Give Up Infatuation for Real Love

March 1, 2020

Give Up Infatuation for Real Love | Best Life Book Club by Happy As Annie discusses The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

When our car’s gas tank is empty, we don’t throw our hands up in the air and say, “Well, it was fun while it lasted. Time to get a new ride!”

We fill the gas tank.

That’s what I pictured in my head as I started Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages this week. He says that just as a car can’t run on an empty gas tank, our relationships can’t run on empty love tanks. And when our love tank seems empty, we shouldn’t throw our hands up in the air and say, “Well, it was fun while it lasted. Time to get a new person!”

We fill the love tank.

What are your initial thoughts on our March book club pick, especially Chapman’s distinction between infatuation and love?

Hollywood has really done a number on me!

I don’t know about you, but Hollywood’s hot and heavy, overly sentimental love stories have really done a number on me. These idealized romantic tropes make me think that if I don’t melt into my husband’s arms at a single, grazing touch of my shoulder, then it’s not true love.

Never mind that I’m standing over the sink splattering soapy water everywhere because this risotto pot is just too damn big to wash in this tiny apartment-sized sink.

Or never mind that it’s midnight and I’m still elbows deep in English 101 papers by students who can’t seem to agree on whether the book we’ve been studying for the past four weeks is by someone named Marcus Gladwell or Malcolm Goodwell. (Hint: It’s neither.)

In either case, it’s supposed to be “Take me now, honey! I don’t care if the dog’s watching!”

After four years of marriage, six years of dog ownership, seven years of co-habitation,  and twelve years of togetherness in all, color me disillusioned.

Frankly, I don’t know how any of us survived The Notebook!

Have you internalized these unrealistic standards?

Don’t get me wrong. I intellectually know that Hollywood is make-believe and exaggerates to sell tickets and feed our escapist needs. And I consciously know that it’s about as helpful to hold my marriage up to Jack and Rose or Satine and Christian as it is to compare my beach body to J Lo’s. Even if she is twenty years older than me.

But, as lengthy introspection and talks with my therapist have revealed, as smart as I am, I’m not immune to the bombarding and brainwashing of media, which idolizes infatuation over love.

Every time I snap at my husband or give him a death stare that says don’t you dare touch me at a time like this, a tiny part of me wonders, “Rachel McAdams would never react to Ryan Gosling this way. Does this mean this isn’t true love?”

We need to stop worshiping infatuation and start valuing “real love.”

In Chapters 1-3 of The 5 Love Languages, Chapman gives us a refreshing reality check about infatuation and real love.

He explains that a “romantic obsession” lasts about two years. Around that point, the “honeymoon phase” is over. Unfortunately, too many of us take that as a sign that the spark is gone and that we screwed up.

Instead of either jumping ship or resigning ourselves to a loveless marriage, Chapman presents a third alternative. In his words, “We can recognize the in-love experience for what it was – a temporary emotional high–and now pursue ‘real love’ with our spouse.”

“Real love,” while not always as sexy and racy and spontaneous as infatuation, is more genuine and more valuable. It is the type of love all humans require from childhood on.

When our love tanks are full of this sincere, deliberate love, we experience magic a cheesy Hollywood rom-com can’t touch!

Do you agree?

Any time I encounter an Internet conversation about this, half the commenters agree with Chapman and commiserate that marriage and commitment are way more work than we expect. The other half insist that their marriage does feel like a sexy magical fairy tale and that if we settle for anything less, we are kidding ourselves or selling ourselves short.

Where do you stand? Let me know in the comments below!


  • Reply Catie March 2, 2020 at 2:28 am

    I have been in two serious long-term relationships (one of these with my current and forever husband) and I would say that the honeymoon phase ending around the two year mark has been accurate for both of my relationships. Hollywood does do a number on our feelings. I’m not one to delve heavily into the Hollywood scene, but I do know after I’ve watched an ooey gooey movie, it makes me feel more loving towards my spouse because I do romanticize the kind of behaviors I saw from the actors/actresses. Love can be hard work. There are days that go smooth and days that I wonder how we’ve lasted this long. I like to see it as a REAL life adventure, one that is never-ending full of ups and downs, but an adventure that I wouldn’t ever want to end. My husband gets plenty frustrated with me at times too, but the cool thing is that we are both in the same frame of mind when it comes to this adventure. I used to have a friend who struggled hugely in relationships because when the honeymoon phase would end, she would think something was wrong and end the relationship. She has done this over and over again for years on end. She is someone who you think would be an awesome catch and who wouldn’t have any trouble settling down with someone. And although she desperately wants to be that person, she can’t get over so many insecurities about herself and each relationship that I feel that they are doomed from the get go due to her expectations. Marriage is a commitment for the long haul and without the bad along with the good, there’s no personal as well as together growth.

    • Reply Annie A. March 5, 2020 at 11:46 pm

      Catie, that’s so funny that you say mushy movies make you feel more lovey-dovey. They have the opposite effect on me!

      And yes, I totally feel for your friend. I never met a fresh start I didn’t like, so I can imagine how tempting it would be for someone to just call it quits and start over with a new relationship when the current one starts to get rough. There’s a certain excitement that comes with “THIS time it will be different” and “THIS time I’ll do everything right.” But our issues and insecurities will follow us straight into that new relationship so we might as well deal with them in this one!

      Of course, I definitely don’t mean to say that splitting up is never the right option (because I think it absolutely can be depending on the couple and the circumstances), but I guess we need to bring our expectations down to reality and embrace the imperfections and opportunities for growth that come with a marriage. The “together growth,” like you said, is part of the beauty of it all.

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