Is it Love or Lust?
There’s nothing like that feeling of butterflies in your stomach or your heart pounding with excitement when you are dating someone new. It’s almost intoxicating. You are convinced that you are in love. After all, you can’t stop thinking about him or the delicious sex you had the night before, but is it love or lust that you are feeling?
Women often get the two confused, and with good reason. Let me explain. First, let’s start with love and what that really means.
Love is a feeling of deep affection for another. A healthy love would be unconditional, meaning a person does not have to do anything to earn this love. You love him just because he is a living and breathing human being. It is not dependent on his behavior, or if he is keeping you happy. Of course, this definition can fit many different kinds of love. For instance, this type of love includes the love for a friend or family member, but must be included in a healthy romantic relationship as well.
Ideally, dating should be a process where you get to know each other on an intimate level over time. A friendship should be formed before jumping into bed. Here is the reason…
Oxytocin is a hormone secreted by the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland during orgasm. It is known as the “cuddle hormone” and is responsible for bonding. Both men and women secrete this hormone, however women secrete much more. A woman is more likely to think she is in love after sex, when a man seems to just want more. This can make you think you are with the perfect partner, however in reality, you barely know each other.
Elements of healthy love:
You feel connected emotionally, not just physically- This is achieved by getting to know each other over time, after many dates and a lot of talking. You share more deeply and personally with each other when it is appropriate to do so, which takes time.
You have each other’s best interest at heart- There is no selfishness involved here. You want what is best for him.
Authentic Communication- This involves presence and listening- You are listening to understand and know him better, not listening to respond.
You miss him when you are apart- This is healthy, as long as it doesn’t feel like an addictive withdrawal.
You have grown as a person from knowing him- You have learned much about yourself and how you respond and react in relationship.
You celebrate his triumphs even when you are struggling- You are his biggest cheerleader.
You are mutually supportive of each other- You help each other to solve problems while maintaining your separateness and autonomy.
Mutual understanding and respect- You have genuine fondness for each other, and friendship.
Romantic attraction- this is the bonus!
With lust, the focus tends to be on the outside versus the inside. It is conditional and demanding. There is no stability or trust that has been built from a friendship. Lust tends to have an obsessive quality, an urgency, and a very strong sexual desire. If you find yourself consumed with someone in a way that feels intense and not necessarily pleasurable you may be creating an unhealthy situation.
Can you be in love and desire someone sexually in a strong way? Of course! There may be elements of strong sexual desire in relationship. In fact, that is healthy; but you must have the qualities of healthy love as well to call it such.
Lisa Angelini, MAPC, LPC