Language Lesson #2: Limerence

13 Feb

I loooove learning new words.  As a (somewhat lazy, self-proclaimed) writer and an avid reader, words are a big passion of mine.  In class today, I was reminded of an awesome word that I learned last semester.  The word is “limerence”.  Pretty, no?

You may have heard people say that the Eskimos have over a hundred words for snow.  (That is actually a common misconception, though at all not the point of this post, sooo…I digress.)  The fact remains that we only have one word for snow in the English lanuage, in spite of there being many different types of snow – light, powdery snow; slushy, soggy snow; hard, icy snow; heavy, packing snow (clearly designed just for building snowmen and forts for snowball fights).  Just like snow, our emotional, relational connections to one another have an immense range of types and intensities. Yet we only have one commonly used word for them – love.

Limerence is a type of romantic love, a sort of heightened variety of infatuation.  The term was coined by Dorothy Tennov, a psychologist who wrote a number of books, the most famous of which is titled Love and Limerence – the Experience of Being in Love.  I have yet to read Love and Limerence, but allow me to explain my current understanding of the word.  (I plan to pick up a copy soon and I will certainly elaborate more after I read it.  The formation of attractions is a totally fascinating subject to me.)

In a state of limerence, one is overwhelmed by the bliss and elation of new love.  Now, on the surface, that sounds perfectly lovely.  The reality is that there are more in-depth stages and, in some cases, much more serious implications in this process.  Beginning with intrusive thoughts about the object of one’s affections, the idealization of his or her qualities, a longing for the reciprocation of one’s feelings, a sense of despair at the slightest sign of rejection, etc. Often, one person may be limerent, while the other is not.  We call this unrequited love. Removing uncertainty and confirming the other person’s reciprocation can resolve the limerent state, which is especially likely when both parties are experiencing limerence.

And now you know.  The process of initial attraction, obsession, longing, affirmation, that roller coaster of doubt and delight that is falling in love, is called limerence.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Read more about limerence.

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