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Limerence

Limerence

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Limerence is a term coined c. 1977 by the psychologist
Psychologist
Psychologist is a professional or academic title used by individuals who are either:* Clinical professionals who work with patients in a variety of therapeutic contexts .* Scientists conducting psychological research or teaching psychology in a college...

 Dorothy Tennov
Dorothy Tennov
Dorothy Tennov was an American psychologist who, in her 1979 book Love and Limerence – the Experience of Being in Love introduced the term "limerence"...

 to describe an involuntary state of mind which seems to result from a romantic attraction to another person combined with an overwhelming, obsessive need to have one's feelings reciprocated. The concept grew out of Tennov's mid-1960s work, when she interviewed over 500 people on the topic of love, and was first published in her 1979 book Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love.

Attachment theory
Attachment theory
Attachment theory describes the dynamics of long-term relationships between humans. Its most important tenet is that an infant needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for social and emotional development to occur normally. Attachment theory is an interdisciplinary study...

 emphasises that "many of the most intense emotions arise during the formation, the maintenance, the disruption, and the renewal of attachment relationships". It has been suggested that "the state of limerence is the conscious experience of sexual incentive motivation" during attachment formation: "a kind of subjective experience of sexual incentive motivation" during the "intensive...pair-forming stage" of human affectional bonding.

Characteristics


The concept "of 'limerence' provides a particular carving up of the semantic domain of love", and is an attempt at a scientific study into the nature of love. Limerence is considered as a cognitive and emotional state of being emotionally attached or even obsessed with another person, typically experienced involuntarily and characterized by a strong desire for reciprocation of one's feelings - a near-obsessive form of romantic love. For Tennov, 'sexual attraction is an essential component of limerence...the limerent is a potential sex partner'.

Limerence is sometimes also interpreted as infatuation
Infatuation
Infatuation is the state of being completely carried away by unreasoned passion or love: 'expresses the headlong libidinal attraction' of addictive love...

, or what is colloquially known as a crush; but in common speech, infatuation includes aspects of immaturity and extrapolation from insufficient information, and is usually short-lived. 'Tennov notes how limerence may dissolve soon after its initiation, as in an early teenage buzz-centered crush', but is more concerned with the point when 'limerent bonds are characterized by "entropy" crystallization as described by Stendhal
Stendhal
Marie-Henri Beyle , better known by his pen name Stendhal, was a 19th-century French writer. Known for his acute analysis of his characters' psychology, he is considered one of the earliest and foremost practitioners of realism in his two novels Le Rouge et le Noir and La Chartreuse de Parme...

 in his 1821 treatise On Love, where a new love infatuation perceptually begins to transform...attractive characteristics are exaggerated and unattractive characteristics are given little or no attention...[creating] a limerent object '.

According to Tennov, there are at least two types of love: a) limerence, which she describes as (inter alia) "loving attachment"; and b) "loving affection," the bond that exists between an individual and his or her parents and children. She notes however that one form may evolve into the other: 'those whose limerence was replaced by affectional bonding with the same partner might say..."We were very much in love when we married; today we love each other very much"'. The distinction is comparable to that drawn by ethologists 'between the pair-forming and pair-maintaining functions of sexual activity', just as 'the attachment of the attachment theorists is very similar to the emotional reciprocation longed for in Tennov's limerence, and each is linked to sexuality'.

Limerence is characterized by intrusive thinking
Intrusive thoughts
Intrusive thoughts are unwelcome involuntary thoughts, images, or unpleasant ideas that may become obsessions, are upsetting or distressing, and can be difficult to manage or eliminate. Most people experience these thoughts...

 and pronounced sensitivity to external events that reflect the disposition of the limerent object towards the individual, and can be experienced as intense joy
Happiness
Happiness is a mental state of well-being characterized by positive emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. A variety of biological, psychological, religious, and philosophical approaches have striven to define happiness and identify its sources....

 or as extreme despair, depending on whether the feelings are reciprocated. Basically, it is the state of being completely carried away by unreasoned passion
Passion (emotion)
Passion is a term applied to a very strong feeling about a person or thing. Passion is an intense emotion compelling feeling, enthusiasm, or desire for something....

 or love
Love
Love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. In philosophical context, love is a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection. Love is central to many religions, as in the Christian phrase, "God is love" or Agape in the Canonical gospels...

