If you ask ten different people to compare love, like, and lust, more than likely you will get ten different answers. Why is that? There’s no doubt that love and its similar counterparts are complicated emotions, in part because there could be as many definitions for love as there are people.
Love isn’t something you can see with your eyes; rather, it’s more of a feeling that occurs deep within a person that sets off a domino effect of subsequent thoughts and external actions. We use those thoughts and actions to cultivate our own perception of what love is.
Regardless of how you perceive love, like, and lust, there exists a simpler, science-based explanation that goes beyond your personal sentiments and experiences to reveal what it’s like to fall in love.
But why do we love the person we love?
People often wonder why they fell in love with the person they love. But this time, psychology takes the answer wheel.
Since infancy, we develop an understanding of what acceptable behavior looks like. Typically, the things we experience as young children ingrain its impact on how we perceive other things in our lives, including love.
We typically fall in love with people who are like ourselves, who share the same interests, values, and desires because those are the things that give us a sense of identity. The person we choose to love is usually a reflection of ourselves.
There’s something about love that science knows but you didn’t realize.
Emotions and their triggers represent some of life’s greatest mysteries, but science may have cracked the case when it comes to distinguishing the true discrepancies between like, love, and lust. A study published in Psychological Science revealed that it all depends on how you look at another person.
In the study participants were shown pictures of the opposite gender, and were asked to imagine if they could feel lust or love for each person. Scientists tracked their eye movements and discovered that people who felt love lingered on the person’s face, while those who felt lust lingered on the body. The same study also showed photographs of couples, and respondents had to answer if the images conjured feelings of love or lust.
Once again, more focus was on the couple’s faces if the respondent answered “love” and on the couple’s bodies if the respondent answered “lust”.
Then, there are the noticeable changes in body function, such as an increased heart rate, palms, and a fluttering feeling in your stomach. But science takes body changes a step deeper by examining the amount of “happy” chemicals in the brain. In instances of love, seratonin and dopamine levels tend to rise.
But since you can’t see inside your own brain, there are a few more obvious signs that could indicate you’ve found true love and not a short-lived infatuation:
- Do you look at the person constantly? This goes back to the photograph study where people who felt love would linger on a person face rather than their body.
- Does the person invade your every thought. The person you love is more important than anything else your brain can think of.
- Does anyone else matter? You find it impossible to have similar feelings for anyone else.
- Would you be deeply affected if something bad were to happen to this person? True love means you can’t imagine going back to the life you lived before you knew this person.
If you answered yes to these four questions, this person might just be “the one.”
Like, love, and lust are different, because they’re actually on an emotional spectrum.
You should know that love, like, and lust are not interchangeable, though people will often substitute one for the other in conversation. Let’s look at the differences.
On the mild end of the spectrum, “liking” something or someone gives you a feeling of contentment. However, you could be just as satisfied if that person or thing in your life were absent.
For instance, you might like your neighbor because they have good taste in music. But if your neighbor decides to move away, their departure wouldn’t leave a gaping hole in your life.
On the more intense side of the emotional spectrum, love is the unceasing yearning that impacts the physical functions of your mind and body (according to science). In other words, think of love as a point of no return: once you fall in love with someone, life as you know it will never be the same.
When you find someone who sweeps you off your feet, that person is all you can think about, talk about, and look at. Of course, these feelings can happen even when it’s not true love. The key difference is if these feelings last longer than a few months.
Then there’s lust, a (sometimes dangerous) emotion that disguises itself as love, but with completely different intentions. There are three distinct attributes that separate the two:
- Lust is temporary.
- Lust is a superficial emotion driven by physical characteristics such as a person’s appearance.
- Lust is easily forgotten, whereas love leaves a lasting impact.
Lust tends to be more sex-focused, with more emphasis on physical pleasure than deeper connections. For instance, a person who may have had a few alcoholic drinks might find a person more interesting than if they were sober. Once the alcohol effects wear off, life can resume as normal without a second thought.
In some ways, you might consider lust and like as precursors to love; that is, lust and like will eventually wear off. If you’re still interested in a person when that happens, you may have found your true love!
Love could be about the balance of love, lust and like.
They each start with “L”, but they are far from synonymous.
Scientific discoveries on how the mind and body react to each “L” proves it. If you want to know if it’s real, think about how you look at a person, and how a person looks at you. If you each spend more time studying the face, you might have found a winning combination.
Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io
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