in Intimate Relationships by

What is Limerence?

Is limerence love or is it infatuation?

Limerence is a term to describe the fabulous feelings most of us experience in the early stages of a romantic relationship. It is a temporary phase marked by physical, intellectual and emotional changes. We can’t eat, we can’t sleep, we stay up all night talking, yet we feel full of energy the next day.

Many people lose weight at this time. We feel euphoric and are convinced no one else has ever felt the way we do. Emotionally our feet just don’t touch the ground.

what is limerenceWe experience an “urge to merge”. Out interest is completely focused on our loved one.

We forget important tasks, ignore our friends and families, and neglect our work or studies.

When we are not in the company of our beloved, we spend most of our time daydreaming about them.

We can’t wait to see them and spend hours on the phone when we’re apart. We hang off their every word and think they are the best thing since sliced bread.

Limerence is an artificial state of euphoria created when we show only the best side of ourselves to our partners and they do the same to us.

Nasty habits or difficult feelings are hidden away or if they do arise, they are dismissed as quaint or idiosyncratic. Even behaviour that would normally offend or annoy us is passed over in the rosy glow of limerence.

If our beloved arrives late, or forgets an arrangement, they are adorably muddle-headed. We think all their jokes are funny, and the way they leave their clothes lying about the bedroom is passed off as bohemian.

However, limerence is a time-limited experience. Twelve to 18 months down the track, things have changed

– we get furious when our partner turns up late, and we complain about the mess they leave in the bedroom. Limerence has begun to fade.

In our society, this altered state is regarded as love. Limerence is NOT love, it is infatuation. The “high” of limerence is due to arousing brain chemicals which are released when we meet someone we are attracted to. These neurotransmitters include:

  • Acetylcholine – produces a feeling of excitement, a rush similar to that produced by amphetamines
  • Dopamine – induces a feeling of wellbeing
  • Noradrenaline – induces feelings of pleasure, of conquering the world, contentment joy and love
  • Phenylethylamine – creates heightened excitement
  • Serotonin – maintains a generalised feeling of emotional security

The swirling chemical high of limerence is a little trick played by Mother Nature on human beings to get them together for the purposes of, you guessed it, reproduction!

Limerence is a wonderful experience, but the passionate feelings we experience are not an indication that this is a lasting relationship or even a functional or fulfilling one. Even the most unhappy marriages and love affairs start out with both partners feeling limerent and over the moon.

As mentioned before, many people believe that limerence is love. They are happy in each new relationship until limerence starts to fade, then they move on to re-create it in a new relationship. And so on. These people become limerence addicts, moving from partner to partner looking for permanent limerence and blaming their partners for the fact that romantic bliss and sexual ecstasy do not persist for more than a few months.

The good news is that real love can only start when limerence begins to fade, when we stop hiding from our partners and start to bring our real selves into the relationship.

The emotional function of limerence is to keep two people together so they can learn to truly fall in love.

Limerence is not love, but hopefully it can lead to love, where we are rewarded with nature’s softer chemicals – the endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s opiates, our natural source of morphine – they induce a relaxed, comfortable feeling of well being. The romantic but transitory high of limerence mellows into something deeper and much more sustainable in a long-term relationship. Have you experienced the fading of limerence in your relationship and wondered if you are no longer in love?

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