Every weekday morning on my drive to work, I used to listen to a man who spoke so much truth, it was almost jarring. Although he has grandkids, a world and lifetime of experience, Chip Ingram’s voice still sounds like a man in his 30’s, you can actually hear the compassion and genuine love behind his words.
He would speak on many topics, some a little controversial. He spoke a lot on personal and spiritual growth, I learned things and felt so convicted to change that, in the year I listened to him each morning, I grew a lot spiritually. He was cunningly smart, he would use science to reveal the truth about things biblically sound, explain scientific studies, go into detail on who were the people who actually funded or conducted those studies, reveal the truths behind the lies that my generation (GenY) and younger were being taught everyday concerning sex and relationships.
I had already, by happenstance, learned his teachings on sex and Christianity coincidentally the few months before my husband and I got married. During my engagement, I was on a break at a department store I worked at, which was placed inside an outdoor strip mall, and I walked down to the end where a Christian bookstore happened to be. I walked in and his book Love, Sex, & Relationships was the first one I picked up. I sat on their couch and started reading… I still remember how shocking some of his real life stories were – so shocking that I held them in my mind long after I read them. By the time I started listening to him on the radio, though, 6 years later, I had no real use for that information. It was still interesting, but I was in a stable yet passionate, romantic marriage. And we knew from watching other couples around us that we were doing something very right.
I preferred listening to his personal growth sermons, things that would actually challenge me, make me wiser, better than I was, and I did gain some insights from hearing his presentation, however, what really sparked my ultimate interest to keep tuning in, was that everyday I’d listen, I would think, “Boy, I wish So-In-So knew that!” or “Wow! I need to tell So-In-So this fact!” One of the things about getting married so young is that you have quite a few friends who are still single, and looking for a relationship or in relationships you wish they wouldn’t be – for their growth and development. My husband and I lost track of how many couples we knew, around our age too, that had already gotten divorced during our marriage in only 6 years. A couple of people we knew didn’t even make it to their first year anniversary – and they were committed Christians!
So while I was driving, listening and taking in his valuable points for people in the dating market, I started listening with a real purpose – to be able to impart some of his knowledge to the people I knew. A couple years later, now I have friends in their late 20’s that still ask me this relationship-sex stuff, and even younger girls that I actively get the privilege of mentoring. Teen girls, especially, want to know and understand the pitfalls of sex, and how to create or spot a good relationship that will last the test of time; the sad fact is that most of their parents don’t have it, and they are actively seeking to find a good model that they can hold in their minds for themselves to achieve later in life.
Here are Chip Ingram’s 12 Tests of whether or not you can tell if it is Love or Infatuation Sermon notes (no I wasn’t writing in my car… these are available online here):
Is it “Love” or “Infatuation?”
Test #1 – TIME
Love grows, and all growth requires time.
Infatuation may come suddenly.
We can fall into lust or infatuation, but love is when it grows into something more. Love grows from knowing that person’s character traits, out of caring for that person, whereas infatuation doesn’t care who they really are – it can grow into a strong, intense “crush” feeling or high, but if it’s not willing to grow into love, it’s ultimately useless beyond 9 – 18 months.
Test #2 – KNOWLEDGE
Love grows out of an appraisal of all the known characteristics of the other
Infatuation may arise from an acquaintance with only a few or only one of these
Infatuation is just basic chemistry that you may feel with another person, regardless of if they’re a criminal or an upstanding citizen, which is why you have to be careful to go slow in relationships, to find out who the other person really is. Chip says that often this initial chemistry that comes from a glance, a smile, or an opening line the guy may come at you with, can give you an overall impression of that person that is really far from their real-life character. I remember when I was 16… I caught the interest of a senior at my high school… who was turning 20 that year (yea, my parents almost died). He had been homeschooled by his mom in Lousianna, and when placed into our school the year or two before, found that he was actually behind for his age. He didn’t tell me any of this of course, I had to find out secondhand from his friends, and then he told me the truth. But he was smoother than the ice at an ice rink with his manner and come-ons, and when I slipped, I fell pretty hard on the ice. I eventually gave him my phone number, who cared if he smoked, wore a black leather jacket, was friends with the rowdiest seniors at our school who played in a rock band. All those things just increased my infatuation.
