Limerence & Licorice

Ever daydream about the person you like or are dating?

You know, those moments when your fantasy somehow goes spinning off beyond the rational reason you know you should employ and totally out of your control.  When you see a celebrity on TV and your mind somehow flashes to the two of you walking on the red carpet.  Or you have visions of your crush leaning across the table at a coffee shop for your first kiss.  Or you make-up an entire wedding in your head after your third date with a boy you are convinced will be “the one” even though that absolutely crazy.

Limerence is a term that was ocined in the 1970’s by a social scientist named Dorothy Tennov.  According to Wikipedia, “Limerence is an involuntary cognitive and emotional state of intense romantic desire for another person.”  It is more than just a simple one-time dream about someone you are attracted to.  It’s a complete can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t think of anything else infatuation that sometimes overwhelms your entire sense of being.  And it’s a true medically defined (from the McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine) affliction.  Just like love is something you have to detox from, it is something you can become addicted to as well.

Limerence reminds me a lot of licorice.  It’s got that sweet and interesting flavor that pulls you in, but there’s something else there.  An aftertaste that you aren’t quite sure about.

Sweet and interesting but with an after-taste
Photo Credit: Getty Images – Robert Kohlhuber

It’s more than just liking or even loving someone.  The most prominent difference is that with limerence you are oblivious to often glaring truths.  Things like the object of your affection might be married.  Or might be obviously not interested in you.  Or might like you but “not as much” as you like them.  It’s when you step over that line of affection and develop an attachment instead.

If it manifests to permanence it is generally because you have fallen in
love.  Ideal situation is that the object of your Limerent Affection
loves you back.  Regardless, loving affection happens when you would put their feelings and
wishes ahead of your own.

And like licorice, it tastes sweet and syrupy when you are devouring the twisted strands.  As you peruse online sites for engagement rings and create a wishlist so your future spouse will know exactly what to buy you.  As you drive down the turnpike past his exit and spend the next hour consumed in fantastical thought of the moment when you will finally stop being friends and start being more.  As you look over her Facebook page for some small inkling of what is happening in her life, closing your eyes and wishing as the clock turns 11:11 that fate will intervene and bring you two together again.

But that’s the rub with limerence.  It is most often short-lived and temporary.  You have the thoughts in your mind and the stirrings in your heart (and sometimes regions of your body a bit south of there) but nothing real to hold at the end of the day.  Limerence seems to break your heart more than a broken heart does, because you never have the good memories to look back on.  Instead you only have your dreams.

And reality hits you with a bitter aftertaste.

And you are walking through Monument Square staring at the street vendors when the object of your dreams walks past you.  And looks you in the face.  And doesn’t smile or nod or say anything.  Instead their head goes down, they stare at the brick sidewalk and sprint-walk past you.

Like a punch in the gut.  Like a spear to the heart.

Like the black lingerings of licorice, stuck to your lips and impossible to wipe away.

Only time and a bead-filled face scrub can wash it off.

Have you experienced Limerence in your dating dealings?  Did you taste the sweetness and make it through or end up with a bitter aftertaste and licorice teeth?

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