, even to the point of addictive
Addiction
Historically, addiction has been defined as physical and psychological dependence on psychoactive substances which cross the blood-brain barrier once ingested, temporarily altering the chemical milieu of the brain.Addiction can also be viewed as a continued involvement with a substance or activity...

-type behavior. Usually, one is inspired with an intense passion or admiration for someone. Limerence can be difficult to understand for those who have never experienced it, and it is thus often dismissed by nonlimerents as ridiculous fantasy or a construct of romantic fiction.

Tennov differentiates between limerence and other emotions by asserting that love
Love
Love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. In philosophical context, love is a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection. Love is central to many religions, as in the Christian phrase, "God is love" or Agape in the Canonical gospels...

 involves concern for the other person's welfare and feeling. While limerence does not require it, those concerns may certainly be incorporated. Affection
Affection
Affection or fondness is a "disposition or rare state of mind or body" that is often associated with a feeling or type of love. It has given rise to a number of branches of philosophy and psychology concerning: emotion ; disease; influence; state of being ; and state of mind...

 and fondness exist only as a disposition towards another person, irrespective of whether those feelings are reciprocated, whereas limerence deeply desires return, but it remains unaltered whether it's returned or not. Physical contact with the object is neither essential nor sufficient to an individual experiencing limerence, unlike one experiencing sexual attraction
Sexual attraction
Sexual attractiveness or sex appeal refers to an individual's ability to attract the sexual or erotic interest of another person, and is a factor in sexual selection or mate choice. The attraction can be to the physical or other qualities or traits of a person, or to such qualities in the context...

.

Components


Limerence involves intrusive thinking about the limerent object. Other characteristics include acute longing for reciprocation, fear of rejection, and unsettling shyness in the limerent object's presence. In cases of unrequited limerence, transient relief may be found by vividly imagining reciprocation from the limerent object. Tennov suggests that feelings of limerence can be intensified through adversity, obstacles, or distance - 'Intensification through Adversity'. A limerent person may have acute sensitivity to any act, thought, or condition that can be interpreted favorably. This may include a tendency to devise, fabricate, or invent "reasonable" explanations for why neutral actions are a sign of hidden passion in the limerent object.

A person experiencing limerence has a general intensity of feeling that leaves other concerns in the background. In their thoughts, a limerent person tends to emphasize what is admirable in the limerent object and to avoid any negative or problematic attributes.

Intrusive thinking and fantasy


During the height of limerence, thoughts of the limerent object (or person) are at once persistent, involuntary and intrusive. Such 'intrusive thoughts about the LO ... appear to be genetically driven': indeed, limerence is first and foremost a condition of cognitive obsession. All events, associations, stimuli, and experiences return thoughts to the limerent object with unnerving consistency, while conversely the constant thoughts about the limerent object define all other experiences. If a certain thought has no previous connection with the limerent object, immediately one is made. Limerent fantasy is unsatisfactory unless rooted in reality, because the fantasizer may want the fantasy to seem realistic and somewhat possible.

Fantasies that are concerned with far-fetched ideas are usually dropped by the fantasizer. Sometimes fantasizing is retrospective: actual events are replayed from memory with great vividness. This form predominates when what is viewed as evidence of possible reciprocation can be re-experienced (a kind of selective or revisionist history). Otherwise, the long fantasy is anticipatory; it begins in the everyday world and climaxes at the attainment of the limerent goal. A limerent fantasy can also involve an unusual, often tragic, event.

