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?