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Everyone is familiar with the concept of falling in love. Few, however, have heard of the term "limerence." Though you may not be familiar with the concept, it is possible that you have experienced limerence before.
What is Limerence?
The term "limerence" was coined by psychologist Dorothy Tennov in the 1970s. After researching how individuals experience romantic love, Tennov realized that some individuals experienced a particularly intense form of unrequited love.
Unlike a crush or casual infatuation, this experience also involved obsessive and intrusive thoughts and desires about another individual. Tennov dubbed this emotional state "limerence." The researcher called the pursuer "limerent" and the object of desire the "limerent object." Unlike the sensation of "being in love," limerence is almost always a one-sided obsession. The limerent individual experiences intensified feelings as their limerent object sends conflicting messages, sometimes signaling hope and other times indicating rejection. Thoughts and fantasies about the limerent object become compulsive and continuous. The limerent individual may experience both great joy and overwhelming despair.
The feelings of limerence are attributed to the fact that these romantic thoughts and feelings trigger the release of dopamine in the brain. The uncertainty of reciprocation causes the brain's reward centers to work harder, releasing more dopamine when hope arises. The feelings associated with limerence are therefore similar to those experienced by substance-addicted individuals. The overwhelming emotions caused by limerence have even been likened to the "high" caused by addictive substances.
If you or someone you know seems to suffer from "love addiction," it is possible that they frequently experience limerence. Understanding whether your feelings for someone are limerence or true love can help you determine whether or not your relationship will be healthy and balanced in the future.
How Can I Distinguish Limerence from Love?
While experiencing limerence, it is very common for the limerent individual to be convinced that they are in love with the object of their desire. Though these feelings are overwhelmingly intense, they are not necessarily healthy feelings. If your love for someone feels like an out-of-control obsession, you are almost certainly in the throes of limerence. If you are experiencing the following symptoms, it is likely that your romantic attraction is limerence rather than love.
1.) Your feelings are unrequited.
Without reciprocation, you feel driven mad by your emotions, experiencing extreme happiness when your love interest sends you positive signals and extreme despair when they reject you. You may even feel suicidal due to these powerful emotions. In true love, your feelings are reciprocated and balanced. The highs and lows are healthier and less extreme.
2.) You cannot get your mind off of the object of your desire.
Your thoughts drift to this individual constantly, making it hard to focus on your other commitments. You find yourself replaying your interactions with the individual or fantasizing about them at all times. Though individuals may experience some of these thoughts and feelings while falling in love, limerent thoughts are more constant and intense. The thoughts and feelings seem impossible to avoid.
3.) You feel completely overwhelmed in the presence of your limerent object.
You are particularly scared, shy, or awkward in their presence, due to fear of rejection. In true love, individuals feel more at peace with their loved one, rather than frightened or overwhelmed.
4.) You only see the good in the object of your desire.
The person seems to be perfect for you. You gloss over any negative characteristics they might possess. In a balanced and healthy relationship, both individuals understand and acknowledge each other's flaws.
5.) Most of your relationship plays out inside your head.
You reflect on past moments with the object of your desire and imagine what could be. In contrast, a healthy and reciprocal relationship involves enjoying the present moment with the other individual. The relationship is based in reality rather than fantasy.
How Can I Escape Limerence?
At its core, limerence is an addiction. As such, the best way to overcome it is by avoiding the addictive "substance." In the case of limerence, the limerent object is the trigger causing the addiction. Though there is no pill you can take to cure your limerent feelings, these tips may help you heal.
- Cut off contact from your limerent object.
If you work with this individual, you may need to switch jobs. Remove the individual from your social networking circles and fight the urge to contact them. By breaking off contact with this individual, you will end the cycle of hope and rejection that leads to intensified limerent feelings.
- Seek out additional support.
Psychotherapy may help you better understand and heal from attachment issues in your past. Drugs such as antidepressants may also help you overcome the dopamine-generated "high" caused by limerence. If you are married and are limerent for another individual, marriage counseling is one of the best ways to overcome your feelings. If there is a Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) group in your area, consider joining. This 12-step program is often very helpful for individuals experiencing limerence. Consider discussing your problems with other individuals on the limerence forum.
- Fight off limerent thoughts. Though it may feel impossible, try to keep your mind busy with other things. Read non-romantic books, join clubs, and spend more time with your friends. Though it may feel impossible at first, your brain can eventually fight off the intrusive thoughts caused by limerence.
- Make a list of your limerent object's faults.
Limerence often blinds individuals, leading them to see their limerent objects as perfect individuals. These individuals, however, are human, and naturally have their faults. When you are thinking clearly, sit down and write out your limerent object's negative qualities. Keep the list and use it to ground yourself when intrusive thoughts arise.
- Avoid transferring your limerent feelings onto another individual.
Focus on yourself first. Though it is challenging to defeat limerence, it is not an impossible task. With enough motivation and support from others, you can overcome limerence, too. Once you have healed, you will be better prepared to enter a healthy and balanced relationship.
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