Last modified on June 24th, 2020
The passions of new love are very interwoven in our emotional makeups. We can all relate to how we felt the first time we fell in love. The mere thought of our beloved sent fiery shivers of sexual energy through our spines. Could it have just been infatuation love?
Our partners were always in our thoughts and we were happier than ever before. While we had less sleep, we were somehow more energetic with an unparalleled zest for living. Meanwhile, our passions often made it impossible to make objective considerations along this love’s thorny paths.
When in a new relationship, people gauge whether they are in love or not differently. Some believe they can tell they’re in love from the first couple of dates being together. For others, the belief is that love develops over time.
When getting into and developing a relationship, we all pass through certain phases. There are many exceptions and we also experience these emotions in different degrees. Even within the genders, there are many ranges of these emotions.
Concepts like lusts, crush, infatuation, obsession, and love itself often leave us confused. Why they are so intertwined remains a mystery. This makes it very difficult determining what we’re feeling at certain stages of a relationship.
This post and subsequent ones in this series will be taking a look at what infatuation is. We shall delve into the actual place of infatuation in the overall love process. Happy reading!
What Is Infatuation?
When an individual is falling in love, chemicals associated with the reward circuit flood the brain. These chemicals produce a variety of physical and emotional responses. Some of these effects include flushed cheeks, sweaty palms, racing heart, feelings of anxiety and passion.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, infatuation is defined as “a feeling of foolish or obsessively strong love for, admiration for, or interest in someone or something.”
Infatuation love is thus a state when an individual is carried away with blind desire. It is generally devoid of any insight or proper evaluative judgment.
The individual experiencing it often wants to be around the person of interest all the time. They wonder where and what the “beloved” might be doing.
There is often a very strong longing of wanting to be in physical contact with the beloved. They might also go to the extent of making any necessary plans to be closer to him or her.1
However, infatuation seems to a part of life and something to be expected in the early stages of a new relationship. Most people describe it as the first stage of a relationship that develops into a mature intimacy. For some, it is a special, perhaps an early or intense form of passionate love.
Further, most researchers often use the term infatuation interchangeably. Some of its synonyms include passion, passionate love, limerence, or “being in love“. The first relationships of youth and adolescent love are when people experience infatuation first.
What Characterizes Infatuation?
As a phenomenon, infatuation is dangerous to the infatuated individual. This is mostly because the feelings negatively impact the infatuated individual’s life. Also, the intrusive thoughts experienced can have an all-encompassing effect.2
Yet, like any other form of addiction, infatuation love can be a perfectly wonderful addiction when it is going well. Conversely, it can be a perfectly horrible addiction when things are not going that great.
The euphoria of infatuation love is temporary. Over time, people generally revert back to their normal selves as it fades. Still, while it was a delicious feeling it could be very deceptive and harmful.
Infatuated individuals generally exhibit an assortment of features.3 But not all of the features are necessarily present in every infatuation. The more acute the infatuation, the more the likelihood of more features being present and the greater their intensity.
Enhanced Attention and Memory
An infatuated person often experiences a heightened state of awareness. This increased awareness creates a perfect environment for rapid-learning.
In a 2014 study4, researchers found that the attention and memory bias of the infatuated were enhanced for the beloved-related information. The attention and memory biases for the beloved-related information were largely due to arousal more than any other reason.
For instance, infatuated individuals will have increased attention and memory when they see their beloved’s favorite meal on a restaurant’s menu. This can also occur when they see an advertisement of a movie featuring their beloved’s favorite actor.
This is one of the major features of infatuation. The infatuated always has persistent and intrusive thoughts about the beloved.
My longing had no time when it ceases.
These thoughts often take a fantasy-like quality. They can also come as anxious ruminations. In general, they distract and distress the infatuated individual.
These intrusive thoughts often have an ebb and flow characteristic. For instance, the infatuated can be focused on the possibility of their feelings being reciprocated at one moment. And then, before long, their focus changes to the possibility of their feelings being ignored.
This is what causes the emotional turbulence experienced by infatuated individuals. They become euphoric when their beloved shows some form of romantic interest in them. When this is not the case, they tend to become depressed.
Another feature of an infatuated individual is that they often idealize the beloved. The infatuated person gets some positive feelings while also becoming disengaged from their capabilities to make interpersonal discernment.
