It’s like getting high. To be fair, I’ve never done any hard drugs to know the feeling first hand but I imagine getting high feels like those first few blissful months of a new dating relationship. The nightly conversations that go well into dawn, they’re the first person you think about when you wake up and even their annoying quirks are strangely endearing. The glorification and pursuit of this natural high makes millions of dollars at the box office, earns billions via dating apps and even has it’s own holiday. But before the beautiful, four-letter L word starts forming in your mind, ask yourself – is this love or just infatuation? In most cases, it’s the latter.
Actually, the infatuation stage at the beginning of a dating relationship is exactly like getting high. According to Psychology Today, there are striking similarities between the brain state of someone in the beginning infatuation stage of a new relationship and someone smoking crack cocaine. Like crack cocaine, falling for a new love interest releases massive amounts of dopamine and norepinephrine that induce the same euphoric effects as smoking crack. If that isn’t sobering, consider this; smoking crack cocaine enhances mood, heightens sexual interest, boosts self-confidence and conversational prowess and promotes an overall heightened sense of consciousness. Sound familiar? Only instead of lasting for a few delirious hours, the high of infatuation lasts anywhere from a few weeks to several months to even a whole year.
What does this mean for Christians in the dating scene hoping to find “The One”? How do we discern between chemically fueled infatuation and Christ-centered love? It’s hard to not be overcome with emotion when we finally meet someone that seems to fit most of our Christian criterion. Could it be? Are your days of awkward Christian Mingle dates and hating on every nauseatingly cute couple at church finally over? While I would like nothing more than for you to have found your God-given match, I implore you to proceed with caution. In a whirlwind of emotions, butterflies and sweet nothings, it’s natural to get thrown off balance when we meet someone we really like. Therefore, it’s important to know the difference between infatuation and love that stands the test of time lest we “awaken or arouse love before it’s time” (Song of Songs 2:7).
However, in a world where instant gratification, microwaved relationships and Tinder reign supreme, it’s easy to get the two mixed up. While love and infatuation are pages out of the same book, they are not the same thing. Here’s how to tell the difference.
Infatuation is Fleeting While Love is an Unwavering Conviction
Ever wondered why the beginning of a dating relationship feels like an emotional roller coaster? That special person makes you feel like you’re walking on a cloud one day but can just as easily plunge you to the depths of uncertainty the next. It may feel like falling but it’s not love. When you’re infatuated, 80% of the dramatic highs and lows are based on how you feel. Unfortunately, these feelings are highly fleeting; infatuation is fueled by hormones, chemicals and false ideals tossed around like waves in a storm.
On the other hand, love is consistent, grounded, unwavering and has more to do with a deep sense of conviction than mere feelings. Love won’t falter because your partner said the wrong thing or forgot to call you that day. While infatuation is transactional in nature, in that both people’s actions are fueled by how the other person makes them feel, love is selfless. If you talk to couples that have been married for years, real love is a daily choice to serve your partner without the expectation of anything in return. While infatuation ceases as soon as the chemicals subside, true love endures even when you don’t feel like it.
Infatuation is Based on Superficial Attributes While Love is Built on Foundational Principals
While infatuation can look like love on the surface and often mistaken for it, the foundational truths that each are built on are vastly different. These foundations are the most important indicators if you’re infatuated or if there is potential for true love to blossom. To be clear, attraction and chemistry aren’t inherently wrong. God created chemistry and it remains one of the most powerful initial signs when you first meet “The One”. Back in biblical times, Jacob knew Rebecca was his wife as soon as he laid eyes on her. But these days, it’s highly unlikely that bae will receive a divine revelation and pick you for marriage while you’re chilling by a well. So, having a strong connection with a new love interest comes in handy and isn’t unbiblical if it’s supported by Godly standards and principals.
For example, a Christian girlfriend of mine recently said to me about a new love interest, “You know, I don’t know why I like him. He isn’t really Christian and he doesn’t have a lot of the things I want in a future husband. But I’m just so into him”. If you find yourself feeling drawn to someone but you have no idea why, allow me to shed light on your dilemma. You should never not know why you like someone. Feelings of infatuation should never trump your God-given standards for a future partner. When evaluating someone you have feelings for, pay attention to the fruit of their life. Are they actively pursuing Christ? Are they loving, generous and caring? Are they emotionally and spiritually ready for a relationship? Are they walking in purity? If you can’t reconcile your affections with these standards, it’s not love. It’s just your hormones playing with your head. Take a cold shower and find someone who stands on a Godly foundation and can still give you butterflies.
Infatuation is Impulsive While Love is Patient
From whirlwind celebrity romances to your best friend moving halfway across the country to be with a guy she’s known for a month, the phrase “love makes you do crazy things” is never more true than in our current culture of slapstick love. As much as I hate to discount the romanticism of that phrase, it’s not love that makes you do crazy things. It’s the chemically fueled state of euphoric infatuation that drives people to step so far out of character that you question their sanity. Many of you have also heard the phrase about love being blind. I have a problem with this euphemism because I believe that love is one of the most clarifying, visionary and rooted convictions you can have about another person.
Love takes the time to meticulously explore all the characteristics and nuances about a person rather than fill in the blanks with projected idealistic expectations. Love understands that anything worthy of dedicating a life to requires lots of time, effort and patience. Love looks past a person’s superficial attributes and aims to learn the complex layers of a romantic partner’s heart and soul. It is not so selfish that it doesn’t allow a relationship to gain substance and blossom in due season. Love is not so impulsive that it would rush into a premature night of unbridled passion rather than wait for the spiritual mingling of body and soul reserved for the wedding night. While infatuation clouds your perception with it’s rose-colored lenses, real love is not rooted in confusion and brash decisions made in an emotionally-charged frenzy. Being in a state of infatuation can easily deceive us into placing our love interest on a false and idealistic pedestal and ignore red flags we’re usually privy to. It demands its needs be met immediately because once you strip away the fluff, infatuation is ultimately self-serving. Why else would a perfectly sane person want to give up their entire life to be with someone they haven’t properly vetted and risk ruining both their lives? Rick James said cocaine is one hell of a drug, I say, so is infatuation.
If this article is making you realize that what thought was love for another may just be infatuation, don’t panic. Take a deep breath and surrender what you’re feeling to the Lord. While it’s very possible for your infatuation to grow into substantial love, it’s important to recognize it for what it is. Pray that God will renew and sober your mind so you can discern if the object of your infatuation is just a passing whim or the real deal. If you realize that your infatuation isn’t based on a Christ-centered foundation, hit pause and give serious thought as to why you’re pursuing this person in the first place. Infatuation is strong but Godly conviction is stronger. If the Lord directs you to end the relationship, rest assure he has something far better in store for you.
If the objection of your infatuation meets the Godly standards and principals you’re looking for, breathe a sigh of relief because you don’t need to kick bae to the curb! In this case, simply slow down and take a step back. Even the Godliest relationships can go horribly wrong if led by unchecked passion and emotions. Pray for wisdom, clarity and above all, self control before moving forward with your relationship. Bring your feelings of infatuation under the authority of God and take care to guard your heart. We’re wired for love, sex, companionship and marriage and there is no shame in desiring it. Love is our highest calling and the closest to reflecting Christ we’ll ever be. It deserves to be respected, nurtured and held in the highest regard. While infatuation may feel good in the moment, it’s nothing compared to the magic of true love. Next to salvation, it is the sweetest gift your Father in heaven has for you.