There are many forms of love. Fatuous, compassionate, true love, the list goes on. If you find yourself in an affair or your spouse is in an affair, they may experience intense feelings of love unlike ever before. This feeling is a burning, fierce passion that takes over their mind and actions. What they are experiencing might feel like love, but it’s not love. It’s limerence. In the social sciences, limerence is the feeling of being in love, and there are various stages of limerence. It is the dewy-eyed magical sensation when you are near the person. You feel alive in their presence and desire to be with them.
You want this so badly it hurts, and without them, your world feels empty. At a certain point, you become so overwhelmed with emotions, obsession takes hold, and you find yourself addicted to everything about your affair partner. There are three critical stages to limerence, and today we will dive into the emotional, mental, and physical effects of those stages.
Limerence is powerful. It affects your thoughts and actions to unrealistic and sometimes destructive levels. Depending on what stage you are in, you could completely change your views on your current relationship. Someone deep in limerence starts hyper-focusing on their limerent lover abandoning the integrity and morals of their marriage.
As a single individual, limerence causes those butterflies and heart-racing love. It’s alright if you are not committed to anyone or in the process of connecting with another. Still, things become complicated when you are in an affair or outside your primary relationship.
Stage1 of Limerence: Attachment/ Infatuation
Infatuation or attachment is the getting to know you phase where the two start to feel unique and divulge personal things about themselves. It may begin to be very innocent and friendly. A working relationship or a casual friend that you enjoy spending time with, but the feelings get more assertive as the limerence progresses.
People Weigh The Pros and Cons In Stage 1 of Limerence
In the attachment stage, people tend to pull away out of fear. They pull away either because they are unwilling to sacrifice their lives to be with this person, or they are married and feel guilt for opening their emotions to another person. Weighing the pros and cons is the first phase of the limerent relationship. The couple considers the consequences of their actions. “Is this relationship worth it?” “What will we lose if we begin this interaction?” “Will someone get hurt in the process?
You haven’t built a strong attachment to this person yet, so you’re able to think logically about the next step. The first phase is the ideal stage to remove yourself from the limerent person if you’re entertaining the idea of being with them. In this first phase, there is no obsession or intention to enter into an affair, but the idea of spending more time with them pleases you. It may seem silly to believe that you could fall head-over-heels for someone to irrational levels, but after years of research, the science is there.
Some people go through these stages without falling obsessively in love, but they like each other enough to begin an affair. Limerence sneaks up on you whether you intend it to or not. If one person is in limerence, but the other has not entered that stage yet, the one in limerence becomes persuasive.
They understand and know their limerent lover so well they convince them and justify their actions. Rational thinking goes out the window. They say the right things and show the ideal affection to persuade them to stay and continue the affair.
Stage 2: Crystallization
In this stage of limerence, picture the white-hot intensity of 1000 suns. One or both persons become enamored with each other, and as the attraction builds, it becomes more powerful and solidifying. Phase 1 entertains infatuation or the idea of being with a limerent lover. Phase 2 is the cement that binds the picture, making it whole.
People feel more understood, loved, and liked by their limerent lover, more so than their current spouse. Their lover is the person they’ve been waiting for their whole lives and the object of perfection and a better life. The issue with limerence in phase two is how blinded by love one can become. You don’t see any of the person’s flaws and defend them without hesitation if someone tries to offer their opinions.
Abandoning Integrity or Moral Beliefs
Once both enter stage 2, they will uproot their lives, abandoning their integrity or moral code. They begin to think about life together and move that plan into action. Any religious beliefs they once held have now changed to accept their lover and erase any guilt they felt spiritually. The relationship is typically sexual at this point, and in a marriage, the one in the affair will exaggerate the flaws of their primary spouse.
The Vilifying Effect Versus Halo Effect In a Limerent Relationship
In a limerent relationship, the guilty partner wants to be with their lover. They will view their spouse as this person they were never happy with. Remember your mind is clouded when you’re in limerence. Chemicals in your brain are firing, so you exaggerate your spouse’s flaws to justify leaving to be with the affair partner, also known as vilifying. They will say things in their mind that may not be true like, their spouse was controlling, manipulative, and a lousy partner overall. They will rewrite the history of their marriage with false claims and thoughts about their former partner.
The halo effect is the opposite principle. If you think and feel good things about the person, everything is good about them—the halo effect peaks when the limerent person is in stage 2.
What Happens to Your Brain When You’re in the Stages of Limerence?
When you are in love or attracted to another person, your brain releases dopamine: A brain chemical that enhances the feelings of euphoria. Dopamine aids the release of oxytocin (the attachment hormone) which binds you more to the affair partner. Dopamine fires the reward centers of the brain increasing alertness and curbing appetite. Someone can feel so in love they can’t eat or sleep.
As attraction builds, serotonin decreases ( a hormone that controls your hunger and mood). People with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) or obsessive-love have lower serotonin levels. These chemical processes happen in the starting stages of love.
Stage 3: Deterioration
The stages of limerence last between 3-48 months. If both parties are deep in stage 2, they may uproot their marriages, lives, and families to be with each other. They may even get married themselves. Once the attraction settles and their euphoric feelings of love wear off, the affair partners start re-evaluating their relationships and the consequences of their actions. The halo effect dwindles, and those flaws they never noticed before become more apparent and disruptive to their peace.
The truth is no matter what, the limerence always ends. That crazy-in-love feeling does fade over time for all relationships and marriages too. We choose who we love, and when you marry someone, it takes work, effort, and trust to make a marriage work. The smoke and mirror effects end, and one person or both start questioning what they lost. Many couples lose friends and family that disagree with their choices.
Once the love fades and they believe they have no friends or family at their side, they may take it out on their limerent partner. 60% of second marriages end, primarily marriages that result from an affair. Once limerence ends, someone generally gets hurt. Sometimes one partner is no longer interested in being together, tearing the other person apart emotionally. When you’ve given up everything in your life to be with someone, and they leave you, you may feel broken.
The person rejected may try to get their partner back, becoming obsessive with that cause. They may also fall into a state of depression if they’ve lost their spouse and family in the process. During the end, stage serotonin increases while dopamine decreases in the brain.
How To Heal From The Stages Of Limerence
When there’s a will, there’s a way. Getting through the stages of limerence is not an easy task. You wanted to spend the rest of your life with your lover, and now they are no longer a part of you. Right now, it feels like a truck hit you, but it won’t feel like that forever. Limerence does fade over time, and so does the pain you feel.
The first thing to do is start focusing on yourself and getting your life back on track. What did you have before you met your limerent partner? Was it a prior marriage, a family, friends, or a hobby? Try to rekindle lost relationships with those closest to you. Whether spiritual or physical, like exercising more, get back in touch with the activities that shaped you and made you happy. If you want to work things out with your spouse and save your marriage, there is hope for that as well. Take it one day at a time, learn from your mistakes, and focus on becoming a better you.
Save Your Marriage and Make it Stronger With Marriage Helper
Knowing your spouse is going through the stages of limerence or suffering from the pain of an ended limerent affair is tough. As humans, we all make mistakes, and even if it may not seem like it now, there is always hope. If your marriage ended because of an affair or you just finished an affair and wished to reconcile with your spouse, contact Marriage Helper to learn about your options.
We offer tons of free resources to help you get your spouse back, like our free mini-course. Our couples workshop is ideal for couples who need a deeper look into their marriage or feel a broken relationship’s pains. Our workshops have a 70% marriage success rate and bring back couples who had been divorced for years, separated, or were in the process of leaving. We believe we can help save your marriage.
Click here to learn more about limerence.