Ever met someone who blew you away and you ended up misconstruing the infatuation as love? Maybe you even convinced yourself that you had met your soulmate. But when you realize you were just looking at the red flags through rose-tinted glasses, your world may come crashing down around you. Understanding the difference between limerence vs love can help you make sure this doesn’t happen to you.
But how exactly do you go about trying to figure out limerence vs love when you’re too busy being stuck in a phase of never-ending adoration? In the midst of your obsession, you may not even realize the harm you’re causing to yourself.
So, what is limerence? Does limerence turn into love? Let’s take a crack at everything you need to know with clinical psychologist Devaleena Ghosh (M.Res, Manchester University), founder of Kornash: The Lifestyle Management School, who specializes in couple counseling and family therapy.
What Is Limerence?
Before we get into limerence vs. love, it’s important to know what it means. “To a limerent person, a relationship with another human being is an object relationship. They look at others as objects of love, not as humans,” says Devaleena.
Limerence can be best described as a state of mind when a person experiences all-consuming thoughts about another, often to the point where it leads to an unhealthy obsession that results in them neglecting their own needs.
Think of it this way: it’s infatuation…times a hundred. Remember the blossoming of a sweet romance that left you daydreaming about spending time with that person? Imagine that state of mind, but that’s the ONLY thing you’ll think about.
Though it may seem like it, Devaleena tells us that limerence isn’t really about another person. What’s disguised as “love” is nothing more than a ploy to fulfill the damaging wants they have. “It’s not so much about the other person or the feelings or even emotions, it’s about fulfilling the void.”
In her book Love and Limerence: The Experience Of Being In Love, Dorothy Tennov coined the word “limerence”, describing it as “an acute longing for emotional reciprocation, obsessive-compulsive thoughts, and emotional dependence on another person.” Calling it a case of codependency in a relationship would be a huge understatement.
Signs Of Limerence
It’s all fun and games when you’re reading about it, but actually trying to pin up limerence vs love may be a lot harder than it seems since “love” tends to blind so many. If you’re still not convinced this harmful emotion is what you’re currently experiencing, let’s take a look at the signs that say you are.
1. You don’t really know who they are
When you’re living with limerence, you’re actively cherry-picking the aspects of a person you admire the most. The idea of who that person is doesn’t even really matter much since, as Devaleena told us, the relationship is never about them.
In your mind, you’ve cooked up an over-glorified, exaggerated, and perfect version of the person you’re pining for. Once you spend more time with them, or if a friend asks what that person is even like, you’ll realize you have don’t know them as much as you thought you did.
Related Reading: 9 Tips To Stop Loving Someone Who Doesn’t Love You
2. Involuntary obsessive thought
Does your workday include hours and hours of obsessive thoughts about this person that you just can’t seem to shake off? Are you overanalyzing every little meeting/interaction with this person, trying to find more meaning in it than what’s warranted? Are you fantasizing about being their savior and cooking up a future together?
That’s a classic case of a limerence relationship. When it gets to the point that thoughts about this person pop up every few minutes (more like every 20 seconds) and you’re unable to shake them off, you need to call it what it is: an unhealthy obsession.
3. Emotional dependence
Perhaps the biggest sign of limerence is when you realize your happiness depends on this person. No, we don’t mean the joy you feel when a partner calls you, we mean intense, damaging emotions like extreme grief if your crush shows any signs of rejection.
When they respond favorably, you’re over the moon. When they take a couple of hours to get back to you, you plummet into the most anxious/depressed states possible.
4. Anxiety and insecurities control your actions
Everyone has jitters before a first date they’re hoping goes well. But if your anxiety has gotten to the point where you experience physical symptoms (shortness of breath, heart palpitations, perspiration), just because your crush showed a glimmer of disinterest in you, it’s a sign as clear as day.
If you’re constantly worried about presenting yourself in the best possible light for this person, it’ll end up inciting insecurity issues as well.
5. Everything else is secondary
Life as you know it ceases to exist. The only thing that truly matters is getting the attention of your crush and holding it, no matter what. Your career, education, hobbies, other relationships become secondary. When you neglect everything else in your life and tell yourself that the only thing that matters is this person, it’s a slippery slope that leads to an all-encompassing obsession.
Now that you know the symptoms and signs of limerence, let’s take a look at limerence vs love, so you can ascertain that the obsession you’re facing is a far cry from anything “cute”, “love” or a “healthy relationship“.
Limerence Vs Love: The Differences You Need To Know
“All I do is think about her, I can’t get her off my mind!” says John, while talking to a friend about his new crush. Dismissing it as love, he never really looked into how “always thinking about her” could actually harm him or his career in any way.
Once the thoughts took over all his free time, once the dependence skyrocketed and he couldn’t stand an hour without hearing from her, when he got to the point where he was unable to get work done without thinking about her for an hour and a half…that’s when he crossed the dangerous lines between what’s healthy and what isn’t.
Let’s take a look at the differences, so you don’t end up misconstruing the worst form of obsession there is, in place of the best emotion that humans can feel in their life.
1. The red flags all look white
When you’re living with limerence, you’re not going to see this object of love through the same lens that all your friends or family might. You’ll view them through the clouded lens of adoration and obsession, making it seem like every single thing about this person is literally perfect.
