What are the differences between attraction, infatuation, and love?

Affection has many forms. Thus, if we consider having a love relationship, it is essential to clarify the differences between attraction, infatuation, and love. Let’s go with them!

Love is one of the most studied subjects in psychology. It has a thousand ways of manifesting itself and can even be applied to inanimate beings or abstract ideas. However, when it comes to love between people, the differences between attraction, infatuation, and love can be very relevant when it comes to setting up a healthy relationship.

In this article, you will find a basic conceptualization of each of them; a summary of the research that has been done on the subject. In addition, you can read the effects they have on the mind so you can differentiate them.

Interpersonal attraction

The attraction is the most superficial feeling, but not in the pejorative sense of the word: it is usually the first to appear and contains less deep feelings than the other two. It is generally defined as the positive and reciprocal attitude between two people.

What causes people to be attracted to each other? Researchers have defined a few factors:

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  • That both people are relatively close in context or location.
  • Physical attractiveness: obviously is not decisive to create attraction, but one of the factors most rooted in the brain.
  • The possession of socially desirable characteristics, such as good humor, sympathy, kindness, and all that are to the liking of the one who is attracted.
  • The resemblance, real or perceived, between both people: can be in terms of ideas, tastes, opinions, etc.
  • The mere exhibition: what is popularly known as that “touch makes love.”
  • Reciprocity:  feeling attracted to the person we draw is very common. The mutual reinforcement of the approach behaviors also plays a fundamental role in this.
  • That the cost/reward balance is favorable.
  • That interpersonal demands are balanced: if one member of the equation asks the other for more than this, it usually does not compensate.

These factors are enough to create an attraction between people, as you can see. Now, to deepen the differences with the other concepts, we continue with falling in love.

The act of falling in love

Falling in love is the phase popularly called “the honeymoon,” in which the feelings of attraction are magnified and become almost the center of the person’s thoughts. It could be considered as a syndrome -according to some authors- that has the following symptoms:

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  • Grandiloquence: it is a very intense emotional state that is given great importance.
  • A sincere desire for intimacy and union with the other,  physical and/or emotional.
  • The desire for reciprocity,  which is sometimes accompanied by fear of not being reciprocated or euphoria when confirming exchange.
  • Selective attention focused on the other.
  • Frequent and intrusive thoughts about the other,  so much so that they sometimes interfere with daily tasks’ performance.
  • Physiological solid activation in the presence of the other, real or imagined:  cardiac acceleration, sweating, excitement, among others.
  • Hypersensitivity to the wants and needs of the other.
  • Psychological vulnerability:  in this state, people are more influenced, and their mood depends to a greater extent on dealing with the other.
  • The idealization of the loved one: this person’s vision is biased towards the positive.

Perhaps these “symptoms” are more like what we commonly know as love. However, there are still differences between this concept and the one you will read next.

Romantic love and partner love, and the differences between them

Researchers call “love” a longer and more heterogeneous process thanks to each relationship’s unique configuration. The main ingredients of romantic love would be the following:

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  • Intimacy: special, effective union in terms of communication, understanding, support, and others.
  • Erotic passion: physical desires and needs such as sexual desire.
  • Romantic passion: wants and needs related to the romantic social ideal.
  • Commitment: the decision to maintain the relationship despite the difficulties that may arise.

As you can see, this is a much more stable affection, projected in time and in the lives of those who make up the relationship. However, experts say that there is one more step: partner love. At this stage, the most intense aspects of romantic love, such as erotic passion, are gradually more subdued. In contrast, others – such as intimacy and commitment – are consolidated.

Some researchers say that it is here, curiously, is where some couples say they have achieved happiness.

Final notes: differences between attraction, infatuation, and love

As far as relationships are concerned, the times have the quality of normalizing associative or relational heterogeneity. Therefore, all the qualities that you have read for these three types of relationships are not necessary or exclusive, not even those that refer to the number of people in the relationship. This is great luck because it opens the mind’s doors and allows us to get closer and closer to discovering what love is.

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