The long fantasies form bridges between the limerent's ordinary life and that intensely desired ecstatic moment. The duration and complexity of a fantasy depend on the availability of time and freedom from distractions. The bliss of the imagined moment of consummation is greater when events imagined to precede it are possible (though they often represent grave departures from the probable). Not always is it entirely pleasant, and when rejection seems likely the thoughts focus on despair, sometimes to the point of suicide. The pleasantness or unpleasantness of the state seems almost unrelated to the intensity of the reaction. Although the direction of feeling, i.e. happy versus unhappy, shifts rapidly, with 'dramatic surges of buoyancy and despair', the intensity of intrusive and involuntary thinking alters less rapidly, and only in response to an accumulation of experiences with the particular limerent object.

Fantasies are occasionally dreamed by the one experiencing limerence. Dreams give out strong emotion and happiness when experienced, but often end with despair when the subject awakens. Dreams can reawaken strong feelings toward the limerent object after the feelings have declined.

Fear of rejection


Along with the emphasis on positive qualities perceived in the limerent object, and preoccupation with the hope for return of feelings, there is a fear that limerence will be met by the very opposite of reciprocation: rejection
Social rejection
Social rejection occurs when an individual is deliberately excluded from a social relationship or social interaction. The topic includes both interpersonal rejection and romantic rejection. A person can be rejected on an individual basis or by an entire group of people...

. Considerable self-doubt and uncertainty may be experienced, leading to 'personal incapacitation expressed through an unsettling shyness in the presence of the [L] person' - something which causes pain, but also enhances desire to a certain extent, and can also spread to situations involving other potential limerent objects, though generally it does not affect other spheres of life.

However in most cases, this is what helps to eventually destroy the limerence if a suitably long period of time has passed without reciprocation
Reciprocation
Reciprocation may refer to:* Reciprocating motion, a type of oscillatory motion, as in the action of a reciprocating saw* Reciprocation in geometry, an operation with circles that involves transforming each point in plane into its polar line and each line in the plane into its pole...

. Although it appears that limerence blossoms under some forms of adversity, extreme caution and shyness may prevent a relationship from occurring, even when both parties are interested. This results from a fear of exposing one's undesirable characteristics to the limerent object.

Hope


Limerence develops and is sustained when there is a certain balance of hope and uncertainty. The base for limerent hope is not in objective reality but reality as it is perceived. The inclination is to sift through nuances of speech and subtleties of behavior for evidence of limerent hope. 'Lovers, of course, are notoriously frantic epistemologists, second only to paranoiacs (and analysts) as readers of signs and wonders.' "Little things" are noticed and endlessly analyzed for meaning. Such excessive concern over trivia may not be entirely unfounded, however. Body language can indicate a return of feeling. What the limerent object said and did is recalled with vividness. Alternative meanings of those behaviors recalled are searched out.

Each word and gesture is permanently available for review, especially those interpreted as evidence in favor of "return of feeling." When objects, people, places or situations are encountered with the limerent object, they are vividly remembered, especially if the limerent object 'interacted' with them in some way.

The belief that the limerent object does not and will not reciprocate can only come about with great difficulty. Limerence can be carried quite far before acknowledgment of rejection is genuine, especially if it has not been addressed openly by the object of limerence.

Physical effects


The physiological correlations of limerence are heart palpitations, trembling, pallor
Pallor
Pallor is a reduced amount of oxyhaemoglobin in skin or mucous membrane, a pale color which can be caused by illness, emotional shock or stress, stimulant use, lack of exposure to sunlight, anaemia or genetics....

, flushing
Flushing (physiology)
For a person to flush is to become markedly red in the face and often other areas of the skin, from various physiological conditions. Flushing is generally distinguished, despite a close physiological relation between them, from blushing, which is milder, generally restricted to the face, cheeks or...

, pupil dilation and general weakness
Muscle weakness
Muscle weakness or myasthenia is a lack of muscle strength. The causes are many and can be divided into conditions that have true or perceived muscle weakness...

