Young People Ask . . .
Love or Infatuation—How Do I Know?
TRUE OR FALSE?
● When love hits, you know it instantly.
● When you are in love, you usually are in a daze.
● It is easy to distinguish real love from infatuation.
THE correct answer to all three questions is false. However, there are many persons who would strongly disagree. Though recognizing infatuation as a strong and unreasonable attachment toward someone, they feel that they can tell when it’s the ‘real thing,’ love.
Such ones often view love as a mysterious visitation out of nowhere that takes hold of you. For them, there is no feeling in the world like the sheer ecstasy of ‘falling in love.’ The couple want to be together every minute of the day, hardly taking their eyes off each other. Nothing else in life seems important. Each believes that the other is “the one and only.”
Yet, is this feeling really a once-in-a-lifetime experience? Will such emotion forge two lives together for a lifetime of happiness?
“The Most Deceitful Thing There Is”
One research survey asked 1,079 young people (ages 18 to 24) for the number of “romantic experiences” in their life up to the present. The average was seven! Did they consider these “romantic experiences” infatuation or real love? Researcher Dr. William Kephart stated that “respondents invariably described their current experience as love rather than infatuation, the latter term usually being used in the past tense.”—Italics ours.
Yes, during a romance, it was viewed as “love,” but past experiences were recognized as infatuation—a passing, fading emotion. However, during those past experiences, what do you think these young persons would have called it? Only by looking back did they realize it was infatuation. This illustrates how unreliable our hearts can be! In fact, the Bible says: “The heart is the most deceitful thing there is.”—Jeremiah 17:9, The Living Bible.
The trickery of the heart can be clearly seen by examining today’s spiraling divorce rate. Nearly half of 69,000 couples surveyed who were divorcing from a first marriage had separated before their fourth wedding anniversary. Almost 8,000—12 percent—separated during the first year! How tragic for two people to think that they can build a lifelong relationship—only to discover within a few months that they should not have married!
Infatuation is considered by some as a chief cause for a high divorce rate. “It lures unsuspecting men and women into poor marriages like lambs to the slaughter,” says Ray Short in his book Sex, Love, or Infatuation. Persons need help to determine the difference between love and infatuation. “He that is trusting in his own heart is stupid,” states the Bible candidly.—Proverbs 28:26.
‘But if you can’t trust your own heart, whom can you trust?’ ask many young persons. The Bible proverb (Pr 28:26) continues: “But he that is walking in wisdom is the one that will escape.” So seek the wise advice of others who have your best interests at heart, such as your parents. Additionally, follow the wisdom in the only infallible source of advice—the Bible. Thereby you can “escape” the dangers and frustrations that so many have brought on themselves. But how does the Bible describe real love—a love that “never fails”?—1 Corinthians 13:8.
Love Versus Infatuation
The Bible’s description of love is:
“Love is long-suffering and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury.”—1 Corinthians 13:4, 5.
A relationship built on genuine love, as described in the Bible, will stand the test of time. Genuine love is “long-suffering” and “does not look for its own interests.” It is not self-centered. Though strong tender feelings are certain to be involved, these are balanced by reason and deep respect for the other person. When you are really in love you care just as much for the other person’s welfare and happiness as you do your own. Such an unselfish feeling is not a hot overpowering emotion that destroys good judgment but is a warm, evenly balanced way of life.
“Infatuation is blind and it likes to stay that way. It doesn’t like to look at reality,” admits 24-year-old Calvin. A 16-year-old girl, Kenya, added, “When you’re infatuated with a person, you think that everything they do is just perfect.” But according to one young man, “love makes you think.”
The greatest contrast between love and infatuation is that love is unselfish. It considers the needs and feelings of the other. Infatuation is self-centered. Infatuated persons have a tendency to say, ‘I really feel important when I’m with him. I can’t sleep. I can’t believe how fantastic this is,’ or, ‘She really makes me feel good.’ Notice how many times either “I” or “me” is used? Never forget, “love . . . does not look for its own interests.”—1 Corinthians 13:5.
