Two partners showing intimacy born of lust, not love.

6 Red Flags Your Partner Is In Lust, Not Love, With You

If any of these sound familiar, take notes.

by Lily Rouff and Sarah Ellis
Originally Published: 
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Who here isn't after love, honestly? It might not be everyone's be-all and end-all for a happy and healthy life, but there is hardly anyone who would turn away a fairytale ending if presented with the opportunity. That being said, it can sometimes be tough to spot the red flags your partner is in lust, not love. Both emotions can be intense, all-consuming, and make you feel all warm in the place you thought was a deep, dark abyss (your heart). But there are pretty big differences between the two.

Love is a profound, intimate feeling that comes when you care deeply for someone else. It takes time to build and isn’t easily forgotten (hence why breakups can really hurt). Lust, on the other hand, is a passionate, can’t-get-enough-of-you feeling you get when you’re extremely into someone physically, and only physically. The difference between love and lust is that lust is typically only about more surface-level desires (like the physical), while love involves both the more primal urges and deeper care for and desire to connect with another person.

So, what are the telltale signs you’re feeling lust, and not love? Here's how to spot the signs of lust in a man, woman, or whomever you’re with.

1. They Went From Zero To 100 Super Fast

Humans naturally crave validation from others, so someone's intense affection will likely make your heart explode with joy. Surely, if they're totally fawning over you, this must be the real deal, right? Not so fast. Like most good things, love takes time. "Love understands that true intimacy is developed over a long time and through many seasons of life," dating and relationship coach Monica Parikh of the School of Love NYC tells Elite Daily.

You don’t fall in love overnight, even if you do see potential early on. That’s not to say that lust can’t turn into love (it can!), but in those early, intense days of seeing each other, it’s hard to tell the difference between love or lust. Be careful with getting your feelings invested too quickly, especially if you aren’t sure you’re both on the same page.

2. They Never Text You Back

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If someone is ghosting, breadcrumbing, or taking way too much time to text you back, that “I’m busy” line can only get them so far. This might be a sign that they’re not as invested in the relationship as you are.

When people are in love, they want to connect with each other. That's not to say you have to or should be in communication 24/7, but there is a certain level of attachment involved when it comes to love. Committed, long-term partners communicate regularly, and they typically know each other’s needs for text conversation throughout each day. Even if one person is a terrible texter, they’ll make an effort if they know that texting matters a lot to their partner. If you’re always the one sending the text and getting left on read, your partner might be more invested in the surface-level parts of your relationship.

“If your partner is avoiding you for some reason, that is really irritating, but also points to a bigger problem in the relationship,” Kate Stewart, psychotherapist and dating coach at Modern Therapy Seattle, previously told Elite Daily. “Sometimes this is a game-playing tactic or a control maneuver. Generally, it's a bad sign. If you think this is what is happening, try to ask your partner about it, but focus on asking from a curious, not an accusational place.”

3. You’re Always The One Who Initiates Plans

It’s also a warning sign if your partner never makes an effort to plan things with you. “When someone you’re with isn’t texting you first, it could be a warning sign that they’re losing interest,” relationship and etiquette expert April Masini previously told Elite Daily. “This is especially true during the first few months of a relationship when the relationship really is not solid — it’s exploratory! You’re both probably feeling different things about each other and the relationship, and either or both of you may even be playing the field.”

In an ideal partnership, both people are contributing equally. If the person you’re with doesn’t show much interest in spending time with you, it’s one piece of how to know if he loves you or lusts you. In this case, it’s probably the latter.

4. Mysterious Is Their Middle Name

"Infatuation is mired in surface-level attraction — looks, money, power. Love grows out of an appreciation of the other person's character," Parikh tells Elite Daily. "Infatuation grows out of desire."

It's kind of easy to tell if someone only wants sex from you, but it might be more challenging to determine that they're after you for other reasons that aren't linked to love. If the object of your affection doesn't take the time to get to know you or doesn't share themselves with you, your connection may not be all that deep or lasting. After all, part of building a bond with someone is learning about all the things that make them who they are.

5. They Seek Control

"Infatuation seeks to control. Love is when you cede control," Parikh says. “Love understands that we are all autonomous beings seeking our individual fulfillment, which may not perfectly align to your vision.” A controlling partner probably doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

You should never feel like you have to sacrifice parts of yourself to be with someone else, nor should you be living your life on the other person’s schedule or terms. If it is love, your partner will want you for you. Even in a casual physical relationship, you should always feel respected and appreciated by the other person. If that’s not the case, they’re not worth it.

6. Fighting Ends Without Resolution

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Butting heads occasionally in a relationship likely means that you are growing and evolving as a unit. In fact, it’s more of a red flag if you never fight, because either one or both of you are probably not expressing yourselves fully. The one caveat? You should always make up at the end.

"In infatuation, when one partner hurts the other, the trauma pulls apart the relationship. In love, each partner sees the trauma as the catalyst for deeper intimacy and understanding," Parikh explains. If your partner is constantly on your case, too cavalier to get involved in a healthy debate, or not interested in working with you to resolve a fight, they might not be interested in actually making the relationship better. And that’s not a sign of a love connection forming.

Lust might be what you're after, and there's nothing wrong with that. Casual relationships can be great when both partners are happy and consenting. But if you start to fall for someone, make sure they're showing you that they want to move past the bedroom, too. You deserve someone who reciprocates your feelings.


Monica Parikh, dating and relationship coach at the School of Love NYC

Kate Stewart, psychotherapist and dating coach at Modern Therapy Seattle

April Masini, relationship and etiquette expert

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