Mistaking lust for love is not a new thing. The younger you are and the earlier you find yourself in a budding relationship, the more likely you are to confuse one for the other. But don’t worry: there’s no shame in it. With your hormones raging and your mind floating into a euphoric fantasy during the throes of romance, the line that divides the two gets pretty blurred… along with your sense of judgment.
Love vs. lust
The love-lust dynamic can be likened to making a bonfire. Think of lust as the kindling that starts the fire. Kindling burns easily and flares up when ignited, but it burns fast and dies easily, just like a relationship built on lust.
Love, on the other hand, can be thought as the larger of pieces of wood; it burns longer and steadier. You could try to light it without kindling, but it will take a long time before it starts to burn. Therefore, you need the proverbial kindling to start a steady fire. [Read also: What are you feeling? Is it love or lust?]
Before we get lost in the analogy, lust is the spark that could either fizzle out, or burn into love. Lust on its own is quick and temporary, while love comes slowly, but is more permanent and steady.
Signs that it’s lust and not love
If you’re feeling confused over what you’re feeling, and wondering if it’s love or lust, just use these 10 signs to understand your mind and heart better.
#1 Every aspect of the relationship revolves around sex. When your relationship is built on lust, your primary motivation for sticking with that person is to have sex. That means that everything you do–all the sweet and romantic things you give away–has an ulterior motive that will lead toward the bedroom.
True love is different. People in love value moments and experiences they share, even if they are mundane and boring to most.
#2 Lust tends to focus on physical attraction. When you’re in lust, you have this mindset that looking good is paramount. As a result, you dress to the nines, you try really hard to keep in shape, and step out of your house looking like you jumped out of a centerfold. Why, you ask? Because you want sex. For people in lust, looking their best is the way to remain attractive to the other person.
Love, on the other hand, doesn’t care if you go out wearing your old college shirt or a pair of daddy trousers. For people in love, it is the person inside the clothes who truly matters. [Check out: What men like and want in bed – 22 things they lust after]
#3 You live in a fairy tale world where the other person is flawless. Being in lust dulls your judgment, because you tend to idealize both yourself and your partner. While it is normal to put your best foot forward to make an impression, a more stable relationship requires you to put all your cards on the table so that the other person can know who you truly are—be it good or bad.
If you’re in lust, you tend to put up the faà§ade of a person whom your partner idealizes. And likewise, you tend to look past the other person’s negative characteristics and focus only on the qualities that fit your fantasy.
#4 You did not have a “friendship” stage. Most people in romantic relationships started out as friends. People who skipped the whole friendship ordeal and brought it straight to bed *yes, it happens* could just be in lust. Friendship is the stepping stone to a deeper relationship, as it tests your compatibility, allows you to get to know each other, and even takes you to difficult moments where you can come out stronger. This type of relationship becomes the foundation of romantic love.
#5 You don’t really know the person. As mentioned, being in lust makes you put up a faà§ade and live a constrained life because of the other person’s expectations. Since the bulk of your moments together are spent tangled, naked, in bed, you don’t get to have real bonding moments where you can get to know who they are.
When you’re in love, you bare it all. You’ll get to know your partner intimately—even down to the tiniest details. [Try: 15 ways you’ll experience what real love truly feels like]
#6 You’re insecure about your secrets and problems. When you’re in love, you rarely keep your problems from your partner and you trust them with your deepest secrets. You are comfortable with telling them anything without fear of being judged. Being in lust, on the other hand, you are insecure about telling them your problems because let’s admit it: the trust between the two of you is superficial and you feel that giving them further information about yourself makes you too vulnerable.
#7 There’s little intimacy in lust. While the two of you may spend most of your waking moments having sex, it does not automatically mean that you have achieved intimacy in your relationship. Intimacy doesn’t always mean having sex. Intimacy is being able to let your guard down and having complete trust in your significant other. When you are truly in love, you are at ease when you’re together and you find yourself emotionally invested.
#8 You don’t feel committed. People in lust feel little to no commitment in their relationships. As discussed in the bonfire analogy, lust can fizzle out quickly. A relationship based on lust alone can end as soon as you find the next person who captures your desire.
Love, on the other hand, is more enduring—even in the lust-less moments of the relationship. As the saying goes, “Vaginas and penises are all the same, it’s the person connected to it that you fall in love with.” [Read: True love and promiscuous love in the real world]
#9 You don’t have plans for the future. As a romantic relationship matures and you gradually become part of the other person’s life, you will come to a point where you include each other in future plans. Not only that, but your decision-making will consider your significant other’s wants and needs. This kind of intimacy is nonexistent when you’re just in lust, as your primary motivation is sex.
#10 Eventually, sex will get boring. The greatest irony of a lust-based relationship is that your sexual escapades will get boring in due time. When that time comes, you’ll be off and about to find the next person to satisfy your sexual desires. People in love enjoy every moment of their love-making. They will not tire of it, even if age has weathered their physique and taken their stamina.
[Read next: The actual difference between love and lust]
Lust is only a part of love. It can survive on its own… but only for a while. Love is a deeper and far more enduring relationship and can happen even without lust.
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