Long before sin corrupted my life, a dysfunctional way of thinking had polluted my mind and my heart.
In this 3 Part Blog Series I will attempt to explain what I have come to learn about Limerence, or “the love addiction”, and the way it corrupts the thinking of those it affects, and what I am learning about living with this psychological anomaly. This is not an excuse for why some people affected and afflicted choose sin. There is no excuse for choosing sin. Let me say that again, there is no excuse for choosing sin. THAT BEING SAID, I am going to explain the obsession and mind altering affects that happen when a person is affected by Limerence.
The Beginning of Limerence
I was an eleven year old girl in the mid-1970’s, and with both of my parents working full time, my two brothers and I were home alone for long, hot summer days. The boys and I would battle and brawl from the moment we woke until our Dad arrived home from his construction job.
Dad was a Licensed Contractor, and he worked most of my life for a man named Ernie. I never met Ernie, but I grew up with an unspoken fascination of him. I witnessed the way Dad regarded him. Dad didn’t respect many people, but whenever Dad talked about Ernie he only had good things to say, and it was obvious Dad had a desire to please the man. In my memories, it was every single evening that Dad seemed to be waiting for Ernie to call him on the phone. If someone else called our home, there was an urgent feeling to end the call. We needed to keep the phone free for Dad to receive his call from Ernie. This call meant there was work. This call would tell him where he was going and what he would be doing. Dad’s mood always improved when Ernie called. He spoke to the man in a tone I rarely heard. He smiled while he talked to Ernie.
Our family phone, an ivory colored, rotary dial with a long spiraling cord hung on the wall in the kitchen. When it rang we could hear it anywhere in the house. There were no vibrations or special ring tones; every phone in every house in every neighborhood made the same sound. Oftentimes, in the summer months with our windows wide, I could hear a neighbor’s phone ringing in the distance. My imagination was developing; I would wonder who was calling the neighbor’s clunky wall phone. Could it be Ernie? Perhaps he was calling the father of one of my neighborhood friends and making him smile.
My whole life I have imagined this unseen man with dark eyes and dark hair, which has always seemed irrelevant until just recently. Seemingly insignificant details of childhood become significant through varying lenses of a life lived. We experience thousands of people as we move through schools, jobs, neighborhoods, apartment complexes, civil courts, grocery stores, little league fields, shopping malls, and restaurants, but we can develop a fascination for an unknown and unseen hero in our minds based on the way his phone call brought peace amid dysfunction.
Perhaps it was the chronic sibling wars that spawned my Grandma to invite me to join her on a road trip. It was an invitation like I’d never known. I was offered the chance to travel with my Grandma, and her second husband, Cliff, as they drove from California to Tennessee and back again.
Because of the timing of the trip, I would have to sacrifice something important if I chose to travel with Grandma and Cliff. Earlier in the summer, I had come across a flyer for a local Beauty Contest. My parents consented in my participation—as long as I could find a sponsor to pay the entrance fee for the contest.
With a strong desire to know if I was beautiful or not, I was motivated to find a sponsor and enter the contest. Perhaps I would win and the millions of questions I had about my appearance would finally be put to rest. So, when I wasn’t battling the brothers, I spent warm summer days riding my bicycle to various stores trying to persuade a business owner to be my sponsor.
I still recall the disparaging look on the face of the mustached man working behind the Kodak film developing counter at Sav-On Drug Store when I showed him my flyer and asked him if the drug store would be my sponsor for the Beauty Contest. He told me he couldn’t, and while his words didn’t give anything away, I felt his eyes measuring me up. The moment was humiliating, and it haunted me for years. (A decade later when Sav-On Drug Store was bought out by Osco, I breathed an overdue sigh of relief.)
I wasn’t embarrassed for having asked the drug store manager to sponsor me; I was embarrassed that I hadn’t been better looking when he rejected me. My mousy-brown, straight hair and sweaty skin sided with the drug store manager and I was certain he didn’t sponsor me because I wasn’t pretty enough.
