ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Feeling ‘Crazy in Love’? It Might Not Be Love, but Limerence

Let's deep dive into 'limerence' - an intense, all-consuming infatuation that mirrors love but isn't quite the same.

Published
Fit
5 min read
story-hero-img
i
Aa
Aa
Small
Aa
Medium
Aa
Large
Hindi Female

Remember Tara, from Tamasha (starring Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor in lead roles), fixated on the carefree and spontaneous Ved she meets in Corsica? She confesses, "It's been four years since we last met. But it still feels the same — I don't know what it is. I thought about love and all but then felt how stupid I am... Whenever I meet you it's just... (stops speaking)"

Or try recalling Geet from Jab We Met, who overlooked all the glaring red flags to paint a rosy picture of her relationship with Anshuman, unaware of its initial one-sidedness.

And then there's Joe Goldberg from You – the American psychological thriller TV series – where every woman he "loves" is just a figment of his imagination, his obsession consuming him even before truly knowing them.

Now, you might wonder, what connects these three fictional characters?

Well, if you look closely, you'll find that each of these characters yearns for something unattainable — a fixation on an idealised version of love that may not exist.

They pursue their love interests, fueled by passion yet tinged with a hint of delusion, leaving us to question the true nature of their affection.

To delve deeper into understanding this romantic obsession intertwined with fantasy and delusion, FIT reached out to experts.

Feeling ‘Crazy in Love’? It Might Not Be Love, but Limerence

  1. 1. What Is Limerence? How Does It Differ From Healthy Romantic Attraction?

    According to a US-based psychologist and published researcher Tanya Percy Vasunia, "Limerence is characterised as an intense state of infatuation or obsession, often described as extreme and all-consuming."

    "While both can be powerful, limerence involves extreme fixation, akin to wearing blinders, whereas healthy love empowers and allows for a more balanced perspective. The inability to see beyond the person and an obsessive focus on their perceived perfection define limerence."
    Tanya Percy Vasunia

    Elaborating on this, Shahzeen Shivdasani, a relationship expert and author of Love, Lust and Lemons, says that limerence can be best likened to experiencing love at first sight.

    "Limerence is an intense emotional state that leaves you craving for the other person. The feelings are akin to those exciting emotions you wallow in when you meet someone for the first time. Essentially, it's a strong attraction where you end up falling for a perfected image of who they could be."
    Shahzeen Shivdasani

    According to Shivdasani, people dealing with limerence may prioritise the object of their affection above everything else, even sometimes at the expense of their own well-being and other commitments.

    "Such hyper-focus on one person can lead one to take impulsive actions to secure the object of their attraction," she adds.

    Expand
  2. 2. Understanding the Three Stages of Limerence

    While limerence may initially resemble falling in love, Vasunia explains that it follows a distinct trajectory with three stages: infatuation, crystallisation, and deterioration.

    The initial stage of infatuation is marked by an overwhelming attraction towards another person.

    Their unattainability adds allure, fueling an insatiable longing.

    During this phase, the individual becomes consumed by thoughts of the object of their affection, finding them irresistibly intriguing.

    As the infatuation intensifies, it transitions into the second stage:

    crystallisation. Here, the person begins to idealise the object of their infatuation and places them on pedestal, perceiving them as flawless and capable of fulfilling all desires.

    However, when fantasy eventually dashes against reality, it leads to the third stage:

    deterioration. The individual is confronted with the stark contrast between their love interest's idealised image and the actual person they are. As expectations remain unmet, disappointment ensues, leading to a grieving process for the loss of the fantasy.

    "It is thus worth noting that, unlike limerence, love encompasses a combination of behaviours, congnitions and emotions that permits recognition of imperfections and nuances in the beloved, fostering a holistic perspective rather than an idealised one-dimensional perception."
    Tanya Percy Vasunia, psychologist

    She goes on to explains, "Limerence, at its core, is a rollercoaster of emotions that can leave individuals feeling dissonant about their feelings towards someone. This intensity can be so overpowering that it masks any doubts or concerns, both for themselves and those around them."

    However, as time passes, the facade of limerence begins to fade, revealing the stark reality beneath.

    Expand
  3. 3. Why Do Some People Experience Limerence?

    Addressing the significance of attachment styles in the onset of limerence, Vasunia explains that attachment theory helps understand how individuals form emotional bonds and relate to others based on childhood experiences.

    It primarily sorts people into secure, avoidant, anxious, or disorganized types. For example, an anxious person due to their fear of abandonment may struggle to disengage, even when the relationship lacks reciprocity.

    Additionally, there's a growing recognition of inner child work as a significant aspect of understanding limerence.

    Inner child work involves exploring one's early relationships, particularly with caregivers, and how they shape perceptions of safety, security, and intimacy.

