The Case for Treating Romantic 'Limerence'

It's like a crush, but sometimes a one-sided, debilitating fixation, as Pioneer Works explains
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2023 5:30 AM CDT
The Case for Treating Romantic 'Limerence'
Stock photo.   (Getty/Radionphoto)

The word "limerence" has been around since 1979, when psychologist Dorothy Tennov coined it to describe a particular type of one-sided romantic attachment. She was talking about "the obsessive, all-consuming fixations we sometimes develop on people who do not feel the same, or whose feelings we cannot be sure about," writes Alexandra Molotkow at Pioneer Works. And if you're thinking we already have a term for that—a "crush"—Molotkow is way ahead of you. The story explores the modern debate unfolding over that distinction. In one camp is the view of psychologist Albert Wakin, who argues that limerence should be added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a condition that warrants treatment. For some, the reasoning goes, it can be a long-term, debilitating situation.

The other camp is exemplified by therapist Julia Pema Dolma Gutman, who considers limerence not a disorder but a normal, even healthy, part of being human. "I would be wary of medicalizing it," she says. The subject is a popular one on TikTok and Reddit, and Molotkow talks to the moderator of a limerence support forum at the latter. "Most fall on the side of 'It's destroying my life,'" he says of participants in the forum. Molotkow considers herself a limerent and has mixed views about all this. Limerence can be "painful and disruptive, but sometimes life-affirming; it conjures feelings of helplessness and shame, but also euphoria," she writes. "It's not 'just a crush,' but—to my mind, anyway—it's not not a crush." Read the full story, in which you learn that the person a limerent focuses on is called an LO, or limerent object. (Or check out other Longform stories.)

Stories to sink your teeth into.
Get our roundup of longform stories every Saturday.
Sign up
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.