SUMMARY: People often distinguish between love and infatuation on the basis of how long each is purported to last. Love is said to last forever, while infatuations are said to be brief and fleeting. This post proposes that infatuations are better defined as emotional dependencies.
(About a 3 minute read)
I have probably heard a hundred or more times in my life someone confess to me that he or she married their partner — not because they loved them — but because they were infatuated with them. Never once have I heard someone say that worked out well.
But what, exactly, is infatuation?
In common thought, infatuation is to be distinguished from love mainly by how long it is assumed to last. That is, an infatuation is seen as of brief duration, while love is thought to always be enduring. But I have problems with that definition.
In the first place, I was once infatuated with someone for about five and a half years. In the second place, I have experienced profound love for more than one person that lasted under a year (People — you or they — sometimes change). It seems to me the notion that infatuation can be distinguished from love by so simple a means as duration is misguided.
Yet, if there is more to the distinction than that, what is there more?
In my book, infatuation is a form of self-love. In the end, it always boils down to our loving ourselves more than we love them. Of course, we think we love them. If we did not, we would not be infatuated with them. But what we really love is ourselves.
That fact is easily masked to us, however. We might feel, for instance, that we cannot live without them. We might even routinely put their needs and wants above our own. But — strange as it might sound — feeling you cannot live without someone, or even putting their needs and wants above your own, is not a sure and certain sign you love them.
Lovers often do those things, but so too do people who are merely co-dependent. That is, emotionally dependent on each other. In fact, emotionally dependent people often go to lengths true lovers refuse to go when it comes to such things as staying with someone who abuses them. So I don’t think a conclusive sign of love is a willingness to put someone else’s needs above one’s own, or to feel as if one cannot live without them.
To me, infatuation is pretty much the same thing as emotional dependency. Which is to say, I think people can become almost instantly emotionally dependent on someone else. Not full-blown emotional dependency, but identifiable emotional dependency.
You can see a pretty girl or a handsome man for the first time in your life and within moments feel pangs of yearning for them. So far as I can see, those pangs are capable of blossoming into full emotional dependency. They don’t always do so, of course, but they can.
For that, and for other reasons, I am inclined to reject the notion that infatuation can be distinguished from love by how long it endures. Instead, I think it can be distinguished in the same manner that we distinguish emotional dependency from love.