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What love (or ‘limerence’) can do

By JOANNE RAE M. RAMIREZ, The Philippine STAR Published Nov 09, 2020 4:00 pm

From reel to real life, stories of extraordinary love abound. King Edward XVIII of Britain gave up his throne to marry a commoner, Wallis Warfield Simpson. Even Prince Charles risked the ire of the British people when he married Camilla Parker-Bowles, commonly believed to have been the cause of the breakup of his first marriage to the late beloved Princess Diana.

Three popular Korean dramas on Netflix revolve around love that defies the odds, where one partner is or both are ready to give up that which is most precious to him or her to save or love the other. (Spoiler alert!)

Son Ye-Jin as Yoon Se-ri and Hyun Bin as Captain Ri Jeong-hyeok in Crash Landing on You. (Photo: tvN/Facebook)

In Crash Landing on You, the first K-drama I watched, a North Korean military officer (Hyun Bin as Captain Ri Jeong-hyeok) is willing to give up his career, his reputation and his life to save a South Korean heiress (Son Ye-Jin as Yoon Se-ri), who accidentally paraglides into his part of the world.

Kim Hee Ae as Ji Sun-woo and Park Hae-Joon as Lee Tae-oh in The World of the Married.

In The World of the Married, one of the most engrossing K-dramas to come my way, one of the spouses breaks the fairy tale world of Kim Hee Ae as Ji Sun-woo and Park Hae-Joon as Lee Tae-oh. And yet, despite the pain and humiliation inflicted by the cheating spouse on the aggrieved one, the aggrieved spouse still finds the other attractive, and expresses willingness to care for that spouse when the latter is down and out. I mean, after being treated like a doormat?

Lee Byung-hun as Eugene Choi and Kim Tae-ri as Ko Ae-shin in Mr. Sunshine. (Photo: Mr. Sunshine Netflix/Instagram)

In Mr. Sunshine, which I watched only recently, a slave boy who endures abuse in his homeland Joseon finds his way to America where he rises to become an officer of the US Marine Corps (Lee Byung-hun as Eugene Choi). Now an American, he is assigned to the land of his birth, Joseon, which is experiencing the onslaught of foreign forces that threaten to colonize it. He meets a noblewoman (Kim Tae-ri as Ko Ae-shin) and falls in love with her. Alas, she is committed to a greater cause and to help her achieve this, he gives up his liberty, his profession (he is dishonorably discharged from the Marine Corps) and the very reason he fled Joseon in the first place.

So, is love blind? Is it simply at turns, reckless and brave? Or is it truly unconditional?

I interviewed psychiatrist Angela Jalili Hao on the subject.

She cites an article “There’s Actual Scientific Proof that Love Will Indeed Make You Blind,” by Dan Scotti, published on April 2, 2015.

“According to the author, there may be some concrete evidence behind the blinding nature of love.  It apparently appears that ‘once we get close to a person, the brain decides the need to evaluate and assess their character and personality is reduced’.”

Dr. Jao also cited Andreas Bartels, who was part of a study conducted at the University College of London (UCL). “This (study) explains the bias or ‘blindness’ of the person in love.  Bartels noted that ‘social judgments’ are the most defenseless or vulnerable in the presence of love.  In other words, love ‘turns off’ a switch in the brain making the person in love not see the flaws of the love object,” says Dr. Jao.

But Dr. Jao says that the “blindness” passes when the “infatuation” ends.

So, again I asked her, what is the difference between love and infatuation (for those who don’t know)?

Dr. Jao quotes Shahida Arabi who wrote an article “Love or Limerence11 Signs You’re In A Fantasy Relationship.”

Arabi said that “limerence is an involuntary state of deep obsession and infatuation with another person.”

According to Arabi, here are the 11 Signs of Limerence:

  1. In a relationship that is nonexistent, shallow or in the early stages, you constantly fantasize what your future together will look like.
  2. You are preoccupied with elaborate fantasies about your love object like tending to have a heroic element of you saving your crush from a dangerous scenario.
  3. You experience physical symptoms when you are near or interacting with your love object like having palpitations or even fainting in extreme cases.
  4. You visualize scenarios that you may actually run into or talk to this person.  You plan your day on how to spend time with this person.
  5. You idealize and put your love object on a pedestal.  You perceive that everything this person does is flawless.
  6. Your whole day seems to revolve around this person.
  7. There seems to be a magnetic or powerful force that connects you to this person.
  8. Irrational jealousy occurs even in a nonexistent relationship.
  9. When this person tries to withdraw from you, you become deeply depressed and hopeless and experience mood swings when ignored by this person.
  10. You tend to focus on this person’s words and actions in order to find clues that this person feels the same way towards you.
  11. You think and feel that you cannot live without this person and you experience an unbearable longing for this person’s attention, approval and affection.

“Remember that limerence may be seen in a spectrum, from mild to the pathological.  If your mental wellness is already greatly affected, like if you are no longer productive and effective at home or in the workplace, you may benefit from professional support by a clinical psychologist or by a psychiatrist,” says Dr. Jao.

It is not unreasonable to conclude that the two English royals I cited in the beginning of the article indeed felt love, not limerence. Edward was with Wallis till the day he died. As for Charles, one look at him and you can see he is happy with his long-time love, Camilla.

As for the three fictional couples I cited — cross-border romances are a reality, ex-spouses can become friends and love is truly capable of making great sacrifices.

Photos from tvND's Facebook, JTBC's Instagram (@jtbcdrama), Netflix's Instagram (@netflix)