We've all been there before, but the trouble is you can only see it in retrospect — when you put someone on a pedestal, idealize them, and make them out to be something they're not. What starts out as a harmless crush suddenly spirals into something much more consuming, something you feel so manically and impossibly that you think to yourself it could only be love. This is what people write songs about, what legends are made of, why people fight and cry and scheme — at least, that's how it feels at the time.
The truth is, infatuation is like a shadow of love. At first, they take the same shape. It is almost impossible to recognize the difference between them when you are experiencing it yourself, because that little voice in your head that wants to do anything possible to justify your feelings is telling you about love, about fate, about whatever it can to make sense of the feelings that you're having. And the tricky thing is, it doesn't all have to do with time — sometimes people really do fall in love quickly, and know that it's meant to be right away. But more often than not, people think they've fallen in love quickly, and are eventually left to deal with the consequences of pursuing an infatuation as if it is love. At best, the person does not return your feelings and you are forced to let the infatuation go, however painfully. At worst, they return your gestures, and you make a commitment to someone — only to slowly realize you have committed to the person you thought they were, not the person they are.
I don't think there is ever really a way to prevent this from happening the first time it happens to you, because it's just something you can't be talked out of or understand until you get some distance from it. Even then, though, it is all too easy to let it happen again. If you are questioning yourself, here are a few signs that it's infatuation, and not actual love:
The Fundamental Vision Of What You Want Changes To Align With What You Discover About Them, On A Daily Basis
To some degree it is healthy for all of us to dump the "check list" of specific, nitpicking qualities we have for a partner, so long as they are good to you and the two of you mutually love each other. If we were so close-minded to dismiss someone who didn't check all of our boxes, I'm pretty sure nobody would ever find love (for instance, my "be Chris Pratt" box remains perilously empty). But when the very basic and fair things that you want in a relationship — to be able to express yourself, to feel safe, to share a belief or a world view — are cast to the wind to accommodate the object of your affection, you are compromising too much of yourself to call it love.
You Are Willing To Change Things That Define You At The Drop Of A Hat
There are some compromises all couples will make at some point in their lives. Someone will get a job out of state, someone will pick up an unhealthy habit, someone will do something that affects the other person and forces a discussion where someone will eventually have to make a sacrifice. It's a fact of life, and in a healthy relationship, those decisions are made with trust and time and sensitivity. But if you find yourself changing things that go against who you fundamentally are as a person ("I can go to a church I don't believe in for them" or "I can pretend it doesn't bother me that they are so flirtatious with other people"), you are silencing yourself. You are not being genuine in the relationship, and if they love you, they love something you have molded to fit them. Ultimately a relationship built on infatuation will crack, because the foundation isn't strong enough to maintain it.
You Are Bursting To Talk About Them To Your Friends And Family — More Often Than You Talk About Yourself
The person you love should become a part of your world, and maybe even half of it, but neither of you should ever be revolving around the other's. It is here that the infatuation is most likely to leak out, even if you haven't come to terms with it yet. You talk about them with almost a need to brag that they exist; you might over-exaggerate the details of your relationship, or how they regard you. What you don't realize is that you are seeking external validation for something that you know, deep down, isn't right. When you can't find that validation within yourself, you go looking for it in your friends or your family — and if you're lucky, they'll be able to sense that something is not quite right, and be honest with you about it even when you're not being honest with yourself.
You Are Defensive Whenever You Deal With Someone Who Knew The Person Before You Did
Unless you end up marrying your childhood neighbor, you're almost certainly going to interact with people who have known your partner longer, people who have known older versions of them that you will never know and share stories with them that you will never share. In a secure relationship based on love and trust, you may be occasionally jealous of this closeness, but never threatened by it. You acknowledge that you are an important part of their life, but not the only part. On the other hand, if you feel a persistent need to "prove yourself" to the other people who are close to your partner — to somehow one-up them, or invalidate the past they shared with your partner — that kind of jealousy is an indicator of the deep-rooted insecurity you have in the relationship, and the infatuation it is based on.
Your Friends And Family Repeatedly Tell You That They "Don't Really See It"
... Or some other similar indication that they don't think that it seems right. No matter how much the people in your life love you, very few of them are going to have the nerve to outright tell you that a relationship is wrong for you. It's the people who care the most — enough to compromise the way you feel about them in order to keep you safe and happy — who will tell you that a relationship seems off. It will be your first impulse to be angry with them. You will regret it later, if they become yet another casualty when the relationship in question inevitably ends. The other friends, the ones who don't say it outright, will still give hints if you're looking for them. They may be as blatant as talking about some other person they could set you up with, or as subtle as avoiding the topic of your relationship altogether. You may not acknowledge these behaviors consciously, but you'll find yourself digging at them, bringing the person up more often, unconsciously trying to gage their reaction and trying to get some kind of answer from them that aligns with the way you think you feel. In the end, they will either end up lying to you to make you happy, or telling you the truth and making you upset — in the end, nobody will be satisfied.
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