It’s a typical scenario… girl meets boy, girl falls head over heels for said boy, barely a word is uttered (maybe it was a mere swipe right) and just like that true love is born.
Or is it? When it comes to ‘love at first sight,’ more often than not it’s a classic case of ‘lust’ at first sight. But during the early stages, we don’t tend to see it this way—instead living through rose coloured glasses, becoming more enamoured by the day.
And herein lies the dangerous reality of infatuation. When we confuse lust and attraction, for love. And sadly it’s an easy trap to fall into today—whether in the form of a basic banter on Tinder, a short chat with a guy at a bar, a sudden interest from that guy who slid into your DMs on Instagram or a crazy weird connection with that colleague at your work.
Why? Because lust and attraction are as addictive as a drug, according to science.
According to Biological Anthropologist Helen Fischer—who has researched extensively into love and the chemical process—when people initially ‘fall in love’ they exhibit the same activity in the brain regions as someone addicted to cocaine, with the main neurotransmitter activated being dopamine.
Dopamine, according to Fischer, is the neurotransmitter that triggers the central component of the brain’s reward system “the brain system that gives the lover focus, energy, motivation, and craving for their beloved.”
Why is this so bad? Well, when dopamine is activated, we tend to have the same reaction as drug addicts who need a fix. “Lovers and drug addicts show similar behaviour. They both want more and in the case of ‘love’ you get upset if they don’t call you (separation anxiety) and when things are going badly, they often lose sleep and don’t eat or overeat. They also crave love like it’s a drug, distort reality, experience personality changes, do dangerous and sometimes inappropriate things and obsessively think about their sweetheart as the centre of their world.”
How then do we decipher lust from love, acknowledge infatuation when it sets in and curb the dangers of falling into addictive, unhealthy behaviours—or pop the infatuation bubble, so to speak?
By learning more about what infatuation is, what sets it apart from true, deep and real love and learning the symptoms before they take over. To do this, Sporteluxe spoke with Human Behaviour Specialist Dr John Demartini—who has authored over 40 books and speaks about infatuation all around the world—to find out how to swerve the infatuation trap.
What is infatuation?
“With infatuation, you’re perceiving more similarities than differences, and more pleasure than pain now or in the perceived future. This is quite delusional as there are always two sides experienced in a relationship. So in essence, it’s a blindness that is super conscious of the upsides and unconscious of the negatives.”
“Whenever you have a polarised perspective you are experiencing infatuation. People confuse it with love because of the dopamine and serotonin high but they are not aware of their bias. Whereas love isn’t blind… but infatuation is.”
How can you tell if you are infatuated?
“If I was to ask you to write a list of positives when you first meet them and then I said ‘write all the drawbacks’ and you were to say ‘ohhh there aren’t any’ then this is delusional, it can’t be all positive with no negative.”
“It also shows up in the sense you may see each other as having more similarities than differences—such as same eyes, same hair colour etc to reinforce the idea that you are destined to be soulmates or it may show up because you minimise yourself to ‘fit in’ or please them.
Why do we so easily fall into infatuation?
“It’s our animal nature, we’re always looking for a mate and as animals deal with senses, we tend to start with eyesight—we zoom in on a search image that supports our values and determine via an attractive or repulsive lens, for example ‘I could make love with them or I would have to pay someone to make love with them.’
“This view is often a result of our past and skews our perception towards the person where we tend to place a certain bias towards them and create a fantasy… because ultimately we have a desire to procreate.”
“It also occurs when we kiss them, we get a dopamine fix that lasts for 45 minutes afterwards… our body then adapts and we go to extremes to get that fix again.”
What are the dangers of being infatuated?
“Well when you go on a date, you make love and you’re all goggle-eyed, you’ve got the serotonin rush and think you’ve instantly found your soulmate, so you’re predisposed to not see the downsides.”
“As a result of this, as you only see all the positives and live in a fantasy, when that fantasy bubble is burst, you get smacked with reality and it really hurts. You are heartbroken—but because the fantasy is broken and your bias did not allow you to see both sides of them. This can then lead to resentment, as often they want to hold onto them, but not because of them but because they are attached to a past relationship. ”
Are we all destined to fall into the infatuation trap do you think?
“We all experience it at times, as dopamine can be activated easily, but our intuition is also always there trying to bring you into balance, so by tapping into it and asking the questions it’s trying to reveal you can gain perspective quickly.”
“For example, I had an experience once where I became vulnerable and infatuated when a girl who had asked to get advice from me arrived at the airport to meet me and looked like all Victoria’s Secret models rolled into one. I met her and was so enamoured it caught me off guard, but I had only eight minutes before I had to get up and guest speak so I sat and wrote 17 things that were drawbacks about her, and then I was fine, present, able to focus on speaking.”
“The key part being, I caught the hooks and was able to quickly unhook myself within eight minutes, just by looking at her drawbacks.”
What separates true love then from infatuation and how can we decipher real love when it comes?
“People often confuse love and infatuation as the same thing but you need both feelings and thoughts, rational mind and emotional mind in order to have a stable mate.”
“In theory, we have seven criteria we want to fulfil in a desired partner—we want them to be good looking, healthy, intelligent and ambitious, with resources, to have them get along with friends, be inspired or driven by something and who can relate to loved ones, so before you jump in, do an evaluation of if they fit within all seven areas.”
“A perfect example of this and true love was when I was staying at the Ritz in Paris in 1993 across the restaurant from two couples. One couple were completely infatuated with each other, sitting goggle-eyed the whole time. The other couple (the Prince and Princess of Japan), were on their honeymoon spending their free time going over questions and documents to get to know each other better and understand their relationship. The first couple survived less than three weeks, the prince and princess are still married.”