In her landmark book, Dorothy Tennov described how she had crystallised the concept of limerence around an interaction with a friend (who she liked and admired) on a plane journey, in which she came to realise that her friend had never experienced the suite of emotional sensations that she associated with infatuation. For the first time, Tennov understood that there were people who did not feel this obsessive need for another person – that even in the heart of a love affair, they did not experience the intrusive thoughts and desperate craving for reciprocation that she had assumed everyone experienced during the early stages of romantic love.
This discovery of non-limerents came to inform a lot of the analysis of limerence that Tennov carried out. What was it that distinguished limerents from non-limerents? Could people be non-limerent for most of their lives, but then unexpectedly experience it with the right LO? Could people be limerent for more than one person at a time, or more than one gender? It was one of those moments in research where the observation of the counter-example – the mutant that lacks the phenotype you are studying – helps illuminate the mechanics of the phenomenon you are interested in.
On reflection, it is perhaps not too surprising that the existence of non-limerents had gone unnoticed for so long. From the perspective of a limerent, popular culture makes perfect sense: all those pop songs and novels and films depicting soul-consuming love fit comfortably into the limerent’s life experience. Non-limerents, however, may be a bit more confused. But like any cultural phenomenon that others rave about, most likely the non-limerents just assume people are exaggerating. When asked what they thought was going on in romantic comedies, non-limerents may reply that they treated it just like an action movie – an unreal but entertaining embellishment of what is actually possible for humans to experience.
For me, the best analogy I can come up with is my response to sport. As a kid I played football for my local team, even getting as far as the county championship and winning a few plastic-gold trophies. I also went to matches, and hoped that my team would win. But when I looked around me at the grown men and women who were obviously so much more emotionally invested that I was, I wondered why they were pretending to be moved by deep emotions.
I can remember being at University and wondering why the streets were so deserted one night, to find that every bar was filled with people anxiously watching England play in the European championship. I grasped then that a substantial fraction of the population genuinely and sincerely cared about the eleven strangers on the pitch kicking a ball around. Indeed, my last LO told me that she had cried when her team had been knocked out of a tournament (I forget which – tellingly). She shed honest, heartfelt tears of loss.
I lack that trait. I just can’t muster the emotions. It’s some blokes kicking a ball around for massive salaries, and it has basically no bearing on my life. I kind of want my country to win, but actually, I also quite like it when they lose quickly and the national fervour subsides.
So, that for me seems a good analogue for non-limerence – accepting that everyone else really does feel these things, even if you don’t yourself, and assuming that that is the normal variation that makes us different and contributes to life’s rich pageant.
Now, with time to reflect further, I am really very interested in how common non-limerence is. Is this genuinely a trait that splits fairly evenly through the population (as Tennov seemed to assume), or does everyone have some degree of limerence? In the parlance of biology – is limerence a dimorphism (like sex) or a continuous trait (like height)?
In a previous post I suggested that the existence of limerents and non-limerents in a population is likely to be an evolutionarily stable scenario – but how would a continuum of limerence work?
I’m afraid I don’t have a good answer for these questions. As I’ve previously lamented, limerence has not been studied in much detail since Tennov established the concept, and where it has, it has largely been from the perspective of a mental disorder. Anecdotally, people do seem to either immediately relate to the description of limerence, or shake their heads in wonder. But that could be confounded by the same cultural forces as football fanaticism: those with a predisposition to like it get drawn into the tribe and validated and reinforced by camaraderie, those without the predisposition feel excluded from the tribe. Many also have the experience of “trying it out” though, and attempting to cultivate a love of sweaty men being kicky, but fail. So, do they lack the ability altogether?
Why does any of this matter? I would argue that it matters because our understanding of how to relate to other people depends critically on tribalism and our ability to predict how others will respond to our disclosure of limerence, how to moderate our own limerence, and whether it is possible to cultivate it in others or whether we should save ourselves the heartache and only seek limerents (or non-limerents) for our partners.
A good example of how this can come to bear on our emotional health are the frequent attempts by various gurus to devalue limerence as infantile or retarded love. From a non-limerent’s perspective, this makes perfect sense: there is no need to become so needy and obsessed, so obviously those people are less developed or liberated than I am. Monogamy is unnatural, and a product of jealousy. And jealousy is objectively bad, and so I am right. You should have sex with me.
A limerent who lacks confidence or self-awareness can easily be drawn into the logic of such an argument, and try to deny their limerent tendencies in a bid for enlightenment. This could make sense if limerence was a continuum and we could strive to minimise it as a goal, but it makes a lot less sense if limerence is dimorphic and there are two distinct populations (with variation therein). In that case, this argument is probably closer to the “pray the gay away” mentality – that limerence is a lifestyle choice that can be eliminated by willpower.
