Limerence is often dismissed by unsympathetic non-limerents as “a crush”. There’s a definite undertone of disdain that any adult could still suffer with such childishness. Puppy-love, crushes, infatuation – such things are immature.
To an extent, this is true. Many people go through a period in adolescence where they get obsessed with a celebrity of some sort – actor or musician or model – and develop such strong feelings of attraction for that celebrity that they become a fan in the “fanatical” sense. This teenage crush phase could be seen as a sort of proto-limerence, as though the development of new romantic and sexual drives has a practice run for later limerence for a potential mate. It’s also a good way to exercise the rumination muscles; spending hours fantasising about what it would be like if you got together with your famous crush and all the good feelings that process can give. It’s the period in life where you start to process all the new blessings that hormones bestow.
Most people do “grow out” of that phase, to the extent that their limerence transfers to LOs that they actually know and interact with; or at least they learn to hide the fact that they are still fixated on a celebrity because of the social stigma of adult fandom. But some limerents continue in this groove, remaining infatuated with public figures through most of their lives.
So what’s going on here? Is celebrity limerence a special case of the same basic phenomenon, or something totally different? Why should celebrities be appealing LOs?
1) They are archetypes
I’ve talked before about the archetypal nature of LOs. Many celebrities become celebrities because they have some sort of near-universal appeal. They represent some highly desirable aspect of human identity, they have transcendent beauty or talent – or at least enough of it to earn fame. Some celebrities can also embody a sort of highly-concentrated version of womanhood or manhood, elevated to an exaggerated extent.
Given that, it’s not too surprising that such celebrities are promising LOs. You don’t have to work too hard to idealise someone who’s already an archetypal ideal. It makes sense that celebrities would be a common object of fascination, and limerence.
2) Some limerents are drawn to unattainable LOs
Another aspect of the archetypal nature of celebrities is that they are unattainable. At first analysis this should seem to count against the development of limerence, as there is no chance of reciprocation to deepen the connection, and also very little uncertainty (you’d have to be pretty delusional – or extraordinary yourself – to hold out much hope of landing a celebrity LO). However, many limerents report repeated episodes of limerence for LOs that are unattainable – that, in fact, the unattainability adds significantly to the attraction. The desire for the forbidden fruit, for wanting what you know you can’t have, can be perversely powerful. Becoming limerent for someone who is married, lives far away, or does not reciprocate your feelings happens routinely. Celebrities are just a heightened example of that syndrome, and if you have a tendency to develop limerence for the unattainable LO, then a celebrity is, again, an exaggerated ideal.
3) It’s “safer”
One part of the appeal of unattainable LOs is that they are not a threat to your current life. Having a crush on a celebrity could be embarrassing if discovered, but not nearly as troublesome as having a crush on John from Accounts.
So in one respect it’s a safe way to partake of the limerence drug without risking existing relationships.
A recent correspondent (who we’ll call CelebLim) proposed exactly this:
I think it’s a safe way for me to experience the limerence I don’t feel for my husband in a way that won’t disturb my marriage.
But there’s a problem with limerence, and that’s that it can become an addiction, and addictions are toxic for any healthy relationship. CelebLim recognises this too. After blogging about her celebrity LO for a while:
My husband discovered my blog and basically had a nervous breakdown. I think he realizes I don’t feel that spark for him, and he’s fine with it unless I feel a spark towards someone else.
At what point does a personal fantasy become a self-indulgence that hurts other people you care about? And how much responsibility should you take for it?
4) It’s all in your head
Another feature of celebrity limerence is that it’s a really good illustration of the “it’s all in your head” principle. Without reciprocation, encouragement – or really any feedback at all from LO – there’s no way to deny that all of the nucleation, reinforcement and rumination is generated internally. Only one person is involved in the progression of this particular limerence episode. It’s sort of a “pure limerence” scenario, and the celebrity is a pure limerence object.
But the modern world is a complex place. To return to CelebLim, she recently developed limerence for a new LO, a podcaster and comedian who has started to recognise her at public appearances and is a tactile and affectionate person who is free with his hugs for fans. He also shares a lot of his personal life on his podcast. At first, this was pretty cool for CelebLim…
But the limerance always becomes dark for me; I experience a lot of jealousy, I’m sad if he doesn’t respond to my tweets
There’s a dictum about being careful about living out your fantasies. Social media is making celebrities more accessible than ever before. Boundaries between real life and fantasy are not as firm as they once were.
Fantasy life versus purposeful life
I’m not anti-fantasy. I appreciate the value of daydreaming and romance, but like all indulgences, moderation is a good idea. Using fantasy to imagine a better future or a new life that would be more fulfilling and worthwhile is great. Using fantasy to evade the things you know are wrong with your current life, but are too scared to fix, is not so good. It’s natural enough to try and use limerence for stress relief, but as with all potentially destructive addictions, there are dangers to flirting with the edge of obsession. Better to exercise your imagination to shape a purposeful life, and then get to work building it.
