Explore this precise summary of Love and Limerence, Dorothy Tennov’s groundbreaking book. Dive into the psychology of this powerful romantic emotion.
Dorothy Tennov’s book “Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love” has become a classic in the psychology of emotion.
Originally released in 1979, the book offers insight into love, infatuation, madness, limerence, and all flavors of emotion in between.
The book has been widely read and is still a valuable resource to understand the complex emotions that arise in romantic relationships, especially what is known as limerence.
Tennov’s research sheds light on the many different ways that people experience love, and the book is full of real-life anecdotes that make it relatable and engaging.
Summary of “Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love” by Dorothy Tennov
Here is a chapter-wise summary of Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love by Dorothy Tennov:
“I coined the word “limerence.” I twas pronounceable and seemed to me and to teo students to have a “fitting” sound. To be in the state of limerence is to feel what is usually termed “being in love.”
Limerence, a term coined by psychologist Dorothy Tennov, describes an intense romantic attraction that goes beyond the typical feelings of love.
It’s a complex emotional state that starts quickly, often transforming the way we perceive someone, be it an old friend or a new acquaintance.
The mystery of limerence lies in its unpredictability; it can strike at any time, towards any person, often when least expected.
The Individual Experience of Limerence
“Limerence enters your life pleasantly. Someone takes on a special meaning. It may be an old friend unexpectedly seen in a new way. Or it may be a new person, someone who only a week before, perhaps just yesterday, was unknown to you. …
You admire, are physically attracted, you see, or think you see (or deem it possible to see under “suitable” conditions), the hint of possible reciprocity, and the process is set in motion.”
Limerence is primarily a mental process, a unique way of interpreting events rather than the events themselves.
It may start as a slight interest in someone but can escalate into a powerful emotion under the right circumstances.
People who are in limerence are called “limerents” and those who don’t are “nonlimerents.”
The person for whom one feels limerence is called the “limerent object”(LO). The limerent obsesses over their LO, craving reciprocation of their feelings.
This obsession can lead to a rollercoaster of emotions, from euphoria when it seems like the LO reciprocates their feelings, to despair when there’s uncertainty.
Limerence is not the most important type of interaction between people, but when it is strong, it overshadows their other relationships.
The Other Sides of Limerence
“Limerence can live a long life sustained by crumbs. Indeed, overfeeding is perhaps the best way to end it. It bears a definite resemblance to the condition of the laboratory rats and pigeons who continue to press the bar or peck at the disk even when the probability of food reward is gradually diminished.”
Limerence can be a solitary experience, often unknown to even close friends of the limerent individual. However, when reciprocated, it can lead to a deep connection between two people.
Limerence is made up of:
- Obsessive thoughts about the object of your affection (LO), who could be a romantic partner or even someone unaware of your feelings.
- A strong yearning for reciprocation, a desire for the LO to share the same feelings.
- Mood dependency on the LO’s actions, or more specifically, your interpretation of their actions in terms of potential reciprocation.
- Fear of rejection and a sense of discomfort (heartache or chest pain) or shyness around the LO, particularly in the initial stages or whenever there is uncertainty.
- A feeling of elation or buoyancy when it appears that the LO reciprocates the feelings.
- A general intensity of emotion that overshadows other concerns, pushing other worries to the back of your mind.
Yet, the intensity of limerence can also lead to heartbreak, especially when the feelings are not reciprocated.
In some cases, the limerent person may even transfer their feelings to a new LO, starting the cycle anew.
The Social Effects of Limerence
“Quite often, however, it is the limerent, rather than the nonlimerent partner who terminates the relationship. Very often the break is accompanied by a “scene,” which leaves the nonlimerent person saddened, distraught, and lonely.”
Limerence can significantly impact a person’s social life. In fact, limerence can make people act in ways that are almost anti-social.
The desire to be with or around the LO can lead to changes in behavior that others may notice. The limerent may be frequently absent-minded.
Limerence can also cause emotional instability, with rapid mood swings from happiness to sadness.
In a way, limerence may infuse a sense of excitement into the lives of those who may otherwise find their existence dull and monotonous. A love that is passionate and romantic, yet doesn’t allow freedom to be possessive, could actually be a form of deception.
Limerence can also make the person focus intensely on self-improvement, especially in appearance and personal development, to attract the LO. They may start an exercise or makeup routine to improve their looks.
