Is it Love or Lust? How To Know If You Are Just Attracted To Him or If You Love Him
“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves."
~ Victor Hugo
There’s nothing like that feeling of butterflies in your stomach or your heart pounding with excitement when you are dating someone new. It’s almost intoxicating. You are convinced that you are in love. After all, you can’t stop thinking about him or the delicious sex you had the night before, but is it love or lust that you are feeling?
Women often get the two confused, and with good reason. Let me explain. First, let’s start with love and what that really means.
Love is a feeling of deep affection for another.
A healthy love would be unconditional, meaning a person does not have to do anything to earn this love. You love him just because he is a living and breathing human being. It is not dependent on his behavior, or if he is keeping you happy. Of course, this definition can fit many different kinds of love. For instance, this type of love includes the love for a friend or family member, but must be included in a healthy romantic relationship as well.
Ideally, dating should be a process where you get to know each other on an intimate level over time. A friendship should be formed before jumping into bed. Here is the reason…
Oxytocin is a hormone secreted by the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland during orgasm. It is known as the “cuddle hormone” and is responsible for bonding. Both men and women secrete this hormone, however women secrete much more. A woman is more likely to think she is in love after sex, when a man seems to just want more. This can make you think you are with the perfect partner, however in reality, you barely know each other.
Elements of healthy love:
You feel connected emotionally, not just physically- This is achieved by getting to know each other over time, after many dates and a lot of talking. You share more deeply and personally with each other when it is appropriate to do so, which takes time.
You have each other’s best interest at heart- There is no selfishness involved here. You want what is best for him.
Authentic Communication- This involves presence and listening- You are listening to understand and know him better, not listening to respond.
You miss him when you are apart- This is healthy, as long as it doesn’t feel like an addictive withdrawal.
You have grown as a person from knowing him- You have learned much about yourself and how you respond and react in relationship.
You celebrate his triumphs even when you are struggling- You are his biggest cheerleader.
You are mutually supportive of each other- You help each other to solve problems while maintaining your separateness and autonomy.
Mutual understanding and respect- You have genuine fondness for each other, and friendship.
Romantic attraction- this is the bonus!
With lust, the focus tends to be on the outside versus the inside. It is conditional and demanding. There is no stability or trust that has been built from a friendship. Lust tends to have an obsessive quality, an urgency, and a very strong sexual desire. If you find yourself consumed with someone in a way that feels intense and not necessarily pleasurable you may be creating an unhealthy situation.
Can you be in love and desire someone sexually in a strong way?
Of course! There may be elements of strong sexual desire in relationship. In fact, that is healthy; but you must have the qualities of healthy love as well to call it such.
Lisa Angelini, MAPC, LPC - www.lisaangelini.com
The beginning stages of love are amazing...you feel like you're on top of the world, like you can do anything, and are so excited you might just fly off the ground when you go for your morning run. Your mind returns to your beau all throughout the day for weeks, and even months.
And another bonus...you can't keep your hands off each other. You can't stop thinking about what you'll do the next time you get each other alone.
Yes, you are in love!
So exactly how do you know that it will be different this time? How do you know you have a relationship based not just on lust but on real love?
Based on my experience and that of my clients, here are some common characteristics of lust versus love.
When it's lust...
Your time together is mainly about getting in bed or having the perfunctory date just to get in bed together, which is what you both really want to be doing.
You don't make an effort to really get to know each other on a deeper level or have many conversations without adult content.
The majority of your thoughts about him are lustful, perhaps even obsessive.
You're scared to express how you feel and one or both of you are turned off by the “L word.” (Love, that is.)
When it's love...
You spend a lot of time together without being all over each other. You date. You go do things. You sit and watch Netflix. You don't need to be physical.
You are continually getting to know each other. Not just likes and dislikes. Your deepest core values. What makes you tick. What your future goals are. What your future goals are together.
You think of him a lot outside of just a sensual context. Yes, your mind is on him a lot but more often not in an arousing way. You think about your conversations, that great meal you had together, the way he holds your hand, a joke shared between you. In addition to loving him, you really like and respect him as a person, too.
And you both say it. When it's love you both will not hesitate to say it to each other out loud.
Which category are you in? Though real love may feel exciting in a way, it also is calm, grounded, and feels like a source of positive energy for you.
When you deliberately attract your soul mate you will just feel certain that what you have is the love you truly desire, and you will never have to sit by and just hope that this time it turns out to be something more than lust.
Dina Robison, Love Coach - www.dinarobison.com
Distinguishing whether you are feeling love or lust can be complicated.
This is true today more than ever. I think it is particularly difficult for women to get a handle on their feelings for a man when things move too fast. One of the problems I see in the dating world is the speed in which people become intimate and the complications this can cause.
