What is the difference between infatuation and love?
Much has been made about those two words and many of us have been told that we don’t “really” love someone but are actually infatuated with them.
What is Infatuation?
When someone insists that a person is infatuated with another person instead of in love with them, they are actually showing some ignorance.
The reason is because infatuation is actually a type of love.
Infatuation is a romantic type of love.
So it’s not accurate to compare the two (infatuation versus love) since we know there are different types of love.
We love our parents.
We love our siblings.
We love our friends.
We love our pets.
We “love” a movie, sports, or a certain piece of clothing.
There are different types of love and most languages have different words for some or all the different types.
Infatuation is part of the recipe of being in love.
If your relationship is only companionate love, then the two of you are friends but not romantic partners.
But if your romantic relationship doesn’t also have companionship (friendship), your relationship is shallow and probably not something that you consider to be serious (and is unlikely to last).
If a couple is happy with only companionate love without romance and passion, that’s their business and it is likely to be successful if both are completely satisfied with a one-dimensional relationship.
Infatuation, however, is basically what is called “limerence.”
Limerence is a word coined by Dr. Dorothy Tennov, who studied couples and individuals who described themselves as being madly in love.
It’s when even the mere visual of a person brings about a spike in dopamine (the “feel-good chemical”) from our brains into our bloodstream.
We are preoccupied with this person.
What are they doing?
What are they thinking?
What are they feeling?
We want to know and probably ask them constantly.
That’s what people do who are infatuated and we would NOT have some of the great romantic songs, novels, and movies without this romantic mental state to inspire such expression.
Is Infatuation (or Limerence) Bad?
When people first learn of the word limerence and when they speak of infatuation, they usually speak of it negatively.
For example, in the case of a limerent affair (an affair that happens when someone is in limerence with another person) people often jump to the extreme that the relationship will certainly be temporary because it’s “just limerence” or “just infatuation” versus “real love.”
That thought process, though a line of thinking that is often quickly latched onto by someone if they are wanting an affair to end so that they can get their spouse back, is a logical fallacy.
The reason for that is that limerence/infatuation isn’t bad, evil, or something negative in and of itself.
In fact, most successful romantic relationships developed from infatuation early on.
Infatuation is what sparks the development of other types of love.
Why else would two strangers continue to want to get together?
The attraction that limerence brings about often leads to companionate love and committed love.
The highs of limerence will fade in time simply because part of it and infatuation is the mystery of another person.
The pull to explore the unknown to the point of intimacy is a driving factor.
At some point, most of that mystery is resolved.
That’s when limerence fades and the other types of love grow stronger.
That doesn’t mean that the relationship will lose romance and passion.
But it does mean that the relationship is no longer built on those things alone.
So while limerence (a.k.a. infatuation) is basically temporary, that doesn’t mean that the relationship will certainly end with the fading of limerence.
What does often happen is, in the case of an affair, when limerence/infatuation fades, the person can be more logical and rational.
It is then that he/she can see and truly gauge the impact of ending their marriage in addition to breaking up their family if they have children.
With the level of infatuation now being about equal between the spouse they left and the lover, the cheating partner often (but not always) chooses to return to the spouse because of their history, family together, and the hurt that a divorce would bring to multiple people.
If there isn’t a cheating element to the limerence relationship, it often builds to the more stable, mature, and lasting types of love.
But if someone claims that you are infatuated with someone “rather” than in love with them, it’s like saying that you are in high school and not in college/university.
It’s not a bad thing and one comes before the other.
It’s not love versus infatuation or Limerence.
Obviously a relationship shouldn’t permanently stay in infatuation, but they rarely do anyway.
Humans were designed to develop intimacy whether they mean to or not.
So don’t rush if you feel that you are just “infatuated,” at the moment with someone but don’t know if you are “in love” with them.
Or if someone makes that claim about you (like it’s any of their business).
The person stating this about you might just be jealous that they don’t have the same passion and excitement in their life or that they never have.
Ways To Move Infatuation To Intimacy
There is usually lots of physical intimacy during the infatuation/limerence phase of a relationship.
Emotional intimacy, however, is usually still developing.
As the relationship moves out of a limerence focus and stands on the solid ground of companionship, emotional intimacy pulls more of the weight.
Questions To Build Intimacy
One way to encourage or develop intimacy is to ask and answer questions.
Not just simple questions like, “How was your day?”
But more complex questions like, “What did you dream about being when you were a little boy?”
Or, “Who were your heroes when you were a child?”
“What scares you?”
“What fascinates you?”
“What makes a perfect day for you?”
“What in life are you most grateful for?”
“What’s something you really enjoy that others might find boring? Why do you enjoy it?”
“Is there a childhood friend who you have lost touch with and miss?”
Those are questions that can help build intimacy and move a relationship to the next level.
Shared experiences (especially new ones) also help to build intimacy and deepen a relationship.
Again, that doesn’t mean that you will lose the romance and passion associated with infatuation/limerence.
Romance and passion should always be nurtured and valued.
Those things are still extremely important even though they will serve a more secondary role as the relationship continues to become more complex, mature, and layered.
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