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What’s the Difference Between Love and Infatuation?

By: Kristen Clark

I clearly remember the first time I thought I was falling in love. The feelings were so strong. Glancing across the basketball gym, my eyes locked onto a tall athletic dreamboat. He was so cute. My heart picked up the pace and my hands got sweaty. He glanced my way and our eyes met. The butterflies in my stomach went wild. Surely this was love at first sight! We were destined to be together. I could just feel it. He was my soulmate! All I needed to do now was figure out his name.

Thinking back on my first “cupid-struck” moment makes me laugh. I was twelve-years-old and lovestruck by a handsome face. No, I didn’t end up marrying him. In fact, I don’t think we ever even talked. As obvious as it is to me now that I wasn’t in love, it didn’t feel that way back then. I truly believed I had fallen in love.

In this day and age, we’re often led to believe that true love is just that: a strong feeling.

As a result, it can be hard to discern the difference between infatuation and true love.

And it doesn’t help that popular movies are constantly portraying love as nothing more than a strong feeling and a chemistry attraction. The word “love” is often thrown around without any real meaning behind it. Modern love is only as strong as the feelings are at the moment. Once the feelings fade, love seems to fade with it.

If we want to build relationships and marriages that actually last, we need to build them on a strong foundation of biblical love. And in order do that, we need to know the difference between true love and infatuation.

What is infatuation?

The dictionary describes infatuation this way: An intense but short-lived passion or admiration for someone or something.

Infatuation is tricky because it’s fueled by passion and emotion. It feels so right! The feelings are so strong in the moment that we feel compelled to take action. Everything in us is screaming to make a move.

Here’s another interesting way infatuation can be described:

“The way many researchers describe this brain state overall is an ‘idealization’ of the one you love. You focus on the strengths (many of which might be imaginary) and are blind to weaknesses (many of which are readily apparent to outside observers). You ‘idealize’ this person to make them the kind of person you want them to be. It should be clear that if you’re in this state you’re in no position to make an objective choice if you rely on your feelings.”

We have passion. We’re physically attracted. But…we also have blindness. Our intense emotions seem to cut off our brain cells. We struggle to see the other person for who they really are. At least for now. But as time goes on, the infatuation eventually fades. The emotions slowly wane.

Statistics reveal that the “state of infatuation” typically only lasts between twelve and eighteen months. Yikes! This explains why so many passionately in-love couples break up after two years. The infatuation is gone. So…if love is more than infatuation, what is it?

What is true love?

“Instead of basing our love on something as unstable as our feelings and emotions, we need a firm foundation of true, biblical love.” —Love Defined Book

Although feelings are involved in true love, they’re not the foundation. In chapter five of Love Defined, we say it this way: “To truly understand what God-defined love is, we need to look to the Author of love Himself. The Bible says, ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8). Since God is literally the definition of love, we can learn how to love by looking at His character and actions.”

When we examine God’s character throughout the Bible, we see a picture of love that is based on a choice. Love is an action. God chose to love us. He chose to pursue us. He chose to sacrifice for us (Romans 5:8). God-defined love is centered on choosing to love, serve, and sacrifice for someone else. Sure, infatuation might be present at the beginning of any romantic relationship, but over time, it needs to shift from a feeling to a choice. You don’t fall in love…you choose to love.

Building a lasting relationship. 

Many marriages are ending in divorce today because couples are “falling out of love.” If we, as Christian women, want our love stories to turn out differently, we need to make sure we’re building our relationship on the right foundation to begin with. True love requires commitment, sacrifice, and selflessness. Infatuation always fades. God-defined love is what will keep any marriage strong and vibrant, even when the butterflies are gone.

I’d love to read your comments below! 

  • Do you tend to view love as more of a feeling or more of a choice?
  • In what ways has infatuation blinded you?

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