. Awkwardness
Awkwardness
Awkwardness is an unpleasant feeling, which can often arise in tense atmospheres where one doesn't really know how to act or what to say. Awkward situations can possibly later cause a form of anxiety. TV sitcoms often feature awkward situations, where one character misinterprets another person's...

, stuttering
Stuttering
Stuttering , also known as stammering , is a speech disorder in which the flow of speech is disrupted by involuntary repetitions and prolongations of sounds, syllables, words or phrases, and involuntary silent pauses or blocks in which the stutterer is unable to produce sounds...

, shyness
Shyness
In humans, shyness is a social psychology term used to describe the feeling of apprehension, lack of comfort, or awkwardness experienced when a person is in proximity to, approaching, or being approached by other people, especially in new situations or with unfamiliar people...

, confusion predominate at the behavioral level. There may be sickness, headaches, etc.
Illness
Illness is a state of poor health. Illness is sometimes considered another word for disease. Others maintain that fine distinctions exist...

, and loss of appetite
Anorexia (symptom)
Anorexia is the decreased sensation of appetite...

, dizziness
Dizziness
Dizziness refers to an impairment in spatial perception and stability. The term is somewhat imprecise. It can be used to mean vertigo, presyncope, disequilibrium, or a non-specific feeling such as giddiness or foolishness....

 and passing out
Syncope (medicine)
Syncope , the medical term for fainting, is precisely defined as a transient loss of consciousness and postural tone characterized by rapid onset, short duration, and spontaneous recovery due to global cerebral hypoperfusion that most often results from hypotension.Many forms of syncope are...

: the latter very rarely happens, but can take place when the person is deeply in love with the limerent object.

There is apprehension, nervousness, and anxiety
Anxiety
Anxiety is a psychological and physiological state characterized by somatic, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral components. The root meaning of the word anxiety is 'to vex or trouble'; in either presence or absence of psychological stress, anxiety can create feelings of fear, worry, uneasiness,...

 due to terrible worry that any action may bring about disaster. Many of the commonly associated physiological reactions are the result of the limerent fear. Some people however may find that these effects come most strongly either immediately at or some time after contact with the object of limerence, and this is accompanied with an acute feeling of ecstasy or despair, depending on the turn of events beforehand.

The super-sensitivity that is heightened by fear of rejection can get in the way of interpreting the limerent object's body language and lead to inaction and wasted opportunities. Body signals may be emitted that confuse and interfere with attaining the limerent object.

A condition of sustained alertness, a heightening of awareness and an enormous fund of energy to deploy in pursuit of the limerent aim is developed. The sensation of limerence is felt in the midpoint of the chest, bottom of the throat, guts, or in some cases in the abdominal region. This can be interpreted as ecstasy at times of mutuality, but its presence is most noticeable during despair at times of rejection
Broken heart
A broken heart is a common metaphor used to describe the intense emotional pain or suffering one feels after losing a loved one, whether through death, divorce, breakup, physical separation or romantic rejection....

.

Sexuality


Awareness of physical attraction plays a key role in the development of limerence, but is not enough to satisfy the limerent desire, and is almost never the main focus—instead, the limerent focuses on what could be defined as the "beneficial attributes". Nevertheless Tennov stresses that 'the most consistent result of limerence is mating, not merely sexual interaction but also commitment'.

Limerence can be intensified after a sexual relationship has begun, and with more intense limerence there is greater desire for sexual contact. However, while sexual surrender once indicated the end of uncertainty in the limerent object, in modern times this is not necessarily the case.

Sexual fantasies
Sexual fantasy
A sexual fantasy, also called an erotic fantasy, is a fantasy or pattern of thoughts with the effect of creating or enhancing sexual feelings; in short, it is "almost any mental imagery that is sexually arousing or erotic to [an] individual"...

 are distinct from limerent ones. Limerent fantasy is rooted in reality and is intrusive rather than voluntary. Sexual fantasies are under more or less voluntary control and may also involve strangers, imaginary individuals, and situations that could not take place. Limerence elevates body temperature and increases relaxation, a sensation of viewing the world with rose-tinted glasses, becoming more receptive to sexuality, and daydreaming about how good a lover your co-worker or a stranger on the bus might be.

