Have you ever been in ‘true love’ where you felt like you were made for each other? Have you been overpowered with the desire for romantic love? Or have you ever fantasized about the dream world with your one-and-only? Well, it might sound harsh, but you are not in love (at least, not yet!). You are just a victim of Limerence.
What is Limerence?
A psychological condition of uncontrollable obsession and fantasization about a romantic relationship is called Limerence.
The majority of people in the world are not aware of the concept of limerence. This is mainly because it is often confused with either love or infatuation. When in reality, all three have distinct characteristics for identification.
Coming back to the distinction later in this think-piece, let us first understand what is Limerence and how it is different from other emotions.
Limerence is a cognitive and emotional state of mind where the sufferer is obsessed with another person. It is mostly accompanied by emotional dependence, intrusive thoughts, and a strong desire for emotional reciprocation.
The person who suffers from limerence is called limerent. And the person who is desired is called a Limerent object or LO.
While the concept is fairly new and is yet to gain widespread acceptance, the limerence theory is still used in psychological studies about romantic relationships. Its validity has been widely debated in psychology and was later authorized on the grounds that it can only be accepted when experienced.
To summarize, a limerent person has love addiction, with an acute longing for reciprocation from the object of affection.
In 1979, Psychologist Dorothy Tennov first coined the term Limerence in his book “Love and limerence: The Experience of Being in Love”. She conducted research in the mid-1960s on about 500 people on the topic of love.
In the book, he described Limerence as “an involuntary potentially inspiring state of adoration and attachment to a limerent object (LO) involving intrusive and obsessive thoughts, feelings and behaviors from euphoria to despair, contingent on perceived emotional reciprocation”
It is backed by the attachment theory and represents the scientific nature of obsessive love. Tennov went ahead to explain that “sexual attraction is an essential component of limerence … the limerent is a potential sex partner”.
What’s the Science Behind It?
While all the love and related emotions are believed to be the matters of the heart, each of them is also supported by some functions in the brain.
Research suggests that Limerence is basically a result of the biochemical process in the brain. The hypothalamus sends cues, responding to which the pituitary gland produces norepinephrine, phenylethylamine, estrogen, testosterone, and dopamine.
This combination of chemicals creates a euphoric high and begins to assimilate as the two attachment hormones – vasopressin and oxytocin, shows up. Drug addicts show a similar brain structure as that of the people in love – exactly why limerence feels a sense of withdrawal when their object of affection is not around.
Love also reduces an individual’s serotonin level similar to the victims of obsessive-compulsive disorder and can drive people to extremes when the fantasies are not fulfilled.
The Distinction of Limerence from Other Emotions
There is a lot of confusion about the ground on which Limerence is established – some call it as infatuation, some define limerence as lovesickness, some relate it to love addiction, while a few others name it as affection.
So, what Is it exactly?
Let’s find out while we decipher its distinguishing factors in comparison to other emotions.
The most debated –
Limerence v/s Love
In the early stages of a relationship, it might be difficult to fathom the difference between the two, but this doesn’t naturalize the fact that the two are very much different. They might share the same storybook but can never be on the same page.
Scientists say that, one person can’t experience limerence and love at the same time because while the former is selfish and unsatisfying, the latter is rewarding and liberating.
These are some primary differences between the two:
|1. You desire affection||1. You give affection|
|2. Adrenaline-like chemicals are generated. (testosterone, dopamine)||2. Calming chemicals are generated (Vasopressin, oxytocin)|
|3. You see your partner as perfect, free of all the flaws.||3. You see your partner as a human with flaws but accept them.|
|4. You experience stress, frustration, and a fear of rejection.||4. You experience a sense of calmness and relaxation.|
|5. You don’t communicate clearly||5. You clearly communicate about your needs, desires, and wants.|
|6. You continuously think about your lover||6. You think about him/her only when you want to.|
|7. You don’t enjoy activities that don’t involve your lover||7. You easily enjoy activities that don’t involve your lover.|
|8. You don’t care about your lover’s well-being and feeling.||8. You care about your lover’s well-being and feelings.|
|9. Affection is greater than any other emotion – respect, love, or even physical attraction.||9. You want a healthy mix of all the emotions.|
|10. Limerence is addictive in nature||10. Love is liberating in nature|
Limerence v/s Infatuation
Feelings like Infatuation, romantic love, or puppy love are extremely short-lived. On the contrary, Limerence lasts longer, lasting for about months or even years.
