Is it lust or is it love? | Terri Orbuch | TEDxOaklandUniversity


Translator: Tijana Mihajlović
Reviewer: Ivana Krivokuća
I’ve been studying
the romance and relationship patterns
of literally thousands of people
for the past 28 years,
and one thing I have found,
or one thing I know,
is that most of us have experienced
that wild and out-of-control feeling
at the beginning of a new relationship.
You know what it’s like
where you can’t eat, you can’t sleep,
you can’t get anything done
because you’re constantly thinking
about this person.
Your heart’s racing,
you feel that adrenaline rush
when you see the other person,
and basically, you just want
to be with that person.
It’s almost like an obsession.
I bet if I asked you to close your eyes,
you could definitely think back
and remember that powerful
and amazing feeling
that affects us physiologically.
I know I can,
and I’ve been married for 22 years.
But when we’re
in that heightened arousal state
at the beginning of a new romance,
many of us step back and ask the question:
“What am I feeling?
Am I in lust or am I in love?
Is it lust or is it love?”
What if I told you
that you’ll never have to wonder again,
because there are four specific signs
that differentiate lust from love,
and the two states, lust and love,
are completely different from one another.
That would be wonderful, right?
So let’s start with lust.
When you’re drawn to someone,
based solely on physical
and sexual arousal or attraction,
that’s lust.
You’re filled with sexual desire
that doesn’t stop,
and all of those sex hormones
are being produced in your body
at an alarming rate;
you have sex on the brain.
Also, when we’re
in that heightened state of arousal
at a new relationship,
or in a new relationship,
we glorify or idealize our partner.
We don’t see them for who they really are.
And in fact,
we see them for who we want them to be
or need them to be.
You’ve heard the phrase “love is blind”?
Well, at the beginning of a new romance,
lust makes you blind.
You’re impressed
by everything and anything
your partner does or says.
In fact, it doesn’t even matter
that she has all of her stuffed animals
on the bed, plus a few pillows,
or that he has absolutely no idea
what a hanger is used for.
You don’t see it. It doesn’t bother you.
But as time goes on in a relationship,
those same behaviors,
those exact same behaviors,
become annoying and irritating to you,
and it’s at that point in time
that you begin to see
this other person for who they really are;
flaws, faults, and everything.
And by the way, yes,
we all have flaws or faults.
None of us is perfect.
But at this point in time, lust declines.
And I’m really sorry to disappoint you,
but my research shows that lust declines
in all romantic relationships.
It’s an inevitable part
of all romantic relationships.
I know. Sorry about that.
Don’t shoot the messenger.
(Laughter)
But can lust be reignited
in a long-term loving relationship?
Absolutely!
My work with couples confirms that,
and we’re going to talk about
how to do that in a few minutes.
But for the moment,
it’s just important to understand
that lust declines
in all romantic relationships,
and if you stay with that relationship,
lust can turn into love.
Love it also a profound emotion, and has
a physiological foundation as well.
When we’re in love,
we produce the hormone oxytocin,
which triggers relaxation
and promotes emotional bonding
and closeness.
But that’s actually the opposite
to those wild sex hormones
that ignited all that lust in our body.
Besides the hormonal differences
between lust and love,
there are also four cues that you can use
to distinguish lust from love.
The first sign is what I call connection.
When you’re in love,
you want your partner to connect
with all the important people
in your life.
You want them to spend time with,
to like, hang out
with your friends and family.
You want to show off them
to your friends and family,
and you want your friends and family
to be impressed by this other person.
Also, you don’t keep them to yourself,
but you bring them out
and introduce them to your interests again
and the people who are important to you.
The second sign
is when you use “we” language
rather than “I” language.
It turns out
that when two people are in love,
their lives are intertwined,
and they begin to think of themselves
not as separate individuals anymore,
but instead, as a couple.
And the more intertwined
these two people’s lives are,
the more overlap in their lives,
their friends, their interests,
and in their circles in this diagram.
And the more overlap between their lives,
the more mutuality.
Mutuality is when we refer
to ourselves as a couple,
as an “us” or “we”, rather than as an “I”,
or this other person.
So, for example, if I asked you
what you were doing last weekend,
if you were in love, you would tell me,
“We went out to dinner”,
“We went to the movies”,
or “We went up north for the weekend”,
rather than,”I took Sandy to the movies,
and then I went out to dinner”,
or “I went up north”.
So, if you want to distinguish
between lust or love,
look at your language,
and the degree to which you use
“we” versus “I” statements.
The third sign is self-disclosure,
what you tell this other person about you.
Love motivates us
to reveal extensive information
about ourselves to this other person.
When we’re in love,
we want to tell this person
about our dreams, our aspirations,
our goals, the past, the future.
Sometimes we tell them
confidential information,
and sometimes we tell them
all of our secrets
that we’ve never told anyone before.
When we think about self-disclosure
in a relationship,
you want to think about an onion.
The outer layers of an onion represent
the superficial aspects
to us as an individual,
and as you peel away
the layers of the onion,
you get at the core of who you are.
You get deeper,
and there’s more information
about you as an individual,
personal and intimate information.
So, when you’re in lust,
you only peel away a few of those layers.
You tell this other person
maybe about your interest,
your hobbies, movie,
or music preferences, but that’s it.
You don’t go to the deep core of you.
When you’re in love,
you go straight to the core.
You share information
that has more breadth, more topics,
but each topic also is deeper,
more personal in nature.
You go straight to the core.
So, if you want to distinguish
between lust and love,
look at what you’re talking about
and how many topics
with this other person.
