In the flood of new relationship feelings how can you differentiate between lust and love?
Attraction, attachment, lust, love – we get swept up in a flood of pheromones, hormones and body chemistry when we initially meet someone that we find attractive. It’s physical, it’s primal and it’s natural. But sometimes, it’s difficult to distinguish where lust ends and love begins, especially during those first few exciting weeks or months of a new relationship. Is it lust or is it love – how can you tell the difference? Lust can be present without love but it is difficult (though not impossible) to have love without lust.
Lust vs Love
Lust is desire – a chemical reaction in response to implicit drivers that attract you. Lust may generate an intense feeling of longing or need to be physically intimate with another person. You don’t need to know a person to lust after them. Lust is physical – your limbic system kicks into overdrive and your body is flooded with hormones that drive your emotions and physical desires. Lust is quick – you may be overcome with an overwhelming urge to be with a person physically, even if you know little to nothing about them. Lust is flighty – feelings of intense sexual attraction may move quickly from one object of desire to another. Lust is not about the individual but about the attractive qualities that the individual embodies which means you may lust after more than one person concurrently. Lust is passionate, which is why it’s often confused with love; many people in love also experience feelings of lust or passion for their partner. A passionate physical connection may help to keep a long- term loving relationship vibrant and connected. While lust centres on a desire for physical intimacy, love centres on a desire to connect emotionally, intellectually and physically with another person. Love keenly desires knowledge of the other person and makes partners feel known and valued as individuals. Love develops and deepens through conversations about your pasts, presents and your future. It can be difficult to tell the difference between love and lust, especially in the early stages of a relationship but there are few questions you can ask yourself to help differentiate between the two.
Who owns your self-worth?
If your sense of self worth is wrapped up in what the other person thinks, feels or says about you, your relationship probably isn’t supportive, equitable and loving. Love lifts and supports your sense of self- worth, it doesn’t appropriate it. If you feel more like an object or a thing instead of a person, if you feel marginalised or embarrassed by your opinions and values, if you feel ‘put back in your box’ by your partner, you are not in a loving and supportive relationship. Self-worth should come from your own sense of identity and should be dictated by your own values and measures of success.
Do you talk about the future?
People in love talk about the future; their future, together. Sometimes, these conversations can by awkward, with neither person willing to be the first to project their hopes and desires onto the relationship. However, once these conversations happen, they keep happening. You make plans beyond the weekend. You book holidays together and attend weddings. You meet the family – their parents, siblings or even children. You may discuss living together in the future or even having children of your own. If you can’t picture yourself with a person in the long term, it’s probably not love.
Are you making sacrifices?
Loving relationships are full of negotiation and healthy compromise, however, if you seem to be backing down or ‘losing’ every discussion, it may be an indication of an unhealthy attachment to your partner. Truly loving relationships allow both partners the space and opportunity to be themselves and voice their opinions without fear that they will upset the other person with their alternate viewpoint. If you feel tentative, wary or uncomfortable disagreeing with your partner, you may feel insecure about your relationship and fear that your partner will react unfavourably or like you less as a consequence of your opinion.
Interrogate your own feelings, motivations and desires thoroughly and, where necessary, discuss these feelings and motivations with the person you are dating. People enter into relationships for a range of different reasons: physical intimacy, emotional attachment, boredom, security and comfort – make sure you know and understand your own reasons and you’ll be better able to differentiate between the lust of attraction and the attachment of love.