Most people think love is that fairytale, butterflies in the stomach, can’t stop thinking about the other person feeling. Our upbringings have been full of movies, plays, and songs telling us it’s gazing into one another’s eyes endlessly, kissing for hours, and sex all.the.time! That giddy love-drunk feeling has us craving them and experiencing a form of separation anxiety when we’re apart for any length of time. You like what they like. You are, in a way, obsessed with them. It’s basically like a drug addiction. It’s so intense and, if we’re being honest, it feels f*cking awesome!
It isn’t love, though. What that is, is called limerence. I know from whence I speak. I was definitely a limerence addict all through my teenage years. “I need another hit! Pleeeeeeeeaase! Just one more mix tape, one more poem . . . .”
BUT . . . . . . . . . There’s always a “but”, isn’t there?! It usually subsides around the two-year mark and so it’s often then that couples break up in search of the next limerence high. “The magic is gone. It’s not easy any more and love should be easy!” or that classic, “I love you, I’m just not IN love with you anymore.” And just like that, they give up. Because they think that ‘exciting and new’ feeling is what love is, they walk away. Many keep replaying this cycle again and again until they find themselves ready for retirement and all alone.
The couples that stay together, however, do so because they realize that attraction was/is there but more importantly, they really LIKE one another. They choose to work at a real, long-term love – the kind that’s deep, true, full of respect for one another, and willing to remain steadfast through the hard stuff and wait, if need be. They know each other’s flaws and still love and accept each other, without judgment or trying to impose change. They say, “Nothing and no one is perfect, but I want this. It just feels right and my life is better for it.”
Something that’s solely limerence doesn’t have the strength to tell a struggling partner, “Here, take my hand. We can walk through this together. I’m not going anywhere.” Limerence is weak and a bit of a spoiled, self-centered child. Love puts it’s own wants and needs on hold because it truly wants what’s best for the other person. It takes a deep breath, squares its shoulders and keeps coming back to try again.
A couple I quite admire who have been married over 30 years explained their secret: their love is not 50/50. Some days it’s 75/25. Some days it’s 40/60. Depending on what the other is going through, one may have to shoulder more on some days. They take turns picking up the slack, knowing that when he only has 15 to give, she’ll step up with 85.
Limerence, is Ring Dings, Cheetos and Twinkies. It’s a drive-thru fast food meal or something dried and powdery from a box labeled ‘instant’. I’ll admit, it’s sweet and so damn delicious while you’re partaking in it. Eventually though, you end up with an upset stomach, crashing down from a sugar high and not really satiated for very long.
Real love can’t happen until the limerence is over. This isn’t to say the passion is gone. The sparks remain but it’s not ALL there is to it anymore. Real love is a multi-course meal made with care. It’s a balance of savory, salty, bitter and sweet and it takes a skillful and mature chef making an effort to put it together. It takes longer to make, longer to experience and truly nourishes.
I don’t mean to break this down to biology (although, in great part, that’s what it is) and ruin the magical feeling of romantic love. Hell, I’m an addict too! I just think that it’s time to start acting with intention and awareness so we’re not powerless victims chasing a limerence high, missing out on something real and finding ourselves without another pair of crinkly, smiling eyes awaiting us when we awake each morning.
Move beyond the addiction, recognize it for what it is and quit it. Throw away the Ring Dings and invest some time in something that takes effort. You just may be rewarded with something profound.