Ultimately, it seems to me that the best response to limerence depends on the prevalence of the two “phenotypes” that Tennov outlined. If non-limerents are approximately as common as limerents, then the likeliest strategy for finding happiness would be based around tribal compatibility. Non-limerents are likely to always find the obsession of limerents tiresome. Limerents are likely to always find the lack of obsessive reciprocation from non-limerents distressing. However, if non-limerents are a relatively minor population – like asexuals, for example – then it’s a reasonable assumption that any given person that you meet has the potential to be limerent for you. Non-limerents would need to respond thoughtfully to this scenario and adapt their expectations to match.
I’d love to know how prevalent non-limerence is.
Maybe I should start a survey…
Thank you for everything you’ve written.
It is being a big help.
I would love to hear from your wife as to how she lives both her own limerence, and yours.
We find ourselves in a similar position, and I have a lot of questions.
I did talk to my wife about your question. She says that mutual respect and honest communication are the heart of coping with limerence when married, and I would agree!
I also think there is an analogy to people with high libidos – they have to find strategies for coping with that aspect of themselves without undermining their loving relationship. A glance at any agony aunt column will confirm that coping with mismatched libidos is non-trivial. I think the same is true for limerence.
First of all, I love how you collected so much research and created a safe community here! Thankyou for helping me get a better understanding of what limmerence is and helping me see I’m not alone.
That said I do want to make a note on the way monogamy is linked to limmerence here. As a limmerent and polyamorous person I can say that it is very much possible to be limmerent and still prefer polyamory. Even though the attraction towards your LO will always be in no comparison with your attraction for other partners, that doesn’t mean those relationships aren’t valid.
Alterous atraction is still very much possible and so is the fun of giving someone else joy when it comes to sex. Those relationships can offer you an amazing stability and a safe place to express the parts of yourself that you might not express in platonic relationships.
Also jealousy is not the same thing as obsession and in my experience, it is easier to overcome because you can learn to see the possibilities of your chances with your LO apart from his sexual and romantic attractions towards others. For your alterous partners stability, safety and love might be far more important then passion and also, they could find passion with someone else.
As long as you communicate honestly about what you feel and what you want, polyamory can be a real liberation!
Doesn’t Albert Wakin say limerence only affects an estimated five percent of the population?
He may well do – I’ve not seen that specific estimate, but Wakin has proposed redefining limerence to only cover the pathological state of debilitating obsession that lasts beyond the initial stages when “healthy” love would have settled down. So, he’s not using the term in the sense that Tennov did (or I have). I think many more people experience limerence in the early stages of love.
Would it be accurate to say that limerence is an adult affliction, meaning that children can’t or don’t experience it? If so, then everyone up to the age of 10 or so is non-limerent. Which also means we were all non-limerent once and know what it’s like to experience romantic songs and movies from that perspective — as long as we can recall our childhood, of course.
But is it true? Personally, I remember having a very active imagination as a child and agonizing over my relationship with my peers. When I was about 8 years old, there was one boy in particular whose respect and friendship I desperately wanted. I remember fantasizing about him a lot. Nothing about it was sexual, but it was very similar to my limerence experiences as an adult.
Interesting question, William. I think most limerents report the first emergence of limerence during adolescence/puberty, and that would fit with the idea that it’s linked to pair bonding and romantic attachment. But from the perspective of “person addiction” the (pre-sexual) desperate urge to be with another person and have their good opinion could have similar roots. The attachment psychologists would probably argue it is symptomatic of the same underlying issues, too.
Of course, many of the individual elements of limerence (fantasising, craving company, intrusive thoughts) can be experienced outside of limerent experience, so there are some grey areas at the boundaries, but it’s a thought-provoking question…
I remember having the experience when as as little as five for another five year old. I felt a deep disturbing sense of longing for one of my school mates. I wished I could experience what it would be like to actually be that person. I still recognize my limerence now as the same feeling I had way then.
? Might be a correlate with IQ and/or general success level. It might be dichotomous in terms of on/off, but could develop in anyone with the right circumstances and environment. A few postings I’ve read are from people completely perplexed about what’s happening to them, and the attraction toward someone they don’t want to be attracted to. Seems to involve many people who have very much to lose – but then again we’re only reading what they have to say because they have computers and internet accounts.
As an aside, I’m thinking that Tenov coined the term “limerence” basing it partly on what she knew of limbic system of the brain – the structures involved with basic emotions and instinctual drives (hunting, reproducing, caring of offspring).
Anonymous Limerent says
So, I have an idea:
What if there is only one tribe? I mean, what if the ‘non-limerents’ are just limerents with no experience of limerence yet? Or maybe their trigger criteria just aren’t met by anyone they come across?
The reason I thought if this was that I was thinking about some programmes and songs where, especially in long series, a character only has about one LE for years. This got me thinking; some people obviously aren’t serial limerents and may only experience limerence once in their lives, so what if everyone is the same? The reason for the lack of multiple LEs could be really high standards in terms of criteria for limerence.