    "Difficulties in forming secure attachments during childhood can predispose individuals to seeking validation and security elsewhere, often sought in idealised romantic partners—a hallmark of limerence—where they idealise their partners as saviours who can alleviate their inner turmoil and provide hope and solace amid tumultuous times."
    Tanya Percy Vasunia, psychologist

    Yet Vasunia emphasises, "Blaming parents for attachment difficulties oversimplifies complex dynamics. Instead, it's about acknowledging the interplay between early experiences, individual processing of those specific events, and personal coping mechanisms."

    Expand
  4. 4. Can Limerence Manifest as a Trauma Response?

    Beyond attachment styles and the influence of early relationships, according to Vasunia, limerence, in some cases, can stem from trauma and function as a response to it.

    Individuals predisposed to mental health concerns like OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) or unhealthy attachments may be more vulnerable to experiencing limerence.

    A 2015 study, Exploring the Lived-Experience of Limerence: A Journey toward Authenticity, conducted by researchers Lynn Willmott and Evie Bentley also linked limerence with conditions such as anxiety, depression, and substance use.

    However, Tanya cautions that trauma should be understood within its heavy context, encompassing emotionally jarring events with physical manifestations.

    "In cases of profound trauma, where individuals struggle to move past the event, there is a tendency to romanticise or idealise the situation as a coping mechanism," she adds.

    "Individuals may convince themselves that the traumatic experience was positive or that things will eventually be fine, even if the reality is far from perfect, contributing to the development of limerence."
    Tanya Percy Vasunia

    Furthermore, limerence can also arise following tumultuous experiences in previous relationships.

    For instance, if someone has endured a particularly damaging relationship, they might seek solace in a subsequent relationship, perceiving it as a perfect antidote to their prior trauma. However, this perception may be flawed, leading to a recurrence of limerence.

    While limerence occurring as a response to trauma is possible, it's not universal, and individual predispositions play a significant role.

    "Seeking therapy or mental health support is advisable for those experiencing patterns of limerence tied to trauma or challenging experiences," advises Tanya.

    Expand
  5. 5. Can Limerence Fade With Time?

    While the intensity of limerence may diminish over time, its underlying patterns often persist, leading individuals to repeat similar emotional cycles with new objects of affection.

    To address limerence without therapy, Vasunia suggests starting with first-order changes that can help regulate brain chemistry and mitigate the intensity of limerent feelings.

    • Get support from trusted individuals

    • Stick to routines

    • Journaling

    • Find other healthy distractions

    • Stay physically active

    • Focus on your overall well-being

    However, second-order changes involves delving into attachment styles, and object relations, and addressing underlying psychological predispositions, and might need professional intervention.

    Additionally, relationship expert Shahzeen Shivdasini emphasises the need for intentional effort to manage and overcome limerence.

    She underscores the importance of setting boundaries, stating that difficulty in maintaining healthy boundaries can lead to unhealthy codependency on one's partner.

    She adds,

    "For those awaiting reciprocation of their affection, consider shifting your focus to what you can control. Idealising something you don't or can't have may only exacerbate negative feelings. Instead, try cultivating passions and focusing on your other interests in life."
    Shahzeen Shivdasini

    While cultural narratives often glorify all-consuming love, according to experts, healthy love should be empowering, not debilitating like limerence.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What Is Limerence? How Does It Differ From Healthy Romantic Attraction?

According to a US-based psychologist and published researcher Tanya Percy Vasunia, "Limerence is characterised as an intense state of infatuation or obsession, often described as extreme and all-consuming."

"While both can be powerful, limerence involves extreme fixation, akin to wearing blinders, whereas healthy love empowers and allows for a more balanced perspective. The inability to see beyond the person and an obsessive focus on their perceived perfection define limerence."
Tanya Percy Vasunia

Elaborating on this, Shahzeen Shivdasani, a relationship expert and author of Love, Lust and Lemons, says that limerence can be best likened to experiencing love at first sight.

"Limerence is an intense emotional state that leaves you craving for the other person. The feelings are akin to those exciting emotions you wallow in when you meet someone for the first time. Essentially, it's a strong attraction where you end up falling for a perfected image of who they could be."
Shahzeen Shivdasani

According to Shivdasani, people dealing with limerence may prioritise the object of their affection above everything else, even sometimes at the expense of their own well-being and other commitments.

"Such hyper-focus on one person can lead one to take impulsive actions to secure the object of their attraction," she adds.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Understanding the Three Stages of Limerence

While limerence may initially resemble falling in love, Vasunia explains that it follows a distinct trajectory with three stages: infatuation, crystallisation, and deterioration.

The initial stage of infatuation is marked by an overwhelming attraction towards another person.

Their unattainability adds allure, fueling an insatiable longing.

During this phase, the individual becomes consumed by thoughts of the object of their affection, finding them irresistibly intriguing.

