7 Ways To Define The Difference Between Lust & Love, According To Science
If you've "fallen" for someone, how do you know it's the real deal or just a temporary phase? For instance, feelings of lust and love can be similar, but they may end up playing out differently down the road. Though it may be difficult, learning how to know whether you're in love or lust is important, as you can better judge the amount of energy, effort, and investment you may want to put into the relationship long-term. If you're simply in lust, you might not want to consider such a large commitment as you would with someone you see a potential future with or have a deep, emotional connection with.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on improving their relationships and understanding where they stand with their partners. This can often involve discerning their own emotions and desires. So, if someone is feeling super attracted and drawn to a new partner, it could be a sign of a more short-term, infatuation, as opposed to feelings of love. Of course, this isn't the case for everyone, and sometimes lust can develop into love if you choose to give the relationship a real shot by investing time into strengthening the bond. However, it's worth noting the differences so you can better target your feelings and figure out next steps accordingly. Here are seven science-backed ways to tell the difference between lust and love.
1How Your Brain Reacts
Love and lust can be registered by the brain in different ways. According to a study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, different parts of your brain are activated depending on whether you feel love or lust. For example, the part of the brain triggered by lust happened to be the same area activated by pleasures like sex and food, while the area of the brain activated by love was more associated with behavioral conditioning and rewards.
2Whether Or Not You Only Want Sex
Yes, having sex when in love is pretty important. But, if all you're feeling is that sexual attraction and not a deeper connection, it could mean it's lust and not love, David Bennett, a certified counselor and relationship expert tells Bustle. Take note of whether you desire to make that emotional connection with your new partner, because that can also discern lust from love.
3How Much You Share With Each Other
If you prefer to keep things casual, and not delve into deeper emotions, this may be lust territory. "If you have a great sex life but lack emotional connection and can't open up," it may be lust and not love, Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells Bustle. "If you're always up for sex but there is little interest in having conversations this is a sign of lust not love. When you love someone you should feel supported and be able to express your needs."
4How Much You Fantasize About Them
According to Hershenson, if you only fantasize about them, you're likely feeling more lust. "[If] you don't discuss real feelings but would rather keep the relationship on a fantasy level," that is more like lust, Hershenson says. While fantasizing about your partner isn't unique to lust only, if you find that you prefer the fantasy life over being honest and open about certain not-so-perfect realities of your relationship, this may not be love. "When you love someone there should be trust, honesty and communication," Hershenson says.
5What You'll Sacrifice For Them
When you're in love, stakes may seem higher, and you're willing to sacrifice more for your partner. According to studies led by Dr. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University, when you're in love, you're willing to sacrifice nearly anything for the other person, so much so that it could even put you in harm's way or at a major inconvenience, as you're making your partner a priority.
6How Willing You Are To Try New Things
When in love versus lust, you might be more inclined to try new things, as it's a way of showing a commitment and investment in the relationship, experts say. When the brain is open to new adventures and gets stimulated by the idea of spontaneity with a partner, it could mean you're ready for the next step for something serious.
7Whether Or Not You Think In Terms Of "We"
If you're in lust, you might be more focused on what your goals and needs are. However, when in love, you might start to say "we" in conversation and think of things you both will do together, outside the bedroom and with others. "Love is about giving and investing in another person," Shlomo Zalman Bregman, matchmaker and rabbi in NYC tells Bustle. "These are the emotions that accompanying loving someone else ... not swallowing up and devouring and taking. So, you'll start to think about what you both can do for each other as a unit, as opposed to looking out for yourself." When you start to plan the future around the two of you, it shows you are seriously committed to this person.
If you feel strongly in either direction, it could be a signal that you're in lust or love, depending on the situation and your emotional state. Be sure to stay in touch with your feelings when assessing any relationship and figuring out the next steps that work for you.