What Is The Difference Between Making Love And Having Sex?

Great Sex | | , Writer
Updated On: March 22, 2024
difference between making love and having sex

Most adults are unaware that having sex and making love are two separate acts and should not be confused with each other. People might wonder, “Is there a difference between sex and making love? Aren’t they the same?” The truth is that while both the acts include the connection of bodies and flying of erotic sparks, sex and making love are very different.

The difference lies in the state of mind of the two individuals engaging in the act. While sex is a basic biological need for every man and woman, making love is an art. Unlike sex, making love is not goal-oriented. There is an emotional connection, a mental understanding, and a physical harmony when two people make love.

Contrary to popular perception, you don’t need to be in love with a person to have sex with them. You make love to the one you’re emotionally attached with, but for indulging in sex, a person can have multiple partners, even at one go. This doesn’t mean that it’s unethical, as long as one is clear about it with their partner and has obtained adequate consent. This is what you call an open relationship or a polyamorous relationship.

Are You Making Love Or Having Sex?

Are you wondering what you engage in? Is it making love or having sex? Sometimes, the lines can get a bit blurry, so it can get slightly difficult to know what you’re engaging in – this usually happens when emotional boundaries aren’t drawn out between two people. How can you tell for sure? Here are 8 ways to determine what’s the difference between making love and having sex:

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1. Difference between making love and having sex is the level of commitment

The fundamental difference between making love and having sex is commitment. Being in a committed relationship with someone you love and have known for some time definitely qualifies as making love – this is a physical act of intimacy being carried out between two people who know each other, love each other, and therefore, have a similar mental and emotional wavelength.

Joshua, a 30-year-old man with significant experience in open relationships says, “I understood the difference between love and sex when I committed to my girlfriend a year ago. Before that, I had been in open relationships, dated casually, and slept with multiple women. However, when I finally found someone I committed to, I realized the emotional connection that was missing in my other experiences.”

Moreover, when you’re committed, there is a clear difference between making love vs having sex because commitment can make the experience very romantic, as opposed to just having sex with someone without any feelings attached.

sex vs making love
When having sex, you are not concerned about the emotions and are simply having fun

2. Intimacy in unattached relationships

Intimacy in unattached relationships often qualifies as sex. You could either be in a no-strings-attached relationship or in a friends-with-benefits situation. A no-strings-attached relationship is the opposite of a committed relationship – where you are with someone but you make sure that feelings and emotions don’t get mixed and involved.

This is when two people clarify that they are just having casual sex but there’s nothing more to it. Making love vs having sex can be clearly determined by the emotional intensity of the relationship. If you can wake up and just leave, without a glance at the person sleeping next to you, it is just sex.

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The second scenario is a step ahead of the no-strings-attached relationship. How can you tell if you are in a friends-with-benefits situation? Well, for starters, if you guys have been friends or known each other for a while, and have decided to have sex, then it’s a friends-with-benefits arrangement. When you are friends with benefits, the difference between making love and having sex can fade away.

As friends, you can discuss your lives with each other but just enough to shy away from emotionally engaging and being vulnerable with each other so that feelings don’t get involved. However, if one person starts getting emotionally involved, it can be making love for them, while for the other, it is still casual sex.

4. Motivation and communication

More often than not, people are clear about their motive behind having sex – are they into the other person romantically, or are they just doing it as a way of taking care of their physical needs?

Most people are also always expressive about what they want to do. In today’s day and age, people specify whether they are just looking for a random hookup or they are actually looking to be with someone romantically and thus, looking for something more. So it is easy to clarify whether it is pure lust or love.

5. Making love vs having sex can be determined by the act itself

It is very easy to determine the difference between making love and having sex. Making love is a passionate, intimate act where two people pleasure themselves and each other. You make love to the other person and thus try to ensure that they are having a good time.

However, when having casual sex, people are more selfish and tend to care about their own pleasure rather than spending time pleasuring the other person. One of my friends once told me that, “If you are wondering what’s the difference between making love and having sex, ask yourself how many times does your partner make an extra effort to pleasure you? If the answer is rarely, then you are most likely having sex and not making love.”

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6. Sex vs making love can be deciphered by level of emotional satisfaction

The difference between making love and having sex is that when you are making love to someone, you not only feel satisfied sexually but also feel emotionally satisfied. If you feel like you have shown a very special side of yourself to someone, then it is making love. However, if you are indifferent and feel nothing after engaging with someone, then it is most likely sex.

When I asked one of my married friends what she thinks separates sex from making love, she said, “The difference between making love and having sex is not what you do, but how you feel while doing it. You could cover the room with all the rose petals in the world, but if you do not love the person, it’s still just sex and not making love.

“When you love a person, you feel emotional satisfaction after having sex. There is a constant debate between making love vs having sex. But I feel it is very simple. If you love them, you are making love. If you don’t, you are having sex.”

7. There is romance involved

Making love is all about the romance involved. There is an effort to create a romantic setting and set the mood for intense lovemaking. Sex vs making love can be differentiated from the amount of effort involved. Since sex is limited to being a physical act, it does not require effort.

On the contrary, making love is an emotional and physical experience and thus people try to make it as special as possible. If you are just beginning to explore your sexuality and are confused about what’s the difference between making love and having sex, observe the number of efforts you or your partner are making for each other before and after sex.

8. How vulnerable are you?

Vulnerability is not limited to emotions. It can mean a lot of things. The difference between making love and having sex is that when you are making love, you are not afraid to explore certain aspects of your sexuality with your partner. Before, after, or even during, you are comfortable in letting your guard down. That’s a key factor between sex vs making love. If you are hesitant of showing them a certain side of you and are never truly yourself, then it is definitely casual sex.

There are many ways to tell if you’re just having sex or making love to someone – just understand the vibe, understand what the other person wants, and more than anything, understand what you want. There is no pressure to feel the need to be in a relationship to have sex. It is completely alright to have sex and not make love. Either way, it should be fun and safe for both parties. Have clarity and do not let your emotions get the best of you. As long as you the difference between love and sex and don’t confuse one with the other, it can be an exciting experience.


1. I feel vulnerable toward a girl I am dating, but don’t want to engage in romantic love yet. How do I surpass that?

It’s obviously possible to start having feelings for someone if you’re dating them. If you’re already having sex with each other, and until now it’s only been a physical pleasure, then make sure you understand what is it that you want. Remember that signs can easily be picked up by the girl and she will understand whether you’re really into her or not, so be clear about how you want to take this ahead.

2. Does a person’s presence of mind become different when having sex vs making love?

Absolutely! The more a person engages in making love, the more involved they will be in the moment. Having sex is just taking care of things physically – so it’s possible for someone to be out of the loop while having sex – but when you’re making love to someone, you’re obviously involved that much more.

3. I don’t want to start making love to someone even though we’ve been together a while. How do I continue to just be physical and not let it become a big deal?

It may be that you’re not ready yet to take things to the next level, so the best thing you can do is be clear with your partner. Be clear about your intentions, about how you want to take things forward, and what exactly you are seeking. Beginning to make love to someone means being committed toward them and engaging emotionally in your physical relationship – so if you’re not ready for that step, then make your partner aware of this before you are on different pages with each other – that could get difficult.

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