Limerence vs. Love: Differences, Stages, and Sign

Limerence vs. Love, are they the same thing, and how can you differentiate them?

Limerence and love are two feelings that are often confused with each other.

In this blog post, we will learn the key differences between limerence and love, the different stages of limerence, and common signs to identify if you are experiencing limerence or true love.

Understanding the differences is important as it can help determine the healthiness of a relationship.

Read Also: Love vs. In Love: What Makes them so Different and Yet so Similar?

What is Limerence?

Limerence vs. Love: Differences, Stages, and Sign

Limerence is defined as an involuntary cognitive and emotional state of intense romantic desire for another person.

In essence, limerence is an involuntary state of infatuation that causes both joy and misery to the limerent person, depending on the level of reciprocation they experience from the object of their affection.

It was first introduced by psychologist Dorothy Tennov in her 1979 book “Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love”.

Some key characteristics of limerence include:

1. Intrusive Thinking About the Object of Limerence

A limerent person experiences recurring and involuntary intrusive thinking about the object of their limerence. They often daydream about being with that person.

2. Desired Emotional Reciprocation From the Object of Limerence

A limerent person desires emotional or physical involvement and reciprocation from their object of limerence. They crave their feelings to be returned.

3. Uncertainty About the Object of Limerence’s Feelings

Not knowing if their feelings are returned or not fuels the anxiety in a limerent person. This uncertainty factor adds “chemistry” for the limerent person.

4. Mood Dependent on the Perceived Relationship With the Object of Limerence

A limerent person’s mood and self-esteem are largely dependent on the perceived relationship with the object of limerence.

They feel euphoric in their company but suffer low when separated from them.

5. Lack of Perception About Imperfections in the Object of Limerence

A limerent person tends to idealize the object of their limerence and fails to notice or disregard their flaws and imperfections. Their obsession is often with an imagined flawless concept of the person.

The 7 Stages of Limerence

Limerence progresses through different stages similar to phases of romantic relationships. Not all people experience every stage and the intensity may vary.

Phase 1. Intrusive Thinking – Initial Obsession Phase

In this initial stage, the limerent person cannot stop thinking about the potential romantic partner who triggered those feelings of limerence. There is a cognitive preoccupation.

Phase 2. Fantasy and Idealization – Romanticizing Phase

The limerent partner is excessively romanticized and placed on an unrealistic pedestal. Fantasies about being together emerge strongly.

Phase 3. Emotional Dependence – Emotional Investment Phase

Emotional dependence on the potential partner deepens. Their interactions are intensely monitored for signs of reciprocation to gauge self-worth.

Phase 4. Reciprocity Hopes and Fears – Pursuit Phase

Fear of rejection coexists with hopes of reciprocity. Pursuit behaviors are aimed at getting their affection validated through attention and approval seeking.

Phase 5. Emotional Turmoil – Emotional Rollercoaster Phase

When unable to obtain validation or reciprocation, emotional turmoil in the forms of grief, pining, anxiety, and rumination emerges. Low self-esteem also develops.

Phase 6. Obsessive Thinking – Strong Preoccupation Phase

As limerence progresses further, obsessive cognitive preoccupations take over. Intrusive thinking intensifies about gaining approval. Escape seems difficult.

Phase 7. Emotional Detachment – Withdrawal Phase

Eventually, the limerent person learns of the futility of their efforts to an extreme. They start withdrawing and losing interest, but not without enduring lingering negative feelings.

What is Love?

Love is a deep attachment that combines intimacy, commitment, caring for the partner’s well-being, and acceptance of the partner with both their strengths and flaws.

While limerence is focused on obsession and infatuation, love is defined as a much deeper emotional and social bond between two people.

Some key aspects that define love include:

1. Emotional Closeness and Commitment

Two people in love choose to be committed to each other through mutual care, trust, and responsibility. There is emotional intimacy.

2. Objective Assessment of the Loved One

A person in love can see both the strengths and weaknesses of their loved one objectively. They love them despite their flaws or imperfections.

3. Longevity and Resilience of the Bond

Love forms a resilient bond between two people that endures challenges over long periods through mutual understanding and compromise.

4. Prioritizing the Well-Being of the Loved One

People in love genuinely care about each other’s well-being, happiness, safety, and growth. They support each other through tough times.

5. Complete Acceptance of the Loved One

A loved one is accepted fully for who they are. Their love is not based on expectations of emotional reciprocation or approval seeking.

6. Emotional Stability Regardless of Reciprocation

Unlike limerence, a person in love maintains emotional stability whether their feelings are returned or not.

Their self-esteem does not depend on the relationship entirely.

Limerence vs. Love: Key Differences

After understanding limerence and love in detail, here are some of the major differences between the two states:

1. Intensity and Duration

Limerence tends to be more intense initially but doesn’t last long. Love grows stronger over time into a deep commitment.

2. Perception of Flaws

A limerent person ignores flaws and idealizes the object. A person in love accepts their partner fully including flaws.

3. Emotional Dependence

Limerence causes strong emotional dependence on reciprocation from the object of affection for a sense of self-worth. Love provides stability independent of reciprocation.

4. Uncertainty Factor

The thrill of uncertainty about the reciprocation of feelings fuels limerence. Transparency and trust characterize love minimizing uncertainty within Commitment.

5. Driven by Reciprocation

Limerence thrives on obtaining emotional validation and reciprocation from the object. True love is not based on the condition of reciprocity being met.

6. Focused on Self-Esteem

Limerence is driven by poor self-esteem issues where worth is derived from another’s approval. Love enhances the self-esteem of both partners independently.

