A few weeks ago I had an enjoyable chat with a journalist, Amanda McCracken, who was writing an article about limerence for the New York Times.
The article is now out (paywall).
It’s a good overview of the realities of limerence, but unfortunately none of our conversation ended up in the final version, because the anonymity I maintain makes it difficult for mainstream sources to be confident about citing me as a source. That’s not too much of a surprise (and Amanda had warned me that would likely be the case), but she did manage to include a link to LwL, which is great.
One of the reasons that the conversation was so engaging for me was that Amanda became interested in limerence from an unconventional direction. She has previously written and presented on the power of longing, and how we can sometimes get caught up in the complicated pleasures of pining for an ideal lover – of romanticising anticipation, and delaying intimacy to avoid the inevitably disillusioning experience of forming a relationship with an actual person.
Here’s her TEDx talk on the topic:
There’s an obvious overlap with limerence, in that both scenarios involve a lot of rumination, idealisation, mood regulation through fantasy, and living in limbo. In some ways, it also overlaps with repeatedly becoming limerent for unavailable people, as there are in-built barriers to consummation. There’s a distance that protects the mental passions from reality.
It’s a love affair entirely within the safety of your own head.
Those kinds of psychological protection mechanisms are powerful blocks on our progress in life. They can hold us back from taking action, pursuing purposeful goals, or embarking on healthy relationships, because taking action moves us out of our comfort zone and into a world of uncertainty and risk. Anxiety is inevitable.
We seek relief from that discomfort by retreating to the fantasy, which feels familiar, secure and safe. It’s a vicious cycle. We spend so long imagining an ideal future that we never take the actions needed to bring that future into existence. There’s a fear that trying will somehow shatter the dream. It’s safer preserved in an imaginary realm than exposed to the world – where it might get tarnished, or disintegrate entirely under the pressures of existence.
A sobering thought, especially as it casts unwelcome light on the psychological security blanket of anonymity that meant my contribution could not be included in the NYT article.
Something for me to reflect on…