Recently, I’ve heard a number of people use the word “limerence.” Google’s fetching of a definition from “Oxford Languages” (whatever that is) reads as follows:

the state of being infatuated or obsessed with another person, typically experienced involuntarily and characterized by a strong desire for reciprocation of one’s feelings but not primarily for a sexual relationship.

I’ve only heard the term used by the speaker to describe a phenomenon they claim to experience habitually – as in, “I’m prone to limerence,” or “I experience limerence often.”

We use words for a variety of reasons. Primarily, of course, we use them to communicate, to cause something in our mind to have an accurate representation in the mind of those listening to us speak.

Sometimes, we use words to do things: performative verbs (“I’m begging you,” or “I promise,” for example) accomplish their meaning simply by being spoken. We use words to induce others to do things (“I’d like a large skim cappuccino, please”).

And sometimes, we use words for intra-psychic reasons, to make us feel better (or worse). “Affirmations” do this.

I’m sure there are other purposes to which people put words, but, for the purposes of this post, I’m going to stick with these three.

“Limerence,” as I’ve heard it used, has a bit of each of these characteristics.

If I’m being uncharitable, I might say that people using this word seek to dignify as quasi-medical or -psychological a developmentally arrested tendency to develop crushes that have an adolescent feel to them. If I’m being kinder, I might say that they’re seeking to elevate those crushes into something more significant, something a little more adult, more mature. And if I’m being kindest, and most psychologically attuned, I might say, they’re using the word to communicate a tendency to become confused about other people, imagining their objects of desire to be “suitable” partners in a way that somehow becomes completely detached from those other people – their characteristics, their desires – using these people as repositories for hope and longing in a sadistic (or at least, indifferent) denial of those people’s agency, individuality, subjectivity.

And regardless: the way in which people tend to use this word almost diagnostically, clinically, in a way that is hitched to their identity, conveys something of a hint of something I haven’t quite figured out how to convey, but boils down to a simultaneous assertion of adulthood and a complaint of suffering.

I, of course, am prone to all of this (though I wouldn’t ever use the term “limerence”). I have a tendency, early in relationships, to imagine that women want what I want, that they are what I want. I do this, over and over, in an almost-blind denial of hints or clues – or even outright declarations – they might give me that they, actually, are separate people, with their own desires, with their own needs, with their own constraints.

My version of dominance (and the submission I seek) represents, on one level, my attempt in a consensual, explicit way, to accomplish what many who claim limerence do in their minds, without bothering to consult their object: I erase the subjectivity of my object of desire, replacing it with my own thoughts, feelings, desires:

I want to spend every minute of my time thinking of her; I want her to (want to) spend every minute of her time thinking about me.

I fall in love too easily
I fall in love too fast
I fall in love too terribly hard
For love to ever last
My heart should be well-schooled
‘Cause I’ve been fooled in the past
But still I fall in love so easily
I fall in love too fast
My heart should be well-schooled
‘Cause I’ve been fooled in the past
But still I fall in love too easily
I fall in love too fast

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