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Limerence is a state of mind which results from a romantic attraction to another person and typically includes obsessive thoughts and fantasies and a desire to form or maintain a relationship with the object of love and have one's feelings reciprocated. Limerence can also be defined as an involuntary state of intense romantic desire.
Scientists have found that people in so-called limerent states have low levels of serotonin—a neurotransmitter in the brain that affects mood—akin to people with obsessive–compulsive disorder. [ additional citation(s) needed ]
Psychologist Dorothy Tennov coined the term "limerence" for her 1979 book, Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love, to describe a concept that had grown out of her work in the mid-1960s, when she interviewed over 500 people on the topic of love.
Limerence, which is not exclusively sexual, has been defined in terms of its potentially inspirational effects and relation to attachment theory. It has been described as being "an involuntary potentially inspiring state of adoration and attachment to a limerent object (LO) involving intrusive and obsessive thoughts, feelings and behaviors from euphoria to despair, contingent on perceived emotional reciprocation".
Attachment theory emphasizes that "many of the most intense emotions arise during the formation, the maintenance, the disruption, and the renewal of attachment relationships".It has been suggested that "the state of limerence is the conscious experience of sexual incentive motivation" during attachment formation, "a kind of subjective experience of sexual incentive motivation" during the "intensive ... pair-forming stage" of human affectionate bonding.
The concept of 'limerence' "provides a particular carving up of the semantic domain of love",and represents an attempt at a scientific study of the nature of love. Limerence is considered as a cognitive and emotional state of being emotionally attached to or even obsessed with another person, and is typically experienced involuntarily and characterized by a strong desire for reciprocation of one's feelings—a near-obsessive form of romantic love. For Tennov, "sexual attraction is an essential component of limerence ... the limerent is a potential sex partner".
Limerence is sometimes also interpreted as infatuation, or what is colloquially known as a "crush". However, in common speech, infatuation includes aspects of immaturity and extrapolation from insufficient information, and is usually short-lived. Tennov notes how limerence "may dissolve soon after its initiation, as in an early teenage buzz-centered crush",but she is more concerned with the point when "limerent bonds are characterized by 'entropy' crystallization as described by Stendhal in his 1821 treatise On Love, where a new love infatuation perceptually begins to transform ... [and] attractive characteristics are exaggerated and unattractive characteristics are given little or no attention ... [creating] a 'limerent object'".
According to Tennov, there are at least two types of love: limerence, which she describes as, among other things, "loving attachment", and "loving affection", the bond that exists between an individual and their parents and children.She notes that one form may evolve into the other: "Those whose limerence was replaced by affectional bonding with the same partner might say ... 'We were very much in love when we married; today we love each other very much'". The distinction is comparable to that drawn by ethologists "between the pair-forming and pair-maintaining functions of sexual activity", just as "the attachment of the attachment theorists is very similar to the emotional reciprocation longed for in Tennov's limerence, and each is linked to sexuality".
Nicky Hayes describes limerence as "a kind of infatuated, all-absorbing passion" which is unrequited. Tennov equated it to the type of love Dante felt towards Beatrice—an individual he met but twice in his life, yet served as inspiration for La Vita Nuova and the Divine Comedy . It is this unfulfilled, intense longing for the other person (the limerent object) which defines limerence, where the individual becomes "more or less obsessed by that person and spends much of their time fantasising about them". Limerence may only last if conditions for the attraction leave it unfulfilled; therefore, occasional, intermittent reinforcement is required to support the underlying feelings. Hayes notes that "it is the unobtainable nature of the goal which makes the feeling so powerful", and that it is not uncommon for those to remain in a state of limerence over someone unreachable for months and even years. 457:
Limerence is characterized by intrusive thinking and pronounced sensitivity to external events that reflect the disposition of the limerent object towards the individual. It can be experienced as intense joy or as extreme despair, depending on whether the feelings are reciprocated. It is the state of being completely carried away by unreasoned passion or love,[ citation needed ] even to the point of addictive-type behavior. Usually, one is inspired with an intense passion or admiration for someone. Limerence can be difficult to understand for those who have never experienced it, and it is thus often dismissed by non-limerents as ridiculous fantasy or a construct of romantic fiction.
