Limerence certainly resembles addiction in many key respects. There are the neurophysiological highs, and the withdrawal lows. The cravings, the disruption of everyday routines, the habit formation. There is also the diminishing value of each fix, and the need for escalating stimulus as time goes on to get the same pleasure. Ultimately, there comes the realisation that the LO is detrimental to your life, but you also know you can’t give them up without significant emotional pain.
Despite these parallels, I struggled for a long time with how limerence fitted into an addiction framework. I confess that I do not have an “addictive personality” and so I could not relate my feelings of limerence to, say, alcohol or gambling addiction. Like most people though, there are others close to me that do have these issues, and so limerence did at least help me understand them a little better; at least to the level of empathising that “why don’t you just stop?” is worthless advice.
I read up on sex addiction and love addiction, and again, while there was some overlap, there were also fundamental differences that made limerence seem to be a separate category. In particular, the other two addictions seemed focussed more on the compulsive behaviour than the other party (or parties) involved.
The penny dropped for me when browsing limerence.net and coming across a comment by David Perl along the lines of “limerence is addiction to a person.” That really crystallised it for me: addiction to a person. LO is the drug. It’s not romantic love or sex per se that you crave, it’s LO. It has a nice clarity of focus; good explanatory power.
For whatever reason – whatever combination of your own emotional state and unmet needs and their particular recipe of personality traits – the company of this person gives you an emotional and physiological high. You seek reward until addiction has set in, and then your behaviour becomes erratic and irrational and withdrawal becomes painful. The drug parallel also helps from the perspective of overcoming limerence. You are probably not going to be able to be friends with your LO, just like an alcoholic will never be able to be a social drinker.
This is especially true if your LO is manipulative or narcissistic or limerent for you too. Because those guys will be enablers. They’ll be your drinking buddies, egging you on, telling you how boring you’ve become since you stopped hanging out so much, or how much they miss you – and can’t we just go back to how things were before you got so uptight?
Now, there can be ways through limerence, so it’s not necessarily essential to go cold turkey. If your LO is actually a decent person, you stand a better chance of establishing new habits, and a civil acquaintanceship is feasible as long as you steer clear of intimate conversations or situations. It will be hard and may call for constant vigilance, but then that is the price of liberty. But to return to my perennial theme: your road out of the addiction is self-awareness, honesty, and the determination to live a purposeful life. Act decisively, and work for the future you want to live.