We all know what it is to love, be loved, or be in love – or at least we think we do. But what would you say if I were to tell you that so much of the love that you thought you’d been in was actually a little thing called limerence? No, it doesn’t sound as romantic – and it’s not – unless you’re into the whole Obsessed-type of love. But one might say at least one side of that dynamic might be…thrilling.
Personally, I always understood limerence (from my time in college psych) to be a crush. However, not in the cutesy crush way (maybe if you’re 9) that you may be thinking – it’s a very one-sided connection. And though I tend to be good with words, I thought it might be far more helpful to get a more in-depth answer to the burning question: what is limerence? Every expert pretty much said the same thing, give or take. They essentially described limerence as a rash without much logic, and quick to burn with little to no substance.
CEO and Professional Matchmaker with Something More Julia McCurley gives us a more detailed description of limerence, stating that it "often leads people to make impulsive decisions being under the belief that they have found utmost chemistry with someone they have just known for a short time. The love at first sight, or limerence relationship, is based on overwhelming attraction, possibly lust, that may or may not lead to real love."
The Object of Your Heart’s Desire
Katina Tarver, a relationship expert, tells us, “Limerence is all about emotional dependency, intrusive thoughts, and a strong desire for emotional reciprocation. The person who suffers from limerence is called limerent, and the person who is desired is called a limerent object or LO.”
Expert Sheila Eugenio speaks on the early stages of limerence, explaining, “In the beginning stages of limerence, it's easy to tell the difference between limerence and love because they are both very different feelings. However, as time goes on and if you start to feel like you're in love without ever being in limerence before, it might be difficult to tell the difference between them.”
Punching a Clock
Limerence, similarly to love, doesn’t have a timeline, it mostly depends on the variables: commitment, compatibility, and reciprocal interest (at some point). Limerence itself can be as brief as a week or as long as a year(s).
What Love Is
Licensed Psychologist and Owner of LifeWise David Helfand explains that “limerence is when you can’t objectively assess your partner because you are high off just being with them. Love is when you can see them truly for who they are, and still choose to be with them.”
Psychotherapist Valentina Dragomir provides us with the main differences between the love and limerence in a nutshell:
- Love is founded on trust, mutual respect, and genuine caring. Limerence, on the other hand, often starts with an intense but one-sided attraction.
- People who are in love tend to be more rational and level-headed. Those who are limerent may act impulsively and do things that they wouldn't normally do.
- Love is something that grows over time. Limerence, however, is often a sudden and all-consuming feeling.
- Love is based on reality, while limerence is often fueled by fantasy. People in love see their partner for who they really are, warts and all. Those in limerence may idealize their object of desire and ignore any negative qualities.
- Love is healthy and supportive. Limerence, however, can be obsessive and even harmful. People in love want what's best for their partner. Those in limerence may be more interested in what they can get from the other person.
How Limerence Plays Out
Founder of Find Black Therapist, E.L. Forrestal, points out that “limerence can sometimes develop into love, but it is not always the case. There are many factors that contribute to whether or not limerence will turn into love, such as the level of commitment and investment in the relationship, how well the couple communicates and gets along, and whether or not there is mutual trust and respect.”
Love Takes Many Forms
We like to view love as something that lasts forever, but Good Vibrations Staff Sexologist and Curator of the Antique Vibrator Museum Carol Queen reminds us, “Love comes in many flavors beyond romantic and erotic, the kind of relational love we think of when, say, people couple up. While people commonly think of this as a long-term experience, many couples do not sustain long-term love; and it's possible to experience long-term love with someone outside of the monogamous partnership model that people frequently think of when they hear that word.”
Though there are plenty of similarities, it seems that limerence and love can be distinguished with a little bit of discernment and of course, my favorite word…introspection. Still, as humans, it doesn’t always happen that way. Unfortunately, that’s when it goes from being a harmless crush to a weird obsession.
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