What Is Limerence (Being Madly In Love) And How To Confront It

Last updated on : January 22 2020

Paint of Life - limerence and infatuation

What Is Limerence

When Dr. Tennov, an American psychologist, introduced the concept known as limerence in the 1970s, people mostly rejected it.

Today, anthropologists, biologists, and sociologists studying it know that there are ample qualitative and quantitative data to back up the claims.

Limerence is a state of being “madly in love” to the point that it becomes obsessive and affects the way a person feels, acts, and thinks. It is a powerful emotion. It can be beautiful, and it often is destructive.

Limerence is fueled in large part by the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is known as the “feel-good” chemical. When you do something that your brain wants to reward you for, it produces dopamine at a higher level than usual.

One everyday action that earns a reward from your brain is scratching an itch. When you do that, the relief that you feel is dopamine inspired. If you eat sugar, your mind rewards you for that as well.

When you have sex, your brain pays you with very high levels of dopamine.

Additionally, many of the drugs that people become addicted to will release large amounts of dopamine into the bloodstream. This release fuels the addition.

Your brain trains you during your life to seek these dopamine rewards. And during a limerent relationship rewards you with massive levels of dopamine.

Studies On Limerence

Dr. Helen Fisher conducted critical limerence research through fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) tests on participants who claimed to be “madly in love.”

While scanning participant's brains, assistants showed them random pictures as a baseline. There was no unusual brain activity.

However, when shown a picture of the person they were in love with, the brain brightly lit up in all the right places suggestive of extremely high dopamine production.

Is Limerance Good Or Bad? 

Limerence itself is not bad at all.

When two single people develop this for each other, it helps create a relationship that could potentially lead to marriage or at least to a higher level of intimacy.

From the shell of limerence, more important traits of a healthy relationship can develop, such as intimacy, friendship, commitment, admiration, a feeling of family, and deep sexual affection.

However, the limerence discussed in this article is not referring to being madly in love with a spouse but rather madly in love with a lover.

Limerence during an affair can be of an emotional or sexual nature or both simultaneously.

Falling Into Limerance

Why might one fall into limerence with someone other than their spouse?

- Someone may have had bad past experiences and, in reaction, may have a sense of abandonment, causing them to be very needy and always in search of love, admiration, or validation.

- Certain people are more vulnerable to limerence.

- A man or woman might begin to grow a special relationship with a coworker, gym partner, or even friend’s spouse; this could lead to something more, especially if they are feeling cared for emotionally and perhaps physically and that if that is not happening at home. When there is an interchange of communication, sharing feelings and emotions, and of physical touch, strong feelings will likely occur.

When you start spending time with someone you are attracted to, in any way, you are setting your marriage up to fail.

You know what you are doing, and you are opening yourself up to temptation.

People who leave their spouse because they are in limerence with someone else need to realize that it is highly unlikely, based on statistics, that they will end up with their lover forever. That is because limerence is temporary.

To learn about limerence in-depth, or to be able to decide if you or your spouse is in limerence, I've listed below the three stages of limerence and the characteristics of being in limerence.

The Three Stages of Limerence

Scenario: You are having a sexual and emotional limerent affair with a coworker.

Infatuation Stage

Feelings for your coworker go up and down—you may even be second-guessing yourself while wondering if the emotions you have are real or not. As the infatuation grows, you begin wanting to see this person very often, even outside of work, and think of nothing else. You may start hiding your interactions with them and making up excuses with your spouse as to why you are not home as often.

At that point—you have already crossed a boundary in your marriage. Eventually, the infatuation gets out of hand, and your behaviors begin to be sneaky and secretive.

Crystallization Stage

In this stage, you try to diminish or enhance certain aspects of your limerence relationship. The negatives about the limerent object (your coworker and lover)  become invisible, known as ‘the halo effect.’ Euphoria and misery can occur as well as intrusive thinking and emotional dependency. You may try to vilify your spouse or try to rewrite history by telling your new lover untrue and harmful things about your spouse.

Deterioration Stage

Things begin to fall apart—you start to lose the halo effect and interest in this person. Things don’t seem as perfect any longer. The “honeymoon” is over.

Common Characteristics of Being in Limerence

1. The limerent (your spouse) sets the limerent object (the other man or woman) apart from the rest. Limerence can only work for one person at a time.

2. The ‘halo effect’— everything associated with that person becomes special.

3. The limerence life becomes crazy from a physical and emotional point of view. Those involved can experience euphoria, insomnia, mood swings, anxiety, or rapid heartbeats. These feelings are like being on an emotional rollercoaster; there can be an increase in dopamine (ecstasy chemical) and a decrease in serotonin (helps calm you down).

4. In times of adversity, the limerent can feel even more of an attraction to the limerent object. For example, if they both get caught together. Or adversity can jar them into waking up. The former is more common, unfortunately, because they realize how fragile their relationship is and cling even more tightly to it and each other.

5. The limerent may obsessively think about the limerent object up to 85% of the waking day, according to researchers; this is called intrusive thinking.

6. Emotional dependency can occur, including fear of rejection, possessiveness, jealousy, and separation anxiety.

7. The limerent feels a deep longing for an emotional connection and affirmation.

8. A powerful sense of empathy for the limerent object and willing to make sacrifices for them.

9. The limerent can reorder priorities, habits, or beliefs and values to try to become more attractive for the limerent object.

10. The limerent feels a strong desire for sex with the limerent object, which results in becoming possessive, and jealous of others.

11. The limerent wants an emotional connection much more strongly than the sexual relationship.

12. The limerent feels a loss of control in emotions and passion.

13. Limerence is not permanent and eventually subsides.

How Long Does Limerance Last

If you know someone in limerence, especially your spouse, keep in mind that the state of being in limerence is always temporary. Limerence can last anywhere from 3 to 48 months on average—based on research.

It has to end because the characteristics of limerence are just too extreme for someone to live in it for a lengthy amount of time.

Limerence is so intense it brings two strangers closer together with a strong need to spend time together. It results in an emotional experience that causes the two to learn more about each other - the facts, feelings, and dreams. 

How To Deal With Limerance In Your Partner Or Spouse?

If you plan to confront your spouse or give him or her an ultimatum, then know that trying to keep your spouse and his or her limerent object away from each other can leave you perceived as the enemy.

However, after waiting as long as you can stand it, and nothing has subsided, an intervention of sorts may be needed if you plan on staying with your spouse.

There is hope. You need to have patience and complete love for your spouse.

Don’t make the mistakes of begging, pleading, or tolerating mistreatment to try to win your spouse over from the other person. Those things will make you less attractive.

The strategy that I detail in my article here on The Kewl Blog, What To Do When He Pulls Away, is essential reading for you if your spouse is in limerence with someone. You can also refer to the advice on no contact

Lee Wilson is a relationship coach who helps people get their ex back after a breakup or to save their marriage during separation.

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