What Is The Real Difference Between Love And Infatuation?

Oh, to be in love. Even those who roll their eyes at the very mention of the word love want to be in love because it's part of the human condition. As anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher so eloquently wrote in her book "Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love," romantic love "is a powerful and primordial mating drive that evolved to find and keep life's most precious gift _ an appropriate mating partner" (via Helen Fisher). While we may not have a mating partner, per se, on the brain when we're thinking about love and falling in love, the quest for a life-long partner is always looming — why else would so many people die in the name of love?

But while love is wonderful and enchanting and, obviously, the stuff of poets, people can sometimes confuse love with infatuation. "Infatuation begs for an instant relationship," dating and relationship coach Monica Parikh tells Elite Daily. "Love understands that true intimacy is developed over a long time and through many seasons of life."

Although this doesn't mean infatuation in the early stages of knowing someone can't evolve into love, the two feelings are different. Infatuation leans more toward control and jealousy, a need for that person, as opposed to a loving desire for them and wanting the best for them.

So, is it infatuation, or is it love? Well, if you break up tomorrow, will you seek revenge or wish them well? For starters, how you answer that question says a lot.

What infatuation looks like

When we're infatuated, we see things how we want to see them. It's not the same as being blinded by love, but something that's more superficial. For example, you don't need to know someone to be infatuated with them, but you do need to know someone to be in love with them (via Self). "With infatuation, there's usually a connection; you usually have at least one thing in common," licensed professional counselor Sarah Moore tells PsychCentral. "But the high it creates for someone is based usually on a fantasy that we have created about the person, an idealized version of them."

Anyone can be infatuated with a hot barista or the person who changes the oil in their car every few months, but love is something else; love takes time. "Infatuation is self-serving because you feel good fantasizing about the person, but the reality is that this person who you think is perfect is probably not perfect," licensed mental health counselor Grace Suh, LMHC, LPC, tells Mind Body Green. "If you are able to give, sacrifice, and compromise with the person you are infatuated with [with] joy and willingness, yes, it can certainly turn into love." But for love to evolve from infatuation, there has to be the ability to let go of the fantasy. You need to understand that maybe the person you're infatuated with doesn't actually exist.

What love looks like

Love, on the other hand, is anything but self-serving. Nor is it a fantasy — no matter how dreamy the person is — because they're real; you haven't projected an impossible ideal onto them (via Psychology Today). It also isn't instantaneous or based solely on sex.

"Love tends to be something that's cultivated over a long period of time, where you're really getting to know somebody and you're building an attachment," sex therapist Ian Kerner, Ph.D., LMFT, tells Men's Health. "You're also creating emotional safety, and you're able to demonstrate vulnerability with that person." Love involves trust, understanding, and that funny feeling inside that makes you want to be a better person — infatuation has just the opposite effect.

"When infatuation ends, you may seek revenge or be mired in jealousy," dating and relationship coach Monica Parikh tells Elite Daily. "Love makes you want to heal childhood wounds and other dysfunctions, so you can be a better person for your partner and the relationship."

Although both love and infatuation serve a purpose, or else both wouldn't exist, knowing the difference between the two is important for your mental health. Being infatuated and thinking it's love can drive you mad while being in love and thinking it's infatuation can really confuse the living daylights out of you. Neither of which is healthy for understanding your feelings about the person you're with or your relationship with them.