Anonymous Limerent says
Hey, so I’ve been thinking about this for a while and signing up to limerence.net helped me in deciding that this site should have an option to see all your past posts. I realise we would probably then need logins, but I was looking for one of my posts to copy and use elsewhere: It took me at least three tries before I got to the blog post I’d put it on. It could have been much longer for a long-time user.
In light of the fact I am the first commenter on this post and have not said anything related to it so far, I’d just like to say I’ve never been limerent for a celebrity. I am currently enduring LE#1 for a girl at my school and it os torture. This is day #258 but I am persevering!
Anonymous Limerent says
**Just to clarify, I mean see each of our own past posts.
My first LO was a famous actress and the short obsession I had with her was a very odd experience. Something that I was pretty embarrassed about at the time and that I kept to myself – it was all just a bit weird! Before this LE and ever since then I have had no similar interest in a celebrity, never been a super fan of anyone or even been vaguely interested in celebrity culture. It was a total one off and I definitely buy in to the idea of proto-limerence and it being a practice run for later limerence (in my case another 10 years later). All of my episodes since the first have been with people who I’ve known and have had regular contact with and the limerence has always taken a while to surface. Totally different to my first experience and in some ways reassuring, in that I’m not likely to fall for someone whilst watching TV.
“My husband discovered my blog and basically had a nervous breakdown. I think he realizes I don’t feel that spark for him, and he’s fine with it unless I feel a spark towards someone else.”
“At what point does a personal fantasy become a self-indulgence that hurts other people you care about? And how much responsibility should you take for it?”
When you nurture that spark and fan that flame. When you devote time and effort to keeping it alive. When you devalue the person to whom you state you are committed.
One of the drivers for me ending the LE was that I never want my wife to question trusting me and taking a chance on me.
I deleted all the emails from LO #4 and shredded the ones I showed the therapist. Aside from getting rid of fuel for rumination, it served another purpose. No one can find what doesn’t exist, anymore.
I had this vision of dying and my co-workers delivering my family a box of my stuff from work. I could see my wife and kids reading the emails and thinking, “What was this about?” and calling everything we’d had together into question. I couldn’t do that.
I have some more insight about the legendary “off switch”.
My current LE is a minor celebrity. Remember, we work together, so I know him personally but he has a public persona. Stupidly, I’ve continued to subscribe to his social media posts. It’s been torture. I’ve also come to the realization that he’s at least somewhat narcissistic, and that when a narcissist “discards” someone, it leaves that person hanging in limbo and vulnerable to obsessive rumination. For the narcissist, the discard is all the closure they need. They’re done with you, no further discussion needed. For the limerent, you’re left wondering what the heck happened? What did you do wrong? Closure is nowhere to be found, and you certainly can’t ASK them for it, because you’re supposed to be No Contact right?
Until…..as the limerent you get discarded and disrespected one too many times. You can no longer fool yourself into thinking they consider you to be a human being with actual feelings. BOOM. Off.
For the entirety of my life since teenage years ( now 30) I feel like I’ve bounced from one celeb LO to another. I feel like it comes in stronger when my mental health is suffering. Is that a thing? I feel like when I’m at my most vulnerable it will happen. I create fantasies in my head of scenarios where we meet or watch their work until all of my time is consumed thinking about them and then the cycle makes me more depressed. I feel like a complete weirdo for having these feeling but it’s like trying to pull the plug from the ocean, the chain won’t budge and I can’t shake it off. Of course it passes eventually but when I’m right in the middle of the obsession I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I feel helpless
Anna, that’s not weird at all. About 4 years ago I had a LE for a celebrity, I was approaching mid 40’s feeling fat, frumpy, invisible and generally depressed. I often sat in my car listening to my LO’s music and thought up the most amazing fantasies that would make 50 shades of grey readers blush. It lasted a year and was very obsessive and intrusive in my day to day life but it was my escape and made me forget that I was feeling down most of the time. Unfortunately for me just as I was exiting the LE with the celebrity LO I found a glimmer in a real day to day LO and transferred everything to the new LO. At the time things weren’t too wonderful in my marriage which put more fuel on the LE and it’s still dragging on today.
The only positive I got from all this is I lost a lot of weight, became fit, wear better clothes and generally look the best I’ve ever looked in my whole life. I also started a new job and took up some of my old hobbies to stop myself obsessing so much.
I am slowly working on detaching and untangling my thoughts from my current LO and some days are better than others. It’s almost midday today and LO has snuck in my mind only two or three times, non of them sexual fantasies so that’s a massive win for me.
That’s a beautiful and very encouraging message Lee-Anne! The fact that it helped you work on feeling better with yourself is really great and inspiring.