For instance, is your companion eager for the success of your own plans? Does he or she show respect for your viewpoints, feelings, family and friends? Or is there a tendency for that one to want to do things that are really ‘indecent’ with you? When in a group, does that one ‘put you down,’ perhaps demeaning you before others or consistently putting you in an unfavorable light? This may give you some indication whether that one has real love for you.
An Example of Love
The Bible story of Jacob and Rachel vividly describes real love. While resting at a well, Jacob met Rachel. He was looking for a wife. Knowing that Rachel worshiped the true God Jehovah as he did caused Jacob to give her immediate attention. After helping her water her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess, he introduced himself. However, Jacob was overcome with emotion and “burst into tears” after greeting this woman who was both “beautiful in form and beautiful of countenance.” But was this merely romantic infatuation?—Genesis 29:1-12, 17.
Jacob spent a full month living in the home of Rachel’s family before making it known that he was “in love with Rachel” and wanted to marry her. During that month he saw Rachel in her natural setting, how she treated her parents and others. He could see her fine qualities as an industrious shepherdess, which was a dangerous and rigorous work. He undoubtedly saw her at her “best” and her “worst.” He observed her doing mundane, everyday things of life. So when he said that he was in love with her, it was not unbridled emotion but reason at work. Rachel’s spiritual qualities enhanced her physical beauty. In fact, Jacob was willing to work seven years for her father, to be able to have her as a wife.
Jacob had to wait more than seven years before he could enjoy the intimacies of marriage with his beloved Rachel. Certainly no infatuation would have lasted that long! Only genuine love, an unselfish interest in the other, would have made those years seem like a “few days.” Only genuine love would have enabled them to maintain their chastity during that period.—Genesis 29:20.
Does this mean that you would have to wait seven years to find out if your interest is love or infatuation? Not at all. But the point is that love is not hurt by time. The best way to distinguish infatuation from love is to give yourself time to test your emotions. How long should this take? It differs from person to person, but usually the younger you are the longer you should wait. But how can a person find out if it is real love without becoming emotionally involved?
Try to find out from a distance as much as you can. What kind of reputation does that person have? Does he or she get along well with others? What are that person’s life goals as evidenced from his or her life-style? Answers to such questions can help you to determine whether you wish to become more deeply involved emotionally.
Remember, infatuation reaches a fever pitch in a short time, but then fades. Genuine love grows stronger with time and becomes the “perfect bond of union.”—Colossians 3:14.
[Blurb on page 17]
Love does not look for its own interests, whereas infatuation is self-centered
[Blurb on page 18]
“Infatuation is blind and it likes to stay that way. It doesn’t look at reality.”—A 24-year-old man
[Box on page 19]
Is It Love or Infatuation?
1. An unselfish caring about the interests of the other.
2. Romance often starts slowly, perhaps taking months or years.
3. Attracted by that one’s total personality and spiritual qualities.
4. The effect on you is that it makes you a better person.
5. You view the other realistically, seeing his or her faults, yet loving that one anyway.
6. You have arguments, but you find that you can talk them out and settle them.
7. You want to give and share with that other one.
Selfish, restrictive. One thinks, ‘What does this do for me?’
Romance starts fast, perhaps taking hours or days.
Deeply impressed or interested in that one’s physical appearance. “He has such dreamy eyes,” “She’s got a great figure.”
A destructive, disorganizing effect. You act strangely, not “yourself.”
Is unrealistic. The other person seems perfect. You ignore any nagging doubts about serious personality flaws.
Arguments become more frequent. Nothing really gets settled. Many are “settled” with a kiss.
An attitude of taking or getting, especially in satisfying sexual urges.
[Picture on page 17]
When you are really in love you care as much for the other person’s happiness as you do for your own
[Picture on page 18]
Jacob had real love. He was willing to wait seven years before marrying Rachel. Infatuation does not stand the test of time. Real love does