“Strange that some of us, with quick alternate vision, see beyond our infatuations, and even while we rave on the heights, behold the wide plain where our persistent self pauses and awaits us.” George Elliot
“Oh I just really like him. He’s so cute. Just seeing him makes me get goosebumps.” These words, overheard from two young ladies walking down the street one bright summer afternoon, caused me to reflect on my own youthful experiences, being infatuated with someone. Unfortunately, quite often, people, young and old mistake infatuation for love. For sincere servants of Krsna, it is important to understand the difference.
What is infatuation? The dictionary describes infatuation as a great, often temporary and irrational passion or longing for someone or something. The key words here are temporary and irrational. If you’ve ever heard someone say they had a “crush” on a particular person, they were talking about infatuation. Irrationality and temporariness distinguish infatuation from genuine love. As one anonymous observer put it, “The essence of love begins when infatuation ends.”
Infatuation puts a sense of urgency in the atmosphere; it seems to happen all at once. It is an uncertain time and frequently brings jealousies and insecurities. It can be an emotional roller coaster; one day you’re on top of the world because the object of your affections smiled at you; the next day you’re in the dumps because they didn’t call. Like a shadow of real love, infatuation is generally based on superficial, external things—appearance, sound of voice, the way someone walks, etc.
Infatuation isn’t always bad. Infatuation is sometimes nature’s way of getting people together. It gets people attracted to one another and adds a little spice to relationships. For some, infatuation is the first stage of the journey to love. Wise people who have studied relationships have concluded that all relationships generally follow the same basic process:
- The Wow! stage which can last from 1 hour to 2 years. In this stage, the relationship is exciting and frequently distracting. This is where infatuation is prominent. The skill for healthy relationships is to enjoy this stage – but be realistic. Know that you may well be looking out of rose tinted glasses.
- The next stage is Discovery, you notice differences and disagree but usually don’t say anything because you don’t want to hurt or disappoint the other person. You’re getting to really know the other person. Excitement and anxiety are prominent. The important skill for this stage is the ability to communicate and be truthful.
- The third broad category in the relationship process is deciding if you will proceed to have a stronger bond, be a couple or go your separate ways. Sometimes labeled the Me or We stage, the skills you need to negotiate this stage are reflective listening and respectful speaking along with the ability to resolve conflict in win-win ways. Your feelings may fluctuate from hope to confusion to anxiety to a genuine caring about the other.
- For couples who decide to separate, the relationship of course ends. For those who choose to go further, the next stage is commitment where you get engaged and then married. You choose to be with the other person based on mutual respect and appreciation, open and honest communication and shared spiritual goals or values.
But infatuation can be dangerous. It may have you “throw caution to the wind” and do and say things you ought not do or say. It may color your expectations about what a real relationship should be. During the infatuation period, the attraction to the other person is so strong, your good judgment may take a backseat to irrationality.
It is helpful if you subscribe to principles of behavior that will protect you. Like Sitarani was advised not to step outside of the circle of protection that Laksmana created for her. As long as she remained in the circle of divine protection, she could not be touched by the demon Ravana. So commitments like chanting Hare Krsna everyday, not being alone in a solitary place with the opposite sex and observing time boundaries for interaction are powerful principles that will protect us. This is also where good association comes in. You seek the advice of elders, seasoned devotees and parents who can help you separate the glitter from the gold.
Real love grows slowly and enriches the lives of lover and beloved. It’s based on trust, respect, truthfulness, appreciation, kindness, and compassion. There can actually be no real love where there is no connection and acknowledgement of Krsna as the source of all love. In Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krsna declares that “those who are seers of the truth have declared that of the non-existent there is no endurance and of the existent, there is no cessation. This seers have declared by studying the nature of both.” Infatuation due to its flickering and temporary nature cannot be trusted, but if one allows the energy of infatuation to propel one to spiritual depth and connectivity, then it can grow into lasting love. Then it’s real.
Reproduced with permission from vaisnavafamilyresources.org.