They become very interested in and knowledgeable about whatever is important to LO.
The Opinions of Philosophers, Psychologists, and Other Experts
“In some ways, a woman’s limerence for a male psychotherapist is as difficult to escape from as is limerence for a brutal husband. It is an aspect of his socially agreed-on role that he be not only polite, but warm, understanding, compassionate, concerned, etc., and that he focus his attention on his “patients” in a very intimate and personal way. Furthermore, the very nature of the situation provides both obstacles and a rationalization for his reluctance to admit any positive feeling he may have for a “patient.””
Many philosophers and psychologists have explored the concept of limerence, often linking it to cultural influences. She feels while culture may shape our understanding of love, it doesn’t necessarily dictate the experience of limerence.
Dorothy Tennov says that psychologist Albert Ellis criticized limerence for its irrationality and potential harm. Ellis advised therapists to help their clients abandon their limerent “philosophies.” He argued that his rational/emotive system (REBT) allowed a person to experience intense, even romantic, love while avoiding the usual drawbacks such as insecurity, anxiety, and grief.
The author also highlights the potential negative impacts of limerence, such as emotional dependence and the potential for obsession.
Limerence Among the Sexes
“The image of woman as being in greater need of love could well result from a cultural upending of the actual inherent tendency. The social forces operating on her—and it cannot be denied that throughout modern history they have operated quite harshly—permitted no other role than one in which she required the protection of a male. If love were not a major concern, she might find herself literally left out in the cold.”
Based on the author’s research, it seems likely that limerence affects both men and women equally, although societal pressures may influence how each expresses their feelings.
There is social pressure on men not to admit that they deeply love someone.
Research suggests a link between marital status and overall happiness, which may be shaped by societal norms, personal satisfaction, and relationship dynamics:
- Unmarried women tend to report the highest levels of happiness.
- Conversely, married women often report the lowest levels of happiness.
- Men’s happiness levels fall in between, with married men generally being happier than single men.
The cultural roles of men and women can also shape the experience of limerence, with women often more likely to admit to emotional dependence.
Moreover, women are more likely to feel sympathy and compassion when they see other people in distress, and this could be mistaken for romantic love.
Limerence and Biology
“The most consistent result of limerence is mating, not merely sexual interaction but commitment, the establishment of a shared domicile, a cozy nest built for the enjoyment of ecstasy, for reproduction, and, usually, for the rearing of children.”
Limerence is not just a psychological phenomenon; it has biological roots as well. It often begins around puberty and can lead to intense emotional experiences.
From a biological and reproductive perspective, limerence has this advantage over someone who just might want a casual relationship and no marriage or kids from their lover.
Limerence can lead to mating and reproduction, suggesting a potential evolutionary advantage.
Can Limerence Be Controlled?
“Limerence is not the product of human decision: It is something that happens to us. Its intrusive cognitive components, the obsessional quality that may feel voluntary at the moment but that defies control, seem to be the aspect of limerence in which it differs most from other states.”
Controlling limerence can be challenging, especially once it reaches a certain intensity.
Understanding the nature of limerence may help, though knowledge of limerence will not prevent its occurrence, and you may still fall into one.
Strategies include cutting off contact with the LO, focusing on personal growth, and seeking professional help if necessary.
One logical approach involves a detailed examination and listing of the faults, shortcomings, and flaws of the person one is obsessed with, that is, the LO. However, merely emphasizing the negative aspects of LO doesn’t necessarily lead to the end of limerence.
- “Mating in Captivity” by Esther Perel: This book delves into the complexities of maintaining desire in long-term relationships.
- “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman: Chapman’s book explores the different ways people express and receive love.
- “The Chemistry Between Us” by Larry Young and Brian Alexander: A fascinating exploration of the biological factors that underpin attraction and attachment.
- “Attached” by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller: This book investigates the science of adult attachment styles and their impact on romantic relationships.
• • •
- Celebrity Limerence: Why We’re Obsessed with Famous People
- Limerence and Midlife Crisis: Understanding the Connection
- 6 Common Limerence Triggers You Should Be Aware Of
- Here Are 10 Signs That Your Limerence Is Ending
• • •
Author Bio: Researched and reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy. His expertise is in mental well-being, positive psychology, narcissism, and Stoic philosophy.
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