Love or Lust: What’s The Difference And 8 Ways To Recognize What You’re Feeling

July 17, 2023 |
Updated On: July 17, 2023
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Lust vs love – it can be hard to tell the difference between these two tantalizing tango partners that often leave us in a whirlwind of emotions. Passionate love is like a slow-burning campfire, radiating warmth and comfort throughout your body. It’s a fire you tend to nurture and watch grow over time.

On the other hand, lust is like wildfire, sparked by intense sexual attraction and fueled by sexual satisfaction. It’s a fire that can burn bright and hot but quickly fades away. Considering how similar the two feelings are, especially in the beginning, it is no surprise most people have a tough time making out the difference between love and lust.

Have you, too, at some point found yourself wondering, “Is it love or lust?” Are you wrestling with a similar dilemma right now as you struggle to make sense of your feelings for someone? Rest easy, we’re here to help you find a way of out this confusion. As you travel through these 8 ways to differentiate between lust and love, you will be able to tell whether you’re experiencing a passionate love or a fleeting physical attraction, and clearly distinguish between lust vs love. 

What Is Lust?

American writer and theologian Frederick Buechner wrote, “Lust is the craving for salt of a man who is dying of thirst.” Explains why it’s so hard to tell the lust vs love difference, doesn’t it? That’s why, the first order of business is to understand what lust is. It is an emotion defined as a strong, intense, obsessive desire for someone or something, and is rooted in our primal instincts. It is a natural human response to attraction and the need for physical intimacy

While lust may seem like it’s just about sexual gratification, it is also based on an all-consuming attachment and fleeting emotions. It can inspire us to do great things or lead us down a path of destruction, which, again, is how love feels in the beginning – making it difficult to decipher whether what you are feeling is lust or love. 

Relationship experts state that lust has evolved as an adaptive response to encourage us to seek out sexual partners and reproduce. Its experience is associated with the release of dopamine and other feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain. 

However, the potential adverse effects of experiencing lust, such as an addiction to being with someone for sexual fulfillment, suggest that it can be a double-edged sword. The silver lining, however, is that an understanding of these adverse effects can help you tell the difference between love and lust. 

Related Reading: How To Know If He Loves You Or Lusts You

What Is Love? 

How do you know if you’re in love with someone is a question that has confused people since the beginning of time, and can leave some paralyzed with indecision. While there is no single definition that can describe the feeling of love and attachment, there are some key characteristics that are commonly associated with this powerful emotion and can help you distinctively understand the lust vs love difference. 

At the heart of romantic love is a feeling of deep affection and connection with another person. This can take many forms, from physical intimacy to emotional closeness, but it is a fundamental aspect of the romantic love experience. Which answers your question, “How do you know you’re in love?”

If you’re wondering, “What does it mean to have love for someone?”, the simplest answer is: to love is to take a risk. To put ourselves in a vulnerable position, opening ourselves up to rejection and heartbreak from a deep attachment. This element of risk is a fundamental part of the romantic love experience, and it can make it all the more rewarding when things work out. 

Falling in love can be a transformative experience that changes how we see ourselves and the world around us. It can inspire us to be more compassionate, more generous, and more forgiving, and it can help us to grow and evolve as individuals. This is how most people describe the feeling of love and figure out whether what they’re feeling is lust or love. 

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Stages Of Romantic Love – Can One Exist Without The Other?

Love is about mental, spiritual, and physical intimacy, and lust is about physical and sexual intimacy; so, it isn’t always lust vs. love, meaning they aren’t mutually exclusive or exist in isolation. Lust can give way to love, or love can trigger feelings of lust, and they can co-exist in perfect harmony.

So, if you’re wrestling with the lust vs love dilemma, trying to figure out whether you’re feeling for someone are purely sexual or run deeper, understanding the different stages of romantic love may help:

1. Love lust fever: Understanding infatuation

You can call it a love lust fever that clouds your brain. Commonly known as “love at first sight”, this is the phase in which you compulsively think about the object of your affection, and are the most physically aroused by their presence than any other stage. In this phase, the dilemma of how to know if it’s love or lust is at an all-time high. 

Related Reading: 10 Signs From The Universe That Love Is Coming Your Way

2. The cold bucket of water: The disillusionment phase in love

This phase is like a cold bucket of water that wakes you from your love dream. Sexual gratification is no longer enough to make you feel content in a romantic connection, the rose-tinted glasses come off, and you begin to see your partner for who they’re, warts and all. At this stage, questions like “how to know if it’s love or lust” and “how do you know you’re in love” begin to ease up, and you have greater clarity on how you feel about the person you’re with and the emotional connection begins to solidify.   

3. The first signs you’re in love: Moving toward real love

This stage is one of the first signs you’re in love and sets you on the path of building a long-term relationship with your significant other. You will accept your partner and relationship for as they are – good and bad – and love them anyway. 

Lust is more action-driven; however, one of the biggest signs you’re in love is the intention, thought, and emotion. It’s possible to feel intense physical attraction and desire for someone without feeling emotionally connected to them or having feelings of love. Similarly, it’s possible to feel love for someone without experiencing sexual desire or attraction.

