Love and lust: What’s the difference?

On the big screen, it’s fairly easy to figure out when a character is feeling love or lust for another — but what about in real life? Especially if it’s your life, it can be tricky to confirm which one you are experiencing. If you’ve ever found yourself at the crossroads, it’s best to understand the differences between love and lust.

What is love?

Love is a special feeling you have for your partner or someone close to you. It’s a powerful emotion that can make you feel really connected to them, and you might dream of spending your life with them. Usually, you start feeling this love after the initial attraction or crush.

When you love someone, that feeling can grow stronger over time. If you take care of your relationship and work on it, this love can last a lifetime.

What are the usual signs of love?

A lot of people can mix up love with other feelings, but there are some hints that can help you recognize when you’re in love. These signs could involve:

  • Feeling a strong emotional connection.
  • Making plans for the future with your partner.
  • Being ready to go to great lengths for your partner.
  • Feeling completely at ease with them.
  • Wanting to take your relationship to a more serious level.
  • Having a strong sense of commitment and loyalty to your partner.

What is lust?

Lust is a common feeling that’s all about being really attracted to someone in a sexual way. When you’re experiencing lust, you’re basically constantly feeling sexually drawn to that person. Some experts might describe it as a basic and natural desire. Lust often involves things like feeling sexually excited, being strongly attracted to someone, and seeking satisfaction.

Lust can make you feel like your desire is super strong, and it can be so intense at times that it might make you do things without thinking them through.

What are the usual signs of lust?

When you’re caught up in lust for someone, it can really overpower your sexual desires and hormones. Often, it’s tough to recognize the signs because your emotions are in control.

You might be lusting after someone if you:

  • Get turned on sexually.
  • Find yourself attracted to their body or looks.
  • Want to act on your sexual urges.
  • Keep thinking about having sex with that person.
  • Have a strong urge to get physically close to them.
  • Fantasize about having sex with them.
  • Engage in sexual activities with them.

So, how can you differentiate them?

It’s important to know the difference between love and lust because they can have a big impact on your personal life and relationships. Lust can give you temporary pleasure, but true love offers a deeper sense of fulfillment and lasting happiness.

Here are some things that set love and lust apart:

Feelings: Love is all about intense affection and caring for someone, leading to a strong emotional connection. Lust, on the other hand, is more about raw desires and a strong desire for sexual contact. Both can involve physical attraction, but they’re distinct. After physical intimacy, it might develop into love or stay as just lust.

Timelines: Love typically takes time to develop, requiring effort to build a deep connection, while lust can surface quickly. This is why people sometimes mix them up.

Time Together: When you’re feeling lust, you might focus more on the physical aspects of your relationship. But if you’re in love or in the early stages of it, you’ll likely spend time having meaningful conversations, getting to know each other’s likes and dislikes, and discussing emotional commitments.

Future Commitment: Lust often lacks a desire for long-term commitment. It’s more about short-term sexual satisfaction. Love, on the other hand, involves both physical and emotional commitment. It’s about planning a future together and continuing to learn about your partner.

Relationship Dynamics: Lust is driven by a strong desire for physical intimacy, while love is characterized by care and emotional security. The way you interact with your partner can be different in love and lust. With love, you care deeply about the other person and their feelings. In lust, the focus is often on physical satisfaction.

Can you feel love and lust at the same time?

Love and lust are pretty common in relationships, and you might be thinking, “Can you feel both at the same time?” Well, it’s possible to have both going on, but they can easily get mixed up. It’s good to know that love and lust are two different feelings, and one might become stronger than the other over time.

Can lust turn into love?

It’s possible for lust to evolve into love, but let’s make it clear that just feeling lust doesn’t guarantee a loving relationship down the road.

Sometimes, that initial spark of lust can actually turn into love, and it often happens in the context of a loving relationship. But here’s the thing, feeling that lusty attraction doesn’t really tell you if you and your partner are meant for the long run. It’s all about discovering that as you go along.

The intense nature of lust can sometimes make it hard for people to see potential “red flags”. This can make it tough to figure out if a sexual partner is a good fit for a serious relationship.

The takeaway

You know, love and lust each bring their own perks, and they’re not really in a competition. Sometimes, when we compare lust and love, we tend to put love on a pedestal and make it seem like it’s better — but that’s not true at all!

Lust is not less important than love; it’s just a different kind of awesome. It can make us feel sexy, desired, playful, and attractive, and that’s pretty darn important too.

In the end, the best way to figure out what’s going on is to look within and reflect on your own feelings. And if you’re curious about what your partner is feeling, just ask them. Communication is key!


BetterHelp Editorial Team. (September 13, 2023). What Is the Difference Between Lust and Love? Lust vs. Love. BetterHelp. https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/intimacy/what-is-the-difference-between-lust-and-love-lust-vs-love/ 

Kassel, G. (January 28, 2021). Yes, There’s a Difference Between Love and Lust — but It Varies. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/relationships/difference-between-love-and-lust#how-they-compare 

Tabackman, L. (January 28, 2021). How to tell the difference between lust and love, according to relationship experts. Insider. https://www.insider.com/guides/health/mental-health/lust-vs-love 

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