How to tell the difference between lust and love

By: Kait Fowlie

© Author: Canadian Living Credits: ©


How to tell the difference between lust and love

By: Kait Fowlie
Are you wondering if your chemistry-laden romance will end up just being the flavour of the month? It's not always easy to tell the difference between true love and passionate, yet passing lust – especially when you're in the throes of an exciting new relationship.

We turned to certified psychotherapist Dorothy Ratusny to help us better understand the difference between love and lus. She shared some of the indicators that will help you discern whether your behaviour, thoughts and feelings are signs of lust rather than love.

1. You think about your partner all of the time
Are thoughts of your partner driving you to distraction? Those exciting thoughts can be addicting – and where there is addiction, there can't be genuine love.

"Scientists refer to three main neurotransmitters – adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin – as being responsible for feeling love-struck, where the members of a couple are consumed with thoughts of one another," explains Ratusny. "There is a direct biochemical reaction causing you to constantly think about your new lover, even well before you reach the final stage of love, attachment, which is what keeps couples together long enough to have and raise children."

Getting hooked on those good feelings isn't something we can consciously control, but it helps to be aware of what is really happening. It's normal to experience excitement at the beginning stages of a relationship, but in order for the relationship to be truly sustainable it has to get past the initial thrill, says Ratusny. At that point, you and your partner can achieve a more stable, long-term attachment.

2. Your eating and sleeping patterns are irregular
The reason your eating and sleeping patterns can get thrown off track in the beginning stages of a relationship is the same reason your partner is always on your mind – it's all about those chemicals whirling around in your brain.

"It's suggested that couples in this pre-love stage show the signs of surging dopamine: increased energy, less need for sleep or food, focused attention and intense delight in the smallest details of this novel relationship," says Ratusny. When you're in a state of being love-struck, your brain and body aren't functioning as they normally would. The lusting brain is actually very similar to a brain that is on drugs, she explains.

Page 1 of 2 -- Discover three more ways to tell if you're in lust, not love on page 2.
3. Feeling good about yourself is dependent on your partner
"Without even knowing it, some people get into relationships because they need that personal affirmation," says Ratusny. "Their positive feelings about themselves become heavily tied to how much they admire and regard their partner. Their partner's successes and achievements become the primary way a person holds positive feelings about who they are."

If this sounds like you, it could be a sign that your relationship isn't sustainable. This indirect way of achieving personal validation through a partner is a common reason why people get attached, says Ratusny. Ideally though, a healthy love relationship doesn't involve that dependency, but rather works in such a way that both partners complement each other and inspire each other to live healthy separate lives.

4. You can't see yourself with your partner in the long term
In order for a relationship to have staying power, both parties must be trustworthy and mature, and they must accept each other's lifestyles. If your partner doesn't have those qualities it's a sign that things might not work out in the long run.

"The idea that two people can be in a relationship together suggests that they are highly compatible in belief systems, ways of thinking and behaving, common interests, etc.," says Ratusny.

Ask yourself – and be as objective as possible – if your partner has the qualities that are required to make a relationship last.

5. You make sacrifices for your partner to make him or her stay with you
Every relationship requires healthy negotiation, but if you find yourself making too many sacrifices for your partner it's an indicator of an unhealthy attachment.

"To question sacrifices suggests that the person is being incongruent to their own beliefs and ideals," says Ratusny.

To truly be in love, both you and your partner should be on the same level in terms of what you want from life and what you want from each other. "Ideally a healthy love relationship supports both individuals' lives and living in a way that is best suited for each of them," she explains.

In the beginning of a new relationship, the powerful emotions we experience and the physiological responses driven by our hormones can make it tough to tell the difference between love that is real and lust that is likely temporary. Every relationship is different, but if you remain objective and reflect honestly on your feelings you'll be better equipped to discern if your relationship truly is sustainable.

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How to tell the difference between lust and love