Maybe, to test my theory, we should imprison a group of ranging limerents to non-limerents and craft more and more potent potential LOs, seeing each of their responses… 😉
Well, choose SINGLE people for your island once your proposal has passed muster with your IACUC.
Anonymous Limerent says
What is IACUC? English, please!☺
I’m not going to venture a guess as to relative prevalence of limerence vs non-limerence, but I can confidently say I’m non-limerent to the nth degree.
I landed on this website after reading the Elaine Chong article, and after reading a bunch of your posts (and the comments!), it’s like an epiphany lightbulb exploded — my wife is limerent for someone else. Other people have tried to frame what happened through various lenses or perspectives, but there was always some factor (or multiple factors) that prompted a response of “it’s not like that”. But, bunk psychology or not, this idea/description of limerence fits to a “T”, so if nothing else, it gives me the language and tools to wrap my head around what’s going on inside my wife’s head.
Like William, I am very interested in the idea whether limerence is, for some people, strongly linked with chronological age? I have always hoped that I would just “grow out of it”.
Prior to puberty, I experienced isolated instances of euphoria, but no crush developed afterwards. I didn’t really experience puppy love.
Around the age of 13/14, I experienced my first sustained interest in another person. (A girl, who appeared to reciprocate my feelings, but was also very shy). We exchanged a few small gifts and cards, but very rarely spoke. This crush petered out by the time I was sixteen. (She publicly announced her interest in somebody else That make it quite easy to me to move on guilt-free. Also, she liked horses and motorbikes, and I didn’t. We were obviously incompatible!)
Intrusive thoughts probably started happening about various people of both sexes when I was 16-17. But my mind took a little while to settle on a definite (male) LO, who I started dreaming about at night. I wrote him a letter. He responded positively. I guess that’s The Glimmer and The Response covered.
Uncertainty kicked in when I was 18. A few very fraught years followed. Then rejection in the form of him ghosting me. Still couldn’t get him off my mind. I realise now he only saw me as a friend, and probably not a close friend at that.
I think ages 20-25 were the hardest. Things steadily got better since about the age of 27-ish. I dated a lot of guys. Had a sexual relationship with a much-older LO while I was between the ages of 30-35. The interaction was pleasant enough. Gradually, it dawned on me he didn’t feel the same way i.e. he didn’t seem to miss me when I was absent. He didn’t know why I brought him an expensive book once, although he accepted the gift. Again, I was seen as just a good friend.
As a child, I fantasised about having a best friend and felt annoyed by how fickle schoolfriends often were. No one seemed to like me as much as I liked them. I wasn’t pushy or anything. I just quietly noted the lack of interest. I felt like people only wanted to be friends with me when no one else was available. It’s hard being everyone’s “back-up friend” and never anyone’s “best friend”. At least one boy has told me since then I was a close friend of his during those years. 😛
I quite like the following lines:
“Non-limerents are likely to always find the obsession of limerents tiresome. Limerents are likely to always find the lack of obsessive reciprocation from non-limerents distressing.”
Are there reliable numbers on limerents vs non-limerents?
I’m sure there’s a fair amount of “covered” limerents as well. I don’t know how you all handle this but I don’t admit to the world that I’m a limerent. I run around pretending I’m all cool and chill and don’t get insanely obsessed over people. Even in LEs I would profusely deny it all if anyone asked. It just seems like the more socially accepted way to exist in this world.
Limerent Emeritus says
No. But, there aren’t reliable numbers for a lot of conditions. If you google Personality Disorders, the estimates say 10% of the population has one, possibly higher. Some observed conditions, like Self-Defeating Personality Disorder (aka Masochistic Personality Disorder), which was appendix to the DSM-III but removed in later editions have quite a following. Kind of like limerence.
The estimate is 5% of the population may be limerents. It’s on here somewhere but I couldn’t find it. If you want to know more background, check out https://www.cnn.com/2016/10/10/health/limerence-heartbreak-obsession/index.html. DrL talks about most of it in his blogs but this captures a lot in a single article.
“I don’t know how you all handle this but I don’t admit to the world that I’m a limerent. I run around pretending I’m all cool and chill and don’t get insanely obsessed over people.”
On LwL we call that “leakage.” Some limerents manage it better than others. Single limerents can often get away with some as long as they don’t come across as too over the top. It can be deadly for attached limerents trying to keep it a secret from their SO. And, controlling leakage can be a whole lot of anxiety inducing work.
“Even in LEs I would profusely deny it all if anyone asked. It just seems like the more socially accepted way to exist in this world.”
You and every other addict who hasn’t bottomed out. Denial is a part of most addicts lives. And, just like any other addiction, it can wreak havoc on professional and personal relationships.
But few, if any, are proud of it.
Limerence can explain a lot of things but it doesn’t excuse any of them.
