Being in love is wonderful, and feelings of lust can be delightful. But you can put yourself in a potentially hurtful situation if you confuse the two. Once hormones fade, you might find yourself with someone who isn’t a good fit, particularly if you don’t understand the difference between love and lust. Make sure you examine your feelings to know whether you’re experiencing love versus lust.
HOW LOVE AND LUST CAN BE SIMILAR
1. YOU FREQUENTLY THINK ABOUT HIM
When you first meet a guy that you’re into, you probably think about him all the time, and by that we mean … All. The. Time. This is true for both love and lust. So when you find yourself daydreaming of him, thinking about when you’ll next see him, and even imagining a future with him, you will do this when you’re in both love and lust.
2. YOU WANT TO BE CLOSE TO HIM
When you have feelings of lust and love for someone, you want to be with that person. You want to touch him and have him touch you. You want to have sex, sex, and more sex. If you aren’t with him, you have a strong desire to check in with him throughout the day and to have him check in with you. You are almost addicted to receiving the pleasure you get from being with this person.
You might have an emotional connection right from the beginning, or you might just be interpreting what you have as intimacy when it is really just purely physical. In the beginning, it’s difficult to tell whether what you have is true love or lust (a common relationship stage. Read more). That’s the reason it’s best to wait before you jump into any long-term arrangement such as living together or marriage. You need to wait to see whether you are both really in love, or if you both are experiencing nothing more than lust.
3. BOTH INVOLVE HORMONES
You’ve heard that chemistry needs to be there to be attracted to someone. But have you ever wondered what that means exactly? You may be surprised to find out that this isn’t just something people say. Real scientific chemistry is involved when you experience both love and lust.
Testosterone is the sex hormone for men, and estrogen is the sex hormone for women. When people feel lust, it’s because of those sex hormones. And then adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin kick in to make you obsess about someone you lust for. Adrenaline causes your heart rate to increase and your mouth to go dry when you come into contact with your guy. Dopamine triggers a rush of energy and pleasure (and levels are higher with lust than with romantic feelings ), and serotonin puts you in a good mood.
Discover more about the hormones involved in attraction here.
When your lust turns to attachment, additional hormones kick in: oxytocin and vasopressin . Oxytocin is a hormone released when you have an orgasm. It serves to make you feel attachment so that you’ll fall in love, get married, and have babies. Vasopressin works in a similar way. It’s released after you orgasm and helps you form a lasting bond. So oxytocin and vasopressin are involved in both love and lust.
4. BOTH CAN FEEL INTOXICATING
Love and lust can be intoxicating. When you lust for someone or are in love, you lose your common sense and enter an altered state of mind, similar to being high on drugs. Studies show that when a person uses cocaine, they experience a feeling similar to lust.
5. IT’S ESPECIALLY HARD TO TELL EARLY ON
When you feel lust for someone, you think that person is perfect for you, that there is nothing wrong with them. It’s important to have these feelings, even though they are probably prevent you from taking an objective view of your relationship. So in the beginning of a relationship, you are probably in lust. You really can’t tell right away whether this is love or lust or whether it will lead to love or not.
The same is true with limerence, which is like when you have a crush. More on that here.
HOW LOVE DIFFERS FROM LUST
1. LUST IS MORE PHYSICAL
Lust is only about physical attraction. You want this person based on how much you like their appearance. Lust is pure, basic instinct. The main concern is sexual gratification and not much else. If you wanted to sleep with someone else, you probably would, not worrying about hurting this person’s feelings. But when you’re in love, the feelings of the other person do matter to you, making love and lust different in this case.
2. YOU MIGHT NOT EVEN LIKE HIM
Good communication is a cornerstone to a lasting relationship (you’ll also need to employ this advice). But when you lust for someone, you aren’t interested in good conversation, which makes love and lust different . You simply want sex. In fact, you might not even like this person. The two of you might have nothing in common and don’t even enjoy hanging out with each other. But the sex sure is good.