Limerence v/s Affection
Affection or fondness is temporary in nature and does not necessarily demand reciprocation. This is not the case with limerence. People experiencing limerence demand return.
Limerence v/s Sexual attraction
A sexual attraction requires physical involvement with the object. Whereas in a limerent relationship, it is neither necessary nor sufficient.
Apart from these obvious emotions, Limerence has also been linked to affection deficit disorder. With all this, one thing is certain, the state of limerence is neither normal, nor healthy. Let’s find out what happens when one or both or none of the partners in a relationship experience limerence.
Limerent Bonding Varieties
A limerent reaction has recorded three bonding varieties. It is usually defined by the duration of limerence experience or non-experience. All these bonds may vary in the course of the relationship depending on the intensity of limerence.
On the basis of this distinction, every human bonded relationship can be divided into three categories with respect to the partner’s contribution to limerence:
Affectional Bonding: neither partner is limerent
In healthy love, where neither of the partners is suffering from limerence, they don’t over-fantasize about each other. Instead of reciprocity, both of them bond with mutual understanding and acceptance.
Limerent-Non-limerent bond: One partner is limerent
If one partner in a relationship is limerent and the other is not, it becomes very troublesome. It is not only stressful for the limerent but also for the non-limerent due to constant reassurance that limerent demands.
Limerent-limerent bond/Mutual Limerence: Both partners are limerent
Relationships, where both partners are limerent also known as mutual limerence, are extremely sensitive in nature. Since both the partners are seeking affection, the relationship can gain momentum as quickly as it can lose it. While for some, limerence might just be a phase that will eventually grow into a gratifying, long-term commitment; for a few others it ends in dejection and disappointment.
It’s very rare that two people fall in love with each other. Thus, limerence feelings intensify as the victim tries to woo the object who is otherwise indifferent.
12 Limerence Symptoms
If you guys are already wondering if you are limerent, here are some symptoms of limerence that will help you reach a conclusion.
1. You want love in return
This is the most noticeable urge in a limerent. They want their objects or Loss to fall in love with them, more than anything else.
The desire for emotional reciprocation frustrates them until they have either started a committed relationship or confronted a complete rejection. This element also helps people to distinguish limerence with other emotions as a victim will go to any lengths to obtain it.
While love is more about giving, limerence is about receiving. So, if you have been craving for a committed relationship, keep reading.
2. You daydream about the person 24*7
Intrusive involuntary and persistent thoughts about the individual is another fundamental feature of limerence.
They can’t stop thinking about the limerent object even if they wish to. Every activity, event, word, or even a gesture relates back to that one individual, directly or indirectly. At the height of limerence, you will find yourself incapable of focusing on the other aspects of life.
If you find yourself dwelling in the thoughts of an individual, you might be attacked by limerence. Don’t blame yourself, it’s not your fault. Instead try to redirect your attention to your career and social life.
3. You are constantly reading the behavior
She waved at me.
His eyes flapped while looking at me.
She looked nervous today
Obsessive behavioral reading of the object is one of the key signs of limerence. A limerent is always looking for some kind of proof that validates the object’s interest.
You will constantly find yourself googling their gestures. For instance, something like ‘He looked at me with cornered eyes today, what does it mean’ or ‘She blinked at me, does that mean she loves me’ might be in your search history.
If this sounds like you, you are heading to dangerous territory. STOP, right there. It’s not a healthy practice to continuously evaluate other’s behavior.
