There's a word for that head-over-heels feeling.
Ever had that "I-need-him-I-know-we-are-meant-to-be-together-I-know-it-I-can't-breathe-I-can't-sleep-I-love-him-so-much" feeling? You may have experienced limerence.
Psychologist Dorothy Tennov's book Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love (1998) gives an insight into that involuntary feeling of want. Tennov has described limerence as "the cognitive and emotional state of intense romantic desire for another individual." Tennov states that limerence in itself is normal and non-pathological. However,
limerence can cross the line into pathology when a person is no longer able to function in
his or her day-to-day activities. It is especially tough when a person's feelings of affection aren't reciprocated. This limerence stuff is serious business! There are even assessment scales that can measure the extent to which you are in its grip.
Limerence is characterized by:
Obsessive thinking about the object of your affection
I know you can identify with this one. You can't get any work done. You've forgotten how to
tie your shoes. All you can think about is him/her. You're on a high from the endorphins in your
brain. You can't eat, you can't sleep. You think you have everything in common, and it's a sign
you should be together. "He's a carbon-based life form?? I'm a carbon-based life form!! We
were meant to be."
Irrationally positive evaluation of their attributes
Also known as, "Oh, he's an axe murderer? I can work with that."
You feel like you need him/her around to just be able to breathe. You feel an ache when they
are not around -- even when they are just at their office 10 miles away. Or in the next room.
Longing for reciprocation
This is where it gets tricky. The cruel side of fate is that your affection may not be felt by the
other party. You may tell yourself, "He/she hasn't called because they are so busy." While
this may hold true for a couple days, if you haven't heard back from your intended beloved for
a week or two, it's time to reevaluate the situation. However, those feelings of irrational love
remain. If only your heart would listen to what your brain already knows.
Limerence, for all its ups and downs, makes sense. When you're in love, you don't think about
how things will be down the road -- like the fact that your beloved leaves toothpaste on the
bathroom sink, or that he mixes reds in with the whites when he does laundry. If we didn't have
limerence, we may not consider sticking things out long-term.
Time heals the intense pleasure (and suffering) of limerence. This can be a good thing if you are
in an unrequited relationship; in a long-term relationship, it's when things start getting real.
So how long does limerence last? It depends on the relationship, and whether there is mutual
limerence. One day your beloved may do or say something that just completely turns
you off and/or goes against your code of ethics. In those cases, limerence can disappear
instantaneously, or at least diminish considerably.
It also depends on who you are, emotionally. If you lean towards being anxious, have self-
esteem issues, have a lack of impulse control, and tend to become dependent on others, you may be hit harder by limerence than others.
If your feelings of unrequited affection towards someone are causing impairment in your daily
life, consider talking to a counselor. If you are feeling hopeless and/or are considering ending
your life, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
Copyright 2012 Sarkis Media LLC
Banker, R.M. (2010). Socially prescribed perfectionism and limerence in interpersonal
relationships. [Thesis] Durham NH: University of New Hampshire.
Hatfield, E., Bensman, L., & Rapson, R.L. (2012). A brief history of social scientists' attempts
to measure passionate love. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 29(2):143-164.
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