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Limerence and Unrequited Love

Limerence and Unrequited Love.

The first time is always the worst. The worst fall, the most pain. It gets messy and passionate, even obsessive. We’re of course discussing the all-consuming and universal experience of unrequited love here. Several studies have been done to uncover the mechanisms that make our hearts tick. The triangular theory of love explains that we endure various types of love throughout our lives. There are three key components which form a triangle and these three elements are the building blocks for all our love relationships.

The three components are intimacy, passion and commitment. First side of the triangle represents intimacy. This is a feeling involving desire to communicate with each other, to support each other and be the best friend to each other. Intimacy is a feeling characterized by warmth and loving friendship. The second side of the triangle is passion. Passion is the physical part of love, involving feelings of desire, essentially the heat and intensity typical of the beginning stages of a relationship. The third corner of the triangle represents commitment. This third side completes the triangle and the relationship.

Commitment is characterised by devotion and the decision to remain with one partner. It involves the desire to work through any problems that may arise in a relationship; this constituent of the triangle is what allows a relationship to sustain itself even during fluctuations of passion and intimacy. Needless to say that every couple has a different experience even in a committed relationship. Hence, it is said that the triangle comes in various shapes and sizes with each of the three components varying in intensity during stages of a relationship.

Love has been found to range from ‘empty love’ when a couple is high in commitment, but lacks any intimacy and passion, to ‘infatuation’, when the passion is pumping but devoid of intimacy or commitment. These are just simplistic notions of love. Actually, love comes in multifaceted forms. The three sides of the triangle usually triangle work in tandem to form more complex experiences. When a couple is on the way to high intimacy and passion, they constantly feel romantic love for each other. This period feels like a honeymoon, because it is that phase of the relationship where you are in a state of intense euphoria and there is a release of reward-activation neurotransmitters, like dopamine in the body. If you have ever found yourself in a trance-like state while you are with friends and all you have been thinking about is that one special person, while your friends were talking, and you don’t seem to have heard a single word of the conversation for 20 minutes at a stretch, there is scientific evidence to support that you are (insane?) experiencing a normal stage of love.

Today, people, especially in the western societies, place a huge emphasis on this passionate stage of a relationship. Some people refuse to marry without it and some only marry with this one component present. However, if this component is coupled with commitment, it does have the capability to last for a lifetime. Though, mostly, after around six to twenty-four months in a relationship, this component of the triangle, the feelings of intense euphoria, dissipates to a normal degree, which is actually beneficial for both your productivity and sanity. If you were to remain in the state of constant euphoria, you would become a limerent instead of a lover.

The next point to discuss is what if this euphoric, lovecrazy component lasted indefinitely? What if this stage of love was unrequited? This kind of effect of love is seen in 5% of the population who suffer from a condition known as Limerence. As discussed in my post Limerence, limerence has been defined as “an involuntary interpersonal state that involves intrusive, obsessive, and compulsive thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that are contingent on perceived emotional reciprocation from the object of interest”. The Limerent recount feelings of intense grief following a break up, characterized by chest pains, heart palpitations, insomnia, lethargy, and an inability to consume food. Limerence ahs also been defined as an involuntary and incessant state of compulsory longing for another person.

In my next post, I am going to discuss more about limerence and its perceived extension as a unique sub-type of depression. So keep checking back!


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