4. You think the person is a “hero”
Limerence doesn’t allow you to fathom the flaws of your object. All the bad aspects of the individual either seem adorable to you or are completely invisible.
This blindness immediately sets in when you are around the object. You idealize them as the perfect even if you barely know them or have barely talked. In fact, anyone who believes the contrary appears negative to you.
This can have a long-term side effect if you and the object commit to a solid relationship. When the limerence phase subsides, you reckon that he/she wasn’t as perfect as you thought they would be.
5. Your experience brutal mood swings
A Limerent experiences a roller coaster of emotions, depending on the LO’s interest. The effects of these abrupt mood swings can be so intense that it can be easily compared to a drug addict.
A behavioral sign or even a tiny gesture that communicates interest gives you butterflies. On the contrary, a minuscule sign that shows disinterest ruins your entire day and your zest to perform your daily activities is lost.
The positive signs include a handshake, a phone call, or anything that enables the object to think about you. On the negative side, gestures that can break your heart are canceling date plans or ignoring messages.
6. You don’t want to believe rejection
The fear of rejection in a Limerent is pretty much real. They succumb to this fear which ultimately closes all doors of progress in a relationship.
You experience a strange kind of shyness when you are around the individual. Since you are terrified of rejection, you try to appear perfect and hide your imperfections. You are very silent and awkward in their company and also experience certain physical symptoms like heart palpitations, anxiety, trembling, etc.
If you could relate to this situation, it’s time to start taking conscious efforts and believe that you are perfect just as you are. Not the other way round.
7. You play mind games with the person
Communication is tricky ways, play mind games to analyze the object, and intrigue their interest is a star feature of limerence. They are never direct in their actions
You neither want to show your emotional investment in the LO nor do you want to completely seem withdrawn. This compels you to walk on the midline and since you are far ahead, you sometimes become too much.
Activities like deliberately not answering LO’s calls or pretending to be busy will be common scenarios in your life. To prevent further complications, start preaching clear and concise communication.
8. You are not bothered about anything but the person
Everything in the background except for the individual appears blurry to you. You are not concerned about anything that doesn’t involve THE person.
This can intensify to a point where you will be mentally incapacitated to enjoy any other activities. The LO occupies so much of your mental space that you can only think about how to win their affection.
Because of this, your productivity suffers and your entire life rotates around ONE person. It might seem ‘adorable’ right now but in the long run, it can prove to be fatal.
9. You are not in it just for “sex”
Yes, that’s a positive thing! Your prime motivator in the relationship is not physical intimacy but to emotional reciprocation.
This doesn’t mean you don’t desire it. It just means that the fantasies that cloud your thoughts at night are more about the tiny moments of love with the LO. For instance, sharing a meal with the LO, or a brief walk by the beach.
In fact, sometimes you want to prevent the thoughts that involve physical contact, in an attempt to keep the relation “pure”.
10. You feel anxious around the person
Even your physical tell-tale signs are not the same. You experience all sorts of symptoms that signify anxiety or nervousness.
It’s like even your body recognizes the person’s presence. On a date night, while waiting for their phone call or text response, heart palpitations, stuttering might seem commonplace to you.
Some limerent have also complained of dizziness around the objects. If you find this condition similar to your own, take action before it’s too late.
11. You feel depressed when the person is not around
Even the thought of the person not around putting you in great despair. You experience hopelessness, acute sadness, and disinterest to do anything else.
Similar to drug addiction, you feel lost and jittery when you haven’t been intoxicated for quite a while. Furthermore, the lows seem unbearable and the withdrawal puts you in a very difficult state.
If the individual’s absence casts such a big impact on your lifestyle, it’s only wise to regain control of your emotions.
12. You think you can’t live without them
The longing for their affection and approval is so much that you just feel you can’t live without them.
You think about being with them every minute of the day and there’s nothing more satisfying than spending time with them. You think you need just one person to be happy and survive this lifetime.
Believe me, as romantic as it sounds, it’s unbelievably unhealthy.
