9.23.2013

Limerence -- Is It True Love?

Wow, I can't believe I'm going to talk about this in front of however many followers it is now.  Some of you I have known for a long time and come to love...but there will always be barriers when it comes to what I share online, and as most of you know up until recently I haven't shared, well, much of anything other than the spectacular fails and pathetic rants I've had about marriage. We'll leave all that for another day.  Let's talk about limerence.

I only heard the term recently and of course dug my psychology-loving nails into it.  Limerence is hard to define, but only if you haven't felt it.  I guess I'd call it more than infatuation; it's basically lovesickness.  Wikipedia defines it as an "involuntary state of mind resulting from romantic attraction."  Being in love, right? Except limerence is a very intense state of love, one so intense that it can affect you in pretty crazy ways, such as getting a dopamine boost whenever you see a photo of your love (or in psychology terms 'limerent object'.)  That's right, a drug release just from seeing a face.  Sound familiar to anyone?

 Here's the part I can't believe I'm sharing.

For many years now I've suffered from limerence (and yes, I use the term 'suffer' on purpose.  It's not fun to be lovesick.)  And it is with someone I've never even spoken about on this blog or elsewhere on the web.  Someone so secret, we will call him He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.  But since that's too long to type, we can call him Orlando, because Orlando Bloom is his doppelganger.  (I know how to pick them, don't I?)

Orlando and I started off innocently and then I fell off into infatuation.  We had a deep, wonderful friendship throughout the years and at some point he became my limerent object.  I was more pathetic than Ophelia after her father dies and she runs around the castle singing songs.  I was worse than Juliet right before she stabbed herself in the heart. I was bad you guys.  Just take a look at some symptoms: 

-obsessive thinking about the person
-irrationally positive evaluation of their attributes
-longing for reciprocation
-being unnaturally shy around the person
-heart palpitations, nervousness, sweating

In my limerence research there's plenty of evidence that limerence lays 'dormant' for periods and can come surging back after a period of months or even years. That's what happened in my case, too.  I let it lie, fell in love with someone else, moved on, and then the whole relationship was pretty crummy and Orlando and I started talking again.  And wouldn't you know it.  After years of nothing, the fires burned so ridiculously bright I was seeing stars and hearts out my eyes.  Pathetic, I'm telling you.  Totally pathetic.

But I knew it was love, that's the thing.  My god, I would have done anything for Orlando.  A tiny part of me almost still wants to.  I have never felt that feeling with anyone, before or since.  I guess it's not healthy to care that much about someone (or at least who you perceive someone to be, more on that in a minute) but it was something to paint paintings about and write songs about and have hope for....it was some otherworldly experience.  In case you're wondering, we did have romantic encounters, which is why the limerence stayed for so long.  We weren't such a great match in a lot of ways, but there was a lot of chemistry.  So of course that made my brain think yay! We are perfect for each other! Yeah, no.

 Shortly after the latest disappointment with Orlando, I ended up with Henri, aka the best person ever and the person who made me realize what real love actually is (hint: it's not obsessive Shakespearan-sonnet-quoting madness) and I ran across the term limerence and then learned all about it and realized a few things.  One thing limerent people tend to do is ignore reality and make up their own idea of who their 'Orlando' is, and it's often basically Jesus.  Like the best person you could ever imagine, a perfect human.  Even if you recognize their flaws, those flaws are perfect.  That's just what our brains do.  Add that to the hormones that you fire off upon seeing them, talking to them, hearing about them, or even thinking about them, and you've got an actual addiction to something that may or may not be very objectively real. 

This struck me as really sad.  I knew my love wasn't healthy, I knew it would never go anywhere, and I knew that I had been accentuating his good qualities for years but I thought all that was okay because I really did love him.  Love is a good thing to experience, yes, even when it doesn't work out.  Now I was not only faced with the fact that I didn't love this person, but that he wasn't even the person I'd made him out to be. This isn't his fault--if anyone's, it's mine--but just imagine that your husband or boyfriend or guy you're wanting to be with just slowly disintegrates right in front of you and it turns out that he was imaginary and you were making everything up and all the times you had great conversation and all the romantic and intimate moments were just your brain playing tricks on you.

