Love and lust are tricky to decipher. In most cases, real love will contain lust, and it definitely always starts out that way. And when we engage in sexy activities, bonding hormones like oxytocin and dopamine hit us hard, and that can feel like real, deep, eyes-roll-back-in-your-head love. But how do we know when lust is just lust, and doesn’t have the legs to take us all the way?
Who better to ask than Claire Byrne, otherwise known as The Heartbreak Coach? The queen of seeing through red flags, empowering women to hold fast to their boundaries and trust their intuition unapologetically, she understands how to make one’s way through the fog of relationship newness.
Editor’s note: Although this article uses male pronouns, the advice applies to all sexual orientations and gender identities.
“A therapist once told me that if someone makes your panties want to drop upon meeting him, RUN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION,” she starts off with, strong. Wait, what? Isn’t that what we want in a loving relationship? Yes, and no. We don’t need it the second we meet them; in fact, it’s much more satisfying to build it.
“I laughed and agreed because at that point, I was primarily choosing men based on my attraction to them, first and foremost, and unconsciously letting my brain paint green over the subtle and not-so-subtle red flags. But this idea that I should run because I instantly feel such a wild pull toward someone also bummed me out! I really wanted to be insanely attracted to the partner I was seeking, AND be madly and safely in love. Is that too much to ask?”
For those Netflix fans out there who have watched Sex/Life, we know we are now mulling over the question, can’t we have it all? “Does it have to be either lust with a bad boy or love with someone who’s safe but just doesn’t do it for you as much?” Byrne asks.
Great news, according to Byrne, no and no!
“The truth is, we just don’t know if it’s lust vs. love during the early days of a connection, because it takes time to get to know someone.” And like, not a few weeks, not even really six months. It takes a while. Give it a chance if you think it deserves it.
“Sure, we all know that couple who slept together on the first date and are now blissfully married, but who’s to say if it was lust vs. love, lust before love, or if it was both at the same time, in the very beginning?
What it comes down to is slowing your heart and vagina’s ROLL, when both immediately want to act from the automatic desire to do what they want—let him in, in all the ways, and cross fingers that he’s here to stay.
If you have the tendency to feel that automatic pull toward someone and the whole sleeping-with-him-and-we’ll-see-what-happens tactic hasn’t worked, here are five steps you can take to get clarity on whether the next is a lust or love connection.
1. Observe the feels without doing a thing.
It’s like having a sugar craving you don’t satisfy. You feel the desire, don’t honor it, and move through the discomfort of doing just that. You can want to rip his clothes off and want him to rip off yours, WITHOUT letting that happen. You ARE in control of your sexual urges. Instead …
2. Let him pursue you.
Like, ask you out on a proper date with at least three days’ notice. And then a second date. And maybe even a third. Hey, I’m also not opposed to you asking him out if that’s what you genuinely feel comfortable and confident doing. If he’s interested, he’ll say ‘hell yes,’ and make the plans happen.
3. Observe if he’s asking questions about YOU.
Does he show genuine interest in who you are? What you do for a living? Is he interested in hearing about the people in your life who are important to you and why?
4. Ask him what he’s looking for.
This can be an uncomfortable one for my clients. They’re afraid he’ll interpret that you’re looking for a commitment on the spot. If he’s interested in more than lust, he won’t be freaked out. Also, there’s nothing wrong with a confident woman who knows what she’s looking for and isn’t messing around. This doesn’t mean ask him immediately on date one, but within the first few dates, figure out if he’s interested in taking the palpable attraction to being more than that.
5. Figure out if you’re compatible.
You can feel a crazy attraction and not share similar lifestyles or values. I recall dating a guy I was very attracted to and we shared a great sense of humor, but he scoffed at self-help (my soul’s purpose!) and really didn’t have the same outlook on life that I did. The attraction and fun only took us so far, and I found myself extra disappointed when it didn’t work out, even though in hindsight he was clearly so wrong for me right from the beginning.
Of course, nothing and no one can guarantee that your physical connection will snowball into true, lifelong-lasting love, but if you follow this process, you’ll for sure figure out if your lust and/or love interest is looking for more than just droppin’ your panties!”
Shop our sex and love collection:
Up next, be the first to know our weekly content and sign up for our Poosh newsletter.