This post has a discussion thread at the forum. I am looking for feedback as I revise this section of my manuscript.
Limbo: The Threshold Between Phases
The MLCer has now gotten to know the alienator and realizes this will not be a permanent relationship—consciously or unconsciously. They are on the path toward Liminality; but they are not yet there. Liminality is the stage of deepest depression and hopelessness. No one wants to go there. They avoid Liminality and continue to seek Replay or mope in a Low-Energy funk. But the Replay addiction may not be as powerful and an MLCer may instead be at a point that is not quite Escape & Avoid and not quite Liminality; this is Limbo.
Limbo comes from the Latin limbus meaning a hem or an edge or a boundary. It is that place between, where time is still. It is not a place where bad things occur, but neither is there good; it is a place of emptiness and complacency, stuck in neutral. It is an intermediate or indeterminate condition; a state of inaction or inattention pending some future event. And that last clause is key: pending some future event. The difficulty is that Limbo is a place where progress is undetectable. The growth is beneath the soil. It is not a phase or stage, but a place of decision and indecision. An MLCer may be in Limbo for moments or months.
An MLCer may remain with the alienator and insist they are happy or there is no longer an alienator and they insist they are happy; or they deny unhappiness. There are even those who admit unhappiness. But for all these differences, they continue to insist the marriage is over. Some express regret and wish it were not so. They are not at rock bottom, but they may seem more depressed than before. They are near the ledge—the boundary between Escape & Avoid and Liminal Depression.
The MLCer realizes their mistakes and regrets their actions, and yet they are unwilling or unable to resolve the problems they created. What should the spouse do? Nothing seems to work anymore. Many spouses give up as the situation seems hopeless. The MLCer may still seem to cycle, but nothing seems real. They flirt occasionally and yet still seem sullen, listless and disinterested. Why won’t they just wake up?
The spouse learns to expect that in Escape & Avoid the MLCer will be mean, blame, hatred and testing and that after they are done with being a Monster, an MLCer may become severely depressed. But what happens between those times? Liminal Depression is the lost wasteland. At least Liminality is something, though it is painfully frightening, there is something to feel.
How long is Limbo? Some may spend only moments in this emotional rest, while other may linger for years. It is the place easiest to get stuck, and thus those who do not come out of the MLC tunnel may be in Limbo.
Limbo may be the first place where an MLC has an awakening. This is where they realize what they have done and are doing and what they might lose if they fail to stop and make changes and amends. But it is not a full disclosure; the Awakening begins a gradual process of realization that will continue through Liminality and into Reintegration. It is an axis upon which the situation will turn from here on out. Many MLCers were intermittently aware of their damaging actions during Escape & Avoid, but consumed by guilt and fear, this awareness kept them in the Escape & Avoid. At the Awakening, the immensity of their Escape & Avoid actions may frighten them back into Escape & Avoid or propel them forward into Liminality. They question their Escape & Avoid actions and motives and make a decision about what they want. That does not mean this is their final decision; but for some it is here that they decide with a more stable certainty that they do not want to return to their marriage. If they do not come to such a decision, it does not mean they have chosen the opposite—to return now or someday—rather it means they have not yet decided. If they have made a conscious decision to return someday, it is still not finalized. Liminality has the power to alter their world once again.
Awakening is a time of realization, but an MLCer still may not know how to take action and may continue to be indecisive as well as uncertain. That makes sense. How does one go about cleaning up the mess caused by abandonment and infidelity? It’s a frightening thing to realize and even more frightening to think about in terms of corrective actions; they do not know if corrective actions are even possible or available; this may thus initiate another increase in confusion and guilt.
If the MLCer is ready, Awakening is like a compass, pointing the MLCer where to go. This does not mean they know where it points, but they know to follow it into Liminality.