Luckily, most of us have experienced love. We get butterflies in our stomachs when we see the object of our affections. We miss them when we’re not with them. Our hearts swell when we are with them. So what is limerence and how is it different from genuine love?
What Is Limerence?
Do you remember being a teenager and obsessing over a pop star? You had posters of them all over your bedroom walls. You imagined a life with them. You pictured being married to them and spending every waking hour with them? That’s one description of limerence.
Another description is the feeling of being head-over-heels in love with someone when you first meet them. The first few weeks of infatuation, of all-consuming love and passion. When all you can think about is that one person. You can’t stop talking about them. They fill your every waking hour.
Limerence is a term first coined by psychologist Dorothy Tennov. Tennov discovered that not all people experienced these obsessive feelings during the start of a new relationship.
Limerents are those who experience these initial giddy feelings of infatuation and intense reactions. Non-limerents experience love without any profound sense of infatuation.
Now, Tennov stressed that in itself, limerence is not an abnormal state of mind. In fact, for the majority of people, these early infatuations tend to settle down into more realistic emotional responses as the relationship progresses.
However, for others, feelings increase and become more intense and more obsessional. This causes the person to feel even more infatuated. So limerence can be a normal reaction to a new relationship. It is only when it affects a person in an unhealthy way that it becomes problematic.
One of the best descriptions I’ve heard of limerence is that it is like being addicted to a person. You get a high of endorphins when you interact with the object of your affection. This makes you crave that person even more. Then it begins to affect your daily habits. Your love turns into an unhealthy obsession.
So how can you differentiate between genuine love and limerence?
10 Signs of Limerence
Frequent and uncontrollable thoughts about the other person
It’s natural to think about our loved ones when they are not with us. We might wonder all sorts of things about them. Are they are having a good day? What they might fancy for dinner? Whether they would like to go out that evening?
What is not normal is thinking about them all the time. It’s also not normal to constantly worry and panic about what they are up to, who they are with, or are they flirting with someone?
Looking for signs or reading into signals of reciprocated love
I was friends with a guy many years ago who misread my friendship for something more. We worked together and one day, he came over to my desk and asked me if I had put an elastic band on his desk. I said no, of course not, I didn’t understand what he was talking about. He replied that it was in the shape of a heart and he thought it was me sending him a message.
All I had done was chat with this guy in the break room. Reading into signals that are not there can be extremely dangerous. This is often how stalking behaviour starts, with the stalker misinterpreting a person’s behaviour.
Idolizing the object of their affection
Another facet of limerence is the unwillingness to accept that a person is not perfect. The limerent will idolise the person they are in love with. Their fantasy of this person will be completely unrealistic.
They will ignore any faults this person may have and exaggerate any good points. More to the point, they will vehemently defend the person they are in love with. They could even turn violent if they think someone has disrespected their loved one.
Behaving in an extremely nervous way around the person
A sure sign of limerence is the inability to act normally when the person is around the object of their affection. They will feel so overwhelmed by their feelings of love they’ll act differently. They may blush profusely, they might not be able to speak properly. They’ll be extremely nervous and might not even want to be near the person they profess to love so much.
It will be an extremely nerve-wracking and stressful experience for them. Afterwards, they’ll be kicking themselves that they didn’t handle it better.
Keeping a romantic connection going by behaving badly
A person experiencing limerence doesn’t care about the state of the relationship, just so long as there is a relationship. So they will keep that connection going, even if it means being abusive, acting in a threatening manner, or bombarding the person with unwanted messages.
As soon as they get a response, any kind of response, they feel that their efforts have paid off. The relationship is connected again. When it comes to limerence we have to remember that it is not about the other person. It is always about the one experiencing limerence. What the other person feels is really irrelevant. They don’t feature in the relationship.
Wanting to talk about the person all the time
It’s perfectly normal to want to share stories and pictures of a new boyfriend to our nearest and dearest. But it’s definitely not normal behaviour when the conversation is always and only about one person.
Your life should not revolve solely around one other person. Sure, you might be in a relationship or married, but you also have family members, friends, and colleagues. They all matter as well and they all contribute something to your life. To focus just on one other person is not healthy. Particularly so if this person is unaware of your affections.
Feeling desperate or suicidal at the thought of rejection
It’s an awful feeling when you are rejected by someone you love. I’ve been dumped several times in my life and have felt a deep sadness and loss. But limerence is an exaggeration of feelings. Everything is heightened with limerence.
So a person will fear rejection before it happens. The very thought that it could happen is enough to make them feel as if their life would be over.
Everything reminds you of the person
A song, a word in a book, the colour of the car in front of you on the road. It seems that everywhere you go you are being constantly reminded of this person. You simply can’t get away from them! It must mean something surely.
Actually, it doesn’t. What it does mean is that your mind is desperately connecting unrelated things to the person in order to fit in with your fantasy.
Analysing every single interaction with the other person
Do you pore over text messages in fine detail? Do you go through conversations over and over again to try and analyse what the person was trying to say? Do you watch the person’s body language and look for meaning in their gestures?
People are pretty straightforward. They say what they mean to say and they don’t use elaborate code or hidden symbols to communicate with us. If you are spending a lot of time trying to find secret meanings in a person’s communication, then understand this is not normal behaviour.
Accidently ‘bumping’ into the other person
Do you know exactly where and when the object of your affections is going to be at a certain time? Do you make it your business to accidentally be there so that you see them or bump into them?
Not only is this creepy, but it is stalking behaviour. What would be classed as normal behaviour is if you went up to this person and simply asked them out for a date? It’s not normal to skulk around in the shadows. What were you hoping would happen? That they would suddenly notice you and fall in love with you?
We all get that initial flush of infatuation when we first fall in love. However, it’s important to realise that limerence is not realistic, nor is it healthy in a well-balanced relationship.