Even though my parents refused to let me date him, and our relationship never even crossed into the physical realm, the infatuation period was still just as intense. It started to drop immediately, however, due to the lack of physical engagement (which is why it’s so important to prolong that for girls, so that you can see if the relationship is worth mixing those emotions into it), once I got a grip on who he really was – his real character traits, it was a lot easier to end the fling and try to kill the infatuation. He had no goals for himself, or any intention on going to college after he graduated, in fact, he was barely even managing to graduate. His ultimate plan was to work at Walmart after high school, and he did.
Test #3 – FOCUS
Love is other-person-centered. It is outgoing. It results in sharing.
Infatuation is self-centered.
Part of the infatuation phase is living in some kind of fantasy land, and you are ultimately at the center of it becuase it is your own fantasy that is keeping it going. I’m not saying that real love can’t grow from an infatuation, in fact, that’s basically how my husband and I fell in love & then grew into it, but first and foremost, an infatuation is self-centered.
Test #4 – SINGULARITY
Genuine love is centered on one person only. Even if it is a distance-tested relationship, genuine love means you aren’t tempted to cheat or become infatuated with a coworker, friend, or random stranger you meet at a coffee shop that is friendly and you have chemistry with.
An infatuated individual may be “in love” with two or more persons
This is a good one! If you find yourself being drawn or infatuated with multiple people at the same time, you can know that you aren’t really “in love” with any of them, including the person you are in a relationship with. When you are finally ready for love, and are really in love, you don’t let yourself become infatuated with another person, instead you work on growing your love inside the relationship you already have.
Infatuation can be devastating for married couples who have let their love slowly fade, or who have built up hurt and blocked emotions so that they are actually at a weak point in their marriage. Emotional affairs to physical affairs, you can bet they all start out as a simple, innocent-seeming feeling of chemistry that creates a spark that is then nurtured into a full-blown infatuation. Real love that is couple-focused and keeps the work going throughout the years stays true emotionally, as well as physically.
Test #5 – SECURITY
An individual in love tends to have a sense of security and a feeling of trust after
considering everything involved in his relationship with the other person.
An infatuated individual tends to have a blind sense of security based upon
wishful thinking rather than upon careful consideration, or he may have a sense
of insecurity that is sometimes expressed as jealousy.
Infatuation really is like building a fantasy life inside your head about another person, you don’t know them quite well enough yet, so you fill in the blanks yourself based on your positive experiences with them so far, and you unknowingly create some kind of faultless person you can dangerously become entwined with. That’s why affairs are said to be so strangely addicting, the partners only see each other’s good (or perfect) sides, never experiencing their full personality, that is, until they try to start a real relationship (maybe the other spouse found out and divorces the straying spouse). Most relationships that started from an affair, do not last because it was founded on a fantasy. When the fantasy is over and they see that the perfect partner really has some ugly sides to their personality, the addiction fades away and they are left with each other – two people with major character issues to work on.
Test #6 – WORK
An individual in love works for the other person or for their mutual benefit. He
may study to make the other person proud of him. His ambition is spurred and
he plans and saves for the future. He may daydream, but his dreams are
An infatuated person may lose his ambition, his appetite, his interest in everyday
affairs. He thinks of his own misery. He often daydreams, but his dreams are
sometimes not limited to the attainable and are given free rein. At times the
dreams become substitutes for reality and the individual lives in his world of
Couples who are in love, work together for the other person. They care about meeting each other’s needs and it often comes effortlessly. Their ambitions are spurred, like Chip says, because they are seeking to achieve things in life, together. There are many times when my husband and I are out without our kids and we are free to relax, when we start day-dreaming about the future we’re building with each other. Infatuated couples sometimes daydream, but their daydreams are often far-fetched goals that may be realistically unreachable for them, thus setting themselves up for failure – but that kind of thinking makes for a good fantasy life!
Test #7 – PROBLEM SOLVING
A couple in love faces problems frankly and attempts to solve them. If there are
barriers to their getting married, these barriers are approached intelligently and
removed. Whatever barriers that cannot be removed may be circumvented, but
with the knowledge that what is done is deliberate circumvention.
In infatuation, problems tend to be disregarded or glossed over.
Real love between a couple means they don’t go into marriage blindly, if there are any problems or issues going in, they deliberately sort them out before tying the knot. Infatuated couples look past the person’s character flaws, or they get married so fast they never even glanced at what was glaringly obvious to everyone else. Chip’s example is perfect here, as a pastor, he gets approached by couples like this trying to get him to marry them, all the time:
“We’re in love… We met yesterday (or last week, or two weeks ago…) and God showed us we’re meant to be together, could you do the marriage?”