Remember that annoying quirk about that one crush you looked past so you could keep cultivating the love? We’re pretty sure three months down the line, the way they chewed with their mouth open became an insufferable dealbreaker.
“The reason why they don’t spot the relationship red flags is that there’s an innate need to fulfill the void within. The person is focused on obsessing over this individual who will fulfill that void. If they acknowledge the red flags and let go of this person, the void remains. Which is something an obsessed person just cannot deal with,” says Devaleena.
2. You lose a sense of self
When it comes to limerence vs love, perhaps the biggest difference is how love encourages you to be the best version of yourself, while a limerence affair will deplete any sense of individuality.
“I’ve had clients who are not able to say what their favorite movies are, what kind of music they like listening to or what kind of food they like. They’re so used to pleasing the other person, they’ve lost all sense of individuality,” says Devaleena.
“The greatest harm a person can do in such a situation is to ignore their own thoughts, feelings, and needs. Eventually, they start feeling a loss of identity. Since they’re forever working on molding themselves according to what the other person likes. Who they are is lost to them,” she adds.
The next time you say, “Can you please pick something for me?” while at a restaurant with your partner, ask yourself whether it’s because you don’t know what you’ll like. Has your individuality been sustained in this obsessive mania you call love?
3. While living with limerence, you neglect yourself
When you’re letting your paramour make all your decisions for you and telling yourself you only enjoy things they enjoy, all you’re doing is neglecting yourself and your needs. “It’s like they’re trying to strike a bargain. If they overlook their own needs and emotions and cater to the other, they do so with the purpose of return in mind,” says Devaleena.
“They believe that if they’re investing in the other and neglecting their own needs, they’ll get what they want out of the other.”
Unfortunately, what they want is to fulfill an obsession that’s making them lose a sense of self. The deeper the fall into this stage of limerence, the harder it’ll be to pull out. Pretty soon, you’ll start feeling sorry for yourself.
4. You need this person to feel complete
No, we’re not talking about how you cutely say, “You complete me” to your partner. In the case of limerence vs love, this takes on a different meaning. Without this object of adoration, someone living with limerence feels tangibly incomplete.
As though this object will “save” and “fix” them, they’re actively looking for a solution to their inherent dissatisfaction. Love, on the other hand, makes you feel happier and more secure in your partners’ presence, not “saved” or “fixed”.
5. The thrill of the chase means more in a limerence affair
Sure, the first date, the first kiss, and the first few weeks all feel great in every budding romance, but that’s not all you’re looking forward to, right? What comes next, the Sundays you spend indoors, the comfort levels you achieve and the cringey nicknames you give each other are all equally appreciated.
In the stages of limerence, however, the chase is what draws them in. “Limerence vs love is tricky to talk about since they can both be mistaken for the other. The main difference is that love calls for a real, meaningful connection while the former is all about the excitement of the chase when you’re obsessing after someone,” says Devaleena.
6. There’s usually no commitment
Is there ever a better expression of love than saying and truly meaning “I want to grow old with you”? Inherent in that statement is a promise of commitment. A limerent person, however, won’t be too willing to say that.
“They’re usually commitment-phobes,” says Devaleena. “If you look at the background of this person, you’ll probably see they come from a background of family dysfunctionality, where they may have experienced abuse in some form.
“When they realized that commitment in their primary relationships was difficult, a toward it sets in. When they grow up without a role model for commitment and whilst facing abuse, it’s easy to see why this may be the case.”
So, if you were asking yourself something like, “How long does limerence last?”, while it may last long enough to severely affect your day-to-day activities, it doesn’t last long enough to turn into a fruitful commitment.
7. Limerence stems from unhappiness
“The only thing a limerent person wants to fulfill is the inherent unhappiness that resides inside them, which they are trying to satisfy through another person,” says Devaleena. “They have a need to pursue this thrill, excitement, euphoria, and adrenaline rush.”
The reason why there’s no commitment, why there’s no consideration for the red flags, and why they’re looking to fill a void, is simply because they lack happiness from within. An inherent emptiness makes them look for solutions elsewhere. It’s essentially a ploy to distract themselves from themselves. If you’re looking for one of the signs limerence is ending, it starts when you’re capable of being content with yourself.
Related Reading: Dating A Narcissist? Here Are The Signs And How It Changes You
Understanding and comparing limerence vs love is no easy feat, since pop culture would have us believe that the obsessive love you go through is just a phase that’s to be adored. If you’re still confused about what it is you’re feeling, if you’re still asking yourself something like “does limerence turn into love?” after reading all we talked about today, you’re probably edging towards something of a mania.
Struggling with an obsession of sorts can be an immensely disturbing period in your life. You may even come to realize how unhealthy the whole situation is for you, but resisting the urge to call them twice every 10 minutes may still leave you itching and scratching. If you’re currently going through limerence or something similar, Bonobology has a multitude of experienced therapists who’d love to help you through this trying time in your life.
Yes, it’s absolutely possible to love without limerence. Love encourages you to be the best version of yourself, while someone who supports you stays by your side every step of the way. Limerence, on the other hand, forces you to experience obsessive thoughts that will hamper your day-to-day life.
Limerence is defined as obsessive and intrusive thoughts for a person, emotional dependence, and an acute longing for emotional reciprocation. All of that sounds like a far cry from a crush if you’d ask us.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact timeline of a limerent relationship, but a broad estimation would be anywhere between three to thirty-six months.