Recovering from loss & heartbreak

How to overcome infatuation & get over your ex

June 28, 2023
Posted by Karen Strang Allen

Have you ever had feelings of infatuation for someone that were not returned? Or struggled to get over your ex (even though they’ve clearly gotten over you)? 

Breakups can be tough, and it’s natural to feel sad, upset and lonely after a relationship ends. But constantly thinking about your ex or obsessing over someone you can’t have can negatively impact your mental and emotional well-being, making it difficult to move on and start a new chapter in your life. 

If you’ve ever found it hard to let go of someone, it’s likely that you were experiencing limerence.

What is limerence?

Limerence is an intense state of infatuation and longing for another person. Coined by psychologist Dorothy Tennov in the 1970s, it involves an obsessive and often intrusive preoccupation with another person (you just can’t seem to stop thinking about them). 

If you’re experiencing limerence, you may:

  • Idealize the other person, attributing unrealistically positive qualities to them.
  • Overlook red flags and undesirable characteristics.
  • Feel a strong desire for them to validate you and reciprocate your feelings.
  • Replay previous encounters, making them mean more than they did.
  • Obsess about what they are doing and who they are with.Daydream about them, imagining being together “someday.”
  • Long to be with them and find it difficult to focus on anything else.

Limerence can feel exhilarating, but it can also be overwhelming and distressing. That’s because, unlike a healthy romantic connection, limerence is fueled by uncertainty and the fear of rejection. 

With limerence, your feelings typically aren’t returned or can’t be realized because:

  • You have broken up and are no longer together.
  • There is too great a distance (or other obstacle) to overcome.
  • The other person is already married or in another relationship.
  • The other person does not feel the same way or want to be with you.
  • The other person does not want a committed relationship.

As a result of the lack of reciprocity, you may have an intense fear of losing the attention or affection of the other person (or of never getting to be together). This causes stress and makes it hard to feel good on your own (which causes you to cling to the hope that they will change their mind about you).

The difference between love and limerence

While you may feel that you are in love, there are significant differences between real love and limerence:

1 – Reality: Limerence is based on fantasy – on what you want to have happen. It’s a projection of your desires onto the other person – who you imagine them to be. Real love is based in reality – the person actually has the characteristics you desire and you have a real relationship that is mutually beneficial.

2Reciprocity: With limerence, most effort, energy and attention is coming from you…the other person is either not available or not committed to you. With real love, the effort, energy and attention is reciprocal. The person desires you as much as you desire them, they are available (not in another relationship) and they are committed to you.

3Consistent loving behaviour: Infatuation involves overlooking red flags and value differences, and latching onto promises. You may accept poor treatment and behaviour, and the other being inconsistent with their attention & efforts. Real love involves an honest assessment of the other person’s strengths and weaknesses and compatibility with your values. Your partner walks their talk and follows through on promises, respects your boundaries, shows concern for your feelings and wellbeing, and treats you consistently with respect, love and kindness.

Long story short, if you are not sure where you stand with the other person and feel constantly on edge, you are likely experiencing limerence, not real love.

What causes limerence?

There are three main causes of limerence:

1 – Unfulfilled emotional needs: A key cause of limerence is when you didn’t get your emotional needs met in childhood, so you’re desperately trying to get them met now by a romantic partner. This is exacerbated when there is a void in your current life…when you feel sad, unhappy or unfulfilled. Feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem can make you more susceptible to limerence, as you seek validation and emotional fulfilment from another person.

2 – Loneliness: If you are lonely, you may get impatient with the dating process and project your desires, hopes and dreams onto another person prematurely. This causes you to amplify their positive qualities and overlook red flags, constructing an idealized version of the person in your mind (wearing rose-coloured glasses). So instead of objectively evaluating whether they are what you want and need, you try to make them into what you want them to be.

3 – Neurochemicals: Dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, is released in abundance during the infatuation stage, leading to heightened feelings of euphoria and motivation. It is as addictive as cocaine, which is why it can feel so hard to let go.

Steps to overcome limerence and get over your ex

Recognizing that you are experiencing limerence is the first step towards overcoming it. It’s important to understand that, despite the intensity of the emotions you may feel, limerence is a temporary state and does not reflect true compatibility or long-term happiness.

The following steps will help you to get over the person you’re infatuated with:

1 – Limit Contact: The first step in getting over someone is to stop all contact with them, especially if they are unavailable or uninterested. This includes not only physical contact but also communication through social media, phone calls and text messages. Delete their number, unfollow them on social media, and avoid places where you might bump into them. (If you must co-parent, limit interaction as much as possible and keep it focused on the kids.) Continuing to fuel your obsession by seeking their attention, spending time with them, or interacting with them will only intensify your feelings and prolong the healing period.

2 – Be honest with yourself: Make a list of all the reasons why this relationship does not work for you (including the characteristics and values that are missing, and how this person treats you). Focus on the negative aspects of the relationship, and remind yourself that you deserve better. Read this list any time you find yourself wistfully wishing for them. This will help you see them in a more realistic light and make it easier to move on.

3 – Focus on YOU: Redirect your focus to you and your life. Identify any emotional voids or unresolved issues that may have contributed to the onset of limerence. Self-care is essential during this time, so make sure you eat well, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Nurture your own well-being by engaging in activities that bring you peace, joy and fulfillment.

4 – Keep busy: Keeping yourself busy can help you stop obsessing over someone. Take this opportunity to rediscover your hobbies, spend time with friends and family, and do things that make you happy. Take up a new activity or learn a new skill. Volunteer or get involved in your community. Go to Meetup events. Break up your routine and try something new. Give your brain something better and healthier to focus on!

5 – Find support: Talk to a trusted friend, family member, therapist or coach about your feelings. Spend time with people who love you. Do things you enjoy with other people, and ask them to support you in letting this person go.

Getting over someone isn’t easy, but it is possible. Healing takes time, and it’s important to be patient with yourself during this process. It’s normal to have days where you feel sad or miss the other person. Allow yourself to feel your emotions, but don’t let them consume you.

Time and distance are powerful healers. By understanding the nature of limerence and implementing the steps above, you can regain control over your emotions and embark on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth. Over time, you will find that you think about the other person less and less, making it easier to move on.

Embrace this opportunity to redirect your focus towards nurturing your own well-being and building healthy, authentic connections in the future. Start a new chapter in your life — one where you insist that the people you invite in are truly there for you, not just in your imagination. You deserve real love!

xo Karen


For more about the benefits of refocusing on you before dating again, I highly recommend watching my free training: Loving without Losing: How to attract the love of your life without losing yourself again

And if you’d like to take a deeper look at what might be preventing you from finding a great partner, take my free quiz: Cracking the Code to Lasting Love

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What helped you to get over your ex (or someone you were infatuated with)? Please share…



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About the author

Karen Strang Allen

Karen is a love and empowerment coach for single women. Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen’s mission is to help single women feel great about who they are and create a life they love so they attract their dream partner. 

Learn More about Karen