What Is The Difference Between Lust And Love? Lust Vs. Love

By: Jessica Anderson

Updated September 18, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Dutil

There is a well-known four-letter "L" word that defines many romantic relationships. However, there's another four-letter "L" word that sneaks into our relationships fairly often as well. Love and lust are similar yet very different types of attraction. Figuring out whether your romantic feelings come from lust or love can be challenging, but with a deeper understanding of each of these words, you will be able to spot the difference.

Confused About The Difference Between Lust And Love?
You're Not The Only One. Chat With A Licensed Relationship Expert Now.

Source: prostooleh via freepik.com

Lust is looking at a person and feeling both a strong sexual attraction and a pull toward imaginative details that the relationship could one day possess. Love is a feeling of commitment and adoration for a person that you've put effort into and began to build a life with. It is a feeling backed by action and a desire to grow with and do your best for the person you're with.

Look into your relationship and try to see where your emotional connection is stemming from. If your feelings are about sexual attraction or future ideals, you're likely falling into lust. If your feelings are built on a solid relationship that you've put work into, you're likely falling in love. If you're not quite sure, read on to learn more distinctions between the two terms. With the right information, you'll find the answer you are looking for.

Lust tends to get a bad reputation, but it is extremely common. Everyone feels a sense of lust from time to time throughout their life, so do not worry if your relationship has its signs. It is an intense desire to be intimate with another person. In fact, some research has revealed that lusting after someone is similar to having an addiction to a drug. When you are lusting after someone, you are more focused on sexual aspects than you are on building a relationship. You may not be fully aware of this focus, so it's important to look into the details of the relationship. Here are some of the possible characteristics of lust:

  1. You Only Think About Sexual Desires

If you're in a relationship with someone and the only thing you think about is sex, there is a good chance the connection will carry a focus on sexual relations. When lust is surpassed, other relationship goals begin. Without these additional goals, relationships usually do not contain love.

  1. Unhealthy Behaviors Are Common In Your Relationship

If you are in love with someone, you will likely do your best to be upfront and honest about everything to impress the person that you love and to show them who you really are. If you are only lusting after someone, your focus will be more self-centered and may even have a focus on sexual intimacy instead of relationship building. With unhealthy goals come unhealthy behaviors. Lying, pretending to be someone your not, and exaggerating the truth are acts that may come up quickly in a lust-filled relationship which may kill the relationship at its early stages.

Source: freepik.com

  1. You Don't Want To Build A Connection

When you're lusting after someone, you'll have little to no desire to speak with them about anything beyond shallow topics. You'll subconsciously do whatever it takes to avoid building a connection with that person. You may even know deep down that you do not want to build a connection with them. If the interaction ends on shallow topics or even ends in the bedroom, you are likely not in love.

What Makes Love?

For your feelings to be considered love, there are some characteristics that need to show through. Here are a few that you should recognize in your relationship:

  1. Undeniable Attraction Towards The Other Person

There is a noticeable difference between love and sexual attraction, but it isn't necessarily a physical attraction. This is talking about your attraction to the little things that your partner does. For example, maybe you fall in love every time your significant other laughs or smiles.

  1. You're Willing To Give More Than Take

When you love someone, you want to give them the world. You want to help them reach their goals. When you love someone, you want to see them happy before yourself. Lust relationships will cause you to have more of a self-focus instead.

  1. You Develop A Deep Connection

Lust relationships rarely go beneath surface level. This is because one or both parties are unable or unwilling to share things about themselves that will lead to meaningful and long-lasting connections. When you are in a relationship with someone else that involves love, you will have no problem speaking in-depth about yourself and trying to connect with the other person on a deeper level. There is a desire to share personal details when you are in love. You understand that even if it feels intimidating, it adds meaning to your relationship.

Confused About The Difference Between Lust And Love?
You're Not The Only One. Chat With A Licensed Relationship Expert Now.