3. LUST DOESN’T REQUIRE FRIENDSHIP
When you are trying to have a relationship, you want to be with someone that you can be friends with too. That is not the case with lust. In fact, you might not be intimate in any way. Not wanting to cuddle after sex is pretty typical when you’re in a relationship based only on lust, making this an indicator between love and lust.
4. YOU’LL KNOW ONCE YOUR LUST IS SATED … THROUGH SEX
Once you’ve reached the point (or he has) of being sated sexually, you may no longer desire to see that person anymore. That means you were probably in lust, not love. If, once you start to get to know this person, you are feeling less and less interested in him, you won’t need to wonder whether this was love or lust: you’ll know.
5. LOVE IS MORE THAN JUST PHYSICAL
When you’re in love, sex can be a way to show emotion. It’s more than just a physical event. Besides enjoying sex, when you’re in love, you also want to get to know the other person. You’ll take an interest in his life and will respect his point of view. People in love also tend to share core values. Sex is only a part of their relationship, not what the entire relationship is based on.
6. THERE’S DEEPER CARING WITH LOVE
When you’re in love, you can also be in lust. The difference is that when you’re in love, you love the real person, not some idealized version of who you think that person is, which often happens when you are in lust, not love. It takes only a minute to lust for someone, but love takes some time to develop (how long? find out here). When you love someone, you support them, and your feelings are unconditional.
7. LOVE AND LUST CAN BE AMAZING TOGETHER
Lust and love go together. Lust often leads to love. And when you can combine the two, you have a great relationship. Lust keeps the relationship exciting, and love keeps the relationship going.
LUST IS OK
MAKE SURE YOU’RE ON THE SAME PAGE
Traditional advice says to hold off sleeping with a guy right away. The reasoning is that if you do sleep with someone right away, the relationship might never progress to anything other than a booty call. That can and does happen, and that’s great if that’s what you both want.
But if you want more from the relationship than just sex, maybe because you’re starting to care about this person, let him know. He might feel the same way. And if he doesn’t, you will not have invested too much time trying to find out. The key is to both be on the same page on whether the relationship will be based on love or lust.
Maybe you just got out of a long-term relationship and you’re not ready to get into another just yet, but you still want sex. If you are to have a successful casual relationship, you need to set some rules that you both need to follow.
This post has some rules for NSA sex, and you’ll find more below.
- First rule: Do not have a casual sexual relationship with anyone you will be involved with later, such as a coworker, a neighbor, or a current friend. You want to be able to call it off and have that be the end of it.
- Second rule: Don’t expect this person to be emotionally there for you. Your mindset should be that this is sex only. Get someone else to talk with if you need an emotional outlet. And the same goes for him. You do not need to act as his shrink.
- Third rule: Neither of you need to be monogamous or should even have an expectation of the other being monogamous.
- Fourth rule: You can still look for Mr. Right (someone you can fall in love with) while you’re having casual sex. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this guy you’re having casual sex with is your boyfriend.
- Fifth rule: Have fun with it. That’s the whole point of being in a casual sexual relationship in the first place. There should be no drama, head games, or arguments. But also know that this sort of relationship is not sustainable, which brings us to the next section: when to call it off.
WHEN TO CALL IT OFF
If one of you develops feelings and you’re both not OK with that, you need a plan on what to do next. It’s not always easy to break up, even in a casual sex relationship. After all, this is still a relationship. You might be over it, but he might still be enjoying what you do, or vice versa. So now what?
It will be easier if you followed the rules above, especially the first rule above on love and lust. If you’re sleeping with a coworker, for example, you might need to find a new job if the situation is just too awkward. But assuming you did follow the rules, you should be able to break up in a matter-of-fact way. You could break up through a text or a phone call. If that doesn’t seem right to you, arrange to meet somewhere. Tell him you need to end the relationship, and let him know the reason.
It’s easy to confuse love and lust if you’re not experienced with relationships or if you’re especially attracted to someone. But knowing the difference between love and lust can save you heartache down the road.