So many people have no idea that real love and infatuation are two very different things. It is therefore no wonder that so many marriages fail because they are entered into during the infatuation period and real love never develops.
So what is the difference?
Infatuation is what we see in the movies and is what so many people mistake for love. People fall “head over heels,” and their biochemistry when infatuated is similar to the biochemistry of a cocaine addiction. Like with cocaine, they aren’t seeing clearly.
As Elizabeth Gilbert said so perfectly, “infatuation is . . . a mirage, a trick of your eye, indeed a trick of the endocrine system. When you become infatuated with somebody, you are not really looking at that person, you’re just captivated by your own reflection, intoxicated by a dream of completion that you have projected on a virtual stranger.”
This is so true. When you eventually get to see who that person really is, all of those things to which you purposely blinded yourself are now the things about that person that are driving you crazy. But then, you were pretending to be someone else, and so was your “beloved,” and you were having so much fun being infatuated that you didn’t want it messed up by the truth and reality of who you both were. Infatuation is a game.
Infatuation feels great for a while, but it NEVER lasts. Ever. It can, however, be replaced by real love.
So what is real love? We don’t see much of that in the media, and many of us just don’t get to see it or experience it at all. The media thinks it is boring, preferring to feed us with lots of infidelity, revenge, toxic and abusive relationships, and fantasy relationships. Consequently, many of us do not know what a healthy love relationship looks like or how to have one.
Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, says that we use the word “love” carelessly. I agree.
Real love actually grows and gets better over time. In a relationship between emotional adults, it can feel even better than infatuation. Those flutters of infatuation actually come back as real rushes of love in a more satisfying way that you know is based upon the truth of who you both are and the mutual respect you have for one another. There is nothing that is more exciting and fulfilling.
To have such a love relationship, however, you must be willing to be vulnerable, which means letting your partner see who you really are. No walls are allowed. Real love is not based upon some notion of perfection, but upon knowing the person deeply, not superficially. If you aren’t willing to be vulnerable, you can’t experience this kind of love relationship.
Real love requires us to be emotional adults. That means that we don’t rely upon our partner to complete us. We are each whole in the relationship. We know ourselves and love ourselves because without self-love, we are not capable of truly loving anyone else.
Real love is about equality. We don’t need our partner to worship us to feel good. In fact, worship creates an unequal relationship that is bound to get mighty boring for the person being worshipped. Worship feels secure, but as the Eagles said, “Every form of refuge has its price.”
Real love is about acceptance. You love your partner for who he is, and don’t expect perfection, just as you aren’t perfect. So real love is about forgiveness. We all make mistakes, and we forgive the one we love because we know that forgiveness is even more for the forgiver than the forgiven.
Real love is about trust, honesty and integrity. You cannot have a mature love relationship without this. If you have to hide things you are doing or who you are from your partner, you have built a wall that interferes with your ability to love one another.
Real love requires commitment to the relationship in addition to yourself and your partner. Nothing grows without being fed. You can be the most compatible people in the world and get along easily, but your love won’t grow if you take it for granted and don’t nurture it.