If that wasn’t enough, here’s a detailed overview of limerent traits.
What Are The Distinct Limerence Characteristics?
- Intrusive thoughts and fantasy about the limerent object
- Longing for emotional reciprocation
- Extreme fear of rejection
- Shyness around the limerent object
- Extraordinary sensitive which is favored in lieu of passion
- Capitalizes on the admirable side of the object
- Refuses to see the object’s negative as negative
- Buoyancy (a feeling of walking on air) when the feelings are reciprocated
- Not concerned about other things around the limerent object
- A painful knot in the stomach or aching in the chest when the object is uncertain
While these are some of the wide-ranging characteristics of a limerent, let’s discuss the radical ones in detail:
1. Intrusive thinking
When the heights of the limerence are reached, fantasy and intrusive thoughts about the limerent object know no bounds. They are persistent and involuntary.
Just because it is called fantasy doesn’t mean it’s all about imagination. In fact, a limerent immediately drop the idea if it seems too far-fetched. They want the fantasy to seem as real as possible and so try to relate the actual events of life with great vividness.
These thoughts enable the limerent to bridge the real-life situation with their desired moment. The duration of the fantasy depends on the availability of the limerent and intensity of the limerence.
2. Fear of Rejection
The acute longing of reciprocation in limerent seeds the doubt of unfulfillment and along with it travels the fear of rejection.
It doesn’t end there. Self-doubt and uncertainty are also accompanied, which cast a harmful impact on the limerent’s emotional health. Often this fear takes the form of shyness around the LO and sometimes prevents the possibility of a healthy relationship.
Limerence is afraid of exposing their undesirable characteristics in the presence of the object which in the long run proves to be fatal.
While uncertainty is rooted in a limerent’s behavior, hope is also an indispensable part of it. They endlessly analyze LO’s every emotion, gesture, and word in an attempt to interpret the meaning. Since body language can subtly reciprocate the feeling, limerent try to recall every action with utter vividness.
They try to find alternative meanings for each activity and pause at the ones that seem positive or in favor of the reciprocation.
The positive outcomes can captivate the limerent even if the LO did not mean it. All these gestures can simply be a token of being nice by the LO. If the object does not address it directly, it might complicate the situation even further.
It’s been observed that people who have been suffering from loneliness are more prone to limerence. The unmet social needs and the suppressed desire for a long time can immediately trigger signs of limerence.
Only the thought of being desired is enough to intimidate people with loneliness and intrigue their imagination.
The longing of belongingness in a lonely person is immense and the mere possibility of a deeply emotional experience keeps him/her on its toes.
Now that you are informed about the preeminent characteristics in a limerent, most of you must already be thinking about its effects on the sufferer. So, here’s a summary:
Effects of Limerence
As mentioned above, limerence is an emotional state of mind, a psychological condition much like the obsessive-compulsive disorder. It has an impact on both aspects of life – physical and psychological. Let’s discuss them one by one in details:
Limerence can cause shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and perspiration. Some victims have also reported a loss of appetite, trembling, pupil dilation, flushing, and general weakness.
This is usually observed before or after being in contact with limerent objects. Furthermore, the impact also depends on the turn of events. If the reciprocation is as expected, the satisfaction will be beyond the bounds. On the contrary situation, despair can be destructive.
Physiologically, limerence can cause awkwardness, stuttering, confusion, at the behavioral level. Apart from that there is apprehension, nervousness, and anxiety due to the fear of rejection from the object.
Sufferers have felt a sensation in the midpoint of the chest, the bottom of the throat, or even guts. This is emphasized during times of despair but can also be observed in ecstatic moments. Limerence also makes the victim super-sensitive especially around limerent objects and sends mixed signals which makes it difficult for the object to fathom.
Limerence is a very complex concept. The more you try to fathom its basis, the more confusing it gets. Thus, to ensure maximum understandability here’s an imaginative example:
An Imaginative Example of Limerence
Kate shifted to a new locality and met James in a community function. They immediately bonded and spent hours talking and laughing with each other. While for Kate, he expected them to be really good friends, James thought he found the love of his life.
