The Difference Between Love And Lust

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It’s surprising how many people don’t know (or don’t care about) the difference between love and lust. I suppose it has to do with how we live in an increasingly insular world, and we’re all pretty used to immediate gratification. So any fulfillment of a need gets confused with love. Plus, the word “love” is really overused to describe any intense feeling or desire we may have. For example, you don’t love that girl on OK Cupid who emailed you back but haven’t met in person yet; I don’t care how cool she seems. And you don’t love chimichangas; you just really like the way they taste and you could sure go for one right about now. And then, there’s the creepy stalker definition of love, but that’s another article.

The most simplified way to define lust is to make it all about physical attraction. You see a big set of boobies and a nice dumper and all the blood in your body travels to the middle. And yeah, sure, that’s great as a basic 101 definition, but it’s not really all that accurate. If you open it up a little more, you’ll see that lust isn’t always about sex. You can lust after money, violence, adrenaline, all sorts of shit. It doesn’t have to be something that makes you horny. Try looking at it like this: Lust is wanting something because of how it makes you — and only you — feel. It’s about winning something and putting a trophy on your shelf. Lust is selfish.

Love, on the other hand, is a shared experience. You can have all those feelings associated with lust towards a person, but there’s a lot more to it. If you’re in lust, you don’t give a shit about making the other person feel good, or even how that person feels about you. When you’re in love, you do. If you love music, you’re probably not just about plugging in headphones and zoning out all the time, right? You like sharing it with anyone else who will listen. You can’t wait to play it for your friends. Hell, you can even love money if you want to make a lot of it so that you can share it with your family, your community, whatever. Love is generous.

But if all that is just too fruity for you, and you still can’t figure out if you’re in love, or in lust, with someone, I’ll try to break it down even further. And let’s keep things focused on person-to-person love and lust, and not muddy the waters with music, chimichangas, and all that other shit.

If you’re in lust, you’re likely not spending too much time fantasizing about doing the Sunday crossword together. It’s all sex all the time. Either doing it or thinking about it. Conversation is not on your agenda, unless there’s the potential to it leading to more sex. All your feelings for her (or him) are geared around hotness and physical gratification. You don’t give the first shit about their childhoods, their hopes, their dreams, likes or dislikes, and harbor only a passing interest in their turn-ons and turn-offs, because that’s useful information.

If, on the other hand, you’re in love, you’ll know. Because in addition to wanting to screw like rabbits all the time, you are actually interested in what this person has to say. You see their flaws and accept — even appreciate — them. You want to know them on an emotional level, and you want them to do all that stuff with you. When you go out and do things together, you’re proud to be with this person, and not only just because they look hot, which you think makes you look better. You actually care about this person.

Of course, it can still be confusing. It’s not always easy to be honest with ourselves about how we feel about someone. You might try to convince yourself you’re in love because you really like banging that person and don’t want to stop. Hormones are always running wild in the first stages of any relationship, anyway. So you really have to think about things like: Is this person too dumb for you? Too immature? Too materialistic? Too self-absorbed? You get the point. And if you’re still confused, talk to a friend (usually friends of the opposite sex are most helpful in these kinds of dilemmas).

Now, with all that said, love and lust are not mutually exclusive. Don’t be afraid of lust. To paraphrase Jimmy Carter, we all have it in our hearts. Lust turns into love every day. So feel free to indulge. As long as everyone’s consenting and honest about what they want, you never know what a good fuck-buddy might turn into. But in most cases of lust-driven relationships, things just sort of peter out after a while. If that happens, get out quick, because things are about to get ugly. There are few things worse in life than finding yourself in a relationship with someone you can’t stand and don’t want to screw anymore.