What is limerence?

Limerence is a projection of a fantasy relationship onto someone, often a person who is unavailable in one way or another.

Falling in love often involves some amount of limerence, as we fantasize about how great this person could potentially be. This usually dissipates after we get to know them for awhile, and see their full human selves.

But if you have CPTSD, and/or either the Anxious-Preoccupied or Fearful-Avoidant attachment styles, it can become far more than that, and be very hard to shake. It is often wrapped up in a healing fantasy, where romantic love brings you all the needs that went unmet in childhood, and heals your deepest pain. You imagine finally feeling understood, seen, loved, and safe, just by finding the right person, not by doing years of difficult and vulnerable healing work.

Limerence is accompanied by feelings of intense longing, idealization, and is often thought of as “unrequited love”. But this is not a wistful romantic idea, it’s a trauma symptom. It forms from a childhood where you experienced emotional neglect to the point where you invented the kind of relationship you needed in your mind and now project it onto people who may, in reality, be completely uninterested, unavailable, inappropriate, or at times even dangerous to you.

I have a long history of being stuck in limerence for years, and it’s a very painful place to be. But it can be healed. It starts with taking responsibility for your own healing, and giving up the idea that any relationship will ever fulfill those deep, deep unhealed places inside you. That does not mean they can’t be healed–it just means the work of healing is not going to be found that way.

Giving up limerence can feel like giving up hope, because that’s the only hope you had as a kid. But the best way to replace that hope is by learning about CPTSD and understanding where limerence comes from, and how real healing happens.

If you resonate with this, I recommend my healing fantasies article and the YouTube channel Crappy Childhood Fairy She answers several reader letters about relationships and limerence, and hearing other people’s experiences can really help jolt you out of a fantasy that could be hurting you or keeping you stuck. And I KNOW it sucks to give up the fantasy. Believe me, I know. It hurts like hell. But in the end, you deserve REAL healing, and I swear to you, it’s completely possible to heal and become an empowered, self-assured, happy, healthy person, no matter how broken you feel. But you can’t get there with fantasy, you can only get there with real work and real connections with real people who are healthy and support your real self.

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Hi there! I'm Emma and I write about self-liberation. My writing is meant to share my process & inspire your own. If you want more frequent/current writing, visit my Substack Sparkly Dark, where I'm unpacking my neurodivergence.

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Thanks so much for reading! ~Emma

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