A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

How to Tell If Your Relationship Is Love…or Just Lust

Sexual attraction is obviously important, but remember to check in with yourself to figure out if you're feeling love or lust. It makes a huge difference.

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Lust is about taking, while love is about giving

If you’re in love with your partner, you’re probably thinking about ways to show your appreciation and devotion; yet, if you’re only in lust, you might be more selfish, only looking for self-pleasure. “The essence of lust, along with the traits of jealousy and pursuit of honor, is based upon ‘devouring.’ Specifically, it’s the sensation that leads one to try and take and swallow-up what someone else has or is, and incorporate it as part of you,” says Shlomo Zalman Bregman, a rabbi and matchmaker in New York City “In fact, this is a major reason why a person driven by lust often has a burning desire to physically consume their mate through the fires of their passion,” he adds. On the other hand, the difference between love and lust is that love is about giving and investing in another person, he explains. And, if you stop doing things to show appreciation and gratitude, your relationship might be headed for a breakup.

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You spend all your time together in bed

If you’re always in bed or engaging in something sexual, it’s likely that you’re in lust, rather than love. “When you only feel lust for someone, your goal is to experience sexual pleasure, which isn’t bad, but lust usually excludes a strong emotional component,” says relationship expert David Bennett. Contrarily, love includes sexual desire, but is much broader. “If it’s love, you and your partner will meet each other’s sexual and emotional needs, such as helping each other through problems, instead of it just being about how fast you can get each other’s clothes off,” Bennett explains. And, a tip, try asking one of these questions to deepen your love and move past mere sexual chemistry.

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Your imagination is on fire

As opposed to love, lust is a feeling, sensation, and emotion that is not based on a real appetite. Instead, it’s based upon a projection of your imagination, of the qualities and significance that the person in front of you possesses.”When you’re experiencing lust towards a person, you’re far more likely to idealize that person and who they are, and you’re sort of projecting onto them what you want them to be, based upon your needs as you perceive them,” says Bregman. Unfortunately, this frequently leads to the belief that the person you’re lusting after is flawless and can do no wrong. And as a result, many red flags are missed, he explains. Here’s the difference when it comes to love vs. lust: “If you really love a person, you’ll probably see them as they actually are: A real human being with lots of flaws (or at least a couple), but you love them nonetheless,” says Bregman. And, if conflicts do arise due to flaws, it’s best to use good communication to resolve the issues.

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Lust comes first

Another helpful clue that can assist you in distinguishing love vs. lust is to think about the length of the relationship. “It’s almost an immutable rule that lust is something one experiences towards the beginning, but that genuine love is a sensation they’ll feel later on,” says Bregman. And, once you do fall in love, the benefits to having sex, on an emotional level, will probably increase, as well. This, of course, makes sense, as love is based upon giving to another, and it takes time to invest deeply in another person, whereas lustful attraction can develop almost instantaneously.

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Physical appearance tops all concerns

If you’re overly concerned with how attractive your partner looks, you might just be in the lust phase of the relationship. “The emotion of lust is primarily focused on the external, such as how your partner looks, their body, and how you appear in their eyes. However, if you love a person, while you may well notice that they’re pretty or handsome, you also pay a great deal of intention to their fine qualities that are not skin-deep, such as their intellectual, kindness, and soft heart,” says Bregman. Psst…check out these scientifically proven ways you can make yourself seem more attractive to others.

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Are you exclusive?

If a person is in lust, they will be interested in the relationship to the extent to which it’s convenient and will probably shy away from any real commitments. “If you really love a person, though, you’ll be busy taking care of them and wanting to give to them. Even when it is not convenient you are willing to make a sacrifice and invest in them,” Bregman says. And, with love, you’re in it for the long haul, so you’ll also look for ways to expand the relationship and make plans for the future, he says. Check out the subtle signs you’re just a fling.

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Do you share feelings with each other?

If you don’t open up with your partner to share feelings and show vulnerability, you’re likely just in lust. And, if you’re too concerned with fantasies and non-emotional topics, you haven’t entered a stage of love, either, says Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW. a therapist based in New York City. In a way, you’d rather pretend you have a perfect life, rather than making room for trust, communication, and deeper commitment, she says. Here are ways to tell that you can totally trust your partner.

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Are friends and family involved?

Friends and family surely matter. If your circle of friends don’t get along with your partner, and you don’t care and just alienate yourself from them to be with this person, it could mean you’re feeling lust, as you don’t see this person as a potential long-term partner, explains Bonnie Winston, celebrity matchmaker and relationship expert. Yet, if you’re introducing him or her to friends and family, which in itself is a positive step towards love, and you care how they view this person, it means you have deeper feelings, she says. But, keep in mind, there are a few things not to tell your friends about your relationship.

Isadora Baum
Isadora Baum is a freelance writer and content marketer, as well as a certified health coach. She writes for various publications, such as Bustle, Shape, Abbott Nutrition Newsroom, Men's Health, Clean Plates, the Vitamin Shoppe, SoulCycle, and more. She also can't resist a good sample, a glass of red wine or strong margarita, a new HIIT class, or an easy laugh. Beyond magazines, she helps grow different businesses through blogging and content marketing strategy. To read her work or inquire, please visit her website: isadorabaum.com.