This is particularly evident in the hook-up culture which appears prevalent on college campuses and beyond. I speak to young women who get involved in hook-ups in which they intended to have casual sex with no strings attached. Yet, what often happens is they unexpectedly develop feelings, which is natural, and they then become very confused.
What are they actually feeling?
After a hook-up, and intimacy in general, there are bonding hormones that can cause a woman to believe she has strong feelings for someone she may barely know. This is not love although it may feel like it.
I often caution my young clients to be very wary about hook-ups and how this can wreak havoc on their emotions. I have seen these behaviors cause extreme heartache, confusion and distress.
Ideally, I believe it takes a full year to really get to know a person. When you have sexual intimacy in a relationship, you become bonded and somewhat blinded. What this means is, once the bonding hormone, oxytocin, is flooding your system, you cannot clearly discern whether the person is an emotionally compatible partner or not.
You will only want to see in that person what you want to see because you are physiologically bonded to this person. I have seen women waste up to two years, or more, in relationships with incompatible partners because they had sex too soon—often by the third date. I have witnessed these women struggle way too hard to make an emotionally incompatible relationship work because of the physical attraction and attachment.
Is it love or is it lust?
My general suggestion is to slow things down.
If you are looking for love, get to know the person you are interested in. Make sure you feel a deep level of compatibility emotionally, and in other ways that are important to you, before complicating things with sexual intimacy. If you are with another person who is also looking for love, they will hopefully be willing to take things slowly as well.
If love is not your intention and you are simply wanting a sexual experience, be clear about that and do not necessarily expect it to turn into more. Know yourself well and be sure you can handle this emotionally before taking it on or you may end up broken-hearted and confused.
Nancy Harris, LCSW, LICSW - www.nancyharriscoaching.com
If you can’t discern the difference between love and lust, how will you ever find a permanent partner who is well suited to you?
If only there were a sure fire way to distinguish one from the other. There isn’t, but there are some questions you can ask yourself, and your answers will help you figure out what exactly you’re feeling.
#1. If you took away your physical attraction to your partner, what would you still enjoy and value about him?
When you’re wildly attracted to a man, it’s hard to view him with any objectivity. All you can see is how much you enjoy looking at and being intimate with him. This intense feeling, which derives from the urge to procreate, has a way of coloring any smidgeon of objectivity you might have. This is true for most of us, as physical attraction has been the human avenue for dating and mating, aka, keeping the species alive, for hundreds of thousands of years.
Without this urge to merge, ask yourself what you like, love or value about your partner. Without his sexual attractiveness to you, what does he have to offer? You want to think about how he treats you and others, his work ethic and career goals, whether your values and lifestyle mesh, and whether your personalities complement, rather than conflict, with each other.
#2. What do you spend most of your time doing?
If the answer is that most of your time is spent under the covers and the relationship is more than a few weeks old, you might want to consider that more lust is your primary feeling. This is also true if you only get along when you’re physical with each other, while you argue or have difficulty connecting anywhere but in the bedroom. You want to be able to spend time together in the greater world, with others, including friends and family, and enjoying each other’s company no matter what you’re doing.
Consider if you’re embarrassed to have him meet or hang with your friends or family. This may indicate that you’re only comfortable with him on a physical plane, but don’t find the rest of him a good match for you. It’s natural when you’re first together with a man that you find attractive to spend a good deal of time in bed. But, it points to a lust rather than a love relationship, if the only place you’re comfortable with him is in bed.
#3. What do people you trust say about the relationship?
If valued intimates think you’re a perfect match, this is a good sign. However, if they have oodles of criticisms of him—his job, his manner, his smarts, or the way he treats you—you might just have a physical attraction going on. Friends who are emotionally healthy and know us well usually have a useful take on what will work for us in the long run because they can see your lover with more detachment than you can, that is, minus the attraction you feel for him.
In the case of your family or friends making concerted efforts to talk you out of entering a committed or permanent relationship with your boyfriend, it may be that they can see things about him that you cannot or refuse to see. At the very least, listen to what they have to say and recognize that they’re trying to protect you from your carnal instincts. Take what they say seriously and don’t be afraid to admit that they’re right—it’s lust, after all, not love (sigh).
#4. Have you spent enough time with your man to know whether it’s lust or love?
Here’s where I’m going to give you advice that I didn’t follow. My husband of nearly 33 years and I decided to get married on our third date, though we waited a year to tie the knot. However, we were both in our late 30s when we met and lived together during that year to make sure we were a good match. My point here is that you (generally) need to spend a substantial deal of time with a man to find out enough about him to know that you love him. Sure, sometimes, you’re good friends then fall in love and into lust. But, more often, the lust comes before the love.
