Love and Infatuation

A few days ago, I was with a group discussing the differences between love and infatuation.  The conversation seemed to be taking some very predictable turns, with most of the group choosing to distinguish between love and infatuation according to how long each one lasts.  Although most had their own way of saying it, the underlying notion seemed to be that love endures while infatuation is fleeting.  As for myself, I have always found that peculiar notion alarming.

Before I get into why I find that notion alarming, though, I wish to take a moment to rant about the English Language.

I count myself among those who are passionately dissatisfied with the English language when it comes to that word “love”.  I believe there are at least a half dozen kinds of love, and that “love” should be a generic term.  Unfortunately, the word is routinely used to denote one or another specific kind of love, and that quite often causes some confusion.

So, if it were up to me, “infatuation” would be the name of one kind of love, while “philos” would be the name of another kind of love.  And people would ask questions like, “What is  the difference between infatuation and philos”; but they would not ask, “What is the difference between infatuation and love”, anymore often than they would ask, “What is the difference between a carrot and a vegetable”.  That’s how things would be if things were up to me.

Of course, things are not up to me to decide, and how English speaking people routinely use the word “love” is unlikely to change anytime soon.  However, I was about to mention why I am alarmed by the notion love endures while infatuation is fleeting.

In the first place, the notion seems to loosely imply the most meaningful difference between infatuation and other kinds of love is endurance:  aka, quantity.   Not quality, but quantity.   And that alarms me because — to my warped and twisted mind — many of us place way too much emphasis on how long a love lasts, and not enough emphasis on whether it did us or our lover any good.  And that misplaced emphasis might contribute to all sorts of problems — such as the tendency many of us have of staying too long in a relationship gone irretrievably sour.

Now, I suspect “infatuation” is most often just another word for “romantic love”.   Infatuations tend to be inspiring, and so do romantic loves.  Infatuations tend to be obsessive, and so do romantic loves.  Infatuations tend to be transient, and so do romantic loves.  So, I think most of us, when we talk about an infatuation, have in mind a romantic love — or, say, a romantic love that was especially transient.

At this point, I am curious what you might see as the important differences between romantic love/infatuation on the one hand and (for lack of a better term) “spousal love” on the other?  Are there any important differences?  And if so, what are they?

9 thoughts on “Love and Infatuation

  1. Don’t blame it on english language. Love comes in different flavours and develop as per the understanding and relationship between the two persons who love each other. English language provides just the different terms for such flavours or love.

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  2. I find no fault with the English language in expressing any well-formed thought/idea. English already has vastly more words than any other language on earth, and the number constantly increases.

    I see no difference between one “form” of romantic love between adults and another. The fault is in our level of honesty. I’ve seen plenty of instances where people use the word “love” to get laid, but the language can hardly be faulted for that.

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  3. Good point — I think you’re right that the semantics confuse the issue.

    Also, the word “infatuation” has a lot of negative connotations built-in, that it’s flighty and superficial. It’s easy to dismiss an attraction as “infatuation” if it doesn’t lead to a relationship, but then call the same emotion “love at first sight” if it does…

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  4. It’s important to separate the duration of the relationship and the duration of the love… either way it’s sad when one lasts longer than the other. But I agree with Gerry that honesty can be a large part of that problem here.

    It’s also possible to feel different kinds of love towards the same person simultaneously, and specifically to be infatuated with someone towards whom you also feel a lasting spousal love.

    Ideally when the dazzling flames of passion die down we find that we have have tied our lives to someone that we can live happily with in the glow of a lasting love. But the danger is that we are so dazzled by the intoxicating delights of attraction that we don’t choose well.

    Actually I’ve just been poeming about this question –
    alchemy of flame

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  5. I would like to add something here as I have myself been infatuated many times in my life. Sometimes a healthy situation and sometimes not. Each time I felt a euphoric sense of being. I can honestly say when it came to the “love at first sight times”, it was short lived, usually finding out the person was not as engaging as I first thought. For me lasting infatuation has been where I feel ongoing stimulation for someone that doesn’t loose momentum. Perhaps what infatuated me with this person in the beginning has now changed or is subdued. But where one falls away one begins. As the relationship onfolds new and intriguing discoveries are made. To me you can be infatuated with the same person over and over and over again. And yes at some point you recognize that you are “Head over heels in Love!

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  6. i want to know about obsessive love is it because you lost your father at a young age? are you perhaps looking for a father in another man your whole life ?, i seem to be, i feel so guilty because i am married and am obsessed with a father type man..help

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  7. Infatuation is like a beacon of light. It’s bright, intense, but when it goes away it becomes dark. Love is like a ray of sunshine. Not as intense, but it’s a constant glow.

    You are right, infatuation is the first stage of love, but when love is not garunteed or promised it’s viewed through a negative light. And yes, a lot of people confuse love as always mature, stable and somehow more ‘right’ than intense infatuation. A lot of couples get in trouble with this dynamic. There’s this belief that coupling up and settling down is more mature than being single, but I’ve witnessed countless couples who remain together because of love and the duration of their relationship even though they may be contributing to the regression of the other partner.

    I aspire to not be one of those people. I have my own mixed bag of emotions around love, but I’ll save that for a post 🙂

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