Limerence is defined by psychologist Dorothy Tennov as:
“an involuntary state of intense desire for another person involving obsessive thoughts and fantasies, feelings and behaviors ranging from euphoria to despair, a desire to form or maintain a relationship with the object of love, and the longing to have one’s feelings reciprocated.”
Some of its core features include:
- Intrusive thinking about the object of your passionate desire (the limerent object or “LO”), who is a possible romantic partner
- Intense longing for equally strong feelings in return
- Extreme dependency of mood on the interpretation of LO’s actions: ecstatic when returned feelings seem possible, devastated when disinterest seems likely
- Inability to react limerently to more than one person at a time and a desire for exclusivity
- Fleeting and short-term relief from unrequited limerent passion through vivid fantasy
- Fear of rejection and insecurity or shyness when in the presence of LO
- Intensification of feelings through adversity and uncertainty (at least, up a point)
- An aching sensation in the chest/heart area when uncertainty is strong
- Elation when reciprocation is perceived or believed
- A general intensity of feeling that leaves other concerns in the background
- A remarkable ability to emphasize what is truly admirable in LO and to avoid or minimize the negative traits of LO
- A feeling of “cosmic specialness”
Limerence, while a normal part of falling in love for a large part of the population, can become unmanageable and destructive for a select group of the population, causing it to feel similar to a behavioral or process addiction. It’s affects are involuntary and based on a strong craving for reciprocation, while at the same time being constantly inflamed by uncertainty which causes fluctuations of ecstatic hope to hopeless despair. It is continually reinforced by natural drives of reward, arousal, and bonding which become hyperactive and therefore mimic the behavioral components of actual addiction.
However, I only use the terms “addiction to a person” and “obsessive love disorder” as colloquial ways to describe the experience, as many people are unaware of the term limerence. These are not real clinical terms.
Q: What does limerence coaching look like?
A: Our first session will focus on getting to know each other better and understanding your background. We’ll also identify specific goals you might have and answer any questions that are coming up. From there, we will begin exploring your unique limerent profile and patterns of behavior. I will incorporate education around neuroscience to increase your understanding of “the why,” and then we will begin to work on breaking the habits which are reinforcing the painful aspects of limerence. We may use a therapeutic technique called EMDR to decrease the emotional distress related to the limerence, and we will create a clear plan for how to reduce intrusive thoughts and gain back control over your life. We will also work on re-connecting you to your values and creating a life that is aligned with those values. Lastly, you will work on re-writing a more empowering narrative in regard to love, relationships, and what is possible for your future.
Sessions are collaborative and client-driven; we always go at the pace you feel comfortable with.
Q: What is the monetary and time investment of limerence coaching?
A: The limerence coaching program is set up to run for 2.5 months, however can be lengthened or shortened by client need. The standard fee ranges from $150-$175 and sessions meet weekly.
Q: Do I have to reside in Washington state to be able to work with you?
A: No, I am able to provide limerence coaching for individuals anywhere in the world. However, if you are outside of Washington state, you would not be able to use your out-of-network insurance benefits towards the cost.
Q: What is the difference between limerence and love addiction?
A: Love addiction is more related to lifelong patterns of compulsive relationship seeking, codependency, inability to leave relationships (for a variety of reasons, including a compulsion to rescue, low self-esteem, the terror or being alone, etc.) whereas limerence or obsessive love disorder is more about the obsessive desire and preoccupation for a specific person. This may be a repeating pattern (such as with limerence chasers), but also may only occur once or twice in a person’s life, sometimes catching you completely unaware.
Q: What is the difference between limerence and love?
A: They can both start similarly (with a pleasurable dopamine rush), however, with limerence the neurochemical circuits get stuck in a hyperactive loop which lead to certain reactions which then become habits which start to take over someone’s life in a distressing way. Limerence tends to be more intense, which is what leads to it feeling so uncomfortable. Limerence is immediate and starts before even fully knowing the person, while love develops over time after sharing experiences with someone and building trust. If limerence is reciprocated without issue then limerence will fade naturally over time (generally 6 months to 2 years), however, the complications arise when reciprocation is uncertain or unavailable.
Q: What if I’m worried that my partner is limerent about someone else?
A: If you notice that your partner is experiencing limerence for someone other than you, this can be a very painful experience. It can also have devastating affects on your self-esteem and trust in the relationship. If you are in this situation, know that you deserve support. I am happy to work with you around this, or if your partner has already acted on these feelings, I can also provide referrals to therapists who work with infidelity. Know that you are not alone and the situation is not your fault, no matter how painful.
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