Love? Lust? What’s the difference again?

Given that this week is Valentine’s Day week, I’m going to write a little bit about adolescent romance.

First, close your eyes. Let your memories from high school wash over you. Center your self back in the body you had then, the sense of self you had then. Remember the hard chairs and uncomfortable tables. Open your eyes, and see what you saw then. See that one person who use to make your heart jump and your stomach wobble when they walked across classroom. Feel that again.

Was that love or lust? Can you tell the difference now? Could you tell the difference then? How?
Sometimes I wonder if we can only tell the difference between love and lust in hind-sight. I wonder if we call an attraction that lasts only a short while lust, and an attraction that takes the time to grow into respect love.

What do you think? And is there a way to teach teenagers the difference?

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. Well said, I always say that it’s love as we knew it at the time. Barb

  2. I think that is a great summation, Barb.

    I was in love in high school, and while intense, in retrospect, it was not particularly deep.

  3. I would just call it attraction. Lust implies only being interested in someone’s body, and I think most of the time people genuinely like each other for who they are as people. And love implies a deep emotional concern and connection that does take time to build.

  4. Perhaps the question we should be asking is… do we WANT to teach them the difference?

    Yes, it saves heartache in the long run. However… there’s a certain beauty to not knowing the difference, there’s a certain enjoyment you feel when they’re mixed together. There’s something to be said for having them mixed up and together.

    Not only that, I’ve found that some lessons you can only learn when you’re ready. And I doubt that most teens would even be able to learn that lesson.

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