“How can I know if I am really in love?” a
reader wrote a newspaper columnist. Back came
the reply: “If you have to ask, you aren’t.” The
inadequacy of this response is appalling, yet
many continue to think that when love hits,
you’ll just know! The truth isn’t that easy.
Studies show that most people tend to consider
past relationships as infatuation and present
ones as real love. Another survey found that the
average person experiences infatuation six or
seven times and real love once or twice. You
may already have experienced a portion of your
allotted romances. But the big question is, How
can you tell if it’s real love or only infatuation?
Infatuation is a strange mixture of sex and
emotions. One dictionary defines the word as
“completely carried away by unreasoning
passion or attraction.” The word infatuation
derives from a Latin root that means “silly or
foolish”–a graphic description of some people’s
Love and infatuation share similar symptoms
Love and infatuation do have one thing in
common–strong feelings of affection for
someone–which complicates the matter of
sorting out the differences because many of the
symptoms overlap each other. The most
passionate and blind infatuation may contain a
portion of true love, and true love may include
several symptoms found in infatuation. The
differences between love and infatuation, then,
are often found in degree rather than in
definition. Therefore, one must examine all
evidence with extreme caution.
Love and infatuation share three symptoms:
passion, a desire to be close, and strange
Passion. Passion may be present without true
love. It is entirely possible, particularly for the
male, to feel passion or strong sexual feelings
for a woman he has never met. Necking and
petting increase the urgency of erotic feelings
until sex dominates the relationship. Passion
alone is no indicator of true love. Sexual
attraction can be as urgent in infatuation as in
true love, and at times may even be dominating.
Love must be based on more than sexual
attraction or passion.
Furthermore, no one can maintain such fierce
passion for long, although they vow they will. If
all a couple has going for them is passion, the
relationship will likely end within a few months.
Should a couple marry based on this initial rush
of sexual attraction, they will learn that when
passion dies, there is nothing left to hold them
Desire to be close. The desire to be near one
another constantly can be just as overwhelming
in infatuation as in true love. You may wish to
be together all the time, dreading the time when
you must part. You may feel empty and lonely
when your loved one is not with you, but this
does not necessarily indicate real love. The
desire to be near can be just as strong in
infatuation as in true love.
Strange emotions. Research confirms that we
experience distinct physical symptoms at the
onset of infatuation. Symptoms like walking on
air when everything goes well and feeling sick
when things go wrong; icy fingers racing up and
down the spine, the inability to concentrate,
feeling sick to your stomach or unable to eat are
all common. But strange emotions occurs just as
frequently with infatuation as with real love,
although “funny feelings” and strange emotions
are more indicative of infatuation. True love
encompasses more than a mixture of funny
feelings and continues long after strange
If you are lonely, bored, or getting over a
broken romance, you are more likely to
interpret a new romance as true love even
though it is little more than infatuation. If you
are insecure, or have low self-worth, you must
also beware. Mature persons as well as those
with high self-worth can be deceived by
infatuation, but are more likely to recognize the
condition for what it is.
Don’t get the impression that infatuation is all
bad. It can be a pleasant and enjoyable
experience as long as you recognize it for what
it is–a brief interlude of romantic fantasy that
will not last. Given enough time, it will pass or
will develop into a real relationship that
involves more than a rush of emotions.
Remember also that some relationships that
begin as infatuation develop into true love over
time as they are tested.
True love differs from infatuation in that it
provides time and space to recognize the good
qualities as well as the shortcomings of your
special friend. To commit to, to have sex with,
to move in with, or marry someone on the basis
of these early feelings, is sheer foolishness and
will result in predictable, negative
Identifying the real thing
In the 1820s gold rush prospectors occasionally
mistook pyrite for gold. Pyrite, or fool’s gold, as
it is called, can be detected by popping it into a
pan on a hot stove. While it sizzles and smokes,
it sends out a strong stench. But heat will not
damage real gold, nor will it produce a foul
smell. Unfortunately, you cannot put your love
relationship in a pan on a hot stove to see if it
produces a stench, but you can test it against the
following nine factors:
1. Love develops slowly; infatuation rapidly.
Most people think that falling in love happens
suddenly and intensely. Tyrone said, “I fell hard
the minute I saw her yesterday. She looked just
like I always pictured she would. I feel like I’ve
known her all my life.”
Tyrone’s evaluation won’t be valid until after a
year of dating. Why? Because love grows, and
growth takes time. It is impossible to know the
real person after only a few dates. Early in a
relationship, people put on their best behavior.
Unpleasant traits are hidden and controlled. It
takes months of seeing a person under varied
circumstances before you know him or her
really well. Many people successfully hide
negative personality traits until after they are
Don’t jump to conclusions. Allow your
relationship to grow slowly. Begin as friends,
and don’t try to rush through the getting-to-
know-you stage. Leisurely beginnings make for
pleasurable dating relationships. Such
friendships can lead to true love that resemble
infatuation in intensity but are rooted in reality.
2. Love relies on compatibility; infatuation on
chemistry and appearance. Steve got a “good
feeling” when he met a good-looking girl.
According to him, he felt instant chemistry.
“You either feel it or you don’t. I felt it the
minute I saw her.” Where did Steve get the idea
that chemistry and love are the same thing?
Relying on “chemistry” to guide you toward love
is foolish and dangerous. Chemistry is based
mostly on physical or sexual attraction. There
needs to be that spark between you that makes
you feel more alive than ever before, but to
base a marriage on this alone is ludicrous.
You may feel strongly attracted to someone you
just met and like everything about that person.
