7/21/2014

What is Limerence?


In lay terms limerence is romantic love, crazy love, lovesick, mad love, amour fort. You see a theme in the words crazy, sick, and mad. In this condition, one's body drugs itself mightily with hormones that create a feeling of joy. The rapture is balanced with the panic and dread that it could end. And it will. Limerence has a shelf life. By most estimates, you're lucky to get 12 months. 

Dorothy Tennov, PhD, author of the groundbreaking 1979 book Love and Limerence, is the woman who originated the term.  Popular culture has done us a great disservice in our understanding of romantic love. From a young age, we watch movies and read books that form the scripts of our adult relationships. But popular culture usually gets it wrong, often in the name of entertainment, and ends up confusing love with limerence, which is precisely what most of us do.

Limerence has been described as "an involuntary interpersonal state that involves an acute longing for emotional reciprocation, obsessive-compulsive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and emotional dependence on another person." Some call limerence infatuation, lovesickness, or romantic love, while others relate it to love addiction. Some have humorously called it "affection deficit disorder".

But the bottom line is that limerence is absolutely not love. According to psychologist Robert Sternberg, who has invested some $20 million in research grants studying the subjects of love and hate, there are actually three stages to love: Passionate or romantic love (limerence), Companionate love, and finally, Committed love. Without the progression to the last two stages, a relationship based on infatuation, passion or limerence is subject to disappear very suddenly. 

So, the next time you find yourself saying "I love him" or "I love her" - think again. It might only be the very first stage, limerence.