Limerence or love? How to Tell the Difference

You know the feeling you get when you meet a guy and he just takes your breath away? The feeling where you just know he’s the one, and you long to be with him every waking moment? When all you can think about is when you will be with him again? Well, this feeling can be summed up in one word: limerence.

Limerence

The Origin of the Word Limerence

The term limerence was coined by Dorothy Tennov in 1979. She wrote a book about the topic called Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love. This feeling is what happens when you think about your new crush obsessively. Some people refer to it as “infatuated love.” You can barely concentrate in school or at work – all you can think about is him. You might not love him, however. More in this post.

But What Does He Feel?

There’s another side of limerence besides how you feel. When you’re limerent, you also want your feelings to be reciprocated by him. You begin to form an emotional dependence on this person. And if he doesn’t feel the same way, there’s trouble.

At first, you might lie to yourself, telling yourself that there must be a logical reason he doesn’t return your texts or phone calls. Although your brain might be telling you that he’s not as into you as you are him, your heart won’t listen.

Limerence is Powerful

When you experience limerence, your brain is responding to all sorts of love hormones: dopamine, norepinephrine, estrogen and testosterone. When all those chemicals are released in your brain, you feel pleasurable feelings of being in love.

There’s an old song from 1975 by Roxy Music called Love Is the Drug (and I need to score). And just like drug addicts who need a fix, people in limerence feel as if they will do anything to get with their special someone.

Limerence Differs from Love

Limerence differs from first falling in love. Limerence has an obsessive-compulsive side to it that is much stronger than just wanting to be with someone. Only about 5 percent of people cross from being in love to being in limerence. Here are 10 ways to tell whether you’re in limerence:

  1. You idealize the other person (he’s just perfect or he’s perfect for me).
  2. You think of nothing else but the other person to the point of the thoughts being intrusive.
  3. When you are around the other person, you become very nervous, shy and confused.
  4. You are deathly afraid of the other person rejecting you, and this is literal – many people consider suicide if they are rejected.
  5. You feel ecstatic and euphoric if the other person acts interested in you.
  6. You fantasize that things he says or does mean he’s into you when he might not be.
  7. Everyone and everything around you reminds you of him.
  8. You constantly replay in your mind every encounter you have together.
  9. No matter how contentious the relationship becomes, even if it’s emotionally abusive, you still think it’s romantic.
  10. You have physical symptoms when around the other person such as heart palpitations, flushing and trembling.

Difference Between Love and Limerence

If after reading the list, you notice that many of the signs sound like what happens when you first fall in love, you are correct. It’s often difficult to tell whether you’re experiencing love or limerence if you don’t know what love feels like. The difference is that love becomes more pleasurable for both parties, but limerence doesn’t. Limerence becomes a problem for you and maybe for him, too.

The Problem with Limerence

Limerence is not based on reality and doesn’t consider the other person. It’s totally self-involved. A typical question a person with limerence obsesses about is, “How do I get him to love me?” When you’re in limerence, you tend to become smothering, clingy and don’t care about whether this bothers the other person or not. Dealing with a clingy boyfriend? Read this post.

Limerence could lead to stalking behavior, and some people should undergo counseling if limerence takes over their lives.

Limerence Lasts a Long Time

Limerence doesn’t typically develop into a committed relationship, although it can. What does happen is the person with limerence holds onto the relationship for a long time, anywhere from several weeks to many years. The average time a person stays in limerence is 18 months. Then, they move on.  If that’s your partner, then you may need to let go of him, even if you felt real love when they were limerent.

This type of infatuation lasts longer when the other person gives mixed signals. You then overplay those signals into meaning more than what they are, and you stay in limerence. When the other person outright rejects you you’ll tend to move on.

The Key to Being Happy with Limerence

When you are infatuated with someone, you can turn those feelings into a healthy relationship. Limerence shares many qualities with the ones you have while falling in love. The difference happens when you both share loving feelings for each other and then have a healthy relationship where you share time together but can also function while apart.

Sometimes two people can be in limerence together. When that happens, you both have obsessive thoughts about each other, can’t wait to see each other again, and can’t function unless the two of you are together. Sounds like a perfect match, right? Well, not really. When two people focus only on each other and let all the other areas of their lives fall by the wayside, the limerent couple soon burns out and the relationship ends. It’s too difficult to sustain that type of intensity indefinitely.

Infatuated love can be fun, but it will never be a replacement for true love. You need to protect yourself and your heart. A true love relationship evolves from the constant intensity of new love or limerence to one that includes respect for the other person as an individual.

When you’re in love, you also consider the other person’s needs. You encourage that person to pursue hobbies, a professional career and friendships outside the love relationship.

People in limerence never get past the infatuation and intensity stage, and they stay in that stage whether the love is reciprocated or not. They never get a chance to build intimacy together.

Now that you understand the difference between love and limerence, you’re on your way to understanding how to make your intense feelings in your relationship work.


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