What is limerence?
Limerence is a romantic attraction to another person that typically includes obsessive thoughts, fantasies, and a desire to either form or maintain a romantic relationship with a specific person. It’s an all-consuming, involuntary state of romantic desire.
The term was coined by psychologist Dorothy Tennov in her 1979 book Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love, to describe a specific subset of love (or perhaps a better word is infatuation), she discovered after interviewing over 500 people on the topic of love.
Since Tennov, limerence has been studied extensively; social psychologists have hypothesised that the state has strong evolutionary underpinnings.
“Limerent feelings are part of our neuropsychological software we rely on for ‘pair formation,’ explains, Dr Stephen Snyder, author of Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Lasting Relationship. “If you become an established couple, then it's common to start to run a different software—the ‘mature love’ kind—that's intended for ‘pair maintenance.’”
In other words, limerence, in theory, can be great in the beginning of a relationship to help you fall in love with another person, so you can create a strong connection.
But sometimes, limerence doesn't fade.
And that's when things can go awry. As with any obsessive thoughts—relationship-related or otherwise—limerence can negatively impact the rest of your life. You may stop going to work to hang out with your crush all the time. And even if you are going to work, your productivity may suffer because you can’t focus on anything else besides the next time you get to see this person. You may also start ignoring friends and family to go into a little bubble with this person.
“I've seen couples so obsessed with each other that they basically ignore the rest of the world,” Snyder says. “Sometimes that's not so healthy. For instance, if you go broke.”
How does limerence differ from love?
With limerence, you don't see the person for who they really are. You've built them up to be a flawless individual who epitomises human perfection. People experiencing limerence often create a fantasy about how they're going to be together with this person, living in perfect harmony, until the day they die.
Love, on the other hand, is attained through a deep and very real bond with a person that comes with time, shared experiences, and seeing the person for whom they truly are—flaws and all.
How is social media impacting limerence?
Jor-El Caraballo, a licensed mental health professional, thinks social media makes it easier for people to experience limerence. If you want to, you can scroll through images of them on Instagram; you can see what they're thinking about on Twitter and Facebook.
“We can easily keep tabs and almost be a part of the lives of the people we are most interested in by being a part of the online community (following them, commenting, etc.),” Carabello says.
Snyder, on the other hand, thinks that social media is actually decreasing limerence in the younger population, because with apps like Instagram, you can easily see thousands of other folks who are nearly identical to the person you’re experiencing limerence with.
“Limerent lovers tend to idealise each other,” Synder says. “Social media provides more ways for you to realise that your partner is perfectly ordinary and that they're no more special than millions of other people.”
What do you if you’re experiencing limerence and can’t stop?
“I invite clients to explore what about that infatuation feels so rewarding for them," Carabello says. He asks his patients: "If [you're] dealing with limerence, could you be missing something or feeling dissatisfied in your own life?” Then he works with them to redirect that energy elsewhere, "such as also investing in other relationships or seeking more meaning ones where the gains are clearer and potentially more likely to happen."
Snyder says point-blank: “Eventually, you just have to decide to end it to preserve your own sanity.”
This article originally appeared on Men's Health US.