How To Tell If It's Love ... Or Just Lust
Ever wondered if you were truly in love, or truly in lust?
Did you know that falling in love actually happens over time, and the journey from initial attraction to deep romantic love is a predictable course that depends on many different factors?
Love is an intense feeling of affection toward another person. It's a profound and caring attraction that forms emotional attachment.
On the flip side, lust is a strong desire of a sexual nature that is based on physical attraction. Lust can transform into deep romantic love, but it usually takes time.
Two individuals will transform their lust into love when they get to see the whole individual (their strengths and weaknesses) and get past the “fantasy level.
Dr. Helen Fisher, a well-known researcher on the topic of romantic love, has identified three stages to falling in love in her excellent book Why Him? Why Her?: How to Find and Keep Lasting Love and I've been inspired by her research in writing this post.
Which stage are you at?
Stage 1: Lust
Lust is the first stage of falling in love. It's driven by desire. The sex hormones play an important role in this stage. According to experts, this stage may begin immediately and can last up to two years.
Signs that you're in lust:
- You're focused on the physical appearance of the object of your desire.
- There is a strong desire to have sex, but not deep emotional conversations.
- You’d rather keep the relationship on a fantasy level, not discuss real feelings.
- You are lovers, but not necessarily friends.
Stage 2: Attraction
This is the “love-struck” phase. When you spend hours daydreaming about your lover; when you lose sleep or your appetite, you know you're in this phase. The neurohormones that play an important role in the attraction or infatuation phase are dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These are the hormones that send our heart racing, and might actually make us feel like we are going insane.
Stage 3: Deep Love and Attachment
When a couple has gotten to know themselves beyond the courting phase and they get to see their partner’s “whole” personality, including their strengths and weaknesses, and still choose to love and accept each other for who they are, a neurohormone of love called oxytocin takes over. This is the commitment hormone. It's released during orgasm and believed to promote bonding when adults are intimate.
The theory goes on that the more sex a couple has, the deeper the bond becomes. Socrates was correct when he said “where there is love there is madness.” Romantic love and addiction share similar brain chemistry. Therefore, if you are not interested in a serious committed relationship, Dr. Fisher advises not to casually sleep with someone, because you are likely to bond with the individual with whom you have an orgasm with. Basically we are kidding ourselves when we say we are going to keep it casual. Our brain is wired to bond and connect with a partner with whom we experience pleasure.
Signs that you're in true romantic love
This type of love is not just an emotion, it's also a craving. There is a strong emotional craving, the love drive is even stronger than the sex drive.
- Possessiveness. When you desire only that one person, you know you are in deep romantic love.
- 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 and 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.
- You can’t stop thinking about that person.
At this stage, instead of a split between love and lust, your new path lies in the balancing of the two: committed love and red hot sex, security and excitement, continuity and novelty, safety and adventure, comfort and passion. The happiest couples are the ones that can maintain a balance between lust and love.
Enjoy the journey of self-discovery relating with someone for whom you lust. If the chemistry is right, it will transform into romantic love!
Don’t rush it; allow it to unfold naturally. The more you bring love, honesty, passion and romance into your own self-relationship, the easier it will be to attract someone who shares those same qualities. If you have a burning question regarding this topic and the three stages of falling in love, or a thought you'd like to share, leave a comment below!