Let’s throw the gauntlet down from the get-go. Lust and love are not the same. There is a scientific reason for people often getting confused between differentiating between love and lust. Physical acts of intimacy like sex are used by people to release all the “happy” chemicals in their brain. Some might not even know it! Sexual intercourse is a very active way of releasing dopamine and serotonin in the brain, which makes a person happy. This can also lead someone to crave for the other person, but it isn’t really love per se.
Let’s build a narrative to understand the nuances of what makes love and lust different. The boy went on a vacation for a week, where he met this girl he clicked with on the 4th day. They both went out on a date and spent the night together at boy’s hotel room. They had sexual intercourse and stayed together for the remainder of boy’s vacation. Was it lust or love? Let’s explore with more details about what happened after their date.
The literal difference between Love and Lust
Lust is all about physical attraction and the craving to be with someone. The boy took the girl to a movie for the date. He was very aware of how the girl was sitting, the position of her hands, and was aroused whenever their shoulders or hands touched while watching the movie. They both subtly played around with such actions, and the feeling both felt for each other was mutual. After the date, they both went to boy’s room and had sex. That’s lust.
Love is a lot more diverse than lust. It builds on an emotional connection, which results in caring deeply about the other person. When you become emotionally attached to the well-being and life of the other person, that’s the first stage of falling in love.
Let’s take a look at what happened with boy after the first night. He hung around with the girl for his remaining vacation, and they went everywhere together. They both talked about their past, the present, and what they hoped their futures would be. He started to enjoy his conversations with the girl, and connect with her on an emotional level. On the last day, they both were sad to part ways, and exchanged their numbers to stay in touch. Now, this is more than lust. They both still craved the physical stuff, but they also cared about each other. They stayed in touch after parting ways and started to really care about each other—classic definition of love.
It’s Definitely Lust If...
There are many signs you can detect to realise if what you’re feeling is lust. Let’s explore a few of them:
- Little to no emotional craving - Let’s assume boy and the girl didn’t click with each other as well as told before after their first night, but still managed to exchange numbers. The girl messages him the next day that she’s having a bad day. He doesn’t ask her what happened or doesn’t get the urge to dig deeper. He just asks her if she wants to meet up and maybe have sex again to get her mind off from the bad stuff that might have happened with her. This is lust.
- Enjoying the time together, with no future plans - Let’s assume another alternate story for the boy. He spent the remainder of his vacation with the girl, and really enjoyed the time with her. However, he wasn’t interested in being connected with her after the holiday ended. He didn’t have any plans to meet up with her in the future and just lived in the moment with her. This is an indication that he was lustful and craved the physical aspect of their relationship, and love wasn’t a part of the equation.
It’s Probably Love If…
The reason why this subhead has the word “probably” as opposed to “definitely” used for lust is that love is a subjective feeling. Lust is the first stage of falling in love. Attraction and attachment are the 2nd and 3rd stages, but there’s no guarantee that both of these stages are mutual. Here’s how you can identify if you’re in love, or falling in love:
- Emotional Dependency - When you start becoming emotionally attached, you also feel the same way the other person might be feeling. After boy’s vacation ended, the girl called him a couple of days later to tell him she’s going through a hard time, which made him sad. He was not only concerned about her, but also wanted to try to make her happy so he can be relieved. This is clear emotional attachment, which is the last stage of falling in love.
- Comfortably Being Vulnerable Around Someone - After one month of being in touch regularly, the boy started to open up to the girl about his traumas and relevant experiences in his life that made him the person he is now. He wasn’t afraid anymore to be emotionally vulnerable around someone. He felt a sense of safety, talking intensely about his personal life with the girl. Having this sense of security with someone and not being ashamed of sharing feelings with them is most likely you being in love with them.
Should You Care if it's Lust or Love?
Of course, you should care if what you’re feeling is lust or love. It will help you in keeping your mind aligned with your expectations and save you from being confused about your own feelings in the long term.
Usually, people suppress or ignore what they’re feeling just to stay in the moment, which is not wrong either. However, in retrospect, it can also make you detached from your own self if you continue doing it for long enough.
The boy realised after a while that he was in love with the girl and confidently confessed his feelings to her. And he was able to do it because he let go of the norm that love and lust are the same. He realised that their first night together was typical fun and a product of his lust, which later turned into strange giddiness when he thought about her. Subtle difference? We believe, not!