Q: How do you know you are in love with someone or just infatuated with them?
First and foremost, before I delve into this topic, I must attribute recognition where it is due. Nothing I say henceforth would be on this page if I hadn’t come into contact with Professor Tim Hall during my first year in Psych 101 where he introduced me to M. Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Traveled. I’m indebted to Hall for the love he has shown me and the wisdom that he has imparted unto me.
Now let’s get into this week’s question. It’s quite the doozy. Love vs. Infatuation. For this week’s article, we’ll be focusing mostly on infatuation. Next week we will cover what an optimal picture of love should look like.
Imagine this, it’s the first day of the new semester. You walk into one of your random general education classes for the first time, and you sit next to a cute boy. He’s got wavy blonde hair, white washed jeans that might be cut a little too high at the ankles, ratty vans, and a t-shirt with some obscure surf brand logo – I know, he sounds pretty vanilla, even for PLNU, but stay with me.
You might sit down near him and think, “oh wow, this boy’s cute.” You might even get a waft of his musk as he gets up to use the restroom in the middle of class. You can taste the sea salt on your tongue as he saunters by. His tan is the perfect shade of carmel and the highlights in his hair are so stylish. You think you might be in love with this boy.
Next thing you know, by the end of class, you’re daydreaming about what it’s going to be like when you walk down the aisle and see the tears welling up in his eyes, moments before you two say “I do.” You wonder where you’ll go on your honeymoon and how big of a house you two will have. You only want two kids, but if he wants a couple more, you could reach an agreement.
Boys and girls, this is infatuation. Infatuation is a feeling. It’s the feeling of falling in ‘love.’ It is a temporary chemical reaction in our brains that comes from an inherently sexual desire to be with another person that we find attractive. Ask any science professor at Loma; sex is a motivator.
Yes, sex. It is quite the taboo topic here at PLNU, but it’s an activity that happens a lot among people our age, and there’s no running away from it. Whether you personally believe sex is something that should be saved for marriage or the third date, it doesn’t change the fact that we are human beings that have sexual desires, no matter how often Pastor Todd at youth group tries to deny the fact.
Peck asserts the idea that falling in ‘love’ is a direct consequence of sexual motivation: “the temporary collapse of ego boundaries that constitutes falling in love is a stereotypic response of human beings to a configuration of internal sexual drives and external sexual stimuli, which serves to increase the probability of secual pairing and bonding so as to enhance the survival of the species.”
Infatuation rises from the instinctual desire to not be alone. Remember that whole deal about ego boundaries I brought up a couple weeks ago? Those things that make you, you? Well, when we find ourselves falling in ‘love,’ those ego boundaries are rapidly fragmenting and disintegrating. At first, this feels good. It’s what we like to call the honeymoon stage.
You can measure how recently a couple has gotten together by how often their mouths find each other in public and how long their hands rest on each other’s hips. Kissing in places that are definitely not appropriate is something new couples frequently do: in chapel during the reading of the scripture, waiting in line for food at the caf, and even while taking a Covid-19 rapid screening test. No sir, the spit goes into the test tube. An excessive display of PDA is a tell-tale sign that that couple is experiencing the honeymoon stage.
Everything seems to be lollipops and gumdrops at this stage. The other person is a perfect specimen that can do no wrong. Everything they say and do, yes even that habit of passing gas whenever you are present, is admired. With the collapse of those ego boundaries, the intense passion for the other person is fresh and new, but give it a couple weeks – or months – and those ego boundaries will start reforming.
That’s when the infatuation stops. The fog is lifted, and you become aware that this person is not a god or goddess, but in fact a regular human being. This moment of realization is commonly referred to as the Ick among many friend circles here at school. The Ick is nature’s wake up call to you that says, “Hey you big dummy! You don’t love the guy, you’re just in love with the idea of loving him!” This infatuation is a feeling, and like all feelings, it will surely pass.
So what does this mean for you? Don’t be afraid of liking someone, don’t let the fear of infatuations stop you from talking to people who you think are cute. Just make sure you remain cognizant of the signs of infatuation and that it is a feeling that will go away. So then what is the difference between this infatuation and optimal love? Glad you asked, we’ll cover that one next week. Stay tuned. And as always, feel free to submit your questions to email@example.com to possibly be featured in the next installation of Stupid Cupid.
By: Brennan Ernst