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Valentine’s Day is upon us. Whether you’ve planned a romantic dinner for two, or are scouring the shelves at Target for a last-minute gift, the girl of your dreams may actually turn into a nightmare. We spoke to Albert Wakin, Professor of Psychology at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut and researcher of a type of distorted love called limerence. See how to identify this unhealthy form of obsession and how to get out before you come home to a boiled bunny. Oh…and Happy Valentine’s Day.
Limerence is defined as a combination of obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction. Wakin notes that individuals diagnosed as limerent think about the object of their love up to 98% of the time. “Limerence feels like a super love. They are constantly on your mind. That is not healthy. The addictive part of this is very powerful because it is an addiction to a person, not a substance, ”Wakin notes. The inability to control a person only feeds the obsession. “You never have to worry that the liquor is going to reject her, or the liquor is going to see other people. The nightmare of nightmares of the limerent person is that you become interested in someone else.” Wakin explains. Wakin calls this review and rehearse. A girl diagnosed limerent is reviewing past encounters with the object of her affection by trying to figure out the true meaning of the dialogue. A simple, “We should try and get together this weekend,” could have stronger implications for her, such as holding off on all other plans until she hears from you. Additionally, she will be continually rehearse what she plans to say to you in the future in order to get confirmation that her feelings are reciprocated.
One of the clearest indicators of limerence is determining the nature of the relationship. “In a healthy relationship, you encourage the other person to be good for you. You love the person away from you. Of course, you want to spend time with the object of your affection, but if someone is in love, you support their efforts, even if it means separation. In a limerent relationship, you want the person for you and it feels smothering,” Wakin explains. Other signs of unhealthy involvement include constant calling. A limerent person is also essentially available 24/7 for you. It may seem initially flattering, but a limerent’s affection will never be satisfied, and will only increase over time. “A limerent person can get off the phone with you, and 10 minutes later, feel the desire to speak again, if they can last even that long,” Wakin notes.
If you feel like you are in a limerent relationship, don’t bank on her snapping out of it. Wakin states, “The general lifespan of limerence is three to five years. We have found that people have been in limerent relationships for decades.” What should you do? “They should get out. Run for the hills. The longer you stay in the relationship, the more intense and captivating the object of limerence becomes,” Wakin warns. “One of the departures from the early research of limerence was the idea that it could evolve into a healthy relationship. We do not believe that is the case now. If you should have a change of heart, get ready! She is probably not going to leave you alone. If you yell at her, threaten her, tell her to go away, that still gives her attention,“ Wakin says. He believes your only option is to turn and run away. “Keep your distance. Don’t tell them to stop calling you. If the person doesn’t stop or you find them hanging around your place of residence, call the police,“ Wakin recommends.
Wakin emphasizes that this does not occur only in women. “There are no qualifiers for it. You don’t have to be in a relationship to experience it,” Wakin cautions. Age and gender do not matter, although it tends to start around age 25 since adolescent and early adulthood experiences of love are hard to distinguish from limerence. Limerence is not about sex, although sexual relations will intensify the feelings. “Men are real suffers of it. Women are likely to tell friends and get support. Men feel that opening up about it is a sign of weakness,” Wakin says. If you believe you are suffering from limerence, minimize all contact and if all else fails, try behavior therapy, which can help control the thoughts.