Infatuation vs. love has been a subject of debate since ancient times. For years, humankind has enjoyed discussing love, infatuation, sex, and romance. Many of us, whether early in our romantic lives or much later, have confused infatuation with love – often with messy consequences. But, is it ever possible to be completely aware of the difference?
Infatuation and love are, at the outset, two very similar and easily mistakable sensations. What’s more, they’re not mutually exclusive. You can feel both simultaneously, or one can develop into the other. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s begin with defining what love and infatuation are.
Infatuation vs. Love: Defining the Two Terms
What is love?
Baby don’t hurt me. Ahem. Sorry.
Love, out of the two emotional states, is the trickier one to define. This is probably because we use it in tons of situations: I love my spouse; I love my dog; I love a pair of comfy sweatpants. For centuries, poets have attempted to define romantic love succinctly. It’s a topic that’ll likely never be resolved to the satisfaction of everybody all at once.
Rather than ponder the meaning of love endlessly, we’ll take the short road in this instance and go with the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of love. It defines the phenomenon as “a feeling of deep affection or fondness for someone, typically arising from a recognition of attractive qualities, from natural affinity, or from sympathy and manifesting itself in concern for the other’s welfare and pleasure in his or her presence.”
What is infatuation?
Infatuation is defined as feelings that are strong but not usually long-lasting. Essentially, infatuation involves an obsession. It’s an intense emotional state in which we obsess about that special someone, talk about them, fantasize about them, the works.
Infatuation tends to be a very passionate emotion. Lots of love poems are written in a state of early infatuation when all those serotonin and oxytocin bombs are going off internally. It’s cinematic, exhilarating, joyous, and sometimes, it’s maddening.
What’s the Difference Between Love and Infatuation?
There’s often confusion when it comes to the difference between love and infatuation. You may have even felt confused between the two yourself at one point or another. Simply put, infatuation involves shallower feelings of endearment towards another.
Think of infatuation as a holiday fling. Intense, brief, and for the duration you’re both in ‘holiday mode’ – healthy, excited, and sexy. It’s often physical, reckless, and obsessive. Infatuation can occur after meeting somebody just once or following an intense first date sex experience. But, it’s far harder to claim you love someone after only one conversation or physical encounter.
Infatuation largely occurs when our knowledge of the person we’re obsessing over is limited. When we’re early on in the process of getting to know someone, it can be easy to idealize them. That is, filling in the blank patches of their persona with our desires, projecting our wants and needs onto them, thereby transforming them, from our perspective, into something close to perfect.
Love is the opposite of this. When we truly love someone, we know far more about them, including what they’re like when they’re not in ‘holiday mode.’ Compared to infatuation, love involves looking at the bigger picture, acknowledging any flaws, and accepting the person as a whole.
Love is a calmer and more caring emotion. When it’s mutual, there’s a sense of deep trust and confidence. Conversely, infatuation can lead to jealousy and possessiveness.
Am I in Love or Infatuated?
So, now it’s time to decide: Is it infatuation or love? If you’re having strong feelings for somebody and you’re struggling to tell if it’s genuine love, here are some handy questions to ask yourself:
- How long have I known them?
- Have we ever had a truly meaningful conversation?
- Have we seen each other at our worst?
- Do we want similar things in the long term?
- Are there a lot of ups and downs in our relationship?
- Do we find comprises between what we both want?
If you’ve only known them a week, have never had a deep conversation, only seen each other when you’re all dressed up, and you both want wildly different futures, there’s a pretty high chance that what you’re experiencing is infatuation.
But, if you’ve gotten to know them on an intimate level, you’ve spotted those surefire signs of attraction, and you seem to be heading in a similar direction in life – then there’s a real chance that what you’re feeling is genuine love, rather than a passing fancy.
When Does Infatuation Become Love?
It doesn’t always have to be infatuation vs. love. Many good relationships start with infatuation and grow into love. This initial period of mutual obsession and passionate emotions is often known as the ‘honeymoon phase,’ a period in which you’re both a-glow with fresh feelings of romance.
If neither party invests time and effort into the budding relationship, or if you simply weren’t compatible beyond surface value criteria, your relationship may peter out after this point.
If, however, you continue getting to know each other and stick together despite your flaws and histories, then it’s likely that infatuation will slowly turn into a calmer, deeper, longer-lasting love.
Can Love Happen Without Infatuation?
Infatuation, in many ways, is the beginning of love. That said, if you’ve known each other for a long time platonically, love may well develop without such a firework-heavy infatuation stage. It’s likely you’ll feel serene and secure during this stage, and deeply content in each other’s company.
Figuring out the difference between infatuation vs. love is no easy task. But, if you’re able to observe your feelings and look at the relationship from a more removed point of view, it should soon become clear whether it’s infatuation or true love.