How To Tell The Difference Between Lust And Love

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How To Tell Difference Between Lust Love

It’s easy to confuse the sexual connection because of a strong emotional connection. In a romantic relationship, it’s normal for wanting to be around someone all the time. But, is it love or just lust? It is important to know the difference between love and lust to know where your attraction and connection are stemming from, emotional attachment or a rush of hormones.

“If they substituted the word ‘Lust’ for ‘Love’ in the popular songs it would come nearer the truth.”  ― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

As a psychiatrist, I’ve seen how intense sexual attraction is notorious for obliterating common sense and intuition in the most sensible people. It’s important to tell the difference between lust and love. Lust is an altered state of consciousness programmed by the primal urge to procreate.

Understanding the difference between love and lust

Difference Between Love and Lust

Studies suggest that the brain in this phase is much like a brain on drugs. MRI scans illustrate that the same area lights up when an addict gets a fix of cocaine as when a person is experiencing the intense lust of physical attraction.

Also in the early stage of a relationship, when the hormones are raging, lust is fueled by idealization and projection–you see what you hope someone will be or need them to be–rather than seeing the real person, flaws, and all.

Pure lust is based solely on physical attraction and fantasy–it often dissipates when the “real person” surfaces. It’s the stage of wearing rose-colored glasses when he or she “can do no wrong.”

Being in love doesn’t exclude lust. In fact, lust can lead to love. However, real love, not based on idealization or projection, requires time to get to know each other.

Related: The Science Of Love: Lust, Attraction, Attachment & Brain Chemistry

Here are some signs to watch for to differentiate pure lust from love.

Signs Of Lust

  • You’re totally focused on a person’s looks and body.
  • You’re interested in getting physically intimate, but not in having conversations.
  • You’d rather keep the relationship on a fantasy level, not discuss real feelings.
  • You want to leave soon after making out rather than cuddling or breakfast the next morning.
  • You are lovers, but not friends.

Signs Of Love

  • You want to spend quality time together with other than sex.
  • You get lost in conversations and forget about the hours passing.
  • You want to honestly listen to each other’s feelings, make each other happy.
  • He or she motivates you to be a better person.
  • You want to get to meet his or her family and friends.

Another challenge of physical attraction is learning to stay centered and listen to your gut in the early stages of being with someone. This isn’t easy in the midst of hormones surging, but it’s essential to make healthy relationship decisions.

Here are some tips to help you keep your presence of mind when you’re attracted to someone. This needn’t pull the plug on passion, but it’ll make you more aware so you don’t go looking for trouble.

Four Negative Gut Feelings About Relationships (From Guide to Intuitive Healing )

Difference Between Love and Lust

Watch for:

  • A little voice in your gut says “danger” or “beware.”
  • You have a sense of malaise, discomfort, or feeling drained after you’re together.
  • Your attraction feels destructive or dark.
  • You’re uncomfortable with how this person is treating you, but you’re afraid that if you mention it, you’ll push him or her away.

Over the years, I’ve spoken at women’s prisons and domestic violence centers. My talk, “How Listening to Your Gut Can Prevent Domestic Violence,” focuses on showing women how to identify and act on their inner voice. The gut senses a potential for kindness and violence.

Related: Lust Or Love? How To Know If It’s Just A Rebound Or Something Real

Many women who’d been in abusive relationships admitted, “My gut initially told me something was wrong–but I ignored it.” The pattern was consistent. They’d say, “I’d meet a man. At first, he’d be charming, sexy, sweep me off my feet. The electricity between us was amazing. I’d write off the voice in my gut that said ‘you better watch out’ as fear of getting involved. When later the abuse began, I was already hooked.”

Some gut instincts though are anything but subtle. On a first date, one woman landed in the hospital with an IV, retching from “psychosomatic” abdominal pain. But did that stop her from seeing the guy? No.

From these women, we gain a real-world lesson: no matter how irresistibly attractive someone appears, close attention to your gut will enable you to see beneath exteriors.

It’s so much nicer to be involved with someone your gut likes. Then you’re not always guarding against a basic suspicion or incompatibility. You must also give yourself permission to listen to your gut when it says, “This person is healthy for you. You are going to make each other happy.” To be happy, take a risk, but also pay attention to the warning signs I presented. This allows you to wisely go for the fulfilling relationships you deserve.

Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff’s Guide to Intuitive Healing: 5 Steps to Physical, Emotional Wellness


Written By Judith Orloff 
Originally Appeared In Judith Orloff M.D
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