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Understanding Limerence: Navigating Intense Infatuation and Its Impact on Relationships

Limerence, a term coined in the 1970s by psychologist Dorothy Tennov, is an emotional state characterised by intense, often obsessive feelings of infatuation towards someone. This romantic attraction goes beyond typical, healthy attraction, becoming obsessive and all-consuming.


Relationship therapist Harville Hendricks describes this as the ‘loved-up stage,’ a period of intense emotional arousal and craving for another person.



Limerence differs from love in that it is based on infatuation and fantasy, whereas love is rooted in a deep emotional connection and caring for the other person's well-being. Limerence is intense and short-lived, focused on the physical aspects or how the other person makes you feel. In contrast, love is enduring and encompasses all aspects of a person's personality and character.


 

The Stages of Limerence


Infatuation Stage:

Often the first stage in a relationship, this is characterised by euphoria and an uncontrollable desire to merge interests with the other person. It's a period where red flags are easily overlooked due to the overwhelming emotions.

   

Crystallisation Stage:

As limerence begins to fade, partners face challenges and disappointments. This stage is crucial for establishing boundaries and assessing compatibility beyond initial attraction.


Deterioration Stage:

In healthy relationships, this stage involves building commitment and loyalty. However, in limerence, the relationship starts to fall apart, revealing the cracks and disillusionment.


 

Limerence and Infidelity


Limerence often occurs before, during, and after infidelity. It can cause a person to act impulsively, taking risks that make them vulnerable to an affair. While not everyone experiencing limerence engages in infidelity, and not all infidelity is due to limerence, there is a connection between the two.


Signs of Limerence:


  • Persistent thoughts and fantasies about the person

  • Intense euphoria when around them

  • Difficulty concentrating on anything else

  • Fear of rejection

  • Idealisation of the person

  • Heightened sensitivity to their actions and feelings


Managing Limerence:


  • Acknowledge and Accept Feelings: Recognise your emotions without judgment.

  • Limit Contact: Reduce interactions with the person you're infatuated with.

  • Focus on Positives: Remind yourself of the positive aspects of your current relationship and the negative traits of the other person.

  • Diversify Interests: Engage in activities like work, exercise, and hobbies.

  • Seek Support: Talk to friends or therapists about your feelings.

  • Prioritise Self-Care: Focus on your mental health and well-being.


 

Healing from an Affair and Limerence


Self-Care:

Prioritise your emotional wellbeing.


Open Communication:

Have honest conversations with your partner about the impact of their actions.


Set Boundaries:

Establish limits to protect your emotional health.


Encourage Therapy:

Support your partner in seeking professional help.


Rebuild Trust:

Develop a plan for increased transparency and accountability.


Healing from an affair and limerence is a complex process. Understanding these concepts and recognising the signs can be instrumental in navigating the challenges they bring to relationships.


 

Attachment Styles and Limerence


Understanding attachment styles can offer insight into how limerence plays out in relationships:


Anxious/Preoccupied:

These individuals fear abandonment and may become clingy or demanding in relationships.


Avoidant/Dismissive:

They value independence, often avoiding emotional closeness and intimacy.


Disorganised/Fearful-Avoidant:

Exhibiting traits of both anxious and avoidant styles, these individuals crave intimacy but fear getting hurt.


Secure Attachment:

Marked by comfort in expressing emotions and relying on partners, this style represents healthy, balanced relationships.


Managing limerence requires recognising feelings, reducing contact with the infatuation object, and focusing on personal well-being. Understanding attachment styles (Anxious, Avoidant, Disorganised, Secure) is also key. Healing from limerence-related issues in relationships involves self-care, open communication, setting boundaries, and therapy. This process is essential for maintaining healthy, balanced relationships.


Love Lottie x

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