It’s spring, when a young heart’s thoughts turn to those of love…or is that just limerence?

Ah, the joy of another new word. I thought there were phases of love, yes, but I knew nothing of the word limerent, coined by Dorothy Tennov in 1977. She described an anxious form of attachment, much like the infatuation of early love, but which varies according to the uncertainty associated with the LO (limerent object). Instead of affection decreasing if the LO seems uncertain, the affection and efforts to persuade grow stronger with such uncertainty, until it is plain that nothing will come of the relationship. Apparently, this can go on for years. It’s like being endlessly twitterpated.

“With increases in doubt interspersed with reason to hope that reciprocation may indeed occur, everything becomes intensified, especially your preoccupation with percentages. At 100% you are mooning about, in either a joyful or a despairing state, preferring your fantasies to virtually any other activity unless it is (a) acting in ways that you believe will help you attain your limerent objective, such as beautifying yourself and, therefore increasing the probability that you will impress LO favourably during your interaction, or (b) actually being in the presence of LO. Your motivation to attain a “relationship” (mating, or pair bond) continues to intensify so long as a “proper” mix of hope and uncertainty exist.”

I am reminded of the book I received one Christmas, where the lady of the house was forced to endure the gifting of the entire crew of the Partridge in a Pear Tree song as her love tried to woo her. Or of the Pe Pe Lepew and Penelope Pussycat relationship, where he tries more and more extreme approaches to win her heart. Until he gets her. Then he flees.

Of course, one wonders about the LO’s role in all of this. Does he/she lead the limerent on? According to most reports I could read, this isn’t the case – a lot of the mental anguish is internal and self-inflicted and the object often isn’t aware of it at all. Still, he/she must wonder at the flood of affectionate gifties and such.

Intersperse liminence with the natural urge to be kind to people and you can just see where people get into horrible messes. A recent online chat mentioned the need to be clear about breaking things off to avoid stimulating the limerent among us into a renewed frenzy of activity and adoration.

But hey, how do you know if you are involved with one of these folks or if you’re just suffering from the usual “spring is here and I’m in love” heart-singing that seems as predictable as the coming of strawberries with real flavour in the spring? Maybe the below will help. In the meantime, be careful out there. Those spring breezes can be dangerous…

“Dear Ralph,
Your four love letters arrived today. My landlady said a heavily sweating man stuffed them in the mailbox and lurched off like a wounded kiwi, so I assume you delivered them yourself. A million thanks, really.
All the letters make fine reading, but I was particularly struck by your complaint (letter 2, page 27) of a persistent heavy feeling in the chest that can only be relieved by sighing. Ralph, this is a clue. You are not just in love, you are limerent. …”

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