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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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28 Responses to What’s the Difference Between Love and Infatuation?

  1. Lyudmila says:

    This is such a good article! I really enjoyed reading it. The timing is perfect too, I am currently fighting the feeling of infatuation with a guy I recently became friends with at youth group. I am desiring to follow God’s plan for my life and not let these feelings dictate my actions. The feelings are strong for sure, but you are totally right, they are short-lived. In my past infatuations, they made it impossible to develop God honoring friendships with the guys, but with God’s guidance, I’m sure it is possible to keep infatuation from making me foolish and ashamed of it later when the feelings wear off. I’ve had too many of those experiences in the past. Lol. Infatuation makes you do stupid stuff. I cringe just thinking about it. I am sure that God can use this season of my life to develop godly friendships that will honor and bring me closer to Him. In infatuation, it’s really difficult to focus on God when that guy is constantly on my mind, but God will be the only one there when the feelings go away. God is really teaching me to be content in Him only. Not basing my happiness on fickle feelings or my idealized perception of other people. It is a struggle, so I am so glad for articles like these that draw the line between feelings and actions, true love and infatuation. This is the first time I’ve actually determined that I will fight infatuation and make God my top priority over my feelings. True Godly love is worth striving for. We just have to keep running the race.

    • Grace Obe says:

      I agree girl! Infatuation can bring two people together, helping them recognize that a friendship or relationship should happen between them! But striving for that God-honoring love will keep them pure until marriage and focused on Christ above all, even when feelings fade.

  2. Shanae B says:

    Good article! Definitely need to keep in mind these days the difference between love and infatuation. Very needed! In my early twenties I had a crush on a guy from a college ministry group I was apart of and We never dated but I totally thought he was better than he was. He actually turned out to be a false christian who was part of the group just to put it down as a none for profit group on his resume. Thanks for posting!

    • texassa says:

      What makes someone a false Christian and how do you find out if they are one?

      • Shanae B says:

        Most importantly tons of prayer! Time to get to know the particular person and their character. Not necessarily discussing but finding out what others think or say about them, especially those closest to the parson. But ultimately if you pray about it God will give you discernment or insight about the person at some point! Hope this helps!

        • texassa says:

          Could you be wrong in labeling someone this way, though? Like perhaps it’s simply a matter of disagreement over doctrine or maybe a personality conflict?

          • Shanae B says:

            Doctrine or personality usually isn’t the issue in such situations. That kind of disagreement isn’t as common as some people want it to be. For the situation I shared, the particular person I mentioned actually eventually told from their own mouth that they were never a christian. It also depends on what you mean by “labeling.” The labeling aspect is really starting to become kind of a cop out now days for some people.

          • Ruth Jackson says:

            I totally get what you are saying Shanae B! My mom has always told me to listen to the Holy Spirit in such situations. At times, I’ve had that awful deep feeling when I’m around someone who pretends to be Christian. While there is a right way to go about talking to someone we feel isn’t walking in the light, we also have to be careful we don’t slide down with them. Prayer definitely opens my eyes to the people who I thought were on the same path as me and wanted me to grow in Christ, but in reality had their own view and didn’t care what the Bible said. When you’re walking closely with Him, you have a tendency to understand more clearly.

          • Shanae B says:

            Thanks Ruth! It’s very true that we need to really listen to the Holy Spirit in situations like this! Only God truly knows what is in people’s hearts and minds!

  3. Mali says:

    So true. I agree that our media has watered down “love” so much that it’s used interchangeably with “infatuation.” A dear friend of mine was utterly infatuated by someone who was telling her he loved her and feeding in to her desire for affection and male attention until she was totally blind to his utter disrespect for her parents and his stalker behaviors. This was not love, it was infatuation on the part of both parties that blinded her to his huge character flaws and warning signs, and specifically the way she was allowing her emotions for him to make her act irrationally and rebel against her parents, etc. What’s amazing is that they weren’t even intimately involved, which goes to show how emotional involvement can get Christian girls into just as much trouble as physical relationships when they are unwilling to submit to the loving guidance of their Christian parents or wise mentors.

