Manj Bahra

** Originaly posted on Medium here –

Manj BahraFollowingJun 9, 2019 · 9 min read

This article really opened my eyes and has been a turning point in my life. This happened to me with someone I met while I was going through my divorce almost 3 years ago. They came into my life when I was alone and, in pain and feeling rejected and made me feel that I wasn't alone, I was desired and seemed to want to want to be a source of healing for me. I thought I was in love, but this article is a heaping scoop of the bitter red pill, I was "limerent" and it was causing me to behave in unhealthy ways which was starting to seep into other aspects of my life.
Below is the article from Manj Bahra on medium that is helping me close that chapter as after I expressed my feelings, that person chose to cut off all contact with me, instead of talking through it. They always hated confrontation and typically choose to run, I just really hoped that we could look past it and move forward with an even stronger friendship that was now clear to me, unfortunately they chose to end it.

- Mo

It’s an all too familiar scenario. You meet a person that blows you away. Within minutes you know that there is something different and special about them. You’re connecting in a way that you haven’t with anyone before. You discover how much you have in common, can seemingly read other’s minds, and enjoy looking at them regardless of how scruffy and unkempt they are in that moment.

Rapidly your feelings intensify. You can’t wait to see that person and experience what happens next. They can do no wrong, and soon the highlight of your day becomes your interaction with them. Almost all your waking moments are spent thinking of that special person, how they smiled at you, brushed your hand, and hinted that they wanted to see you more.

It sounds like an intense and special experience. It comes across as once in a lifetime, as if it was destiny and meant to happen. But what if it’s nothing more than our mind playing devious tricks, lulling us into a fantasy world where only we are living?

What if what you are feeling is nothing more than Limerence — a psychological condition of cognitive pre-occupation? If you’re finding yourself irrational, helpless, and out of control, then this article is for you. Let’s explore the signs that may show you are not in love, but rather experiencing a condition that creates the illusion of feelings.

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Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

What Is Limerence?

Limerence is a term introduced by psychologist Dorothy Tennov in the 1960s. Her book “Love and Limerence: The Experience Of Being In Love”, was the first real attempt at studying the obsessive side of romantic relationships.

It can be defined as follows:

The cognitive and emotional state of being infatuated or obsessed with another person, that is typically experienced involuntarily and characterized by a desire for reciprocation of one’s feelings”

In other words, it’s the near-obsessive form of romantic love but with a specific focus on the reciprocation of feelings. The person suffering from the state is considered to be Limerent, and the desired individual is considered the Limerent Object.

The idea has been widely debated in the field of psychology, with some theorists reluctant to accept it’s validity. One of the interesting notions put forward by Tennov is that people who have not experienced limerence lack an experiential base from which to accept its existence (Tennov 2005). That means if you haven’t been through it, you couldn’t possibly believe in the obsession that it creates. If you have experienced it, you know all too well its validity.

There several key differences between Limerence, Love, and Infatuation, that need to be highlighted:

  • The primary desire of a limerent individual is the reciprocation of feelings, rather than any sexual relationship as in infatuation or love
  • Unlike infatuation, there is no suggestion that the individual is immature or lacks information about the object of desire — it can happen to anyone even when they know the person’s flaws
  • Unlike love, there is less concern over the desired person’s welfare and more focus on winning them over at all costs
  • Limerence involves obsessive and compulsive reading into behaviors and actions of the limerent object e.g. defining the way they looked at you as a sign of attraction

To summarise, Limerence is about obsessive involuntary thought, desire for reciprocated feelings, and compulsive analysis of behaviors.

Let’s look in detail at the signs of this condition.

You’re Constantly Thinking About The Person

At the height of limerence, you will find your thoughts of the individual are persistent, involuntary and intrusive — all at once. Yes, even if you don’t want to be thinking about them, you might find the thought entering your mind consistently without your control. Remember this is a cognitive obsession that takes over your mind. Almost all things that happen in your day will return you to some thought of that individual, be it through a distant association or a direct reminder. This extends beyond your inner voice and covers talking endlessly about the object of your affection to those around you. You may find yourself name-dropping in scenarios that bear no relevance, and subsequently wondering what triggered that action.

As stated by Tennov herself, the biggest danger of Limerence is the failure to give appropriate attention to other aspects of life. The level of intrusive thinking can grow exponentially and distract you some of the most important parts of your being, particularly your career and social life. It can literally incapacitate you mentally and leave you frustrated at your lack of control.

If you find yourself unable to focus and irrationally spending time dwelling on one person, it could be a sign of Limerence more than healthy affection. Be aware that this is a symptom and not your fault — don’t beat yourself up over it, and instead start devoting your attention to the things you are neglecting in life.

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Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

You Are Constantly Reading Into Everything

She touched my hand when we were walking.

He looked at me differently today.

She played with her hair when she spoke to me.

