Is it Love or Is It Infatuation?

Turn on the television or radio or go to a movie and you will be bombarded by images of starry- eyed lovers riding off into the sunset. Pick up any magazine and look at the cover, and chances are at least one of the feature articles is about love and relationships. Let’s face it. Love sells because love is the ultimate thing we all crave. It all started in the Garden of Eden when God said it is not good for man to be alone. We have all been fighting being alone ever since.

So begins the dating game. We meet someone at work, or through friends, or through a personal ad and go on that first date. We come home with those stars in our eyes, and cannot wait to be with that person again. Our thoughts are consumed, and we feel insecure. Will she love me the way I love him? We are sure these feelings will never end. It is intense. It is all consuming. It is like a flash fire. But is it love? Or is it infatuation? And how do you tell the difference?

Today, almost half of all marriages end in divorce. Many experts believe that the reason for this is that people do not know how to tell mature love from infatuation. We marry in a whirlwind of emotions only to find, when the wind dies down, there is not enough real love to carry us forward. There are ways to measure love vs. infatuation.

Infatuation is intense, seductive, all consuming. You feel like you cannot go on without this person. The physical attraction is passionate and feels like one set of glands screaming out to another. Infatuation involves hours of daydreaming and wishful fantasies. Remember the scenes of the schoolgirl writing her crush’s name all over her books? When infatuated, it is hard to concentrate on anything else. All patience goes out the window. You want instant gratification. When asked, what factors attract you to this person, you are likely to be able to list very few, and many of those will be physical attributes. He has gorgeous eyes and the cutest dimples. Or she has great legs and beautiful long hair.

When infatuated, you feel you must move forward with this relationship quickly because you do not think you could stand it if it ended. This urgency marks your actions, and many people find themselves involved in a physical relationship quickly, trying to move the relationship along. However, this usually has the opposite effect in the end. Jealousy is common in infatuation. You are afraid someone else will come along and ruin everything. So you try to hang on to them as tightly as you can.

One woman, when asked to describe infatuation, said, “Every word on every line of every email from them makes you beam like a child at Christmas. You get hot and cold just thinking about talking to them. Your literary talents suddenly seem to explode. You try to convey this to your friends, but they stare at you baffled. You misinterpret the slightest little thing to mean that this is destiny. You find meaning in lyrics again. Sometimes it feels as if you are falling from a plane, sometimes as though you are on a rocket.”

On the other hand, real love is a mature love. There is not the urgency and overwhelming feelings of intensity like there is with infatuation. Real love is like a friendship that has grown and deepened. Real love is realistic. You see the flaws and imperfections in the other person and accept them as part of who they are. You do not look for perfection, and it is not expected of you. Real love is about acceptance of you for who you are, without pretense or masks.

Real love, mature love, is about trust. You do not have the need for jealousy. If the love is genuine, you know your partner cares as much about your feelings as his own. You want the best for each other. You encourage each other to grow in your lives. You support each other.

Real love is comfortable. You can relax and be yourself. You do not have to try to change yourself or be something you are not. You feel free to be you. In addition, you know that you are all your partner needs you to be. Likewise, you do not try to make your partner be something he is not. His feelings are as important as your own.

True love takes time. You must truly know someone in order to develop a mature love that will last. You must see them in good times and in bad. You must develop your love like tending a garden, with patience and attention. And true love continues to deepen.

Sexual intimacy takes the place of the flash fire attraction of infatuation. As you learn to know your partner and become comfortable with this person, the sexual part of the relationship deepens. You will find you share your hearts and minds, as well as your bodies. Making love becomes a sharing experience, and not about getting instant gratification.

In order to develop a mature love, you and your partner must share common beliefs and values. You do not have to have the same background, or religion, but you need to have a respect for your differences. However, you must have a common bond about the things you want from your futures and the things that are important in life.

Real love weathers conflicts, but infatuation can end as quickly as it began. Distance deepens real love but causes infatuation to fizzle. Where infatuation is based on mostly physical attributes, real love is based on character traits like honesty, kindness, and dependability.

Can infatuation ever turn into mature love? Yes, many couples find that after the intensity wears off, they still enjoy each other’s company and continue on to develop a deep, loving relationship with each other. However, it is more common that infatuations end quickly, the same way they started. Infatuation can be fun, as long as one realizes it is a temporal thing, and not long lasting.

We all want a love that will last. That is what all the love songs promise. In order to find that, we have to recognize the difference in love and infatuation. Real love is the one that weathers the storms life throws at us.

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