How to Move Through Limerence
Limerence, a term coined by Dr. Dorothy Tennov, is, “an involuntary interpersonal state that involves an acute longing for emotional reciprocation, obsessive-compulsive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and emotional dependence on another person.”
What is Limerence
Limerence is a term coined by Dr. Dorothy Tennov in her 1979 book entitled Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love. In her words, “Limerence is an involuntary interpersonal state that involves an acute longing for emotional reciprocation, obsessive-compulsive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and emotional dependence on another person.”
Though you might not know the term, you would undoubtedly recognize limerence if you saw it. There are examples of limerence from tales of all ages like Romeo and Juliet, or more contemporarily, Bella Swan and Edward Cullen.
When unrequited, limerence can be agonizing. Since my first instagram post on the subject, I’ve received dozens of messages with heartbreaking tales of the pain of unrequited limerence and questions about how to move beyond it.There are many articles about practical steps to take to help overcome limerence, like:
Remove all contact.
Create physical, emotional, and social distance.
Occupy yourself with new ideas, hobbies, experiences, and even people.
Instead, this post is specifically about the mentality required to move on.
If limerence is a fire, uncertainty is the oxygen, hope is the tinder, and rumination is the fuel.
Even if the Limerence Object (LO), or the person who is the “object” of limerence, hasn’t shown any sign of interest, some will grasp on to the potential of reciprocation until the LO explicitly voices their disinterest. This is problematic for many reasons. At worst, this mindset can lead to damaging and illegal actions like stalking or harassment. More often, people clutching this uncertainty will sustain painful limerence that may prevent them from knowing contentment. They may hypothesize fantastical explanations for their LO’s lack of attention. In this case, it helps ask what evidence is needed to feel certain affections are unreturned. This could involve a direct disclosure of feelings and a request for the LO’s response. There’s no guarantee of receiving a reply, but in almost every case, no answer is an answer in and of itself.
Holding Out Hope
Even if someone is convinced their affections are unrequited, letting go can feel like the equivalent of forever closing the door on any possible future with the LO. Many are not ready to sever that tie. They seek refuge in the thought, “Even if [the LO] doesn’t love me today, they might one day.” People in limerence believe, by holding on to hope, when the day arrives that the LO has a change of heart, not only will they be ready, they will beam with pride in knowing, “I never gave up hope.” As long as there is hope for a potential future with the LO, limerence is sure to linger.
Though unwanted limerence is painful for obvious reasons, it does have its upsides. We can become mentally addicted to the memories of past moments with the LO or fantasies of a possible future reunion, as these thoughts may pack a potent dopamine punch. Every indulgence in these thoughts serves to crystallize limerence neural pathways, which only makes escaping more challenging. People in limerence return to LO rumination like rats returning to a heroin-laced water drip. It is an addiction. Getting over limerence must include recovering from the addiction to these delightful self-induced dopanine hits.
If you want to move beyond limerence, if you’re ready to start feeling normal again, start by asking yourself these questions:
Are you ready to let go of your LO and any potential future with them? Unless the answer to this is “Yes”, you’re unlikely to progress because the root of limerent suffering is an attachment to someone who is unavailable. Being ready and willing to let go of your LO is the necessary first step to moving on.
How would getting over your limerence improve your life? In what ways has it been detrimental thus far? Why is this change important to you? These answers will fortify you on your journey, particularly in moments of relapse.
Do you criticize yourself for feeling limerent for so long? Are you ashamed of who your limerence is directed at? Are you discouraged by your inability to overcome limerence until now? Any form of negative self-talk only works against your efforts. Gently remind yourself that you are not alone. Limerence is a near universal human experience. To have the capacity to feel so strongly for someone is not a weakness; it is a strength. The issue is NOT your emotional force, but whom you’ve directed it towards.
What support can you enlist to help you break your limerent addiction? Can you seek coaching or counseling? Do you have trusted family, friends, or mentors you can lean on to help you process your feelings? Are there any resources you can gather to educate yourself? Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love is an excellent starting point.
What new purpose or meaning can you channel your residual limerent energy into? What cause can you get involved in? What hobby or skill do you want to pick up? What relationships can you rekindle?
If coaching is something you’re interested in enlisting as part of your support structure, consider booking a free intro session today!
I wish you the best of luck on your recovery journey. Better days are ahead. :)