Tennov differentiates between limerence and other emotions by asserting that love involves concern for the other person's welfare and feeling. While limerence does not require it, those concerns may certainly be incorporated. Affection and fondness exist only as a disposition towards another person, irrespective of whether those feelings are reciprocated, whereas limerence deeply desires reciprocation, but it remains unaltered whether or not it is returned. Physical contact with the object is neither essential nor sufficient to an individual experiencing limerence, unlike with one experiencing sexual attraction.Where early, unhealthy attachment patterns or trauma influence limerence, the limerent object may be construed as an idealization of the figure or figures involved in the original unhealthy attachment or trauma. Lack of reciprocation may in such instances serve to reinforce lessons learned in earlier, unhealthy bonding experiences, and hence strengthen the limerence.
Limerence involves intrusive thinking about the limerent object.Other characteristics include acute longing for reciprocation, fear of rejection, and unsettling shyness in the limerent object's presence. In cases of unrequited limerence, transient relief may be found by vividly imagining reciprocation from the limerent object. Tennov suggests that feelings of limerence can be intensified through adversity, obstacles, or distance—'Intensification through Adversity'. A limerent person may have acute sensitivity to any act, thought, or condition that can be interpreted favorably. This may include a tendency to devise, fabricate, or invent "reasonable" explanations for why neutral actions are a sign of hidden passion in the limerent object.
A person experiencing limerence has a general intensity of feeling that leaves other concerns in the background. In their thoughts, such a person tends to emphasize what is admirable in the limerent object and to avoid any negative or problematic attributes.
During the height of limerence, thoughts of the limerent object (or person) are at once persistent, involuntary and intrusive. Such 'intrusive thoughts about the LO ... appear to be genetically driven':indeed, limerence is first and foremost a condition of cognitive obsession. This may be caused by low serotonin levels in the brain, comparable to those of people with obsessive–compulsive disorder. All events, associations, stimuli, and experiences return thoughts to the limerent object with unnerving consistency, while conversely the constant thoughts about the limerent object define all other experiences. If a certain thought has no previous connection with the limerent object, immediately one is made. Limerent fantasy is unsatisfactory unless rooted in reality, because the fantasizer may want the fantasy to seem realistic and somewhat possible. At their most severe, intrusive limerent thoughts can occupy an individual's waking hours completely, resulting—like severe addiction—in significant or complete disruption of the limerent's normal interests and activities, including work and family. For serial limerents, this can result in debilitating, lifelong underachievement in school, work, and family life.
Fantasies that are concerned with far-fetched ideas are usually dropped by the fantasizer.Sometimes fantasizing is retrospective: actual events are replayed from memory with great vividness. This form predominates when what is viewed as evidence of possible reciprocation can be re-experienced (a kind of selective or revisionist history). Otherwise, the long fantasy is anticipatory; it begins in the everyday world and climaxes at the attainment of the limerent goal. A limerent fantasy can also involve an unusual, often tragic, event.
The long fantasies form bridges between the limerent's ordinary life and that intensely desired ecstatic moment. The duration and complexity of a fantasy depend on the availability of time and freedom from distractions. The bliss of the imagined moment of consummation is greater when events imagined to precede it are possible (though they often represent grave departures from the probable). Not always is it entirely pleasant, and when rejection seems likely the thoughts focus on despair, sometimes to the point of suicide. The pleasantness or unpleasantness of the state seems almost unrelated to the intensity of the reaction. Although the direction of feeling, i.e. happy versus unhappy, shifts rapidly, with 'dramatic surges of buoyancy and despair',the intensity of intrusive and involuntary thinking alters less rapidly, and only in response to an accumulation of experiences with the particular limerent object.
Fantasies are occasionally dreamed by the one experiencing limerence. Dreams give out strong emotion and happiness when experienced, but often end with despair when the subject awakens. Dreams can reawaken strong feelings toward the limerent object after the feelings have declined.