Source: teksomolika via freepik.com

  1. There Is A Clear Lack of Judgment Towards Your Partner

When you are in love, your relationship becomes more about understanding than judgment. Although there are healthy limits as to what your significant other can do before you have to pass judgment, you always try your best to see into the heart of the person that you are with. You work to recognize the good qualities in them rather than focusing on the less favorable qualities that they may have.

  1. You're Always Willing To Support Your Significant Other

Your willingness to support your partner through thick and thin is a big indicator of love. For example, imagine that you have been seeing someone for a while, and they have an opportunity to take a job in another state. If you love them, you will be supportive of their opportunity, and you will make the relationship work no matter what. In a lust relationship, the long-distance would likely not feel worth the effort to you.

Tools That Can Help You Find The Difference In Your Relationship

One of the best things to do when you're unsure if a relationship's intentions are to talk to your close friends and family. They know you best, and they will be able to tell you if they see you pursuing this person long term. If you're wanting to keep the process private, make a list. Write down everything you like about the person you are attracted to. Do the qualities align more with the lust or love categories listed above?

You may even want to ask your significant other some questions about how they feel. It can often be hard to read our own emotions if they are complicated, so ask your partner deep questions and see how they react. Ask them where they see the relationship going. If they have loving answers that you agree with, you can believe your relationship is filled with love. If not, it may be lust.

Source: freepik.com

The Benefits Of Counseling For Relationship Help

Your romantic relationships are a huge part of your life. They affect you in many ways, including your mental health. If you're struggling with the intentions of a relationship, consider talking with a therapist. They are trained and able to help you fully understand how you're feeling. They bring up the hard topics, and they give you an honest view of your own life in the areas that may be hard to see yourself.

If you believe a counselor would be beneficial, consider BetterHelp. BetterHelp is available from the comfort and privacy of your own home. The organization makes it easy to fit counseling into your already busy schedule. See reviews of BetterHelp counselors below, from people experiencing different relationship issues.

BetterHelp Counselor Reviews

"Mark has been extremely attentive to everything that I disclose. He's not only provided me support but insight and encouragement to let me know I'm on a good path to self-improvement and discovery. Furthermore, Mark has provided me valuable insight on my romantic relationship, specifically with learning more about the relationship dynamics and how to build a stronger, healthier relationship."

"Stephanie is a gem! She's very thoughtful, thorough, honest, insightful, but, most of all, helpful. This is coming from a person that never wanted to do counseling and just "knew" I didn't need it. She's been key in helping my wife and I find our better place. She made us grow as a couple and individually. Thanks, Steph!"

Moving Forward

Figuring out if you're falling into lust or love can be a challenge. With the information above, it should be a much simpler process. Remember to reach out for help if you need it, from family and friends, or from a professional. You deserve the best in your love life, and differentiating lust and love will get you there.


How do you differentiate between love and lust?

Love and lust are two separate sensations that you must not see as similar. Sometimes, you find it difficult to tell the difference lust and love because they are both developed from being psychologically attracted to someone and borne out of the physical connection. So, how do you tell the difference between love and lust? What you feel, is it love or lust? The following are ways to distinguish love from lust:

