The reasons for this are many and varied, and all the more telling when the people at Mutant Enemy get it wrong. Buffy has had three loves in her seven-year fight against the Hellmouth, and three of these relationships followed the basic psychological progress–assumption, attraction, infatuation, and attachment–which is why they all felt true emotionally, even if some viewers were less than pleased with Buffy’s choices. These are all clues that the object is genetically a catch, physically and mentally healthy; it’s DNA shrieking “Pick that one, I want to live forever!The first move in establishing a relationship is assumption, gauging, consciously or unconsciously, if this person is somebody desirable, somebody it is possible to love. ” Since Sunnydale is populated almost entirely by beautiful, verbal teenagers, this is not a difficult stage for the Scooby Gang, their angst notwithstanding.And then there are the emotional cues: he’s the only one who understands the darkness in her, she’s the only human he’s connected to in two hundred years.

Buffy’s peer group sees Angel as attractive (even Xander’s jealousy is backhanded approval since he rates Angel a threat), her mother less so, perversely making him even more desirable because he’s outside the bounds of parental control.

Also in the mix are physical cues: he falls into step easily beside her, they fight beside one another in synchronization, and they share long, deep looks (known to the psych trade as copulatory gazes).

But something has happened before the reveal: Buffy has moved past immature love to a recognition of who Angel is besides the hottie who loves her. The question “Is this real love or just infatuation?

” misses the point: it’s all infatuation in the beginning, infatuation (or immature love) is the stage everyone passes through on the way to mature love.

Their love is unconditional, the season ends, the love story is finished. Buffy’s choice to spare Angel in the first season is not based on blindly unconditional love; she has plenty of clues in that story arc that he is on her side.

The second season brings the real test: in one of Whedon’s blatant, powerful metaphors, Buffy loses her virginity to a loving, sexually skilled Angel and wakes up with the murderous beast, Angelus.

Angelus is riddled with love for her, and because of that he is driven to destroy her; as he tells Spike in “Innocence”, “To kill this girl . When he comes back from hell, tortured for a century until he is only slightly above a beast, he still loves her and saves her instinctively, just as she loves and protects him even though his mind is gone (Noxon, “Beauty and the Beasts”).

The power of their love is larger than life not because they’re larger-than-life characters, but because it is implacably and completely unconditional.

Once assumption is made, the second stage or Attraction begins, finding out if this is somebody who be loved.

Friends and family play a huge role here, along with physical and emotional connections.

Erich Fromm in makes the distinction between the two, pointing out that infatuation is about the person doing the loving, the lover, but true love is about the person who is loved, the object.