What's the Difference Between Love and Infatuation?
You’re three months into your new relationship, and things are going well. You’re constantly thinking of the other person, you’re happier than you’ve ever been, and you may even feel some signs of jealousy when they’re around other people. You know it hasn’t been that long, but you think you might be in love.
Some people swear that they know if they’re in love from the first couple of dates, while others say that love only develops after time, and that the new relationship feeling you’re experiencing is more likely to be infatuation.
To get to the bottom of the love versus infatuation debate, we asked sex therapist Ian Kerner, PhD, LMFT, about the the signs of love and infatuation.
What’s the difference between love and infatuation?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary definitions of love and infatuation are pretty distinct: love is “a warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion to another person,” while infatuation is “a feeling of foolish or obsessively strong love for, admiration for, or interest in someone or something.” Basically, love is a deep, committed attachment to someone, while infatuation is shallower—think of it as the so-called “honeymoon phase.”
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What are the signs of love vs. infatuation?
Kerner told Men’s Health that infatuation tends to happen at the beginning of relationships. “It’s usually marked by a sense of excitement and euphoria, and it’s often accompanied by lust and a feeling of newness and rapid expansion with a person,” he said.
Feeling obsessive, irrationally excited, and, let’s face it, really horny? You’re probably in the infatuation phase. Kerner added that while infatuation mostly makes you feel great, you may also feel slightly insecure because things are so new.
But with love, there’s a bond there. “Love tends to be something that’s cultivated over a long period of time, where you’re really getting to know somebody and you’re building an attachment,” Kerner continued. “You’re also creating emotional safety, and you’re able to demonstrate vulnerability with that person.”
When you love someone, you know personal details about them (besides what their favorite sex position is), and you feel safe being open about yourself as well, like how sad you felt after being passed up for a promotion at work. However, love and infatuation are not mutually exclusive, as most people in a relationship are infatuated with their partners to a certain degree.
Is infatuation positive or negative?
Kerner made it pretty simple: “It [infatuation] is positive when it’s being reciprocated, and it’s negative when it’s being rejected.” Basically, if you and your partner both have the new relationship hots for each other, that’s great! But if you’re dealing with an unrequited love kind of situation, you should probably let it go.
Can infatuation turn into love?
Kerner explained that while the infatuation phase can turn into a loving, long-lasting relationship, it’s hard to know if (or when) that will happen. “I mean generally, when you’re in love with somebody or infatuated with somebody, you stop seeking others and you focus just on that person. Only time will tell really if infatuation will develop into a long-term attachment and sense of love,” he says.
However, there are some things you can do to strengthen your relationship and move it from the honeymoon phase to a real bond. First, give your relationship time — things won’t happen overnight. Communication is always important in a relationship, and so is knowing when to compromise. But overall, a sense of commitment to the relationship is what will create the attachment needed to fall in love.
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