From time to time I speak with journalists about limerence and its implications. The latest time was just this week, and the last question she asked me was:
If there was one study you could carry out about limerence what would it be?
I went with my immediate impulse: an unbiased survey to finally try and answer the question about how common limerence is in the general population.
So far, we’ve had to rely on indirect estimates or “clinical judgment” (aka an educated guess), but I’d like to know for sure.
After the interview was over, though, that last question got me thinking. Going beyond the basic question of how odd we are, what other things are worth knowing about limerence? Let’s say we had a healthy budget for a newly incorporated Institute for Limerence Studies, what would the research priorities be?
Having reflected on this a bit, there are some big unanswered questions that nag at me, and should be tractable to sensible enquiry. So, here’s my outline proposal, just in case any curious millionaires in the commentariat would like to invest in a new enterprise:
Is limerence more common in men or women? Gay or straight? Young or old? Different ethnic groups?
Experience from running the site for 5 years suggests that limerence is an equal opportunities affliction. I can’t see an obvious pattern from the anecdotal evidence. All the players in life’s rich pageant are represented.
But it would be good to get some concrete data, just to know for sure.
The next big question is does limerence correlate with any other conditions – mental health, attachment style, other addictions, personality traits?
There’s a lot of speculation about this among therapists and psychologists who have an interest in limerence, and (as I’ve commented before) it’s easy to find parallels with other conditions, but for the most part it’s all speculation and inference. No good data.
Some people are repeatedly limerent throughout a large portion of their lives, switching from LO to LO as time progresses, but always seeking the thrill of euphoria as a craving and a goal. Some people spend most of their adult lives without experiencing limerence at all, and then get hit for the first time in their autumn years.
I’d love to see a population distribution on this. Are there some people at the tails of a bell curve, with most limerents somewhere in the middle around an average? Or is it a more interesting phenomenon, with some sort of power law that has most people with a small number of limerence episodes and some with an astronomical number (as is seen for the number of sexual partners in a lifetime)?
My instinct is that this would tell us something important about the connections between limerence. libido and love.
Basically the same question, but from another perspective. The statistic that is often cited for how long limerence lasts is 18-36 months. But as with the previous estimates, this is essentially an informed guess rather than a rigorous analysis.
As a general rule of thumb, distributions tell you a lot more about the nature of a phenomenon than averages, but this is not an easy dataset to gather. I mean, how long did your last limerence episode last? Could you put an even moderately accurate number on it?
5. How does limerence affect cognition?
OK, this one is a bit more esoteric and personal, but I’d really like to run a battery of cognitive and psychometric tests on people before, during and after limerence. A very difficult experiment to arrange, but if Tennov is right, and the lived reality of limerence is not just an illusion, we are operating in a fundamentally altered state of mind during limerence.
But how, exactly, is it different? Are reaction speeds faster? Do complex mental tasks get easier or harder? How creative are we? How good at making abstract connections? What about mental stamina?
The scientist in me wants to know what is really going on in the brain as a consequence of the emotional amplification of limerence.
Obviously, subjecting people to an endless battery of tests, exposing them to a new LO, running them through the gauntlet of a limerence till they drop, and then tallying up all the numbers is a totally proportionate and practical plan.
Anyway, that’s five of the big questions I’d like answered, but what about everyone else? Any unknowns gnawing away at you that you’d like answered?
Enquiring minds want to know…
Question 6: Are there recovering limerents? Are there people who have gone from LE to LE for decades, then discovered what limerence is, learned what triggers them and were able to walk when they felt another glimmer?
Question 7: What does age have to do with it? I had more LEs when I was younger. I think it has something to do with the sexual energy and availability of the young. I know limerence is sparked with barriers, but younger people tend to be, for lack of a better phrase, on the prowl. One has a much different sexual energy at 25 and single then at 35 and married. And even if one is older and single … well, most of the people one bumps into during one’s daily life are unavailable. So one’s sexual energy is tamped down. No point going into a party, guns blazing, if none of that can be received. 🙂
“Or is it a more interesting phenomenon, with some sort of power law that has most people with a small number of limerence episodes and some with an astronomical number (as is seen for the number of sexual partners in a lifetime)?”