Kate seemed different to him than all the other girls he has ever dated and he loved his carefree nature. They exchanged numbers and soon they were found spending time together. However, Kate couldn’t reply to James’ texts as frequently as he wanted and also agreed for a meeting once or twice a week.
James spent his days agonizing over the time spent with Kate, while she started feeling uncomfortable with James’. over-intrusive nature. Soon she stopped answering James’ calls and broke all ties with him.
The withdrawal put James into a deep depression. He kept reliving days when he met Kate, re-read all of their conversations a dozen times, and spent the next few days imagining scenarios when Kate would return to him. All of this with an acute sense of longing.
The symptoms reported by James greatly coincide with a limerence condition and thus can be concluded that James is a limerent and Kate is a LO or object.
Apart from all the information above, there are some other things that you MUST know if you or your partner are experiencing limerence.
How Does Limerence Behave in Relationships?
It’s not necessary that every relationship or every person will experience limerence. But for the ones who do, the limerence phase comes first in a relationship.
Limerence can turn into love
Have you ever heard people saying, “We don’t love each other as we did at the beginning, but we love each other just as much? It’s hard to explain, it’s just different”? This is because they have grown through the limerence phase and have now reached the love phase.
However, there are some limerent who identify love only via limerence. Thus, they fail to reckon the transition phase and perceive it as ‘I have fallen out of love’ situation.
Limerence fades as relationship solidifies
As mentioned above, limerence gradually fades or transforms into love as the adrenaline rush calms down and the relationship begins to strengthen.
Sometimes, limerence experienced low-intensity limerence even after entering into the love phase due to the imbalance in mutual interests. The feelings are reciprocated in a not so desirable manner and so the limerence keeps playing the mind games, experiencing unprecedented mood swings, etc.
Limerence dissolve with mutual effort
A relationship can also kick-start without any interference by limerence from either of the partners. This is possible only when the partners are not prone to limerence or when the feeling of limerence is at a negligible intensity.
It can also be because the relationship had a very smooth start. Right from the first date to the proposal date, none of them doubted each other’s efforts. Both were equally invested in the relationship with mutual understanding and affection.
Limerence can also be sparked by breakups
Breakup limerence is usually accompanied by the feeling of guilt and regrets. The limerent rewrite the past with all the good memories and dissolves all the bad parts. It fails to reckon the faults of the ex and reminisces all the good qualities.
Limerence generated from breakups also has the power to convince the innocent limerent as the primary falter.
Limerence is not universal
It is long term in comparison to other strong feelings like infatuation, affection, etc. but not as long as a healthy and committed relationship. In fact, it’s not even necessary that every person will experience limerence in their relationship.
These people experience other emotions just fine but fail to understand how a human can like someone to an ‘unhealthy obsessive’ extent.
What is The Role of Sexuality in Limerence?
Physical attraction is not the main focus in limerence but still plays a key role in its development. As Tennov puts it “the most consistent result of limerence is mating, not merely sexual interaction but also commitment”.
Sexual relationship can impact limerence in two ways: it can intensify the limerence level, aggravating the obsessing tendencies; intensive limerence generates a greater desire for sexual contact.
In times when sexual relationships were a commitment, this marked the end of limerence. But in today’s gen, this is very less frequent.
However, the shyness of a limerent may also interfere with its sexual functioning. The fear to face the unfavorable opinions of the object does not allow the limerent to be unguarded.
What Causes Limerence?
While there’s no defined cause that can trigger limerence, there are a few conditions that must be fulfilled to set the ground:
- The emotional behavior of the person must be prepared
- The limerent object must satisfy all their criteria for an ideal partner
- All the obstacles that prevent reciprocation from the object must be removed.
How Long Does Limerence Last?
