There’s nothing wrong with wanting to rip your partner’s clothes off on a whim (it can definitely make for a hot relationship), but whether or not there’s a deeper love will determine the commitment level. Knowing the difference between love and lust will help you better understand just how romantically involved you envision being with your partner for the long term. And, what’s more, it’ll give you a good idea of just how to feel towards your partner, regarding his or her flaws and how they effect you.
As a certified health coach, I work with people on feeling satisfied in their relationships, no matter what that actually stands for. In some cases, people are just after lust, or rather an intimate (often mostly physical) relationship that is more short lived, hot, and obsessive. Think: You can’t keep your hands off each other when together. But, usually there’s less of a connection beyond the physical (you’re sort of dating the body, instead of the person inside it). Contrarily, a relationship built on love will have a more meaning, as there’s an affection and understanding there. No matter what you’re currently looking for, both can be quite fulfilling; just the long-term outcome will differ. Here are 9 ways to tell the difference between love and lust in a relationship.
1. You Have Meaningful Conversation
According to Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, a licensed clinical professional counselor and a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist, over email with Bustle, if you’re finding a deeper level of communication, there’s probably a love there. “When there is depth to the relationship, beyond just physical attraction, that is a good sign that there is love. You are able to have meaningful conversations, discuss your dreams for your relationship, learn about each other’s interests and family background,” Rabbi Slatkin explains.
2. You’re Excited By Them Only Sexually
“If you find yourself romantically and sexually excited by them, but have no interest in the emotional and other non-sexual aspects of the relationship, then it likely is just lust,” says David Bennett, a certified counselor and relationship expert to Bustle.
3. You’re Still Invested In Them Even With Bad Sex
If you’re suffering to have a sexual chemistry with your partner, or you don’t like his or her style in bed, but you still want to stay with them for a slew of other reasons, it’s likely because you love them, says Bennett. “Love is a connection that is deeper than just sexual attraction, and is emotional and even intellectual, and lasts even when you may be struggling to connect sexually with your partner,” says Bennett.
4. You Have Fantasies About Them
“Lust is typically chemical, primal and strongly physical. It usually involves idealization and fantasy about the person,” says Stacy Kaiser, Live Happy Editor At Large and licensed psychotherapist, to Bustle. “Love tends to be calmer and quieter. It takes more time to grow and feels much more like an emotional and psychological bond than a chemical or physical one,” Kaiser adds.
5. You’re Obsessive
“Lust and the early stages of a relationship involve the addiction center of your brain, which is fed by the hormones that surge through you each time you see or think about the object of your desires,” says Michelle Archard, Romance Expert to Bustle. “If you are continually looking for a ‘fix’ of your partner then you are probably still in the lust phase. If you can go some time without contact and aren’t continually thinking about them then you’ve moved into the love or attachment phase,” Archard explains.
6. You Feel Grounded Around Them
“Love is deep grounded feeling. Love is layered. You take the whole package when you love someone. You want to get to know them. You care about them and care for their wellbeing,” says Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Melissa Divaris Thompson, to Bustle. In general, you’ll be more interested in peeling back those layers.
7. You’re Doing More “Couple” Things
“By the time love happens, couples are usually moving in together, buying a house, moving up the career ladder, and thinking of kids. So they have a lot more stress happening in their life, which helps to kill (or slow down) lust,” explains Cath Hakanson, sex educator and founder of Sex Ed Rescue to Bustle.
8. You’re Focused On Getting What You Want
Here’s a key difference: Lust is about getting what you want (maybe some hot sex?), while love is more about enduring the relationship and giving onto a partner, explains Author & relationship coach, Brian Taylor, to Bustle. Think about where your mind is and it’ll help determine whether you’re feeling love or lust.
9. You Don’t Feel Safe To Open Up
“If you feel safe to share your feelings in your relationship, and you feel accepted despite your flaws, it’s likely love. If you feel you either can’t or don’t want to share your feelings and be emotionally vulnerable in your relationship, it’s likely lust,” Shirani M. Pathak, LCSW, Relationship Center of Silicon Valley, says over email with Bustle.
If you notice any of these differences popping up in your relationship, you’ll definitely get a few signals to understand the difference. If it’s aligned with what you want, that’s great. If not, it’s time to re-evaluate.
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