Have you ever wondered about the true essence of “infatuation”? It’s a word we throw around quite often, but its meaning can sometimes get fuzzy. We often use it to express our current obsession with something or someone, and while that’s not necessarily incorrect, the term is frequently oversimplified or misunderstood. So, let’s dive in and explore: What does genuine infatuation really entail? How does it stand apart from love? And, most importantly, how can you discern which emotion you’re genuinely experiencing?
What is Infatuation?
Infatuation often gets tangled up with love in the glamorous world of movies and TV shows, where “love at first sight” meet-cutes make our hearts flutter. It’s the kind of moment that feels incredibly romantic and leaves us yearning for our own movie-worthy encounters. Yet, infatuation and love follow different scripts in the real world, each rooted in distinct perceptions of the person who captivates us.
Infatuation is a feeling of intense attraction, fixation, and admiration for someone, often without knowing them all that well. This whirlwind of emotion hits fast, usually shortly after meeting someone, and is fueled by physical attraction and fantasies about what this person is like. When experiencing infatuation, individuals find themselves engrossed in thoughts about the person, constructing idealized assumptions about their identity and envisioning a shared future.
Infatuation vs. Love
Infatuation commonly arises after a brief, positive initial encounter or minimal interaction with a person, often in group settings. These feelings give rise to idealized perceptions of the person and a vision of a future together despite the lack of substantial information. This idealization fosters an illusion of perfection, glossing over potential flaws and red flags. Interactions with the object of infatuation are marked by intensity, akin to experiencing a “high”—racing heart, butterflies, adrenaline rushes, excessive laughter, and euphoria. In moments of separation, a deep longing and heightened anticipation to reunite create a consuming emotional state.
In contrast, love evolves over time within the context of a developing relationship. It necessitates accumulating varied experiences contributing to a genuine and comprehensive understanding of the other person. Love doesn’t hinge on the assumption of perfection but acknowledges and accepts the reality of the other person’s flaws, enduring despite imperfections. While excitement and anticipation are normal in the context of love, these emotions are more balanced. Love fosters a sense of contentment, presence, and emotional regulation, whether together or apart from the loved one.
Can a Relationship Be Sustained on Infatuation Alone?
Long-term relationships cannot survive solely on infatuation. While it may endure for a couple of weeks to a few years, true infatuation lacks the longevity required for sustaining committed romantic relationships. Moreover, infatuation is built upon an inaccurate understanding of the other person, creating a barrier to cultivating a healthy and enduring romantic connection. Unwarranted expectations and an unwillingness to let go of the idealized version of the person lead to disappointment for both parties involved.
Can Infatuation Turn into Love?
While feelings of infatuation can evolve into love, it’s not a guaranteed transformation.
As mentioned, infatuation, by its very nature, thrives on an idealized and somewhat unattainable version of someone. On the flip side, love is about embracing the real deal—flaws and quirks included. Shifting from infatuation to love is like upgrading from a daydream to a fully-fledged understanding of who someone truly is. One must be willing to let go of that picture-perfect version they have painted in their mind while embracing reality, the reality of who this person is, compromising, and managing feelings of disappointment without losing interest in the relationship.
When Infatuation Becomes Limerence
Limerence, an involuntary state of obsession, originates from feelings of lust and desire and intensifies into a profound infatuation. Marked by intrusive and recurrent thoughts about the desired person, referred to as the “limerent object” (LO), limerence shares similarities with infatuation but distinguishes itself through heightened emotions and mental preoccupation.
When experiencing limerence, individuals are overwhelmed by involuntary thoughts about their LO, hindering their ability to focus on everyday tasks. This interference makes concentrating at work, being fully present with friends and family, or engaging in hobbies challenging. As more and more time and energy center around the LO, other aspects of life are deprioritized. Notably, a deep yearning emerges for the reciprocation of feelings, leading to an extensive investment of time and energy in contemplating how to elicit these reciprocal emotions. Individuals scrutinize even the most minuscule interactions with their LO, searching for evidence of success or failure in “winning them over.” The discovery of evidence to the contrary, such as preserved distance or disinterest, often triggers significant anxiety and distress for those experiencing limerence.
Vulnerabilities to Developing Infatuation
While anyone can experience feelings of infatuation given the right circumstances, some are more susceptible to experiencing these emotions—and getting stuck in them—than others are.
People grappling with low self-esteem, a diminished self-concept, codependency in relationships, and anxiety are particularly prone to encountering sensations of infatuation. Likewise, individuals exhibiting an anxious attachment style or diagnosed with borderline personality disorder are more susceptible to experiencing feelings of infatuation. It is because, in some manner or another, the experience of infatuation can create a deceptive perception of unfulfilled needs being satisfied.
Breaking free from infatuation’s grip involves challenging idealized thoughts and embracing the reality of a person. If recurring infatuations hinder the development of lasting relationships, it may signal unmet needs or internal insecurities. In such cases, seeking the guidance of a licensed mental health professional can unravel the barriers to finding the healthy and fulfilling relationships we desire.
The bottom line is that understanding the nuances of infatuation, differentiating it from love, and recognizing vulnerabilities provides a roadmap to navigate the intricate landscape of emotions. As we develop a deeper understanding of the mysteries of our feelings, we pave the way for healthier, more enduring connections.