Along with an emphasis on the perceived exceptional qualities, and devotion to them, there is abundant doubt that the feelings are reciprocated: rejection. Considerable self-doubt is encountered, leading to "personal incapacitation expressed through unsettling timidity in the presence of the person",something which causes misery and galvanizes desire.
In most cases, what destroys limerence is a suitably long period of time without reciprocation. Although it appears that limerence advances with adversity, personal discomfort may foul it. This discomfort results from a fear of the limerent object's opinions.
Limerence develops and is sustained when there is a certain balance of hope and uncertainty. The basis for limerent hope is not in objective reality but in reality as it is perceived. The inclination is to sift through nuances of speech and subtleties of behavior for evidence of limerent hope. "Lovers, of course, are notoriously frantic epistemologists, second only to paranoiacs (and analysts) as readers of signs and wonders.""Little things" are noticed and endlessly analyzed for meaning. Such excessive concern over trivia may not be entirely unfounded, however, as body language can indicate reciprocated feeling. What the limerent object said and did is recalled with vividness. Alternative meanings for the behaviors recalled are sought. Each word and gesture is permanently available for review, especially those interpreted as evidence in favor of reciprocated feeling. When objects, people, places or situations are encountered with the limerent object, they are vividly remembered, especially if the limerent object interacted with them in some way.
The belief that the limerent object does not and will not reciprocate can only be reached with great difficulty. Limerence can be carried quite far before acknowledgment of rejection is genuine, especially if it has not been addressed openly by the limerent object.
Shaver and Hazan observed that those suffering from loneliness are significantly more susceptible to limerence, 460arguing that "if people have a large number of unmet social needs, and are not aware of this, then a sign that someone else might be interested is easily built up in that person's imagination into far more than the friendly social contact that it might have been. By dwelling on the memory of that social contact, the lonely person comes to magnify it into a deep emotional experience, which may be quite different from the reality of the event." :
The physiological effects of intense limerence can include shortness of breath, perspiration, and heart palpitations.Loss of appetite can also occur.
If there is extensive anxiety, incorrect behaviour may torpedo the relationship, which may cause physical responses to manifest intensely. Some people acutely feel these effects either immediately or following contact with the limerent object. Blended is dire ecstasy or keen despair, depending on the turn of events.
Awkwardness, stuttering, shyness, and confusion predominate at the behavioral level. Sufferers complain of abandonment, despair, and diabolically humiliating disappointment. A sense of paralyzing ambiguity predominates, punctuated by pining. Intermittent or nonreciprocal responses lead to labile vacillation between despair and ecstacy. This limbo is the threshold for mental prostration.
The sensitivity that stems from fear of rejection can darken perceptions of the limerent object's body language. Conflicted signs of desire may be displayed cause confusion. Often, the limerent object is currently involved with another or is in some other way unavailable.
A condition of sustained alertness, a heightening of awareness and an enormous fund of energy to deploy in pursuit of the limerent aim is developed. The sensation of limerence is felt in the midpoint of the chest, bottom of the throat, guts, or in some cases in the abdominal region.This can be interpreted as ecstasy at times of mutuality, but its presence is most noticeable during despair at times of rejection.
Awareness of physical attraction plays a key role in the development of limerence,but is not enough to satisfy the limerent desire, and is almost never the main focus; instead, the limerent focuses on what could be defined as the "beneficial attributes". Nevertheless, Tennov stresses that "the most consistent result of limerence is mating, not merely sexual interaction but also commitment".
Limerence can be intensified after a sexual relationship has begun, and with more intense limerence there is greater desire for sexual contact. However, while sexual surrender at one time indicated the end of uncertainty felt by the limerent object – because in the past, a sexual encounter more often led to a feeling of obligation to commit – in modern times this is not necessarily the case.
The sexual aspect of limerence is not consistent from person to person. Most limerents experience limerent sexuality as a component of romantic interest. Some limerents, however, may experience limerence as a consequence of hyperarousal. In such cases, limerence may form as a defense mechanism against the limerent object, who is not perceived initially as a romantic ideal, but as a physical threat to the limerent.
