Infatuation vs genuine feelings of love: think you can spot the difference?
If you’re in the newest stages of a relationship, this actually might be hard to do! But being able to recognize the difference between these two opposing emotional states can be helpful for making sure you’re entering (and staying in) a relationship with someone for the right reasons.
What Am I Really Feeling? Some Quick Definitions of Infatuation vs Genuine Love
For the purposes of our discussion, let’s start by defining what infatuation and genuine love and connection really mean.
By infatuation, I typically mean an intense interest and/or obsession in a partner. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a feeling of foolish or obsessively strong love for, admiration for, or interest in someone or something,” or alternatively a “strong and unreasoning attachment.”
Note some important adjectives here: “foolish,” “obsessively,” “unreasoning.” A person who is infatuated with someone tends to place that individual on a pedestal (figuratively speaking, so to speak) and looks to them as if they can do no wrong. And while their feelings may not be grounded in actual reality, those feelings can feel incredibly intense and almost addictive.
In comparison, when I say genuine love, I typically mean a connection that is grounded in mutual respect, appreciation, healthy communication, trust, honesty, and realistic expectations. Genuine love can still give you butterflies—but not so many butterflies that they carry you away into the clouds! And unlike when you’re infatuated with someone, you don’t tend to “lose yourself” in the relationship when you feel true love; both your true selves can thrive.
Some Warning Signs of Infatuation
Generally speaking, infatuation doesn’t bode well for long-lasting relationships—think of a bright flame that burns HOT…but burns out quickly. Why? Because when the object of our infatuation inevitably does something that pops the bubble of perfection we’ve placed them in, the violation of our unrealistic expectations hits us hard. Plus, being infatuated may also cause you to ignore important “red flags” that this person might not actually be right for you in the long run.
You may be infatuated with someone if:
- You’re convinced you’ve found the “perfect” person
- You sacrifice your own values and needs for the relationship (e.g., you “drop everything” to be with them, even if you had other plans that were actually important to you)
- You have intrusive thoughts about them that frequently interrupt your ability to work, relax, or interact with others
- You struggle with intense feelings of jealousy or anxiety about the relationship
In short, the infatuated mind is a fuzzy mind; you simply might not make the clearest decisions when you’re in this intense, albeit exciting, emotional state.
Signs That You’re Feeling Genuine Love and Connection
Compared to infatuation, genuine feelings of love and connection are much better harbingers of a healthy relationship. I believe this is because the ability to develop true loving feelings someone else requires that you have a certain level of emotional maturity, vulnerability, and compatibility—three essential ingredients for a healthy, long-lasting partnership.
Genuine love also requires a certain level of discernment on your part—a willingness to “see” the whole person in front of you, even though it’s normal for you both to be on your “best behavior” in the early stages of dating.
So, if you notice the following characteristics in your relationship, trust that you’re probably on the right track to something genuine and real:
- Mutual respect and support
- A deep commitment to each other that still respects each other’s individual pursuits and resources
- An awareness of the other person’s faults, as well as strengths
- The willingness to speak the truth and be honest with each other
- The willingness to work through conflict together (because remember: even healthy loving relationships experience conflict from time to time!)
The Bottom Line
When you’re dating someone new—or even when you find yourself in a longer-term relationship that has a lot of volatile ups and downs—be curious about yourself and the thoughts and feelings you’re experiencing. Do you feel balanced or bonkers? In love or insane? Do you think your bond is ultimately formed on a bedrock of genuine love, appreciation, and vulnerability—or is it based on putting your partner on a pedestal?
If you need help developing your emotional maturity and intelligence so that you can enjoy the healthy, loving relationship you deserve, contact Couples Thrive today to talk to a therapist.