As our recent piece on how to tell if someone is flirting with you highlighted, a lot of us are at a loss when it comes to matters of the heart. That’s not something to be embarrassed about; it’s just a fact of life. Feelings are confusing and other humans are absolute mysteries to most of us.
If you’ve got the flirting thing figured out (help the rest of us out!) and have progressed to a deeper connection with someone, that’s great news – but it doesn’t always mean that things will be clear cut, I’m afraid.
Today, I want to chat about love and infatuation and the difference between those two experiences. For a little guidance, I sought out the advice of love and relationship expert, Dr Lurve, on this topic.
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What is love?
Love is a strange feeling to describe. It’s all-encompassing. It drives you to abandon logic. You may feel it when you look at bread.
Dr Lurve shared over email that:
“There’s a range of emotions associated with love, ranging from affection, trust, warmth, and respect for another person. We also feel a sense of passion, intimacy, and commitment, usually combined with sexual desires and arousal if we’re looking at a romantic type of love”.
The experience of love is said to drive up your body’s cortisol levels (giving you a racing heart and butterflies, Dr Lurve stated). It also causes your brain to release the ‘love’ chemical oxytocin – which will give you that rush of happiness and excitement.
What’s probably most noteworthy is that love is also connected to “feelings of trust, empathy and sexual monogamy” (which may or may not be your thing).
Infatuation is a confusing beast
Similarly to love, oxytocin plays a big part in infatuation. The chemical is released by the brain when sexual activity or desire is at play, and this is where things get confusing.
Dr Lurve explained:
“It [Infatuation] normally happens in the honeymoon phase of relationships and is closely linked with intense feelings of lust or sexual attraction. It’s when someone feels an obsessively strong desire for, or admiration of a person, usually rooted in passion rather than love.”
A sense of attachment can come of infatuation, but it doesn’t have that same element of trust and empathy that love requires.
What’s the difference?
Desire, connection and attraction are key to both of these experiences. But, as Dr Lurve said, “Put simply, while infatuation often feels like there is a physical intimacy between the people, it often lacks that deep sense of care and commitment that comes from being in love.”
So, the next time you’re getting close to someone special and you’re all up in your feelings, take a moment to stop and consider: is this love, or it is my oxytocin talking?
This article on love and infatuation has been updated since its original publish date.