  • Emotional Connection Vs Physical Connection: When you meet someone you admire relatively to sensation, you will definitely feel connected to such a person. The connection can either be physical or emotional. Lust is physical and love is emotional. When it's physical, your mentality is directed towards sex, but when it's emotional it's more. Emotional connection involves being attracted to be part of such a person's life, to spend time, and attend to both the physical and emotional needs of the other person.
  • Instant Pleasure Vs Delayed Gratification: Under lust vs love explication, lust is seen as a sensation developed to have an instant pleasure (it's impulsive), while love apparently involves delayed gratification (you indulge and accept probably for a long time).
  • Superficiality vs Substantiality: This is an important point when dealing with lust vs love. The feelings of lust are developed for the satisfaction of what you see and feel on the surface level which may involve body parts, fantasy, pleasure, seduction, and so on. Real love on the other hand goes deeper. It's a deep affection that makes you vulnerable and real to your partner. When you love someone, you tend to share your hope, dreams, disappointment, and fears with a great extent of trust— this definitely will last for a long time.
  • Sudden Engagement vs Deep Commitment: Under love vs lust, the feeling of love makes a long term relationship If you are deeply in love with someone, you are committed to meet the needs of such a person. Most times it requires endurance and responsibility for a long time. Lust on the other hand is short and sudden and never lasts for a long time, unlike love. Sometimes, it may take just a night to get over it.
  • Diminishment Vs Growth: The feelings of Lust diminishes with time because it's built on an intense desire that doesn't last for a long time. It's controlled by your physical connection and pleasure. Love on the other hand increases with time. The bond and attachment between you too help to build a long term relationship.
  • About you Vs About Them: This is an important point to consider when dealing with the difference between lust and love. Under lust vs love, the feelings of love involve thinking about what you can offer other people or make their lives better. It's not about you but about them. Lust on the other hand is about you. What you have to gain to satisfy possibly your sexual desire.

Is lust stronger than love?

You should understand the difference between love and lust. This will give you a clear thought of which one is stronger. 

Lust is not stronger than love. It's is a temporary sexual desire that may lead to love.  Love is a powerful force that pulls two individuals into a relationship. Helen Fisher, the author of "Why We Love", empirically showed from research that love involves distinctive neural mechanisms that are different from sexual attraction.

From studies in brain-scan, love is explained as a sensation that activates some parts of the human brain with high receptors for dopamine (a chemical in charge of euphoria, addiction, and motivation). You don't feel deeply hurt after a breakup when your relationship is rooted in lust. But if it's in love, it affects your mental health or your well-being.
What causes lust?

Lust is a feeling of strong desire which is driven by sexual arousal. It is shown that lust can be induced when there is no deep attachment or obsessive attraction between two individuals. Lust can be triggered when you focus on someone's body or looks, have a strong sexual connection with someone, live in your fantasy, have interest only in the consummation of your feelings, and only interested to be a lover than best friends.
Can lust be confused for love?

If you are not so careful, there is a possibility that you will confuse lust with love. You meet people every day. For some, you have this chemistry that you can't really tell if it's borne out of love or lust. It's pertinent to understand such a condition and not to confuse sexual connection for real love. The following are tips that indicate that you are confusing lust for love:

  • All that you want is Sex: If the whole essence of you being attracted to such a person is to have a taste of what is under the pants, then your feeling is not well defined as love. This may be triggered by looks or the body of such a person.
  • You have little knowledge of whom such person is: If you claim to love someone you are meeting for the first time or not more than a handful of times (physically or on social media), then you are wrong. Love is a sensation that is nurtured which may take a long time.
  • Casual Hookups: if you're deeply in love with someone, you will wish to see such a person every second if it's possible. However (even on social media), lust is characterized by a sexual attraction that may involve seeing each other casually.
  • You Have Only Physical Connection: Under love vs lust, love is seen as an emotional connection, while lust is regarded as a physical connection. So, if are only connected to such a person at the physical level, then that's not love but lust. You are deeply in love when you make moves that indicate that you are really interested in the relationship. These may involve deep and meaningful talks to get substantial things about such a person.
  • The excitement in a New Relationship: It normal to feel excited when you enter a new relationship with someone. You will always be eager to call or text, especially on social media, or get to get any of these from your partner. This excitement should not be taken as love because the feelings will later wear off and diminish with time.

How long does lust typically last?

Lust is an intense sexual desire that dissipates over time. It is short-lived and does not last for a very long time, unlike real love. Lust can be described as an agent that helps bring together two people inducing a deep physical connection. In addition, lust is stimulated by projecting or idealizing what you wish to see which does not stay for long.
What does being in love feel like?

