Do I Have A Crush Or Is It Real Love?
By: Joanna Smykowski
Updated November 20, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn
Have you ever wondered, "Do I just have a crush, or is it real love?" There are some who claim that every time we are infatuated with someone, we are experiencing some form of love. But is infatuation simple 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? 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!
The phenomenon of infatuation can leave some people uncertain about how to define real love and make it challenging to characterize what they’re feeling. Some may even be left with unrealistic expectations of what a relationship should be and feel like. Or, they may be unable to define all the emotions that come with a new relationship. Deciding how to move forward in a romantic relationship is a big decision, and deciding to proceed forward too soon can sometimes have detrimental consequences. This article will explore some ways to examine your feelings.
Do I Have A Crush Or Not?
The simple answer is that no one can define whether a relationship is if real love or infatuation without first considering these three questions:
How does this relationship make you feel?
How does the other person feel?
How likely is it that the two of you can sustain this relationship over the long term?
Infatuation is often characterized as romantic feelings that are not necessarily rooted in a desire for a long-term, deep connection. For example, if you're infatuated with or crushing on someone, it’s possible you're mainly interested in a physical relationship with them. You may realize that you have nothing in common, or that there is only a one-sided attraction. Infatuation generally has less to do with the actual person you are crushing on and more to do with fantasy and your ideal version of that person. You may find that when you develop feelings of 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 a possible partner in healthy ways.
When you get to know someone new, you may 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 develop crushes, regardless of their 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 or hope them to be, or an image of them instead of who they actually are. When we have a crush on someone, we are more focused on what the person or relationship will do for us and put less emphasis on the balanced give and take that makes for a strong relationship. Someone who is infatuated with another person sees an image of that person rather than the totality of all that they are, a person with strengths and weaknesses.
On the other hand, love 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 each other in good times or bad. When love is involved, you see the positive qualities your partner may possess and 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 commitment, care, and dedication needed to nurture the relationship.
The truth is, though, that sometimes love starts as infatuation but can grow into love. For instance, you may begin to realize separate from sexual urges, you still feel drawn to them, are 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. Remember too that there is nothing wrong with having a crush on someone or feeling infatuated. But, it is helpful to recognize the differences between a crush and real love so you can assess how you feel in a relationship.
There are also many kinds of love. If love "lasts," then it's a form of real love, but just because love ends doesn't mean it wasn’t love to begin with. If the loving emotions you feel at the start of a relationship fade quickly and you find yourself crushing on someone else, it was 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 is quoted as saying that our limbic brain constantly craves dopamine. 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 we develop a crush on someone for a specific and evolutionary reason—namely, survival. We are attracted to people who, in theory, could provide resources valuable to our descendants. So perhaps not surprisingly, women develop crushes on financially stable men, older men, and successful men, and men develop crushes on women who are kind, more sociable, and that sort of thing. Crushes, however, 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 create a sense of self-awareness and possess the ability to separate sexual desires and attractiveness from the characteristic of true love.
The process of developing a crush and falling in love can bring up intense emotions. Those emotions can often feel exciting and positive, but sometimes they may cloud our judgment and make it difficult to decide what decisions we should make that will be best for our wellbeing. In times like these, talking with close friends or relatives can be helpful to navigate challenging waters, but having the unbiased perspective of an outside party is also something to consider. A therapist, for example, can help you take a step back from the intensity of your feelings to evaluate the situation and help you define your emotions. You may consider speaking with a counselor alone or with your partner.
Research shows that online counseling can be just as effective as traditional face-to-face therapy, and when it comes to couples, one study found that video-based counseling allowed many couples to feel a greater sense of control and comfort through the use of technology. Participants went on to say that connecting with their therapist via video allowed them to focus more intently on the therapeutic process, and the environment allowed them to share their feelings in a way that left them feeling less judged.
If you are interested in having the support of a therapist, consider working with a BetterHelp counselor. The therapists on BetterHelp help people just like you work through relationship issues and can help develop personalized strategies to boost self-esteem and improve self-awareness you can apply to your love life. You can find comfort knowing that every BetterHelp provider is fully licensed, in good standing, and has gone through an intensive review process by another licensed clinician. This information is readily available, so you can complete your own due diligence on your counselor. Read these reviews of BetterHelp therapists:
“Charlie is the greatest therapist I’ve ever had. He is unbelievably knowledgeable, incredibly hands on, and fantastically caring. He has changed my life in every way imaginable. From my business (150+ employees in 15+ countries) to my love life, he has made every aspect better. Charlie will be a part of my weekly agenda every day until he retires.”
“Karen has been helping me so much to get through this really rough time in my life. I am just thankful that I can reach out to her anytime and learn and just be open to everything I feel and she will just validate that my feelings make sense and they matter. She always encourage me and tells me that I am doing well with managing my emotions and my decisions in my life. I am just glad that I signed up for Better Help and got matched with Karen’s counseling and expertise.”
Figuring out new relationships can be both exciting and confusing, but rest assured that through reflection, navigating a crush can become easier over time. BetterHelp can help you sort out your experiences so that you can get what you want out of the relationships in your life.
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