When I’ve tried to discuss limerence with people, I’ve had the feeling they have a different impression of the word than what I had in mind. The trouble with a term like limerence is that it’s not used uniformly across the board. There are instances in which it is used to mean the feeling of being infatuated that is arguably a common enough experience (example) and there are instances when it is likened to a mental disorder when people experience a crippling obsession, that is likely not a very common occurrence (example). I am wondering if it would help to resolve this confusion if we made an attempt to distinguish “limerence” from related terms like “infatuation” or “a crush”.
I usually refer people to the Living with Limerence site (which now has a very handy navigation guide, with content organized by topic!), which I think is the best place to start learning about limerence. The LwL blog has a post differentiating between limerence and crushes, but I have not seen a similar post distinguishing it from infatuation. So, in an attempt to distinguish between all three, I constructed this table below. This table presents how I personally understand the three terms, although I acknowledge that this might not be universal.
|Desire to be around the object / spend more time with them||y||y||y|
|Feel a rush of joy/giddiness when around the object or when in their company (euphoria)||y||y||y|
|Can’t stop thinking about the object (obsession / intrusive thoughts)||y||y|
|Perception of the object is clouded by rose-tinted glasses||y||y|
|Addiction to the idea of being with the object (desperate need/craving to be around them; feeling of despair/withdrawal when removed from them)||y|
|Acute need for reciprocation; feeling pain due to lack of reciprocation||y|
In other words, I see infatuation as a more intense form of a crush and limerence as a more intense form of infatuation. A crush is something that is almost universally experienced and people can develop several crushes over the course of their lifetimes. Crushes also don’t have to exclusively have romantic connotations (e.g. the term “squish” is often used to mean a “platonic crush” but squishes are also experienced through a feeling of euphoria and a desire to be around the object). A more intense version of the crush is when one can’t stop thinking about the object of interest and their perception of the object becomes distorted. This is what I call infatuation; and while crushes can develop into infatuation, not all of them do. And finally, when this infatuation turns into a person addiction and an acute desire for reciprocation which may lead to depression when unfulfilled, that is what I will call limerence. (This is, for the most part, consistent with the original description provided by Dorothy Tennov.)
Two relevant points about this table:
First, there’s the matter of “the glimmer” – the spark that puts someone on your radar. The glimmer is an essential component of all three – crushes, infatuation, limerence; but a glimmer does not necessarily lead to one of these. There can be instances when you feel a glimmer, and it stops there. A glimmer is surely a form of attraction, specifically a first-degree attraction, i.e. develops through first impressions for someone you don’t know well based on some perceivable characteristic they possess. It could be a physical attraction (e.g. aesthetic or sexual) or a mental attraction (e.g. intellectual or spiritual). (Here is the full list of attractions I have written about.)
Second, the desire for physical intimacy with the object of interest is perhaps conspicuously missing from the table above. This is because, personally speaking, I don’t typically experience this. I’ve had two cases of limerence, and in one of them I developed the desire for physical intimacy (which remained unfulfilled), but I didn’t in the other one. In fact, that was my sole instance of desiring physical intimacy. For me, personally, to develop a desire for physical intimacy, I suspect limerence is a necessary but not a sufficient condition. For others, whether the desire for physical intimacy applies to limerence only, or to infatuation as well, or to crushes as well … probably varies from person to person.
Thus, it is very likely that this table could look different based on the person filling it in. I would love to hear from those who agree or disagree with my descriptions or those who have had a different experience or have a different opinion on the matter.
How About an Umbrella Term?
There doesn’t seem to exist an umbrella term for these three related terms as far as I’m aware; and I think all three terms have been used by different people in different discussions as the umbrella term, and this is what leads to much of the confusion.
For instance, I am unclear about what is a “non-limerent” – are they folks who experience crushes and infatuation, but not limerence; or are they folks who experience crushes only, and not infatuation or limerence? According to one LwL member, the term has been used to mean both things. While Dorothy Tennov’s descriptions could suggest that non-limerents are those who do not experience infatuation, the LwL community tends to use “non-limerent” to refer to folks who have not experienced crippling obsession and/or person addiction.
This can speak to the question that I have previously raised in this blog regarding the overlap between “aromantic” and “non-limerent” – Tennov’s description of “non-limerent” seems to have much more overlap with “aromantic” than LwL’s. (Note: people who are aromantic can develop crushes; they just tend to call them squishes; but squishes are also not necessarily a universal experience among aromantics.)
I have contributed to this confusion too: in my post exploring emotional attraction, the feeling I had described as “limerent attraction” actually maps on to this non-existent umbrella term that includes limerence, infatuation, and crush, and not just to limerence itself. I had been thinking of infatuation and crush as milder forms of limerence, and included them all under the same feeling. So I wonder if “limerent attraction” could be that umbrella term…
Perhaps the umbrella term could be what is commonly understood to be “romantic attraction” – but as I explained in my emotional attraction post, the term “romantic attraction” is very difficult to define and it’s complicated by the existence of concepts like squishes. Squishes, by definition, have to be excluded from romantic attraction, yet the feelings involved with squishes are not much different from those involved with crushes. I suppose the difference is in whether there is a desire or a potential desire for a romantic relationship involved… but then again, being infatuated with someone or being limerent for someone also doesn’t necessarily have to mean you want a romantic relationship with them. So, I prefer “limerent attraction” over “romantic attraction” as the umbrella term.
I will end by saying that even though there has been pushback about the relevance of the term limerence in the discussion of aromanticism, I think the pushback has more to do with the specific term and not the umbrella term. I continue to believe that the umbrella term is very relevant to discussions about aromanticism, and which is probably why there are folks who identify as aromantic because they don’t experience limerence (examples here, here, and here). I still continue to be frustrated by the vagueness of “romantic attraction” and I prefer the specificity of “limerent attraction”. So I hope there will be more discussion about limerent attraction (if not specifically limerence itself) in the aromantic blogosphere.
Update: The 6th row of the table was updated based on a suggestion by LwL member realityquest. It originally said “addiction to the object”.