How to Tell if It's Real Love or Just Sex

Four Methods:Differentiating Between Love and LustCommunicating About ExpectationsCommunicating About Your RelationshipBreaking Off a Relationship

Both love and sexual attraction can cause strong reactions, but it’s sometimes difficult to tell which one it is. Sometimes, one person feels love, while the other is simply around because of lust. Understanding the difference can help you decide where your relationship with the other person is going.

Method 1
Differentiating Between Love and Lust

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    Identify whether what you and the other person feel is sexual attraction. Signs of lust might include focusing on each other’s appearance, having a relationships that revolves around sex, and little interest in having real conversations and getting to know the other person. Having a relationship based entirely on sexual attraction can work for a while, but things can become complicated if one partner feels love for the other while the other only feels lust. [1]
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    Ask yourself if you or the other person feel love for the other. Love is usually coupled with sexual attraction, but love goes deeper. Think about whether you and the other person have long and deep conversations to really get to know each other and if you value each other’s happiness. Analyze if you want to be part of that person’s life by getting to know friends and family, and whether you feel romantic attachment to that person. Do you share similar values and interests? Do you feel a deep connection to that person? [2] Some qualities you might find in a suitable partner include:[3]
    • A commitment to personal growth and becoming a better person.
    • An awareness of his or her own baggage or weaknesses.
    • Emotional openness.
    • Responsible and respectful.
    • Integrity; he or she practices honesty with you, him or herself, and others.
    • Loves because he or she feels good about him or herself, not in order to feel good about him or herself.
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    Realize that biology plays a role. Lust and romantic love are two of three brain systems that help explain universal human attitudes toward mating and reproduction. Sexual attraction, romantic love, and long-term feelings of attachment work together in different proportions to create feelings of love in a relationship. [4]
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    Suggest doing different activities with the other person. Try to find events that you would both enjoy. If it’s easy to find things that you love to do together, you might be on the way to love. If you have trouble finding anything to do together that doesn’t revolve around sex or the promise of sex, it’s a good guess that you’re just experiencing sexual attraction. [5]

Method 2
Communicating About Expectations

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    Talk to the other person about what they are getting out of the relationship. If he or she only talks about your appearance or your sex life, that points to it being primarily a case of sexual attraction. Even if you might feel love, you have to consider the other person’s feelings and ideas about the connection you share. Discussions like these can be uncomfortable, but they can also help clarify how you both feel. [6]
    • "I really like hanging out with you and I hope you like hanging out with me. What do you have the most fun doing together?"
    • "I don’t want a big serious conversation, but I wanted to know if you like keeping things the way they are between us or if ultimately you might be looking for more."
    • "I know we haven’t defined things, and that’s fine, but I wanted to know how you see our relationship."
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    Ask yourself whether you want to continue in a relationship if it’s clear you have different goals. Even though lust can turn to romantic love, it’s often just about sexual attraction and will not develop into anything further. As much as you might want one kind of relationship with the other person, if they do not reciprocate you can’t have the connection you want. [7]
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    Pause the relationship if you can’t agree. Sometimes both sides need time to think about what they really want. If you have two different ideas about where the relationship is headed, you might not be able to reach a shared understanding of what you have. If you can reach a shared vision about where you’re going, that’s great. But it’s often difficult, if not impossible, if you and the other person are far apart in terms of what you hope to get out of the relationship. At that point, you would probably want to break it off. [8]

Method 3
Communicating About Your Relationship

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    Share your vision for the relationship. Be honest with the other person. If you want a monogamous romantic relationship, let them know. If you want a primarily sexual relationship in which you’re both free to see other people, they should know that as well. Don’t just assume they know what you want – tell them. [9]
    • "I’d like to continue being with you, but I was hoping we could agree not to date other people. I really like you and would like to see where this relationship goes."
    • "I think we have great sex and I want that to continue. I’m really not looking for anything more at this time. How do you feel about that?"
    • "I’m not sure where our connection will lead, but I think we have something special and I want to take the time to explore that. How would you feel about waiting to have sex for a while?"
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    Determine if the other person has the same goals for the relationship. If the other person is in agreement, figure out each of your expectations. Any relationship you choose to have is legitimate – from one based on sex to one that saves sex and is only about romantic love, and everything in between. Think about how to achieve your relationship goals if you and your partner want the same thing. If you both feel just lust, what kind of parameters will you put on your time together? If you both are feeling romantic love, what next steps toward commitment do you want to take together? [10]
    • "I’d like for us to keep hanging out like this, but I’d really like you to meet my friends – they really want to meet you. Would you feel comfortable coming to a party with me?"
    • "I know we’re both busy and want to keep this pretty light. Why don’t we just get in touch when we want to have sex?"
    • "Can I call you my girlfriend/boyfriend? I know we hadn’t talked about this yet, but I was hoping that we could define each other in that way."
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    Keep communicating about the relationship. You might find that your ideas about where it’s going change as time goes on. It’s possible that the romantic love you thought you felt was actually excitement and you just want to keep having sex with the other person and leave it at that. Or you might find the connection sex brings you leads to a deeper connection and the beginnings of romantic love. [11]
    • "I know we had talked about seeing where this relationship went, and I think I’m happy for us to be friends who have sex together and leave it at that."
    • "It’s been great being intimate with you, and I am feeling a deeper connection. Would you be willing to hang out sometimes and not have sex and see where we are?"
    • "I’m confused. I thought I wanted a _______ relationship with you, but now I’m not so sure. I think I want a _______ relationship instead. How do you feel about that?"
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    Speak up if you do not like the way the relationship is going. You’ve laid out what you want from a relationship, now you need to make sure the other person knows exactly what you need. In the first stages of a relationship, it’s easy to let things slide, but this can lead to problems later. Tell them what you want and need. [12]
    • "I like going out for beers with you, but could we do some other activities instead this weekend?"
    • "It seems like you always want to spend Sunday with your family. I’m okay with doing that some of the time, but I want to do other stuff too. Do you think you could go alone this weekend?"
    • "I don’t like the fact that we've fallen into a pattern of just having sex and watching TV. Can we plan something else sometimes?"

Method 4
Breaking Off a Relationship

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    Break up with the person if you can’t agree on a shared vision of your relationship. [13] This might happen early, when you’re just getting to know each other, or later, once the relationship has settled down into a rhythm. As much as you might want a relationship to work, if you can’t come to an agreement on the parameters of your time together, it’s not going to work. Giving it time might seem like a good idea, but it usually just makes it harder to leave as time goes on.
    • "I don’t think we want the same things and I don’t think we ever will. I think it’s best we stop seeing each other."
    • "It’s been fun, but I need to move on. I want something different from you than you want from me."
    • "I love you, but you don’t love me back, and it’s too painful to be in a relationship with you knowing that. I can’t see you any more. "
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    Allow yourself time to move on. As tempting as it may be to get right back out and find someone new, you’re emotionally vulnerable. Spend time with friends and family, reconnect with your interests, and reflect on what you learned from the relationship that just ended. Recharging yourself emotionally is essential before you try and find someone new. [14]
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    Find out what works for you. Are you looking for romantic love, or someone with whom to have an entirely physical relationship? Your answers will probably change based on where you are in your life. Think about where and how to meet the kinds of people you want to date. Whether in person or online, you have an array of choices in finding your next relationship. [15]

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Categories: Relationship Issues | Commitment Issues