Defining what it means to be in love is pretty tough. Being in love is an abstract concept that means different things to different people. Furthermore, when we talk about the thoughts and emotions normally associated with being in love, what we are really talking about is something known as ‘limerence’.
Limerence is a common experience in new romantic relationships. It is so common that one could be excused for being worried that it didn’t show itself. But alas, limerence isn’t permanent. It gradually dims until it eventually fades away. Then it is on to a more mature and satisfying relationship built on an entirely new foundation.
A Basic Definition
Limerence is defined by psychologists as “a state of intense sexual desire and a heightened level of concern and interest for the counter-party in a relationship.” A looser definition removes the sexual desire aspect and replaces it with a general desire that could be romantic, sexual, or both.
Regardless of how tightly anyone clings to the official definition, limerence is what most of us experience in the early stages of a new relationship. It is what makes the heart flutter and the skin blush. It’s what causes us to swoon. For the record, limerence is not a bad thing under normal circumstances. Pathological limerence is another matter.
Basic Characteristics of Limerence
Here at Relationships & More, relationship counseling often involves couples who have long since left limerence behind. Unfortunately, when the feelings associated with it fade, they do not know what to do. They worry it means the end of their relationship. Some of them, through counseling and practical application, discover that mature relationships exist beyond limerence.
Below are the basic characteristics of limerence. Knowing what they are makes it easier to recognize when they are beginning to fade. This is healthy in the sense that knowing limerence is not permanent can help you prepare for the day when it’s gone.
1. Constant Thoughts of the Other Person
A telltale sign of limerence is constantly having thoughts of the other person. That person is all you can think about. Spending time with them is all you want to do. Such thoughts are completely normal to new relationships. Most of the time they are harmless. They are only reason for concern if they become obsessive to the point of negatively impacting other areas of life.
2. An Unrealistic View of the Other Person
Next up is an unrealistic view of that other person. When limerence is in play, you think the other person can do no wrong. You are willing to overlook bad behavior or make excuses for it, and that’s provided you recognize it at all.
3. Strong Emotional Attachment
People experiencing limerence tend to experience a strong emotional attachment to the object of their affections. That emotional attachment can manifest itself in many ways. For example, you may feel like you can’t be happy if the other person isn’t around. This is normal and natural as long as it doesn’t become emotional dependency.
4. The Need for Reciprocity
Finally, people experiencing limerence express a need for the other person to reciprocate. It’s not enough for them to feel the way they do about the other person; they need that person to feel the same way. And even if that person does not, they may still imagine they do.
Limerence is often explained to others as being in love. Whether it is love or not, limerence is only temporary. Most people experience it for three months to a year. When it’s gone, then what?