Singles: Playing with Matches

August 27, 2013


By Jennifer Garstang

Love and infatuation. Most of you readers have probably heard both terms, and are aware of what they mean. However, seeing as this is a dating column, and these are the two driving forces behind 98.753 percent of all dating interaction (give or take), I feel it is my duty to touch upon these concepts, their similarities, and their differences.

First off, the most important thing any Savvy Single needs to know about these concepts is that they are not the same thing. “Well, duh!” you may say, rolling your eyes. After all, on paper, the two are easy to distinguish. Infatuation is defined as “a foolish and usually extravagant passion or admiration.” Romantically speaking, it’s that fluttery feeling you get when you think about your crush. Love, on the other hand, is something deeper. It’s an affection and connection that is the basis of a long-term relationship; an emotional bond that can even become the foundation of a shared life.

Now, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with infatuation. Infatuation can be really fun (or really not, as any love-sick teenager rejected by a prom date will tell you), and there is absolutely nothing wrong with going out and having a good time. However, when your goal is to find that “special someone” and settle down, distinguishing between love and infatuation is the key to actually making it work.

Why? Because, when it comes to building a life together, infatuation is not enough. As I said two paragraphs back, love is an emotional bond that is the foundation for a shared life: two people, one team, taking on anything the world decides to dish out… and deciding who is going to do the dishes. It takes a lot more than butterflies to forge a bond that can withstand earthquakes, chores, and planning your kid’s bar mitzvah. After all, butterflies are beautiful, but they’re also short-lived and easily crushed.

“Okay,” you say, “so, love’s good for long-term, infatuation’s fine for the short-term, and they’re very different things. I get it, and I can tell the difference easily.”

But can you really? Pop quiz: have you ever loved someone so much it hurt? Your heart raced when you were around them. Perhaps you had trouble putting two sentences together when they were near. Have you been unable to get them out of your head, felt this electric connection, sparks flying, etc.?

Guess what… that’s not love. That’s infatuation.

See, the challenge is not distinguishing between the two on paper. It’s telling the difference when you are in the throes of passion. When you’re in the middle of the experience, it’s very easy to mistake that powerful feeling of infatuation with love. Yet it’s essential not to make any major life decisions based solely on that feeling. This means 1) don’t jump into a major life-commitment (such as marriage, cohabitation, or opening a bank account), and 2) don’t be too quick to run away from a good thing.

I slap my forehead every time I hear about a couple getting married after only knowing each other for a few months. While they may luck out and wind up having a fantastic relationship, they are taking a major gamble. As real as the relationship feels at that point, the infatuation hasn’t had time to simmer down. This means everything is a rosy haze of butterflies, and it’s darn near impossible to tell if both people are actually compatible. Real love is generally not in a hurry, so if you are in a hurry, that’s a big alarm bell that your motivation is probably infatuation.

On the flip side, I’ve seen lots of people run from fantastic relationships because they just don’t feel that “spark.” It’s an interesting choice of words, because a spark is inherently something that doesn’t last. It’s something that can begin a massive blaze that burns hot and fast, or can kindle a long-lasting campfire (for my less metaphorically-inclined readers, the campfire is love). Note also that any given campfire will burn at varying levels over time, and requires constant ongoing care.

So, with that said, how the heck can you actually tell if you’re infatuated or in love? That’s something that only time can answer, so ask yourself: how long have you been with the other person? If it’s a couple days, weeks, or months, you’re probably still very infatuated and should treat yourself as though you’re insane, because, quite frankly, you are. Once you’ve been dating a few months, the shine will likely have just begun to wear off, and you’ll start actually getting to know each other. After a year or two, though, you’ll have seen each other in a lot of different situations, had a chance to fight (and resolve said fights), and had your ups and downs together. At that point, you should have a pretty good idea of whether or not this is something that can last ‘til death do you part (and that doesn’t mean by killing each other!).



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