Understanding Limerence and Its Similarities to Love
The Difference Between Limerence and Love
If pop culture’s depictions are anything to go off, true love is the most intense, powerful and overwhelmingly beautiful thing in the world.
But if you dig a little deeper, it’s not really true love that’s being discussed in most rom-coms and pop songs. It’s not lasting connection, but rather that initial spark of intensity people feel around someone else — often, so ‘initial’ in nature that it precedes even meeting the person.
How often have you seen or heard a character being so enthralled with someone they only know from afar? Someone they’ve never had a single in-depth conversation with, let alone gotten to know deeply and wholly?
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Of course, this trope shows up in fiction not because it’s fictional, but rather because it’s both deeply real and felt by many. Rather than love, what these people and characters have been feeling is limerence.
1. What Is Limerence?
“Limerence is essentially lust,” says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., psychotherapist and author of “Dr. Romance’s Guide to Finding Love Today.” “It’s the excited, endorphin-flooded state of being mutually sexually attracted.”
While limerence doesn’t necessarily have a sexual component, it often does. First and foremost, however, it’s a state of attraction rather than one of love.
“The term was coined in the 1960s by psychologist Dorothy Tennov,” says Connell Barrett, the founder of Dating Transformation and a dating coach with The League. “She told of a man who was so obsessed with a coworker, he spent nine years filling dozens of notebooks and thousands of audio cassettes with his thoughts on how she looked, dressed and whether or not she smiled at him.”
While most people don’t experience feelings of limerence that intense, above is an example of how far it can go if it doesn’t lead to a mutual connection, and never quite fades.
2. How Limerence Is Different From Love
If limerence is similar enough to love that it constantly gets mistaken for it, what is the real difference, exactly?
“Limerence is not love. It’s not a crush. It’s a crushing obsession with another person — an intense romantic infatuation,” says Barrett. “A person in a state of limerence is primarily focused on the reciprocation of emotions. What happens is, a biochemical cocktail in the brain creates euphoric feelings and an intense desire for emotional connection. It’s being lovesick, minus the ‘love.’”
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While that desire for closeness and a relationship with someone else often marks the beginning of a couple’s love story, it’s possible (and common) to have one without the other, and vice versa. There’s no guarantee that a couple’s love starts with such an intense desire, and there’s even less of a guarantee that limerence will evolve into true lover over time.
“Limerence is different from love in that it’s inherently self-interested,” adds Barrett. “It’s all about how this person makes you feel, rather than giving to the other person in a mutually-beneficial way. The other person can do no wrong, and you’re sure that the two of you were meant to be. It’s destiny, in your mind. You can’t see yourself clearly either — you feel incomplete without them.”
3. Why It’s Dangerous to Mistake Limerence for True Love
For all the discussion in classic songs about how great that feeling can be, it’s also one that can be extremely frustrating and painful. The intensity can feel overwhelming, making it hard to enjoy your life in a healthy and normal way.
“The hormone and brain chemical mix of limerence is powerful,” says Tessina. “People give away all their money, get married in a rush, move in together or leave friends and family when they’re under the influence, only to come back to reality and find they’ve made a drastic mistake.”
She adds that people in the grips of limerence are more vulnerable to con artists and dating scammers — caught up in the heady rush of feelings they mistake for true love, they’re apt to miss the warning signs.
4. How to Tell the Difference Between Limerence and Love
It’s important to try to differentiate the two, particularly because recognizing your feelings as limerence rather than love means they won’t be weighed down by the cultural baggage we associate with love.
Phrasing your feelings as “I’m in love with X” has vastly different connotations than “I have an intense crush on X,” and that change of phrasing can impact how you feel about the situation, how the object of your desire feels and how third parties might feel.
The primary difference between limerence and love is that love implies a deep and lasting connection between two people. If you don’t have any real relationship with the person, let alone a romantic one, then you’re not in love (at least, not yet).
“In limerence, you see your love object as perfect, and ignore who he or she really is,” says Tessina. “I see many clients come in and start rhapsodizing about this new person they met, who is perfect, wonderful and going to be there for life. They don’t really know much about the person as a person. It’s just a fantasy, and a lot of limerence situations don’t last.”
Barrett notes that limerence is distinguishable from just a minor attraction by its intensity and the way it can pervade your entire life, at least for a period of time.
“There are many signs you’re experiencing limerence,” he says. “Almost anything you see reminds you of the object of your obsession. You deeply fear being rejected by them. Seeing them quickens your heartbeat, dampens your palms,and makes your mouth go dry. Being without this person makes you feel incomplete.”
All of those signs could be there in a romantic love-like situation, but only if the other person returns your feelings and has told you so. Otherwise, you’re likely just projecting.
As for the man who was experiencing limerence towards his unfortunate coworker for nine years? “He became so infatuated that he was demoted and eventually lost his job,” says Barrett.
Being able to differentiate between limerence and love might have helped him — if not by reducing the intensity of his feelings, then at least knowing it wasn’t ‘true love’ might have made it easier to be rational and, for instance, seek out a different job.
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Source : Alex Manley Link