Hi BLE. The numbers aren’t reliable, for the reasons that both Limerent Emertitus and you outline. We can’t estimate how many people have experienced limerence, but not reported it, not found it a problem, just assumed it is what love feels like, etc. etc.
However, one trick that helped cut through some of this was to use Myers-Brigg stats to try and estimate what percentage of self-reporting limerents fell into which MBTI category, and then scale this to the whole population. The details are here, and the results came out surprisingly close to other estimates for around 5% of the population.
Limerent Emeritus says
That’s the blog I was thinking of but couldn’t remember.
Thank you both for your responses and the links.
I would have guessed limerents make up a lot more than 5% of the population. Especially since a large part of the arts (yes, I include movies and TV shows in that) seem to be inspired by limerence. So many people enjoy consuming it and relate to it – I would have guessed the number to be much much higher. Also when observing and talking to people in my environment I would say not all but most have experienced something I would categorise as a LE. Maybe limerents run in packs, who know.
I’m also wondering whether limerence is really as binary as described here. Most states and conditions humans experience can be placed on a spectrum – so maybe limerence is just on the far end of it.
I was a bit puzzled by the MBTI. I’m a psychologist working in science and this has never crossed my path. But judging from the comment section, it seems to be quite popular. Then again I’m already rather sceptical of established personality tests, so typology is not exactly what I would invest time in. For the fun of it, I just took an online (shortened I assume) version of the MBTI and according to “my type” the likelihood of me being a limerent is low. Then again, the description of “my type” did not resonate with me at all, which is kind of surprising considering personality tests are basically just instructed self descriptions. In the comment section I also found some people were sceptical of the MBTI since it produced different results whenever they took it. I believe this makes perfect sense since first of all, people change over the course of their life (some more than others) and second, because results are heavily dependent on the state your in when you take it. So since personality tests are a description of how you see yourself in that particular moment and limerence is measured by self reports of people, I wonder what’s the chicken and the egg here.
I just realize I lost track on what was supposed to be my point, so I’m just going to stop rambling now.
“I’m also wondering whether limerence is really as binary as described here. Most states and conditions humans experience can be placed on a spectrum – so maybe limerence is just on the far end of it.”
If I may just jump in here, I’d like to take the opportunity to say … limerence is, oh, such a mysterious phenomenon. I’m not surprised you have all sorts of questions. Just when I think I’ve finally figured it out, the cards of insight seem to rearrange themselves magically before my eyes and I’m back to square one…
The upside to all this confusion is … not only am I learning new things, but I’m also learning to question what I think I know. And I’m learning not to be afraid of replacing old ideas with new ideas, when and if appropriate, after a lengthy vetting of said ideas. It can be frustrating not to “master something in one take”. But real learning is a process, right, with a lot of back and forth involved?
I guess what I’m saying is … um … since learning about limerence, I feel like I’m enrolled in high school again. I’ve participated in the group for about a year now and only now am I noticing … changes in my thoughts, fresh insights coming to me, new connections forming. I think my brain is being stretched to accommodate new knowledge and that’s a good thing, even though it’s a little bit scary. (I think my brain might have temporarily stopped learning after high school, when the limerent beast started running the show. Hahaha! Now I’m back on track, fingers crossed). 😛
Your background in psychology must be a bit of a bonus to you when thinking about limerence, because maybe you can relate it back to other ideas, such as attachment theory. I don’t have any specialist backgrounds. I just like to read a lot. I’ve heard the MBTI does arouse feelings of scepticism in a lot of people who take the test. I find I test pretty consistently as INTJ, though. The only other result I’ve ever gotten back is INTP. So only one letter in my result ever seems to change… My Jungian archetype switches back and forth between The Sage and The Jester. Evidently, I’m a different person when under stress! 😛
Incidentally, I’m reading a lot about extroverts and introverts at the moment and realising … how poorly I understand both camps! For example, I spent decades believing my main LO was an introvert, just like me. Not I’m not so sure. Now I think my main LO was an extrovert and I embarrassingly projected my own nature onto him. No wonder I was hopeless at understanding his true motivations! 😛
I’ve also had extrovert friends from high school confide in me about their struggles with social anxiety, which shocked me, as I didn’t know extroverts could struggle with social anxiety. I thought extroverts were just born with superhuman confidence or something, and only introverts exhibit symptoms of shyness. (But, of course, introversion and shyness are two completely different things).
I think limerents are people who are prone to obsession. I think obsession-prone people might return more consistent test results than other groups? I know I have a very strong, fixed personality and I don’t like change. I’m definitely on the far end of the introvert spectrum and on the far end of any limerent spectrum.
I think popular culture can shape our perception of limerence, and influence how we handle it when it occurs. But if large numbers of human beings experienced limerence, the truth is, we’d probably be considerably less productive as a species, since limerents have a really hard time focusing on anything except LO and nesting once the process is underway and “crystallisation” has occurred.