I’d be guessing, but I’d bet that the number of LEs and sexual partners is not directly correlated. Most people don’t have sex with their LOs, and if they do it’s a small number.
Laura Metoo says
Yes I do. This is not an easy one, but I would love to know if there is a correlation with trauma.
I’m curious, because in my case it is clearly linked with sexual abuse – as you can guess my Limerence episodes are a bit panicky, and never led to a satisfying relationship. And I wonder how many of us are in this unfortunate situation ?
Ah and yes sorry I am curious, but unfortunately not a millionaire…
Okay, I’m happy to be an “informal guinea pig”, and offer any insights I can from my own life – in the hope such information might refine the questions researchers might wish to ask limerents.
I believe I’ve been in an “altered state of consciousness” i.e. limerence my entire adult life and most of my teens, starting just after puberty and ending just now on the cusp of 40. (Life truly does “begin at 40”. Praise be!) 😉
While I experienced very exciting attractions to people in my early teens, (usually females, ironically), I don’t think I experienced full-blown limerence until I was 16. I think 16 (grade eleven, second last year of high school) I got limerence real bad. My limerence was for a member of the same sex. The fact I had such a strong response to a member of the same sex shocked me. (Was it hero worship? Was it something more? What on earth was going on and why couldn’t I stop thinking about this person?) 😛
How do I know I definitely was in full-blown limerence at 16, and not necessarily in the years before? I know I was definitely in limerence at 16 because I used to be a straight A student. Then, in my second last year of high school, I failed half my subjects and didn’t even care I was failing. My mother was appalled. I was referred to the school counsellor. I dropped all my longstanding friends and spent most of my time alone, brooding.
I was actually sitting next to my male LO (such a beautiful, beautiful man!) in one of my advanced Maths subjects and you better believe I couldn’t concentrate or think of anything else. I just wanted to wait til the end of class so I could ask him stupid questions about himself. (Mostly we talked about his tastes in music). I just wanted to hear him speak. I was one lovesick puppy and in hindsight my adoring attitude toward him was both sickening and embarrassing. 😆
I don’t think I ever got over this chap. I think I was infatuated with him for 25 solid years, although we didn’t really communicate after high school, apart from a few awkward exchanges on social media. (I am no longer on social media).
Actually, what I used to do on social media was send him the odd message, asking him a question about his fitness regimen, which he was promoting at the time. Then, when he replied to me, I deliberately didn’t read the reply. I just deleted the reply without reading it. I think I was so in awe of this man, and so terrified of anything that might smack of rejection, that I couldn’t bear to read any response from him that sounded neutral or negative. And since I couldn’t guarantee his response wouldn’t be neutral or negative, I decided I’d rather not hear what he had to say at all… Clearly, I wasn’t acting purposefully in any area of my life. 😉
I did invite him to my house once. I was about 20 at the time, and so was he. He said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” I realise now that should have been my cue – that should have been the end of the matter. (He didn’t want to spend time with me one-on-one. He didn’t want to get to know me. Clearly, he had no real feelings or deep investment in me. He had made a big impression on me, which I told him, but I didn’t make a big impression on him in turn). I don’t think he led me on, strictly speaking. I think I was leading myself on, most of the time.
Why did my mind fixate on this particular guy, and not someone else? Hm. Great question. I’ve thought about this a lot. The truth is he was spectacularly good-looking. I mean, all the girls were interested in him. I guess I’m a strongly visual creature, and I was very impressed by what I saw too. I’m a sucker for eye candy.
Also, when I was 13, there were two distinct occasions when he was really kind to me and went out of his way to include me in some school activity, while the other kids ignored me. My subconscious brain must have been deeply moved by this. Basically, he didn’t have to be nice to me. He was one of the “cool kids”. And yet he was nice to me. Surely that meant something? (Nope. Apparently not).
