From Lesbos With Love: Are You in Lust or Love?
My ex-girlfriend was hesitant, at first, to tell me she loved me because she was worried she was confusing lust with love. I was upset when she told me this. She had already said “I love you,” and I felt like she was taking it back. I knew with all my heart that I was in love with her. Her need to define — to calculate —what she was feeling offended and confused me. I had never thought about the difference until then, but when I did I had to admit that she actually made a good point. When we first meet someone we’re really into, we want them all the time — whether it’s sexually or emotionally (talking all the time) or both — it can be easy to confuse lust with love.
The question is where do we draw the line and how do we know when we’ve crossed it? Does the distinction really even matter? And if there is such thing as confusing lust for love, can there ever be love at first sight?
Personally, I think it’s a very fine line, and I think it’s one that each person has to decide for themselves and understand on their own terms.
Dictionary.com defines lust as “intense sexual desire or appetite” and also as “ardent enthusiasm.” It defines love as “a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person” but also as “sexual passion or desire” and “enthusiasm.” Not much of a difference there.
I would make the distinction that whereas lust is an intense emotion that is often transient, love, though it can be ephemeral, tends to be more enduring and its intensity fluctuates. It also penetrates your emotions on a deeper level. When you’re in love, you don’t just want to ravage the person, you really want them on a different level. That is not to say that both can’t be entirely blindingly passionate experiences, but that is how I would explain the difference.
I do think love at first sight exists, and I think when a person experiences it she knows. Not to be cliche, but I think it’s a personal feeling you have, deep within that only grows stronger as you spend more time with the person. Generally, in their heart, people know the difference. They just have to be able to admit to themselves which it is.
This difference makes the sex different too. When you lust for someone, the sexual experience tends to be driven purely by a carnal desire to have the other person. You want their body, and maybe you want their mind too, but the level of respect and care you have for the person is different than if you truly love the person; it’s a more superficial experience. It may be equally passionate perhaps, but different on an internal level. It’s sex.
When you make love to someone it’s a different experience. You care about the person from the inside out and you want them to feel that. Whether or not the love goes both ways, the way you experience that moment will probably be more intense if you’re in love with her because of the way you feel and connect with her internally, emotionally. Making love to someone is an overwhelming feeling that heightens all the senses. Sex driven by lust and physical chemistry can be an intense all-out, sexy-as-hell sexual experience. But, in my opinion, if you’re in love and on the same wavelength as the person you’re making love to, it will be the best sex of your life — not only because of the physical, mental and emotional connection but also because of your genuine and deep respect and desire for each other.
When it comes to relationships, I think both lust and love are generally involved. In many cases, two people are drawn to each other by physical attraction and then it is the emotional connection that leads to a relationship. In other words, lust gives way to love. At other times, two people may be friends first, or become attracted to each other in a different way and the sexual connection may build from there. Love leads to lust. I think both need to be present to sustain a relationship, but I think lust may come and go in spurts while love, though of course its intensity ebbs and flows, is more of an underlying current.
In the beginning of a relationship, though, it can be easy to confuse the two. Overcome by passion and emotion, that tingling feeling starts to take over your body. You want to be with her all the time. It feels like love. Maybe it is! Perhaps it’s not. I think we can only really know in retrospect. And frankly I don’t think it matters which it is. The only problem is that if you are in lust and you proclaim your profound love for the other person, when the lust fades you may find yourself out of love very quickly.
I would caution that if you are a person who often falls quickly in and out of love, you may want to reconsider the terms you’re using and how soon into the “relationship” you proclaim it to the other person. I also think that if you’re in love the day after a one-night stand, you should probably wait to express that feeling aloud until you’ve spent a little more time getting to know the person – just to be sure. But how long is completely relative (see my post on “Saying I Love You”).
Relationships are between two people: you and your partner. Each one is different – the pace, the emotions, the dynamic. I think, as long as you aren’t hurting anyone, you’re being honest with yourself and her, and you genuinely feel in love, then whether it’s technically lust or love doesn’t actually matter. I recently read a quote that I think fits perfectly: “Sit quietly and listen to your heart; it often gives the best advice.” At the end of the day, what matters is how it makes you and her feel to feel and express those feelings towards each other. You define the terms.
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