Can you tell the difference between Love and Lust?

I had a client the other day who came to see me to help her answer a question: was she in love with her boyfriend, or was she just “in lust?” She admitted that they didn’t have that much in common. But she also confessed that she felt obsessed, almost addicted, by her thoughts and feelings about the young man because their sexual chemistry was so intense.

The difference between love and lust is an age-old mystery, in part because attraction is about alchemy. And, of course, you can be deeply in love, have a healthy relationship, and ALSO be crazy attracted to your partner. I hope you are!

Let’s get scientific for a minute and break down the alchemy. Initial attraction stirs up neurotransmitters and hormones that create the excitement of infatuation and a strong desire to be close and sexual with the person. Further, sex releases oxytocin, the “love hormone”, that makes us want to procreate and creates attachment with one another.

Most of us can recognize how intense sexual attraction can make us flat-out stupid. A person who is usually rational, logical, and level-headed can be reduced to a walking hormone. Sometimes lust can FEEL like love. MRI scans show that the brain during the lust phase looks and responds remarkably similar to a brain on drugs.

Moreover, there is a great deal of projection onto the object of our lust. We often idealize the other person, see what we want to see, and don’t take in the whole person to see his or her full self. Lust brings two people together. But once we get to know the other person, see them at their best and worst, the lust often dissipates. Hopefully what remains is true affection, respect, and a shared value system that can carry the relationship into real world.

A simple way of putting it is this: the basis of lust is a physical connection, the basis of love is an emotional and mental connection. Lust is short-term, love goes the distance. Lust is what brings you in, love is what keeps you there.

Dr. Judith Orloff, author of the New York Times bestseller Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life and Guide to Intuitive Healing, provides a great snap shot of the differences.


·         You're totally focused on a person's looks and body

·         You're interested in having sex, but not in having conversations

·         You'd rather keep the relationship on a fantasy level, not discuss real feelings

·         You want to leave soon after sex rather than cuddle or have breakfast the next morning

·         You are lovers, but not friends


·         You want to spend quality time together other than sex

·         You get lost in conversations and forget about the hours passing

·         You want to honestly listen to each other's feelings, make each other happy

·         He or she motivates you to be a better person

·         You want to get to meet his or her family and friends

One challenge of sexual attraction – or lust – is learning to stay centered and listen to your gut in the early stages of being with someone. This is not an easy task in the midst of hormones surging, but it's essential to make healthy relationship decisions.

The reason for this caution is that the dark side of lust can present itself in the form of codependency and sex addition.

Foundations’ sex addiction therapy program treats this destructive and difficult problem that ruins relationships, destroys self-esteem, and has a negative impact on physical health. Many people are affected by this addiction, which often causes out-of-control feelings and behaviors. However, where there is a desire to recover and access to skilled sex addiction counseling, there is hope for a brighter future.

Sex addiction therapy includes a customized plan that helps you focus on stopping troublesome behaviors.

My typical approach begins with discussing how the behaviors started. We explore past trauma, health concerns, and life issues, and then discuss what may be increasing a client’s stress level and triggering him to act out sexually.

If you are interested in transcending your relationship from lust to love, you must be willing to be vulnerable. If you are seeking clarity in order to move beyond the bedroom and into a fully dimensional, healthy relationship, give Foundations a call. In our safe and non-judgmental environment, you can take the first steps to regaining control of your life.