But there’s still a long way to go before you love
that person. True love includes chemistry, but
springs from other factors as well, including
character, personality, emotions, ideas, and
attitudes. When you’re in love you are
interested in the way the other thinks and
responds to situations, the values you hold in
common. You look at your attitudes on religion,
family, sex, money, and friends, as well as
common interests, similar backgrounds, and
courteousness. The more you have in common,
the better your chances for true love.
3. Love centers on one person; infatuation may
involve several. An infatuated person may think
himself or herself “in love” with two or more
persons at once. These persons often differ
markedly in personality. Jan says she’s in love
with two guys and can’t choose between them.
Steve is mature, stable, and responsible,
whereas Reggie is an irresponsible, fun-loving
spender. Jan isn’t “in love” with either.
Something draws her to the fun-loving spender
while her maturing instincts tell her the
qualities of Steve hold more importance. She
combines their qualities and thinks she is “in
love” with both. True love focuses on one
person whose character and personality
possesses the essential qualities. You no longer
combine people to form an ideal.
4. Love produces security; infatuation insecurity.
While love works on the principle of trust,
infatuation struggles with insecurity and may
attempt to control the other through jealousy.
This does not mean that when you are really in
love you will never feel jealous. But jealousy is
less frequent and severe. True love trusts. Some
feel flattered by jealousy, thinking it indicative
of true love. Jealousy, however, signifies
unhealthy emotions-insecurity and low self-
worth as well as possessiveness. Real love
doesn’t act this way.
5. Love recognizes realities; infatuation ignores
them. True love looks at problems squarely
without minimizing their seriousness.
Infatuation ignores differences in social, racial,
educational, or religious backgrounds.
Sometimes it grips someone who is already
married. Infatuation argues that such things
don’t matter. A couple in love, however, face
problems frankly. When a problem threatens
their relationship, they discuss it openly and
solve it intelligently. They negotiate solutions in
6. Love motivates positive behavior; infatuation
has a destructive effect. Love is constructive
and brings out the best in you. It provides new
energy, ambition, and interest in life. Love
produces creativity and interest in personal
growth, improvement, and worthy causes. It
engenders self-worth, trust, and security and
spurs you toward success. You study harder,
plan more effectively, and save more diligently.
Life takes on additional purpose and meaning.
You may daydream, but you stay within the
bounds of reality and function at your highest
Infatuation has a destructive, disorganizing
effect. You’ll be less effective, less efficient, and
unable to reach your true potential. It thrives
on unrealistic daydreams that cause you to
forget the realities of life, work, study,
responsibilities, and money.
7. Love recognizes faults; infatuation ignores
them. Love recognizes the fine qualities in the
other and idealizes to a degree, but does not
consider the person faultless. Faults are
admitted, but respect and admiration of their
good qualities outweighs the bad. Infatuation
blinds you from seeing anything wrong. You
idealize to such a degree that you refuse to
admit faults and defend your beloved against all
critics. You admire one or two qualities so much
that you fool yourself into believing they can
outweigh the faults.
Love enables you to love in spite of these faults.
It does not blind you to realities.
8. Love controls physical contact; infatuation
exploits it. True love helps a couple hold back in
expressing romantic intimacies. Both persons
respect the other so much that they voluntarily
limit their desire for intimacy. Infatuation
demands intimacy much earlier. Furthermore,
such intimacy makes up a smaller part of the
relationship for a couple in love, in contrast to
an infatuated couple. The reason for this is that
infatuation depends largely on physical
attraction, and the excitement leads to necking
and petting. Persons experiencing this for the
first time think this must be something special,
and assume they are in love. They ignore the
fact that their values, goals, and belief systems
may be at odds. If they marry based on physical
attraction alone, they’ll wake up to find their
sexual interest declining and disagreements
escalating. Although true love includes physical
attraction, it springs from other factors as well.
Physical contact for a couple in love usually has
a deeper meaning than sheer pleasure. Physical
contact for the infatuated often becomes an end
in itself. Pleasure dominates the experience.
9. Love brings the approval of family and friends;
infatuation brings disapproval. If parents or
friends do not approve, beware! If they are
convinced a bad choice is in the making, they
are probably right. Marriages that lack the
blessing of parents have a high failure rate. One
researcher compared complaints by happily
married persons with those of divorced
persons. The divorced were almost four times
as likely to complain their spouse had nothing in
common with mutual friends. It was also found
that happily married couples were far less likely
to have problems with in-laws. If parents and
friends object, take care. If theyapprove, take
Give it time
If you have analyzed your relationship but still
can’t decide whether or not you have true love,
allow yourself time. Infatuation wants to rush a
relationship. Pulsating emotions overrule good
sense and try to hurry you into commitments
later regretted. True love can survive the test of
time–two years of dating–to make sure you are
well suited for marriage. Time gives experience
Every year, thousands of couples stand at the
altar, eyes radiant with joy, promising love and
faithfulness forever, never anticipating they are
making the greatest mistake of their lives. What
will happen to their starry-eyed talks, tender
promises, lingering looks, passionate kisses, and
whispers of love?
Many fail to understand that you don’t “fall” in
love. You decide to love –to think about, spend
time with, and have strong feelings for
someone. “Falling” is the easy and fun part of
love. The hard part, the commitment to love
unconditionally an imperfect person, follows.
Genuine love says, “I will love you
unconditionally even when you fail to meet my
needs, reject or ignore me, behave stupidly,
make choices I wouldn’t make, disagree with
me, and treat me unfairly. And I will love you
like this forever.”
This kind of love is God’s creative gift to us and
can be enjoyed to its fullest only within the
safety and security of marriage. We are only
able to love because He first loved us. Anchor
yourself to Him first, and then you will be less
likely to be disappointed in love and more likely
to find a satisfying love for your sojourn on
Tuesday, 23 December 2014
RELATIONSHIP: Love or infatuation? How to tell the difference.
“How can I know if I am really in love?” a