Everyone has the capacity to fall in love. You don't need any love doctor to tell you that you're in love. It's a powerful experience that brings out your inner beauty. When you are head over heels in love with someone, you tend to have a special sense of responsibility and committed to the cause of making your partner happy every day. So, how does being in love really feel like if you are to discuss real feelings?

  • Being in Love Feels Unique: Love is a powerful sensation that means different things to different individuals. But what brings everyone together is that love is experienced uniquely. Love is seen as a feeling that shares no similarities with other feelings. It's an interesting experience that ignites the feeling of excitement and sometimes jealousy over things you should have overlooked.
  • Being in Love feels like a collection of several emotions: When you are in love, you tend to feel as if you are experiencing several different emotions under the banner of love.
  • Being in Love feels like intense sensations of joy: When you are head over heels with someone, it feels like you are being stuck by happy emotions that are overwhelming and makes you think in a way different from others. Dopamine, a chemical in the brain makes this possible. It occupied your mind with fantasy and make you daydream sometimes. By obsessively thinking about such a person, You will always wish to see your partner all the time even on social media
  • Being in Love offers a sense of peacefulness: When you're in love, you feel happy with your partner and feel positive, empowered, peaceful, and confident any time you're around such a person. All these will last as long as you're in love.

Does love at first sight exist?

Love at first sight is an instantaneous attraction that occurs when romantic love is stimulated by certain electrical and chemical pathways in the brain. It's a sensation that occurs instantly in men and women as a basic drive that attract them to other people.

If love at first sight does exist, how will you know?

  • You will feel uneasy at the first meeting: It's just like every other emotion. It feels like butterflies in the stomach upon seeing the person you're attracted to. Love at first sight is a physical sensation that is influenced by a strong gut-brain connection.
  • Inordinate Curiosity: Love at first sight makes you curious and prompts you to know everything about someone. Your curiosity is borne out of a genuine fascination which leads to the creation of intimacy and closeness with such a person.
  • Maintaining eye contact: The moment you're into someone, the connection between you and such a person may lead to frequent locking of the eyes. This is a sign of flirting. It is shown that when you are attracted to someone, looking at such a person will be frequent. This will make you feel like you are in love.
  • Such a Person will Look Familiar to You: love at first sight makes you feel like someone you are meeting for the first is known to you. The physical connection that you have with such a person will make you relax and comfortable as if you have been together for long.
  • You Find Everything about Such a Person Pleasing: One of the indicators of love at first sight is that you will tend to overlook the mannerisms of someone you are just meeting.

How do you know you have chemistry with someone?

Chemistry is referred to as a mutual attraction between two individuals.  You don't need a love doctor or special medication to feel chemistry. It serves as the bedrock of every relationship. It's an apparent sign when you are dating someone or seeing such a person casually. You can easily tell that you have chemistry even before any physical intimacy–you can feel chemistry for someone you see on social media.

The following are ways to know you have chemistry with someone:

  • Maintaining Eye Contact and Physically Drawn towards Such a Person: Chemistry as a mutual attraction will make you lock eyes with such a person frequently. Also, you will feel like something is pulling you toward such a person. This may come with the feeling to get a romantic touch.
  • Maintaining Physical/Romantic Touch: When you feel chemistry with someone, you will always want to put your hands around such a person in a romantic way when sitting side by side. Romantic touch is a sign of chemistry.
  • You're always interested in what such a person says: This mostly is accompanied by angling your body which indicates that you're passionately interested in what is being said. You may lean and maintain a romantic touch with such a person when sitting side by side.
  • Flirty Conversation with lots of laughter: The chemistry you have will make flirting looks natural to you. When you are around such a person, you will feel free to express yourself in a flirtatious manner but not awkward. You crack jokes and both of you laugh together at the early stages of your romantic relationship especially when such a person is your best friend

Previous Article

How Important Is Intimacy In Marriage?

Next Article

How To Tell If You Have An Intimate Relationship
For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
Speak with a Licensed Counselor Today
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.