What's The Real Difference Between Limerence And Love?

There's nothing quite like the sweeping experience of falling for someone. The rush, the depth of connection, the feeling of seeing their name when a text pops up. Becoming lovestruck or enamored is pretty much universally agreed to be one of the better parts of this whole being a human thing. But, there is a but. As we can all likely also agree, mistaking a trauma bond, love bombing, or an infatuation for true love is super problematic and leads to a lot of heartbreak. Even the most careful and cautious of people can fall victim to the spell. This type of romantic obsession is called limerence. It's involuntary and centers around intense emotional codependency to another person, similar to addiction (via HuffPost).


"It is often a result of not being present either through trauma or certain childhood development issues," psychosexual therapist Cate Mackenzie told Brides. "Alternatively, you may experience it when you are run down, if you haven't had enough sleep, for example, and are lacking serotonin. So, you fantasize that someone else could save you and crystallize those thoughts into a golden image of 'the one.'"

Here's how to tell the difference between limerence and love.

Limerence is obsessive and all consuming

One surefire way to identify if the attraction you're feeling towards someone is limerence or love is to examine your daily habits. If you're having a difficult time focusing at work or you're neglecting your responsibilities because you're completely distracted by this person, then it's very likely that you aren't experiencing healthy love -– which is supposed to be a beautiful addition to your already existing life, not knock it out of sight.


If your mood is fully dependent on whether or not the person responds to your message or gives you some form of validation and you ignore their less desirable human qualities, then that's another sign it is, indeed, limerence. "You will fantasize about and sometimes involuntarily obsess over even the shortest, most insignificant interactions you've had with the limerent object and imagine your future together even if there is no actual relationship," said couples' therapist Silva Depanian, LMFT, in an interview with Mind Body Green.

There are three stages of limerence: infatuation, crystallization, and deterioration (via Brides). After the first stage, obsessing, comes the idealization or crystallization. This person can do no wrong in your eyes. Last is deterioration, read: the wake-up call. This is when you realize the two of you aren't in love and you don't have a future together — and never did. This can be devastating, embarrassing, and feel a bit like grief.


Love is sturdy and reciprocal

It isn't always crystal clear whether what you're experiencing is limerence, love, or even just a crush. However, when you're in love, you don't put your interest on a pedestal. You're able to witness their shortcomings and still genuinely like them, accepting their humanness, just as you hope they would in return. "With love, each person has the possibility to see the other's flaws and still like them and there is more safety and genuine reciprocity," said Cate Mackenzie, a COSRT accredited psychosexual therapist and couples' counselor, in an interview with Brides. "This involves the happiness hormones such as oxytocin and vasopressin. There is clear communication and reciprocity." There won't be games or a chase where a true connection exists.


If you're noticing a pattern of limerence rather than love in your dating life, that awareness is a great sign that you have the power to turn things around. "Instead of relying on them to fulfill those needs, you would have to begin relying on yourself, your growth, and your strength to achieve true joy, meet your own needs, and make room for them. This makes room for the mutual connection, openness, understanding, and empathy experienced in love," said couples' therapist Silva Depanian, LMFT, in an interview with Mind Body Green.