Infatuation Versus Love: 12 Differences Between Love And Infatuation

What is it that makes your heart pound, the sun shine brighter and your face look like a cartoon clown with a permanently painted-on smile? An infatuation with someone, or real love? Knowing the difference is important, because infatuation can lead to unhealthy relationship patterns that aren’t sustainable.

The problem is, when you’re lost in the feeling of butterflies in your stomach and thrilling encounters, it’s pretty hard to recognise the difference. Being infatuated and falling in love both produce powerful feelings with similar vibes, at least at first. However, one is tinged with craziness and the other is like coming home.

Here are 12 differences between love and infatuation, to help you figure it out.

1. Neurotransmitters

Let’s get scientific for a second, to understand the chemicals interacting in your brain. When you’re infatuated with a guy, you’re fuelled by dopamine and testosterone. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that drives us towards goal-oriented rewards. It leaves us giddy and motivates us to the point of intoxication, which is why it’s associated with almost every major clinical addiction in humans. Testosterone makes us want to jump everything about the other person. Both of these drive hard and fast action.

On the other hand, love is fuelled by oxytocin and vasopressin. Under this influence, we feel calm, warm, connected and a sense of ease in life and love. All of these chemicals operate side by side. However, the more you’re running on the high of dopamine, the more likely it is that you’re experiencing infatuation.

2. Time

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to tell the difference between love and infatuation, is time. Infatuation is a burst of passion that happens before you know what hit you. In just a couple of dates, you can’t get him out of your head, you’ve put him on a pedestal and your heart aches if you’re not near him.

“The easiest way to tell the difference between love and infatuation, is time. Infatuation is a burst of passion that happens before you know what hit you. Love is a deep affection and connection that grows over time, beyond that first passion explosion.”

You may not know it within all the excitement, but you don’t feel truly connected to him. Love is a deep affection and connection that grows over time, beyond that first passion explosion. It takes time to foster this kind of connection, regardless of how powerful your feelings may appear to be.

3. Physical Attraction

Physical attraction often plays the starring role in infatuation, but it doesn’t mean it’s all about looks. You can become infatuated with a guy because of the way he smiles at you, looks deeply into your eyes, touches you or talks to you for hours on end. This leaves you with incredible physical sensations that are hard to replicate, so infatuation quickly follows.

While these types of feelings also indicate a possible relationship, they shouldn’t be confused with love itself. Rather than forging a sincere connection, it’s like falling under a spell that gets stronger each time you get a fix of those physical feelings he’s conjuring in you.

4. Depth of Qualities

Have you thought about what it is that makes the guy you’re seeing so special? Doing so can certainly help you spot the difference between love and infatuation. If you’re thinking he’s special because he seems genuine, is fun, smart and super attractive, what you’re focusing on are superficial traits that are hard to quantify.

Therefore, think about the things you don’t like about him. Perhaps it’s that he’s not great at communicating, doesn’t put a lot of effort into you or hasn’t introduced you to his friends. These are real quantifiable traits that actually mean something. This highlights how infatuation focuses on superficial traits and how good they make you feel, while love looks at the real things he’s displayed of himself over time.

5. Negative Traits 

Infatuation can’t see the real meaning of negative traits in a person. Instead, it tends to justify them and turn them into positives. For example, if you’ve acknowledged to yourself that your guy doesn’t clean up after himself, you might excuse it by thinking:

I don’t mind that he doesn’t clean up after himself. I’m OCD so we balance each other out.

Or, if your guy doesn’t exercise enough, you might think:

I know he doesn’t exercise, but I love that he’s not obsessed with his looks like so many other guys.

Love has a completely different response, because love wants the other person to be the best version of themselves. Therefore, love would think:

He really needs to start cleaning up after himself and get off his butt to exercise, but I love him anyway.

6. Feelings of Unity

When you’re infatuated there’s a separation between you and him, in that you don’t feel like a team. One of the reasons for this is that you spend much of your time thinking about him, idolising him and devising ways to see him, touch him and basically jump him in every way.

