Recognizing the difference.
In the beginning stages of dating someone, I’m rarely all-in. I’m in “wait and see” mode, not from a place of pessimism or negativity but with the understanding that lust looks a lot like love, feels like it too — And in the beginning, before you’ve really gotten to know someone, who they are, what they stand for, and if the two of you are compatible, it’s ALL lust. Unless, you believe in that very, very rare phenomenon of love at first sight. So, rather than dive right into the deep end as soon as I meet someone new, I just put my feet in the water, enjoy the process and observe.
I’ve had guys make assumptions that I’m not an affectionate person because I’m not all over them after the first couple of dates. This is always puzzling to me because I’m like, you’re literally a stranger. What do you expect? Sometimes being unfamiliar with one another is cool, depending on what you’re looking for. But to make that kind of judgement or assess the intimacy level of a relationship so early on seems odd to me. We are the most intelligent species to ever exist, yet often behave like purely instinctual animals.
On the other side of that, when someone is all over me or claims to like me so much and wants to be in a relationship before even really knowing who I am, it feels fake. It can’t be genuine because there is no basis for such a position, other than lust or infatuation. You can crush on me, but if there is little attempt to actually learn me, you don’t like me. Not really. You can’t. You don’t know me. You just like how I look, or are drawn to some other nonessential element of my being, such as a cute laugh or the shape of my eyes. Fascination with such things will eventually fade. They get old and common. There has to be something more meaningful beneath fringe attraction for it to last.
Lust gets a bad rep, though. It is an intricate component of romantic love. A relationship with no level of physical attraction and passion is in trouble. Or it’s a friendship. Even Osho, an enlightened philosopher explains that in avoiding lust, we avoid the possibility of love itself. He’s careful to mention that love is not lust — but love is not without lust. The first part of that statement is what gives lust its negative connotation. It is because we confuse it with love, and in doing so attach expectations that inevitably aren’t met and ill-fitting emotions that cause us to view lust as something wicked. As with any other impulse, we just have to exercise discipline and practice sound judgement.
It’s often lust alone that breaks our heart or disappoints us, not love. Lust manipulates, confuses and lies to us. That’s why it’s so important that we learn the difference.
In Bustle’s 8 Signs You’re In Lust And Not In Love, the notion of lust being conditional is mentioned. It’s rooted in gratification. Attention, gestures, interest, even cuddling serves as a means to an end — pleasure. You can’t just “be.” That’s one way to tell.
If the intensity of the interaction fluctuates, a partner is hot and cold, you’re always wondering how they feel about you, or there’s lots of sex but little conversation / anything else, you’re almost certainly in lust. That’s close to a no-brainer, no matter what the butterflies in your tummy try to tell you. You shouldn’t feel discarded, used or forgotten. Same thing if you find yourself doing the discarding and forgetting. Love is consistent. It may falter but it does not fail.
The most tried-and-tested method is to just give the situation time before deciding what it is. We can be in such a rush to fall in love that we create it in places and with people it does not exist. True colors always show eventually. If someone isn’t sincerely interested in you as a person, not just as an object of desire, they’ll tire of trying to woo you. Let them. Sometimes we feel pressured to give people what they want when they want it for fear that they’ll lose interest if we don’t. Believe you’re worth the wait and anyone worthy will believe it too.
I’m not impressed by someone finding me sexually desirable. That’s pure biology. Have I been fooled on occasion? Of course. Like I said, lust looks and feels a lot like love. But I am infinitely better than I used to be at separating the two and recognizing the difference, both in myself and others. Mainly because I’ve learned that there is one, and I accept that realization even when doing so is hurtful.