School of the Ages


From Teen Guide -- How do you tell the difference between love and lust?

Posted by Matt Posner on May 6, 2012 at 9:20 AM

How do you tell the difference between love and lust?


Lust is very much focused on the physical desires. You crave to be with the person physically/sexually. You might think about their fantastic abs/body/some particular body part or physical feature more than anything else.

Love can be trickier to define—each of us has our own way of describing it. Love goes deep. You share a connection with the person that goes beyond satisfying physical desires. You admire the person for something that goes beyond how good they look or how smooth they are sexually.

Yes, it’s possible to sometimes mix up love and lust. It sometimes happens with “friends with benefits” arrangements. A deep love is often free from tension and drama. It runs on compassion, kindness, and acceptance, and has a positive effect on both people that are sharing the deep love (a genuine love tends to encourage and inspire each person to “be better” versions of themselves, compared to if they were absent in each other’s lives).

It’s lust if two people want to be with each other for the rest of time because they both find each other “hot.” It’s lust if you could hate the person, but still have sex with them because the sex is just so good. It’s lust if all you think and care about is how “hot” the person is (you don’t really care about their personality, and emotional involvement doesn’t feature when you think about the person).

I once knew an old couple. The lady had to undergo surgery when she found out she had breast cancer. She was worried about the operation because one of her breasts needed to be removed, and she feared that her husband would no longer find her attractive. The man replied, “I married you for you, not because of those things!”

That’s love.


Lust means the desire to have sex with a person regardless of whether there is a personal connection. You see someone and you think about having sex with that person, and your body responds by getting ready to have sex. Lust is about meeting your body’s need to have sex or about other emotional needs that you have—to feel powerful, or to feel special, or to feel in control. It is a very strong motivation when you are in your teenage years, especially for boys. It isn’t unusual for a teenage boy to go around the school in a constant state of sexual attraction to girls that he sees. This condition eventually passes, and if you get into a sexual relationship that works, then it will go away, and lust for everyone around you will turn into more manageable attraction.

The more connected you are to a person and the more you understand that person, the more lust turns into something else. If you become friends with that person, lust becomes love. If you aren’t compatible with that person, the dislike should make the lust less intense, although you can have strong sexual desire for people you don’t like. If you’re a boy, this happens because lust is partly about feeling in control, and you want her more because having her would mean you had triumphed over that difficult personality. If you’re a girl, you may find that you’re attracted to boys who are aggressive, rude, or rebellious, so called “bad boys.” There is some biological programming that tells you these bad boy personalities will make good protectors. I suppose that successful relationships have come out of these feelings over the years, but if so, only because the lust developed into friendship, commitment, and trust.

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