However, I am a biological male, and biological males are known for playing the field. While I never really escaped limerence for this dude – until quite recently – I did shop around and notice other people and try to size up any other romantic options that might be available. I think my failure to connect genuinely with any of these new people, even if they were interested in something mutual, is because I was still hung up in some way on the guy I couldn’t have. Basically, I had some complex psychological issue that I needed to resolve, which this guy triggered.
When I was limerent, I experienced constant anxiety, and believe my body actually became used to constant anxiety. I started to perceive constant anxiety as normal – both for me and for other people. Now, I’m no longer limerent, I feel calm all the time and am having a little trouble adjusting to the wonderful constant calm, to be honest – constant calm feels unnatural after so many years of angst! I didn’t know human beings could exist in this relatively tranquil state… 😆
My appetite has returned to normal. I don’t have any problems sleeping. Social phobia is a thing of the past. (I now flirt and banter with everyone, including straight men. My bad). I don’t have vivid, memorable dreams and my emotions are less intense in general. Yeah, I feel like I’ve exited some dream state. That is to say, I’ve left the altered state of consciousness that is limerence. It really does feel like a rebirth. But it’s a quiet rebirth. It’s not some big, dramatic, exciting rebirth.
Prior to limerence and during limerence, I would say I had an insecure attachment style. Now I’m out of limerence, I would say I have a secure attachment style. My life isn’t ruled by fear anymore. I know I can take care of my own needs. 😛
Not to go all Freudian on people, but I think limerence for me was about resolving my Oedipus Complex, or some variation thereof. Basically, as a child, I was caught in some weird emotional tug-of-war between my parents. My mother was narcissistic. My father was kind but distant. I wanted to be close to my dad and have healthy boundaries with my mum. Unfortunately, I ended up being enmeshed with my mother, and my father refused to intervene in the situation – he was intimidated by my narcissistic mother and couldn’t stand up to her.
Essentially, limerence for me was about identifying with a really strong, impressive masculine figure (a surrogate father, clearly). Limerence for me was about developing certain masculine traits in myself that my LO supposedly embodied and that I found highly desirable. Limerence for me was about completing certain developmental tasks that I had failed to complete in childhood, due to the strained relationship/odd dynamic between my parents.
Limerence for me wasn’t about sex or pair-bonding. Limerence for me was about developing aspects of my personality which I had hitherto neglected.
I think the primary feeling my LO gave me was one of “safety”. I.e. when I was around him, I felt safe. I have evolved spiritually to a point where I now give myself safety, so I don’t have to rely on LO (or anyone else) to provide me with that feeling. 😉
Truly, it’s been an amazing journey. And I would like to thank Dr, L, Lucy from Neurosparkle, and the late Dorothy Tennov for all their insights. Because I think that without extra insights from other people, I wouldn’t have been able to complete my journey successfully. One doesn’t passively recover from limerence. One outgrows limerence by developing aspects of one’s own personality. 😛
I can totally relate to ‘living in a constant state of anxiety’ – this was my childhood and teenage years, and I believe it primed me to be limerent.
I don’t know how to function in a calm state..
Laura Metoo says
Sammy, reading your (long and quite incredible) answer stirred something in me.
My LE are shorter (around a year) and more varied. I say are, and not were, because even if it’s not here right now I know it can come back after years without one. It did several times.
But it is clearly about being rescued from my narcissistic and abusive father. A part of me who is still small, think a man with power can do that when I’m scared. And once I think that, well I believe I desperately need them of course.
It took me a long time to understand that, it was all disguised as « love ».
So I understand the « safe » feeling you talk about. And also the fact that we have to find safety ourselves. Because when some of these guys reciprocated, well you know, all I had was a relationship. There was no rescue in sight.
Take care, and thank you for sharing.
Sammy your self-rescue from limerence is heart warming. I am right there with you…largely thanks to Dr. L, lots of hard work and being truly honest and disciplined with myself. I too feel the calm..and I have never felt stronger. Better late than never! I am so happy for you and I am happy for me too.
Pox on Limerence!
Congratulations on journey completed! This was wonderful to read and gives me hope too. Or at least the torch-light as in which direction to search.
