as a sexual, interesting, beautiful, wondrous, mysterious, complex, creative human being. And X had only the smallest bit to do with this. I would say ninety-nine per cent of the experience was generated from within myself. But for a woman who had been mired in the overwhelming realities of having a baby and childrearing with the extreme challenges of our particular situation, it felt, in the times that I was thinking about X as if I had escaped so much of what was difficult in my life, and at the same time rediscovered so much of what was wonderful about me. I wonder if that was the case for X, as well? I don't know because we don't communicate much any more. I could ask him, but that would feel way too intimate. When we do, on the rare occasion, correspond it's fondly, but the intensity of the emotion I felt for him is gone, and I think that's because that whole experience was mostly to do with me.