Do you fall for people easily? Do you become obsessed over your new crush and think about them constantly, only to get disappointed a few months later? If so, you’re probably experiencing limerence.
Given that most people haven’t heard of limerence before, I’m going to explain what’s going on and why it matters. We’ll also look at how you can move from limerence to the kind of love that lasts.
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So what is limerence and how does it compare to love?
Limerence is described as a form of infatuation. It’s a passionate obsession that can feel like an addiction. If you are in limerence, you will usually have a lot of intrusive thoughts and daydreams about the other person (usually called the “limerence object” or “LO”) that get in the way of your everyday life.
You might feel as though the other person is the only person in the whole world who can make you complete. You also don’t need to know the other person to develop limerence. This is because limerence isn’t about them. It’s completely about you and your feelings.
Where limerence is selfish, love is generous.
Love is something you give to the other person, sometimes irrespective of how they feel in return. When you’re in limerence, you want to be near the other person because of how it makes you feel. When you’re in love, you want what’s best for them, even if that’s difficult for you.
Love is also based on really seeing the other person. When you love someone, you see them for who they are. You see their wonderful generosity and their annoying habit of texting you while you’re driving… and you love them as a complete person.
Limerence doesn’t have that honesty. You can’t (or won’t) see anything less than perfect about them. Your feelings are for an idealized version of them, without any of the tricky or complicated characteristics.
In some ways, it doesn’t really matter what we call your feelings. Calling it limerence or love doesn’t change your emotions. It does change how you think about them, however, and that can be important.
When we talk about love, it’s in a positive context. Love is supportive, uplifting, meaningful, and sustainable. If your feelings are love, you can feel secure that this is a good thing for you.
Limerence isn’t sustainable or healthy. It’s not actively unhealthy but it’s certainly not as wholesome and empowering as love. Limerence is a form of obsession where we’re not thinking rationally or seeing things clearly. We shouldn’t make long-term decisions when we’re in limerence.
Knowing when you’re experiencing limerence, rather than love, can help you know what to do next and how to look after yourself emotionally.
It’s important to know whether you’re experiencing limerence or love, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. The feelings are very similar. Let’s look at some of the signs that your feelings are actually limerence.
Both limerence and love can leave you smiling at daydreams of the other person while you’re sitting on a bus or walking around a store. The fantasies in limerence are subtly different, however.
The fantasies you have about your limerence object will often be really far-fetched, whereas those about someone you love will usually be more grounded. They also won’t include any adjustments or compromises.
Lots of people fantasize about what it would be like to live with the object of their affection. If you’re in love, this fantasy will often include details that are specific to the other person. For example, if they drink coffee but you don’t, you might still imagine having a fancy coffee machine because you know it would make them happy.
If you’re in limerence, you often won’t know enough about the other person to have these details. Instead, you imagine that they’ll share your interests and preferences.
When you are experiencing limerence, you feel as though you can only be happy if your limerence object returns your feelings and you are able to form a relationship. This means that, at some level, you believe that your entire emotional well-being depends on their approval.
This makes every single interaction with them incredibly high-stakes. You feel as though a single mistake could cost you your future happiness. This takes you beyond the usual nerves around someone you’re attracted to and into a high degree of anxiety.
Another sign that it might be limerence is that your feelings of anxiety don’t reduce during your conversation with the other person. When you’re in love with someone, you’ll often be anxious before talking to them but once you’re with them everything feels great. With limerence, you stay feeling anxious the whole time you are together.
I’ve already mentioned your fantasies about your limerence object. It’s not just the type of fantasies that are different, however. It’s also how they affect your everyday life.
When you are experiencing limerence, rather than love, your thoughts can feel intrusive and impossible to control. This isn’t just the feeling of smiling while you’re sitting on the bus because you’re thinking of your crush. Instead, you’ll get these thoughts during office meetings or other times when you need to concentrate.
Thinking about them can start to feel like an addiction. You can’t put the thoughts aside. You can start to struggle at work or lose interest in other hobbies because you’re so focused on thinking about your limerence object.
