If you have strong romantic feelings for someone who is unavailable (or just not into you), and you find it almost impossible to stop thinking about them — you may be experiencing a common trauma symptom called limerence. It’s an emotional state that starts out like falling in love — but turns into a painful mental addiction. Left untreated, it can block any hope of having real love in your life.
Limerence is common in people who were neglected or abused in childhood, though not all people who had a harsh childhood are limerent. While many people with CPTSD fall for unavailable people, it’s the added element of fantasy and obsession that characterizes limerence.
If you’ve experienced limerence but this is the first time you’ve heard a name for it, just knowing what it is can be a powerful step toward healing. With awareness and a conscious effort to change the pattern, it’s possible to overcome it.
The word limerence was invented in the early 1970s by Dorothy Tennov, who had been researching the experience of falling in love. Since then, in the writings of a few people who have continued to define it, limerence has come to mean something more than just falling in love. Limerence starts with the same set of feelings, but they come to overwhelm your thoughts, eventually making the leap to an addiction to fantasy.
In fact, limerence has to remain in the realm of fantasy; if the person for whom you’re limerent were to actually love you back (which happens sometimes) the day-to-day relationship would soon neutralize the magical fantasy feeling. Interacting with someone in real life, with all the dirty dishes, socks on the floor and arguments about money, tends to bring the lofty vision of perfect love down to earth, which is where real love can actually exist.
The tendency to grow limerent on others is said to have a genetic component, but not always. Limerence appears to be much more common in people who were emotionally neglected as children.
The ability to believe that love is possible — to keep the fires of burning — is a survival strategy for kids who are emotionally neglected or literally abandoned. When it carries into adulthood, it can lead to a compulsive enchantment with people you can’t have. The “limerent object” might be an ex, or it might be someone you barely know. It could be a movie star or even a fictional character. It is never someone you are in an actual relationship with, because limerence can’t last long in a real-life relationships. Again, it’s not having your love reciprocated that allows the magical feeling to be so powerful, even addictive.
Do you show the signs of limerence?
I’ve created a free PDF that will help you evaluate whether you have the common signs of limerence; you’ll learn how it starts, how it ends, and what the thoughts and feelings are that keep it going.
Get the free download “Signs of Limerence”
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