Just some thoughts to get the ball rolling. Maybe my own jumble of thoughts might remind you of what you wanted to say? 😛
Excellent point – how could humanity survive if we all were obsessed messes. On the other hand humanity’s survival much depends on procreation which in the best case limerence assists.
Oh my, am I down the typology rabbithole – thanks to your input I now have a Jungian archetype: “The wise old man” both for the self as well as the persona, which again doesn’t seem to substantiate my self-conception as a limerent being. It does however fit how others perceive me. I only discovered LwL a couple of days ago and it feels really good to find like-minded individuals who share this experience. I talked about LwL and the phenomenon of limerence to a friend the other day and she insisted I was the “most level-headed person with excellent emotion-regulation” and that the “confusion” with my current LO was perfectly justified given his insanely inconsistent and contradictory behaviour. This made me realize she probably is a non-limerent. For me the state of limerence is so distinct from anything else I experience, including actually falling in love with someone. Once the “high” is gone, I would describe it like an uncomfortable inner tension and vague unrest that is probably closest to what people with anxiety experience. Well, or addicts. I’ve used it mostly as an avoidant strategy. I was very prone to limerence in my teens and early twenties in order to avoid actual romantic relationships which I feared for some reason. Once I overcame that fear I had a couple of “normal” relationships that even in the beginning didn’t feel anything like limerence though I was very infatuated with my partners. I thought that limerence was just born out of my naivity because I hadn’t experienced mutual romantic love. So now, nearly two decades wiser, my current very intense LE has taken me by suprise quite a bit.
You are right, limerence is such a hard concept to grasp. I’m still not even sure on whether I consider it to be problematic or not. If you classify it as an addiction then I would say it’s not recommendable. But it still differs from other addictions such that for many limerents LEs seem to subside all by themselves (even though I learned from LwL that you can speed up the process by “no contact” etc.). You don’t have that with other substances. I understand you are still predisposed to become limerent again. Yet, I feel it’s still distinct from substance addiction – you won’t just naturally and gradually fall out of heroin addiction until you’re next episode starts.
But addiction aside – from this page I learned that limerence is an all-consuming attraction to certain features in other people that are different and specific for every limerent but seem to evoke the same response that is OCD-like and is aimed at identifying signs of reciprocation of romantic feelings. This has been described as problematic when the limerent and/or the LO are in committed relationships or the LO does not reciprocate (and fails to communicate this properly). But I also read it’s “bliss” when your LO turns out to be limerent for you as well. That raises two questions for me: 1) If we pathologize limerence shouldn’t that include all possible scenarios (also reciprocated limerence)? 2) If feelings are reciprocated wouldn’t limerence promptly end because uncertainty is gone?
(I’m sorry if I’m a pain in the butt with all my wondering and questions – I’m just very keen on sorting out my confusion)
You mentioned your “main” LO. Does that mean you become limerent for several people at a time? Or do you refer to the LO you had the strongest limerence for?
What exactly do you mean by crystallisation?
Allie 1 says
“1) If we pathologize limerence shouldn’t that include all possible scenarios (also reciprocated limerence)? 2) If feelings are reciprocated wouldn’t limerence promptly end because uncertainty is gone?”
I think the answers depend on what we mean by the term “limerence”. On LwL we are talking about the distressing version where we pine away, obsess/ruminate constantly, suffer from crippling intrusive thoughts, etc. That is what surveyed 5% of the population experience. But Tennov actually coined the term “limerence” to represent the state of being “in love”, to differentiate it from real love. I would imagine the majority of the population are capable of experiencing this so is not pathological at all. I believe that there is a limerence spectrum but some people are not capable of it at all i.e. A true non-limerent is someone that does not ever fall in-love, they only ever love in the real bonded sense.
I married an LO – I was limerent, he was not but over time he fell in-love with me. I would not pathologise this LE at all as the end result is a lasting marriage and a family. The limerence faded gradually over time for me – maybe 1-2 years. Hard to tell at what point it ended as it was replaced by a different, deeper, more real kind of love, as well as hope and joy about our future together.
” I would imagine the majority of the population are capable of experiencing this so is not pathological at all. I believe that there is a limerence spectrum but some people are not capable of it at all i.e. ”
I agree with you. To say that 95% of the population doesn’t experience some degree of limerence in the early “in love” phase I think is wrong. (If the other 5% are true limerents, according to Tennov.) And I agree with you it’s a spectrum, depending on the individual person and how they feel about their partner. They may experience a higher or lesser degree of limerence in the early phases depending on who they are with.
But I think one of the 5% true limerents can experience relationships that are not born out of limerence. To grow to love someone who may be a better choice for them in the long run. Actually, the LO, in a lot of instances, is a bad choice long term.