One of the key signs of Limerence is an obsessive and compulsive analysis of the limerent object’s behavior. This can range from interpreting the briefest of touches as a sign of interest to rationalizing rejection as an attempt to play hard to get.

You may find yourself googling “Signs he likes you” or “What does it mean if she…”

This is one of the tell-tale signs of cognitive obsession. What you are really looking for is the validation of reciprocated feelings — some form of proof that they feel something for you, without ever directly confronting the situation.

Tennov recalls one particularly strong case of Limerence in her research — a man who sustained a nine-year obsession for a co-worker. He had filled forty notebooks and several thousand audio cassettes with details of how she looked, whether she smiled or spoke to him, and other minute details that only he could appreciate. His distraction led to poor performance at work, several demotions, and eventual dismissal.

If you are evaluating every body movement, the slightest touch, verbal interaction, and more, then you may be heading into dangerous territory. Take a step back and review what you intend to do with the information you are seeking. It is not healthy to be performing in-depth analysis over other individuals waking movements, and it definitely not a sign of healthy attraction, affection, or love.

You Won’t Take No For An Answer

The immense desire to receive reciprocation of feelings means that almost nothing the limerent object does will fail to discourage the inflicted from pursuit. That means even direct rejection will not be accepted but rather misconstrued as a challenge to be overcome.

Research conducted by Tennov in 2005 showed that introducing obstacles only increased attraction for the limerent. The combination of uncertainty and hope drives the individual to continually keep trying. Tennov has described the extraordinary ability of a limerent to devise or invent a reasonable explanation for why rejection is not really a rejection. This self-created doubt as to the authenticity of rejection keeps the condition going on, despite the fact that the person may be suffering in many areas of life.

An excellent example of this is rationalizing the rejection as an attempt to play hard to get — nothing more than a tactic to see how serious you are about being with them. You may find yourself considering that all you need to do is keep trying, and eventually you will get the result you want. As you continue with the chase, you look for an excuse to change any behavior or action by that person into a sign that they are now coming around.

As I have written about before, uncertainty leads to attraction. When you refuse to acknowledge rejection for what it is, you give birth to hope. You create your own fantasy fuelled dopamine loop, whereby every sign of interest is blown out of proportion and keeps you investing further. In short, your delusion fuels more delusion, and you become addicted to the person you are chasing.

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Photo by Pablo Merchán Montes on Unsplash

You Want Them To Feel The Same Way More Than Anything

As discussed initially, the primary differentiator of Limerence from both infatuation and love is the innate desire to have feelings reciprocated above all else. This is in stark contrast from pure attraction or infatuation, where the goal is to pursue a sexual relationship. For this reason, physical proximity and touch are not required to fuel the individual, though it should be noted this does not mean there is no sexual interest at all — just that it remains of lesser importance.

What happens in this situation is you fall in love with the idea of the person, rather than who they are themselves. You have become enamored with winning the game that you have started playing, not for any eventual want of being with the person, but for the prize which you are envisioning in your head.

The overwhelming drive to see your feelings returned can lead to “at any cost” behavior, whereby you will do anything to try and win over that person. This again differs from what psychologists consider to be healthy love — where you are inherently concerned with the well-being and feelings of another person, regardless of how they feel about you. Limerence is much more concerned with how that individual is viewing you at any one time, and this perception can create violent mood swings and control your energy levels.

If you have fallen hard for another person, evaluate what you are looking for from them. You may be surprised to find that all you want is an admission that they feel the same way and nothing more. If you truly wanted to pursue a sexual relationship, perhaps you would be making your true intentions known rather than ruminating every second about how they feel about you.

I Am Limerent — What Do I Do?

The first stage is to accept that what you are feeling has been observed in many others. That is to say, no matter how crazy you feel, you are not the only person to go through it. Equally important is to acknowledge you are not in love. Many people who go through this experience berate themselves or even diagnose themselves as insane. The research conducted by Tennov shows that this condition is far more common amongst many people than we would think.

The second stage is to commit to tackling the number one issue — constantly thinking about the other person. Your priority is to focus on the areas of your life that you are currently neglecting, and engage in as much positive distraction — without relating it to them. Take up as many new activities as possible, and become absorbed in some personal project or goal. This is about reclaiming your cognition and re-wiring yourself to live for you, not the approval of another,

Finally, know that nothing anybody says is going to change this situation. The only thing that can, is your actions — something which you have 100% control of. You cannot control the thoughts that enter your mind, but you can dictate where they lead to. Your responsibility is to ensure they lead to something productive for you personally, that is far away from the person you are obsessing over.

There is no shame in experiencing a condition such as Limerence. If anything, this could be the most transformative experience of your life. The choice is yours as to how you deal with such an ordeal — do you choose to let it consume you, or do you choose to let it become an opportunity for growth? That is entirely up to you.

Make it happen.

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