In love, or in "limerence"? When infatuation turns to unhealthy obsession

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In the book Enduring Love by Ian McEwan, a hot-air balloon falls from the sky one beautiful morning when everyone was enjoying picnics in a park. In an attempt to save the children in the balloon, someone dies. In this critical moment of death, the protagonist shares a momentary but eternal smile with another stranger.

The old science writer living with his fiance got unwanted attention from the male stranger who turned into an unwanted stalker. Then his life started going to hell. The stalker claimed that the other guy was in love with him, when in truth, he had no feelings for him at all. Still, the other person was living in a world of delusion - interpreting the other's rejection as a sign of deep love.

The book describes the stalker as having a mental disorder - while the story is fiction, the disease is real - De Clerambault's Syndrome. It was named after a French Psychiatrist who had treated a delusional woman who thought that the King George V of the UK was in love with her. She constantly tried to sneak in the palace and interpreted random things as 'signs' of the King's love for her - even the pattern of the clouds and how the curtains in the castle was set in the windows that day.

This disorder is also known as erotomania, and Wikipedia defines it as is "a type of delusional disorder where the affected person believes that another person is in love with him or her. This belief is usually applied to someone with higher status or a famous person, but can also be applied to a complete stranger." Some cases of stalking (and the occasional violence that occurs along with it) can be attributed to erotomania.

Recently, I learned of the term 'limerence' while I was researching on obsessive love. Ever been infatuated with a person who didn't reciprocate your feelings? Ever felt that its them you think about 24/7, the physical feelings are extreme, and you completely melt when that person is around? There are many words for it: unrequited love, obsessive love, love addiction, extreme infatuation. Those who 'suffered' through this realize that it 'love' isn't always a good thing.

The website defines the word as "an involuntary state of mind which results from a romantic attraction to another person combined with an overwhelming, obsessive need to have one's feelings reciprocated. It is characterised by the following: Intrusive and obsessive thinking about the object of our infatuation - referred to as the Limerent Object (LO) - Replaying and rehearsal of our interactions with the LO - Anxiety and self-consciousness around the LO and an Emotional dependence on our LO. Impaired functioning around our LO." Often, this is the beginning of love, but also can end in obsession if the feelings are not reciprocated.

Sadly, I find these similar to my own unfortunate experiences. While I have realized that there are many more significant and important things than an obsessive preoccupation with romantic love, when I was young I thought that I was only a complete person when "someone loves me." Which is frustrating, because it was a huge blow to the self-esteem if you're the one feeling and the relationship is largely imaginary. It took years before I realized that the only love and security you need is from God.

When we seek love too much and depend on it for our self-esteem, we are headed for trouble. Soon, we don't realize that we have become addicts to it. "A love addict’s core fantasy is the expectation that someone else can solve their problems, provide unconditional love, and take care of them. When this unrealistic need isn’t met, love addicts may find themselves feeling resentful, and may create conflict in their relationships with others." Ouch.

How do you move on from limerence if it causes you suffering? Here are some suggestions from [link].

I'm not a relationship expert, but I think everyone can relate to this. Everyone has been heartbroken in some degree, one way or another.

My own experiences led me back to myself: I was only using another person to fulfill my needs. While trying to move on, I learned the real value of myself and learned to live for me. I've learned that I need to be a whole human being before I can also extend that love for others. If I do not love myself and try to use others to fill up my emptiness, I will just become a black hole.

I think this is just an interesting thing to think about. Society is so obsessed with love and sex, and we are obsessively seeking it without questioning ourselves. We seek for love, but why do we end up in despair? As I've seen, it is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. I think we should question the concept that we really need it to live a fulfilled life. What we think of as "Love" often goes with deception, hurt feelings, and broken hearts. If we learn God's true concept of love, we learn that God's standards are different from the world's standards.
"Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last but feelings come and go." -C.S. Lewis

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