Silly and sad sandlapper Gov. Mark Sanford did not surprise a third to half of us, that would be the sometimes limerents. We understand deeply from experience that he was driven in a way the other half cannot comprehend..
He could have held back. He could have behaved. He could have walked away from his initial consuming passion for his Argentine lover. Doing those would have been damned, damned, damned hard.
Moreover, with a political personality and an ego the seems the size of a Western state, perhaps Montana, he didn’t even bother controlling his limerence.
Just in case you have somehow missed the seminal treatise Love and Limerence by Dorothy Tennov, pick it up and marvel. Your library’s had it for 20 years and it’s still in print even after the author’s death a couple of years ago. Derided by some shrinks when it first appeared, it and its themes have found broad acceptance.
Most clearly, Sanford wasn’t overtaken by lust or boredom with his wife. He didn’t admire the Maria from way down South and find that affection slowly advance in form. He didn’t make a calculated decision to add a new bed partner.
Limerence is the abrupt and passionate falling in love, as opposed to all those calculated maneuvers. Once smitten, Sanford could not control the compelling feelings. Of course, he still might have kept himself from acting on them as he did, and repeatedly.
As Tennov noted in work, limerence is scary and befuddling to non-limerents. For those who only know the love that develops logically from attraction to affection to deepening into love, the falling-in-love thing is somehow wrong and disruptive. They hear someone describe the great passions and compulsions of limerence and say something like, “That’s madness. It’s being out of control!”
The limerents though are apt to view their counterparts as fairly dull and lacking. They are apt to think, “How sad not to experience the depth and range of true love and passion!”
Tennov’s most famous book has useful lessons for both types. Non-limerents certainly would benefit from knowing what the falling-in-love types feel. They may well have been limerent objects themselves and reading about the driven admirers would clarify those relationships for them and teach them how to deal with someone mooning after them (cut ‘em off and make it plain you won’t respond). Likewise, limerents may not be aware of how common their feelings are, what the prognosis for the limerent state is and what they might do with unrequited passion to make it bearable.
I personally understand Sanford’s compulsions, but I can’t forgive his destructive acting out. As a relatively wealthy man with freedom to travel and make his schedule, he abused his privileges as well as both women involved. Instead, he could have wallowed in the intoxication and sweetness of self-pity over the impossible love. His ego and self-indulgent nature apparently would not allow such denial.
He faced and almost certainly still faces an almost overwhelming drive to be with Maria. He showed that in the addled and muddled confessions he made afterward. A trait of actualized limerence is the public acceptance of and bragging about the love. It’s that strong.
Sudden, great passions are the stuff of theater and literature. They dominate song lyrics as well. Limerence serves as negative examples and cautionary tales for love gone wrong, for madness of the unrequited, for the power of emotional need over steady thoughts. The great fulfillment when huge passions are accepted and returned make much less entertaining screenplays…and news stories.