Sexual chemistry is incredibly important in any relationship. You don’t want to hop into bed with someone you find attractive, only for the experience to be lackluster or downright awkward. Wanting to jump someone’s bones is an incredible feeling. But, can lust ever turn into love? Or, are you doomed to stay bed buddies until the passion dies out? Here’s what you need to know.
What’s the difference between lust and love?
While it’s easy to confuse the two, love and lust are definitely not the same. They’re two distinct feelings based on entirely different experiences and bonds with another person. As Matt Langdon, chief of health and mental wellness at The Great Brain Experiment, tells Bolde: “Lust is a physical response to someone that is sexually attractive. Love is a feeling of strong affection and requires an emotional connection.”
Can lust turn into love?
- It’s not common, but it does happen. Most friends with benefits situations or one-night stands tend to be just that. They’re temporary, unattached, and without drama. That’s what makes them so appealing to so many people. You start sleeping with someone because you’re physically and sexually attracted to them. While that lust can turn into love in rare circumstances, it’s more likely that the connection will peter out on its own.
- It’s important to consider what brought you together to begin with. The answer to that is probably pretty similar for most people: sexual chemistry. That has a strong pull. So does the idea of having no strings attached. This is particularly true if you’re not looking for a full-blown relationship or know you’re not in a position to be in one at the moment. In that case, indulging your lust is no big deal (assuming both parties are on the same page). However, it’s unlikely that this is your future spouse.
- There has to be more between you than sex. While you might fall for someone you feel lust for, that sexual connection isn’t what deepens your feelings. “Lust can play a role in it, as attraction is an important ingredient in developing romantic feelings. However, to truly fall in love with someone, it takes more than just physical or superficial attraction,” explains mental health professional Heather Wilson, LCSW, LCADC, CCTP. “You need to get to know them on a deeper level and develop an emotional connection that goes beyond lust.”
- Could hormones be clouding your judgment? During sex, particularly good sex, the feel-good hormones endorphins and oxytocin are released. These create a feeling of closeness, intimacy, and sometimes, something that resembles love. It could be that the intense sexual connection you share with this person is mimicking love. In reality, it’s really just a good orgasm. They’re easy to confuse. However, it’s unlikely the lust you feel for them will turn into love in bed.
- No matter how good the sex is, that doesn’t mean you’re meant to be together. “The truth is, lust isn’t love — it’s attraction. Lust can lead to more serious levels of infatuation and passionate desire, but without a foundation of shared values and trust, true love won’t grow,” relationship expert Harman Awal tells Bolde. “It takes time for both parties to know if the relationship will become much deeper or end up as just a fling. You really need to go through the awkward ‘getting to know you’ phase with your partner to determine if they have what it takes to be part of your life in the long run.”
What’s the catalyst for the change?
While it’s not common for lust to turn into love, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. If you’re hoping to transition to hookup partners to relationship partners, there’s a shift that needs to take place. But, what causes things to transition into something more meaningful?
Relationship expert Caramel Jones of The Big Fling explains: “Sex is inherently intimate and even in the most sex-only types of arrangements, you get to know someone. You may spend small amounts of time (or a lot of time) cuddling, exchanging oxytocin, and opening up in ways that you don’t to other people. This can cause the shift to happen for a lot of people. You start to learn personal details that you realize you enjoy about that person that go beyond sex.”
What to do if you fall for a sexual partner
- Be honest about your feelings. “If you have developed deeper feelings for someone, it’s important to be honest with them and express your emotions. Be understanding and patient while they process what you are telling them. It may take some time before they feel comfortable expressing their feelings toward you,” Wilson tells Bolde. “Respect their boundaries and allow them to work through things at their own pace. If both parties are open to exploring a relationship beyond just physical pleasure, then a connection that goes far beyond lust can be formed. Otherwise, if they don’t feel the same way and don’t want to go beyond the current status of your relationship, then it would be best to have a clean break to avoid additional heartbreak.”
- Consider your compatibility. You might be able to give each other incredible orgasms, but are you actually compatible outside the bedroom? Do you want the same things? Do your lifestyles match up? Sexual chemistry doesn’t always translate to a healthy or happy relationship. Even if your heart wants more, it’s important to move forward with caution. You don’t want to cause yourself or the other person unnecessary heartbreak.
- You may need to walk away. “Once you’ve got those feelings, it’s challenging (and nearly impossible) for them to go away. It’s also indicative that you may be seeking a more serious relationship in general. Continuing to have sex with this person is going to feel like torture,” Jones says. “It’s best to communicate your feelings in a calm way and see how they respond. If they say without a doubt they are not interested, it’s time to move on without them. If they aren’t sure or need to think about it, give them enough room to do so. A break during this time is also a good idea.”