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Navigating the Heart: From Crush to Love

Feb 13, 2024

Love, the intricate dance of emotions that weaves through the fabric of our lives, often begins with a crush—a fluttering excitement akin to a Disney fairytale or the allure of a Hollywood heartthrob. But, really, what is the difference between a crush and love, and what does the psychological journey from infatuation to profound connection really look like?

Crushes and love

"When I think of a crush, I think Disney. It's light-hearted, fun, and intense. Crush equals desire," said Inspira Health behavioral health therapist Christopher Huff, L.C.S.W. In contrast, Huff describes love as a documentary—a nonfiction, deep connection that builds over time. “It involves seeing the person as a whole, beyond the physical, and embracing nuance, patience and commitment.”

The journey from physical desire to romance

Common signs of a crush include stereotypical feelings depicted in music, literature or movies—quick heartbeats, butterflies and an intense rush. The physical attraction dominates, creating a whirlwind of emotions that can be both thrilling and fleeting.

As emotions evolve, the transition from crush to love moves from physical desire to romance. From Huff’s perspective, love, in the psychological sense, is marked by an understanding and mutual appreciation, fostering a sense of security where individuals can coexist comfortably without the constant need for physical closeness.

Attachment styles: A crucial role in emotional development

Attachment styles shape how individuals form emotional bonds. Secure attachment reflects a deep sense of self, comfort with intimacy and trust. Anxious attachment manifests as fear of abandonment and seeking reassurance. Avoidant attachment entails discomfort with closeness, emphasizing independence. These styles influence relationship dynamics and emotional well-being.

“A common theme for people with insecure attachment styles—anxious and avoidant—is that they often fall into a pitfall of thinking Prince Charming is out there,” Huff said. “That partner only exists in fairy tales. People are more flawed and nuanced than that.”

Accepting imperfections and building a foundation

Love takes effort, patience and work. The temptation to prioritize physicality should be resisted, with the understanding that physical attraction is a complement, not the foundation of a deep and meaningful connection.

Additionally, recognizing “red flags” is crucial in avoiding emotional challenges. Red flags are warning signs or indicators of potential issues, prompting caution or concern in relationships or behaviors. Behaviors like infatuation, obsession and over-emphasizing physical attributes are warning signs.

“Being in love with the idea of someone rather than who they truly are may hinder the development of a healthy connection,” said Huff.

Self-awareness: the key to navigating emotions

Those relying heavily on external validation may find moving beyond the infatuation phase challenging. Knowing your wants and red flags and being open to feedback from trusted friends and family enhances self-awareness and aids in the transition to love.

As we journey through the complexities of emotions, remember that each individual's path to love is unique. It requires self-awareness, patience and a willingness to explore beyond the surface—a journey well worth the effort for those seeking lasting and meaningful connections.

Inspira Health is a high reliability organization (HRO), which means safety is the top priority for patients and staff. To make an appointment, call 1-800-INSPIRA.

Topics: Inspira, Behavioral Health