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The Scientific Difference Between Love And Lust

Does he love me or just want to lust me?

People say that lust leads to love, but I think it usually leads to a night of hot sex. Contrary to popular belief, sex isn't an indicator of love. Sex is just sex. It's an important part of every romantic relationship, but that’s it.

In fact, I don't think you can call anything a real relationship until you've gone a consecutive number of days sleeping together without getting on top of each other.

According to Judith Orloff, M.D., “pure lust is based solely on physical attraction and fantasy and often dissipates when the ‘real person’ surfaces.”

The key phrase here is “real person.” And a person’s real self doesn’t truly surface until months into the relationship. Because you can’t say you really love someone until you’ve actually met the whole person. You can’t say you’re in a relationship until you’ve seen this person from top to bottom.

It's confusing when sex and love are so closely intertwined. Just because that couple on Facebook is making out in front of lakes and taking selfies in the bedroom doesn't mean they're going to last. There's a good probability their lust will fizzle out before they realize how lame they truly are.

So how can you tell if what you have is real or one inconsistent orgasm away from an unanswered text? When does lust become love? How can you tell if what you have is just a heightened libido or real butterflies?

With love, you care about what drugs they're on; with lust, you feel like you're on drugs.

Feeling like you're high is a side effect of having consistent sex, not what biologically happens when you've found your soulmate.

Psychology Today reports that lust activates parts of the brain associated with reward and motivation, while love lights up regions connected to caring and empathy. You know you're in love when you care more about your partner than you care about yourself.


With love, you tolerate the reality of this person; with lust, you love the idea of this person.

Remember the beginning stages? Remember how you used to daydream about your partner when you were at work? You'd imagine the two of you in bed, on dates and in life's biggest moments. You'd imagine your first fight, first holiday and first kiss.

When you've woken up from that dream and still want to lie next to your partner, you're in love.


With love, you want to have sex after going long times without seeing each other; with lust, you have sex every time you see each other.

If you’re in it for the long haul, there's a large chance your sex life and your intimacy will develop an inverse relationship — in other words, as the intimacy increases, the sex decreases.

That's because there's so much more to the relationship than just sex. You're constantly getting to know each other, sharing more experiences (outside of closets and bathrooms) and finally getting a good night's sleep.


With love, you can't see your partner’s face; with lust, you love your partner’s face.

When you’re in love, it’s hard to truly see your partner. At least, you don’t see him or her in the way the rest of the world does. You see your lover’s essence, his or her very being, layered deep under the outer shell that’s visible to the world.

The physical beauty you were once so attracted to becomes unimportant. Even if you’re still attracted to this person, your attraction has changed.  You don’t care about good looks; you care about this person’s soul.


With love, you want to know everything; with lust, you talk about nothing.

In the beginning, all you want to do is talk to this person all day. You chat about “the nothings”– what you’re doing right now, what you’re doing tonight and what you had for dinner. It’s not so much talking as it is flirting with a purpose.

In a real relationship, you talk with purpose. Everything you say has meaning, and it’s no longer insignificant chit-chat. It’s what you need this person to know.


With love, you want to be together all the time; in lust, you want to be together all the time.

Whether or not this is actually the person of your dreams, you should always want to be together. When it’s just lust, you’re fueled by hormones. When it’s love, you’re fueled by a different kind of burning.

No matter what stage you're in, you should be excited to see the person you hope to spend the rest of your life with.

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Lauren Martin

Freelance Contributor

Lauren Martin is a Senior Lifestyle Writer at Elite Daily. After graduating from PSU, she moved to NYC to write fart jokes at Smosh Magazine. Making her way to ED, she now writes riveting commentary on nude pics, condoms and first dates.
Lauren Martin is a Senior Lifestyle Writer at Elite Daily. After graduating from PSU, she moved to NYC to write fart jokes at Smosh Magazine. Making her way to ED, she now writes riveting commentary on nude pics, condoms and first dates.

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