When most of us think of “passion,” the idea of a relationship immediately comes to mind. Two lovers, perfect for each other, having hot, passionate sex, and being happy forever. When most of us think of “lust,” though, that's also something desirable in a relationship. After all, how hot is it to be in a long-term relationship with your soulmate and still be lusting after them? (Pretty hot.) What, though, exactly is the difference between passion and lust in a relationship? And are both desirable?
It's a complicated question, because according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the definitions of the two are close. Let's explore.
Passion is defined as "1) a strong and barely controllable emotion, 2) a state or outburst of strong emotion, 3) intense sexual love, 4) an intense desire or enthusiasm for something, and/or 5) a thing arousing great enthusiasm."
Lust, on the other hand, is defined as "1) strong sexual desire, 2) a passionate desire for something, or 3) a sensuous appetite regarded as sinful."
So the dictionary may not be a lot of help, because the two words are conflated (I mean, one is actually used in the definition of the other, FFS!) but it does give us direction.
Lust, it seems, is something that may generally be seen as bad. And in fact, many of us are guilty of attributing a negative connotation to the word. But we may be too quick to judge lust. After all, if it's just a “strong sexual desire,” then it should be good in a relationship as well, right? Well, yes, but it's important to delineate the differences between lust and passion. While one is wonderful to have in spades, the other is best in conjunction with love.
See, here's what it boils down to: Passion is an intense feeling that you can have about anything (a partner, a hobby, a cause, etc.), but lust ends up being just an intense need to please yourself. In a relationship, both are OK, with lust being better in moderation.
Love and lust aren't “either/or” propositions. Neither are love and passion. You shouldn't just have one or the other. In fact, in a really healthy, loving, happy relationship, you'll have all three: love, lust, and passion.
Specifically, passion is more than just reserved for the bedroom. Lust, on the other hand, is generally about one thing and one thing only: sex. You can be passionate about something unrelated to sex. You can be passionate about a hobby. You can be passionate about your marriage. You can even be passionate about your partner's kindness. And of course, you and your partner can be passionate about each other.
It's a hallmark of a great relationship when the two partners are passionate about each other and about everything related to each other. My husband and I are passionate about each other in general, but we're also passionate about our marriage, our sex life, our bond, our friendship, and our life together. We also both have individual passions outside the relationship: I am passionate about my running and my workouts, he is passionate about his chiropractic career, and we're both passionate about helping animals by not eating meat. In general, we're passionate people, and it makes our relationship great.
Still, we're also pretty lustful. There are moments that I just have to have my husband, and I'm not under any illusion that it's about anything other than my desire. Similarly, I know he sometimes gets overwhelmed and just needs me sexually at certain times. And truthfully, it's totally awesome because it's nice to be that attracted to your spouse and feel like your spouse is that attracted to you.
That said, though, our sex life doesn't run only on lust. If it did, we would both be pretty selfish lovers. Our sex life runs on both lust (our desire to please ourselves) and passion (our desire to please each other because we're passionate about our marriage).
Normally, a relationship that's based exclusively on lust won't last for the long haul. When the sexual attraction starts to fizzle, the parties will look up and realize there's nothing left because there were just chasing their own sexual needs. A relationship based on passion, though, can last, as long as the passion is about more than just sex! You should be passionate about everything your partner is and everything your relationship can be. A passionate relationship usually means the two partners are willing to compromise and make sacrifices for each other and to work hard on their love.
At the end of the day, neither passion nor lust is a totally negative trait to have with your long-term love. Yes, a relationship shouldn't be based exclusively on lust or passion, but they're both fine to have. It's just about how present they are in your relationship and how they are serving your partnership.
So go ahead and chase after it all, because it is totally possible to have a loving, supportive, and healthy relationship that's filled with passion and lust.
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