When people first meet and are in the early stages of developing a relationship, they have not yet had the opportunity to really get to know each other well yet. Consequently, many of their positive feelings about each other are based less on things they know and like about each other than they are on a series of what are known as ‘˜positive projections’, i.e. the things we see in the other person because we want/need to see them.
This exchange of pre-knowledge positive projections is often characteristic of what we have come to call ‘˜infatuation.’
Infatuation is both unreasoned and unreasonable. It is intense and entirely in the moment. It feels like what many of us want and imagine ‘˜real’ romantic adult love to feel like and, thus, it is not surprising that the two are often confused. Unlike the more mature ‘˜love’ which is more substantively based on extended shared experiences with and more likely accurate and honest perceptions of the ‘˜other,’
Infatuation has a rather limited lifespan.
I know. Just try telling that to someone who has been struck mightily with ‘˜love at first sight’ and is head-over-heels in love and/or lust with someone they have recently met. From their point of view, no one else really gets it and it is not likely that any well meaning friend or relative will change their mind or the inclination of their heart.
The probability that the person so involved cannot see things from that perspective themselves is not to be confused with whether or not it is really happening. During infatuation, there are things about the other person that either go unnoticed or are given a ‘˜pass’ because the intensity of the feelings overpowers or obscures a person’s other perceptions.
Does initial infatuation sometimes morph into a fuller, less expectation and need driven exchange of positive projections? Of course. The problem is that during the infatuation phase, it is not possible to assess the reality of the relationship’s future course.
So, does this mean that infatuation ‘” generally, the early stages of a beginning relationship filled with hopes and internally projected needs that are intermixed with actual perceptions and experiences ‘” are valueless and a silly waste of time. The short answer is, “No.”
Infatuation is akin to a needed emotional vacation. A ‘˜fling’ if you will, but not in the sense of escaping but more like an adventure to ta new and exciting place. Many of us have vacationed in places that are quite nice and inviting ‘” but we would probably not want to live there permanently. If it were otherwise, we would be living ‘˜there’ now instead of ‘˜here.’ We did not succumb to the temptation of the infatuation.
What is important is knowing and recognizing infatuation for what it is and not jumping the gun in regarding it as the beginning of a permanent, long-term relationship. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. Maybe it just needs to be accepted and enjoyed for what it is in the here and now.
Full adult love may include elements of the infatuation phase, but grows beyond that to an honest and fuller knowing of each other ‘” of both the strengths and weaknesses of each person with love sustaining even in the face of sentient reality. The wishful phase passes and we see the other person for who they really are ‘” and love them anyway.
Infatuation generally ends as soon as that phase of the relationship begins to become evident. Love and infatuation: Not mutually exclusive, but neither are they the same thing.