What is Limerence
Limerence is an intense human emotion, designed by evolution as a mechanism to seek and form a relationship with a certain person called the limerent object.
As for how it actually feels, the best analogy is to think of a crush, and then dial up the intensity 10 times over.
This rush of emotion almost takes over a person’s mind. The only thing you can think about is “how can I be together with this person?” , “how can I make them fall in love with me?” , “after they found out my unusual passion for cheese, would they still love me?”.
For better or worse, limerence is involuntary. Biological reactions within a person bypass their rational mind, and create an acute need to be near the limerent object, to have their attention and full affections.
Why we experience limerence
Unfortunately for romantics everywhere, limerence can be explained as a chemical reaction.
It’s a mechanism built into us by evolution, to make sure that we get off the couch and actively pursue a relationship with someone (of sexual nature, in most cases).
At first glance, it’s easy to be tempted to consider limerence as just a stronger form of love.
However, the two are very different on a biological and chemical level.
Love is primarily caused by oxytocin and vasopressin. Oxytocin in particular is a powerful social chemical, since it not only bonds couples, but also bigger social groups and friendships.
On top of that, oxytoxin and vasopressin are rather calming chemicals. They’re not the chemicals you’re looking for if you want your heart to pound the walls of your chest.
Limerence however is a far more reactive chemical cocktail, that consists of dopamine, adrenaline, norepinephrine and testosterone.
Dopamine is the body’s main pleasure chemical. Coincidentally, the reason drug addictions are so potent is because they hijack the production of this chemical.
Adrenaline and norepinephrine are potent heart beat boosters. Testosterone is closely correlated to sexual desire, and libido.
Put all these together, and you end up with a chemical combination that makes you addicted to the limerent object. Being near them is almost like being on a rollercoaster. To top it all off, you’re also highly atrracted.
The connection between limerence and love
Psychologists and biologists often avoid the terms “relationships” and “falling in love with someone” and instead opt for a more scientific and flexible expression: “pair bonding”.
Limerence is responsible for the initial phase of pair bonding, namely pair formation. It gives you the strength you need to push through obstacles that block a budding relationship. Think long distance, disapproving parents, different backgrounds etc.
This stage usually lasts between 6 to 24 months.
Typically, limerence gradually fades as your relationship strengthens. Oxytocin and vasopressin slowly take over from the other chemicals and lay the foundations for a long term relationship built on trust and respect, rather than intense attraction and love.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that your relationship might just crash and burn spectacularly. Limerence is a volatile emotional state. If a stable connection doesn’t take root during this time, then either you or the other partner might call it quits to save yourself from the pain, or the obvious dead end the relationship is heading towards.
As limerence fades, the more stable and predictable form of love takes over; calm walks in the park, going to a move, cooking together, paying the bills, watching over the kids, cleaning up the house, etc.
One of the most unhealthy aspects of limerence is how it skews one’s understanding of what love is. If a person confuses limerence with love, then everything else that follows the initial, stormy phase of a relationship will feel like stagnation. Or even a slow, gradual decay.
It’s easy to look back at the limerence stage and say “Wow, I sure was in love back then. Now? It’s okay I guess.”
Because of this, some bunny hop from one relationship to the next, always in search for that new phase of limerence, and exiting just when the pair bonding process was beginning to fully take over.
Limerence isn’t a good foundation for a relationship because it is ultimately a selfish emotion. Even though it’s directed towards someone else, it’s never really about the other person. Instead, it’s about the person who experiences limerence. They want the limerent objects’ total and undivided attention, affection and time.
A limerent person rarely asks “how can I make this other person’s life better?”. Or if they do, it’s with a hidden subtext “I did something nice for you, it sure would be great if you did something nice for me too, *wink* *wink*”
By contrast, traditional love is much more oriented towards the good of the other partner.
How to reignite limerence
Limerence fades once a relationships strengthens, because it has served its purpose to bring two people together in a relationship.
However, there are ways it can be reignited.
Tensions and problems in relationships that threaten to break it apart will reignite a sense of limerence as a form of damage control.
Our bodies will release the same chemical cocktail as it did during the initial courtship. But this time, the impetus is to hold the relationship together, and find ways to entice the other partner to reengage in the relationship.
Thus, a limerent spose or lover may cook their partners favorite meals, dress more attractively or just be unusually nice and agreeable.
However, sometimes it’s possible for the partner to adopt a more confrontational approach, involving angry outbursts, emotional tantrums and manipulations.
In any case, the easiest way to bring back limerence into a relationship, is to increase uncertainty and doubt within it.
It’s easy to confuse limerence with true love, but the two couldn’t be more different. The first brings a overwhelming dose of extatic, selfish joy, that consumes itself quickly.
True love, on the other hand, is more subtle and can last a lifetime. While not as intense, it’s stable, present and selfless.