You know that feeling of the butterflies in your stomach, the constant daydreaming about them, the desire to be with them 24/7. That’s called limerence, and it’s a powerful emotional state that often arises at the beginning of romantic relationships.

But limerence isn’t just a single phase – it actually progresses through four distinct stages. First comes infatuation, followed by ascendance, tribulation, and finally obsession. I’ll break down the science behind each stage of limerence so you can understand what’s happening in your heart and your head when you fall hard for someone new.

Stage 1: Spark And Intensification

The initial spark of limerence starts with attraction. You lock eyes with someone intriguing across the room or have an engaging conversation, and suddenly, you’re overcome with excitement and interest. This rush of euphoria and infatuation marks the beginning of Stage 1.

Chemistry And Connection

In this early stage, everything about the other person seems fascinating and perfect. You feel an intense chemistry and connection, even from casual interactions. Your heart races, your stomach flutters, and your mind constantly drifts to thoughts of them.

Rose-Colored Glasses

During this stage, you see the object of your affection through rose-colored glasses. You idealize them, focusing on their positive qualities and downplaying anything negative. Your limerent fantasy causes you to believe this person is the perfect match for you. In reality, you have a limited view of who they truly are.

Longing And Angst

When apart from your limerent object, as they are called, you feel a sense of longing, angst, and impatience. You eagerly await your next interaction or communication, constantly checking for messages or hoping to run into them. Your mood depends heavily on whether contact has been made or plans to meet are in place. The uncertainty and unpredictability in the early stages of limerence fuels the intensity of this experience.

Living In The Future

During this stage, you’re mostly living in the future, thinking about where the relationship could go and picturing them feeling the same way about you. The problem is, the future is not set in stone. Having a crush is fueled by having some hope things might work out but also not knowing for sure. It’s important to see those dreamed-up scenarios for what they are – just imagined possibilities. At the same time, though, you’ve got to keep an open mind to what could happen between you.

Stage 2: Hope And Uncertainty

This stage is marked by a rush of excitement and anticipation. You can’t stop thinking about the other person, replaying your interactions and conversations over and over in your mind. You cling to any sign that they might feel the same way about you, analyzing their every word and gesture.

At the same time, you’re filled with uncertainty. Do they like you as much as you like them? Will it turn into a real relationship? Your moods swing back and forth between hope and doubt. This seesaw of emotions can make you feel anxious and even insecure at times.

But pushing for commitment or intimacy too quickly is likely to backfire. As attachment forms, it’s normal to feel a desire for more contact and closeness but resist the urge to come on too strongly. Keep communications friendly and lighthearted. Flirty and playful is fine, but avoid being overly serious or emotional.

This part can be a real thrill but also nerve-wracking as hell. The trick is to live in the moment while also keeping some perspective. Remind yourself that you’re your own person regardless of what happens with your crush. With a little self-awareness and patience, you’ll ride this stage out just fine.

Stage 3: Crisis And Doubt

At some point, the intense infatuation of the first two stages starts to fade. Reality sets in as you start to see your partner’s flaws and shortcomings. Doubts creep into your mind about whether this person is really “the one” after all.

Loss of Intensity

The constant craving for your partner diminishes. Those heart-pounding moments of anticipation when you’re about to see them become less frequent. Your thoughts are no longer consumed by them 24/7. This change in intensity can be jarring and leave you wondering where the magic went.

Emerging Disillusionment

As the rose-colored glasses come off, you may start to recognize behaviors and traits in your partner that you don’t like. You see sides of them that clash with your values or expectations. The pedestal you put them on starts to crumble, leaving you disillusioned with who they really are.

Questioning The Future

With doubts and disillusionment come worries about the longevity of the relationship. You may find yourself asking, “Where is this going?” and “Can I really commit to this person?”. Thoughts of breaking up become more common, even if it’s the last thing you want. You feel stuck at a crossroads, unsure of which path to take.

The crisis stage is a pivotal point in limerence. Some relationships are able to move past it by openly communicating concerns and reconnecting. Others ultimately end here. But for those able to push through, the final stage of limerence awaits on the other side.

Stage 4: Relapse And Reassessment

This is the stage where you realize the limerence high is wearing off, and your rose-colored glasses have come off. The flaws and faults in your love object become more apparent. The uncertainty and unpredictability of the relationship start to weigh on you. You may start to question whether the LO is right for you after all.

The Relapse

Despite glimpses of the LO’s humanity, you’re not ready to give up the limerent experience quite yet. You go through periods of intensifying your limerence through increased contact and idealization of the LO. You relapse into the euphoria and escapism of stages 1 and 2. You’re chasing that initial high, even as part of you knows it’s fleeting.

Reality Check

The relapses become less frequent and intense. You start evaluating the relationship and LO more objectively. You recognize the LO’s limitations and that they don’t completely fulfill you. You see that limerence involves projection and fantasy. This stage involves painful self-reflection and a renegotiation of your hopes and expectations.

Decision Time

You’re at a crossroads. Do you pursue a real relationship with your LO or cut your losses? You have to decide whether there’s enough substance and compatibility for a sustainable long-term relationship. If not, you start the difficult process of extinguishing your limerence and detaching from your LO.

This stage often involves grief at the loss of the limerent experience. With time and distance, the fog will lift, and you’ll gain perspective to find a healthy, reciprocal relationship.

The final stage of limerence is a bittersweet experience. But facing facts and taking something from what happened will help you build better connections going forward – ones based on the real stuff instead of make-believe. Ending the limerence is tough, no doubt, but it frees you up to possibly find a real, caring relationship.

Keep Your Mind Open

Limerence isn’t necessarily a bad thing on its own. But you really have to figure out what’s good for you and what’s just dragging you down. If you’re still deep in it, I’d recommend really thinking about your life. Did getting obsessed with that person stop you from doing your own thing? The sooner you can see clearly, the better off you’ll be moving forward.