Is It Love or Is It Lust?

love or lust

When we pore over the stand of cards before Valentine’s Day, looking for the one card which best reflects our feelings, we might wonder what is the basis of our relationship. Is it true, everlasting love? Or is it simply lust?

Sometimes, our feelings are so strong that we are convinced that we have met our one true love. But it doesn’t always work out. Our partner changes, our feelings change, and we wonder if our love was an illusion. More than likely, it was just a case of lust.

Why do we confuse love and lust?

Nature’s job is to get our genes into the next generation and lust is one of the weapons used to make this happen. Feelings of love often generate when we have had a sexual encounter and we can feel out of control as they take over. This is nature’s power within us; it wants us to couple up and have children.

Unchecked, this strategy has us coupling with a partner who is not compatible. Feelings of attraction are not the basis of enduring love. We need to have our head and heart work together when we choose a long-term partner.

So how can we tell if it’s love or lust?

The key is knowledge; we need a good understanding of our partner and ourselves. If we don’t know our partner, we love what we assume them to be. That assumption might be incorrect. We learn about our partner by watching how they handle various situations, watching how we act together and separately, how we agree and disagree. This happens over time.

We need to understand ourselves by reflecting on how we’ve handled previous relationships. What we wanted, what we chose or thought we chose, and how it played out.

Many relationships start out on a basis of sexual desire but that won’t sustain them. Lust is the fairy floss of relationships, sweet, attractive and sticky but ultimately, emotionally unsatisfying. Love is like a solid, balanced meal, nutritious and fulfilling.

It’s lust if:

  • You think they are perfect.
  • You can’t touch each other without wanting to make love.
  • You do things you normally wouldn’t do just to be near him or her.
  • During the day, you find yourself frequently thinking about your sex life with them
  • When you are out together, you surreptitiously admire their body and impatiently anticipate being alone.

It’s true love if:

  • You are fully aware of their faults and love them anyway.
  • While you cherish your time together, you also enjoy your time apart.
  • You are calm and unworried when occasionally a lovemaking session isn’t great.
  • If your taste in music, movies sports, etc. differs, you take turns in choosing.
  • If ending the relationship was in your partner’s best interest, you could lovingly (though painfully) let them go.

George’s Lust

George met Deirdre at a conference. She was attractive, confident and compelling. She appeared to take an interest in George and together they sat at the bar getting drunk while indulging in intellectual banter.

George pursued Deirdre but she refused to give in to his sexual overtures. This just fuelled George’s desire for her. Over time he became convinced he was in love. He sent her e-mails and flowers, called her frequently and occasionally they went out. Although Deirdre was often cool and aloof, this did not dampen George’s ardour. As far as he was concerned she could do no wrong. His lust distorted his judgment.

When Deirdre turned her attention to someone else, George became distressed. Only upon reflection did he realize that what he felt for Deirdre was lust, not love.

Carmel and Jerry’s Love

Carmel and Jerry worked for the same organisation. Although they occasionally met for a drink, their conversation mainly concerned workplace matters. This went on for two years and neither felt any attraction for the other. Then they went interstate to work on a difficult project. Staying at the same hotel, they spent a lot of time together eating and exploring the city.

During this trip they found their feelings changing. Their conversation became more personal and they talked about their dreams. Gradually they developed a desire for each other and became a couple.

Having been friends for such a long time, Carmel and Jerry’s relationship was built upon their experience of each other. Although not as compelling and exciting as falling madly in lust, the love they had for each other endured.

In true love you respect differences and you care about each others’ dreams. In true love, you want to get to know the other person “warts and all”. In true love, what you want for yourself matters as much to you as what your partner wants for him or herself.

Struggling with your relationships? North Brisbane Psychologists can help. Book an appointment today!