For most people, crushes come and go.
But for others, the longing can last years and become addictive. A spark of interest turns into obsessive rumination sustained by a pernicious cocktail of hope and doubt. This is not a crush. This is limerence.
Limerence is a state of overwhelming and unexpected longing for emotional reciprocation from another human, known as a limerent object (LO), who is often perceived as perfect but unavailable.
This may sound similar to the lyrics of a Taylor Swift love song, a scene in “The Great Gatsby,” or the lines in a Shakespeare sonnet. The experience of Limerence is timeless, but the term is relatively new.
In 1979, Dorothy Tennov, an experimental psychologist and professor at the University of Bridgeport, coined the term limerence in her book “Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love,” based on a decade of research and several hundred case studies on romantic attachment.
What differentiates limerence from a crush or love is the intensity, an emotional roller coaster that fluctuates from euphoria to despair. Giulia Poerio, a psychologist and mind-wandering researcher at the University of Sussex in England, said, “Any sign of rejection can make somebody hit a low, and any sign of interest can make somebody hit a high.” It’s an endless mind game of, “She loves me, she loves me not.”
Limerents, deeply fearful of rejection, allow their self-esteem to rest in the hands of an LO who may not even know they exist. The LO is most often a friend, colleague, or stranger met in passing. It can also be someone with whom you’ve had a brief romantic encounter that feels unresolved, explains Dr. Poerio, especially if the LO continues to leave breadcrumbs.