Sexual fantasies are distinct from limerent fantasies. Limerent fantasy is rooted in reality and is intrusive rather than voluntary. Sexual fantasies are under more or less voluntary control and may involve strangers, imaginary individuals, and situations that could not take place. Limerence elevates body temperature and increases relaxation,a sensation of viewing the world with rose-tinted glasses, leading to a greater receptiveness to sexuality, and to daydreaming.
People can become aroused by the thought of sexual partners, acts, and situations that are not truly desired, whereas every detail of the limerent fantasy is passionately desired actually to take place.Limerence sometimes increases sexual interest in other partners when the limerent object is unreceptive or unavailable.
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The limerent reaction is a composite reaction – that is, it is composed of a series of separate reactions. These reactions occur only where misperceptions meet adversity in the context of a romance.[ citation needed ] Perhaps because of this unique specificity, limerent reactions can be uniquely quantified and predicted according to the schema described below.
Involvement increases if obstacles are externally imposed or if the limerent object’s feelings are doubted. Only if the limerent object were to be revealed as highly undesirable might limerence subside. The presence of some degree of doubt causes the intensity of the feelings to increase further. The stage is reached at which the reaction is virtually impossible to dislodge. This adversity may be superficial or deep, internal or external, so that an individual may sometimes generate deep adversity where none exists. Also "romance", as it were, need not be present in any genuine way for a limerent reaction to occur.
The course of limerence results in a more intrusive thinking pattern. This thinking pattern is an expectant and often joyous period with the initial focusing on the limerent object’s admirable qualities: crystallization. Then, under appropriate conditions of hope and uncertainty, the limerence intensifies further.
With evidence of reciprocation (real or imagined) from the limerent object, a state of extreme pleasure, even euphoria, is enjoyed. Thoughts are mainly occupied with considering and reconsidering what is attractive in the limerent object, replaying whatever events may have thus far transpired with the limerent object, and appreciating personal qualities perceived as possibly having sparked interest in the limerent object. At peak crystallization, almost all waking thoughts revolve around the limerent object. After this peak, the feelings eventually decline.
Fantasies are preferred to virtually any other activity with the exception of activities that are believed to help obtain the limerent object, and activities that involve actually being in the presence of the limerent object. The motivation to attain a "relationship" continues to intensify so long as a proper mix of hope and uncertainty exist.
Tennov estimates, based on both questionnaire and interview data, that the average limerent reaction duration, from the moment of initiation until a feeling of neutrality is reached, is approximately three years. The extremes may be as brief as a few weeks or as long as several decades. When limerence is brief, maximum intensity may not have been attained. According to David Sack, M.D., limerence lasts longer than romantic love, but is shorter than a healthy, committed partnership.
Others suggest that 'the biogenetic sourcing of limerence determines its limitation, ordinarily, to a two-year span',that limerence generally lasts between 18 months and three years; but further studies on unrequited limerence have suggested longer durations. In turn, a limerent may only experience a single limerent episode, or may experience "serial" episodes, in which nearly one's entire mature life, from early puberty through late adulthood, can be consumed in successive limerent obsessions.
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Once the limerent reaction has initiated, one of three varieties of bonds may form, defined over a set duration of time, in relation to the experience or non-experience of limerence.The constitution of these bonds may vary over the course of the relationship, in ways that may either increase or decrease the intensity of the limerence.
The basis and interesting characteristic of this delineation made by Tennov, is that based on her research and interviews with people, all human bonded relationships can be divided into three varieties being defined by the amount of limerence or non-limerence each partner contributes to the relationship.
With an affectional bond, neither partner is limerent. With a Limerent-Nonlimerent bond, one partner is limerent. In a Limerent-Limerent bond, both partners are limerent.
Affectional bonding characterize those affectionate sexual relationships where neither partner is limerent; couples tend to be in love, but do not report continuous and unwanted intrusive thinking, feeling intense need for exclusivity, or define their goals in terms of reciprocity. These types of bonded couples tend to emphasize compatibility of interests, mutual preferences in leisure activities, ability to work together, and in some cases a degree of relative contentment.
