Lust or Love I Can't Decide
An Auntie B's Advice Column
“When we first met, it was like lightning struck the ground and electrified every cell inside me. I couldn’t get enough. I felt like a schoolgirl on her first date. Unable to concentrate, constantly thinking about him. It was intense! Something changed though. He was so into the things I liked, we constantly went out. The love notes, the texts…he made me feel like a princess in a movie you know? It’s all so different now. We don’t seem to have anything in common. Our sex life has changed. He gets upset that I’m not interested in just getting “down to it” how can I make him see how much I miss what we had?”
“When I first saw her, my brain turned to mush. She was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t think. I needed to touch her and be next to her, all the time. I really wasn’t into Broadway or museums, but if meant I could be with her, I was willing to give it a shot. I didn’t care what we did so long as it was with her by my side. We’ve been together a long time now though. It’s exhausting doing all these things that honestly, I’ve never really liked. I keep trying to show her how much I still want her but she pulls away from me. She says I don’t want her, just sex. It’s getting harder and harder to say no to that drink the hot girl at want keeps offering me…”
Welcome to a little thing called Lust kiddos. That initial period when you first meet someone where you are literally high.
Yes, that’s right. A study done by Harvard called “Love, Actually: The Science Behind Lust, Attraction, and Companionship” breaks down the first interactions between couples into (3) distinct phases.
The first Lust, is what is described above. Lust is the biochemical response to the need to pair up. Be it opposite sex attraction or same sex, when we meet someone we want, our bodies become master communicators, taking over for logical thoughts! You are, quite literally, talking with your loins!
You need to touch them, kiss, them, feel their skin on yours. It can become an all consuming need that leaves you feeling like you’re not yourself, cause, quite frankly, your not!
Next is Attraction, and this is where is gets interesting. While the first part is basically testosterone and estrogen doing what they do best, once we become attracted to another person, our chemical responses get far more complex!
The pleasure center of your brain is literally a pinball machine, a steady and constant bombardment of Dopamine and norepinephrine flooding it.
It is why in those first few weeks and months you feel giddy, and a little out of control. You can always tell when someone is in the stage. Their eyes have a new light, every time they get a text or a phone call, this silly grin creeps onto their face.
Some people find that their sleep, and even their appetite changes during this phase. It is also where we get ourselves into a butt load of trouble.
This is the stage where people are willing to set aside their own needs and interests in an effort to appease the person they want. They make accommodations they would not normally make. They are willing to go far outside of their comfort zones if only to be close to this person that they desperately want.
That, my dear readers, is where many couples find themselves wading up shit creek with no paddle in site. The need to be with this other person can override their true natures, making people do things that is not at all within their nature, ignoring vital conversations with their partner about what they do and do not like.
Here’s the deal though. The brain cannot sustain this level of chemicals indefinitely.
We eventually move into the third phase, Companionship, and that is where the test of a relationship begins, and sadly, for many also ends.
Once your brain begins to level out, you move into the third stage of a relationship Attachment. 2 chemicals play a vital role.
Oxytocin and Vasopressin are the primary hormones that bond humans together. During this time you release less of the pleasure chemicals that make you feel high and more of the bonding ones that make you want to be close to your partner and really get to know them.
Many couples can face a difficult time during this transition. In part because the wild, obsessive desire they had to be together begins to shift and for those who are not emotionally prepared for it, in some ways, it can feel like a rejection to one partner, the other or both.
“I remember the first time I was hot and heavy with a partner and then one day, we went to sleep instead of having sex. At first it did feel like a rejection. It was so different from what our previous few weeks had been focused on. When I woke up though, my hand curled in his, my head on his chest listening to him breathe as he peacefully slept, I knew that it wasn’t really sex that I had been craving, being with him, feeling this sense of contentment was just as nice.”
This phase of a relationship, though, is where you know if it is love or not. Once the high wears off, you begin to get a true picture of who you’re with.
You have to ask yourself certain questions: Do they make me laugh? Do they make me feel safe and secure? Do we have enough common interests to keep us doing things together that involve keeping our clothing on?
The true test of a relationship lays not inside attraction, but in the day to day connections that tie us together and keep us wanting to stay together no matter what.
While sex, desire and want are aspects of a healthy relationship, the ones that last go far beyond that. A long term partner will cheer on your successes, grieve in your losses, and will be more than a lover, they will be a friend.
SO HOW DO YOU KNOW IF IT’S LUST OR LOVE?
You listen not to your genitals but your heart. Do you want to share the small moments and the big? Do you know that you can tell your partner anything, even when it’s not comfortable because they have your best interests at heart?
There is a science to what brings us together, but long term relationships also take dedication, communication and hard work. To be with someone and truly love them is to accept them for who they are.
If you are waiting for “someday” for your partner to “figure it out”, they may not be the happily ever after you thought. You can chase after lust until your dying day and the truth is you will find it time after time after time.
In the end though, lust will not hold your hand when your heart breaks, it will not bring you coffee in bed or send you an I love you for no reason at all.
Find the person who you want to wake up with each morning and whose face is the last you want to see each night.
Find the person with whom you can genuinely share your dreams, hopes and desires, and not just your bed and you will have found Mr./Mrs. Right.