At some point in your life, you’ve probably confused lust and love. In fact, you might’ve thought you were talking about one of them when you were, in fact, talking about the other.
It’s pretty common to believe that being attracted to another person implies you feel love for them. As a matter of fact, you might believe that thinking about them all day and wanting them intensely are clear manifestations of your love. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. That’s because love is far more complex and it transcends all other emotions and feelings.
In order to better understand the differences between lust and love, it’s important to define the two dimensions and list their characteristics.
Love doesn’t just involve emotional expression or the accumulation of sensations, emotions, and feelings that you experience in the presence or absence of your loved one. It’s also an attitude towards life, others, and yourself. In the words of Erich Fromm, “Love is an action, the practice of human power, which can be practiced only in freedom and never as a result of compulsion”.
In other words, where there’s possession, there’s no love, because love comes from freedom. Love is freedom itself. It’s the power to express authenticity while preserving your own integrity and individuality. However, not from a selfish perspective.
Love is a union where freedom is fundamental and where, paradoxically, two people, effectively, become one.
Erich Fromm identified four essential characteristics of love:
- Caring. Taking care of your loved one, being attentive and interested in their well-being. It’s the concern for their life and growth. However, caring doesn’t mean overprotecting or doing everything for them, it means letting them be and wanting them to be okay because they’re an important and valuable human being.
- Responsibility. The response to the needs of your loved one, whether or not these needs are expressed. It means fulfilling your duty as well as giving and responding to them. Being attentive to their needs.
- Respect. Seeing your loved one as they are. Accepting and being aware of their individuality. In fact, respect carries with it a genuine concern for their growth and a desire for them to develop as they want to.
- Knowledge. Acceptance of the inner world of your loved one with the aim of getting to know them better. However, it never involves dominating them. It means taking care of them, respecting them, and responding to what they really need.
On the other hand, lust is a disorderly and unlimited desire for sexual pleasure (Villegas, 2018). However, if we analyze its etymology, we realize it isn’t necessarily a sexual desire. This is because the word lust comes from the Latin luxuria which means ‘abundance’ or ‘exuberance’. Therefore, it refers to everything that accrues in excess or great quantity.
With lust, you objectify the “loved” or desired person, either in your imagination or reality. As a matter of fact, the other person becomes a mere means for the satisfaction of your desire. The central value is pleasure, the satisfaction of your sexual needs. Egoism governs lust since your horizon becomes restricted to solely your own desires.
The main characteristics of lust in relationships are the following (Mandiotra, 2021):
- No desire to build a deep connection with the person.
- The relationship is short-lived.
- An intense desire for sexual intimacy with the other person.
- Excessive attraction to the other person’s physique.
- No interest in maintaining a connection after sex.
- Strong desire to touch, hug, kiss, and caress.
- Lack of control of sexual desire.
Differences between lust and love
1. The place of the other
A central difference between lust and love lies in the importance of the other person. For lust, the other is important insofar as they satisfy your desires, especially the sexual one. However, with love, the other person is valuable in themselves, important for what and who they are.
2. Give and receive
With lust, you assume a receptive attitude in which you expect that what you want will be provided to you immediately. With love, the attitude is to give, to offer the other person what you have, to give support, acceptance, and commitment.
3. The duration
Another essential difference between lust and love is their duration. With lust, your interest in the other person is ephemeral, it lasts as long as it takes to satisfy your sexual needs, depending on the intensity of the desire you feel. Nevertheless, love is more prolonged, it’s a permanent attitude towards the person you love.
With lust, you feel no commitment to the personal growth of the other person. There’s only sexual desire, passion, and need. On the other hand, with love, you feel a genuine desire for the development of your loved one, and for their well-being and quality of life.
5. Manipulation and respect
Lust manipulates. It seeks, in one way or another, to make the other give you what you want. On the contrary, with love, you feel respect for the integrity and freedom of your loved one.
Another distinction between lust and love is patience. Lust makes you impatient, you want your desires to be satisfied immediately. However, love is patient. It means you wait for the right moment because you know everything has its time and place. With love, you don’t rush, you just seek to be in harmony with your loved one.
7. Superficiality and depth
Lust is superficial. It makes you uninterested in the other person’s feelings. You don’t care about getting to know them other than on a superficial level. Love is deep, you feel an authentic desire to know what the other is like.
8. The link
With lust, you feel no connection or real bond with the other person. You have no desire to tune into their life and are unconcerned about their well-being. With love, you feel a deep bond, a unity between the two of you, without losing your own individuality. Love is an active permeation into the life of your loved one.
9. Emotion and attitude
Another important difference between lust and love involves the emotional character of the one (lust) and the attitude in the other (love). Lust unfolds in a set of emotions, desires, and gratifications. However, love moves in the realm of attitude, action, and being. More than an emotional state, love is a way of relating to the other person. In fact, it’s an attitude towards life, a way of being and living.
Lust enslaves you., It keeps you a prisoner of your own sexual desires and needs. Love liberates you. Because its essence unfolds in your freedom.
Finally, you may have the impression that sexual desire isn’t compatible with love. On the contrary, it is, but it doesn’t form the central axis. We all have desires. However, the problem occurs when they become excessive, exuberant, uncontrollable, and become the be-all and end-all of every relationship. This is what happens with lust.
Love goes beyond desire and the satisfaction of the same. It involves not only pleasure but the freedom to care, respect, respond and really get to know the person you love.