"How many times have you been in love?"
As a Relationships and Dating Expert, I get asked this question a lot. People want to know what happened before the Sex & London City girl status evolved. Who was my first boyfriend? What was I like when I was in love? It is a fair question but I never feel I am able to answer it, because, if I was ever in REAL love, then surely I'd still be with him? And also, if I am honest with myself, most of my long term relationships where I thought I was in love were actually, in hindsight, probably more just intense infatuation.
Love is genuinely undefinable; it is a chemical reaction in our mind and body that seems to draw us to another human in ways we'd never felt were possible prior to meeting them. Likened to a physical addiction, love can keep you hooked on that person for years, evolving your entire thought process and lifestyle around them. It is truly beautiful. But, it is very different to infatuation, and yet to describe the latter I'd highlight the very same traits. Infatuation also keeps you drawn to another, allowing them to fill your every thought and time. I'm struggling to put into words the initial difference between the two, which is why we so often find ourselves falling in love...and yet...it is actually love's bitter sister, infatuation.
Lust holds a more physical presence than infatuation and is centred more upon the sexual act rather than personality attributes, but that doesn't mean it is any less intense and it does hold as much power in a union than the other two. If you combine lust with infatuation you have yourself right there a powerful concoction that can be perceived as true love. A connection is of course the deeper fulfilment between two people, in which many believe they have found in their partners or 'soul mates'. A connection with someone can be something instant, aka 'love at first sight' and yet here we go again...throwing in the L bomb when it may not be actual love. Fuck, this is tricky isn't it? Are you keeping up so far? Because I'm getting more philosophical by the minute. Let's delve in.
True love, it has been said, is the connection of two people on every plane possible; within the physical act and a connection of the souls. Some feel true love is based first on an amazing friendship in which interests and lifestyles of the two run in similar veins, allowing the couple to connect on mutual ground. But then, we have the age old idea that 'opposites attract' and your chemistry is formed not from what you have in common, but from what you lack and seek in another. Whilst perhaps your intelligence is sky high, your common sense is poor and you're attracted to those who can find their way from Surrey to Wales with just a road map and a smile (seriously, how do you do it?). As a couple, you fill each other's empty space, forming a whole together. Perhaps both of these scenarios are the essence of true love, and the two different paths lead to the same destination.
But, the issue with finding true love and a real connection, is that infatuation and lust trip you up along the way. You can be completely bowled over by someone and allow them to penetrate your life in every possible way (pun intended), but after a messy break up you look back and realise the union had an unhealthy cancerous obsession from the get go. Whilst passion and intensity are great components for a relationship...those couples that fight and row constantly often have confused their joint infatuation with real love. I should know, I have absolutely been there, on more than one occasion. But if you both believe it is true love...then...is it love on that very basis? For instance, if I saw an animal and declared it is a unicorn, and my friend agrees with me...and no-one else on the planet ever sees this animal again, then is it a unicorn? What is it wasn't, would it matter? We've both stated it is a unicorn, and so, therefore, it must be a unicorn. It is a theory similar to the Cosmological Argument for the existence of God, but I've twisted it slightly so it is applicable here.
If the unicorn is a unicorn to those who saw it, would it ever matter if it wasn't? So, if those two believe they both have true love, then is it genuine true love off that very basis?
I thought I was in love, real "genuine heart-warming union of two souls" love, on more than one occasion. I did things I never thought possible for another human being, and I changed my thought pattern to be able to co-exist with them. And then after the inevitable break up I reflect back and realise that, love was never there at all. Especially if I have found someone new – every time I leave one relationship for another, I can't get my head around the fact that I thought I was once in love with the ex. God no, yuk. THIS is true love, right here. Then fast forward a year, that relationship ends and I move on again and then think no way was I previously in actual love...you get the jist. It has lead me to ponder:
When is Love just Lust, and when is a Connection just an Infatuation?
In an effort to not leave you hanging with some abstract question that will bug you for days, I'm going to try use my extensive language to define the differences. I assure you my educational background is nowhere near enough to be able to fully convey this into words. I'll give it a damn good go though.
