NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, May 27, 2023

Romantic Attractions: What is Limerence, Also Known As Infatuation or "Love at First Sight"?

Dorothy Tennov, Ph.D., coined the term "limerence" to describe the early stage of a romantic relationship.  She wrote about her research findings in her 1979 book, Love and Limerence: The Early Experience of Being in Love.

What is Limerence?
Limerence is a state of mind where someone is infatuated or obsessed with the person they desire.  It's often an involuntary state where someone has a strong desire to be with that person.  

Romantic Attractions: Limerence

Limerence usually occurs during the early stage of an attraction.  Generally speaking, limerence often lasts anywhere from a few months and a few years.  There can be individual variation.

Depending upon the individual and the circumstances, limerence can be categorized by either euphoric feelings or feelings of despair.

Limerence is also described as "love at first sight," although there is a difference between love and limerence, which I'll explain in a bit.

Romantic Attractions: Limerence

During the early stage of two people getting to know each other, limerence is often characterized by one or both people craving each other when they're apart. 

They want to spend more time together, be more affectionate and, if they're sexual, have more sex. One or both of them feel like they can't get enough of each other.

How is Limerence Different From Love?
The difference between love and limerence can be confusing because they look similar.

Similarities Between Love and Limerence
Both love and limerence start out with a dopamine rush.  

But limerence is relatively short-lived and conditional.  

Limerence can disappear if the person isn't getting what they want from the other person. 

For instance, if the other person isn't able to spend as much time with them as they want or if the other person doesn't express affection to them in the way they want or as often as they want, limerence can disappear.  

When the person in the limerence state doesn't get their needs gratified, they can feel like a bubble has burst.

Differences Between Love and Limerence
During the limerence phase, a person often idealizes the person they're infatuated with and focuses mostly on the other person's positive qualities and might overlook their problems (see my article: Relationships: The Ideal vs the Real).

Love is more fluid and less conditional.  Whereas limerence can make a person feel like their head is in the clouds, love is much more grounded.  Instead of being focused on what the other person can give them, they want the other person to be happy.  

Love goes beyond a superficial attraction. There is a deeper connection and an emotional vulnerability as two people get to know each other.  Over time, they experience life together and ride the waves of life's many challenges together.

To summarize the differences: Whereas love is based on rootedness, emotional connection, intimacy and it's reality based, limerence is based on infatuation, idealization, obsession, possession, conditions, jealousy and unrealistic expectations.  

Next Article: The 3 Phases of Limerence
I'll continue to discuss limerence in my next article which will focus on the three phases of limerence: Romantic Attractions: The 3 Phases of Limerence.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDRAEDPEFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.