Raise your hand if you have ever thought you were in love but were actually just infatuated. Now, raise your hand if you’ve ever been in love but thought it was just lust. And, finally, raise your hand if you’ve been in lust and thought it was true love. 

You’re not alone. 

Misunderstanding the difference between lust, infatuation, and love is a tale as old as time. We’ve all been there. In the moment we feel so sure it’s one thing, yet with a little time and clarity we realize we were completely mistaken. So, how can we save ourselves the trouble and heartache that comes along with misidentifying love, lust, and infatuation? By truly understanding the definitions and recognizing the signs and symptoms of each feeling. 

Understanding Infatuation

Infatuation is most often mistaken for love, but the two couldn’t be more different. Unfortunately, many movies and television shows often portray love in a way that is actually infatuation—wildly passionate, explosive relationships full of codependency and high emotions. Many people fall into pop culture’s trap, assuming that the way they feel about someone must be love because it’s so passionate and all-consuming. 

If you’re with someone and you need constant attention and validation from them, or feel that if they ever leave you won’t be able to go on without them, you’re most likely experiencing infatuation. 

Understanding Lust

Lust is, by definition, the feeling of immense sexual desire, and is most typically physical. What separates lust from infatuation and love though, is that there aren’t usually deeper emotions at play. Many people describe lust as an insatiable need for physical touch with someone they are attracted to, but they aren’t connected to that person on a deeper level. The attraction is purely surface level. Addictive even.

Lust is the most simple of these three feelings to identify since it relies solely on physical desire. We can figure out whether or not we are lusting after someone by examining how deeply we feel towards an individual and asking ourselves whether the attraction is purely physical or deeper. 

Understanding Love

Love can surely include lust and infatuation, though true and unconditional love doesn’t live solely in those two feelings. Love includes physical, emotional, and intellectual attraction and is reciprocated between us and the person we care about. Additionally, while we often find ourselves experiencing lust and infatuation, with love we find ourselves choosing it. That’s because out of all three feelings, love takes the most work to nurture and grow. 

We can tell we’re in love if we begin to put others needs before our own without expecting anything in return. 

Understanding the differences between love, lust, and infatuation can save you a lot of time and heartbreak. When we are able to sit back and identify our feelings, we are better able to choose the best path forward and make smart, informed decisions about our romantic life.