We’ve all been there: you meet someone wonderful, the two of you get along great, and all of a sudden you get that daunting feeling; that tiny voice inside you that sows the seeds of doubt and ruins the magic. Just when you think everything’s perfect, out of nowhere, that pesky voice pops the question: “Is this really love? Is it infatuation? Or worse: what if it’s just lust?” But there’s no need to panic. There are ways to distinguish between the three. You just have to know what you’re looking for.
The main problem is that most people don’t know what love is. What it really is. No wonder they get it confused with similar emotions. So let me break it down for you.
Love is a constellation of emotions related to a sense of strong affection and oneness between two people. It is a profoundly tender care for another person. Ideally, it comes with passion and intimacy, commitment and attachment, as well as romance. It comes with mixed emotions and may be caused by physical attraction, intellectual or emotional compatibility. In some cases, perhaps even all three. When you’re in love you feel a euphoric sensation every time you so much as think about your partner. You care for each other – not just with words, but with actions. You make time for each other, consider each other’s plans, and encourage each other’s goals. A person in love is tolerant, patient and forgiving of their partner. Does any of that describe your relationship?
Before you answer, hold on one moment, because there’s a catch: Real love only comes with knowing someone and caring for one another over time. It doesn’t happen overnight and it cannot be sustained without communication and at least some level of physical attraction. Someone who loves you does not expect anything in return and always desires the best for you, even if it hurts them. It’s about compromise and dealing with challenges as one person. It’s the quiet understanding and mature acceptance of imperfection.
Now let me get one thing straight here. It is most definitely NOT love if:
Your partner is jealous and suspicious of your everyday activities.
Your partner tries to isolate you from friends and family.
Your partner tells you what to wear.
Jealousy is not proof that your partner cares about you. It is emotional abuse, and can be part of a pattern of violence. If you recognize your partner’s behavior here, you need to get help or get out, or both. It is not possible to have a healthy relationship with a controlling partner. But that’s a whole other article. Maybe next time.
For now, let’s focus on what Lust is…
Ever heard of the "heat of the moment"? That’s when lust gets the better of us and we act on physical stimuli alone…when there are little or no affectionate emotions involved…when one or both parties are in it for selfish reasons.
If you only want to be with your partner to have sex, that's lust.
If you try to describe your date to a friend and can only talk about physical appearance and body parts, that's lust.
If you don't call or converse with your partner except for when you want physical pleasure, that's lust.
If you lie to him or her in order to get into bed with them, that's lust.
If every time you think about this person, you see their body, you’ve got yourself a bad case of lust.
Nothing about lust even remotely resembles love. So don’t kid yourself.
And last but not least: Infatuation…
Infatuation is a tricky one (It can also be called a crush, usually when the people involved are young). It’s something between love and lust. It is a foolish and usually extravagant passion or admiration for someone you don’t know well enough to love. The intensity of the emotion is strong, but it isn't pure like love and may be accompanied by bursts of lust and obsession, mostly because there is little or no trust involved. It’s the state of being completely carried away by unreasoning passion. "Love at first sight" is infatuation. It’s usually centered around physical outlook but can confuse you into thinking it’s more than that. It causes emotions of extreme happiness, just like love. However, unlike love, infatuation cannot be sustained without some portion of physical contact. So when a long distance relationship ends before it even starts, you just mistook infatuation for love.
Infatuation includes aspects of immaturity and extrapolation from insufficient information, and is usually short-lived. So the test of time is a sure-fire way to figure out which category your situation falls under. Infatuation is weakened by time and separation, whereas real love is strengthened by them. Separation in both emotions causes great pain, but infatuation requires constant physical contact and usually isn’t equipped to withstand adversity. Often, an infatuation runs its course in six months or less. After that, the annoying little things about your partner that you used to be able to ignore become downright grating. That’s a sure sign of infatuation.
It's normal to be full of joy in the early stages of any relationship, whether it’s based on love, lust or infatuation. To make sure what you have is true love, first you have to define what love is to you, and make a list of all the things you cherish about the person you are with. Then ask your partner to do the same and compare your answers.
The most important – and most difficult – part is that you must see things for what they are and be honest with yourself. Sometimes we tend to 'bend' reality slightly to make things fit
when they don't otherwise belong. If you notice that the conversations are only superficial or that the comments are only about one specific area, you may be infatuated with only part of your partner. For example, a girl who can't stop talking about her boyfriend's car when someone brings him up is infatuated with his car and doesn’t really love him.
If all else fails, try comparing your relationship to another loving relationship that you know of. Yours doesn't have to be exactly the same as someone else's, but if you can clearly observe differences, then this might be a flag of something you should change or otherwise abandon the relationship.
Bottom line? If you really want to know where you’re headed, you need to know where you are. You now have the knowledge you need to find out for sure whether or not your relationship is a let’s-go or a no-go. So don’t let that bothersome little voice torture you any longer. Get up and get serious. Now you tell me: Is it love, lust…or infatuation?