As estimated by Tennov in his research, Limerence typically lasts between 18 months to 3 years. This is enough time for two humans to date, marry, or give birth to a new individual. From human evolution psychology, humans have the longest period of infancy and the limerence phase gives them enough time to bond together.
This is also rightfully called the ‘honeymoon period’, post which if the bond of the other emotions is not enough, partners often say that they fell out of love.
However, the duration stated is not all-inclusive as some limerence episodes may last for some days while some others go up to years or even decades. For instance, a short affair on a trip or a liking developed for a neighbor or a co-worker you see every day.
The limerent episodes practically end when either of the two situations is achieved – the limerent finally believes that the relationship has no future or when the limerent and LO enter a solid relationship.
How to Beat Limerence?
While limerence can also fade eventually if the feelings are not reciprocated for a long time, it also requires some conscious efforts.
1. Accept that its obsession, not love
The state of limerence can generate distressful behavior from the sufferer. In this situation, a basic exercise of accepting the condition will also take you a great way. In the age of social media where we spend time fantasizing about how an ideal partner must be, it’s very difficult to prevent limerence. Thus, accept that you are obsessing and find your ground reality.
2. Assess what draws you in your object
Now that you have identified your condition and accepted that you are suffering from limerence, see if there’s something special in your object that draws you. Often, it’s not the person but the condition that they represent. For instance, a new beginning after a breakup or fulfillment of childhood desires.
3. Clear communication with the limerent object
Limerence thrives on mind games, so if you want to get rid of it – practice clear communication with the object. If you think you are falling in love, ask him/her out, or find a way to confess your feelings. The response will help you analyze your Loss behavior. Even if it’s a straightforward rejection, after the initial pain-phase, the limerence intensity will drop sharply.
4. Don’t feed the limerence
Your limerence episodes require constant communication with the LO. Thus, the easiest and slightly painful way to eliminate it is to starve the limerence. That is follow the no-contact rule with your object and try to control your fantasies as much as possible. You can also try creating impossible obstacles to prevent the potential relationship.
5. Redirect the limerence
For experienced limerence, this will be the most pleasant method. It requires you to find another person to be limerent for. While you can fall in love with two people at the same time, limerence can only be experienced for one person. Thus, at times when you have been obsessing on one person for too long, its best to transfer it to someone else.
6. Let them go
When you are in a limerence relationship and your partner demands some space, it’s best to let them go. Let your ex and yourself fully experience the breakup and accept the fact that he/she is not with you anymore. Sometimes this might turn in your favor and your ex might start to bounce back.
How Can You Prevent Limerence?
There’s no way you can prevent limerence, it’s a human emotion just like love or hate. But there’s one way you can shut it down in the early stages.
Follow a strict no-contact rule. Or, if that seems impossible because you both are co-workers or are tied to each other with a common string, try to minimize contact. Keep the conversation short and professional and don’t meet them if it’s not necessary.
This doesn’t guarantee a full-proof success, but you need to start somewhere and this might just be the perfect place to give you a head start.
Limerence when experienced can create destructive turmoil in your emotional being.
It can transform your entire life upside down.
But as it’s said, every ordeal brings with it an opportunity.
Only if you wish to avail it.
For all the victims or objects who have reached till here, you must be thinking, so what’s the use of all this information if there’s no legit cure?
Knowing the how, why, when, and what of limerence will help you recognize your condition and allow you to be delicate with your own self.
Even for the LO, some reliable insights into the limerence conditions will prepare them to handle the situations more gracefully.
In the end, just remember, Limerence is neither a curse, nor a blessing. It just is.
Surabhi has a deep passion for words. She puts her heart and mind into whatever she pursues and craves for creative ventures. She has always been keen on creating original content that can make a difference. In her experience as a content writer, she has had the opportunity to work on several fields with Psychology being her favourite. Surabhi says, words have the power to transform the world, better than a sword. So she hopes to contribute her bit to this revolution. At TheMindFool, she feels lucky to have the opportunity to share content capable of bringing about a change in the lives of the readers.