Kaitlin Broderick, LCPC 

You just got back from another amazing date with a new person. You have been texting back and forth, having late night phone calls, and receiving the physical and emotional attention you had been fantasizing about just a few weeks earlier. Feeling giddy and euphoric, you can’t wait to call your friends and tell them the good news — you finally met “the one.” However, even though this exhilarating feeling is fun and new and makes you want to dive right in, this might be time to slow down and reevaluate. Could this be the love or it is merely infatuation? How can you tell the difference between the two and how do you know when you need to put the brakes on and proceed with caution?

Infatuation itself is normal — an unreasoned passion one experiences in response to excitement, arousal, and intense attraction for another person. Typically fleeting, it can linger on for months and even a year. Infatuation is also very powerful and can cause hormonal changes and the release of feel-good neurotransmitters that can cause a “high” when you see or think about the person you are infatuated with. Because infatuation can be so powerful, it can become problematic, especially when it becomes your state of being.

When infatuation appears almost instantaneously without getting to know someone very well, it can a warning sign to ease up and take things slowly. Infatuation and love, for that matter, should not be obsessive and all-consuming. If infatuation dominates your mind to the point where it distracts you from your daily life, it is unhealthy. I have worked with all kinds of people who have struggled with intense, lasting infatuation that had in some way inhibited their ability to focus or concentrate on themselves and their lives. This unhealthy infatuation often comes from anxiety, insecurity, and a lack of self-love; and while the new relationship feels good, it can also cause distress as new insecurities develop. Perhaps the person doesn’t text or call back immediately and you find yourself checking your phone constantly and ignoring obligations in case they call. Early on in a relationship, if you find yourself to be unfulfilled when you are not constantly with that other person, it probably isn’t love — it’s more likely unhealthy infatuation. If this is a pattern in your life, you may be a love addict. Love addicts create an idealized image of who their new love interest is that is not in line with reality. A major fear for love addicts is the other person will leave them as soon as they discover “who they are.”

Love doesn’t develop from an insecure longing but rather, it develops when we feel secure. If our loved one isn’t texting us back immediately, there shouldn’t be a cause for panic that something is wrong. Instead, we can assume maybe they are busy or occupied and that is okay because trust prevails in healthy relationships.

Both partner’s feelings, values, and needs are addressed — not just one. In healthy relationships, both people are able to expand and grow as individuals and have their own hobbies and friendships. Infatuation is like walking upon a garden and seeing a spectacular blooming flower. Addictive love is a fear and insecurity that there will never be another flower. Love is the garden that grows from care and knows that seasons change but the beautiful blossom will always return.