When I made the decision to take the road trip with Grandma and Cliff, I was simultaneously making the decision to not enter the Beauty Contest, and freeing myself from having to find someone to be my sponsor. As I traveled in the backseat of Cliff’s large sedan and each day since, I’ve always known I made the right choice, but I also see how the incident was reinforcing the belief brewing in the heart of a little girl that she wasn’t quite “enough.” A cygnet among a pond of ducklings, perhaps, but the metamorphosis that would eventually come on the outside would never seep beneath the surface.
It was on this summer road trip with Grandma and Cliff when I had an experience that has stayed with me for nearly four decades. I wouldn’t come to know the name of it until it nearly destroyed my marriage many years later–but I recall it as vividly as if it happened last weekend.
We could have been in Nevada or Utah or New Mexico. Honestly, I have no clue which state we were in when I saw the boy. I only know we were at a motel diner. We had driven all day, and it was very late. I was eating a grill cheese sandwich while sitting in a black vinyl booth with my two elderly travel companions. I know I was eating a grilled cheese sandwich because I overheard a boy at a nearby table order the same thing. When he spoke I turned and looked at him. He was fabulous. He said, “I’ll have a grilled cheese sandwich, please.” These were the only words I ever heard him speak, but everything I ever heard him say was perfect.
His white blonde hair was glowing against his tan skin. He was incredibly good looking and once I spied him, I could not look away. The rest of his family is lost in the clouds of my mind, but he is vivid and alive and still sitting at the table just a few feet away. He catches me looking at him, but I cannot look away. A spell has come over me and it doesn’t feel good at all. Pain sears through me because I want him to want me as badly as I want him. Knowing nothing about him is irrelevant; I need him to want me. I need him to feel about me as I feel about him. I send energy across the diner which emblazes the neon lights on the building adding illumination to the desert highway. The blond boy feels it and he looks back at me. I am eleven years old, traveling across one of the less desired states, stopped at a motel restaurant, and I have found true love. The only thing I need to make everything perfect is to have my feelings reciprocated.
“Let’s go,” Cliff mutters. My step-grandfather drops some quarters on the table as a tip for the poor waitress and rises to leave.
“We’re leaving?!” I shout (in my mind).
I race across the space between the blond boy and myself, throwing my underdeveloped body into his arms. He puts down his grilled cheese sandwich. He is so happy to have found me. He tells me how his life is now complete, and we…kiss.
Or maybe I just stood up and followed Grandma and Cliff out of the diner.
Maybe I walked across the parking lot and entered our room, all the while feeling very confused at what I had just experienced. Everything I had ever wanted was sitting at that table and the only thing I needed to feel complete was to have him return my affections.
An hour or so later, Grandma and Cliff were both asleep, and I lay awake on the roll-away cot thinking about the tan boy with blond hair. I listened to Cliff snoring and stared at my grandmother’s arm, now illuminated by the flickering fluorescent sneaking into the room through a crack in the shoddy curtains. I felt like my life was over, but really it was just the beginning.
The beginning of being not pretty enough.
The beginning of painful feelings, of wanting to be wanted.
The beginning of idolizing romance and physical attraction.
The beginning of dreaming up fantasies about dark eyed, dark haired men.
The beginning of Limerence.
Limerence is the involuntary state of mind which results in an obsessive need to have one’s feelings reciprocated. It’s a psychological disorder associated with obsession and attachment. A person with Limerence will describe feeling as if they have lost control of their senses and are bombarded by intrusive and compulsive thoughts that involve a romantic connection.
My hope is that people who see what I am describing in themselves can sort it out before sin gets a grasp on them and leads them towards self-destructive behavior. I have come to believe that the majority of “romantic” affairs that happen are a result of Limerence. I hope that by uncovering information about some of the chemical releases and addictions associated with the disorder people can discover ways to harness the hidden power and make choices that bring life rather than destruction.