Lust vs Love: How Do You Tell the Difference?

What does lust do to your heart?
on December 05, 2023
Read time: 10 mins
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare

Is it love or is it just lust? 

Even though there are endless arguments about lust vs love, when you meet someone new — it can be very difficult to untangle these emotions! 

Both lust and love are powerful emotions, with one commonly associated with sexual attraction, while the other is about a deeper emotional connection. However, these lines aren’t always so clear, with elements of both love and lust involved in a romantic relationship. 

If you need to get to the bottom of your emotions, we’re here to help you out! 

Key Takeaways
  • The early stages of a relationship can be very overwhelming, with a surge of emotions as you get to know one another — this makes it difficult to tell the difference between love and lust.
  • Lust is about sexual and physical attraction, where you’re instantly attracted to someone, and spend your time fantasizing about physical intimacy with them!
  • Love has always been difficult to define, but involves sharing a deep, emotional connection with someone. It involves feeling of attachment and bonding, as you plan your future together.
  • There can be elements of love and lust in a relationship simultaneously, and one doesn’t have to undermine the other.

How do I know if it's love or lust?

Both love and lust involve an intensity of feelings, but how do you know what true love feels like — or if it’s just lust? This infamous question is more difficult to answer than you might think!

While some think that lust is just about sexual or physical connection, while true love is about emotional connection — there are elements of each in both! However, while lust is a more short-term emotion, love is seen as a more permanent fixture in a long-term relationship. 

Even though this distinction is useful in hindsight when you’re caught up in the daydream of a new relationship — it’s very hard to see things so clearly! 

What is lust? 

Lust is defined as a usually intense and unbridled desire, likened to a craving or longing for someone. This emotion is usually associated with sexual desire, with physical attraction drawing you to someone, often at first sight. 

This is an intense feeling that can dominate our thoughts and can make us do things that would otherwise be against our better judgment, with these strong feelings usually only quenched by sexual gratification. 

Lust is often regarded as a kind of high, that can feel as strongly as an addition and is closely associated with infatuation. Feelings of lust usually don’t last extended periods, but if you’re lucky, such an intensity of emotions gives way to real love — with the foundations of passion and deep affection bonding two people together. 

Signs of lust

Sexual arousal when around/thinking about the person
Sexual attraction the first time you see them, or notice their physical appearance
Thinking about physical intimacy even when you’re not together
Feel a release if you act on your sexual urges or impulses with this person

What is love? 

The age-old question, without a simple answer. 

Love comes in so many different forms, with different types of love for friendships, family members, and of course, romantic relationships. 

Love isn’t just about emotional connection, but is also about attraction, attachment, and so much more. While lust is thought to solely rely on physical appearance, these early feelings of lust can actually help facilitate a long-term relationship. 

Studies show that the early stages of love are often characterized by the same traits as drug addiction, which gradually fade as the relationship matures. 

These intense and often erratic emotions make it difficult to tell the difference between love and lust, as sexual attraction is intermingled with a growing emotional connection. This whirlwind of emotion is part of the excitement of romantic love, as it activates parts of the brain that are responsible for the release of dopamine, serotonin, and of course, oxytocin. 

Also known as the ‘love hormone’, oxytocin is part of what bonds people together, as you start to form a deep emotional connection with your loved one. This means that you want to be a part of this person’s life by spending time with them and learning about them on a deeper level. 

Signs of love

Feeling a strong sense of emotional, intellectual (and physical) intimacy
Seeing your partner as your best friend or partner in crime
Planning your long-term future together
Feelings of commitment and care for their well-being
Expressions of love such as saying ‘I love you’

Can you feel love and lust simultaneously? 

While there are some defined differences between love and lust, it is possible to experience both at the same time. 

Research shows that it’s not only love vs. lust but that love and lust can be intertwined processes in the brain, each mediated by its own neurotransmitters and circuits. After all, loving relationships are made up of a range of components, with both emotional and physical factors involved in choosing a romantic partner. 

There is a multitude of examples where lust can dictate people’s emotions and actions, but eventually, this passionate flame fizzles out. On the other side of the spectrum, there are love stories that evolve from friendship — where lust wasn’t the foundation of your relationship. 

Every love story is different, and there is no winning combination that defines a successful relationship! However, it’s important to try to understand the distinction between love and lust, so that you can focus on building a strong relationship with your partner — rather than mistakenly taking passion for a long-lasting love story. 

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