Limerence is a form of obsessive love (to some romantic love) commonly experienced by people in some relationships but not in others, and often at the beginning of relationships. Psychologist Dorothy Tennov coined the term in her 1979 book Love and Limerence.
It is also not necessarily unhealthy, although a craving for limerence above other forms of love can be.
Whether we call it limerence or some other thing, the question becomes to what extent the relationship can be grounded in reality. Helen Fisher, a neuropsychologist, suggests that limerence, sex drive, and attachment were complementary drives:
- Sex drive pushes individuals to get out, and survey many potential partners.
- Limerence pushes individuals to focus high amounts of energy on one person, in order to successfully bring about offspring.
- Attachment keeps people together long enough to raise offspring to the age where they can reproduce. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-ewvCNguug cite]
A few things can go wrong though. First, many people become addicted to limerence, to the point they cannot form attachment. To illustrate this, Walster and Walster (1978) quote the actor Marcello Mastroianni:
That’s my trouble. I believe I’m having a great love, but it’s only on a plane of fantasy. I can’t bring it down to the acts, the gestures, the attitudes of one who’s really in love. Maybe one should love without imagining too much. But I can’t, and it becomes a game where I’m left with the fantasy while the reality, the woman I love, is eventually gone … destroying any chance have for a happy life. [https://books.google.com/books?id=1pWeBwAAQBAJ&lpg=PA173&dq=limerence&pg=PA175#v=onepage&q=limerence&f=false source]
Additionally, while these different states can form a sequence, they are in truth often detached from one another, which can create all sorts of problems.