Some people may even prefer companionate love that prioritizes emotional connection on a deeper level over physical pleasure, while others may prioritize sexual chemistry and physical attraction over an emotional connection. Everyone’s experiences and preferences are unique and valid. Ultimately, whether to choose between lust or love or decide if love and lust can exist without each other depends on the individual and their specific experiences and preferences.

how to know if it's love or lust
It’s love when you know both their good and bad sides and still feel affectionate toward them

Lust vs Love – 8 Ways To Differentiate

Differentiating between lust and love is more complicated than knowing whether it’s just sex or love that you desire. Read along to find out the key differentiators of love and lust: 

1. The emotional intensity of love and lust

Lust is characterized by intense feelings of excitement and desire that can be overwhelming and difficult to control, while love is steadier and more consistent.

  • Some tell-tale signs of lust are being unable to stop thinking about the other person, particularly in a sexual way, and a lack of interest in non-sexual conversations or building a real connection with them
  • Love, on the other hand, may involve a more balanced approach to sexual and emotional connection

2. Perception of your partner: One of the key love and lust differences

Love is about accepting a person’s flaws and seeing them as they are rather than an idealized version of them. On the other hand, lust may cause you to ignore or downplay a partner’s or romantic interest’s flaws and solely focus on the physical aspects of the relationship.

Related Reading: Platonic Relationship Vs Romantic Relationship – Why Are Both Important?

3. Enduring love vs ephemeral lust

Enduring love involves a deep emotional connection that grows over time, beyond physical attraction. It is characterized by a desire to support, respect, and care for the other person, even during difficult times. Ephemeral lust, on the other hand, is primarily driven by physical attraction and excitement and can fade away once that initial spark subsides.

  • Love endures even as physical attraction fades or other challenges arise
  • Lust, on the other hand, may fizzle out once the novelty or excitement wears off, leaving little to sustain the relationship
  • Understanding this key difference between lust and love can help you build stronger, more fulfilling relationships in the long run

4. Love vs lust long-term goals

Love and lust both involve feelings of attraction but they represent different facets of human desire. Love entails a deep, emotional connection that often involves a desire for a long-term commitment, building a life together, and creating a meaningful partnership. Lust, on the other hand, is focused on the physical and sexual aspects of a relationship, and may not involve a commitment beyond the immediate gratification of those desires.

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5. Difference in attitude and behavior

The way we behave in a relationship can reveal a lot about our intentions and desires. When it comes to love and lust, the differences in behavior can be striking. Lust often leads to impulsive and self-centered behavior, where the focus is on immediate physical gratification. Love, on the other hand, is characterized by thoughtful and intentional behavior, with an emphasis on building a deep and lasting connection with the other person.

6. Emotional openness, vulnerability, and Intimacy

When you are able to communicate honestly and authentically with your partner or a romantic interest, you create a foundation of trust and mutual respect that can help your relationship thrive.

  • In love, you open up to your partner, sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings, and creating a deep and meaningful connection based on trust and mutual understanding
  • In lust, however, the focus is often more on establishing a physical connection, and emotional vulnerability and intimacy may either be completely missing or not as strong as they need to be for building a sustainable bond

Related Reading: 21 Differences Between Love And Infatuation

7. Physical sensations and reactions

Physical sensations and reactions can be powerful indicators of the difference between love and lust. Here are some indicators to keep in mind:

  • Physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, sweating, and dilated pupils are often signs of lust
  • Love, in contrast, is often characterized by feelings of safety, security, and contentment
  • Understanding the physical and emotional differences between lust and love can help you make more informed decisions about your relationships. If you’re getting signs he wants you badly sexually or signs she can’t keep her hands off you, chances are it’s pure lust

8. Selflessness and compromise

Selflessness and compromise are often considered hallmarks of a loving relationship, as partners prioritize each other’s needs and make decisions with their partner’s best interests in mind. In love, this kind of selflessness comes naturally, as the emotional connection between partners encourages them to put each other first.

In lust, however, the focus is often more self-centered, as partners prioritize their own desires over their partner’s needs. Recognizing the distinction between sacrifice and self-interest can help you establish more mutually supportive relationships over time.

Key Pointers

  • Differentiating between love and lust can lead to stronger and more fulfilling relationships in the long term
  • When you are clear about your own goals and expectations, you are better equipped to navigate the nuances of your desires and pursue relationships that align with your values and aspirations
  • Whether you are seeking love or lust, being honest with yourself about what you truly want is the key to creating fulfilling relationships
  • Understanding the physical and emotional disparities between love and lust can aid you in making better-informed decisions regarding your relationships.

It’s essential to understand the differences between love and lust to make informed decisions about your relationships. By taking the time to understand your feelings and needs, you can better navigate your romantic connections and create fulfilling relationships.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine what you are looking for in a relationship, be it lust or love and what will make you happy. Don’t be afraid to take the time to explore your feelings and to communicate openly with your partner about what you are looking for, to build a deeper connection. Whether you are experiencing love or lust, both emotions have their place and can lead to fulfilling relationships at the stage you desire, it’s not about love vs lust and which feeling is the correct or appropriate one. 

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