Limerent Emeritus says
A discussion of “crystallization” can be found here: https://livingwithlimerence.com/the-three-phases-of-limerence/
“(I’m sorry if I’m a pain in the butt with all my wondering and questions – I’m just very keen on sorting out my confusion)”
I don’t know if DrL covered all aspects of limerence but he’s covered a lot of it.
LwL can be pretty overwhelming at first. One thought leads to another and it can seem like just when you nail down one concept another one pops into your head and off you go.
But, if you stick with it, you should eventually run out of strings. There are a lot of regular posters, who contributed a lot when they were here, that no longer post. Hopefully, that’s because they don’t feel like they need LwL anymore. That’s a good thing.
Song of the Day: “The Thrill is Gone” – B.B. King (1969)
Well, i suppose limerence can be both a blessing and a curse. Pair-bonding is a blessing and reproduction is a blessing. (For the species anyway, even if the individuals involved beg to differ). Some people, once they’ve met their mate, might be able to settle down to raising families and running businesses … a life of productive stability, etc, and never look back.
Even the genes for obsession that play into limerence can be a boon outside of pair-bonding/reproduction. Obsessiveness, for example, might make someone brilliant in a particular role/job involving creativity or research or attention to detail…
Limerence only becomes a problem, I think, in very specific circumstances, such as crushing on someone unavailable.
Jungian archetypes are fun. It seems that I seek pleasure (The Jester) when in limerence and seek knowledge (The Sage/The Wise Old Man) when not in limerence or coming out of limerence. Two sides of the same coin maybe?
“I talked about LwL and the phenomenon of limerence to a friend the other day and she insisted I was the “most level-headed person with excellent emotion-regulation” and that the “confusion” with my current LO was perfectly justified given his insanely inconsistent and contradictory behaviour.”
It sounds like you have a pretty decent friend there. Loyal friends are hard to come by. 😛
A clumsy attempt to answer your two questions:
“(1) If we pathologize limerence shouldn’t that include all possible scenarios (also reciprocated limerence)?”
I agree with you – in theory. If anguish-producing limerence is classified as a pathology, (and I’m not saying it should be necessarily), then I guess bliss-producing limerence also needs to be classified as a pathology in order to be logically consistent. Unless we only regard “pathologies” are something distressing to the patient?
Lucy Baines is a neuroscientist who has a webpage called “Neurosparkle”, which is well worth the read. I like the observations in her articles. She doesn’t come out and say limerence is a disease state exactly, but she says it should be TREATED as if it were a disease state to maximise chances of recovery. At least, that’s my possibly-imperfect understanding of her ideas. I think this view, however, would only resonate with people experiencing anguish and not people experiencing bliss. (People have to want help).
“(2) If feelings are reciprocated wouldn’t limerence promptly end because uncertainty is gone?”
Lucy Baines answers this question quite clearly in her work too. Yes, true emotional reciprocation “shatters limerence”. So I guess we stop obsessing over people who like us back, and make the fact they like us back very clear. No uncertainly = no room for obsession.
My “main LO” refers to the LO I had the strongest limerence for. I’ve had simultaneous crushes. I’ve never been limerent for more than one person at a time. However, there’s sometimes a small period of “overlap” if I’m transferring limerence from one LO to the next LO, and at such times, it might appear that I’m “in love” with two people!!
In reality, one LO is on the way out and another LO is on the way in – a changing of the guard, as it were. This “rapid transference to a new LO” happened to me more in adolescence and smacks of immaturity perhaps. Usually, hope has been extinguished with the first LO. (They’ve offended me or they are aggressively chasing another romantic partner and I no longer see myself as in the race. Effectively, I’m giving up on that LO due to their real and/or perceived disloyalty).
Limerent Emeritus has found a link to “crystallisation”. (See above). Basically, crystallisation seems to be the second stage of limerence, after infatuation. I use it as a synonym for “total mental capture”, which you might also come across on this site. It’s basically when LO has taken possession of our minds, and obsession has set in. But it’s a little more complicated than that too…
The French writer Stendhal came up with the term “crystallisation” in the early nineteenth century and Tennov writes about it a little bit in her book. Stendhal was trying to explain something about how human beings fall in love (or become limerent I guess?).
Apparently, back in Stendhal’s day, in Salzburg, these branches used to fall into a salt mine and beautiful crystals would form on the branches as a result of some chemical reaction, transforming the branches into gleaming golden objects. This is kind of what happens in our own minds to an LO when we become limerent for them – the LO ceases to be a regular person in our eyes, and become a beautiful, idealised object and we expend a great deal of energy (sometimes in vain) trying to secure the attentions of that object.
I definitely feel limerents are overrepresented in Hollywood movies and in TV series. I’m finding it very hard these days not to pick up on limerence-based storylines when I watch something. Most recent example: last night I saw “The Duchess”, starring Keira Knightley.