7. Not Grounded in Reality

The romanticized version of the limerent object is not real. Love is based on an honest assessment and acceptance of the partner as a whole person.

8. Dependency Issues

Limerence stems from problematic dependency traits while love represents healthy emotional independence and interdependence between partners.

Read Also: 30 Practical Ways to Make Someone Fall in Love with You

9. End Goal

Possessing or controlling the object of limerence is the goal. With love, another’s happiness and welfare become equally important as one’s own.

Limerence and love are different in their intensity, drivers, dependency patterns and focus. Limerence harms self-esteem while true love nurtures it within a stable relationship.

Common Signs of Being Limerent

Here are some common signs to recognize if you may be experiencing limerence for someone:

  • Inability to stop thinking about the person triggering those feelings
  • Daydreaming and fantasizing about impossible romantic scenarios
  • Sense of euphoria in their actual or even imagined presence
  • Receiving even subtle clues of affection triggers strong emotional reactions
  • Feeling addicted to gaining attention and approval from them
  • Comparing them to others elevating them on a pedestal
  • Lowered self-esteem dependent on their acknowledgement or reciprocation
  • Missing or stalking them on social media profiles excessively
  • Depression or anxiety when unable to contact or meet them
  • Sense of relief in any act showing they care like a text or emoji reaction
  • Expressing desire without regard for appropriate boundaries
  • Difficulty seeing their flaws or shortcomings objectively
  • Pursuing them even after logical signs they may not like you back
  • Viewing any other potential romantic interests as competitors or threats
  • Fixation shifting to the idealization of small gestures rather than considering the viability

So if a number of these signs apply strongly to your situation, it’s best to acknowledge experiencing limerence rather than confuse it for true love or a healthy attraction.

Handling it constructively can save you from prolonged emotional turmoil.

Handling Limerence in a Healthy Way

If you identify as being limerent for someone, here are some steps that may help healthily handle those feelings:

  • Recognize it for what it is rather than confuse it as love or genuine connection
  • Refuse to idealize them and be objective about credentials for a compatible relationship
  • Avoid unnecessary contact, social media stalking, or pursuing them aggressively
  • Shift focus to developing healthy hobbies and social activities
  • Handle low self-esteem issues at the root with help from close ones and professional guidance

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Know if I’m Over My Limerence?

Some signs that indicate you may be over your limerent feelings include:

  • You no longer experience intrusive thoughts about the person daily.
  • Their social media updates or whereabouts no longer trigger strong reactions.
  • You’re able to see both strengths and flaws in them objectively without overly criticizing.
  • Interacting with them does not cause high anxiety or low mood anymore.
  • Pursuing a relationship with them is no longer an obsessive goal or need.
  • Your self-esteem and sense of identity are not dependent on their validation or attention.
  • Memories of them bring a calm smile rather than intense longing or distress.
  • You’re able to focus your time and energy on other fulfilling aspects of life.
  • You’ve made peace with the reality of the situation rather than idealizing ‘what could have been’.
  • Meeting someone new triggers interest versus constant comparisons to the past limerent object.

Pay attention to changes in both thoughts and feelings over yourself. Limerence takes time to fully heal from but keep practicing good self-care.

Can Limerence Ruin a Real Relationship?

Having limerent feelings or being limerent towards someone other than a romantic partner can damage a real relationship.

Some ways it may impact include:

  • Emotionally investing mental energy in someone else leaves less for the actual partner.
  • Lower libido or disinterest in intimacy with the partner due to preoccupation with the limerent object.
  • Mood swings and irritability at home resulting from limerent turmoil get directed towards the partner.
  • Becoming overly secretive and defensive online or in communication raises doubts in the partner.
  • Idealizing someone better than the actual partner causes building resentment in the relationship.
  • Acting distant or distracted impacts quality bonding time with the partner.
  • Prolonged limerence may lead to emotional affairs or actual physical cheating.

So it’s important for one’s own and partner’s well-being that limerent feelings don’t interfere or take priority over an existing emotionally healthy relationship.

What Causes Someone to Experience Limerence?

While research is still ongoing on the exact causes, some factors that may potentially trigger limerence in people include:

  • Unmet child attachment needs lead to poor self-esteem and dependency traits in adulthood.
  • Genetic predisposition towards obsession, infatuation, or addiction profiles.
  • Past experiences of unreciprocated romantic affection leave emotional scars.
  • Fragile personalities are prone to intense emotional swings and anxiety issues.
  • Loneliness causes a greater need for validation and affection-seeking behaviors.
  • Being highly sensitive or an empath absorbs the emotions of others easily.
  • Experiencing a challenging phase increasing need for emotional support.
  • Witnessing ideal romantic portrayals raising unrealistic relationship standards.
  • Current relationship dissatisfaction making new interactions feel more exciting.

There may not be single or fully known causes. Individual traits, genetics, environment and chance all potentially play a role in predisposing one to lace normal infatuation with limerent obsessive patterns.

Read Also: Understanding Unconditional Love

Final Thought

Limerence is commonly misunderstood as love due to their surface level similarities.

However, being aware of how limerence develops differently than love, affects our psyche, influences relationships and can be managed, is crucial for both well-being and maturity in relationships.

True love is a steady commitment versus an intense intermittent state.

While limerence may not be fully avoided, identifying it early allows us to approach romantic situations and partnerships from a place of empowerment versus emotional dependency or unhealthy expectations.

With self-awareness and effort, what initially feels like love may be judiciously transitioned into genuine caring for another.

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