Lust Vs. Love: Key Signs And Top Ways To Tell The Difference

Written by Harini Natarajan

When it comes to romantic feelings, getting ahead of the mixed signals and understanding the difference between love and lust can be tricky. Though it is easier to differentiate between the two on the big silver screen, getting a grasp of the situation in real life can be confusing.

Luckily, there are ways to identify exactly what you are feeling and get emotional clarity. This can help you create fulfilling and happy relationships that are built to last. So if you need help identifying whether you are in a serious relationship or a temporary one, this guide is for you. Read on to understand the difference between love and lust.

Love Vs. Lust: What Is The Difference?

Generally speaking, there are three categories of feelings that people experience:

  • Lust: It is the hormonal craving that drives people to seek partners primarily for sexual gratification.
  • Attraction: It entails feelings of passionate love and excitement that are rooted in a desire for emotional support and intimate connection.
  • Attachment: Also known as companionate love, attachment includes feelings of calm, emotional support, and security. You will find this feeling in a long-term relationship.

Let us categorize feelings into love and lust and look at how the two differ from each other.

What Is Love?

  • Love entails having a deep emotional, spiritual, and mental connection with a person.
  • It involves being attracted to a person through emotional arousal, physical affection, lasting commitment, and sexual passion.
  • Typically, people go into mental distress when a love relationship ends.
  • The brain produces feel-good chemicals like dopamine that contribute to the euphoria seen in the early stages of a love relationship.

What Is Lust?

  • Lust is an overwhelming desire to be intimate or sexual with the person and mainly involves feelings of physical arousal.
  • It is controlled by the brain’s hypothalamus, an area that stimulates the production of two sex hormones called testosterone and estrogen.
  • As you can imagine, lust is more short-term, whereas love willingly goes the extra mile and includes a desire to make the relationship last.

Here is a snapshot of the major differences between love and lust:

  1. Lust
  1. Love
Lust is purely sexual attraction that is always physically driven.Love involves offering emotional, romantic, spiritual, and mental support while being passionate and compassionate.
Top signs of lust include:
  • Spending most of your time being physically intimate.
  • Having little to no interest in your partner’s life outside of the bedroom.
  • Having different values from the perspective of relationships.
Top signs of love include:
  • Being emotionally vulnerable with the other person.
  • Looking forward to introducing the person to your friends and family.
  • Feeling secure and safe in the relationship to be open and vulnerable at all times.
Lust is short, sudden, and momentary.Love is slow, steady, and long-lasting.
You may experience lust with or without love.You may experience love with or without lust.

You can easily confuse the two as they have similar neural pathways in the brain (1). However, here is the key difference: love finds its foundation in the feelings of a mental and emotional connection, and lust makes you crave physical and sexual intimacy. By extension, lust can lead to disillusionment about the other person’s physical and emotional characteristics and drive misconceptions in the relationship.

You now know the basic differences between love and lust. But, why should you learn to tell the two apart in the first place? Find out below.

Why Should You Understand The Differences Between Love And Lust?

Simply put, understanding the differences between love and lust allows you to:

  • Cultivate relationships that are in sync with your current needs and interests.
  • Navigate relationships with greater ease and clarity.
  • Prioritize your relationship by gauging its progress in terms of physical and emotional attraction.
  • End the relationship before it transforms into something that you do not want.
  • Identify when you may not be on the right track and course-correct before either of you gets too invested or too hurt.

You should self-reflect and figure out what you need from your life right now – whether it is physical love or emotional support, or both. Then, once you have figured out your needs, you can tread in the right direction and find a partner that truly satisfies those needs and wants, and vice-versa.

On that note, let us look at the signs that will help you identify your true feelings.

How To Tell The Difference Between Love And Lust

If you are confused about your feelings for your partner, it is a good idea to self-reflect and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you feel physically/sexually attracted when you look at this person?
  2. Do you find yourself fantasizing about your partner sexually from time to time?
  3. Do you get turned on when you think about the other person?
  4. Are you craving sexual fulfillment in your life at the moment?
  5. Do you feel physically attracted to the other person despite knowing that you have nothing in common with them?

If your answer to all these questions is ‘yes,’ it is probably lust. Remember that you may also feel lust for an Instagram celebrity or an attractive model while browsing through social media. It is a completely natural feeling that does not typically last too long.

However, it is important to note that you may feel lust toward a person and also be in the processing of falling in love with them. So, go ahead and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you feel confident enough to introduce the person to your friends and family?
  2. Do you find yourself sharing personal details with the other person that you do not normally share?
  3. Are you willing to accept the other person just as they are?
  4. Are you always thinking about interesting things to tell the other person or ways to impress them?
  5. Do you care about what the other person thinks of you?
  6. Are you ready to adjust and prioritize someone else’s needs in your life?
  7. Are you constantly receiving and offering each other emotional support?
  8. Do you find yourself planning a future with the other person?
  9. Do you find yourself genuinely interested in the other person’s life, wanting to learn more about them?

If you answered ‘yes’ to most of the above questions, it is an indicator of love.

