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Do you wonder about the difference between infatuation vs love? We sometimes don’t stop to consider the differences between the two until finding ourselves deep in a passionate relationship, wondering what really is at work.

Developing such a strong emotional connection can be enthralling and exciting beyond words. Still, it can also feel scary being carried along by such powerful energy. You understandably want to know what you can reasonably expect in the future regarding your relationship if you find yourself in what feels like love.

You may also observe an adult child or friend, for instance, who suddenly becomes very preoccupied with a romantic partner. On the one hand, you want to be supportive of the relationship. On the other, you may wonder how long such an all-encompassing connection can last. In these scenarios, you may ask yourself, “What is infatuation and what is love?” You can’t help but wonder if it’s the real thing or not.

Further complicating matters is that there can be some overlap between infatuation and love. You can have a bit of both simultaneously, or the relationship can eventually transition from primarily infatuation to primarily love. So, identifying what exactly is going on isn’t always so cut and dry.

So, as you can see, the question of “Am I in love or infatuated?” can be a complicated one to answer. Thankfully, despite the complexities involved, some indicators exist that can give you a decent idea of which one it mostly is.

Is it love or infatuation? Let’s take a look.

Obsession or a Loosened Grip?

One tell-tale sign of infatuation is an overly and unhealthy preoccupation with each other. This attention to the bond can be so strong that the partner’s previous friendships and family ties break down or aren’t given the proper attention. A serious romantic relationship will indeed change the dynamics of other friendships, but it shouldn’t significantly diminish them.

This over-attention can also adversely affect the school and career pursuits of those involved. Personal wellness can be negatively impacted, too, with near-constant texting, phone calls and spending excessive time together. There isn’t enough investment in other vital life areas as a result. Infatuation tends to be clingy to the point of being unhealthy. An obsession exists, and those involved want to hold on tightly at all costs to keep it that way.

Love, on the other hand, still may have some of the same passion and fireworks. However, the relationship still allows each partner to be an individual and excel at life. The relational grip isn’t so tight that it causes harm to other life areas. Instead, it essentially helps each partner to excel even more in finding their place in the world and purpose. Autonomy and teamwork make for a healthy, sustainable blend.

Perfect Partner or Accepted Real One?

What’s the difference between love and infatuation? When infatuated, it’s easy to overlook each other’s flaws. Not taken to the extreme, this can be a healthy thing in relationships. After all, who enjoys having all of their shortcomings examined under a microscope and being harassed because of them?

When infatuated with someone, the idea of overlooking each other’s flaws can be taken to the absolute extreme. The danger in doing so lies in the fact that you may fail to notice significant issues that should’ve been addressed before proceeding any further with such an emotionally charged connection.

Harmful character flaws can be ignored during infatuation, whether that be abusive tendencies, anger, or manipulation to name a few. But also extremely relevant is whether similar enough beliefs or goals exist between the couple to make them compatible. Also, is the relationship the result of an affair where primary loyalty already exists for a long-term partner potentially unaware of the infatuated relationship? These concerns are vital to determine if the relationship can exist long term in a functional and reasonably healthy way.

Genuine love, on the other hand, is transparent about potential flaws and weighs these concerns. It doesn’t depend on the false illusion of perfection as infatuation does. Love also considers questions of beliefs and life goals and whether or not they are similar enough to continue the relationship.

The love-focused couple continues the relationship, caring for each other despite obvious and not-so-apparent shortcomings. They confidently move forward with the relationship informed rather than overpowered by strong feelings that have tremendous ability to mislead or deceive.

Are those who experience primarily love rather than infatuation fully prepared? No, since none of us can imagine all the complexities and challenges in an enduring relationship. Still, there is a reasonable effort made to ensure compatibility.

Shallow or Deep?

Another way to tell the difference between love and infatuation is whether your relationship’s focus is shallow or deep. Is your attention on surface aspects like looks or an over-concern with your partner? Also, do you know very little about each other and prefer to focus on how you make each other feel? This lack of depth can be a good indicator of infatuation.

In contrast, the “fireworks” still may fly when you’re around the one you love, but the focus is on getting to know each other better, flaws and all. There is the pursuit of a greater shared purpose in the world than simply feeling good for the moment, as remarkable as that feels. The prevailing focus is on relationship quality rather than aspects that don’t matter much in the long run.

Is the Relationship Functional or Chasing a High?

Infatuation’s intense feelings won’t last and will dissipate in time. But while it lasts, infatuation can feel like a drug-like high. But we know from experience that life’s high points often are followed by low ones.

You can quickly feel “in love” with the wrong person for you. The problem is that the infatuation stage can largely blind you to the potential lack of compatibility because it can be so addictive and feel so good. By the time the passion fades, you can regret having wasted so much time in a relationship that was going nowhere. Even while infatuated, you may know you and your partner aren’t compatible long-term. Still, you may not be able to pull yourself free.

Chemistry is still crucial with love, but it isn’t worshiped for its own sake like with infatuation. The relationship is more enduring than the initial chemical-like high.

Will It Last or Be Short-Lived?

In her “Psychology Today” article entitled The Deceptive Power of Love’s First Moments, Susan Heltier Ph.D. shares the following:

“Love is blind while you are in the initial infatuation stage. After that, clarity about reality tends to emerge. Continuing to love someone is likely to depend on how suitable that person is as a partner in the project of living.”

Both love and infatuation can initially exhibit that same “addicted to love” feeling where everything seems right with the world. You’re both so emotionally connected that it’s energizing and arguably the most beautiful feeling a human being can experience. The experiences are beyond intoxicating. Why would you ever want to feel any differently?

This in-love stage swept you off your feet in the most compelling way, and it seemed like you had little to do with it. And, unfortunately, it can feel the same way when that passionate stage comes to a close.

What happens with love versus infatuation? Either a growing attachment between you and your partner based on mutual care, kindness and trust or a significant disappointment that eventually leads to the relationship’s end.

So, in some ways, true love and infatuation are hard to tell apart, at least initially. But, in time, what you have or don’t have becomes apparent. True love survives past the intoxicating in-love stage, but infatuation doesn’t.

Infatuation was simply a wild wave you both rode together for a time until the wave fizzled out, and things were no longer fun because the wave was gone.

True love, however, led to a bond while riding that wave, and once the wave fizzled out, you recognized that, as good as the wave felt, your actual prize was each other. For that reason, you didn’t feel the need to go out seeking another wave as with infatuation. Instead, you wanted to grow your love for each other.

Infatuation Vs Love: Therapy Can Help You Determine Which It Is

Hopefully, you found this article helpful in determining whether your relationship exhibits infatuation signs or primarily love. At the same time, it’s not always easy to tell the difference when you’re swept up into such a powerful romantic encounter.

You still may ask, “What is the difference between love and infatuation?” You may also wonder, “Is infatuation bad?” or how to get over an infatuation. For that reason, therapy can give you a better idea of how your relationship is doing and what to expect.

If you’d like to receive evidence-based relationship support from a trusted professional, please consider reaching out to The Relationship Centre for couples therapy or individual counselling. Scheduling an appointment with us can be a significant step in growing your relationship.