At some point in your romantic life, you’ve probably asked yourself if what you were experiencing is the real thing (as in true love) or just a temporary thing called lust. Love and lust are easily confused for two reasons. First, there’s the fact that the two feelings begin in much the same way (and in fact, they can exist together).Second, it’s an unfortunate state of affairs, but our culture over the years has equated “real love” with the pheromone rush that we get when first struck by lust… Then, we’ll feel so happy and complete.. but for how long?

Lust stems from something purely chemical. It’s the thrill of the chase or the rush of something forbidden. It’s the devilishly good feeling that can lead even the most discerning person into a one night stand and the addiction-like need to be around someone every second, if only just to breathe them in.

If reduced to bare bones, lust is physical. Love, on the other hand, develops over time (sometimes less time than we think, but a little while nonetheless), and adds to the physical both emotional elements and mental connection. Love takes work. Lust is simple. Hence, its irresistible appeal. Relationships that develop into love often begin with lust. Let’s face it, chemistry is most often what draws people together in the first place.

That initial rush of seeing someone across a room, or carrying on for the first couple of days/weeks/months, will not necessarily grow beyond what it is into “the real thing.” If you’ve been involved for a while and you’re wondering which category your current lover falls into, consider the following:

It’s just lust if…
Sex is the thing on your mind. Sometimes it begins before you even know the person. Your eyes meet and you could care less what they have to say, you’re simply propelled to be physically close to them. Your senses are heightened and it’s like instant euphoria… Then maybe you even exchange names, and possibly – in fact, probably – begin to date. You suddenly, instantly feel like you’ve had a dose of some exquisite elixir – only it was natural, and didn’t cost a thing! You attribute this intense, incredible feeling to that person. In some cases, you think you cannot live without them. Often (mistakenly) known as love at first sight, this feeling is so intense, it’s easy to understand why we think that it’s more.

But while it’s incredibly intoxicating, this experience has little to do with emotion or connection beyond the chemical level. Pheromones dictate that you’re attracted to each other and they make your body sing. It’s incredible… but it doesn’t mean you’re compatible, and in some cases, one or the other of you doesn’t even care to find out, because you’re preoccupied with your bedroom (or out of bedroom) activities. While advertising and movies and TV and all sorts of things subliminally steer us to believe otherwise, great sex does not equal love and nor does desire dictate destiny. In fact, if you’re experiencing a need for your object of affection, you may be treading into addictive territory: a symptom of lust, not love, according to brain activity researchers.

How does lust manifest? 
Remember, the most distinguishing factor of love’s demonized cousin (lust can be a good thing if you’re clear about it – there’s nothing evil involved), is that it doesn’t go beyond the physical plane – which includes that natural high that’s so hard to interpret when it’s not substantiated by other connection. It’s that “other connection” that’s the key differential.

To tell if your lustful symptoms could be a precursor to love, consider how you spend your time together. If you go out on the weekends with friends but hook up later for a booty call, it’s probably a lust-only arrangement. If you find, for whatever reason, you don’t spend much time conversing and even after a few months you don’t know any details about each other, like middle names or favorite movies or how you feel about your families (or you’re giving loads of details but getting none in return), most likely it’s not going to grow into more.

No future
So does chemistry mean you’re destined for a life without love? Is it a choice between love and lust? No! While lust finds its place in our bodies’ chemicals, love starts there and takes things a step further to encompass all the elements of our beings. Some signs your lust is a lot more than just that include: You have great chemistry – in the bedroom and way, way beyond. While it may (or may not) have started with sexual thoughts, now you get lost in each other – when you’re just talking.

True love
When you’re together, the hours pass like minutes – whether you’re having coffee, watching TV, out on the town or getting it on. You listen to each other’s thoughts and even share feelings. You care how his day was and he’s interested in yours. He may not be the popular definition of handsome, but to you, he’s the most gorgeous guy in the world. And if you stare at her without makeup, first thing in the morning, she’s still one of the most beautiful women you’ve ever seen. When love is at the root of things, you want to spend time together – with or without sex.

You see a future together and feel in your heart, head and gut that this person could be “the one;” because they could be, not because you’re searching. You care whether your family likes him or you include her in all your plans. You find yourself wanting to be romantic – not just racy (think sappy love song versus heated sex theme). And above all, you become like a team. Those hot and heavy moments will continue to pepper the long haul, but in love, a true understanding develops, and that is the tie that binds the two of you together.

Nothing is saying you have to be ready for love. And contrary to what you may hear, lust can be a really incredible experience! Just remember that lust is fun in the short term and love is committing to the long haul. Don’t be fooled by the initial rush and do your best to know the difference. If you learn to trust all of your instincts and assess situations as objectively as you can, you’ll figure it out. The real trick is in deciding what you really want and knowing that it’s up to you.