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What is Love; What is Infatuation; What is Obsession

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Love, Infatuation or Obsession
What is Love; What is Infatuation; What is Obsession

How do you know what love is if you've never been in it before? How do you know the first time? What if that wasn't love? What if it was just infatuation or obsession? How can you tell the all-important difference between love and its deceiving lookalikes so that you can have the relationship of your dreams and not your nightmares?

It could be said that infatuation is primarily an emotional phenomenon--you see somebody and you're hooked; that obsession is primarily a physical psychological phenomenon--that you're addicted to how this person makes you feel and now believe that you need this person to survive; and that love is primarily a spiritual phenomenon--that two souls, each whole and complete in themselves, come together and create a third entity all its own - the relationship.

What are some other major differences between infatuation, obsession, and love?

Infatuation is...

...that giddy, butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling that you get every time that other person is around.
...the flood of relief that comes from finally not feeling lonely anymore.
...a fickle force that's here today and gone tomorrow; a flimsy force without much depth or substance.
...fast--it usually happens in an instant.
...founded on passion and pleasure.
...based in fantasy.

There's nothing inherently wrong with infatuation, so long as it is recognized as such. Infatuation is only problematic if it's mistaken for real love. Having a crush on someone is not the same as falling in love with them; that's more sexual attraction than anything else. In fact, you don't "fall into" love at all, you walk into it headlong, fully aware of what you're doing, with your eyes wide open. You grow love over time, nurturing it. You give love. Most cases of "love at first sight" (though not all) amount to little more than infatuation.

At this stage--which in the best of cases precedes love and in the worst precedes resentment, loathing, and loneliness--the other person is more an object than a human being. Infatuation objectifies and idealizes the other person as the fulfillment of all one's unfulfilled fantasies, wishes, and desires; these are illusions that are destined to be destroyed--even if...especially if that infatuation is to grow and evolve into genuine love.

Obsession is...

...feeling like you can't live without the other person.
...not being able to get them off your mind for even a moment.
...a destructive force for both you and the other person.
...interminable--long and drawn out, with no end in sight.
...founded on lust and self-loathing.
...based in pathology.

You can think of obsession as infatuation gone awry. When someone forms an unhealthy attachment to another, they begin to lose emotional control. With that loss of emotional control comes a loss of self-control which is how obsessive relationships can become dangerous for both the subject and object of the obsession. What starts off with the obsessor becoming anxious about losing the other person, neurotic in their behavior around and about the other person, and even paranoid about the other person cheating on them, can rapidly descend into violence and abuse.

Love is...

...wanting to care for the other person, take care of them, protect them, and keep them safe.
...putting them first and yourself second.
...wanting to be your best, highest self as a gift of gratitude to them, because they deserve it, and because they've given you so much.
...accepting them as they are, warts and all, and knowing that they accept you the same.
...a healing force for both you and the other person.
...slow--taking time to develop.
...founded on respect, trust, and admiration.
...based in reality.

The media has brought us up with a flawed and faulty impression of what love is. More than half of all marriages end in divorce. With all these negative, dysfunctional images of so-called love everywhere around us, is it any wonder that we as a culture have such a hard time recognizing love when we feel it? And when we do find love, that we have such a hard time "holding onto" it.

Many people believe that the best relationships are the ones that start out as friendships first. And while this is not always the case, it speaks to an excellent point--that romantic compatibility requires compatibility of the same characteristics that would matter to you in a friend. Most people in healthy relationships say that their partner is their best friend. So when you seek out a potential partner or mate, seek out the same qualities of person that you would seek out in a close friend--integrity, personality, sense of right and wrong, generosity, positive outlook on life, good sense of self, and so on.

That's how you can attract and start to cultivate a romantic relationship based on love and not infatuation or obsession. Because remember: external beauty is fleeting, but inner beauty lasts a lifetime.

About our WomanSavers.com feature writer: Growing up, Josh always felt anxious about dealing with women. At 23 he was still a virgin and never had a girlfriend. That is when he decided something had to change. After devoting himself for 5 years to learning everything he could about relationships - Josh is now the man his buddies come to for dating advice. 300 books or so later, and countless conversations with women, he now publishes Free Dating Advice on the web to help others who are looking for love.

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