Ihave never really made any kind of concerted effort to differentiate between love and lust. My friend Carrie, now in her third relationship in less than a month, brought me to the realization that not only was research necessary in that department, so was an intervention. I must admit Carrie’s decision to speed-date is partly my fault. Not that I regret it. Recently I’d been spending quite a lot of time trying to convince her that life is about more than just eating, working, and sleeping, with a few minutes here and there for other more personal obligations, or inclinations. Exactly one month ago she turned 26. We were sitting in the living room of her one-bedroom condo on a Friday evening, and I’d had just about enough. We were going out, and there was nothing she could say or do about it.
Sulking, she’d reluctantly put away her laptop. She reminded me that the last time she’d gone out she’d met the man who’d broken her heart. I waved her off, and rummaged through her closet. I pulled out a shimmery black jumpsuit that was buried somewhere in the back, and handed it to her. She pulled it on and straightaway I noticed how perfectly it accentuated the curves she always kept under wraps. Even she seemed surprised when she glanced in the mirror! We headed out, and before long there were the wolf whistles and cat calls. She casually strolled along on her six-inch suede pumps, as usual unaware of the mayhem in her wake. Even men with girlfriends leaned dangerously out of their cars to peek at her.
Needless to say, she picked up more than her fair share of numbers that night. I felt triumphant, until she started talking about possibly already being in love with two guys she had only just encountered. I had known beforehand Carrie was the sort of girl who fell in love quickly, but since it was a mess partly of my own creation, I had to find a way to show her the difference between love and lust. Naturally I headed to Youtube. There I found a Ted-Talks video by Terri Orbuch, the introduction of which told how to love and lust. I shared it with Carrie.
Sex: You’re drawn to the other person based solely on physical and sexual arousal or attraction. You’re filled with sexual desire that does not stop. Terri pointed out that lust declining was an inevitable part of all romantic relationships, hence I think it’s safe to say if you’re attracted to someone on solely that basis, expect things to fizzle when the novelty fades.
Shallow interactions: It’s all about showing off what you consider your best traits, and interactions with you or your partner haven’t successfully managed to get past superficial stages. Love concerns itself more about knowing and accepting your partner, and yourself.
Glorification: You don’t see the other person for who they are, you see them for who you want or need them to be. (So in fact, it’s not love that makes you blind, it’s lust!) In that state of mind, you’re impressed by anything and everything your partner does or says. In Terri’s words: “You don’t see certain things, or they don’t bother you, but as time goes on, those same behaviours become irritating and annoying to you. Flaws and faults become apparent.” At this point, lust declines.
Connection: When you’re in love you want your partner to connect with all the important people in your life. You care whether the people in your life like them, and you want to show them off to the world. You introduce them to your interests, and those close to you, and they do the same.
“Us” and “we”: Use of “we” language, rather than “I” language. Terri divulged: “When two people are in love, they begin to think of themselves not as individuals anymore, but instead as a couple.”
Self disclosure: Things like how much you share with that person, and how much they share with you matter, particularly the intimate details of your lives. Terri: “You go straight to the core.” Consider what you talk about.
Influence: One person influences the other in meaningful and significant ways. Whether that has to do with career and other life decisions, support and advice, the other person’s input matters to you. You think also about how your decisions will impact them, and they pay you the same consideration.
Cuddle Bug Syndrome: When we’re in love we produce the hormone oxytocin, which triggers relaxation, and promotes emotional bonding and closeness. It’s also known as the “cuddle hormone”!
The most important thing I wanted to share with Carrie, and with you, is that sometimes lust can turn to love, but there are several determining factors that need to be part of the equation, including a sense of authenticity. Thankfully, I saved my friend from going down the deep end, and when she emerges again on the dating scene she will be more equipped to take things one step at a time. Hopefully!