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6 Concrete Signs You’re Not In Love, You’re In Limerence

Are you in love, or are you in limerence? Limerence speaks to a kind of fantasy relationship where you find yourself fixated on a love interest who may not necessarily return your affections to the same extent. Psychologist Dorothy Tennov first coined the term “limerence” in her book Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being In Love. She surveyed hundreds of people in the midst obsessive love, identifying the components of limerence that both overlap and distinguish it from healthy love. Limerence is a state of deep obsession and infatuation with another person. Here are signs you’re in limerence, not necessarily in long-lasting love:


Salience is the beginning stages of romantic love and limerence. This is when you first identify a romantic prospect as important to you and to your survival. You begin to center that person in your life and every action they do takes on more weight and meaning. When you’re reading a funny book, watching a movie, or going on a run, you think of them and what they would think of it. You constantly reminisce and recall the tender moments you spent together, and have a tendency to exaggerate even small moments of connection as evidence of true love. While salience can be helpful to drive commitment in a mutually satisfying romantic relationship, it can be a detriment to your well-being and goals if you find yourself creating a fantasy of the person that does not reflect who they really are, or a relationship that is not as deep as you think it is. In the specific cases of toxic, narcissistic partners who love-bomb you, such limerence is deliberately manufactured for the purpose of manipulation.


Tennov calls this “crystallization” – the aspect of limerence where you may notice flaws in your partner, but you romanticize these flaws through rose-colored glasses. You cast their shortcomings as “adorable” little quirks, and see their weaknesses as “charming.” During this stage, be careful that you’re not turning serious red flags into romance. There’s a clear difference between, “I love how he runs so awkwardly! He’s so cute!” and “He drinks so much and argues with me on the weekends, what a sweet little lightweight!”

Intrusive Thinking

Many in love experience intrusive thinking – this preoccupation is actually driven by lower levels of serotonin (similar to the levels of people with OCD) and rising cortisol when we fall in love, causing obsession and fixation. However, with limerence, such intrusive thinking is not mutual. Thus, you lose focus and concentration on someone who is ultimately not worth your time and energy and may not invest in you the same way you invest in them.

Craving and Intense Energy

Dopamine is a key player in motivation, desire, and addiction – and in love, especially unpredictable love. In limerence, our dopamine rush goes into overdrive due to hot and cold unpredictable behavior. We feel an intense craving for the person we’re in “limerence” with and feel especially motivated to “glow up” or achieve our goals. This can have some benefits to our self-development in the beginning, but not if the love is ultimately toxic in the long-run. Limerence awakens our fight or flight. We can tremble, stammer, sweat, have a pounding heart, and difficulty eating or sleeping in limerence, whereas in real love, we tend to be comforted consistently by our lover.

Hope and Uncertainty

It is the unpredictable nature of limerence that makes it so addictive to our brain and psyche. People in limerence long for reciprocity and can be emotionally unavailable themselves – some just love the chase and pursuit of the person and do not see this person clearly.

Anhedonia and Helplessness

When affections aren’t reciprocated to the extent the person in limerence hopes they would be, the person in limerence can fall into a deep depression and withdrawal. Their brains resemble those of cocaine addicts. These rollercoaster waves of intense emotions, of highs and lows, are very much like detox from love addiction.

If you’re in limerence, not in healthy love, it’s important to seek professional support. Limerence can also be part of the trauma bond we experience with even more toxic, blatantly manipulative partners. You deserve to be healthy, safe, and free from toxicity.