Can Infatuation Transform Into A Lasting Relationship?
Certain aspects of infatuation can be enticing, while other qualities can lead to the collapse of a relationship. Identifying the differences between mutuality and self-centered narcissism early on is essential before becoming too involved with a potential partner. Understanding these qualities can help you predict where infatuation might lead.
What is infatuation?
Infatuation can be defined as an intense but short-lived passion or admiration for a potential romantic partner. It often arises before you really get to know the other person.
The emotion can last for a few days, up to six months, or even as long as two years. No matter how long or how short the feeling exists, it typically stirs an intense yearning to be with the other person. You'll typically find them so attractive and appealing without really understanding why. This is because sound, sensible judgment can fall by the wayside while infatuated.
If you can't stop thinking about the other person, you're likely in an infatuated state. This feeling is often confused with "love at first sight" when in reality, it's lust.
As time goes by, these feelings—often of deep physicality or uncanny jealousy—become less intense and preoccupying. You may begin to question whether you're really in love and even question what love is. The energy you put into this attraction subsides.
Mutuality versus self-centered narcissism.
One key ingredient in infatuation is that it prevents mutuality from evolving between the two people. If someone in a relationship is not showing interest in the other person's needs, that's a sign of a self-centered narcissism, not mutual desire. In a sexual relationship, the infatuated person will show a preoccupation with their partner or perceive them as "perfect." Those feelings are typically not reciprocated.
In contrast, mutuality means you and your partner are empathetic toward each other, listening to each other's ideas, feelings, and attempting to understand each other's views. There is a wish to both please and be pleased, share interests, seek approval from each other, while also being considerate of your partner's need for independence and autonomy. Because of this mutual respect, jealousy is generally not part of the equation. If, however, it is stirred up, a couple with mutuality discusses these feelings and they are clarified with honesty and care.
How to identify signs of growing mutuality.
If what begins with infatuation shifts gradually to a mutually satisfying relationship, you may find you are either developing a lasting friendship or falling in love.
How do you know what to look for?
- You feel secure that you are both loved equally.
- The relationship continues to have high levels of support and decreased negative interactions such as jealousy or control by one partner.
- Trust between partners increases over time.
- A desire for a long-term commitment is shared.
- Interpersonal closeness continues to boost relationship satisfaction.
- Over time, the couple shares personal knowledge that they don't share with others such as dreams, desires, fears, goals, and perhaps, past traumas.
- Interdependence grows, meaning each partner influences the other in ways that are meaningful.
- There is increasing concern for each other's well-being. You offer comfort in times of distress, protect the other from harm, and communicate sensitively.
- There is a shift from a feeling of "me" to "we" without sacrificing individual needs for independent activities and friendships.
How to identify signs of self-centered narcissism.
If infatuation is prolonged, you may be caught up in the complexity of someone with a narcissistic personality disorder. How will you know?
There are many traits to look for, but you may find you don't have to look very far. The qualities of a narcissist become more and more persistent as time goes on.
You will slowly discover yourself becoming attached to a person who elevates you through his or her charm and success. But you will also begin to feel smaller, more codependent, and your self-esteem might be jeopardized.
Analyzing these stages of infatuation—early or prolonged—can help you decipher whether the relationship will last or be mutually satisfying. If you find that you're stuck in a relationship with a narcissist, here's some advice for ending it.
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Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., is a psychoanalyst with specialized clinical training in infant-parent, child, adolescent, and adult psychotherapy. She received specialized training in child and adolescent treatment at New York University and adult psychoanalysis at The Society for Psychoanalytic Study and Research.
Hollman is the author of the books Are You Living With A Narcissist? and Unlocking Parental Intelligence. She has also written several parenting guides as well as articles on mental illness for Long Island, NY health professionals and schools, discussing issues relevant to educators and mental health counselors, including ADHD, the gifted child, and depression or anxiety in children.