By Jona Jaupi/Sept. 12, 2021 5:25 pm EDT
Love, as experienced by those lucky enough, is oftentimes described as a kaleidoscope of feelings. Such feelings might include happiness, passion, adoration, even possessiveness. The sensations can be dizzying, but how does one know if they’re really in love or simply infatuated. To truly understand which of the two feelings we might be experiencing, we must understand how love and infatuation are defined and how they differ.
There are many types of love, but for the purposes of this article, we will focus on consummate love, or the ideal “complete” version of love that most people strive for in romantic relationships, One breakdown of consummate love, which was popularized by psychologist Robert Sternberg (called Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love), splits the feeling into three distinct, but correlated components: intimacy, passion, and decision/commitment (via his 1998 study, which was published in the European Journal of Social Psychology). Sternberg stated that infatuation (or limerence), on the other hand, comprised passion only (per Hofstra University).
While the differences may seem simple enough, it can still be tough to know if you’re in love or simply experiencing intense passion for someone. Thankfully, we’ve broken it down for you.
Infatuation is described as a fantasy
One of the biggest differences between love and Infatuation is contingent on the duration of one’s feelings. Infatuation is sometimes described as a fleeting fantasy with no real foundation because you don’t really know the person very well, per Restoration Therapy.
If you’re infatuated with someone, you might even imagine a future with them, however, this tends to be fueled by empty desires. Infatuation may even be where the term “love at first sight” derived from, but, given what psychologists have theorized about love, that really just means an instantaneous attraction to someone — one that can disappear at any time, per Hofstra University.
Another way to tell if you’re infatuated is you expect and give perfection. Let’s start with expecting perfection, first. In your eyes, this person can do no wrong, but what’s really happening is you are creating an idealized version of them in your head because, again, you don’t really know them that well. If you did, they would know their flaws and negative traits. Now onto you giving perfection. You yourself might be dressing up every single time you see them, or only saying things that make you sound wildly smart or funny (which is not only a bit deceptive but highly unmanageable in the long run). If you were truly in love, you want to get to know every facet of this person and would want them to know the real you, as well, per Restoration Therapy.
Love is a long-lasting reality
Love does not bloom overnight. A connection may start off as infatuation, and turn into love after a certain amount of time (the amount of time varies with everyone), but the takeaway here is: it does not happen instantaneously, per Restoration Therapy. “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,” sex therapist Ian Kerner, Ph.D., LMFT, told Men’s Health. “You’re also creating emotional safety, and you’re able to demonstrate vulnerability with that person.” In other words, love requires intimacy, not just physical, but emotional, as well.
If you’re in love with someone, you’re comfortable being your complete self around them -]- the good, the bad, and the ugly, per Restoration Therapy. You are not afraid to share your embarrassing experiences, unpopular opinions, or makeup-less face. Another indication of being in love is that you’re secure in your shared bond with them and don’t feel the need to talk 24/7 because there’s mutual trust. When you’re infatuated with someone, though, you might act obsessive or clingy because you’re insecure and not sure where the connection is heading, per Men’s Health.
If you’ve identified yourself as being in the infatuation phase and are determined to navigate your connection towards love, there are some things you can do to strengthen your bond: give it time, maintain consistent communication, and put effort into the connection (via Men’s Health).
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