Limerent Emeritus says
I have a few questions:
1. Where does limerence fit on Maslow’s pyramid? I know Maslow is out of vogue but his theory appeals to me.
2. Is limerence a Western “first world” phenomenon or is it universal across religions and cultures? This question relates to the first question. Limerence appears to be a luxury for people who have the time and resources to indulge in it. If you’re spending all your time on lower tier needs, do you have time to spend being limerent?
3. Does inspiration (e.g., music, art, etc.) drive limerence or does limerence drive inspiration?
I do not know. However….
There is a saying:
A bored mind is a devil’s playground.
> But how, exactly, is it different? Are reaction speeds faster? Do complex mental tasks get easier or harder? How creative are we? How good at making abstract connections? What about mental stamina?
I’d be especially interested in having some data here. My state of mind was definitely altered while fully blown limerent and sexually active (unfortunately, not with LO). Felt like in the movie „limitless”:
Didn’t need much sleep, math studies were easy, had lots of energy to do sports. I think my reaction time was faster, too.
It also felt like having heightened perception especially for members of the other sex checking me out or giving me flirtatous looks.
Is limerence contagious?
Can a limerent unwittingly trigger limerence in an LO?
I’m quite sure from my own experience, it is correlated to what was missing from my childhood. While some say they see missing aspects of themselves in the LO, I’m drawn to the LO as they always seem to embody something that my mother and father didn’t give me. My first episode was at age 12, see was the mother I wished I had, a teacher through high school (yeah that’s right 7 years!). I’d say that’s owing to the fact that there was no disrupter – year after year, I was there and so was she. It ended when I was 19 with her slamming the door in my face as I’d moved into a house around the corner from her – the abrupt clarity of that moment cured it.
Next up was the Alpha male- precisely the opposite of my weak and obedient father who existed in the shadow of my narcissistic mother to serve her every need and temper tantrum. He was my boss at work, my protector but everyone elses tormenter. He was a dreadful bully and I couldn’t recognise it at the time, to me he glimmered. The most egregious part of this one (which dragged on for 4 years), he had me fawning after him under his spell, I was covering up his mistakes and misdemeanours with unfaltering loyalty. The disrupter was a bit more complicated. The other employees had enough of his shocking behaviour and HR launched an investigation. When they terminated him, the late night visits to his house commenced. I finally got the physical aspect I was craving but it was loveless on his part. He looked at me one night and instructed me ‘don’t fall in love’, (‘no of course not’ I squeaked). I said goodbye that night and the next time he called me I remember heading down the freeway about 10 at night (it was an hour drive), and it was like a light went out in me and I just felt the drudgery of it all. I got off a the next exit ramp, turned around and went home to bed. That was it, no more text messages, nothing. I never saw him again.
LO #3, back to the women, the older sister I never had. This one was marvellously short, but the pain of it cost me my job. I was a nervous wreck because my schedule and mood were governed entirely by my precious interactions with her. She would cancel a coffee date and my day would fall to pieces. I was in my 40s by this time and unaware that limerence was accounting for my bizarre infatuations with these extraordinary individuals, I was utterly confused as to whether I was gay or straight.
I think limerence my whole life has prevented me from every experiencing a normal relationship. I can confidently say now I was continually mistaking the glimmer for the LO for everyone else’s experience of love. And I’d look at other happy couples and dwell and dwell on how lucky they all were to have this thing that I thought was healthy love, reciprocated. This was devastating for my own self worth as it made me believe there was something inherently unlovable about me.
I’m about 3 months into a new one now. Back to the man my father never was. I’ve found the literature on limerence now. I wish I’d found it just 3 month earlier though before it got me in its grip. At least though, I’m in this one with some insight and eyes wide open. It doesn’t cure the aching longing and the hours lost in conversation with him in my head. The insight has given me the nerve to walk away. So next week, I’m leaving my job to do it- it’s literally made my dream job a nightmare. So this will be a good experiment, to see if a person can act purposely and deliberately to speed up the ushering in of that unflappable relief phase of life after LO. Because I know the relief is there – that feeling on the freeway when I turned around . I’m just hoping the pain, withdrawal and tears don’t last too long because they’re freaking ridiculous .
