Musical ballads, romcom films, epic poetry and glossy magazines; the whole world seems to be talking about love. Whether it is falling head over heels or out of love, pining for an absent or unrequited love, declaring your affection or breaking up, we have fallen in love with love. It is no surprise then that it is so easy to lose your emotional anchor and get carried away with strong feelings, cast adrift on a love boat that is battling the choppy waters of infatuation.
What is love?
Love is…if only it were easy to define in one short, smart sentence! But it is an indescribable element that has an enormous emotional pull. Love is a feeling; an expression; an action and an unknown. While being in love is usually about a sexual feeling too, love comes in many guises. A loving relationship is one where there is respect, kindness and a feeling of togetherness that allows each of you to express yourselves and be yourselves; love is not restrictive or smothering.
What is infatuation?
Obsession, addictive love, or lust- infatuation can knock you off your feet in much the same way as falling in love. However, feelings are often distorted by lack of perception, illogical thoughts and a focus on yourself rather than the feelings of the person who is the object of your affection. With an unhealthy infatuation comes an immaturity of expression and an attachment that reveals issues going on in your life rather than a display of healthy love. Your feelings can seem as if they are taking over your life, and in many cases these are disproportionately centered on carnal pleasures.
Why is it sometimes hard to tell the difference?
Love and infatuation are both incredibly strong emotions, and with these experiences it can feel like you have suddenly lost your head and your bearings. A loving relationship can change your life by helping you develop as an individual within its positive embrace. Infatuation can also change your life, often bringing up unresolved issues from the past and leaving you grappling to get a firm foothold on who you are and where you are going. In this instance, infatuation is a distraction from having to deal with problems and realities in your own life.
Am I in love or infatuated?
In the tangled web of emotions it can be difficult to gain an objective stance on what your feelings and relationship are about. Our quick questionnaire can help you achieve a clearer perspective:
Are you in love with the idea of being in love? If you are a serial monogamist or fall in love easily, then is each relationship based on real love or a deep down need to experience love and be loved? Infatuation can mask real emotional needs in the name of a feeling that is not based on a grounded relationship or reality.
- Are your feelings sustainable? Have you lost yourself to ‘love’? If you are not able to eat, sleep or stop thinking about someone else, you need to ask yourself if this is a tenable situation or if are losing a sense of your own self. Infatuation is less of a deep connection with another person and more about an immediate need in yourself, hence the sense of urgency which is mistaken for love.
- Do you focus on physical passion only? Sex with love is a great combo and can take physical pleasures onto a totally different level. Burning passion and immense sexual attraction are not mutually exclusive to love. However, if the main element of your intensity is a sexual, lustful feeling then this is likely more of a short-lived infatuation rather than a lengthy relationship that is going to last.
- Are your feelings obsessive or possessive? Love is about support and believing in trust and togetherness. Infatuation can create uncertainty whereby you cling to your feelings and the object of these intense emotions. This leads to jealousy, which is not to be mistaken for depth-of-feeling, as well as a sense of wanting to control the relationship.
- Are your feelings reciprocated? There is no rule to state that if your feelings are not mirrored then you are simply infatuated. However, it is worth exploring how you are reacting to what must feel like a rejection if they are not. If this is the case, are you accepting and respecting of your love interest’s feelings or in some kind of denial? Finding excuses for the lack of reciprocated affection that do not exist in reality is only going to invite misery into your life.
- Have you neglected other areas of your life in the name of love? Every relationship can bring positive and negative influences into your life. The key difference between love and a loving relationship and feelings of infatuation is that the latter takes over your existence in an unhealthy way. How has a relationship affected the balance in your life?
- How do your strong feelings make you feel about yourself? When you are in a relationship based on love, the overriding feeling can be one of being at ‘home’, in a safe and comfortable zone where you feel good about yourself. Infatuations tend to bring about incredible highs that cannot be sustained, followed by crashing lows, and feelings of insecurity and instability.
- Do you focus on how someone makes YOU feel? Relationships based on ‘me’ rather than ‘we’ are inherently unhealthy and can be a warning sign that you are infatuated rather than in love. If it is all about how the actions of another person make you feel then you are not looking at the wider, more loving scenario of how you can both benefit in an honest and mutually loving way.
Intense feelings can leave us feeling vulnerable and exposed; add onto this an unhealthy infatuation and we can become faced with a multitude of challenges and life issues which we need to work out in order to move on. Identifying the difference between love and infatuation can be a good start in sorting out your emotions and inspiring a sense of self-realization. This may be the first step in releasing your feelings or relationship from the throes of infatuation to the peace and calm of love.