Lust dwells in the physical realm, when you are semi if not fully obsessed with being close to another person. If you can't take your mind off the idea of touching their skin, or having sex with them, or just being in their presence...this is usually lust. Lust is instant and generally pushes two together in the early stages of a tryst. Whilst you're captivated by their physical qualities, lust can leak into an appreciation of attributes too. But in general, it is sex based. You want that person with you constantly, to be able to hold them and run your hands over their body... but yet... after your needs are 'fulfilled' boredom can set in, especially the longer the two of you go on. Lust can only hold the bond for so long, until the physical connection starts to become the norm and what is left after lust leaves, is not much else. I hate to say it, but most men are driven with their penis when meeting women...and their penis is driven by lust. Yes, he says the most amazing things to you and you give yourself up because you think it is a genuine CONNECTION...then after you've opened your legs, he loses interest. Welcome, in plain speak, to lust. Works the same for ladies too of course. Whilst you may feel you quickly fell out of love with someone...it is more likely that love never made an appearance and it was simply bored ol' lust walking out the door instead.
A trickster in the relationship field...I imagine infatuation to be the joker of the pack. Usually coming hand in hand with lust, infatuation will smear your eyes and envelop your heart, forcing you to believe you are in love. Infatuation, in my experience, is when you're so into another person that they become your all-consuming driving force. Being very stereotypical here, infatuation usually happens when it is opposites attracted rather than similar, and usually one is the dominant force that allows the other to become infatuated. You're in awe of everything that they are because it is everything you're not. You wake up every day thinking of them, and go to sleep in the same fashion (yes, I know, this is love too. Hence the constant confusion!).
You allow your own morals and beliefs to be twisted and amended to suit theirs, and find yourself doing literally anything to keep that person in your life. Often, the more horrible and distant they are to you...the more intense infatuation comes. Scared of life without them and panicked that someone else may get your 'soul mate', infatuation will always end up with heated arguments, jealousy, paranoia and pain. Lots and lots of pain. The honeymoon period for infatuation, unfortunately, has no shelf life and can last for years. Believe it or not, many divorce cases are because it was infatuation and a hint of lust all along...love never showed up. You can try work out if it is infatuation not love, by evaluating: how often do you find yourself thinking of them? Do you row a lot? Are you scared you'll lose them? Do you feel so intense when you're together that you never want them to leave? Do you find that they can live without you fine, but not vice versa? Does it hurt when you don't hear anything from them? Do you believe it is the best sex you've ever had? Have you altered your life completely to ensure they stay? Have you neglected your friends or family? Stare at their photos a lot? Cyber stalk their every move? If possible, would you spend every waking hour in their presence? That my friend...is infatuation. Not love. Sorry to burst your rose coloured bubble.
Can be confused with infatuation but, genuine connections are much easier to define. Yes, you do want to be around that person all the time, but it is because they make your heart happy. You can talk for hours on the phone and time becomes a non-entity, you have no idea what you've even said to each other except that it was filled with laughter and smiling. Connections are two way, infatuation often weighted heavily on one side. Whilst you think about their next big deal at work or you're wondering how their audition was, they're thinking about your project at work or if you finished your canvas. It is both the small things and big things that matter.
Whilst infatuation leaves you scared of revealing everything in case something bothers the other – a connection leaves you being able to tell that person everything and anything, because you know they'll support or help you. A connection can be instant, and you can have one with similar or opposite interests. I've met guys before in which the connection was so strong and so instant that we were talking all night long pretty much. Absence of physicality allows you to pick out a true connection much easier. If you're able to want to be around each other or communicating and there isn't a constant reference to sex, then this sounds like a good decent connection.
Ahhh Love. True love. Fairytale love. Romeo and Juliet. Robin Hood and Maid M. If you thought the other 3 were difficult to define, this one is quite the pickle. Whilst Love can and will contain elements of all of the above, it is both the same and an entirely different quality. I cannot quantify love nor offer a check list to fill in, but I can try summarize the concept in the only tool I know how to utilise – the written word. Love is a physical and emotional fulfillment of both the body and the soul. Human beings, by natural instinct, spend their lives looking for that all consuming overpowering life changing love that reaches down into your very core and brings your entire being into life. Once you find true love, your life before it seems inadequate. You can't imagine 'being' without it.
The person you have fallen in love with is more than someone you are attracted to, it is a stronger connection than lust and it side steps infatuation: they are your best friend. They are your support, your rock...they are the one you to go with happy news or sad news, who you laugh with or cry to, they get you through angry spells and chill with you too. When it is true love, you'll never question where they are, or worry it may end. Anxiety that infatuation brings will disappear, and instead is replaced with a constant bubbling of calming and relaxed emotions that stay centered in your core and get you through every day with an inner smile. Love explores both emotional and physical connections and revels in the knowledge that it can be both at the same time. Sex becomes something much more than just an orgasm. True Love has no limits, no boundaries, no preference with gender or race, no concern with age or bothered about distance. The only negative aspect of true love is that sometimes you only realise it is true love, after you've lost it.