Well Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! In honour of Valentine’s day I am going to write today on a subject that is very closely related to Valentine’s Day, sending Valentine’s Day cards, feeling passionate about someone else…
This is a subject that I have been thinking about for a very, very long time. I know that I have made references to the issue here on this blog before. I don’t know whether this is “the kind of thing” that should be obvious, that everyone should just know. Sometimes listening to people, I get the impression that they use “infatuation” to refer to all their romantic interactions which did not end up in marriage, as in “That was just infatuation!” This following has been my issue. Looking back over times when I myself had crazy feelings for people, it is quite clear that these instances represented infatuation. However, I have always asked myself: “So what would be the difference between this and love? When “proper” love comes, how would I be able to know that that is real and trustworthy, as opposed to this fake thing?” And then another thing is that in my mind I’ve stubbornly been determined to make sure that I have proper bad crazy feelings for my husband – ie, to cultivate in the real thing the aspect of infatuation which most reliably proves infatuation. I say “stubbornly” because I often get the impression from “sensible” Christians that crazy deep feelings are often secondary, if not absent altogether in “sensible” Christian marriage. To which my answer is predictably me. “Say what you like! In my marriage, my husband and I are going to be crazy about one another. Hello?!”
And then a further thing about infatuation is that the feelings themselves are SO real! It is just what they are founded on that is not reliable. That is what I have finally grasped after all this time. And then as I say, I sometimes wonder whether everyone already knows this, but then on reflecting I consider that many people actually do go ahead to get married based on infatuation, or on an unreliably optimistic view of their future spouse.
So anyway this is what I believe I now understand.
In infatuation, the feelings might be real, in that you genuinely, strongly feel them. However, they are not necessarily based on any real interaction between the two of you. They are not even necessarily based on real knowledge of the person who is the object of your feelings. Whereas in love which can be considered as real, that is different. I believe that this is why people often talk about “falling in love with an illusion”. In your mind, even though you don’t actually know that person that well, or you don’t even know them at all (think pop stars, movie stars etc), still you spend time imagining how your lives are going to combine together in an amazing romantic fantasy. However true love is based on someone that you genuinely do know, and it is based on real interaction between the two of you. In infatuation (I keep accidentally mistyping it as infactuation!) the fact that you don’t really know them is key, as it is easy to project these dreams onto someone when you are not aware that their true character is totally different. However, as you start to know them better, the dreams slowly evaporate as you realise that they will never fulfil your dreams as you wish. If you are fortunate enough to realise this about them before you go ahead and marry them, then you can at least breathe a sigh of relief. If however you have already signed your life away, then you have the joyful prospect of getting to know their real character, and not being able to simply walk away, or do anything about it easily, other than pray and pray and pray. In that case you have to learn to live with the person you have married, rather than the person you have dreamt of. I don’t know whether this is a Nigerian saying only, or whether it is just repeated a lot by Nigerians: “Love is blind…but marriage is the eye-opener!”
I believe that in infatuation the feelings can feel so all-consuming because they are often based on a need or an insecurity that you are unconsciously aware of, that you unconsciously feel that this other person can resolve. The more desperate this unconscious need or insecurity is, then the more desperate your desire for this person who you unconsciously feel can resolve it. I believe that this is often the root of unrequited love, when someone says to himself: “If only I could marry Tosin, then I know that all my problems would be over!” Of course they wouldn’t, because Tosin will invariably turn out to be very different from what you have imagined, and she will come with her own issues!
Even though we often think of infatuation romantically, we often observe the same thing between friends. That is, have you ever had a friend and you thought that they were amazing?! You may have gone around saying “X is so cool! They are so amazing, they are like this, they are like that….!” And then you actually get to know them a little better… and the shine wears off. I also believe that it is possible to subconsciously or even deliberately pander to infatuation within a relationship or dating scenario. That is, you pretend to be more caring, you listen more attentively to the other person, and then they think “He is so caring!” Or “She is so attentive!” and you mutually feed your respective infatuated dreams.
So that then is infatuation. This is how I believe “true love” is different. Firstly, it is based on someone you know. This is why I believe it is so important to make sure that you know someone, really really know them, before you start considering them romantically. In this case then you will truly know that they are caring, or that they are attentive. Then it is based on real interaction between the two of you. It is not just someone that you have seen from afar, that you dream of. It is not based on your impression of what life would be like, but on what the interaction between the two of you actually is like. Three aspects that I was thinking about regarding this are the character that the two of you demonstrate to one another, the communication that you share with one another, and the commitment that you have to one another. So then if I wanted to ask myself whether my love was real, or whether it was viable to take it further, I might ask myself: How long have we really known one another? Is it at least two years? Is it up to five years – or is it two months? What genuinely exists between the two of us? What character do we demonstrate to one another? Is it consistently full of integrity, honesty, grace and patience, or is it more about bragging, showing off or emphasising physical attractiveness? What commitment do we have to one another – and to God? Do we genuinely get on? Do we like one another? Do we have lots of things to talk about, or do we mostly just tolerate one another? Would I gladly choose him as a best friend? How committed are we both to God?
And then about communication: Is there the trust between us to talk with candour and frankness and vulnerability? Can we correct one another and disagree graciously? Or in our communication do we mostly talk about superficial things, or laugh flirtatiously between ourselves?
If then you were to smile about this kind of friendship, it would not be about imagining what Mr Dream Guy would say to you, but it would rather be about remembering what Mr Real and Present, Mr Right Here, did say to you. It would be about remembering how you were able to resolve a disagreement. And then I also think that the more you work on these aspects of character, commitment and communication, the stronger your love can be. And then I’m also thinking that it must be possible to be totally crazy about this kind of love too, about having something so true and deep. However the difference with this kind of love is that, while it will still require lots of hard work, because it is based on reality, it would not just evaporate and disappear after marriage (at least not as quickly – joke!)
24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
Photo of roses by Glady on Pixabay