The fact limerence is portrayed so commonly and even celebrated in popular culture might make some viewers assume it’s the romantic norm, whereas I guess a lot of other viewers would just shrug and say it’s all just a pleasant fantasy, a lovely story not based in reality, and can’t we just enjoy a film without analysing it to bits? 😛
I think people who have had happy experiences of limerence (mutual limerence) may never have any reason to question their experiences. An “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of mentality. Such people don’t need to know what’s going on.
On the other hand, I think some personality types are more self-aware than others, and more driven to acquire knowledge, and want to figure out what’s going on, regardless of whether the experience has been good or bad. 😛
Personally, I wanted to know where the terrible pain in my head came from. I.e. if I’m basically a good person and following the rules, why am I suffering so much? Is this normal? Love shouldn’t lead to immense, inescapable suffering surely… And how come my LOs always seemed gloriously immune to said suffering? 😛
You are right . The idea that limerence is the norm comes from the movies. Just think of Keira Knightley in “Anna Karenina.” Throwing herself in front of a train because of a doomed love affair. The reality is that she isn’t going to give up her entire existence — her child, her marriage, her very standing in respectable society — for Vronsky, and he’s not going to risk his reputation and opportunity to with other women just to be with her.
Well, in “The Duchess”, the Duke gives Keira Knightley’s character, Georgiana, a choice between being with her lover and seeing her children again and she chooses her children, which I find entirely believable…
The plot is a bit complicated. Georgiana has an illegitimate child with her lover and she tells her husband and that child is adopted by members of the biological father’s family and passed off as a niece rather than a daughter. The duchess remains married to her husband and lives out her days in a strange but apparently happy menage a trois – her, her husband, and her husband’s mistress!!
Basically, the Duke got to keep his bit on the side and poor old Georgiana had to give up hers! But apparently the real-life duchess got to visit her love-child in secret, so at least that’s nice for the both of them…
I guess the moral of the story is – upper-class women of this period were punished for behaviour that upper-class men took for granted. No one thought less of the Duke for living openly with both his mistress and his wife under one roof. But this threesome could never become a foursome. The Duke threatened to ruin the political career of Georgiana’s lover, who eventually found a suitable wife and became one of Britain’s PMs.
It seems the big sacrifice had to be made by the woman…
I haven’t seen Keira in “Anna Karenina”. I think I struggled to finish the book. Does Vronsky return Anna’s love or does he grow tired of her in the end? I was under the impression that Vronsky grows sick of Anna and that’s why the ending is so bleak. (Her sacrifice for passionate love was all in vain). She kind of lost everything … family/social status and also lover. Russian writers really know how to do tragedy!
I do find Anna a believable if extremely sad portrait of limerent suffering. Sort of what limerence can look like at its very worst. But, again, it seems to be the female character doing the bulk of the suffering. I imagine at the end Anna just wanted the pain inside her head to stop and she possibly wasn’t aware that the limerent fog does lift (sometimes agonisingly slowly) with the passage of time… Obviously, Madame Karenin didn’t have the internet, and I guess those long Russian winters would depress anybody…
I think Hollywood paints happy mutual limerence as the norm. We’re all supposed to get lives full of rainbows and unicorns and star dust and glitter. I don’t think Hollywood portrays bittersweet or tragic limerence as the norm. I think Hollywood portrays limerence, but not always with enough honesty. That lack of honesty can warp people’s expectations…
I have an issue with limerence being portrayed as too “fluffy”. How about a version of “The Notebook” where one’s soulmate gets sick of waiting? Human beings are impatient creatures. How about two single people in mutual limerence falling out of love because of one too many missed chances? That would be an interesting story. And no fuzzy ending. Just reality. What about two youthful lovebirds who fail to reconnect in middle age? (Because they’ve both grown and become totally different people?)
“Remains of the Day” with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson is good one to see if you want realistic/bittersweet/one too many missed chances. I don’t think it’s the kind of movie younger audiences would appreciate. (Too slow/too atmospheric). But it’s still very moving in a very subtle way.
“The Duchess”, taken as a portrayal of limerence, is probably more nuanced than most. Georgiana didn’t get everything she desired – she had to make a really tough choice. Keira played the role beautifully. I find her much more likeable as Georgiana Cavendish than as Elizabeth Bennet. I never really warmed to Keira’s Elizabeth in “Pride and Prejudice”.
I think an older actress plays Elizabeth in the BBC miniseries, even though Keira was closer to Elizabeth’s age when playing Elizabeth, and the BBC version got stuck in my head. And then, of course, there’s Colin Firth as Darcy in the TV series. No one will ever replace Mr Firth in that role – according to his legions of loyal female fans, anyway! So the BBC version will remain the definitive one for a long time to come I think! 😛
“I guess the moral of the story is – upper-class women of this period were punished for behaviour that upper-class men took for granted.”