“When?” I ask, trying to work toward some sense of realtiy in the conversation.
“Tomorrow, this week – as soon as possible.”
“Why then? How exactly did this come about?” I ask.
“Well,” she sighs, “I dropped my purse and he picked it up and our eyes met. Then I found out that his last name started with an S, and I prayed for someone who last name starts with S, so there – we know it’s from God.”
Before I an express my amazement, she babbles on, “What’s so incredible si taht even though he’s 38 years older than me and I’m not sure if he’s a Christian, God has made it so clear that he’s the one. We don’t have a common vision, but we’ll figure that out later. I don’t know anything about his family other than he’s been married seventeen times. Ours would be a blended family because I have eleven children and he has seven, but we love each other. It’ll work out.”
I’m obviously exaggerating, but it comes out almost like that. What is it? It’s infatuation mixed with classic denial – with an added pinch of insanity.
Test #8 – DISTANCE
Love tends to be constant.
Infatuation often varies with the distance between the couple.
“Love knows the importance of distance. Infatuation imagines love to be intense closeness, 24/7, all the time.” If a couple feels the need to be attached or with each other all day long, it is a sign of unhealthy codependency. Genuine love allows for two lifes of the two people, and doesn’t try to mesh them into one stagnant, fake life together. Chip suggested trying to have a short-term mission trip planned where you are away from your relationship partner, if you find that the distance awakens you to infatuations with other people you meet on the trip, you are not in genuine love. If, however, the time spent apart actually makes you grow and become a better person, all the while wanting to be better for your partner, you can bet you are growing in real love.
Test #9 – PHYSICAL ATTRACTION & INVOLVEMENT
Physical attraction is a relatively smaller part of their total relationship when a
couple is in love. When a couple is in love, any physical contact they have tends
to have meaning as well as be a pleasurable experience in and of itself. It tends
to express what they feel toward each other.
In infatuation, physical contact tends to be an end in itself. It represents only
pleasurable experience devoid of meaning.
Part of the reason why introducing sex into a relationship before marriage is so detrimental is because it can dramatically feed the infatuation with strong emotional bonds (from sex) for usually the girl, while helping them both to overlook any character flaws in the other person. Going slow and waiting for sex until marriage ensures that both parties are going in with eyes open and minds relatively unclouded. Another thing I’ve noticed personally in watching relationships has been that as soon as sex is introduced (premaritally obviously), the growth tends to come to a slow drip, and soon, the relationship is only about, or only held together, by the sex.
Test #10 – AFFECTION
In love, an expression of affection tends to come relatively late in the couple’s
In infatuation, it may come earlier, sometimes from the very beginning.
Again, like I mentioned in explaining his last point, if sex is introduced into the relationship right away, it causes the relationship to have very little ambition to grow beyond it into real love. Love goes slow, takes its time, even if it starts with infatuated feelings, it seeks out to know whether they are worth investing in or not by getting to know who the person really is.
Test #11 – STABILITY
Love tends to endure.
Infatuation may change suddenly, unpredictably.
Part of the reason my husband and I were so shocked to see friends we knew divorcing after 1 or 2 to 3 years was their ability to be SO incredibly, undenaibly in love during their engagement or early phase of their relationship, and then so utterly not in love with each other while they were ending their marriages! It was like watching insane people! We couldn’t believe how fast their feelings for each other could flip like that. Now I get it, they were in the infatuation phase, and they never learned how to grow into the love phase – or they were unable to once they found out who the other person really was. Remember, the infatuation phase can last for 9 to 18 months. So if a couple falls in love, gets married fast, it makes sense they may find themselves divorcing within the first year or by the time they reach their second or third.
Test #12 – DELAYED GRATIFICATION
A couple in love is not indifferent to the effects of postponement of their wedding
and do not prolong the period of postponement unless they find it wiser to wait a
reasonable time; they do not feel an almost irresistible drive toward haste.
Infatuated couples tend to feel an urge toward getting married. Postponement is
intolerable to them and they interpret it as deprivation rather than preparation.
A good test for this is whether or not a couple is able to even wait long enough to try to get through some basic pre-marital counseling sessions. If they aren’t interested in those at all, they are probably not interested in finding out if the marriage will really work based on reality and what they both realistically are going to want and need from each other while in the marriage.