The Difference Between Lust, Infatuation, And Love

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

I've been in love a few times, been infatuated even more, and in lust more than both of those combined. And, not surprisingly, when I was infatuated, I thought I was in love; when I was in love I tried to dismiss it as lust, and when I was in lust, I just wanted to get naked. Basically, when you're caught up in any of these feelings, trying to tell one for the other can be difficult; all three can throw our lives into a tailspin. It's only after the fact, when you've gained perspective, that you can see things a bit more clearly. Emphasis on "a bit." So how does one tell the difference between lust, infatuation, and love?

"Let's begin by acknowledging that love has three layers of intimacy; we call this the Relationship PIE," Vince Brantley, Certified Relationship Coach with Maze of Love, tells Bustle. "They are physical, intellectual, and emotional. This is important to consider when distinguishing love, lust, and infatuation."

In addition to taking into consideration the Relationship PIE, there's also the fact that love has more stability to it than lust and infatuation.

“Infatuation lives in illusion,” says bestselling author and relationship expert, Susan Winter, tells Bustle. “Love can survive reality.”

While lust can evolve into love, or vice versa, can infatuation? And if it does, will that love stand a chance of survival? The only way to get to the bottom of all this is to learn the difference between lust, infatuation, and love.

1Lust

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Lust. The word alone conjures up images of sweaty bodies rolling around in bed, on the floor, or maybe even going at it in a public bathroom. It feels raw, animalistic, and even something that, in some cases, can be out of our control. I can't even count how many people I've lusted for whom I didn't even like.

"Lust is physical, often insatiable, though it does not generally collide with infatuation," says Brantley. "When you lust over someone, you want their touch, their physical energy, and it can be like a drug, but the emotional tie is not often there. Instead, a lustful person will meet the needs in other ways, even with other people. Lust can start off as one-sided, but lustful people need the sexual energy and prowess to be there and eventually it won't work for them if the person they lust after is non-energetic, sexually lazy, or selfish in the bedroom."

So, if you're in lust, it can last and possibly evolve, but only if the other person is on the same page.

2Infatuation

Ashley Batz/Bustle

As Winter points out, it's in infatuation that you'll find illusion hard at play — as well as fantasy and maybe even great sex, too. What you definitely won't find is any need to use your brain, that's for sure.

"Infatuation can have physical and emotional elements to it, but it will not have intellectual elements," says Brantley. "We can find someone so physically attractive that anything but constant physical attention and pleasure makes us lose ourselves to them. We want it constantly and we are bothered when we do not get it.

"Generally speaking, infatuation that starts from a physical attraction will bleed over into emotional because of the withdrawal that can occur if we go without them. As well, we can be so emotionally invested with someone, with or without the physical infatuation, that we drive ourselves [wild] without their support, without talking to them, without texting with them. Infatuation, though unhealthy, can be, and is often, one-sided."

Infatuation is the type of thing that can drive someone like Lloyd Dobler to stand outside Diane Court's window with a boombox over his head.

3Love

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

"Love has all three elements," says Brantley, "physical, intellectual, and emotional. In healthy love, there is a good balance of all three that is reciprocated from both sides."

In other words, love and being in love is the real deal; it has it all. It's also going to take far more work than lust or infatuation, because anything that has a chance at survival needs to be nurtured.

From a human standpoint, experiencing all of these makes sense. As far as your emotional and mental health, infatuation may be something to steer clear of, if you can. But when it comes to matters of the heart — and body — we don't always have a say. At least if we can identify what we're feeling accurately, we can proceed with our eyes open... and not find ourselves standing outside someone's window with a boombox.