I was at a wedding last weekend, the best I’ve ever attended (apart from my own!). What was so good about it? Well, apart from perfect weather, gorgeous location, excellent catering and moving speeches, here was a couple who actually love each other.
As a couples therapist I have seen many couples who started out ‘in love’ but struggle to negotiate the transition from ‘in love’ to love. The technical term used for this ‘in love’ stage is limerence (Tennov, 1979). Wikipedia defines limerence as “an involuntary state of mind which results from a romantic attraction to another person combined with an overwhelming, obsessive need to have one’s feelings reciprocated”.
Right. So when you are ‘in love’ you are overwhelmed with feelings for the person you are attracted to and are driven by an obsessive need for them to feel the same about you. But the problem is that in this state we do not actually see the real person. We see an idealised image, or in other words, we see who we want to see, not who is actually there. The danger is that when we finally wake up out of limerence we are faced with the real person. The question then is, can we now love the real person and not the image?
Limerence can only last up to 2 years or so. Love begins after limerence, when we can finally see the living, breathing flesh and blood man or woman that we are sharing our life with. The wonderful thing about this fact is that love is truly like good wine, it really can deepen and mature with age. It reflects both the vintage in which it was bottled and the changes time inevitably brings.
But unlike wine, a love relationship needs to be baked daily like fresh bread. It is never set and forget.