As the infatuation intensifies, it transitions into the second stage:

crystallisation. Here, the person begins to idealise the object of their infatuation and places them on pedestal, perceiving them as flawless and capable of fulfilling all desires.

However, when fantasy eventually dashes against reality, it leads to the third stage:

deterioration. The individual is confronted with the stark contrast between their love interest's idealised image and the actual person they are. As expectations remain unmet, disappointment ensues, leading to a grieving process for the loss of the fantasy.

"It is thus worth noting that, unlike limerence, love encompasses a combination of behaviours, congnitions and emotions that permits recognition of imperfections and nuances in the beloved, fostering a holistic perspective rather than an idealised one-dimensional perception."
Tanya Percy Vasunia, psychologist

She goes on to explains, "Limerence, at its core, is a rollercoaster of emotions that can leave individuals feeling dissonant about their feelings towards someone. This intensity can be so overpowering that it masks any doubts or concerns, both for themselves and those around them."

However, as time passes, the facade of limerence begins to fade, revealing the stark reality beneath.

0

Why Do Some People Experience Limerence?

Addressing the significance of attachment styles in the onset of limerence, Vasunia explains that attachment theory helps understand how individuals form emotional bonds and relate to others based on childhood experiences.

It primarily sorts people into secure, avoidant, anxious, or disorganized types. For example, an anxious person due to their fear of abandonment may struggle to disengage, even when the relationship lacks reciprocity.

Additionally, there's a growing recognition of inner child work as a significant aspect of understanding limerence.

Inner child work involves exploring one's early relationships, particularly with caregivers, and how they shape perceptions of safety, security, and intimacy.

"Difficulties in forming secure attachments during childhood can predispose individuals to seeking validation and security elsewhere, often sought in idealised romantic partners—a hallmark of limerence—where they idealise their partners as saviours who can alleviate their inner turmoil and provide hope and solace amid tumultuous times."
Tanya Percy Vasunia, psychologist

Yet Vasunia emphasises, "Blaming parents for attachment difficulties oversimplifies complex dynamics. Instead, it's about acknowledging the interplay between early experiences, individual processing of those specific events, and personal coping mechanisms."

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Can Limerence Manifest as a Trauma Response?

Beyond attachment styles and the influence of early relationships, according to Vasunia, limerence, in some cases, can stem from trauma and function as a response to it.

Individuals predisposed to mental health concerns like OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) or unhealthy attachments may be more vulnerable to experiencing limerence.

A 2015 study, Exploring the Lived-Experience of Limerence: A Journey toward Authenticity, conducted by researchers Lynn Willmott and Evie Bentley also linked limerence with conditions such as anxiety, depression, and substance use.

However, Tanya cautions that trauma should be understood within its heavy context, encompassing emotionally jarring events with physical manifestations.

"In cases of profound trauma, where individuals struggle to move past the event, there is a tendency to romanticise or idealise the situation as a coping mechanism," she adds.

"Individuals may convince themselves that the traumatic experience was positive or that things will eventually be fine, even if the reality is far from perfect, contributing to the development of limerence."
Tanya Percy Vasunia

Furthermore, limerence can also arise following tumultuous experiences in previous relationships.

For instance, if someone has endured a particularly damaging relationship, they might seek solace in a subsequent relationship, perceiving it as a perfect antidote to their prior trauma. However, this perception may be flawed, leading to a recurrence of limerence.

While limerence occurring as a response to trauma is possible, it's not universal, and individual predispositions play a significant role.

"Seeking therapy or mental health support is advisable for those experiencing patterns of limerence tied to trauma or challenging experiences," advises Tanya.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Can Limerence Fade With Time?

While the intensity of limerence may diminish over time, its underlying patterns often persist, leading individuals to repeat similar emotional cycles with new objects of affection.

To address limerence without therapy, Vasunia suggests starting with first-order changes that can help regulate brain chemistry and mitigate the intensity of limerent feelings.

  • Get support from trusted individuals

  • Stick to routines

  • Journaling

  • Find other healthy distractions

  • Stay physically active

  • Focus on your overall well-being

However, second-order changes involves delving into attachment styles, and object relations, and addressing underlying psychological predispositions, and might need professional intervention.

Additionally, relationship expert Shahzeen Shivdasini emphasises the need for intentional effort to manage and overcome limerence.

She underscores the importance of setting boundaries, stating that difficulty in maintaining healthy boundaries can lead to unhealthy codependency on one's partner.

She adds,

"For those awaiting reciprocation of their affection, consider shifting your focus to what you can control. Idealising something you don't or can't have may only exacerbate negative feelings. Instead, try cultivating passions and focusing on your other interests in life."
Shahzeen Shivdasini

While cultural narratives often glorify all-consuming love, according to experts, healthy love should be empowering, not debilitating like limerence.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from fit

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More
×
×