The last and fourth sign
is that you influence one another.
When two people are in love,
what one person does or wants to do,
influences the other person
in meaningful and strong ways.
For example, if you were thinking
about moving to a different state
because of a new job,
or you were considering
any big change in your life,
you would want to go to your partner
before you make a decision.
Likewise, if you had
something happened to you –
a medical scare,
you actually lost your job,
or the death of a family member –
you would want to go to this person
to get social support, assistance.
You would want help from this person.
Or, if you had something good
happened to you –
you won the lottery,
or you got an award at work –
you again would go to this person
because you would want them
to share the good news.
And they actually
would celebrate with you.
So, lust and love are completely different
from one another,
and couples have a very difficult time
maintaining that urgent longing
we call lust over the long-term.
Can you recreate that lust?
Absolutely!
My research shows
that if you add three behaviors
to your loving long-term relationship,
you can reignite or rekindle
that lustful desire.
And those three behaviors turn out
to be the same behaviors
that ignited the lust
when you first met that person.
So, if you mirror the beginnings
of your relationship,
you can add lust, rekindle
that passion in your relationship.
The first strategy
to rekindle or recreate the lust
is to do new and novel activities
with your partner,
because newness creates excitement.
Think about it.
At the beginning of your relationship,
everything was a new experience
for the two of you.
Everything was new and novel.
Every date you went on,
every restaurant you ate at
was a new experience for the two of you,
and that created the excitement,
and created all of that arousal.
But then, as time went on,
the newness wears off.
So if you want to recreate that lust,
you need to find new and exciting things
to do with your partner.
That can be as simple
as going to a new restaurant
in a different part of the city
that you’ve never been to.
You can try skating, skiing,
or snowboarding
for the first time with your partner.
Boy, I have winter on the brain, don’t I?
Or, you can, like my husband and I did,
sign up for a cooking class.
Neither of us had done it separately,
and we did it together,
which fueled the lust.
Anything new will recreate
that beginning feeling.
The second strategy that you want to do
is to use the element of surprise,
and add a little bit of mystery
to your relationship,
because mystery
and surprise enhances lust.
The idea is you want
that “oh, wow!” factor, right?
You want that to be recreated
in your loving long-term relationship.
Again, think back.
At the beginning,
everything was different and interesting
that you were learning about your partner.
Yes, she told you that she had a pet snake
when she was growing up,
and you went, “What? Wow!
Now that’s interesting!”,
or that he was closest
to his grandmother growing up,
and you asked a lot of questions,
because that was fascinating to you.
Any new or different, interesting,
mysterious, surprising information
refuels that passion and lust.
But then, as time goes on
in a relationship,
you begin to really know
your partner, almost too well.
You know what they like to do on Sundays,
you know that she snores when she sleeps,
and he chews with his mouth open,
and he doesn’t like the color pink.
You really get to know your partner.
And while that’s wonderful,
because that intimate knowledge
builds love, it extinguishes lust.
So you again need to add
the element of surprise and mystery.
And yes, all of what
you’re thinking about there
regarding lingerie and roleplaying
is adding mystery to your relationship.
(Laughter)
But, you can also do other things.
You can go to your partner’s place of work
and whisk them away for lunch,
or after work for dinner,
or you can send him a flirty text message
in the middle of the afternoon.
One of the wives in my long-term study
on marriage and divorce
said that she took her husband
on a treasure hunt,
and he went
all around the city without her,
but she left these little notes
in each spot,
and he found the experience
surprising and full of adventure,
and she said it added a little spice
to their relationship afterwards.
The third and final way
to rekindle that lust
is to do what I call
arousal producing activities.
This is my favorite suggestion,
but it’s not what you think –
I see you all smiling
and smirking out there –
(Laughter)
it’s actually clean.
(Laughter)
What relationship scientists
have learned is that
if you do an arousal producing activity
with your partner,
that that arousal or that adrenaline rush
that’s produced
through this other activity,
the arousal can actually get transferred
to your partner and your relationship.
It’s almost like
you’re tricking your brain
to attributing or associating
that arousal due to another activity
to your partner or to your relationship.
So, what am I really talking about then
when I say “arousal producing activities”?
There are lots of things you can do.
You can exercise
with one another side by side.
You can watch
a comedy show, a scary movie.
You can even ride a roller-coaster ride
at an amusement park.
In fact, if you go on any scary ride
at an amusement park,
you can rekindle that passion
by having the arousal due to the ride
transferred to your partner
or your relationship.
Now, just make sure, though,
that you go with your partner,
because if you do it with someone else,
the arousal might get transferred
to that other person,
and not your relationship.
(Laughter)
So, in the end,
lust and love are very different,
but moments of passion
are the highlights of our lives
and of our relationships.
In fact, ask anyone about the experience,
and they’ll definitely remember,
and they have
a little smile on their face.
And don’t get me wrong,
I think lust is fun and wonderful,
but lust is not the glue
that keeps long-term relationships
together and happy.
The glue that keeps people
bonded over time is actually love.
And love is also a profound experience,
but it is characterized
by interconnectedness, by mutuality,
by interdependence,
and lots of self-disclosure.
You do not have to have lust without love,
and you don’t have to have
love without lust.
They don’t have to be
mutually exclusive in your relationship.
You can recreate that lustful desire –
and I love saying that word,
lustful desire –
in your loving long-term relationship.
It’s simple, it’s easy, it’s amazing.
What are you waiting for? Go do it!
Thank you.
(Applause)

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