  4. Abby Carpenter says:

    I absolutely love this blog post because so many times in romantic movies we hear the females characters saying things like you can’t help or choose who you love, when in reality we do. When we base out love on how we feel rather than looking to God to help us make the decision is when we can get hurt and end up heartbroken sitting on the couch with old sweatpants on eating a gallon of ice cream. When we choose to follow God’s plan for true love we will be much happier with our lives and with ourselves.

  5. Jenn Gage says:

    Right now I don’t know if I view romantic love as a feeling or choice because it has been so long! But I do choose to love God. When I see handsome guys I too get the butterflies but I know I’m in God’s plan. My last infatuation was in college and we were just too immature to last. I thought I was in love but I now know better.

    • texassa says:

      What if God’s plan includes you taking steps toward the life and relationships you desire, rather than sitting back and waiting for things to fall into your lap? You could opt to initiate friendships with guys who catch your attention, to see what things you may have in common. How else would you ever find out?

      • Jenn Gage says:

        You make a really good point, I’ve been inspired lately to be more initiative, but it’s not about twiddling my thumbs and waiting either. Waiting on God is a proactive measure.

        • texassa says:

          Good for you! I am a believer that those instincts, desires, and goals are impressed upon your heart by God or at the very least with his knowing and support. I believe he wants you/us to go after those things we want out of life, as long as you don’t perceive them to be in conflict with your morals and values. I believe we are meant to use our talents and drive to go out into the world and be an influence for good. Best of luck to you.

  6. Jason Garrick Shirtz says:

    Most of this isn’t so bad. I just have one major disagreement. Love isn’t a choice.

    If love were a choice, the several women in my social circle who’ve suffered physical/emotional abuse at the hands of their husbands would be able to simply “Choose” to stop loving them. Instead, they’ve had to suffer conflicting feelings, on the one hand, unconditional love towards someone, and on the other doubt, pain and fear because that person chose to hurt them.


    • texassa says:

      While I don’t disagree with you that it can be hard to shut off feelings of love for someone – even an abusive partner – the relationships you describe are about more than love. Often women in abusive relationships are trapped not just by love but by overwhelming feelings of dependency, inadequacy, and a desperate need for approval and love. These feelings are cultivated by the abuser over a period of mistreatment that typically cycles between the abuser being loving and then abusive. The victim’s self-worth is slowly eroded, peppered with euphoric albeit short-lived periods of loving treatment. The victim will often fall into a belief that the abuse is their own fault, and will try harder to win over the abuser, remembering those intermittent times that they receive love and affirmation. This cycle is often also coupled with a financial dependency, such as with an unworking stay-at-home mother, for example, who does not have financial options to leave an abusive household. This is why it is so important for victims of abuse to have access to psychological support as well as practical options to leave a dangerous situation.

      • Jason Garrick Shirtz says:

        Well put. Very much what I was trying to get at, (but better worded, so thanks!)

        My main point was that love, like most of our emotions is very very irrational; and that the choice to be healthy and happy overall is a rational decision that often demands we fight and counter-act our irrational emotions.

        That being said, no amount of knowing what the “rational” choice is will make it much easier to ignore our irrational emotions…. all “knowing” does is make it possible, which is why I agree with you that having actual outside support is so crucial when recovering from emotional partner abuse.

        and ah. Just a side note. My thoughts on the matter are hardly theoretical, as I’ve been on the wrong end of a bad relationship myself in the past, and since have done my best to be there for several of my female pals who have had to break away from very abusive husbands.

        It was very hard at times giving them the “Right advice” (go and get yourself to a woman’s shelter) and see them not leap up at the chance to get out of their situation.

        But luckily, I stuck with em anyways and I’ve found it to be rather fulfilling to have stayed with them long enough to start to see them work through their issues with the help of both myself and their newly-formed support networks.

