LOVE AND LUST
Love and lust are very popular four-letter “L” words that define so many relationships especially romantic relationships.
They are similar yet very different types of attraction. Some people find it difficult or challenging to figure out whether their romantic feelings come from lust or love. With a deeper understanding of both, you will be able to tell the difference.
This article will be exploring both words and how they differ in order to give a better understanding of them.
WHAT IS LUST
Lust according to the Merriam Webster’s dictionary can be defined as;
- To have an intense desire or need: Of course, this could apply to anything you’ve ever wanted in life such as a craving, a job, and chocolates. It could imply “Enthusiasm” such as a lust for life.
- An intense longing: This could be an intense longing for someone or something or anything at all.
- Usually intense sexual desire: Here comes the not- so okay part when it comes to building a better and healthy relationship. It is the main reason why lust becomes a problem.
At its best, lust can be enthusiastic about a craving, maybe a job or a meal, chocolates, and others. It could also be the glue that draws us to a person and allow for a deep physical connection. At its worst, Lust is fueled by idealization and projection of what we want to see rather than the reality of the person and situation.
There is also a wild and dangerous misconception that lust is the expectation for a long term relationship.
WHAT IS LOVE
- Love is a strong affection for another arising from kinship or personalities. This definition proves that there are circumstances where you can love someone without having any feelings of lust. For example; the love of family members.
- Warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion: These are all essential factors of love. These factors bring about a commitment to a relationship and the need to build a lifetime together.
- Unselfish, loyal, and benevolent concern for the good of another: This definition shows that love is not about what you want or about yourself but about being loyal, faithful, and having an interest in the welfare of the other person. It takes a lot to accomplish this. A lot of sacrifices are needed.
This shows that love is a bit more complex. It keeps you bonded to the people who matter most to you.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND LUST AND LOVE
A biological anthropologist called Helen Fisher conducted a study with her colleagues to see what happens in the brain when people are in love.
In her studies, she observed 17 people who were in love and 15 who just got dumped. Subjects were shown photos of their partners (or ex-partner) and then a distraction photo.
Using the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) Scan. The result showed that there were activities in a very small pocket at the base of the brain.
The ventral segmental area when the subjects were looking at the photos of their partners or ex-partners.
This segment of the brain contains dopamine neurons often associated with drug use that also produces a similar dopamine rush as the feelings of lust and love, especially in newer relationships.
They also found the elevated activity of A10 cells- Cells that make dopamine and spreads them across different sections in the brain.
This finding led them to further study the chemicals involved with falling in love and lust.
FALLING IN LUST:
Lust causes the section of the brain that manages rational behavior, the prefrontal cortex to shut down. On the other hand, the hypothalamus starts pumping estrogen and testosterone which triggers desire and lust.
Dopamine and norepinephrine are other chemicals that make a person feel attraction, excitement, and euphoria.
FALLING IN LOVE:
When a person goes beyond lust and falls in love. They experience a serotonin drop. Serotonin is a chemical that provides a sense of being in control and helps prevents anxiety.
So when a person experiences this drop, the person can become obsessed with the things that can cause anxiety- AKA their love interest.
Oxytocin also plays a role in bonding and attachment during the process of falling in love. They also experience more activities in the ventral palladium which facilitates long-term companionships.
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF LUST
Lust relationships dwell more on sexual attraction and future ideals. Lust tends to get a bad reputation but it is totally common.
Everyone feels a sense of lust from time to time throughout their life so don’t worry if you experience a sense of it in your relationship.
It is an intense desire to be intimate with another person which is what keeps that part of the relationship going but it shouldn’t be the basis or foundation of a relationship.
A relationship based on lust doesn’t give room for love, understanding, and a deeper connection. It is more about the physical.
It is important to look into the details of your relationship to know exactly what it is built on. Some of the possible characters that could help you are;
- It is all about sexual desires:
If sex is the only thing you think about and want to do in a relationship or the only thing your partner thinks about, there is a chance the relationship will carry a focus on sexual relations. When you surpass lust, other relationship goals begin and without these additional goals, your relationship usually will not be built on love.
- Unhealthy Behaviors are a major part of the relationship:
A lustful relationship is focused more on sexual intimacy. There are no healthy relationship goals like honesty or openness. Unhealthy goals come with unhealthy behaviors like lies and pretense. You will also get to overlook a lot of bad behaviors just to keep things going. A relationship based on all these doesn’t tend to last.
- There is no intension of building a connection other than the physical connection:
When lusting after someone, you will have little or no desire to speak about anything beyond shallow topics with them. Even when you try to, it most times ends up in the bedroom so you basically know deep down that building something stronger like a deeper connection would be almost impossible.
CHARACTERISTICS OF LOVE
For your relationship to be considered as one base on love, the following characteristics should be at play;
- Undeniable attraction towards the other person: Attraction is a deep feeling that surpasses the physical. It is the desire to always want to be with your significant other.
You totally attracted to the little things they do.
For example; you may be attracted to the way your partner smiles or laugh or how they talk or stare at you. It could be normal things to other people but something very adorable to you.
It’s this attraction that creates what we call butterflies in the stomach. You feel it every single time you think about them.
- Willingness to give more than you receive:
When you love someone, you want to give them the world, you become dedicated to helping them reach their goals, and you want to see them happy before you can be happy. With lust, you are more self- focused.
- Deliberate effort to establish a deeper connection:
A Lust relationship skims the surface. It focuses on body parts, seduction, power, fantasy, and excitement.
With love, you are willing to become vulnerable; share the deepest things about yourself and your partner is willing to also do the same to establish a deeper connection.
There is a desire to share personal details no matter how embarrassing they may be. You are willing to trust your partner with your fears, hope, stories of shame, and pride that you have experienced because it adds meaning to your relationship and creates a deeper bond.
- There is a clear lack of Judgment:
When in love, your relationship becomes focused on understanding your partner or judging your partner.
Although there are healthy limits to what your partner can do before you have to pass judgment.
You try to see each other’s heart in every situation. You work to recognize the good qualities in them rather than focusing on the less favorable qualities.
- The willingness to always support each other: No matter how unfavorable a situation may be for you, there’s always willing to support your partner.
For example, your partner gets the dream job he or she has been anticipating and is required to move to another city, you will be happy for the new job and be supportive of them and also do your best to make the relationship work.
Love is rooted in attachment and bonding that grows overtime while Lust is rooted in intense desire and fades overtime especially when distance is a factor.
HOW CAN YOU FIND OUT THE DIFFERENCE IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP
If you are unsure of the grounds your relationship stands, whether it’s based on love or lust and whether it is something you want to work out, you can start by talking to your close friends and family or someone you hold in high esteem. They know you best and will be able to tell if they see you pursuing this person long term.
If you want something more private, make a list of everything you like about this person you are attracted to.
Ask yourself if these qualities align more with the love or lust categories used above. Consider asking your partner the same questions and get their take on what they actually want from the relationship.
Have deep conversations about your goals in your relationship and see how they react. If their answers are facing the same direction as yours and align to love, you can believe your relationship is filled with love. If it doesn’t, it could be lust.