How much time you need to spend with someone to figure out how you feel can’t be found in any formula, but you need to be in enough situations for you to see the whole man to know what he’s really made of. If you have any doubts that you feel lust rather than love (not that you can’t feel both about someone), then your best bet is to slow things down to allow you to figure out what you’re feeling. In fact, if you try to put the brakes on a bit and he won’t go along with you, that says something about his feelings about you and may be just what you need to take a big step back and spend more time assessing what’s going on between you.
Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed. – www.karenrkoenig.com
There’s nothing like that moment when you see a really attractive guy and you get that “butterfly” feeling inside.
You feel turned on from the get-go. You’re excited, you want to get to know him, you want to be near him, you want him to feel the same way about you.
Here’s what happens though… if you stay focused on his “hotness” and his good looks, you’ll cloud your judgement and perception of being able to see the “full package.”
Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to be physically attracted to someone. But, if you’re looking for a long-lasting relationship and a commitment, you’ve got to be able to see the signs and the full potential as early on as possible. The last thing you want to do is waste your precious time.
The first three months of dating are the easiest.
Serotonin and dopamine are a-flowing! You’re polite with one another, you’re respectful of each other’s needs, time and space, you’re accommodating, you’re excited and enthusiastic, and everything you do together is fun. Once the biology and science piece begins to wane, you start to look at things through a different lens.
That is why it is important to keep your perspective and your view of him broader from the very beginning. An aerial viewpoint from the start will help you distinguish potential love partner versus lust partner.
Here’s how to do it:
- Tip #1: Write a List of His Pros and Cons
YES, I said that! He is not perfect, none of us are. So, make it a point to look for the traits about him that may seem cute to you at first but have the potential (and probability) to annoy you down the road. He’s GOING to have them, so look for them from the start. Write down anything and everything that has the potential to be on the “con” list as well as the “pro” list. Trust me, there’s a reason why, which I’ll explain below.
- Tip #2: Do your Due Diligence of R & D
Doing research and development on him sounds like a job, right? Well, finding your life partner and soul mate is one of the most important things you’ll ever do in your life, so treat it with the seriousness it deserves. This is your heart, your happiness, your life we’re talking about here! So, thoroughly check this guy out!
How is his relationship with his mom? How and where was he raised? What are his core values? What are his political, spiritual, financial views? What are his goals and dreams? Does he want children?
Get to know this guy as much as you can! Don’t allow the excitement from the beginning cloud your ability to do some mandatory R & D!
- Tip #3: Do Daily Mindset Work to Keep the Feelings and Love Alive!
The parts about him that you love are easy to love. It’s the “con” list that gets to you in the end. So, how can you get past that lust stage and move into love…if, in fact, it really is love and you want this man for all time?
Here’s the secret, ladies…you HAVE to re-fall in love with him every single day! In my work, I use mantras and affirmations with my clients.
The perfect affirmation for this is, “I HAVE TODAY TO FALL IN LOVE WITH HIM ALL OVER AGAIN!” Then, spend a minute or two reflecting on happy moments together and features and qualities about him that you LOVE! That’s how you combat that annoying “con” list! The more you focus on the qualities you love about him, the more they expand and help negate the qualities you don’t.
That is how you move from LUST to LOVE…and stay there.
Remember how special and worthy you are of divine love. Don’t settle, but don’t be blind-sided. Use these tools to help you find true love. It’s so worth it…and so are YOU!
Love It!: I LOVE THAT I HONOR MY DESIRES WHEN IT COMES TO LOVE!
Thank It!: I AM GRATEFUL THAT I TAKE TIME TO REALLY GET TO KNOW SOMEONE!
Bring It!: I AM A MAGNET FOR THE LOVE OF MY LIFE!
Diane Forster, Intentional Living Expert and Author – www.dianeforster.com
You lock eyes from across the room.
Feel a tingle of excitement, an intense sexual attraction that makes your heart pound and your legs feel wobbly. You fantasize and picture the two of you embracing in a sensual kiss and it only gets more intense from there. You find yourself thinking and almost obsessing about the other person. Time spent together is filled with physical pleasure and desire.
You've just entered the lust zone.
A place filled with intensity, passion, electrifying and sizzling need. Lust can show up any place or time. While at times intense and exciting, lust tends to be superficial, focused on physical attraction and sharing sexual energy with another person. It is the opposite of intimacy and connection. While physically satisfying, a relationship built only on lust, after time, feels empty and shallow.
Love develops and deepens over time.
Love happens in stages with the initial phase being infatuation. Sometimes this stage is filled with lust and obsessive daydreams about another person. It is intense and feels similar to lust. But as the relationship grows and a deeper connection develops, love blossoms.
Love comprises of mutual respect and deep concern for another. It is gentle, intimate and at times complex; for to be in love, you must be vulnerable.
Intimacy forms when two people allow themselves to share not only their physical selves but emotional connection and thoughts and feelings.
Love grows over time and deepens with true connection and intimacy. It is not a whirlwind ride, but a steady, growing and deepening bond.
