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10 ways to tell if you’re making love or just having sex (there is a difference)

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If you’re wondering what the differences are between making love with someone and having sex, you’ve come to the right place.

You might not have slept with many people, or you may never have slept with someone you truly cared about before, so it may feel confusing! 

There are some key questions you can ask yourself when it comes to your sex life and your partner of choice.

These will help you figure out if you’re having ‘just sex’ or if you’re sharing something more intimate and genuinely making love.

1. Are there feelings involved? 

Many people will have slept with someone they don’t have romantic feelings for before – whether it’s a drunken thing, a hook-up with a ‘friend with benefits,’ or sex with someone they’ve only just started seeing.

It’s just sex – it’s something physical and you’re both there to enjoy yourselves. 

Making love, however, is more to do with sharing your feelings for each other through the physical act.

It’s about bonding and feeling closer to your partner, and is a physical way of communicating those feelings with someone you really care about.

You might have spoken with them about how it’ll bring you closer, or it might be something you do to show that you really care. 

2. Is it regular or a one-off?

If you’ve only slept with this person once, it’s likely that it was just sex.

Maybe it was something you were both in the mood for at the time; a quick-fix that was convenient!

It may be a one-night stand or a drunken thing with a close friend, but it’s something that happened without much prelude or thought.

If you’re regularly sleeping with someone, there’s a strong chance you’re actually making love to each other.

Essentially, you’re getting to know each other’s bodies and desires, and it’s about mutually enjoying learning more about what the other prefers in bed.

It’s less about a selfish one-off to get what you want, and more about intimately pleasing your partner. 

3. Is it exclusive?

If you’re hooking up with various people, or the person you’re sleeping with is seeing other people, you’re probably just having sexual intercourse with each other.

It’s much easier to sleep around when you don’t have feelings for anyone. There’s no guilt or loyalty involved, so you can just enjoy yourself – safely, of course! 

If you’re exclusive, it’s because you both feel like there’s something special between you; something you don’t want to share with anyone else.

If you hate the thought of them sharing that kind of intimacy or pleasure with someone else, chances are you’re making love and you’ve got feelings for them.

They probably feel the exact same way about you if they’re also making the active choice to share this experience with only you. 

4. Is it one-sided or more tender?

If the sex you’re having is all about you both getting what you want, often as quickly as possible, it sounds like you’re just hooking up.

‘Just sex’ is often about getting what you want and solely enjoying the physical side of things. You might not be making sure the other person is also having a great time! 

If you’re both taking the time to learn about each other and be more tender with each other, you’re making love.

It’s probably less rushed, there’s a lot more kissing and talking involved, and it’s a lot sweeter than having ‘just sex’ with someone you don’t have feelings for.

They’re probably more focused on making sure you have a great time, too, as opposed to just getting their own kicks!

5. Do you let your guard down?

When you’re having casual sex with someone, you might not be your true self with them.

You might have great sex, but you’re less likely to let yourself be vulnerable in front of them.

This could be because you don’t fully trust them or because you’re not willing to share that side of yourself with just anyone. 

If you feel like you can explore certain aspects of your sexuality that you’ve not shared with anyone before, and you can let yourself just enjoy the moment, it’s more likely to be making love than just having sex.

You trust your partner and you feel safe and secure in terms of sharing your body and mind with them.

You might find that you feel more confident about your body in front of them, or you feel happier telling them what you want in bed.

Either way, you’ll be more yourself with them as you want them to get to know the real you. 

6. Do you feel emotionally fulfilled?

If you leave them feeling like you’ve shared something special and let someone see a hidden side to you, you’ve probably just made love with someone you really care about.

That level of physical intimacy opens up so much more emotional fulfillment than a casual hook-up does. You might feel more secure in your relationship, more confident in yourself, and more loved. 

If you’ve just had a great time and feel sexually satisfied, that’s probably all it is. You’ll walk away feeling content, but not in love!

There’ll be no butterflies, you won’t call your BFF to share the sweet things your partner said to you, and you won’t spend any time daydreaming about how cute they are. 

7. Do you say ‘I love you’?

Unsurprisingly, part of making love to someone is sharing that feeling of being in love!

If you’ve said ‘I love you’ whilst sleeping with someone, that’s because you’re genuinely feeling that in the moment.

It could also be that saying those 3 magic little words leads you to making love with them – it doesn’t need to be said in the heat of the moment, it could be the sentence that shows you’re both ready to share that feeling physically with each other. 

If the dialogue is more along the lines of dirty talk, it’s just sex! 

8. Does it bring you closer together?

Casual sex normally doesn’t really meanmuch to either person involved, so it’s more about physical stimulation than anything else.

You might not feel any closer to them because you’ve not genuinely shared anything, other than your bodies, with each other. 

Making love, however, is a way of feeling closer to your partner (physically, sure, but emotionally, too!) and is often a strong sign of a great, healthy relationship.

It might be a way of showing you both really care about each other after a fight, for example, or of making each other feel better after a bad day. Either way, it’s a way of solidifying both your bond and your relationship. 

9. Are you in a rush or do you take your time?

Again, sex is often about feeling good, physically. It can be pretty rushed and basic – whatever it takes to get you both off, essentially!

Because you’re both there just for a hook-up, you don’t need to seduce each other or show that you really want to spend this time together.

You can just turn up, get what you both want, and be on your way…

If you’re spending longer in bed with someone and really taking your time to explore each other’s bodies and minds, it’s more likely that you’re making love.

By slowing down, you’re showing your partner that you want to commit your time to finding out what they really like!

It’s a way of letting them know that you’re here for them, with them, and that you want to share this moment rather than rush through it just so you can get what you want. 

10. Does it feel romantic?

Sex is often just about convenience – you’re both attracted to each other and it feels good, so why not?

Neither of you will probably make much of an effort to make it feel special or sweet –it’s just physical, so why bother, right?

Making love is all about romance – maybe there are candles or sexy lingerie involved. Maybe you’ve been wined and dined in the build-up to sharing this moment with each other.

Either way, if you’re both setting the mood and building the passion, it’s about more than just sex. You care about how the other person feels and want them to feel good about themselves, to feel seduced and cared about.

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About The Author

Lucy is a travel and wellness writer currently based in Gili Air, a tiny Indonesian island. After over a year of traveling, she’s settled in paradise and spends her days wandering around barefoot, practicing yoga and exploring new ways to work on her wellbeing.