  7. Chelsea Ejimakor says:

    Excellent. I strongly advise couples, people to take this message seriously and inculcate the values.

  8. satan says:

    your mom gay

  9. Taryn Miller says:

    I definitely believe that love is a choice. Even when someone does something you don’t like, or annoys you, you can still love them. But I also believe that once you love someone it is incredibly hard to stop, even if they do something terrible wrong, or don’t love you back. I also think that it’s easier to just believe that love is a feeling because when you love someone you usually do feel something, and our world tends to show love as more of a selfish thing where you get a lot of what you want.

  10. texassa says:

    If infatuation typically lasts from 12-18 months, and is blinding to reality and objective thought, then why do so many religious views encourage young couples into a quick engagement and marriage?

    • Ruth Jackson says:

      Good question! I’ve always felt it too soon when friends tell me they are getting engaged after only a year of dating. Granted, I don’t always know what that looked like for them during that year, but it does seem a little quick, If the engagement lasts another year then maybe I can see that — this way you have time to back out if you realize this isn’t something you should be doing. I don’t understand it either, texassa. My sister sadly rushed into it and now regrets it. I can only pray I will have a level head when someone asks me about marriage.

  11. Cathy says:

    Love is 100% a feeling. You CANNOT make yourself love someone. You CANNOT make yourself be happy with someone. You are either compatible or not.

    Marriage (Commitment) IS a choice. It’s a choice to work *together* to figure things out rather than running away. However, it takes two (or more; I’m liberal) people to form a marriage; one person on their own can’t save it. Marriage isn’t about ensuring that the other person is happy. If one side keeps giving and giving and is internally miserable, the marriage doesn’t exist. Marriages have nothing to do with weddings and paperwork. I’d confidently say that most (if not all) people who get divorced never actually married their partner.

    It’s better to marry your partner before the wedding because there’s no guarantee that you’ll get married after the wedding.

  12. Jason Garrick Shirtz says:

    First. In respect to having had some mistakes in your past life, I would refer you to Luke 7: 36-50

    36.And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. 37.And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, 38.And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. 39.Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.

    The Parable of the Two Debtors

    40.And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. 41.There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. 42.And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? 4.3Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. 44.And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. 45.Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 46.My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. 47.Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. 48.And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. 49.And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? 50.And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

  13. Jason Garrick Shirtz says:

    Personally I’d advise that from a Christian perspective if you find someone worth sharing your life with, at any stage in life whether or not you should marry them is between you, them and God, and no-one else.

    I say this because the Bible supports/does not support remarriage of divorcees alternately depending on which chapter and verse you are looking at. The response of any given preacher or any given denomination on the issue will vary wildly. Since the Bible itself then, is an unreliable source for information on the subject, deciding on the matter should therefore be more of a personal decision, rather than an doctrinal issue, IMO.

  14. Goldie says:

    Agape love is way more than just a feeling. It does involve choosing to love someone (an action) even when they don’t deserve it (which is what God did when He died for us). Eros love is more of a feeling or an infatuation. The crazy thing is that English only has one word for something that has so many meanings/depths. I pray to have a marriage that has way more friendahip love and agape (godly) love than infatuation, because feelings do fade.

  15. Ruth Jackson says:

    Considering the fact that God commands us to love one another tells me it’s a choice more than a feeling. Not to disregard that love is a feeling, but I don’t think it’s either/or. Sure I’ve been in love before (more than once) and the last guy I said it to, I still love him even though being in a relationship with him was tough. It’s a choice I’m making and it’s a feeling I have when I think about him. There’s a guy recently I know for a fact that I’m infatuated with because he’s a breath of fresh air compared to my last bf. Will it turn into love? I have no idea, but I can already tell this potential relationship is wrong for me based on what I have been feeling around him. It’s up to us to discern and pray giving the rest to Him. I don’t think any of us what’s to be in a bad relationship.

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