Unlike lust, love is a connection that goes beyond physical attraction and sexual intimacy. It involves feeling a deep sense of emotional and mental connection that can be expressed via actions and words. Love also entails greater security, respect, and admiration for the partner.

Is One More Important Than The Other?

The short answer is ‘no.’ People can feel both love and lust for the same person at the same time. Conversely, you can feel love for a person and not lust, and vice-versa. What is important to note is that, contrary to popular opinion, lust is in no way inferior to love.

While love paves the way for a deeper emotional connection through shared experiences, lust can be equally pleasurable or rewarding in the short term.

Love reinforces emotional support in your life and can provide a lot of spiritual and mental help. Lust, on the other hand, can help you feel sexy, playful, and attractive, which is also important. Sometimes, feelings of lust can lead to love but in no way guarantee partner compatibility in the long run.

Therefore, you really cannot compare the two or give one more importance over the other as it depends on what you want in a relationship.

Moving on, let us look at how you can cultivate feelings of lust or love through the following tips and tricks.

Top 7 Ways To Lust After Someone

As stated above, there is nothing wrong with having feelings of lust for your partner. The idea is to understand how sexually compatible you are with each other by communicating frequently and honestly about each other’s physical needs.

If you want to develop a healthy sense of lust, try the following effective ways:

  1. Get to know your partner – ask them about their likes and dislikes, intimate needs and wants, and so on.
  2. Work on communicating your feelings of lust for the person with as much clarity and authenticity as possible.
  3. Make it playful by experimenting with toys and new positions.
  4. Initiate conversations of sex outside of the bedroom.
  5. Compliment your partner and make them feel attractive.
  6. Flirt with each other by leaving sexy notes or sending naughty texts.
  7. Ask your partner how they would define sex.

Keep in mind that all of these things should be done keeping your partner’s boundaries and safety in mind. If they tell that you that something you are doing is making them uncomfortable, stop doing it immediately. It is also your responsibility to create a safe space for them to communicate their needs and boundaries with you.

If you prefer to organically develop feelings of love instead of lust, read on for some useful tips.

How To Recognize And Develop Feelings Of Love

As you might have guessed, recognizing and building on feelings of love takes more time, commitment, communication, and effort. Also, the feeling of love has to kick in naturally, which can eventually be built on and cultivated further.

Here are some ways to develop feelings of love that does not seem forced or unnatural:

  1. Work out different ways to compromise and adjust with each other.
  2. Think about how patient and accepting you are with your partner.
  3. Work on removing any feelings of judgment toward your partner and allow them to be vulnerable by offering emotional support.
  4. Understand and acknowledge each other’s space.
  5. Communicate with intention and genuineness.
  6. Ask your partner how they feel about your current connection.
  7. Be honest about what kind of a relationship you are looking for – whether it is a long-term, serious relationship or a short-term, casual one.
  8. Talk about whether the relationship is ‘romantic’ enough for you and what is happening between the two of you.

You can cultivate and deepen a sense of love by communicating with your partner and listening to their needs.

Let us look at how you can self-reflect and navigate the complex world of love and lust with greater ease.

Top 8 Questions To Ask When Self-Reflecting

Wondering where your relationship is headed and what your expectations from your partner are? Ask yourself the following questions to figure out which feeling you identify with the most:

  1. Why are you interested in the relationship? Is it only sexual interest, or do you actually wish to know more about your partner outside of the bedroom?
  2. Are you willing to put in the hard work, have difficult conversations, and explore the painful as well as challenging emotions that love throws along the way?
  3. Are you accepting of the other person’s flaws? (If not, then you are probably only feeling lust.)
  4. Do you feel that your relationship is growing with time and allowing you to build greater trust and confidence? Or, is it only about immediate gratification?
  5. Where is the feeling of thrill and excitement coming from? Is it solely from physical love, or are you open to taking risks and allowing yourself to be emotionally vulnerable in front of your partner?
  6. Do you feel steady and secure in the relationship as opposed to impulsive and helpless?
  7. Do you feel obsessed with the other person sexually, or is your obsession non-sexual in nature?
  8. Do you see a future in the relationship, or do you think it will dissipate over time?

The Bottom Line

Love transcends physical attraction and involves a deep emotional connection with the partner. In contrast, lust is driven by hormones and primarily about sexual attraction. It typically does not involve a long-term relationship.

Remember that both come with a different set of benefits, and neither is superior or inferior to each other. So, take some quality time out to self-reflect and drive honest and open communication to learn whether you wish to develop feelings of love or lust for your significant other.


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As Chief Editor, Harini sets the tone and editorial direction for StyleCraze to deliver engaging, interesting, and authentic content revolving around women's health, wellness, and beauty. She has over 14 years of experience in content writing and editing for online media. She specializes in the areas of Beauty, Lifestyle, and Health & Wellness and is proficient in Medical Sciences (Biology, Human Anatomy and Physiology, and Biochemistry). Her background in Biomedical Engineering helps her decode and interpret the finer nuances of scientific research for her team. Harini is a certified bibliophile and a closet poet. She also loves dancing and traveling to offbeat destinations.