In most relationships, you eventually face the question: Is it lust or love? If you are in a new relationship, there is a good chance you have experienced the dizzying, drug-like effects of lust, which can overshadow good judgment and cause you to neglect everything else in your life, in favor of spending time with your honey. Attachment, or the glue that holds long-term relationships together, usually settles in after several months or years. You cannot predict the future, but there may be signs pointing to whether your current relationship will endure or not -- and having some idea whether it can last, will help you determine whether to see it through or break it off.
Early Lust and Attraction
The first stage of a romantic relationship is lust -- a primal attraction fueled by testosterone and estrogen. After lust comes attraction, or the "lovesick" phase you see caricatured in movies and described in music. In the attraction phase, you may not need to eat or sleep as much as normal, you're preoccupied with thoughts of your honey, and you experience stress and withdrawal when you're away from your loved one. Some people mistake this phase for enduring love, but don't be fooled: as real as your feelings may seem, there are a complex number of neurotransmitters at work, including dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. According to an Oprah.com article entitled "The Love Drug" by licensed marriage and family therapist, Valerie Frankel, this initial attraction phase typically lasts about eighteen months -- though it can last longer if you don't see your honey frequently, or if you often try new things together.
Attachment and True Love
Enduring love is also called "attachment." Attachment is the aftermath of attraction; typically, when the attraction phase fizzles out, relationships either end or transition into attachment. You're already in the attachment phase if there's an absence of the drug-like effects of lust, and the presence of the ability to enjoy each other's company but still attend to your other responsibilities. If you're able to resolve arguments, communicate effectively and put the needs of your partner ahead of yours when applicable, that's a good indicator that your love is "real."
Teenagers often experience these stages with even higher intensity than adults, says the BBC article, "The Science of Love." And according to KidsHealth.org, settling into the attachment phase can be difficult as a teen because teens are developmentally hardwired to want to try new things. However, if two teenagers have a shared desire for closeness and emotional honesty, they can experience love. For example, if your significant other is comfortable talking to you about his personal struggles and supports your dreams and goals, there is a good chance your feelings for each other are real.
Though it's tempting (and sometimes helpful) to seek others' opinions when you're sorting out what a relationship means to you, the only way you can truly know is to spend some time alone examining your feelings and your life. Try writing in a journal; sometimes, taking time to put your feelings into words can create breakthroughs and realizations you may not have otherwise had. Spending time away from your partner to meditate or do activities you love may help you get the distance you need to sort lust from love.
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