The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances; if there is any reaction, both are transformed.Carl jung
Quite possibly one of my top 100 quotes of all time, Carl Jung’s poetic depiction of infatuation is drenched in truth and exploding with memories.
‘That euphoria. That torment. Those sleepless nights and restless days. Awash in ecstasy or apprehension, you daydream during class or business, forget your coat, drive past your turn, sit by the phone, or plan what you will say – obsessed, longing for the next encounter with him or her.
Then, when you meet again, his slightest gesture stops your pulse. Her laugh dizzies you. You take foolish risks, say stupid things, laugh too hard, reveal dark secrets, talk all night, walk at dawn, and often hug and kiss – oblivious to all the world as you tumble through a fever, breathless, etherised by bliss”.
Infatuation is by far the most fun and exciting part of lust, love and romance and the first thing I ever learned about it was when I was sixteen years old.
I’d just arrived home from school and there was a large brown paper envelope waiting for me in the porch. There was no stamp and no address on the front; it had been hand-delivered and my name was written beautifully in large cursive writing across the front.
A smile took over my face and my eyebrows raised a little with intrigue as I picked up the envelope, threw off my shoes and ran upstairs to my bedroom to find out what it was and who it was from.
I sat down on the bed and held it in my hands inspecting the swirly writing. It wasn’t from my boyfriend – he never wrote that neatly.
I caressed the edges of the envelope and frowned with puzzlement wondering what on earth it was. It wasn’t a letter, it was something stiff – something even stronger than card, but it was bent a little too.
I turned the envelope around and opened it up slowly, reached my left hand inside and pulled out a canvas. And on that canvas was an oil painting of two silhouettes – a boy and a girl, kissing in front of a setting sun.
It took a few more years and a few more love letters in the post for me to realise that that’s what infatuation looked like. But now I get it.
It’s that hope, that lust, that stomach-churning torment of desire for another.
In the book I’m reading this week, Why Him? Why Her?, Fisher describers infatuation as a kind of intrusive thinking, whereby a ‘love object’ creeps inside your head and takes over your thoughts.
It’s something that psychologist Dorothy Tennov looked into in the mid-1960’s by interviewing around four hundred men and women at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.
The results identified a constellation of characteristics common to the condition of being infatuated with someone while noting that as time went on this ‘invasive thinking’ grew in intensity.
While some informants said that their love object took over their thoughts only say 5% at the start, many admitted that as time went on and their obsession grew, they found themselves in an infatuated trace, spending 85-100% of their time doting on their beloved.
“A certain thing he said rings in your ear; you see her smile, recall a comment, a special moment, an innuendo – and relish it. You wonder what your love would think of the book you are reading, the movie you just saw, or the problem you are facing at the office.”
They’re the first person we think of when we wake up and the last person we think about before we go to sleep. We dream about them when our eyes are open and we pine for them when they’re not around.
They become our addiction – our everything – the one thing we cannot live without.
According to Fisher and the various scientific, anthropological and psychological studies she had investigated to get under the skin of infatuation, there are so many components that create the chemical reaction described by Jung.
There’s usually physical attraction and of course, the person has to tick a few boxes in terms of suitability – we tend to be drawn towards people like ourselves. We like people of the same intelligence and wit and people with a similar view on the world.
But infatuation is much more than that.
We have to find ourselves in a situation where everything is almost exactly as we’d like it to be. It’s as though we enjoy the torment of feeling their breath on our face and longing for their lips.
We crave them. We crave their approval. And we don’t quite know whether or not we’ll ever have it.
For infatuation to exist there has to be an element of hope and despair.
We like to be tossed around in a world of uncertainty, clinging on to the fragments of ‘what could be’ and falling down with the fear it never will, only to pull ourselves back up again and continue on with our quest for love.
We like mystery too.
Routine is boring and familiarity can dampen the spark of lust; very seldom do we feel captivated by somebody we spend all of our time with. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
And although according to Tennov, infatuation tends to last no more than eighteen months to three years, I’ve always been a big believer in being able to create a relationship whereby you prolong the feelings of infatuation, or the honeymoon period, by emulating those scenarios.
It only works if you both make a conscious effort to flirt like you’ve just met and kiss like it’s the first time. Accept that distance and independence are good things; it’s better to pine for somebody than get bored of them.
And know that routine kills romance while spontaneity can spruce it up.