Uncovering the dark side of romantic love
Marie Coulson once described falling in love "like leaping from a cliff. Your brain screams that it’s not a good idea and that hurt and pain will inevitably come to you. But your heart believes you can soar, glide and fly".
Most people know that familiar feeling of giddiness. Throw in a mixture of butterflies in the stomach with a dry mouth, and you've hit the nail on the head.
But what if it's not love, and just a fleeting infatuation or a massive crush? What you could be experiencing is limerence.
A term coined by American psychologist Dorothy Tennov in her 1979 book Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love, Tennov describes limerence as “an involuntary interpersonal state that involves an acute longing for emotional reciprocation, obsessive-compulsive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and emotional dependence on another person”.
It's a mouthful, but basically it's could be describing something as simple as infatuation, love sickness or even love addiction. "Limerence is a mental state that many people think of as true love or being in love," said dating coach Lee Wilson.
"It is characterized by an intense rush of emotions, physical desire, and even border-line obsessive feelings for a new romantic partner," he added.
Lee specialises in people winning back their exes, and in his experience he's found that many who embark on relationships after breaking up don't tend to go the distance when on the rebound. "This is a form of limerence - it's something temporary," he said.
Lee says that to differentiate between love and limerence, you need to ask yourself two questions: "How would you define love?" and "How you would define true love?"
"Contrary to Hollywood’s portrayal of love, true love isn’t a feeling – though feelings are certainly included. True love is a combination of commitment, friendship, and intimacy," he explained.
And there's a darker side too. "Limerence is a combination of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and addiction for another person," said Professor Albert Wakin during an interview with Huffington Post's Jenny Haward.
"And it's interesting because this is not a love addiction per se and it's not a sex addiction. It's an addiction for another person," continued the co-author of Love Variant: The IDR Wakin-Vo Model of Limerence.
The side effects of limerence include:
- Physical aching for the limerent object - including aching in the chest area;
- Intense longing;
- Obsessively thinking about the limerent object;
- Focusing almost completely on the limerent object - including getting in touch with the person, getting reciprocation from the person, thinking about the person, rehearsing what to do and say when you do meet the other person again.