Feels Like Love

Q: I've been divorced for over 3 years. I own a very successful business and am totally committed to my children as I have them about half the time. I also have a very active social life with many friends and interests. I have casually dated since I was separated and have not really felt that big pitter-patter that I remember from my youth. But recently I met a girl through an acquaintance, and though we've only been out twice, something feels VERY different! I can't believe how strongly I feel soooooooo soon. Of course everyone says take it slow. I have been infatuated before and it typically led to long term relationships which ended badly, one in divorce. How do I know the difference between infatuation and the real deal?? -- Carl, 45

Dr. Susan: Infatuations and love usually begin the same way, and it's not always possible to tell the difference until time passes and you know one another much much better. No one can guarantee that you won't be disappointed sooner or later. It's not that love is a whole other emotion from infatuation. Ideally, lasting love slides smoothly out of infatuation into a deep commitment to be there for one another through good times and the worst times. Looks and the whole physical aspect tend to become less important as time goes by, when a sense of emotional bonding takes over. That can take a year or two or three or more. Without a definite joint intention to work through their differences, most couples who are simply "in lust" drift apart sooner or later. The bottom line is that your feelings right now might be the real thing or they might be just like the other times you entered relationships that failed. Turning this into the real deal means facing reality: She's not perfect, and neither are you. Enjoy the high while it lasts, talk about everything with her, try to spend time doing ordinary things together, and don't send out any announcements yet. Taking it slow is good advice, but that doesn't mean holding back to the point where she doesn't have any idea that you really truly like her and want to get to know her better.

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