A person can be in love and still have sexual attraction, desire and physical fulfillment. But to be in "lust", typically a deeper love does not exist. For a more fulfilling and deeper relationship, love is the way to go!
Megan Logan, MSW, LCSW - www.meganloganlcsw.com
“The desire of love is to give. The desire of lust is to get.” – Anonymous
When we enter into a new relationship it is often done out of lust.
This new person lights us up and makes us feel special in ways we have never felt before. We can’t keep our hands off each other and they are on our mind all day. We can’t wait for the next call or text. We are high from the feelings they cause in us. In other words, this is about what we are getting from them. Whether it is someone to talk to, someone who makes us feel special, or someone who makes us feel sexy. This feeling can lead to love, but it is not love.
When feelings of lust become feelings of love we are more concerned with what we give than what we get.
We want the other person to be happy. We want them to feel appreciated and loved. It becomes less about meeting our needs and desires and more about meeting theirs. Not in an unhealthy way of course. We are still two individuals who need to put ourselves first sometimes, but we now do it knowing that it will serve to enhance our relationship, not take away from it.
A great way to figure out if you are in love or in lust is to think of the last time your partner had a bad day.
Was your first thought to avoid and hang out with someone else because you didn’t want to deal with their sour mood? Or, was your first thought about how you could help them and make the rest of their day a little brighter? The first thought is lust and the second is love.
Love has a deep rooted desire to be there for your partner through the good and bad times.
It allows you to hold space for them when it is needed. It allows you to grow and expand by building each other up. So when you are trying to determine if it is love or lust, look at what you are willing to do for each other for the long term, after the mask of the honeymoon has faded away and you are left with the real life.
Kimberly Speer, CLC, ELIMP - www.destinybydesignlifecoaching.com
If it’s love, you feel it.
Your heart and your mind are focused on him and how important he is to you. He has all the qualities you are looking for in a partner and you can be yourself and feel accepted. He makes you feel special and “number one” in his life. You share many of the same interests, values and philosophies that are important to you both. You talk easily, communicate well and don’t have disagreements that are major or hurtful. In fact, you trust and respect him for being there and he is someone you feel comfortable sharing your intimate feelings, hopes and dreams. That is real, true love.
On the other hand, the relationship can be based on pure chemistry.
You enjoy each other’s company and the physical aspect is very satisfying. There may be things about him you overlook, because he says the right things and has the right moves at the right time. Physically, you adore him; emotionally, you’re working on it. Basically, you’re probably feeling lust. This doesn’t mean that lust can’t turn into love. It can and often does, but if it doesn’t, it’s important to understand why.
The physical aspect of a relationship is very important, as you should be compatible in the bedroom.
But you know that the most important aspect of a healthy, solid relationship is the emotional connection. While chemistry may bring you and your partner together initially, it doesn’t keep you together permanently. Like interests, good communication, respect, caring and trust are the tools that build a strong foundation and a life-long commitment. So whether you are interested in true love or exciting lust, at least know your intentions and what you are willing to accept. In that way, you won’t be surprised if the relationship blossoms or falls apart.
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
Is it love or lust?
It’s a fair question because often those two feel so alike. Both love and lust tap into our (limbic) system, the seat of our emotions. They both create powerful hormonal responses. They both feel really great! But while love generally incorporates lust, lust does not necessarily incorporate love.
I think the only way to differentiate between love and lust is with time.
Desiring someone sexually will usually happen very quickly. It’s somewhat mysterious as to what combination of chemicals and circumstances are involved with strong physical attraction. However at the purely physical level it probably doesn’t have a lot to do with your logical brain. Whether you label those feelings love or lust, if you wait long enough you can usually override your attraction enough to think about the other qualities (or the lack thereof) in the object of your desire.
I think love is a combination of physical, emotional, cultural and intellectual attraction.
Real love really needs all of those elements to have a good chance of resulting in a long-lasting connection. You have to be able to think to be able to accurately assess your partner. It’s asking a lot of your brain to be able to do that in the midst of an orgy of desire. Besides, who wants to shut those feelings down? It feels great and whether you act on it or not, it’s a pleasurable experience that you probably don’t want to miss out on.
When it comes to love, you have to be able to think.
Besides physical attraction, he needs to possess the qualities that reflect your values, interests and dreams for the future. If you want kids and he doesn’t, love will be quickly replaced by loss and resentment. That is not the basis for a good relationship.
It’s also important to remember that at the beginning, you will both probably be on your best behavior. That won’t last either. It’s another good reason to slow it down.
Falling in love at first sight is a romantic concept generally not existing anywhere except in movies and romance novels. In real life love needs to grow slowly enough to stand up to the challenges of real life. Thoughtful, slow, and easy is the best way to go.
Sally LeBoy, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com
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