About linerence for a celebrity, I was wondering if that could be a helpful tool to get rid of a real life LO, to transfer the obsession to a celebrity. The opposite of what you have experienced. Not that the celebrity isn’t real life, but you can be sure there won’t ever be any reciprocation! And even if it’s still an obsession, you don’t need to agonize over NC/LC, it’s 100% fantasy you can’t possibly fool yourself about that.
Thank you so much for your reply! Thank goodness I’m not alone (although I’m sorry you live with this too). I don’t feel like Limerence for celebs seems to be covered enough and I can imagine anyone from the outside would think it was some silly crush. How insanely inexplicably painful it is to feel like your whole entire being craves, yearns for somebody you can never have or are even ever likely to meet! I’ve never discussed these feelings with my husband as I’m 100% sure he’d never accept or understand. Im trying to decide what is best, just to stop watching anything and hope the thoughts go away over time or to watch it as much as I can so I eventually get fed up or find fault in him. I know what you mean about the getting yourself together. I’m finding myself getting myself together, making more of effort with my appearance etc. I often live in fear that I’m going to have an LE over one of the school run dads or (we live near a building site) one of the workmen. I hate feeling like I’m living my life in fear over something I don’t feel I can control. I feel like in a way I’m subconsciously making more of an effort on myself so that hopefully I will get noticed if I have an LE. Which also make no sense to me as I’m happily married. It’s like a form of self sabotage almost x
DrL talked a little about celebrities in: https://livingwithlimerence.com/2017/02/27/do-they-like-me-too/
Sophie actually met some of her celebrity crushes.
Emma, you could be right, I should start listening to my celebrity LO’s music again and see if I can transfer it back. Although that LE was debilitating and annoying its nothing compared to the hell I’ve been through with the real life LO.
Anna, I didn’t tell my husband either but my children noticed how much time I spent listening and watching celebrity LO’s music and used to tease me. I didn’t mind, but I’d never admit to SO the explicit fantasies I had in my head for celeb LO, he’d die of shock. Unfortunately I did fall for a school run dad when my celeb LE ended. I read the article that Scharnhorst posted, interesting read about the various levels of LE goes through. For the celebrity LO there obviously wasn’t any reciprocation so the LE lasted only 1 year. I joined a private fan group (there’s only 5 ladies) and there we discussed and shared our celebrity LO on a daily basis, it was very therapeutic and we shared some very intimate thoughts. Eventually I stopped listening and watching my celebrity LO’s music and the LE ended, but I am still very good cyber friends with the 5 other ladies. We send each other Christmas cards each year and recently one of them visited my country with her husband and we met and had lunch.
As for the real life LO, I had never met him before, I just noticed him parking his car in front of mine each day just before I went for my daily walks. We only exchanged eye contact, a smile and a quick wave for 1 year (I am friendly, I say hello to everyone) but there was no LE yet. I did find him physically attractive (trying to pin point what my catalyst was for limerence) and he’s my type, but up till that point I’ve never been interested in anyone other than my husband. It wasn’t till I was formally introduced to him by his SO (I knew his SO for 3 years but had no idea he was married to her) that I felt the glimmer, I felt butterflies when I shook his hand and the way he looked at me made my stomach do cartwheels. It was a very odd feeling. My tipping point into Limerence was his perceived interest, each time we were at the same event or I was talking to his SO he’d appear and seemed interested in what I was saying. This sent my mind into a cycle of rumination of does he/or doesn’t he which drove me bananas.
I got to know LO quite well as I was invited to join his social group, soon we saw each other almost every day. It didn’t matter where we sat, after about 30 min we’d end up next to each other engrossed in conversation, there were times when we were startled to find that we had talked for almost 2 hrs non stop, this happened quite often.
The “thing” that got me the most is his ability to talk and listen while maintaining constant eye contact, he never looked away, he’s an active listener. If he knew the fantasies spinning in my mind I swear he’d run away and never talk to me again.
Thank you scharnhost that was a really interesting read. There was a bit in there about ‘seeking out’ potential LOs and i definitely feel like that something that’s going on with me right now.
Lee-Anne that must be excruciating! Have you considered removing yourself from the friendship circle for a period to see if that helps? I think In your position I would feel like the feeling was reciprocated so I can see the issue. I think one of my enormous issues was the 2 real life LOs I had in my late teens actually DID reciprocate. One guy from work was engaged and due to be married. We were majorly flirty at work and when I left the job he made sure I took his number. At the time I was with my now husband so I found strength to not contact but when we split for a brief period I messaged. In the meantime the LO had married. When I told him of my feelings he told me he was gutted. He said before he was married he would have strayed but as he was now married he couldn’t do it! I have one LO which has endured since early teens and I find myself checking his Facebook and the like to see how he’s doing. I’ve come so close to messaging multiple times it’s agony
I know I shouldn’t, but been gazing at the Johnny depp Libel case in the news lately,it stirs my own limerence feeling
I think he has a case of Limerence. Maybe I am wrong, but it’s painful to read.