People can become aroused by the thought of sexual partners, acts, and situations that are not truly desired, whereas every detail of the limerent fantasy is passionately desired actually to take place. Limerence sometimes increases sexual interest in other partners when the limerent object is unreceptive or unavailable.

Limerent reaction


The limerent reaction is a composite reaction; that is, it actually describes a unique series of reactions. These reactions occur only where misperceptions meet adversity in the context of a romance. Perhaps because of this unique specificity, limerent reactions can be uniquely quantified and predicted according to the schema described below.

Involvement increases if obstacles are externally imposed or if the limerent object’s feelings are doubted. Only if the limerent object were to be revealed as highly undesirable might limerence subside. The presence of some degree of doubt causes the intensity of the feelings to rise further. The stage is reached at which the reaction is virtually impossible to dislodge. This adversity may be superficial or deep, internal or external, so that an individual may generate deep adversity where none exists. Also "romance," as it were, need not be present in any genuine way for a limerent reaction to proceed.

The course of limerence results in a more intrusive thinking pattern. This thinking pattern is an expectant and often joyous period with the initial focusing on the limerent object’s admirable qualities; crystallization
Crystallization (love)
Crystallization is a concept, developed in 1822 by the French writer Stendhal, which describes the process, or mental metamorphosis, in which unattractive characteristics of a new love are transformed into perceptual diamonds of shimmering beauty; according to a quotation by Stendhal: What I call...

. Then, under appropriate conditions of hope and uncertainty, the limerence intensifies further.

With evidence of reciprocation (real or imagined) from the limerent object, a state of extreme pleasure, even euphoria, is enjoyed. Thoughts are mainly occupied with considering and reconsidering what is attractive in the limerent object, replaying whatever events may have thus far transpired with the limerent object, and appreciating personal qualities perceived as possibly having sparked interest in the limerent object. At peak crystallization, almost all waking thoughts revolve around the limerent object. After this peak, the feelings eventually decline.

Fantasies are preferred to virtually any other activity with the exception of activities that are believed to help obtain the limerent object, and activities that involve actually being in the presence of the limerent object. The motivation to attain a "relationship" continues to intensify so long as a proper mix of hope and uncertainty exist.

Tennov estimates, based on both questionnaire and interview data, that the average limerent reaction duration, from the moment of initiation until a feeling of neutrality is reached, is approximately three years. The extremes may be as brief as a few weeks or as long as several decades. When limerence is brief, maximum intensity may not have been attained. Others suggest that 'the biogenetic sourcing of limerence determines its limitation, ordinarily, to a two-year span', that limerence generally lasts between 18 months and three years; but further studies on unrequited limerence have suggested longer durations.

Bond varieties



Once the limerent reaction has initiated, one of three varieties of bonds may form, defined over a set duration of time, in relation to the experience or non-experience of limerence. The constitution of these bonds may vary over the course of the relationship, in ways that may either increase or decrease the intensity of the limerence.

The basis and interesting characteristic of this delineation made by Tennov, is that based on her research and interviews with people, all human bonded relationships can be divided into three varieties being defined by the amount of limerence or non-limerence each partner contributes to the relationship.

With an affectional bond, neither partner is limerent. With a Limerent-Nonlimerent bond, one partner is limerent. In a Limerent-Limerent bond, both partners are limerent.

Affectional bonding characterize those affectionate sexual relationships where neither partner is limerent; couples tend to be in love, but do not report continuous and unwanted intrusive thinking, feeling intense need for exclusivity, or define their goals in terms of reciprocity. These types of bonded couples tend to emphasize compatibility of interests, mutual preferences in leisure activities, ability to work together, and in some cases a degree of relative contentment.

