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6 Differences Between Love Vs. Lust (Psych2Go)

A video on the 6 differences between lust vs love by psych2go
If lust is the vehicle, then love is the destination.

Today, I’ve transcribed a simple video that highlights the critical distinction between love and lust. The culture likes to talk about “falling in love,” but in reality lust is often the only power at work in some relationships. The proof is, that while lust has a reputation for fizzling out over time, love is capable of withstanding time’s test. Make no mistake, sexual desire is a natural and normal part of a healthy romantic relationship; however, when sexual desire is the only thing holding a relationship together, it’s only a matter of time before it falls apart. We should all aspire to fall and stay in love; but before we can do so, it helps to have a concept of what we are talking about.

Without further ado, the 6 key differences the author identifies are 1) Lust is driven by physical connection, but love comes from emotional connection; 2) Over time, love grows stronger, whereas lust becomes weaker; 3) Lust is based on fantasies. Love, however, operates on the grounds of reality; 4) In lust, you’re romantic partners, but in love you’re lifelong friends; 5) Lust is all about thrill-seeking, whereas love is the pursuit of stability; and 6) Lust is selfish, but love comes from a selfless place.

None of the six characteristics of love can be fulfilled in a virtual “relationship” consisting of pornography and masturbation. Pornography and masturbation are training in selfishness/self-centeredness, which is notorious for killing relationships. Love, on the other hand, motivates us to abstain from instant gratification that threatens to harm our persons, and hamper our ability to treat others well.

I would add that when the author says that “lust is the essential first stage of love,” the term I would prefer to use is “physical attraction.” (Lust, in a spiritual context, typically refers to illicit sexual desire, whereas sexual attraction is a natural and normal thing.) In ancient times, arranged marriages were common in which physical attraction was not always a priority. In almost all modern relationships, certainly the ones I have experienced and observed, some level of physical attraction was, indeed, present at the start before true love ever developed.

Lust is about a physical or sexual attraction whereas love might encompass lust, but it’s more emotional and is about actually caring for the other person.

PhD and Marriage And Family Therapist, Racine Henry (Lust Versus Love)

For more, see the complete archive of articles on integrity.


Lust has a reputation for being the fling we jump into. Think of Fifty Shades of Grey or your classic bad boy or bad girl who’s all games and danger with no strings attached. But, according to leading love expert, Dr. Helen Fischer, lust is the essential first stage of love. Without the desire of wanting someone first, we cannot experience intimacy, so how do we know if we’re still stuck in the initial stage of attraction, or ready to transition into something more meaningful and long-lasting?

Here are 6 key differences between lust versus love.

  1. Lust is driven by physical connection, but love comes from emotional connection. It all comes down to our brain. Which areas are being activated when you hang out with your partner? Research shows that lust lights up the regions associated with reward and motivation, whereas love stimulates the areas that helps you empathize. Lust happens when you and your partner don’t have much to talk about, but have great sex. This is common for two people who haven’t been dating for too long, but love happens when you appreciate your partner for more than just their looks, and can spend meaningful time with them. This is what ultimately forms the start of a deep and serious relationship.
  2. Over time, love grows stronger, whereas lust becomes weaker. Psychologist and sex therapist, Shannon Chavez, states that as attachment and bonding grow over time, so does love, but lust is more temporary and fades when sexual desire fades away. If a relationship is based solely on lust, there is inevitably no foundation to fall in love with each other. Lust feels like an exciting rollercoaster, but can only be sustained by physical pleasure. When the real work kicks in, the dynamic either transitions into love, or the relationship begins to fall apart.
  3. Lust is based on fantasies. Love, however, operates on the grounds of reality. Have you ever looked back on past relationships and wondered, “How on earth you two got together?” I don’t know about you, but I sure do. Imagination can come in handy when life gets mundane, but more often than not it’s like a double-edged sword. When you like the idea of someone more than who’s actually in front of you, it can cause you to miss a lot of red flags. Relationship experts state there is only so much time before reality sets in and makes you realize that your partner has faults just like you, and that your expectations were unfair.
  4. In lust, you’re romantic partners, but in love you’re lifelong friends. Psychiatrist Judith Orloff found that people in lust are just lovers, but true love is built on the foundation of a strong friendship. Sure, two people can agree to be in a relationship, go on fun dates, and even meet each other’s family, but if they lack compromise, communicate poorly, and fail to understand each other, the prospects of having a future together is very low.
  5. Lust is all about thrill-seeking, whereas love is the pursuit of stability. Researchers have looked at MRI scans of people in lust, and found that their brains look similar when an addict gets a fix of cocaine. Sounds intense, right? But that’s why infatuation is not likely to last as long as love. The drug effects wear off when you can no longer satiate your sexual desires. Whereas lust is but instant gratification, love is the relentless search for stability.
  6. Lust is selfish, but love comes from a selfless place. When you love someone, you focus more on helping them reach their goals and care about their health and well-being. Lust, on the other hand, is all about your own wants, like boosting your ego when you’re next to your attractive partner, or simply fulfilling your sexual desires. In order to move from the initial stage of lust to love, you must determine whether you can see yourself doing favors or making sacrifices for your partner.

Do you think you’re in lust, or in love? We hope that this video helped you differentiate between the two. Remember that just because you’re only experiencing lust, that doesn’t mean your feelings can’t develop into love.  

An intellectually curious millennial passionate about seeing people make healthy, informed choices about the moral direction of their lives. When I’m not reading or writing, I enjoy hiking, web-making, learning foreign languages, and watching live sports. Alumnus of Georgetown University (B.S.) and The Ohio State University (M.A.).

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