What is Limerence?
Limerence is a mental state that many people think of as “true love” or being “in love.” It is a scientific phenomenon and chemically-influenced state, primarily fueled by the chemical dopamine that is released by neurons in the human brain and plays a major role in the motivational component of reward-motivated behavior. It is characterized by an intense rush of emotions, physical desire, and even border-line obsessive feelings for a new romantic partner.
What is Love?
I need to ask a question: How would you define “love”? Would you know the difference between love and limerence?
Take it a step further and ask yourself how you would define “true love.”
Contrary to Hollywood’s portrayal of love, true love isn’t a feeling – though feelings are certainly included. True love is a combination of commitment, friendship, and intimacy.
What many people think of as “true love” or being “in love” is actually a scientific phenomenon called limerence.
- A word defining the state of being “madly in love”
- It was coined by Dorothy Tennov, PhD, in 1977
- A large amount of further research has been done by Helen Fisher, PhD, along with her colleagues who have further researched the concept.
- Limerence is similar to infatuation which is defined as an intense but short-lived passion or admiration for someone or something and can contribute to obsessive behavior
- It is a chemically influenced state, primarily fueled by the chemical dopamine, a chemical released by neurons in the human brain, which plays a major role in the motivational component of reward-motivated behavior
- The limerence attachment to the relationship and person usually increases in the presence of barriers or objections to the relationship
- Involves emotional swings from joy to sorrow, depending on the most recent interaction with the limerent object
- Can result in physical illness, usually involving the stomach or headaches
The Strength of Limerence
If you were looking for a limerence definition, you are probably realizing that it is a complex concept.
Limerence provides a euphoric sensation that, to many, has no comparison.
Someone experiencing the chemical rushes associated with it will often say that they “have never felt this way before,” when describing their feelings for the other person (known as the limerent object).
This is rarely the case as the Limerence felt for previous partners is overpowered and overshadowed by their present experience simply because of the highs of the moment.
So people who are, as some say, “addicted to love,” are addicted to the chemical highs of limerence.
In the Disney movie, “Bambi,” the wise old owl calls it being “twitterpated.”
He describes limerence as a state where the person experiencing it is nearly hypnotized and even experiences physically negative consequences.
This is true, as the person in limerence often experiences deep insecurity and fear that they will lose the person they are experiencing limerence with, also known as the “limerent object.”
He also says that it can happen to anyone and that is true as well in that if there are unmet needs in the relationship, be those needs physical, emotional, or spiritual, the person who feels their needs are unmet is vulnerable to falling into limerence with someone.
Listen to the wise owl from Bambi explain it in the video below:
How Long Does Limerence Last? When Does Limerence End?
Limerence lasts a few months or up to two years and then usually ends completely.
This is because the same level of the chemical high cannot be duplicated in the human brain and body.
In this way, the limerent experiencer is similar to a drug addict in that the high is always being chased but requires new stimuli to come close.
Stimuli that can increase the longevity of limerence include fear of the relationship ending, unreturned feelings, new physically intimate activities, or other new experiences together.
How long limerence lasts after its chemical high has peaked is based on whether it is propped up temporarily by the stimuli mentioned above, but even then, it will likely expire quickly once such provocation loses its newness or has ended.
It is then that the commitment, friendship, and intimacy that have developed in that time, hopefully, take its place.
If “enough” commitment, friendship, and intimacy failed to develop during the highs of the limerence stage (how long limerence lasted), people often say that they, “fell out of love” or that the “spark” went away.
The Halo Effect
The so-called Halo Effect is almost always a part of limerence.
This effect is where the person experiencing limerence can see none of the lover’s flaws and imperfections even if they are many.
In this way, limerence prevents someone from knowing how they truly view this person (their limerent object).
What they believe they feel is skewed because limerence causes the lover to seem angelic or mythical compared to everyone else.
As it fades, the Halo Effect decreases as well.
This is especially true in the case of an affair, where such a relationship violates the limerent person’s value system.
Compared To A Rebound Relationship
If your ex boyfriend, ex girlfriend, or spouse has left you for someone else or broke up with you and is now in a rebound relationship, it is likely because the limerence phase with you faded or ended (it could have ended a long time ago).
If they went to someone new, the pull to that other person is likely caused by, you guessed it, limerence.
That is especially the case if there is a uniqueness to the relationship that is against the grain of society.
Such a situation might make them assign more value to the relationship than it actually deserves as well as cause it to seem more enchanting, novel, and mysterious.
The good news in a rebound relationship is that it has the potential to end fairly quickly.
This is because one or both of the people in it begin to feel its often artificial and rushed nature.
Your ex will likely be used to the time-developed closeness and connection that they had with you that simply can’t happen with this other person right away.
This often causes you to seem more attractive – especially if you aren’t chasing your ex or begging for him/her to come back to you.
A Cure For Limerence
If you have given your ex the space they requested and are allowing them to truly experience the breakup they said they wanted, they likely remember the feelings they had for you during the limerence phase of your relationship.
This remembering is due to a form of separation anxiety that they likely will experience while being away from you if you have done what I describe in my other articles which is to use the no contact rule.
That’s how you can potentially cure and combat limerence.
You let your ex see that they had more than just the highs of newness with you.
They had commitment, intimacy, and friendship in addition to romance that we often associate with limerence.
So the best way to overcome limerence is by allowing your ex to fully experience the breakup.
They don’t get to have you as a romantic partner. They don’t get your presence or communication with you.
This often leads your ex to be curious about why you aren’t reaching out. Why you aren’t begging them to come back to you. They then wonder if they have lost you.
Can You Reignite Limerence From Your Ex Toward You?
This fear of loss – fear that they might have completely blown it with you – can reignite parts of the limerence state toward you. Fear of loss is actually part of what fuels limerence.
The other person, seeming easily attainable and constantly present, will likely seem less attractive and feelings for them will ease.
You are the one who is scarce now and the fear that your ex, hopefully, feels because of that could cause the obsessive desire of limerence to return for you.
You just need to stay back and let your ex come to you without allowing yourself to react to their rebound relationship (at least not where they can see or be aware of your struggle).
Take it one day at a time, knowing that you don’t have to get your ex back right now in order to get them back.
When you are doing the right things, time is on your side.
Your ex can naturally fall out of limerence with their paramour and it is at that point that he or she can be logical and rational again.
If the relationship with you was good and if you can keep it together by using the no contact rule (or smart contact if you are married to this person, live with them, or work with them), then you will appeal more to them when they are able to once again think without the influence of the chemical influence of limerence.
While it is certainly difficult to experience someone you love being with another person and claiming that they love him/her and want to be with them, the odds are not insurmountable.
Just know that your influence with that person is significantly less while they are being influenced by the limerence chemicals (dopamine primarily).
In knowing that, you should wisely choose to stay away from them.
Staying away and using the no contact rule allows your old self, who held a higher level of attraction from your ex, to be present in their memories.
Though most people fear the other person “forgetting them,” and “moving on,” I often see that staying away greatly slows this process down (though I can tell you that them forgetting about you is extremely unlikely unless they have amnesia).
That being said, work on yourself to be your most attractive self.
That is great for you whether or not you get this person back.
It makes you a better potential partner for your ex or for someone else in the future.
Keep your head up and stay strong.
Take things one day at a time.
To get my help on your specific situation and a tailored road map to getting your ex or separated spouse back, get my Emergency Breakup Kit!