Have you ever imagined that you feel limerent toward your partner?
Is this "urge to merge" affecting your relationship because your partner does not have reciprocal feelings?
What is Limerence? It is a term coined by American psychologist Dorothy Tennov in her 1979 book Love and Limerence – The Experience of Being in Love to describe the fabulous feelings most of us experience in the early stages of a romantic relationship. It is a temporary phase marked by physical, intellectual and emotional changes. We can’t eat, we can’t sleep, we stay up all night talking, yet we feel full of energy the next day. Many people lose weight at this time. We feel euphoric and are convinced no one else has ever felt the way we do. Emotionally our feet just don’t touch the ground.
We experience an “urge to merge”. Out interest is completely focused on our loved one. We forget important tasks, ignore our friends and families, and neglect our work or studies. When we are not in the company of our beloved, we spend most of our time daydreaming about them. We can’t wait to see them and spend hours on the phone when we’re apart. We hang off their every word and think they are the best thing since sliced bread.
Limerence is an artificial state of euphoria created when we show only the best side of ourselves to our partners and they do the same to us. Nasty habits or difficult feelings are hidden away or if they do arise, they are dismissed as quaint or idiosyncratic. Even behavior that would normally offend or annoy us is passed over in the rosy glow of limerence.
People who are limerent seldom get cross with their partners. Conflict is avoided at all costs. If our beloved arrives late, or forgets an arrangement, they are adorably muddle-headed. We think all their jokes are funny, and the way they leave their clothes lying about the bedroom is passed off as bohemian. However, limerence is a time-limited experience. Twelve to 18 months down the track, things have changed – we get furious when our partner turns up late, and we complain about the mess they leave in the bedroom. Limerence has begun to fade.
In our society, this altered state is regarded as love. Limerence is NOT love, it is infatuation. The “high” of limerence is due to arousing brain chemicals which are released when we meet someone we are attracted to. These neurotransmitters include:
- Acetylcholine – produces a feeling of excitement, a rush similar to that produced by amphetamines
- Dopamine – induces a feeling of wellbeing
- Noradrenaline – induces feelings of pleasure, of conquering the world, contentment joy and love
- Phenylethylamine – creates heightened excitement
- Serotonin – maintains a generalised feeling of emotional security
The swirling chemical high of limerence is a little trick played by Mother Nature on human beings to get them together for the purposes of, you guessed it, reproduction!
Limerence is a wonderful experience, but the passionate feelings we experience are not an indication that this is a lasting relationship or even a functional or fulfilling one. Even the most unhappy marriages and love affairs start out with both partners feeling limerent and over the moon.
As mentioned before, many people believe that limerence is love. They are happy in each new relationship until limerence starts to fade, then they move on to re-create it in a new relationship. And so on. These people become limerence addicts, moving from partner to partner looking for permanent limerence and blaming their partners for the fact that romantic bliss and sexual ecstasy do not persist for more than a few months.
The good news is that real love can only start when limerence begins to fade, when we stop hiding from our partners and start to bring our real selves into the relationship. The emotional function of limerence is to keep two people together so they can learn to truly fall in love. Limerence is not love, but hopefully it can lead to love, where we are rewarded with nature’s softer chemicals – the endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s opiates, our natural source of morphine – they induce a relaxed, comfortable feeling of wellbeing. The romantic but transitory high of limerence mellows into something deeper and much more sustainable in a long-term relationship.
Limerence: Action steps…
Limerence or Love? Consider what it is that YOU are experiencing in your relationship.
1. How long have you been with your beloved? Three months, thirteen or twenty three?
Limerence lasts just long enough for a couple to get together, for the woman to be impregnated and a baby to be born. Then, theoretically, leaving the female to raise the offspring, the man can be off again to find another mate, and, by doing what comes naturally, ensure diversity of the species. Limerence is the human version of the mating instinct.
2. Do others know of and celebrate your relationship? Or is yours a “secret” relationship?
Extramarital affairs are real hotbeds of limerence. Although the intense excitement and prolonged passion of an extramarital affair can feel like love, it is usually a matter of extended limerence. Extramarital limerence can endure for years, as long as the straying couple don’t spend too much time together. Long term relationships find it hard to compete with the thrill of this type of forbidden limerence.
3. Are you and your beloved often together, spending time in each other’s company?
Limerence will last longer if obstructions are placed in the way of lovers – for example, if the couple must be separated for any length of time, or the love affair is long distance. If the family or community disapproves of the relationship, this will also extend the euphoric phase.
4. Is your relationship being experienced in a variety of situations – sickness and health, work and leisure, winter and summer, your family, his friends?
It is easy to experience limerence when you are alone in blissful isolation, devoting time and attention to just each other. You may spend many hours together, connecting emotionally and sexually. Limerence can (temporarily) transform a shrinking violet into a sexual huntress. Most men are turned on by the company of a limerent woman who is sexually interested and adventurous.
In the initial months of sexual activity most couples seem magically to possess a perfectly matched set of libidos. As limerence fades, differences in desire for sex often emerges for the first time, and can remain a frustrating difference for the remainder of the relationship. HOWEVER, if your relationship survives initial limerence, and then family functions and festivities, sickness of each, a work as well as leisure routine, then quite possibly, your relationship has turned to one of love and companionship. Your body may no longer zing with surges of sexy neurotransmitters, but you will be rewarded with nature’s softer chemicals – the endorphins.
Words Of Wisdom:
If you put a bean in a jar every time you make love during your first year of being together, and take a bean out every time you make love in the years that follow, don’t be surprised if you still have beans left in your jar ten years down the track.
Reference: Dr Rosie King, “Good Loving Great Sex – Finding Balance When Your Sex drives Differ”, Random House 1997, 104-110
Knowing how to enjoy your limerent feelings is one of the most important steps in rebuilding your relationship.
When you’re trying to fix your relationship but your limerent feelings are out of control, you will always end up fighting. It’s time to get some professional help.
You can change this today.
I can help you to:
- Grow your emotional skills – emotional skills are far more important than any functional skill in achieving a high level of peace and calm within oneself.
- Know your emotional style – your emotional style effects how you react in emotional situations.
- Understand your emotional brain – learn how your brain effects your personal emotions.