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True Signs of True Love

How to distinguish genuine feelings from infatuation.

Key points

  • Infatuation often leads to sacrificing your values and needs for a relationship.
  • Genuine love involves mutual respect and support.
  • Deep commitment and love requires an awareness of the other person's faults, as well as strengths.
Jasmine Carter/Pexels
Source: Jasmine Carter/Pexels

Infatuation vs. genuine feelings of love: Do you think you can tell the difference? If you're in the earliest stages of a relationship, this actually might be hard to do. But being able to recognize the difference between these two opposing emotional states can be helpful for making sure you're entering (and staying in) a relationship with someone for the right reasons.

Infatuation vs. Genuine Love

For the purposes of our discussion, let's start by defining what infatuation and genuine love and connection really mean.

By infatuation, I typically mean an intense interest and/or obsession in a partner. Or, as Merriam-Webster defines it, "a feeling of foolish or obsessively strong love" or "a strong and unreasoning attachment." Note the adjectives there: Foolish. Obsessively. Unreasoning. A person who is infatuated with someone tends to place that individual on a pedestal and looks to them as if they can do no wrong. And while those feelings may not be grounded in reality, they can still be incredibly intense and almost addictive.

In comparison, when I refer to genuine love, I typically mean a connection grounded in mutual respect, appreciation, healthy communication, trust, honesty, and realistic expectations. Genuine love can still give you butterflies—but not so many that they carry you away into the clouds. And unlike when you're infatuated with someone, you don't tend to "lose yourself" in a relationship when you feel true love; both your true selves can thrive.

Warning Signs of Infatuation

Generally speaking, infatuation doesn't bode well for long-lasting relationships—think of a bright flame that burns hot, but burns out quickly. Why? Because when the object of our infatuation inevitably does something that pops the bubble of perfection in which we've placed them, the violation of our unrealistic expectations hits us hard. Plus, being infatuated may cause you to ignore important "red flags" that this person might not actually be right for you in the long run.

You may be infatuated with someone if:

  • You're convinced you've found the "perfect" person.
  • You sacrifice your own values and needs for the relationship (e.g., you "drop everything" to be with them, even if you had other plans that were actually important to you).
  • You have intrusive thoughts about them that frequently interrupt your ability to work, relax, or interact with others.
  • You struggle with intense feelings of jealousy or anxiety about the relationship.

In short, the infatuated mind is a fuzzy mind; you simply might not make the clearest decisions in this intense, albeit exciting, emotional state.

Signs of Feeling Genuine Love

Compared to infatuation, genuine feelings of love and connection are much better harbingers of a healthy relationship. I believe this is because the ability to develop true loving feelings for someone else requires that you have a certain level of emotional maturity, vulnerability, and compatibility—three essential ingredients for a healthy, long-lasting partnership.

Genuine love also requires a certain level of discernment on your part—a willingness to "see" the whole person in front of you, even though it's normal for you both to be on your "best behavior" in the early stages of dating.

So, if you notice the following characteristics in your relationship, trust that you're probably on the right track to something genuine and real:

  • Mutual respect and support
  • A deep commitment to each other that still respects each other's individual pursuits and resources
  • An awareness of the other person's faults, as well as strengths
  • The willingness to speak the truth and be honest with each other
  • The willingness to work through conflict together (because even healthy loving relationships experience conflict from time to time)

When you're dating someone new, or even when you find yourself in a longer-term relationship that has a lot of ups and downs, be curious about yourself and the thoughts and feelings you're experiencing. Do you feel balanced or bonkers? In love or insane? Do you think your bond is ultimately formed on a bedrock of genuine love, appreciation, and vulnerability—or is it based on putting your partner on a pedestal?

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