“When you’re infatuated there’s a separation between you and him, in that you don’t feel like a team. Love, on the other hand, makes you a team.”

Love, on the other hand, makes you a team. Instead of narrowly focusing on the other person and all their incredible traits so often, you tend to think in terms of ‘us’. The world opens up to include a whole range of things that you do, see and discover as a couple. While your thoughts still delight in what you love about him, love ensures they become much more expansive and inclusive of life as a team.

7. Fear Factor

Infatuation can lead to a range of negative emotions, including unwarranted jealousy and outright fear. Because it doesn’t give you a sense of being a team, you’re constantly feeling scared that you’ll lose him. For example, you might have amazing sex and conversations one night, only to find yourself wondering where he is the next, and how to make him come back.

When you love each other, even if you feel a bit jealous for one reason or another, you know it’s a normal part of a relationship and not a reason to think you might lose him.  You rest easy in the comfort of knowing he is coming back, because you intrinsically know he’s not just going to leave you.

8. No Explanations

Further to that, the reason why you intrinsically know he’s not going to walk away is because love, at the very least, is going to offer an explanation. If you love each other and you’re having problems, you’re going to talk about them first, rather than just calling it quits.

Infatuation is scary because it can, absolutely, leave unannounced. That first burst of passion often fades just as quickly as it comes. So, you could go from love at first sight to a total ghosting. If you hold this fear, it’s a very good sign that you’re infatuated, rather than experiencing love.

9. What You Do

When you’re infatuated with a guy, it’s likely you’ll find yourself doing things you wouldn’t normally do. Maybe you’ll start listening to music you don’t really like, going to clubs when you’d rather chill out or staying out late when you’re a morning person. It’s great to be open-minded in terms of a guy’s interests, but not when they completely disrupt your own.

Love behaves in a very different way. It embraces the things you do already and enhances them. Every now and then, it joins you in those things too. There’s a peaceful balance between operating as individuals, enjoying each other’s interests and doing things unique to the relationship.

10. Subsequent Emotions

The high of infatuation is unsustainable, therefore it leads to subsequent negative emotions. For example, each time you feel the high of infatuation, you’re headed for a comedown because you feel negative in comparison. These types of emotions could be anything from boredom after the thrill to being fearful of not getting it again.

Meanwhile, love pushes you to feel good within yourself, from your own life. Therefore, the high you get is under control and totally sustainable. This leads to subsequent positive emotions about life in general, which could range from anticipation for what’s to come to contentment and real happiness.

11. Tough Conversation

When you’re in the midst of infatuation, you’re very conscious of keeping everything perfect. You don’t want anything to ruin that exciting dynamic, so you struggle to bring up anything you think he won’t want to hear, or to disagree with him. Quite simply, infatuation won’t have tough conversations, which is a lack of communication that’s toxic in the long term.

Love knows that tough conversations won’t ruin the dynamic. In fact, love embraces them entirely as a way of encouraging an even stronger connection. Love wants to know and be known, even if that means sorting through some unpleasant stuff in order to maintain clear communication.

12. What it’s Based On

Because infatuation is new, it’s only based on what you imagine a guy to be or how you perceive your future together. After only a few weeks or dates, you can’t possibly know if he really is a genuine guy, a great dad or a truly caring person. It might be fun to talk about holidays ahead and dreams, but this is nothing but a projection into the future. It has no substance.

As it happens over a longer period of time, love is based on real proof. In that, you’ve witnessed him being a great dad time and again, you’ve experienced his caring nature due to circumstance and his actions have shown you that he’s genuine. Compatibility is proven, because you’ve actually lived the things that prove it.

“Infatuation is based on what you imagine a guy to be or how you perceive your future together. Love is based on real proof.”

If you’re feeling surprised, hurt or even angry right now because you’ve realised you’re more infatuated than in love, that’s OK. It gives you the perfect opportunity to wait a bit before you jump in heart first, to let things grow organically. Infatuation can lead to love, but the first step is to acknowledge it for what it is.

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