Curious Question: For the people who have had numerous LO’s, does one replace the other? or can you have LE for more than one person at a time?
Silly question, but I am a newbie to all of this!
According to the research limerents only have one LO at a time but there can be transference where your LE transfers from one LO to another. I am on LO#3. LO#2 was a transference from LO#1. LO#3 has now come 20+ years later completely unexpectedly.
But, even though I am in the throws of an LE for one specific LO I would say there are 2 other specific women in my life right now whom I have a good crush on and should a glimmer ever happen with them I could easily see limerence being transferred to them. Both of them would make a better LO than my current.
Over the last 20 years since LO#2 and since I got married I have had many crushes on various women. None were an LO. My LO#3 is a whole different ballgame, one I don’t care to play much anymore.
Cosmic Fireworks says
For me, one replaces the other. I’ve never been limerent for more than one person at a time. And there isn’t necessarily overlap. Sometimes it feels like it just happens to me. It ends. Then it happens again.
I am now 48, w, and have been limerent twice.
As a 15yo, mutually limerent. A total bliss, nothing short of that, that wore off at 8th year of a relationship, followed by a breakup.
And as a 47yo, unbeknownly deceived into a relationship with a married man (basically unrequited love). Which, out of obvious reason, had to stop.
In between I had other normal relationships and a long, mostly functional marriage, where no limerence played parts. That has been truly loving too, but different. More realistically loving.
All of that was the same me. I have no idea why I was sometimes limerent and sometimes not, what made the difference?
How is this possible?
I think everyone’s circumstances are different that make them susceptible to limmerence. Especially when it is one sided and not intended to happen. I am going through my first (and God help me only) LE.
For what I have read here and other places online, for men, not sure about women as well, mid-life and limerence are somewhat common. And then all the way to a EA or PA, if left unchecked. A lot of male posters here, including myself, at mid-life age have fallen into limerence for younger coworkers.
Now why this particular woman, I can’t seem to pinpoint since I have had female co-workers at every job I have had since I was working while in high school and had never experienced anything like what I am going through now. Back when I was single, sure I had crushes on a few of my female coworkers but that was always with the freedom to further the relationship if I wanted to.
One thing I think was pivotal in my falling for LO was perceived grievances against my wife. That if, even were legit, I didn’t voice until it turned into resentment. That was the start I am fairly confident. What gave the opportunity was not my choice when I was assigned to work with her for four months on a project. Resentment justifies actions in your mind. Then you start to push further than you normally would, testing the waters. But all this is your mind is okay because “she’s nice to me” “she says thank you” “she appreciates my help” “she really listens when I talk”. So limerence took otherwise polite words and actions on LO’s part as something else, just escalating the limerence and my view of LO.
In my mind now, in the aftermath of it all (LO left the job back in June 2022) and having disclosed to my wife about limernece is the evil that it does to others. I’ve hurt my wife for having this woman in my head for 2 years now. I pushed LO into a role that she had no idea how to play. She always seemed nice and polite to me, when maybe she could see what I was doing and really didn’t want to be around me. Did she see I was treating her differently? Does she know about limerence? Could my actions and words be part of the reason she left the job to get away from me? Both my wife, LO and even my two sons have been affected by my behavior.
“That has been truly loving too, but different. More realistically loving.”
Limerence is exciting. Especially if your LO solicits your attention, or in my case with LO is just a overly nice person. That makes the established relationship seem a little mundane. Well of course it seems that way. You have no responsibilities with LO. You don’t seem them in every situation. Just usually in one, in my case on the job. People tend to put out their best in secular interactions, or least professionally. So I never saw LO at home after work annoyed she still has to cook dinner and then clean up before she can sleep. All you see is the exciting parts of your LO, not the everyday person that they are. LO gives you something that you aren’t getting or, as in my case, won’t address in your established relationship because it is exciting getting it from LO. The best description I’ve seen of limerence was on this site; “person addiction”. Because limerence is every bit of a drug.