What is the Difference Between Love and Lust? With love and lust activating similar neural pathways in the brain, it is no surprise most people have difficulty distinguishing between the two. These pathways are involved in happiness, our view of self, reward, and addiction. However, differences between love and lust are not the same phenomena and can appear in any combination, to varying degrees, and with or without the other.
What are the differences between love and lust? Lust is basically the intense sexual attraction to another person. It is what draws us to a specific individual and allows for a deep physical connection. Lust is usually fueled by what we want to see rather than the reality of the person and situation. It is a misconception that ongoing lust is a foundation for a lasting relationship or reciprocating love.
Love, on the other hand, is a lot more complex. Love is a basic human need that keeps us connected to those we care about the most in life. A strong, loving relationship with a romantic partner involves trust, patience, deep affection, and an acceptance of all faults and flaws.
How to Tell if it is Love or Lust
While there are no rules to love, if you are worried you are in a relationship solely based on lust, here are a few differences between love and lust:
- Love is an interest in getting to know a person on a deeper level. Lust is interested only on a physical and sexual level. It is reciprocated love between two individuals.
- Love explores having difficult conversations and exploring emotions, while lust keeps the relationship on a surface, ideal level.
- Loving includes accepting a person’s flaws and faults. Lust loses traction when you discover a person’s negative qualities.
- With love, you develop trust and commitment over a period of time, whereas lust is about immediate gratification.
- Love makes us feel vulnerable because we are opening ourselves up to be known. Lust is about fantasy and excitement.
- Love tends to be steady and secure, but lust is usually impulsive and indecisive.
- Love persists, whereas lust dissipates over time.
- Love is balanced and calm, while lust can feel like an addiction. It is chaotic and can consume your mental space.
The Stages and Signs
Falling in love is often confusing and complicated. It is the negotiation of many factors like physical attraction, intelligence, similarity in personality, and upbringing. It is also important that there is reciprocated love between two people. While there are no guidelines or do’s and don’ts for love, most people will experience the three stages of love which are lust, attraction, and attachment. Here is what to be aware of at each stage:
Lust is when you are immensely sexually attracted to someone. The phrase that our ‘hormones are raging’ is, in fact, true. The hormones estrogen and testosterone are in overdrive, and our bodies are ready to be physical with someone. If you crave sexual gratification from a person and feel the need to rip their clothes off, you are undoubtedly in the last phase.
In this phase, you may feel as if your world has been turned upside down by another person. Their importance in your life will be on a new level, and you are at your happiest when you spend time together. At this stage, your neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine are changing levels. These chemicals are important as depleted serotonin is associated with obsessive thinking, and norepinephrine affects your sleep, makes you feel energized, and suppresses appetite. These reactions are commonly known as being ‘lovesick.’ If you have any of these signs, you are most definitely in the attraction phase.
- An intense need to be close to your partner at all times.
- Little or loss of appetite.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- You cannot think straight because your mind is always on your partner.
- When you see your partner, you get butterflies in your stomach.
- You are fatigued yet on a high and bursting with energy at the same time.
You will know you have reached this stage when the tidal waves of emotions have calmed, and life is just better, albeit back to somewhat normal. This is the phase for growth, commitment and trust building, and potentially reciprocated love. You may find you will need to be a little more intentional with physical touch, although this does not mean the sex and excitement are gone. The hormone associated with monogamy, Vasopressin, and oxytocin, which is the cuddle hormone, will be in control at this stage. This helps strengthen the trust and stability you have developed in your relationship thus far. Some of the signs you are in the attachment phase are:
- You hold your partner in mind but not obsessively like before.
- You can make and hold eye contact easily.
- You can talk openly about your needs and insecurities.
- You feel calm and content in their presence.
- Growth and development with your partner are one of your main focuses.
Are We Asking the Right Question?
If you are finding yourself doubting whether your relationship is based on love or lust, perhaps there are a few underlying worries and other questions you should be asking yourself. Try to get to the heart of the matter and ask yourself what it is you need and want from your relationship.
Whether it be love or lust, getting into a relationship, especially a sexually charged one, makes us feel vulnerable and open. The overwhelming emotions that come from love and lust can often cause us to feel doubt and anxiety at times, not knowing if it is reciprocated love or not. This, in turn, makes us seek out something more secure and stable. Perhaps you are warning a more committed relationship and are anxious it will not end up as such. Are you maybe just staying in the relationship because of the strong sexual connection? Ask yourself if you are actually in love or is it just infatuation. If you find yourself having doubts, it could be because you are not sure how much of yourself and time to invest in the relationship. Our space, time, and hearts are precious commodities that we do not readily waste on something or someone we don’t really need or want in our life.
So, before you ask yourself if it is love or lust, ensure you know the reason you are asking in the first place by acknowledging your fears and doubts.
Difference Between Love and Lust
There is no normal or right way when it comes to love and lust. A person can have amazing casual sex with someone for years and still not fall in love, or you can spend one passionate night together and end up married with two kids. You can also love someone you are no longer sexually attracted to anymore or be friends with someone for years until a single touch can change your perspective and suddenly fall head over heels in love. So instead of defining the relationship and wanting to put it in a box, ask yourself how the other person makes you feel and whether you have reciprocated love or not. It is also very important to feel free to be your true self and ensure your morals and values align. When it comes to love and lust, remember that anything and everything is possible as long as you are honest with yourself about exactly what it is you are looking for in the relationship.