That is similar to Anna Karenina. She leaves her husband and child and is ostracized from society while her lover is not. So it’s implied he will grow tired of her. That he will eventually need to marry an “appropriate” wife, and he of course can’t marry her.
Now, that , to me, is realistic. Limerence is portrayed as the norm in movies, something we should expect and anything less is settling, but it ISN’T the norm. I think a lot of real-life love stories are based on compatibility and circumstance (somebody gets pregnant, they grew up together, they have the same values and goals) rather than some all-consuming passion, and I think a lot of people look at a lot of options instead of getting fixated on one, like a limerent. Mutual limerence is a unicorn. In fact, ending up in a long-term, serious relationship with an LO is rare.
“How about a version of “The Notebook” where one’s soulmate gets sick of waiting? ”
Of course both would move on. No man is building a house and waiting for his big love to return. He’s out looking for another woman. So “Splendor in the Grass” is much more realistic. Natalie Wood goes to see Warren Beatty some time after their relationship ends, and he is married with kids.
““Remains of the Day” with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson”
I really like that movie, too. Very sad. But I think it’s more about the Anthony Hopkins character’s inability to express his feelings and get out of his shell.
I agree. Falling in love with a suitable available partner is very distinct from limerence even if these limerent feelings are mutual. At least the long-term, serious relationships I’ve had and those I have witnessed in my environment were not based on limerence. Still, I know plenty of people (including myself) who are capable of forming these (non-limerent) bonds and still develop crazy LEs for other people. So I would argue that limerence is not necessarily the only way for a limerent to experience romantic feelings. Sometimes love doesn’t strike you like a thunderbolt but grows slowly. Honestly I believe that limerence doesn’t have much to do with love at all even though it feels more like love than love itself.
I read Anna Karenina years ago and I’m pretty sure it’s inspired by the agony of limerence. I remember I found it almost unbearable to read because her suffering was so intense and hard to digest. I was almost happy about her death because it was such a relief from her self-torture.
“Still, I know plenty of people (including myself) who are capable of forming these (non-limerent) bonds and still develop crazy LEs for other people. So I would argue that limerence is not necessarily the only way for a limerent to experience romantic feelings. ”
I agree with you. I was saying that movies only give us limerent “love” examples. So does popular music. “Baby, I’m burning for you,” “Baby I only want you, ” etc. I think mutual limerence is rare. I mean, limerence in itself is rare. I think what you wrote about, the love growing, is much more common.
Allie 1 says
I find the early falling “in love” period of a new relationship very similar to limerence, even when they are not an LO. I feel euphoric, obsess about them, get intrusive thoughts and feel giddy with desire for them. It is not as intense as with a real LE but it feels like the same neurochemicals at play to me.
My hollywood gripe is that they equate that early “in love” state to real forever bonded love, when in reality real love is, if you are lucky, what follows when the neurochemically induced “in love” phase inevitably fades away.
“I really like that movie, too. Very sad. But I think it’s more about the Anthony Hopkins character’s inability to express his feelings and get out of his shell.”
That’s a great insight. Sometimes we might like a movie but not totally get what it’s about until someone else puts it into words. I think you’ve nailed “Remains of the Day” here. I knew it was sad. I just couldn’t explain why it was sad…
And, of course, Anthony Hopkins is the right actor to portray an emotionally constrained man. He’s got deep feelings all right, but he just can’t get them out. So it’s about emotional repression. These two lovebirds might have had a chance … under different circumstances. Very moving, if one thinks about it.
The “key” to understanding this movie is the personality of the character played by Anthony Hopkin. Thank you for pointing that out. I get it now! Wow! 😛
I think I liked that movie so much because the Anthony Hopkins character reminded me of my LO. Or so I thought. It was like that Phil Collins song “I Missed Again.” “And you can feel it all around you, But it’s something you just can’t touch.” That’s what limerence feels like. All of this lusciousness surrounding you, almost within your grasp, if your damned LO would just follow along with the program. 🙂
“It was like that Phil Collins song … “And you can feel it all around you, But it’s something you just can’t touch.” That’s what limerence feels like. All of this lusciousness surrounding you, almost within your grasp, if your damned LO would just follow along with the program. 🙂”
Once again, with a little help from Mr Collins, you’ve said it … beautifully. 🙂
I suppose limerence is … us literally swimming in an invisible swimming pool full of dopamine? But this swimming pool isn’t out there in the world somewhere, but inside our heads, and then seems to light up the external world… 😛
Where is the survey?
It’s terribly needed.
This one is kind of the survey: https://livingwithlimerence.com/are-you-a-limerent/
Here are some of the results from people who did the survey: https://livingwithlimerence.com/analysis-of-the-limerence-experience/
If you score a low score then your not a limerent. Obviously you just might not have experienced it until that point, but that is the same as being non-limerent to be fair.