Love vs. Limerence
I can’t remember a time in life when I haven’t had romantic crushes. Little girls grow up with Disney — the “perfect” ideal of romance is fed to us from a young age. Like many girls I had crushes on various actors and musicians growing up.
I believed that every crush in my young life had deep meaning. As I grew up I didn't question that it was my normal to have a handful of crushes at all times. And to be fair some crushes are a natural part of the human desire for love and connection.
But my crushes often felt a bit “extra” in their intensity and duration. This continued on in high school, and into college, where both real and imagined romantic foibles overwhelmed me to the point of psychic exhaustion. I believe they were at least partly responsible for me taking a year off after my sophomore year.
By the age of twenty I felt emotionally drained by my endless pursuit of love, and my seeming inability to maintain any kind of normal relationship for long.
I didn’t question the number of guys who I had dated who immediately became unappealing the minute they became interested in me. In my heart, I always preferred the fantasy of love and dating to the reality. The only guys who lived up to my dreams were always the ones who broke my heart in some way.
I was, I now believe, repeating a pattern of compulsive, addictive behavior known as limerence for most of my young life.
It turns out that many people who have experienced childhood trauma as I have develop these unhealthy patterns around romance (shocker, it always comes back to ye olde gaping wound of trauma).
Limerence is a mental state of profound romantic infatuation, deep obsession, and fantastical longing. The experience can range from euphoria to despair. “Limerence is a term that was coined by [psychologist] Dorothy Tennov in the ‘70s,” relationship therapist Eliza Boquin, LMFT, tells mbg. “It refers to the exciting feelings you get when you first meet someone. During this time we often just want more of that person — more time, more affection, etc. It’s an intense emotional arousal that leaves us craving for another person. Often people refer to this feeling as love at first sight.”