The bulk of relationships, however, according to Tennov, are those between a limerent person and a nonlimerent other, i.e. limerent-nonlimerent bonding. These bonds are characterized by unequal reciprocation.

Lastly, those relationship bonds in which there exists mutual reciprocation are defined as limerent-limerent bondings. Tennov argues since limerence itself is an "unstable state" that mutually limerent bonds would be expected to be short-lived; mixed relationships probably last longer than limerent-limerent relationships. Some limerant-limerant relationships evolve into affectional bondings over time as limerance declines and such couples are described by Tennov as "old marrieds" whose interactions are typically both stable and mutually gratifying.

Impact


Tennov's research has been continued by Albert Wakin, who knew Tennov at the University of Bridgeport but didn't assist in her research, and Duyen Vo, a graduate student of Southern Connecticut State University
Southern Connecticut State University
Southern Connecticut State University is one of four state universities in Connecticut, and is located in the West Rock neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut...

. Their goal is to refine the term so that it refers mostly to the negative pathological aspects of Limerence. The term "limerence" has been invoked in many popular media, including self-help books, popular magazines, and websites.

Still, according to a paper by Wakin and Vo, "In spite of the public’s exposure to limerence, the professional community, particularly clinical, is largely unaware of the concept." In 2008, they presented their updated research to the American Association of Behavioral and Social Sciences. Wakin and Vo reported that more research must be gathered before the condition is suited for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is published by the American Psychiatric Association and provides a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders...

. Other critics point out that 'her [Tennov] account is based on interviews rather than on direct observation', but conclude that 'despite its shortcomings, Tennov's work may constitute a basis for informed hypothesis formulation'.

David Brooks defines limerence as a potentially positive, unifying, transformative encounter with the divine, or oneness of mankind.

See also


  • Obsessive love
    Obsessive love
    Obsessive love is a state in which one person feels an overwhelming obsessive desire to possess another person toward whom they feel a strong sexual attraction, with an inability to accept failure or rejection...

  • New relationship energy
    New relationship energy
    New relationship energy is a state of mind experienced at the beginning of most significant sexual and romantic relationships, typically involving heightened emotional and sexual receptivity and excitement. It begins with the earliest attractions, grows into full force when mutuality is...

  • Sex and love addiction
    Sex and love addiction
    Sex and love addiction is a condition that, like many other addictive conditions, leads to the subject's repetition of specific thought or behavior patterns against the previously established intentions of the subject....

  • Infatuation
    Infatuation
    Infatuation is the state of being completely carried away by unreasoned passion or love: 'expresses the headlong libidinal attraction' of addictive love...

  • Friend zone
    Friend zone
    The friend zone, or occasionally friendship zone, is a dating term describing a relation in which one partner wants to become intimate romantically while the other prefers to be just friends. It is generally regarded as not a positive development, particularly for a man...

  • Love-shyness
    Love-shyness
    - The Definition Of Love-shyness:Love-shyness is a specific type of severe chronic shyness that impairs or prevents intimate relationships. It implies a degree of inhibition and reticence with potential partners that is sufficiently severe to preclude participation in courtship, marriage and family...

  • Involuntary celibacy
    Involuntary celibacy
    Involuntary celibacy is the absence in human sexuality of intimate relationships or sexual intercourse for reasons other than voluntary celibacy, asexuality, antisexualism, or sexual abstinence...

  • Unrequited love
    Unrequited love
    Unrequited love is love that is not openly reciprocated or understood as such, even though reciprocation is usually deeply desired. The beloved may or may not be aware of the admirer's deep affections...

  • Erotomania
    Erotomania
    Erotomania is a type of delusion in which the affected person believes that another person, usually a stranger or famous person, is in love with him or her. The illness often occurs during psychosis, especially in patients with schizophrenia or bipolar mania...


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