Limerent? What does that word even mean?
I have to confess, I only came across the word very recently (thanks to a book recommendation by relationship coach, Ali Hendry).
Ali told me about “Living with Limerence: a guide for the smitten” by Dr L:
Limerence is a state of deep infatuation or romantic desire for someone. It includes obsessive and intrusive thoughts, fantasies, longings, and believing that the person you desire – the “limerent object” – is the most exciting and wonderful person in the world. It can be confused with love. It can also be addictive.
Dr L tells us that the population is divided into limerents and non-limerents. Which camp you fall into seems to be largely based on your individual makeup: past life experiences (especially early experiences of attachment); how your brain chemicals influence your behaviour; and the social and cultural conditioning you’ve been exposed to.
Limerence can make you feel ecstatically high, it can also cause crashing lows. It can be harnessed into creativity, self-awareness and self-improvement, and help lead to intimacy and “pair-bonding”. It can also be all-consuming, despair-inducing, and lead to addictive behaviours and infidelity.
There’s lots more in the book (which is, itself, a summary of the work of psychologist Dorothy Tennov), and I’m still mulling it all over.
Three key things stood out for me, however:
As someone who writes about desire, love, and lust, I’m hugely aware that pretty much all of my fictional characters fall into the category of “limerent” (and, perhaps not surprisingly, I do too). “Rebecca” in my lesbian, BDSM, erotic novel, Coming Close is a prime example of someone who will go to extraordinary lengths to feed her infatuation.
Living with Limerence focuses on the desire to “pair-bond” – to find and keep The One – and, consequently, the destructive nature of “unwanted limerence” for those who are either a) already with someone or b) don’t have their feelings reciprocated. There’s no consideration of relationship styles other than monogamy. I’m left wondering how limerence is handled in ethically non-monogamous people.
Limerence is described as a form of romantic desire, but I also recognise it as an extreme form of sexual desire, especially in relationships that work on power dynamics (such as consensual Dominance and submission). I wonder how much it is acknowledged and understood in these communities, and where the line is drawn between healthy and unhealthy desire.
There was one passage in the book that jumped out at me:
“Another big benefit of limerence is the restless energy that it can bring. Many people respond to infatuation by channelling that energy into acts of creation… Many artists use self-expression as a mechanism for exorcising their limerent passions… [and find] relief through externalisation of feelings…”
I’m holding my hand up here… Although I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of it as exorcising my passions… I can certainly relate to using my limerent energy as my muse.