Limerence - the involuntary, infatuated state that has been romanticized as love.

Before you read in, the basics of my question have to do with the historical forces that have shaped the modern popular conception that limerence is a virtue, a necessity for a full life, etc. - romanticized beyond reason.

I am not a history buff, but this topic is intensely interesting to me.

To my understanding, limerence did not become idolized to the point that it currently is until recently. Nowadays, it is a major theme of many movies and novels, wherein characters are unfulfilled without it. In popular culture it is held up as one of the most important things to experience in life, perhaps even a virtue. It is an ideal to which we should aspire. It is an acceptable and often used reason for marriage - which, as I understand it, is not how marriages generally used to work. There is no end to the number of Nicholas Sparks-style imagery, movies, novels, etc.

All of this despite the fact that science has high confidence that it is a transient phenomenon lasting on average 18-36 months.

Of course people have always experienced limerence, but to my understanding it was not such a central aspect of societies throughout history.

Perhaps I am fully incorrect in my assumptions; if so, please explain! Please don't downvote the question into oblivion. Or if you do, please leave a comment about why. I'm really interested in the historical forces that have shaped the modern popular conception of limerence to being a necessary component in a full, happy life.

If I were to hazard a guess, it is that people often don't have any better criteria to choose mates nowadays, and limerence is a very strong force. Even if that were true, it doesn't explain how the situation got this way.

Thank you very much!

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    I blame the Russians - I remember being stunned by Turgenev's "Torrents of Spring" and raging in frustration at Anna Karenina. If only we'd stuck to our Austen and Dickens... – bruised reed Dec 31 '16 at 8:30
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    Lots of assertions made and very little to back them up. Can you prove that limerence is "romanticized beyond reason"? That limerence is only present in modern western society? Provide some links to peer-reviewed scientific papers that proves this is a "transient phenomenon" perhaps? – KillingTime Dec 31 '16 at 10:09
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    I'm always wary of questions that demand that I don't downvote as this is an acknowledgment of the weakness of the question by the asker. I'm not an expert on world cinema or literature but from what I have seen and read, I'd say that limerence or infatuated love was common trope across the globe. – Steve Bird Dec 31 '16 at 10:40
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    I voted to close the question because it seems too broad, but I understand other options chosen (primarily opinion-based and unclear what you are asking). Also, there's an awful lot of rant in your question. – Brasidas Dec 31 '16 at 15:06
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    One thing missed in the "how marriages used to work" is that when marriages used to work that way, it was because women were typically regarded as property, and married off to the highest bidder. – jamesqf Jan 1 '17 at 0:52

This is indeed the dominant topic in the arts, at least in the Western art. Some say that this is a recent phenomenon, but in fact it is present in the Western art from the very beginning of its modern genres, precisely from the times of the Roman empire. In the oldest surviving novel, Aethiopica by Heliodorus (3d or 4th century ad), this is the main topic. It does not seem to be prominent or even present in the earlier literature. But this particular novel contains in the nutshell all plots of the later romance novels up to Hollywood movies.

I have no sufficient knowledge of Chinese or Indian classical cultures, but I conjecture that this feature was originally present only in Western culture.

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  • Thank you! Excellent information. I shall revise my question to be more specific about its role in marriage. – std''OrgnlDave Dec 31 '16 at 14:46
  • Re earlier literature, I think one could argue that it provides the motivation for the Illiad, no? – jamesqf Dec 31 '16 at 19:45
  • You postulate that something is only present in “Western” culture, but while admitting lack of “sufficient knowledge” of other cultures (of which Chinese and Indian were only a few). – Obie 2.0 Jan 15 '18 at 4:47
  • I’m not going to claim that every culture places equal emphasis on (purportedly) transient romantic love, but some ancient cross-cultural examples are the story of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai from China, or the story of Kintu and Nambi from Uganda (the latter of which even has religious significance). – Obie 2.0 Jan 15 '18 at 4:49
  • @jamesqf: If you analyse Iliad, (the text, not the Hollywood movies based on it), you see that this motive is absent there: there is nothing about "love", as it is understood in the later European literature. – Alex Jan 15 '18 at 13:51

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