It sucked.  And all this limerence information came to light only a few weeks ago, so this is a pretty new development. The thing is I'm not letting it destroy me, because...why? I have more than I ever thought I could out of life.  One (more) shitty relationship isn't going to be the straw to break the camel's back.  I have Henri.  He makes me incredibly happy and I really, truly love him.  The real kind, not the obsessive chemical-fueled addictive kind.  I'll talk more about the differences in another post maybe, but from being with Henri since January...they're there.

So all in all I'd say I'm pretty lucky.  I escaped limerence with (some) sanity intact and still ended up in the healthiest, happiest, realest relationship I could even imagine with pretty much Prince Endymion.   I almost can feel a sense of relief because Orlando and that whole mess really has disintegrated in front of my eyes.  But I also have to mourn him the same way you'd mourn someone who died.  Because that very large, long-lasting section of my life and heart are just gone forever and that's hard when you "love" someone pretty much a decade. 

So now the philosopher in me wonders, how is limerence different? Lots of marriages and relationships are based on it.  Lots of people feel it and mistake it as love and most will probably never know the difference.  Or if they do, they don't care. It's not like you can shut off limerence and have it go away on purpose.  And I would still argue even now that Orlando was a wonderful in many ways part of my life and he is still a person I would look up to or call upon if I needed help.  He's changed my life in so many positive ways and been a great friend.  So wouldn't that be some form of love in itself?  How much of my experience was real? And the biggest and most cynical question; does it even fucking matter? Why am I worrying about someone my brain apparently makes up to begin with? Can't I just enjoy my relationship and quit whining?

Wow, what a post. I'm done now, I'll just leave it for now.  Congratulations internet world, you know my biggest secret!! (sorta)






3 comments :

  1. WOW. You could have been describing me in my early 20s! I had a very intense focus on a close friend for years at that age. I went through exactly what you described - the crazy inspiration, "irrationally positive evaluation of his attributes," mourning period, and so on.

    "Lots of marriages and relationships are based on it. Lots of people feel it and mistake it as love and most will probably never know the difference." This is thought-provoking. I haven't been married for long, but I think my husband and I have seen each other in all lights - from absolutely lovable to grumpy, tired, and uncooperative. I guess the difference is that we see each other's flaws and work with them vs. seeing each other as perfect and just pushing the not-so-positive stuff out of sight/out of mind.

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  2. Wheeeww sooooooooooo happy I'm not the only one LOL. I was thinking while posting this 'wow, people are really going to start calling the nuthouse this time'. Even though I think limerence happens a lot, it just doesn't get the credit for being what it is.



    As far as the marriage/relationship thing, I was reading about how actual relationships based on limerence work and they're the really tumultuous, overly-passionate underly-communicative ones. I know a lot of people in those!! Stresses me out. But I think people stick with it because that's the Disney-branded Lifetime-approved kind of love, you know? Even though to me, after being in a good relationship (exactly like what you said with your husband; we see flaws and are open and honest about them and work on them etc) I'd MUCH rather it be less glamorous. I like my peace and quiet. lol.

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  3. I totally understand this! And I like what Carrie quoted from you as well. When i was with the boyfriend before Vince I thought I loved the guy, thought he was the best ever, etc etc even though he was a really horrible person, didn't treat me well, and just wasn't a fit for me at all. But when I was in the relationship I didn't see that and when we broke up, I was so heartbroken. But then after a bit the 'cloud' left and I was like, Whoa, what the fuck was that? Why would I EVER want to be with that person?! So before Vince and I got engaged, I was worried that I was in another relationship like that and I actually moved out for a month to live with my grandparents! I wanted to get out of the situation and be able to think clearly. Luckily I realized we were pretty great for each other haha

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