In spite of the fact that throughout centuries numerous geniuses of different cultures provided the World with brilliant descriptions of romantic euphoria and suffering, made us weep and hurt over hundreds of love stories, nobody dared to try to answer one of the oldest questions in the history of humanity: “What really is romantic love?”.
We feel very strongly that there is a fine line between loving, being madly in love, experiencing infatuation or lust, but nobody ever could draw this line clearly till in 1977 Dr. Dorothy Tennov came up with a truly revolutionary concept of “limerence”.
What Is Limerence?
Dr. Tennov’s invention of the term “limerence” is the first attempt in the human history to scientifically study the very nature of romantic love. As opposed to “profound tender warm feeling” of love we experience towards our family and friends, limerence represents a temporarily madness of extremely powerful romantic attraction.
According to Dr. Tennov limerence is considered an involuntarily cognitive state of mind of a person strongly attached to another and is characterized by the overwhelming desire for recipication. Limerence is a much more powerful feeling than mere infatuation or a “crush” – it is almost always a nearly obsessive form of romantic love. A human brain stricken by limerence becomes preoccupied with the attractive characteristics of the object of one’s desire and automatically ignores their demerits creating a “limerent object” (L.O)
Love Vs. Sex
Although a limerent person almost always finds his/her L.O sexually attractive, this kind of strong romantic idealization is mostly not about sex. A lovesick individual dreams first and foremost about reciprocation and embraces sexual contact only as a declaration of it.
According to Tennov’s research about 50% of limerent men and women had no sexual fantasies about their L.Os, because it felt either too emotionally painful or disrespectful to their idealized loved ones. A few women whose L.Os took advantage of them, reported traumatic sexual experiences – lust is a poor substitute for love.
Does Everybody Experience Limerence?
Dr. Tennov divides lovers’ personalities into limerent and nonlimetent. While some people are more rational not only in their behavior but also in the way they feel and experience attraction, others are merely overwhelmed by their emotions and there is not much they can do about it.
This simple difference in temperaments causes a lot of conflicts not only between romantic and sexual partners but also between friends and those who are supposed to function as a support system for a limerent person.
For example a nonlimerent parent is unable to understand why his/her son or daughter get “hooked up” on a certain person and is unable to move on.
Living With Limerence
Limerent people might get extremely lucky by winning the requital of their LO – in that case they are guaranteed 2 to 5 years of indescribable bliss. Unfortunately consummated romantic love does not live longer than that and a limerent person is likely to fall for another LO after the mystery is gone.
In fact, according to Dr. Tennov limerence stays alive by the combination of two main factors – hope and doubt. When one of them is completely gone the romantic attraction usually runs out of fuel.
Unrequited limerence, however, may haunt a person indefinitely as long as there is a trace of hope. People experiencing unrequited limerence go through a great deal of emotional pain that often ends up in some kind of fatality. If you are struggling with unrequited limerence there are several ways out.
You can courageously confront your L.O in order to kill the hope, see a non-judgmental professional who avoids terms like “obsession”, “addiction” and “erotomania” or just make peace with the fact that this is how your mind works, don’t regard yourself as pathetic or emotionally unstable. Just be a happy limerent.
Dorothy Tennov - Love And Limerence