Jealousy is a normal emotion but limerence can leave you feeling extremely high levels of jealousy in situations where it isn’t entirely appropriate.
In most cases, you won’t actually be in a relationship with your limerence object. They’re often not even aware of your thoughts and feelings about them. This makes it particularly difficult when you feel overwhelming jealousy because they’ve been spending time with other people.
This can be upsetting because, intellectually, you know that you don’t really have the ‘right’ to be jealous. Your feelings when you see them spending time with someone else or (even worse) going on a date are disproportionate, which can make you feel guilty as well.
All of us have flaws, even the people we care about the most. In a healthy, loving relationship, you can see the other person’s flaws. When you’re experiencing limerence, you don’t see those flaws at all.
People in limerence will often do some mental gymnastics to justify why their limerence object is perfect. They might refuse to believe negative stories about them or provide justifications for behavior that they can’t ignore.
Limerence can also give you the impression that you know the other person at a far deeper level than you actually do. You’re making lots of assumptions about their character and personality, often from only a few conversations.
A final sign of limerence vs love is that the rest of your life seems to pale into insignificance compared with your limerence object. When you’re in love, the other person adds to your life. In limerence, they replace it.
Someone in love doesn’t usually give up their other hobbies and interests. Someone in limerence often does.
One thing that limerence and love both have in common is that they change and develop over time. There are three stages of limerence that it can be helpful to understand.
This is the stage we’ve mostly been talking about when we talk about “experiencing limerence.” This is when you feel as though your limerence object is the center of your world and that nothing means anything without them.
This is very similar to the early stages of falling in love, where we can be a little obsessed with the other person and want to be with them all of the time.
The second stage of being in love is that you build trust and intimacy. You get to know each other, open up, and start to really form a healthy, balanced dynamic.
The second stage of limerence is crystallization. In this stage, you’re fully focused on trying to keep the limerence going for as long as possible.
This means that you avoid any situation where your limerence object might reject you (which would force you to reassess the potential for a relationship between you) and you try to find ways to excuse or rationalize any negative things that you learn about them.
The third stage of a loving relationship is where you start to make commitments to each other and think about building a life together.
The limerence-version of this stage is deterioration. You usually can’t form a commitment to the other person. Instead, you’re starting to see them as they really are and, therefore, you become disappointed in who they really are.
Limerence and love have different stages, but you can experience both at the same time. If you want to move from limerence to love, you need to meet the needs of each of the love stages. Here’s how.
Things like trust and commitment don’t happen overnight, but your limerence leaves you wanting everything to be perfect straight away. Start by slowing down and taking your time to get to know the other person.
Don’t push for the relationship to move toward your ideal relationship. Instead, enjoy spending time with them exactly as you are and wait to see what happens.
When you’re in limerence, it’s easy to assume that you know far more about the other person than you really do. In fact, a lot of what you ‘know’ will turn out to just be fantasy and wishful thinking.
Avoid disappointment by trying to be really clear with yourself about what you really know about the other person and what are things you’ve imagined or are hoping for.
Limerence is all about creating a fantasy future. Take control of your thoughts and feelings by focusing on right now. This can mean trying to stop yourself from having elaborate daydreams and fantasies.
Practicing mindfulness can be an incredible tool for helping you to stay in the moment. Spending a few minutes every day on mindfulness or breathwork can help you notice when you’re thinking too much about the future and redirect yourself to what you’re feeling right now.
It’s also important to keep going with your previous activities, interests, and habits. These help you to remember that there are things you enjoy that have nothing to do with your limerence object and can help keep you distracted.
This is difficult when you’re experiencing limerence. We can only really build trust by giving the other person the power to hurt us. We make ourselves (slightly) vulnerable and the other person shows that they deserve our trust.
When you’re in limerence, it’s hard to be slightly vulnerable because you feel intensely vulnerable to your limerence object. Opening up is scary because it feels as though the world will end if they reject you.
Go slowly and try to open up a little bit at a time.