Infatuation love essentially deactivates certain neural regions in the brain. These are regions responsible for negative emotions such as fear and social judgment. Thus, they worship the beloved for their positive qualities but overlook their negative characters.
In general, infatuated individuals direct their passions toward only one potential love object. They are often certain that they will “never feel like this again,” and that this person is “the one.”
They find it almost impossible imagining living a life without their beloved at the center of it. Consequently, they desire a reciprocation of this exclusivity by their beloved.
The Time Course of Infatuation
- Infatuation is most likely to begin in the early stages of a romantic relationship. This is often before the infatuated has had a chance to get to know or develop an intimate relationship with the beloved.
- With time, the infatuated individual starts to desire closer emotional bonds with the beloved.
- If the partners get to experience the same feelings for one another, there might be a likely continued increase in intimacy and so greater passion.
- When the partners get to know each other extremely well, the passion is very likely to decline. This is often the case when intimacy reaches its upper limit.
The Purpose of Infatuation
There are many reasons why infatuation happens to people. There is the issue of the biological importance of infatuation to the human race.
If there weren’t such an importance, nature would perhaps not have permitted its development. Thus, a strong behavioral trait like infatuation serves a beneficial role in human lives.
A Basic Human Drive
Infatuation is a drive, a basic mating drive. It acts a rewarding experience with a link to the perpetuation of the species. Thus, it has a closely linked biological function of crucial evolutionary importance.5
Humans have evolved three primary, discrete, interrelated emotion-motivation systems in the brain. They are for mating, reproduction, and parenting. They respectively correspond to lust, attraction, and male-female attachment.6
According to Helen Fisher in Why Him? Why Her?, lust (sex drive) “motivates us to seek sex with a range partners.” But infatuation “predisposes us to focus our mating energy on just one individual at a time.”
She also states that the male-female attachment component “inspires us to stay with a partner long enough to raise our children as a team.”
As highlighted earlier, certain features of infatuation deactivate particular zones of the brain. These zones of the brain control critical thought. This involves mental activities that include making social judgments and in mentalizing.7
This is an important component of the infatuation process. Mentalizing helps individuals in the assessment of other people’s intentions and emotions. It plays a part in the experiences of painful emotions like sadness, anger, and fear.
Thus, the infatuated sees only the best in the beloved. They feel less inclined to critically assess the character and personality of their beloved. This is why it is often said that “love is blind.”
The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of…
Also, this is why it is known as a motivation or goal-oriented state that is exhilarating. It is also why they express an imperative to be with their beloved and to protect the relationship.8
Infatuation love thus acts as a push-pull mechanism to overcome social distance. The brain deactivates certain regions that handle critical social assessment and negative emotions to achieve this.
However, it should be noted that this suspended judgment is selective. The infatuated thus only suspends judgment for things related to their beloved.9
As a result, infatuation plays a vital role in uniting two souls together. It serves as the first step in the various developmental stages of a new relationship. Thus it serves to create the open channels needed for the merging and unity lovers seek with each other.
How Long Does Infatuation Last?
As earlier indicated, infatuation love seems to fade away with time. As an individual grows older, infatuation tends to decline gradually. This is mainly because the sources of hope that the feelings would be reciprocated are gradually reduced.
How long infatuation last is mostly a function of the behavior of the beloved and other situational factors. People have proposed various estimates for its average duration.
For the most, infatuation is estimated to last for about 6-18 months10. However, according to Dr. Dorothy Tennov, author of Love and Limerence, “average limerent duration is approximately two years.”
But in Dr. Tennov’s length determination, “the duration of the experience covers the period from ‘the moment’ of initiation of limerence until a feeling of neutrality is reached for a given LO.”
The less my hope the hotter my love.
Thus, the level of infatuation that an individual feels for their beloved varies over time. For instance, individuals who have just fallen in love typically experience high levels of infatuation. Conversely, individuals in long-term relationships tend to experience low levels of infatuation.
There are also people who go on experiencing infatuation at various times of their lives. Some experience this even in long-term relationships. But such individuals don’t normally experience the associated component of obsessive thinking about the beloved.
The focus of this post has mostly been on the basic concept of infatuation. We shall further look at other areas of this subject with a general view to its effect on the love process.