The bulk of relationships, however, according to Tennov, are those between a limerent person and a nonlimerent other, i.e. limerent-nonlimerent bonding. These bonds are characterized by unequal reciprocation.
Lastly, those relationship bonds in which there exists mutual reciprocation are defined as limerent-limerent bondings. Tennov argues that since limerence itself is an "unstable state", mutually limerent bonds would be expected to be short-lived; mixed relationships probably last longer than limerent-limerent relationships. Some limerent-limerent relationships evolve into affectional bondings over time as limerence declines. Tennov describes such couples as "old marrieds" whose interactions are typically both stable and mutually gratifying.
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In her study Tennov identified three ways in which limerence subsides:
Tennov's research was continued in 2008 by Albert Wakin, who knew Tennov at the University of Bridgeport but did not assist in her research, and Duyen Vo, a graduate student.They intended to refine the term limerence so that it refers mostly to the negative aspects.
The term "limerence" has been invoked in many popular media,[ according to whom? ] including self-help books, popular magazines, and websites. However, according to a paper by Wakin and Vo, "In spite of the public’s exposure to limerence, the professional community, particularly clinical, is largely unaware of the concept." In 2008, Wakin and Vo presented their updated research to the American Association of Behavioral and Social Sciences. They reported that more research must be gathered before the condition is suitable for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
Critics point out that Tennov's account "is based on interviews rather than on direct observation", but conclude that "despite its shortcomings, Tennov's work may constitute a basis for informed hypothesis formulation".
Romantic orientation, also called affectional orientation, indicates the sex or gender with which a person is most likely to have a romantic relationship or fall in love. It is used both alternatively and side by side with the term sexual orientation, and is based on the perspective that sexual attraction is but a single component of a larger dynamic. For example, although a pansexual person may feel sexually attracted to people regardless of gender, they may experience romantic attraction and intimacy with women only.
Love encompasses a range of strong and positive emotional and mental states, from the most sublime virtue or good habit, the deepest interpersonal affection and to the simplest pleasure. An example of this range of meanings is that the love of a mother differs from the love of a spouse, which differs from the love of food. Most commonly, love refers to a feeling of strong attraction and emotional attachment.
Jealousy generally refers to the thoughts or feelings of insecurity, fear, and concern over a relative lack of possessions or safety.
Romance is an emotional feeling of love for, or a strong attraction towards another person, and the courtship behaviors undertaken by an individual to express those overall feelings and resultant emotions.
A sexual fantasy or erotic fantasy is a mental image or pattern of thought that stirs a person's sexuality and can create or enhance sexual arousal. A sexual fantasy can be created by the person's imagination or memory, and may be triggered autonomously or by external stimulation such as erotic literature or pornography, a physical object, or sexual attraction to another person. Anything that may give rise to a sexual arousal may also produce a sexual fantasy, and sexual arousal may in turn give rise to fantasies.
A relationship breakup, or simply just breakup, is the termination of an intimate relationship by any means other than death. The act is commonly termed "dumping [someone]" in slang when it is initiated by one partner. The term is less likely to be applied to a married couple, where a breakup is typically called a separation or divorce. When a couple engaged to be married breaks up, it is typically called a "broken engagement".
Infatuation or being smitten is the state of being carried away by an unreasoned passion, usually towards another person for whom one has developed strong romantic or platonic feelings. Psychologist Frank D. Cox says that infatuation can be distinguished from romantic love only when looking back on a particular case of being attracted to a person. Infatuation may also develop into a mature love. Goldstein and Brandon describe infatuation as the first stage of a relationship before developing into a mature intimacy. Whereas love is "a warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion to another person," infatuation is "a feeling of foolish or obsessively strong love for, admiration for, or interest in someone or something", a shallower "honeymoon phase" in a relationship. Dr. Ian Kerner, a sex therapist, states that infatuation usually occurs at the start of relationships, and it is "...usually marked by a sense of excitement and euphoria, and it's often accompanied by lust and a feeling of newness and rapid expansion with a person." Phillips describes how the illusions of infatuations inevitably lead to disappointment when learning the truth about a lover. Adolescents often make people an object of extravagant, short-lived passion or the temporary love.
