Do I Have A Crush Or Is It Real Love?

By: Joanna Smykowski

Updated February 14, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn


Ever wonder, "Do I have a crush or is it, real love?" There are some who claim that EVERY time we are infatuated, we are experiencing some form of love. Is it attraction or is it "real love" and what is a real love for that matter? Is it real love when two people stay together for a long time…but then divorce 20 or 30 years later? This kind of phenomenon can leave some with difficulty defining what real love is and figuring out how to measure it.

Is it love when a couple of teenagers hook up but then over time realize that they have feelings for one another. Maybe they even get married and have children. What started off as a "crush" can lead to being together for 50 years!

These kinds of phenomena can leave some with difficulty defining what real love is and figuring out how to measure it. Some may even be left with unrealistic expectations of what a relationship should be and feel like or how to define all the emotions felt in a new relationship. Deciding how to move forward in a romantic relationship is a big decision and deciding to too soon about the feelings involved in a relationship can have detrimental consequences.

Do I Have a Crush or Not?

The simple answer is that no one can define for you if it's real love or infatuation unless they first understand:

  • How this relationship makes you feel
  • How the other person feels
  • How likely that the two of you can sustain this relationship in the long run

Because infatuation is often characterized as romantic feelings that are somehow negative. If you're infatuated or crushing on someone you're mainly interested in a physical relationship with them. You may even realize that you have nothing in common besides a one-sided attraction. Infatuation general has less to do with the actual person we are crushing on and more to with idealizing version of a personalized fantasy. You will likely find that during infatuation you are seeking attention and contact with your crush in order to meet unmet emotional needs. Talking to a therapist can help to build self-awareness so that you can more readily recognize your own emotional needs so that you are able to meet them in healthy ways.

Once you meet the other person you may even see that they're not the person you thought they were. We tend to idealize people according to what we want and what we crave in our own lives. It's safe to say then that most people who "crush", regardless of age, are projecting to some extent. Sometimes we may find ourselves "in love" with an idea rather than the reality of who a person is. Before we really get to know someone, we can fall for who we want someone to be or an image of them instead of who they actually are. Getting caught up in that image in infatuation can keep us from really getting to know who the person actually is. When we have a crush on someone we are more focused on what this person or relationship will do for us with less emphasis on a more balanced give and take. Someone who is infatuated with another person sees an image of a person rather than the totality of all that they are, a person with strengths and weaknesses.

Love, on the other hand, is characterized by a deep caring about another person, an unselfish type of love. You support the other person, you work together to solve problems, and you stand by this person in good times or bad. When love is involved you see both the positive qualities you partner may have but also their weakness. You don't see a one-sided image of them, but all of who they are. Love is not only a feeling but a behavior. True love requires patience and sacrifice. Even in the happiest and healthiest relationships, the exciting and exhilarating feelings that accompany a crush are not always present. What remains present, however, is the commitment, care, and dedication in the relationship.


If you're slightly confused, rest assured it's far less complicated than it seems.

The truth is that sometimes love starts as infatuation. But when you spend time with that person, your love can grow over time. You start to realize that sexual urges aside, you still feel drawn to them, supportive of them and want to be their lifetime partner. You get to know who they really are and decide that their best qualities outweigh any flaws they may have. Most relationships will start off with crush-like feelings while you are getting to know someone. There is nothing is nothing wrong with having a crush on someone as long you are able to recognize differences between a crush and real love.

If love "lasts" then it's a form of real love. Just because love ends doesn't mean it never loved to begin with. If the "love" you feel fades quickly and you find yourself crushing on someone else, it's likely infatuation.

Interestingly, there was an article in a UK magazine discussing why human beings develop crushes in the first place and some of the theories are fascinating.

For example, Dr. Blumberg was quoted as saying that our limbic brain constantly craves dopamine, and since sex involves a dopamine rush, part of us wants sex with anyone we see who's vaguely attractive. The cortex part of the brain, on the other hand, gives us a filter for our own survival.

Sometimes the person we develop a crush on is also chosen for a specific and evolutionary reason. Namely, survival. We are attracted to people who, in theory, could provide resources valuable to our descendants. So not surprisingly, women develop crushes on rich men, older men, famous men, and men develop crushes on women who are kind, more sociable, and that sort of thing. Crushes however that is built on sexual attraction aren't always sustainable when it comes to building a lasting loving relationship. It is important that we are able to build and sense of self-awareness and ability to separate sexual desires and attractiveness from the characteristic of true love.


In the process of having a crush and falling in love can bring up intense emotions. Those emotions can sometimes cloud our judgment and can make it difficult at times to decide what their best decisions for us should be. Having the unbiased perspective of an outside party like a therapist can help you to better navigate what you are feeling and how to characterize it. If you are interested in having the support of a licensed counselor, you can always give us a ring at Betterhelp and talk to a counselor about your love life and future. Betterhelp can help you with a wide variety of licensed mental health professionals that can help you sort out your experiences so that you can get what you want out of the relationships in your life. Figuring out new relationships can be both exciting and confusing, but rest assured that through reflection trying to navigate a crush becomes clearer over time.

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