Infatuation vs Love: How To Tell Them Apart

Last Updated 21.05.2022
14 min read

Is it love, or just infatuation? How can you tell the difference? It seems like it would be easy, but the truth is that when it comes to infatuation vs love, many of us have mistaken one for the other. This can lead to some embarrassing and even painful outcomes.

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So, what's the difference, why do we confuse the two, and what can we do to manage intense feelings? Keep reading to learn more about the differences between feelings of love and infatuation.

Why do People Confuse Love and Infatuation?

When you look at love and infatuation objectively, it's easy to see the difference. One is based on a deeper attraction and understanding of the other person. The other is intense, fleeting, and often focused on physical attraction and immediate chemistry. Although, validation is a key component in infatuation as well.

It can help to understand that both love and infatuation involve intense emotions. At first, both can feel very similar to one another. It's easy for people to convince themselves that what they feel is love when it's actually infatuation.

There's also wishful thinking. Let's be honest. People love to be in love. They want to experience a romantic relationship, so they convince themselves they are experiencing true love.

Infatuation vs Love: The Problems People Can Experience

Does it matter if people confuse genuine or romantic love and infatuation? That depends. There are times when people are able to figure things out on their own and recognize that the strong feelings they are experiencing may be infatuation, not love. Also, as long as they eventually figure out the difference between real love and infatuation without making any bad decisions, they will be fine.

Unfortunately, others who can't determine the clear line between infatuation vs love may struggle with their mental health or respecting healthy boundaries. This can also be an indication that someone doesn't understand what a healthy love relationship looks like.

How to Tell if It's Just Infatuation

For many people, being able to tell if they're simply infatuated with a person can most likely make them much less confused about their feelings. Being able to sense the very slight difference in emotions can make a huge difference. There are many ways for you to be able to tell if it's just infatuation. Here are just a few of those ways.

You Find Yourself Thinking of This Person Constantly

Morning, noon, or night it doesn't seem to matter. This person is just on your mind all the time. It just seems that no matter what you do you just can't stop thinking about them. Of course, while you may find yourself thinking a lot about the person you supposedly love, when it comes to infatuation how you think of them just comes off a bit differently. You may even seem to be "obsessed" with this person. If this happens very early in a relationship, chances are it is infatuation at this point. Not that it can't turn into love, but it isn't right now.

You Feel Like This Person Is Absolutely Perfect

When it comes to infatuation you may feel a high level of desire towards the person. For example, you may find yourself believing that this person may just be the ideal partner for you, that they must be your perfect match or even your soulmate. As you find yourself thinking about them, talking with them, and interacting with them in any way, you fail or struggle to see any of their actual shortcomings, or red flags. In fact, you may even find yourself thinking about a future with them that involves them taking on a set of roles that make them the ideal partner for you. These feelings are unrealistic. You will not know if a person is a love match for you until without spending time to know their real selves.

You Don’t Know This Person Very Well

Love is based on a deeper level of understanding of a person, while infatuation simply develops after just meeting or just finding out about the person. Infatuation can feel amazing, like this obsessively strong love, in which passion takes over all reasoning. You find yourself wanting to talk about this person and what they might be like despite not having any true or deep interactions with one another. Perhaps most of what you hear about them comes from social media or even from those in your immediate friend group?

After all, just because you happen to find out through Twitter that your crush just happens to like Gummy Bears, this does not mean that you have successfully created a bond with them.

To put it simply, if you haven't had any real interaction with this person, any conversations that allowed you to truly learn about one another, and you still have those incredibly strong feelings for them, then it's likely that you're just infatuated with them.

You Feel a Strong Physical Attraction Towards Them

Admittedly when many of us look for a potential partner, we tend to consider their physical being before all else. After all, we want to be with someone who we think looks good. At the beginning of every relationship, this type of lust or desire can actually be good. However, the most important thing that drives a wall between that lust and true romantic love is the simple fact that love focuses on the person as a whole while lust focuses on just the body.

Sometimes the physical attraction can seem so strong that it can prevent you from taking the time to develop a healthy relationship that is based on far more than the external trappings.

And here's what else can happen. If your relationship is only based on your physical qualities, you will spend too much time working on your physical appearance in order to "beat off" the competition; you will find yourself seething with jealousy if your newfound love hangs out or talks to others; you will begin to want to know where they are and what they are doing all the time. Does this sound a bit obsessive to you?

But here is what you won't be doing. You won't be taking the time to work on the gradual process of developing a strong bond and a warm attachment based on long conversations about shared values, goals, interests, and such. This is the stuff from which real relationships are made. So, if you want to understand the real difference between love vs. infatuation, look at where your priorities are right now.

You Find Yourself Fantasizing About This Person

So, you have met this special someone. You are physically attracted; your hormones are working overtime; you may even let that chemistry take over and have sex with them. In all of this afterglow, you begin to fantasize. In these ideal world fantasies, you see yourselves building a life together, living out a forever, perfect life where you both walk hand-in-hand toward your future together.

Time to come down to reality. Relationships are not built on fantasies, and you are on the wrong track here. You really know nothing about this possible life partner and yet you have put them into a role that you want, not what they necessarily want.

Think about this: You meet an amazingly attractive person, the chemistry ignites, and you fall into bed right away. You see one another a few more times, maybe go to a club for drinks, keep having amazing sex, and have conversations that are pretty shallow - nothing deep. And you have not reached any of the early relationship milestones that couples in romantic exploration reach. You have spent lots of your free time with dreams of your life together.

You then go out with some friends one night, and there they are with someone else. You are confused, jealous, and angry. When you confront your future "king" or "queen," you get a response, "Come on, we have great sex together. What's the problem?" The problem is you were infatuated and conjured up a relationship that won't ever exist. Now you are hurt and embarrassed, and your ideal partner is not this person.

