There you are, sitting across from your date, and—woosh!—that rush of emotion comes pouring in. Is it love? Or is it just lust?
That’s what this lust vs. love debate does to you—it leaves you questioning everything from your desires to your intentions.
The thing is, they’re two intense emotions that can be difficult to differentiate. Yet understanding the nuances between the two is crucial to having healthy connections with others.
Whether you’re single or have a partner, familiarizing yourself with lust and love can help put you in the driver’s seat of your relationship life.
The Key Differences Between Lust vs. Love
Lust vs. love—what are the differences?
In a nutshell, the former is like a spark that ignites quickly and burns out just as fast. The latter, on the other hand, is like a fire that burns slowly and steadily.
But it goes deeper than that. Here are other differences between lust and love.
With lust and love, think Crazy, Stupid, Love. Cal Weaver is in love with his wife, Emily; she is in lust with her co-worker; and so on and so forth. It’s a great example of the exploration of these two emotions.
Love vs. lust vs. infatuation
So you’ve got love and lust. But where does infatuation fit into the picture? Or does it even belong to the same group?
Yes and no.
Love, lust, and infatuation are all related to attraction. However, they each differ in their depth, intensity, and duration.
- Love is an emotional connection that is long-lasting. In Crazy, Stupid, Love, this emotion can be seen between Hannah and Jacob.
- Lust is a physical attraction, often based on body language, that is short-term. An example in the movie would be Emily Weaver and her co-worker, David Lindhagen.
- Infatuation is much like lust—based on superficial qualities with an intense and short-lived attraction. However, it lacks the deep emotional connection and commitment that are characteristic of love and the physical connection that is central to lust. And in the movie, the babysitter, Jessica Riley, is infatuated with Cal Weaver.
Mistaking infatuation for love or lust can have unfortunate consequences. For example, a 2021 study found that “a majority of the respondents have experienced distraction, stress, and low academic performance due to infatuation and romantic relationships.”
So knowing the differences between love, lust, and infatuation can help you understand which emotion you’re feeling so you can have a healthy and satisfying relationship.
How to Know If You’re In Love vs. In Lust
Let’s start with love. It may have a mushy reputation, but it’s the stuff of legends. Antony and Cleopatra; Oprah and Stedman; and in Crazy, Stupid, Love, it’s Cal and Emily Weaver.
You know you’re in it when you…
- Get that deep, warm feeling in your chest,
- Share your innermost feelings and thoughts,
- Want to spend time with the person,
- Trust and respect them, and
- Support them through thick and thin.
Now, on to lust. There’s Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio, Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton, and Kate and Cal in Crazy, Stupid, Love.
This is the elusive feeling that can make you feel like you’re floating on cloud nine one minute…and crashing to the ground the next.
You may know the feeling:
- There’s a strong attraction to their physicality.
- You feel butterflies in your stomach.
- There’s an electric spark when you touch them.
- The attraction can be overwhelming at times.
- Pursuing their attention is thrilling.
Knowing if you’re madly in love or just feeling sexual energy can be as confusing as trying to find your keys in a junk drawer. But knowing the signs of love vs. lust can help you make smart relationship choices.
Does lust turn into love?
This shift from lust to love can happen when the connection between you and your partner deepens over time. And it can develop into a more meaningful, long-lasting bond.
However, it’s important to point out that not every instance of lust will turn into love. In a 2019 survey by YouGov, 28% said they feel physically attracted to another person but have no emotional connection.
The moral of the story? Take time to understand the differences between the two emotions and reflect on your feelings before making any big relationship decisions.
Navigating Love vs. Lust In Relationships: 3 Insights From Mindvalley Experts
You may be looking for something temporary. Or you could be seeking something more meaningful. Whichever one you choose, there’s no judgment here.
Keep in mind, though, that knowing the feelings of each can help you reap the benefits. A lustful relationship can give you excitement, physical pleasure, and a boost in confidence. And being in love can provide you with emotional support, strong social connections, and better overall well-being.
So what can you do to navigate love vs. lust? Here are three insights from Mindvalley experts.
1. Love yourself first
Self-love is the foundation for every relationship in your life, according to Neelam Verma, founder of Integrity Dating and trainer of Mindvalley’s Finding Love With Integrity Dating Quest. She says, “We forget that we’re powerful beings, and we don’t need anyone to validate us.”
So before seeking love outside of yourself, seek it within. For example, you can journal what you want out of a love relationship with your partner. Or you can take a love styles quiz to understand how you’d like to receive love.
Neelam Verma’s insight: “There’s nothing more attractive and more magnetic than someone in the vibration of love.”
2. Learn to better communicate
Communication is only 7% verbal. The rest are nonverbal cues.
In her Body Language for Dating & Attraction Quest on Mindvalley, body language expert Linda Clemons emphasizes three things to be a better partner:
- Observe the little things before they become bigger things.
- Assess the mood and act accordingly.
- Report back by having a conversation based on how you feel and your emotional state.
So pay attention to your partner’s tone of voice, facial expressions, and body movements to better understand their emotions and needs. And when you’re the one communicating, try to express yourself clearly and honestly while also being mindful of your own body language.
Linda Clemons’ insight: “Your words are a small part. It doesn’t matter what you say. Your nonverbals will get in the way.”
3. Honor your needs
“We all need to feel connected, valued, cared for, respected, and loved,” says Katherine Woodward Thomas, bestselling author of Calling in The One and trainer of Mindvalley’s Quest with the same name.
However, you may find that you put your partner’s needs above your own. It’s something that we all do. But the thing is, it’s important to put on the oxygen mask first.
Even when it comes to lust vs. love, there are needs to be fulfilled. So find out which are the healthy ones (and which aren’t) and honor them.
By doing so, you’ll know how to make more informed decisions about which relationships you should pursue and which ones you should steer clear of.
Katherine Woodward Thomas’ insight: “Until you are able to see yourself living the life that you truly want, it will be difficult for you to create it.”
Get Your Heart In the Game
Love vs. lust—they can feel like one and the same. That tingly feeling you get on a date could very well be love. Or lust. (Or just the spicy Thai food you just ate.)
It’s hard to know for sure. Lust can be exciting, for sure, but it’s short-term and superficial. Love, on the other hand, is more meaningful but takes a while to grow.
Regardless of where your heart is at the moment, knowing the difference between lust vs. love can be the key to knowing what you want in a relationship.
If you want to dive deeper into understanding these complex emotions, there are no better guides in the matter than Neelam Verma’s Finding Love With Integrity Dating Quest, Linda Clemons’ Body Language for Dating & Attraction Quest, and Katherine Woodward Thomas’ Calling in The One Quest—all available on Mindvalley.
And when you sign up for your free account, you can access the first few lessons to sample the wisdom they provide.
So next time you’re feeling the heat, take a step back and ask yourself which one it could be. But keep in mind this one thing: the heart always, always, always wins.