If you’re experiencing limerence, you’re almost certainly putting your limerence object on a pedestal. That’s not healthy for either of you. In fact, lots of people feel uncomfortable when someone they care about idealizes them too much.
Try to be open to the idea that your limerence object has flaws. Learning that you can see someone’s flaws or imperfections and still love them is a really healthy lesson to learn.
Some people regularly experience cycles of limerence, which can get in the way of forming deep, loving, intimate relationships. If this is you, here are some additional tips for how to work on yourself to change the way you relate to people you’re attracted to.
Some people experience limerence as a way to protect themselves or in an attempt to fulfill a deep emotional need. Working with a professional can help you to understand the root of your limerent tendencies and deal with any underlying problems.
Obviously, you can work on this alone, but understanding the root of limerence isn’t always easy. There can be many different underlying fears or wounds that push you towards limerence and some of them are exact opposites.
For example, someone with an anxious attachment style might experience limerence as part of their strong need for emotional closeness and affection. They won’t see the flaws in the other person because that feels like it will cause a problem or distance in any potential relationship.
Someone who has an avoidant attachment style can also experience limerence for the exact opposite reason. They are afraid of deep, intimate connections. They become limerent because, deep down, they know that this is a short-lived, shallow connection. That makes it feel safe.
Finding a great therapist can help you understand what is driving your limerence, and support you as you work through it.
If you know that you’re prone to limerence or “crushes,” it can sometimes be helpful to remind yourself of previous times when you’ve felt the same way. This can help you to remember that, although your feelings are intense right now, they can change over time.
This is a useful tool to help ground you when you start to fantasize about how perfect your limerent object is. If you keep a journal, it can be especially helpful to re-read your entries about previous times when you’ve felt this way.
Reading those feelings in your own words can make it easier to see the similarities between your feelings then and the way you feel now.
Try not to use past examples of limerence as a stick to beat yourself with. This isn’t about saying that your feelings aren’t valid or that you shouldn’t feel them. It’s simply another way to boost your self-awareness and help you understand what’s going on in your emotions.
One of the things that can keep you jumping from one limerent obsession to another is the belief that romantic love should always be passionate, intense, and all-consuming. That’s a really common belief in our society, but it’s not entirely accurate.
We understandably idealize the falling-in-love stage of a relationship, which is almost indistinguishable from limerence. It’s the stage where you have butterflies in your gut every time you think of them and they seem like your dream partner.
But falling in love and limerence aren’t the same as being in love. You don’t see many movies about calm, healthy, loving relationships. There’s no drama, so we don’t romanticize them, or even think about them much.
Take some time to try to understand what long-term sustainable love might look like for you. It doesn’t have to mean sitting next to each other with a cup of cocoa and slippers. Find something that speaks to you but think about how realistic it is.
Try to focus on things like trust, stability, security, and support. Rather than thinking about spending an entire weekend in bed together, ask yourself what you would want when you’re poorl or what it would feel like to share major life decisions.
When you’re imagining this, try to focus on yourself and your feelings. It’s easy to picture your limerent object in the role of your ideal partner, but this is only reinforcing your limerence. Instead, use this as an exercise to really understand your feelings and beliefs about love.
Limerence is usually a short-term experience. For most people, it will last between 3 months and a couple of years. It rarely ends suddenly. Instead, you find yourself becoming less and less obsessed with the other person and you start to see their flaws more accurately.
Limerence typically ends with the deterioration stage, which is where you feel sadness, loss, and disappointment. You realize that your feelings weren’t love and you find ways to move on. Sometimes, your limerence can turn into love, but this is less common. Love after limerence requires honesty and clarity.
Limerence can turn into love, but it’s not guaranteed. You will need to slow down and really get to know the other person as an individual (rather than as a limerent object) before you can start to feel real love for them.
Limerence can be an emotional rollercoaster. Sometimes it’s exciting and fun but it can also leave you distraught. Learn to identify limerence early to help you build healthy relationships.
Did you enjoy this article? If so, make sure you share it. And let me know your experiences of limerence in the comments.