Licensed from Shutterstock // Kate Kultsevych
Five months after falling in love, I sold my apartment and quit my job. Excited and a bit nervous, I flew out west to visit my girlfriend and hunt for our together-apartment.
Two days later, we signed a lease. On that final night, before my flight back to NY, we celebrated, precariously downing a bottle of red wine on her bed of white sheets.
When finished, we undressed and slipped under the covers. At that moment, we looked at each other, and I realized I had fallen out of love.
Our relationship began with an alcohol inspired kiss outside the neon lights of a 24-hour diner on the streets of Manhattan. We faced our first challenge the next morning.
In eight weeks, she’d move out west to begin a new life. We both realized the unlikelihood of long-term success, but the intensity of our attraction overcame logical thinking. We decided to make a go of it.
The ferocity of our romance dominated my thoughts, so much so, it nearly got me fired. Deadlines came and went. Client commitments passed without warning from me. Back then, AOL Instant Messenger was the thing. We’d send each other messages that would have gotten both of us summoned to HR had our employers taken a peek at our communication.
To maintain the intensity, we visited each other several times, spacing our trips three weeks apart. My vacation time and cash dwindled quickly, so I had to get creative.
We had been dating for five months, and I made the decision to sell my apartment, quit my job, and travel cross-country to live with her.
With six weeks remaining before my move, I made one last trip out west. That’s when it happened.
Lying in bed next to her, I realized the intense desire, the constant hunger that could not be satisfied; all of it seemed to resolve as though I had taken a pill to cure me of it.
I had fallen out of love.
The same feeling had happened before with the last woman I dated. We were friends first and developed a passion for each other that accelerated at a gravity-escaping speed only to crash down to earth. I was about to repeat that experience less than a year later.
That’s when I panicked.
What had I done? I’m 31-years-old, and I had just upended my life to satisfy a delusion. What’s wrong with me?
Fortunately, I calmed myself and assessed my situation. In all my years, I had never survived a relationship long enough to withstand the infatuation phase. It had always ended when the passion fizzled.
That’s when I realized I misunderstood love. How can you love someone you know only from the curated picture they present to you? How do you love someone who hasn’t exposed the brightness of their potential and the darkness of their demons?
Lying in bed, terrified I had made a mistake, I realized something. I hadn’t fallen out of love. I was never in love, just infatuated. Yes, there’s a difference.
Infatuation is not the same as love.
Despite the vanquishing fire, I still felt an urge to discover how things might progress, a yearning to experience life with her for a while.
In time, I realized that love doesn’t just manifest like a magician pulling a rabbit out of his hat. It begins as a tiny seed, and with nourishment, grows into a recognizable entity. It never happens at first sight — don’t believe the cliché.
So, how do you know? When that moment comes, and you realize the fire has vanquished, does a spark remain, or are you left with billows of putrid smoke?
Five signs you’ll survive the crash
When the infatuation ends, it feels like you’ve fallen out of love. But if these conditions exist, the end of that phase marks the beginning of your real relationship.
1. There’s a desire to see more than what your partner reveals.
During the early days of infatuation, there’s an interest in sharing experiences and learning about your new lover, but it’s superficial. We share only what we want to share.
When the intensity wanes, and you still feel a desire to crack the combination that hides your partner’s core, then it’s a sign your budding relationship rests on a solid emotional and intellectual foundation.
2. You’re not looking for reasons to escape.
When a relationship dies, you know it. You become adept at finding escape exits. Sometimes we fight it. We pretend that all is okay, but we no longer feel that special feeling. We avoid spending time together by making bullshit excuses that sound perfectly reasonable.
When it’s real, the pixie dust may run out, but even so, we’re okay hanging out at family get-togethers, chilling on the couch, or just playing a game of chess. When you enjoy doing random shit together, togetherness becomes a realistic outcome.
3. You’re still best friends.
Remember that old saying about your partner being your best friend? It’s true. Early on, it’s easy. You’re getting to know each other. There’s plenty to discuss.
When you’re past the infatuation stage, and you can still talk over coffee for an hour while sharing your best and worst news, you’re in good shape for a future together.
4. You’re still affectionate.
Even if sex dies down, hugging, hand-holding, and cuddling demonstrate a desire for physical contact. Affection — however you define it — remains a linchpin of happy relationships forever.
Desire will crest and crash over the years, but the warmth of touch helps keep the heat going when passion lags.
5. You fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.
Compatibility has kept our marriage secure for 13 years. It’s hard to overestimate the importance of appreciating, enjoying, and hating the same things — like when you both share a violent aversion to greeting cards or love of super-dark chocolate. It makes life so much easier.
When compatibility fails, you must compromise. That means you give up something you want. No two people are 100% compatible, so this is inevitable. But the constant need for compromise means you’re both giving up much of what you want, which can lead to resentment or unfulfillment.
Look back at some of your relationships. Did you or former partners give up too soon? Like I had done so often, perhaps one of you believed the love had died before it had a chance to begin. Infatuation is unsustainable, while love has a chance to endure. Don’t confuse the two.