When it comes to our friends, we can normally tell a mile off whether what they’re feeling for someone is lust or love. When it comes to ourselves, however, we’re never able to see things quite as clearly. We can’t see the wood for the trees.
The saying goes that love is blind, but this rings true for lust too. We’re blind to any defects in the object of our affections, but when we’re high on lust, we can also be blind to signs that what we’re feeling might not actually be the real deal.
Love is a deep feeling of affection that you have for another person. It’s a lasting attraction that goes beyond the surface and turns into emotional attachment.
Lust, on the other hand, is basically a physical attraction that leads to an overwhelming feeling of sexual desire thanks to a rush of hormones.
While lust can grow and morph into love, and some people call it the first stage of love, that’s not always the case.
If you’ve got butterflies doing laps around your stomach and you’re not sure if what’s stirring them up is really love or just sexual chemistry with no real substance to it (although there’s no guarantee that won’t develop with time), here are the key things that set love apart from lust.
1. You Want To Spend All Night Talking
Two people deeply in lust can easily stay up all night enjoying themselves in each other’s company, but it won’t be the stimulating conversation keeping them awake.
Two people in love, however, are just as interested in each other’s minds as they are in each other’s bodies. They can easily lose track of time when doing nothing more than talking to one another.
They’re never stuck for a topic of conversation and, even if they don’t agree on everything, they’re intrigued by each other’s minds.
2. You Want To Cuddle And Have Breakfast The Next Day
Whilst you can, and probably will, feel a huge amount of sexual desire for someone you’re in love with, you’ll also be just as keen to stay with them after you’ve had sex to cuddle and chat.
You might have to rush off to work the next morning, but what you’ll really want is to have a leisurely breakfast in their company.
3. You Can’t Stop Thinking About Them
It’s true that lust can do this to us too. If you’re in lust, however, you may well spend all your time thinking about them, but you’ll be daydreaming about the physical aspects of the relationship or their physical features.
Those in love won’t be able to get the other person off their mind either, but they’re more likely to be caught daydreaming about something witty the object of their affections said and marvelling over their mind or the things they have in common.
That’s not to say that their thoughts will be entirely pure and they won’t get flashbacks to the physical side of things too, but they won’t be the main focus.
4. You Want To Meet Those Important To Them
Much as you’ll be interested in seeing the object of your lust, you won’t have much of an interest in meeting their network of family and friends.
Love, however, means you want to get to know all sides of someone. You can tell an awful lot about someone by the people they surround themselves with and those they count amongst their good friends. If things get serious, their family are likely to become a big part of your life.
If what you’re feeling is love, you’ll want to build relationships with these people too. You’ll see it as a vital part of developing your relationship with your partner.
In return, you’ll be excited and proud to introduce them to your best friends and family, and anxious for them to adore your new partner almost as much as you do (but in a different way – obviously!).
In our rational minds, we know that no one is perfect, but we can easily lose sight of that when we’re blinded by hormones and desire. When you’re lusting after someone, you have an idealized picture of them, and you don’t see them for who they really are, warts and all.
We all tend to present an idealized version of ourselves when a relationship is first starting to bud. You don’t really get under someone’s skin unless you put the time in.
As you get to know someone, they let their guard down and start to show their true colors. It’s only then that you get to know them for who they really are.
That can either put an end to a blossoming relationship, meaning it never makes it past the lust stage, or that it grows and morphs into real love. If you love someone, you’re conscious of their flaws and love them in spite of, or maybe even because of, them.
6. It Takes Time
I hate to break it to you romantics out there, but love at first sight doesn’t exist.
Of course, you can experience lust at first sight. You can experience a strong attraction at first sight that feels like a lightning bolt with fireworks going off in your head when they kiss you. This can easily be confused with love, especially if the relationship does go on to develop.
Love in its true form, however, just isn’t something that can appear instantly. In order to love someone, you have to spend quality time with them and truly get to know them.
7. It’s All In the Science
The different ways that we behave when we’re experiencing desire and love are the result of what’s going on under the surface in our complex brains.
A recent study tried to get to the bottom of what happens in the brain when we experience sexual desire and love. It showed that, although they are very much linked, they activate different areas of a part of the brain known as the striatum.
The area linked to desire is lit up by things we gain instant pleasure from, like food and sex. Love, however, is linked to another area that’s involved in a conditioning process through which we begin to attach value to the things that we associate with pleasure or reward.
If our sexual desires are rewarded with pleasurable feelings consistently, love can develop. That’s why you can’t fall in love instantly. As we go through the process of moving from lust to love, our feelings move from one area of the striatum to another.
Turns out that, on a basic level, and without wanting to sound too depressingly un-romantic, love is essentially a habit that we develop when our sexual desires are rewarded.
The same part of the brain is associated with drug addiction. Anyone who’s ever been a bit crazy in love will understand that.
Katie splits her time between writing and translation. She writes about travel and self-care and never stays in one place for too long. She’s currently based in beautiful Cornwall, England, after long stints in Brazil and Mexico. She spends her free time trail running, exploring and devouring vegan food.