An intimate relationship is an interpersonal relationship that involves physical or emotional intimacy. Although an intimate relationship is commonly a sexual relationship, it may also be a non-sexual relationship involving family, friends, or acquaintances.
Falling in love is the development of strong feelings of attachment and love, usually towards another person.
Human bonding is the process of development of a close, interpersonal relationship between two or more people. It most commonly takes place between family members or friends, but can also develop among groups, such as sporting teams and whenever people spend time together. Bonding is a mutual, interactive process, and is different from simple liking. It is the process of nurturing social connection.
Dorothy Tennov was an American psychologist who, in her 1979 book Love and Limerence – the Experience of Being in Love introduced the term "limerence". During her years of research into romantic love experiences, she obtained thousands of personal testimonies from questionnaires, interviews, and letters from readers of her writing, in an attempt to support her hypothesis that a distinct and involuntary psychological state occurs identically among otherwise normal persons across cultures, educational level, gender, and other traits. Tennov emphasized that her data consist entirely of verbal reports by volunteers who reported their love experiences.
In psychology, an affectional bond is a type of attachment behavior one individual has for another individual, typically a caregiver for her or his child, in which the two partners tend to remain in proximity to one another. The term was coined and subsequently developed over the course of four decades, from the early 1940s to the late 1970s, by psychologist John Bowlby in his work on attachment theory. The core of the term affectional bond, according to Bowlby, is the attraction one individual has for another individual. The central features of the concept of affectional bonding can be traced to Bowlby's 1958 paper, "The Nature of the Child's Tie to his Mother".
In psychology, the theory of attachment can be applied to adult relationships including friendships, emotional affairs, adult romantic or platonic relationships and in some cases relationships with inanimate objects. Attachment theory, initially studied in the 1960s and 1970s primarily in the context of children and parents, was extended to adult relationships in the late 1980s.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to interpersonal relationships.
Unconditional love is known as affection without any limitations, or love without conditions. This term is sometimes associated with other terms such as true altruism or complete love. Each area of expertise has a certain way of describing unconditional love, but most will agree that it is that type of love which has no bounds and is unchanging.
Broken heart is a metaphor for the intense emotional—and sometimes physical—stress or pain one feels at experiencing great and deep longing. The concept is cross-cultural, often cited with reference to a desired or lost lover.
New relationship energy refers to a state of mind experienced at the beginning of sexual and romantic relationships, typically involving heightened emotional and sexual feelings and excitement. NRE begins with the earliest attractions, may grow into full force when mutuality is established, and can fade over months or years. The term indicates contrast to those feelings aroused in an "old" or ongoing relationship.
Unrequited love or one-sided love is love that is not openly reciprocated or understood as such by the beloved. The beloved may not be aware of the admirer's deep and strong romantic affection, or may consciously reject it. The Merriam Webster Online Dictionary defines unrequited as "not reciprocated or returned in kind".
Definitions of sexual desire are broad and understandings of sexual desire are subjective. However, the development of various ways of measuring the construct allows for extensive research to be conducted that facilitates the investigation of influences of sexual desire. Particular differences have been observed between the sexes in terms of understanding sexual desire both with regard to one's own sexual desires, as well as what others desire sexually. These beliefs and understandings all contribute to how people behave and interact with others, particularly in terms of various types of intimate relationships.
The color wheel theory of love is an idea created by Canadian psychologist John Alan Lee that describes six styles of love, using several of the Latin and Greek words for love. First introduced in his book Colours of Love: An Exploration of the Ways of Loving (1973), Lee defines three primary, three secondary and nine tertiary love styles, describing them in terms of the traditional color wheel. The three primary types are eros, ludus and storge, and the three secondary types are mania, pragma and agape.
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