The way that love is spoken of in today’s world makes it sound like it’s an easy thing to lose in favor of a “spark” or “connection” with someone else.
In film and romance novels, people speak of being “in love,” as though it were a spell or a state of hypnosis.
Given what people are actually describing when they say, “in love,” hypnosis is probably the closest comparison to reality.
Years ago, the late Dr. Dorothy Tennov researched people who reported to be madly in love with someone. She noted that what they described sounded a lot like they were suffering from chemical addiction.
After extensive research, her conclusion was that they, in fact, were suffering from a form of chemical addiction or at least chemical influence.
She called this mental and emotional state Limerence and the chemical of choice for someone in this addiction is one produced by the human brain called dopamine.
The highs and lows of this experience are second-to-none.
Undeniable signs of limerence
- The limerent object is the sufferer’s only source of joy i.e. it seems that the person who causes this state, known as the limerent object, is the sufferer’s only source and hope of happiness.
- People experiencing Limerence for someone are often willing to give up their marriage, family, and careers if it is necessary to continue the relationship with the limerent object.
- Limerence is infatuation on steroids and is often the culprit in the pull of an extramarital affair.
- When someone has only been involved with another outside of their marriage for a few months and is already wanting to leave their spouse to be with this person, you can reasonably point the finger at the pull of Limerence.
It’s not always a bad thing
It is common for two single people who begin dating to experience Limerence and when you are just getting to know someone it is what makes two people feel intense attraction for someone they hardly know.
Why else would two people who hardly know each other want to continue to date, be romantic, and prioritize someone?
It’s the mighty pull of Limerence and it is temporary.
While the chemical experience is temporary because the highs simply can’t be duplicated, what develops underneath of Limerence can be quite special and long-lasting.
What can develop is companionship, commitment, and a sense of family with the other person.
So, when do you know if it is love or limerence?
When Limerence fades, and it always does, the relationship can continue without the fireworks and roller coaster of emotions associated with it.
And that’s a good thing. It can become emotionally exhausting and what often develops underneath it is more fulfilling, longer-lasting, and stable.
Marriage can’t be based on limerence
As a relationship coach, I observe married couples where one or both believed the marriage was over when the highs of Limerence faded.
One of them said to the other, “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” It means that they feel a bit of companionship and a sense of family, but they crave the chemical highs that no longer exist.
Hollywood stokes this misunderstanding of love and long-term relationships by pushing the narrative that says that if those highs dissipate, then it wasn’t “true love,” and that we must seek that true love out there.
What is really being pushed here is a constant chasing of the fireworks of a new relationship and such an understanding can allow us to never experience true commitment and companionship that can give us security and love for a lifetime.
So, how to respond to a limerent spouse?
People whose spouse experiences Limerence for another attempt to stop their divorce but often learn that they can’t compete with Limerence.
It must often run its course unless the limerent experiencer realizes what is going on and chooses to let go of the limerent relationship.
Such a sacrifice usually comes with great pain because of the intensity of what is felt. It often requires a leap of faith because it often feels to the person having the limerent affair that they are giving up true love.
Forcing the limerent spouse to stay in the marriage can backfire
Forcing the limerent spouse to stay in the marriage by the threat of financial hardship, loss of child custody and other such threats might persuade them to stay, but this is often short-lived as it often leads to resentment and anger toward the spouse who is seen as the murderer of what the limerent experiencer felt was true love.
That is why it is ideal that the experiencer comes to the realization of the concept of Limerence on their own or at least isn’t choosing to stay in the marriage simply to avoid negatives.
It is important that the staying spouse understands what is going on and what needs to go on in the mind of the experiencer in order to save the marriage.
What to do if you are married but limerent for someone else?
It is important that you carry out an honest evaluation of your relationship.
If you are convinced that it has a future and your bond is strong, you will need to deliberately work at being fully committed to your spouse, and maintaining honest communication.
No delayed honesty or other such convenience-driven tenets in a marriage. Prioritizing your partner’s feelings above your limerent object is imperative.
A shift in mindset can really help
We must not let Hollywood and romance novels define our understanding of love and marriage.
This is especially true since the chemical highs of Limerence are temporary and the relationships that base themselves on it ignorantly doom the relationship.