Making Love Vs. Having Sex: Here's How To Tell The Difference


It's not a big secret: There is a difference between making love and having sex. That said, if you haven't experienced it for yourself, you may not be entirely sure what exactly those differences are. Or you may just not be sure if what you are experiencing is making love or having sex. Sometimes, the line can get a little blurry.

In my opinion, one of the best parts of being in a loving, committed relationship is participating in the act of making love, as much and as often as all parties see fit. Sure, it's fun to just get down and get it on with your partner. But making love, with all the emotion and romance that it’s associated with, can be an incredible experience. And it can make you feel more connected to your partner. Before I met my husband, I never really thought I would want to get married. Before we were together, I was all about being totally single and consensually hooking up with whomever I felt like whenever we felt like it. And then, when I did connect with him, I knew right away that I didn't want to spend another day of my life without him.


Don't get me wrong: Having sex just for the sake of having sex can be awesome. Exploring your sexuality through consensual encounters can be immensely empowering. As long as you and your partner(s) are actively discussing intent and boundaries, there’s no one right way to get it on. And although my husband is my partner in crime when it comes to trying new things in the bedroom, I personally prefer no-holds-barred lovemaking to all other types of sexual encounters.

So, what exactly is the difference between making love and having sex? I spoke to three sex experts for you, and as it turns out, there's more than just one. Read on for the five key differences.

1. The Motivation Is Different

When you're having sex, your primary motivation may be to get off and have an orgasm.

When making love, climaxing is important, too (because it's always great), but the primary motivation is to connect on an emotional level with your partner. Making love can mean taking delight in exploring your partner's body, mind, and heart, not just because you are trying to have an orgasm, but because you are trying to share a seriously intimate connection with them.

According to Gigi Engle, a certified sex coach, sexologist, and author of All The F*cking Mistakes: a guide to sex, love, and life, you’ll know you’re making love when “you're super into the things this person does to your body: the way they kiss, their smell, their sexual technique. You have chemistry, and things are hot. It means there is a spark. Everything sort of works."

Making love might take hours, and you may even decide the orgasm wasn't your goal. It's all about deepening your connection and growing your love.

2. The Communication Is Different

When you're having sex, you might choose to engage in some dirty talk. Even if you aren't a fan of sexy lingo, the communication during sex can pertain to who is about to have an orgasm, when, and how hard. When you're making love, though, this can change. It's not that dirty talk isn't possible when making love, but you may choose to incorporate more loving, emotional words. Making love can give couples the ability to be very open with each other, as well as the perfect space for talking about how much they love each other.

"The choice of words can make the difference between an amazing sexual experiences and dirty talk that sounds like a bad porno script," licensed psychologist Jennifer B. Rhodes previously told Elite Daily. “It’s the ultimate test of someone’s true seduction skills."

Making love is one of my favorite times to connect with my husband verbally, too. There's just something about the atmosphere that makes me feel comfortable opening up with my words.

3. The Vulnerability Is Different

When having sex, even if you’re sometimes open to trying new things, you may not normally consider more than finishing and feeling good.

With making love, however, this can differ. Couples making love are often extremely emotionally vulnerable to the point that tears can flow. If the motivation for making love is to connect, there's no better way to do that than being intentionally vulnerable.

According to sexuality educator Jamie J. LeClaire, emotional vulnerability and sexual compatibility can look like “the degree to which you and a partner are 'on the same page' in the bedroom. This includes our values, beliefs, desires, sex drive, preferences, kinks, and expectations around sex."


4. The Personality Is Different

Sometimes, when I’m having sex, I turn into a different person. Occasionally, this is intentional, through role-playing or kink, but other times, it's just because my inhibitions are down, and it's awesome to feel like some wonderful sex goddess that you may not usually feel like in "real life."

“It can differ from person to person, relationship to relationship," LeClaire told Elite Daily. "It can differ depending on specific sex acts, and it can also absolutely change over time or as a relationship evolves. That's why it's important to be able to regularly check-in and communicate honestly with your sexual partner."

That said, though, when I’m making love, there is no one to be but myself. In fact, for making love to work between me and my partner (with openness and emotional vulnerability), I have to be 100%, completely myself. I have to be the most myself I’ve ever been. There's no room for anyone else.

5. The Presence Is Different

Although I may not care to admit it, sometimes when I’m having sex, my mind wanders. Whether I’ve fantasized about Ryan Gosling during mediocre sex or just thought about how to politely get dressed and leave during really bad sex, there are times when I just haven’t been all in.

Making love, though, is the complete opposite. When my partner and I are making love, I am fully present at every single moment. In fact, there's no way to make love otherwise. I have to be in the moment with your partner or risk one of us feeling lonely because of the incredible vulnerability. Luckily, making love with someone I know is my soulmate doesn’t make me want to be anywhere else because I feel perfect just where I am.

We deserve to be in sexual relationships in which we feel confident and secure, and satisfied," LeClaire said. "Sex is a form of intimacy, so it's important to feel that intimacy is reciprocal. It should at least feel like contentment or excitement with your sex life. It shouldn't feel like your partner is expecting something from you that you don't feel able to give."

Making love can be a truly wonderful, unique experience. Of course, that's not to say having sex doesn't have its own value. As long as you and your partner(s) are discussing consent, intent, and boundaries throughout every phrase of your hookup, there’s no wrong way to get it on. Whether you’re making love or having sex, your sexual autonomy and pleasure are your own.

Additional reporting by Iman Hariri-Kia.

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