That magical feeling when your eyes meet and you think that this must be the real thing is indescribable. Are you really falling in love? You may respond, “But I loveeeeee him!”
When you have stars in your eyes, however, the reality of whether you are truly in love or in lust is often difficult to decipher. While you may sincerely believe you are experiencing true love, discerning love and lust through the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth.
Marriage, sex, and relationship expert Joe Beam addresses the issue of lust versus love when he says, “Part of that mad rush of passion at the beginning of a relationship is caused by chemicals in the brain. Don’t fool yourself into believing this is real love that lasts.”
He explains, in this video, that when you are attracted to someone, the dopamine in your brain increases, while the serotonin decreases. This roughly means that, much like someone addicted to a feel-good-for-the-moment drug, your reasoning and logic are put on the back burner, while you are left to feel like you are walking on air. While you think you have fallen in love, you have really just temporarily become numb to pain as you momentarily feel good.
Sexual attraction is intense. When you are attracted to someone, it’s almost as if everything around you closes in, and your focus is on what you desire with no room for reason or common sense. You see the other person through the proverbial rose colored glasses which paint them with a picture of what you hope and need them to be instead of whom they really are.
Some typical signs that lust is at the root of this feeling, include:
- When you think of him or her, your focus in almost entirely obsessed with the way he or she looks.
- You get more excited thinking about the physical aspect of your relationship and not as much when you try to have a conversation.
- You think about how he or she makes you feel or what he or she can do for you instead of how you can encourage the relationship to grow.
- You enjoy fantasizing about an ideal fairy tale relationship but aren’t really interested in getting to know him or her as a person.
On the other hand, just because you feel a strong physical attraction doesn’t automatically assume it is entirely pure lust. Deep-felt love often accompanies a physical reaction as well as your emotions and can seemingly escape all logic.
The entire Bible is really a long love story with chapter after chapter of explanations of what true love looks like, in the form of a Savior. It also devotes an entire chapter to describing the characteristics of love:
Love is patient and is kind; love doesn’t envy. Love doesn’t brag, is not proud, doesn’t behave itself inappropriately, doesn’t seek its own way, is not provoked, takes no account of evil; doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. —1 Corinthians 13:4-8
The traits of true love are listed in the above passage. Some other signs that what you are feeling is really love include:
- The two of you enjoy hours of conversation talking about each other’s interests.
- You think about how to support and encourage him or her emotionally and spiritually
- You enjoy time together even without physical contact.
- You have common goals.
One surefire way to know if it’s true love or not is to honestly listen to your gut-level intuition. In Christian terms, this is often referred to as being led by the Spirit and wisdom. You may also have heard love referred to as a matter of the heart, while lust remains self-centered and rooted in only having the desire to fulfill your own selfish physical wants.