Love is a pretty intense thing. At some point in all our lives, we feel a love so strong it might even scare us a little. It kickstarts our brains and our hearts, firing off hormones and chemicals that boost our mood and have us seeing life in a whole new way.
That boos can become dangerous, though, for those who can't keep themselves in check. A love that's one-sided but just as intense is called limerence, and it's easy to get lost in before you even know what's happening.
Limerences can develop because someone has either had enough of trying to find their soulmate or they believe they'd found them, but their insights were misguided. Errors like these don't have to take place if you know where to look.
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The honeymoon stage of a relationship, meaning its earliest months, is always meant to feel a little intense. There's a new rush of emotions taking place that kick your heart into overdrive. You might feel a little crazy from it, really, wondering how one person has you in such a state.
The honeymoon phase and all that's within it is very normal, but what if you began feeling that same rush for someone you weren't even dating? What if that rush grew in intensity, feeding into something further from love and closer to obsession?
This is called limerence, a fantasy relationship in which one person is stuck envisioning themselves with their person of focus even though no such thing exists. Below are some signs that you may be feeling a touch of limerence for a love interest in your life.
1. You Experience Intense Physical Reactions Over Them
The presence of this person triggers a wave of physical reactions, a bodily experience to your intense emotional feelings. Waiting for their call, anticipating a text, or preparing to meet them sets off a wave of anxiety, a tangible in the pit of your stomach at the thought. Reaching out to them can send your heart into overdrive, or you may develop a nervous stutter in their presence.
In more intense instances, their proximity may induce dizziness, verging on the brink of faintness. A bit of nerves in the presence of someone you like is normal, yes, but repeated, long-term, strong physical manifestations like these only prove that what you're feeling for them is so intense that it can't be healthy for you.
2. You Think They're Perfect
You become obsessed with seeing them as flawless beings. Every action they take is ground-breaking, it's brilliant, no one else could ever do things the way they do, they're perfect and unique and unlike any other.
This also extends to their worse behavior. You begin to rationalize any shortcomings or undesirable traits as "adorable," blurring the line between reality and the enchanting narrative being written in your infatuated, love-addled mind. This can become really dangerous if you're even overlooking some blatant red flags in order to preserve your view of them in your mind.
3. You Create "Accidental" Meet-Ups
You find yourself orchestrating scenarios and deliberately planning opportunities for "chance" encounters with this person, feigning an accidental run-in. Be it lingering in their neighborhood or frequenting their preferred coffee spot, your day is shaped around the prospect of spending even a moment with them.
This practice treads a fine line between endearing and potentially unsettling, even appearing stalker-like. While it may be from a place of genuine affection, that's likely not how it will be read should they ever find out what you've been doing.
4. You Feel Intense Jealousy Over Them
Even in the absence of a concrete relationship between you two, you still feel jealous, irrationally so. Imaginary rivals or potential romantic suitors trigger a disproportionate sense of possessiveness, immediately thinking poorly of anyone else trying to get this person's attention.
This jealousy extends to the realm of imagination, making it challenging to entertain thoughts of dating others, as if an invisible tether binds you exclusively to them. It's a paradoxical dance between the absence of tangible commitment and the overpowering sense of being emotionally entangled, illustrating the complex landscape of emotions that can unfold in the absence of clear boundaries.
5. You're Depressed When They're Distant
Should this person ever withdraw, you may find yourself dropped into the cold depths of depression, feeling a weight or sadness that's seemingly insurmountable. And should they ever try to push you away? You're not sure you could ever recover from such intense emotional pain.
Your well-being and your mental health should never be hinged on another human being like this, let alone one that you're not even close to or dating! This reliance on their presence can only spell disaster for your future if you're not vigilant.
6. You Imagine Fake, Dramatic Scenarios About Them
You may get caught up in unrealistic (or just flat-out false) fantasies about the person themselves. You may constantly insert them into hero or savior roles within your imagination, or perhaps the reverse, you imagine saving them so they'll feel indebted to or amazed by you.
When you begin to dictate and direct a person's feelings, even in your imagination, that's a sign that you may be too caught up in your thoughts about them versus the actual reality. Don't make this person you're into out to be someone they're not. You'll both be hurt in the end.
7. You Can't Stop Imagining Your Future With Them
You can't help but indulge in copious daydreams about the potential future shared with this person. It's like your thoughts are getting way ahead of you, and instead of reeling back to be a little more realistic, you lean fully into this idyllic vision of the future.
It's common to let yourself imagine positive things with someone you like, sure, but there's a limit. Limerence begins when these imagined scenarios start to become obsessive, or you begin to think of them as prophetic. You lose sight of reality, lost in the fantasy of it all.
8. You Read Heavily Into Their Actions
Every moment that you're not watching, keeping up with, or fantasizing about this person is spent analyzing their every word, action, response, expression, and movement for any sort of indicator that they might like you just as much as you like them.
You'll read extremely heavily into things that don't have anything to reveal, making meaning where there wasn't any and furthering your own delusional version of the truth. In doing this, you're putting words in the other person's mouth that they never consented to.
9. You Focus Entirely On Their Life
Your attention becomes excessively honed in on every aspect of their life. The conversations they have, their daily routine, their needs, and even their reactions or lack thereof in your presence. Your day has now become entirely about their day, your mind grasping desperately for some sort of sync or click so you two can live on the same wavelength or so you can better understand them.
This is more than just an interest in how they're doing, it's an unhealthy obsession with every step of their day and all the little details about it.
10. You Need Them In Your Life
You'll feel an intense, desperate need for them in your life, making it feel as though you're incomplete without them around. The longing for their affection, attention, and approval becomes an overpowering force, and when they're gone, there's nothing left but a void in your heart.
It's an intensity that transcends mere desire, it's a yearning that borders on the unbearable. There is nothing if they aren't there. You're nothing if they're not there. The belief that your life is intertwined with theirs somehow becomes twisted and broken, but you can't seem to let it go.
Some of the above signs, such as nervousness around them or wanting them in your life, sound innocent and normal on the surface, but limerence takes those traits and drives them to the extremes. It creates a focal point for latent obsession that can grow to become dangerous if you don't keep yourself in check.
Limerence is something that can last years and years if it's always being fed into. It can happen post-breakup, it can happen with a stranger, it can happen with a celebrity, it can happen with a friend. It's not some cut-and-dry issue that's easy to brush off.
Anything But Love
If you recognize that you or someone you know may be stuck in limerence, there are ways to escape and let go of this obsessiveness that ties you. More often than not, it's something that will fade with time. Years of your person of interest not returning any of your affections is bound to dampen your feelings about them.
Until then, just be sure that you're always challenging yourself and your thoughts, question the way you think about this person, and remind yourself why this isn't okay or safe for either of you. Once you wrap your head around the fact that this is not love, your heart will have an easier time letting go.