What is love to you? When you think of love, what do you think of? What feelings come up for you?
When I think of “love”, I think of…teamwork, similar values, soul recognition, wanting to support each other’s growth in this lifetime, affection, respect, care, equality.
When I think of limerence – I think of pain, one-sided interest, fantasies and emotional unavailability.
Both are…very different types of emotional states and occupy very different energies too. I’ve spoken about the differences amongst crushes, infatuation, like and love. They may all feel the same, and yes there may be some form of overlap amongst all of them, but love and limerence are literal opposite ends of the world.
#1 Love is sacrifical, Limerence is selfish
Love – and I’m talking about healthy love here, not the toxic/unhealthy/co-dependent ones that characterises a lot of relationships out there. True love is pretty sacrifical in many ways – you make space for someone in your love, you do things you may not totally like but do it because someone you love loves it, you see how you can meet your partner’s needs, you compromise.
Limerence? It’s all about me me me. How do I feel today? Is my limerent object (LO) interested in me? How can I get him to smile at me? How can I engineer an interaction? It has got nothing to do with building a deep connection with someone or genuinely getting to know them and letting feelings grow organically.
Are you still limerent for someone? Find out in the quiz below!
#2 Love is taking joy in someone else’s joy, Limerence is only concerned with your own joy
Similar to the above, and also what divorce attorney James Sexton talks about in this amazing video (please watch it!), alot of healthy relationships have people who do the little things to make their partners happy. It could be as small as getting your partner’s fav granola, taking out the trash cause they don’t enjoy it, writing notes to them to let them know how you feel about them…love dies when happiness becomes transactional.
Limerence is all about how happy I’m feeling right now because of what my LO did just now. He smiled at me? Exhilarated! He noticed me? Over the moon! Your feelings are centred completely around what your LO is doing and how that is making you feel.
#3 Love is about reality and seeing the person for who they are, Limerence is based in fantasy
Love has its ups and downs. Your partner has flaws which you know of, they leave the toilet seat up instead of down, they never screw the lid back on the peanut butter jar, they are sometimes not on time, they snore, they are sometimes so stubborn and annoying you just feel soooo irritated talking to them.
But, at the end of the day the good outweighs the bad and you can’t imagine spending your life with someone else.
Limerence has nothing much to do with reality because it exists solely in your head and is based off whatever fantasy you’ve concocted of your LO. Many limerents do not actually see the full picture of their LOs and cherry pick what they want to see. Many limerents also do not know their LOs well and sometimes even when given evidence that their LOs are not good people – refuse to believe in them.
#4 Love has little obsession, Limerence is an addictive obsession
Again, healthy love has very little obsession involved. There’s little to be obsessed over when you know your partner’s good and bad sides well. You see them for who they are.
Obsession is usually a sign that we don’t really know the person we are obsessed over. So your brain fills in those gaps by providing you with certain images and information that make the person seem like a dream come true. You then obsess over this fantasy image of the person, triggering dopamine spikes which reinforces the addiction.
It’s the same neural mechanism that social media addicts, drug and alcohol addicts have. I talk more about this in my book.
#5 Love is about being available and vulnerable, Limerence is rooted in emotional unavailability
In order to experience emotional intimacy with someone, you’ve got to show up wanting to connect, be honest and trusting and vulnerable. All ingredients for a healthy love.
Limerence though? The very existence of it stems from emotional unavailability. Obsessing about your LO from a distance is safe. You can’t face real rejection in limerence because.. you’ve already been rejected in a sense. You don’t have to experience the vulnerability and intimacy in a relationship and the potential challenges that can come with it because you aren’t even in a relationship with the person.
Many people who have experience limerence tend to struggle with emotions and intimacy in general. This usually stems from childhood – where caregivers were not stable/predictable/nurtured your emotional needs, were neglectful, abandoned you or were abusive in some way. Trauma can also wound how we connect with ourselves and with others.