What Is Limerence?
by Dr. Kathie Mathis, Psy.D
Limerence is a state of infatuation or obsession with another person that involves an all-consuming passion and intrusive thoughts.
“It is often a result of not being present either through trauma or certain childhood development issues,” explains psychosexual therapist Cate Mackenzie. “Alternatively, you may experience it when you are run down, if you haven’t had enough sleep for example, and are lacking serotonin. So, you fantasize that someone else could save you and crystallize those thoughts into a golden image of ‘the one.'”
While it feels like ecstasy right now, you may be guarding your own emotions. “The person feels safe to fantasize about because most likely nothing can happen and the infatuated person is not in a grounded enough place to receive a real relationship,” adds Mackenzie. “It can be a state of being that allows fantasies without a real threat of intimacy.”
But is limerence healthy? And is it the same as love?
Limerence vs. Love
Love is unconditional positive regard for another person in the relationship. Love is not an emotion or fantasy. It is a behavior and attitude that takes both individuals in the relationship to always have limitless good for each other – even when arguments take place. That way the relationship wins and the friendship that was there to begin with continues to grow and become stronger because the “feelings” of love are not focused on but rather the “being in love” which is about attitudes and behaviors.
The problem with the whole limerence versus love conundrum is simple: The two look strikingly similar. However, the “fantasy of this is the one” is focused on more than “is this the one” which you find out about through watching behaviors and attitudes over time and seeing clearly “reality” based experiences over the “fantasy” based. As you’re falling in limerence with someone, you’d be forgiven for thinking they are “the one.” Squint hard enough and limerence looks an awful lot like love.
*Some of the similarities also include both include “being drawn/attracted” to someone else
*Attraction to that person is real” which mirrors falling in love
*Infatuation happens in both in the early stages of the relationship.
*Obsessive thinking about that person in the beginning happens in the infatuation and early stages of relationship in both.
*Both can happen with anyone at any time.
*Differences of love and limerance:
*Limerence and love are not the same concepts.
*Love requires a real, meaningful connection
*Limerence is all about the chase and lusting after someone
*Limerence is the feeling that the object of their lust will complete them. Trauma
bonding is in victims of abuse can be part of this when they feel a person is
“saving” them or they want to be saved by another.
*You want that other person whether they are good for you or not. A loving and nurturing relationship should be about unconditional positive regard which is mutual respect and “good” for the other in the relationship. Not being “saved” by another. The person with limerance is desperate to have the object of desire no matter whether it is good for either of them and they may idealize them.
*The happiness hormones of oxytocin and vasopressin are involved.
*You neglect your own needs for the other person. In the infatuation their needs take a priority over your own. If you give up your needs and wants to obsess on someone else – there is not a real friendship or equality or “regard” for self.
*You ignore the other person’s flaws and red flags. Even your friends warn you to watch out or stay away – limerance. In love we know the flaws of the other person and accept them leaving us with the possibility of a more safe and genuine relationship.
*You are afraid of a real connection to another based on reality. There could be an underlying reason that your default is limerance having to do with a psychological issue or issues.
Cate Mackenzie state there are three stages of limerance: infatuation, crystallization, and deterioration.
3 Stages of Limerence
Limerence isn’t one state of being. Instead, it typically happens in three stages. As you start to become attracted to a new person and they pique your interest, you may notice this familiar process:
“The unobtainable nature of the person makes them more alluring,” offers Mackenzie. “This stage of limerence includes addictive type behavior, thinking about the other 24 hours a day, stress, heart palpitations, stomach anxiety, and even intrusive thoughts. It’s best described as an uncontrollable overwhelming desire for someone.”
While that infatuation is unlikely to wane fast, the second stage of limerence is all about solidifying that idea. You start to believe that the person in question is the solution to all of your problems. “You decide that the person is flawless and you idealize them by putting them on a pedestal,” says Mackenzie.
Reality starts to sneak into your mind and you start to realize that you will never have the person you’re lusting after. “The final stage of limerence is the disappointment in the love object and letting go of them,” says Mackenzie. “It’s the realization that nothing is going to happen. It’s a feeling of loss.”
Negative Effects of Limerence
Unsurprisingly, limerence can negatively affect your life. As Mackenzie puts it, this state can include” stress, loss of sleep, obsessive thinking and obsessive things.” All of the above means that you may not be living the healthiest lifestyle when you’re in limerence with another person. The deeper you fall, the more likely you are to neglect your basic needs. Failing to sleep or eat well will have a massive impact on your well-being.
It doesn’t end there. When you’re in the thick of it, you might start to engage in some risky behavior that could start a ripple effect throughout your entire life. “Some people risk their relationship by having a limerent affair and this experience often mirrors fear of love or their partner’s power,” explains Mackenzie.
How to Manage Limerence
Worried that you’re drowning in a state of limerence? Don’t worry—there’s a lifejacket coming your way! Once you’ve identified that there is a problem, you can take some positive steps to pull yourself back to reality.
“Underneath limerence is a fear of being with yourself and making a good enough loving relationship with yourself,” Mackenzie shares. “There may be patterns of avoidance and a lack of self-care and self-love and an inability to create secure self-attachment.”
She continues, “This can shift with setting limits and setting top lines of behavior—meaning getting accountable to treating yourself well. That means taking care of your diet, getting rest, nurturing your friendships, exercising, sleeping, and taking care of your basic needs. You should also stop negative self-talk and behaviors, such as obsessive thinking.”
If you can’t take your mind off the person in question, Mackenzie says to try the two-minute rule: “That means only thinking about the love object for two minutes then moving on,” she explains. What’s more, since limerence is a state of infatuation, chances are you’re obsessing about what that person has to offer. Switch up the focus and try to find that sense of joy within yourself. “You could try making a list of the characteristics you feel the person has and starting to work on owning them yourself so you don’t feel you need the other person.”