You Find Yourself Desperately Wanting to Impress This Person

You want this person to see you as the perfect forever life partner. And so, you begin to change things about yourself, in order to impress and be someone you aren't in real life. Of course, we all tend to be on our best "behavior" when relationships are new, but you go beyond that. You hear that they prefer tall blondes. Suddenly, to meet those expectations, you're at the salon or your bathroom sink getting your hair dyed and buying those shoe inserts or heels to make yourself seem taller than you actually are. You change your taste in music to mimic theirs. Pretty soon, you are a person that your real friends begin not to recognize. How long do you think you can keep this up? Reality has to set in at some point.

Everything Seems to Move Very Quickly

Your friends are telling you to slow down, to be patient, and get to know this person better. You are having none of that. The two of you are in a whirlwind of fun, sex, and nightlife, and you are ready to pack that U-Haul. And this new partner is ready for you to do that. Truth is, you are probably both infatuated. When the reality of actually living together bares some not-so-pleasant truths about each other, you both try to brush them off. But over time, you being a neat freak grates on them, and their sloppiness grates on you. You discover that you disagree on politics, religion, and a host of other important values and principles. It's time to end it, and that can be nasty and messy.

Moving From the Infatuation State to a Romantic Relationship - Now It Gets Real

It's quite possible that an initial infatuation may turn into real love with a deep commitment to one another. This only comes, though, after time. So, if you want to move on to something deeper, there are several things that have to happen.

Spend "Real" Time Together

Get out of the bed, the bars, and the parties, and have some quality time together. What does each of you like to do for leisure time? Plan dates that revolve around these things, so that you each get to see what the other is passionate about. Both of you will have the chance to get to know the other person and how they behave in different environments.

During these times, have conversations that bring out such things as their goals, their worldview, and their visions for their futures - the things that really matter when long-term partnerships are being forged.

At the same time, you will begin to see each other's faults and flaws. We all have them. If this person has faults that are real deal-breakers for you, then you know that it was just lust, not love. Better to find out now. As Stephanie Cook, LCSW and owner of Couples Counseling, says, "Wouldn't you rather discover that the person you have fallen for is a chronic liar, sociopath, or adulterer who is unwilling or unable to change--before you get married or move in with them?"

The point is this: people have different values, principles, and lifestyles. This does not make them bad people. But when there are these types of differences, a long-term relationship and deep love are probably not going to be..

Based on What You Discover, Make a Decision Whether You Want to Be With This Person

So here's the deal with this. You both have discovered that you have some differences that are not just minor. You have two choices:

  • You talk about the kinds of compromises you are willing and able to make

  • You end the relationship because compromises/changes aren't possible

Here are Typical Biggies That will Require Some Serious Conversation:

  • You have a need to talk about feelings and other warm, fuzzy stuff. Your partner is stiffer about these things and really hates getting all mushy

  • You tend to spend lots of money and you have credit card debt. Your partner saves rather than spends - this can be a point of serious contention down the road

  • One of you is highly organized and very neat. The other is a bit of a slob and doesn't mind the mess.

Can and do you both want to compromise and make some changes to accommodate the other? If so, move forward, make the effort, and live up to what you have promised.

And Then There are Those Deal-Breakers

Sometimes there are just huge differences that can't be overcome. And they will show you the difference between love and just attraction. People who have a deep and strong love have addressed these and have found that they are on the "same page." But you haven't yet discovered these. Here are just a few:

  • Your newfound love tells you they believe in open relationships and having threesomes once in a while. You will never go along with this.

  • You want to travel the world and don't want the responsibilities of a home and family. Your lover is a homebody

  • You have non-negotiable political beliefs and your lover does not share them at all.

These deal-breakers will mean that you need to break things off. And you now understand more the difference between love and mere lust and attraction.

You Both Have a Choice to Make Now

Over a period of time, you have had the opportunity to do what most people in serious relationships do - date and spend time getting to know the real each other. And hopefully, you have discovered flaws and faults, exposed your own, and have identified those differences which can be addressed through compromise and some changes. And you have probably identified those major differences that seem to be insurmountable. Now it's time to make the big decision. Do you move forward in spite of these big issues, or do you decide that the object of your infatuation couldn't transition to long-lasting love? The latter is probably the better choice.

So, How Do You Get Over an Infatuation?

The end of relationships that were only infatuations can be painful. You did develop strong feelings for the person, and those are hard to just tuck away and forget. But you have also become a wiser person indeed, especially if this is your first experience with infatuation. So, let's sum up what you have learned:

  • Infatuation is not love. That grows over time after the infatuation stage wanes and more intimacy is allowed to develop.

  • Can infatuation turn into love? Yes, if a couple decides to get to really know one another after the honeymoon phase is over.

  • Infatuation results in unrealistic expectations in a new relationship. Someone who is infatuated is constantly thinking about the person, develops a sense of joy from that thinking, and may then experience a bad emotional fall when expectations are not met.

  • Infatuation is not a bad thing if someone recognizes what it is but decides to go forward because the sex, the fun, and the excitement are worth it.

  • Infatuation is a bad thing when it consumes almost every waking moment of your time. You have invested this much time because humans invest in what they value.

So, now that you have to get over an infatuation, what do you do? Here are a few tips:

  • Stop seeing them right away. If they want to get together, give excuses. Better yet, block them.

  • Start dating again immediately

  • Get busy with lots of things that will distract you - take a course, volunteer, get a pet, etc.

  • Focus on self-care and improvement to raise your self-esteem. People with high self-esteem are less likely to succumb to infatuation.

Above all, be patient with yourself. The object of your infatuation is not going to leave your mind or your heart immediately.

You have now figured out the difference between love and just infatuation, but that doesn't mean it has not been a painful experience.

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