Is It Love, Intense Liking, or Just Lust?

How to know if you are in like, in love, or in lust.

Posted May 29, 2014

We’ve all experienced a feeling when we meet that special someone. For some it’s a sort of “rush.” For others, it begins as an admiration of the way the person looks, talks, or moves, and develops into something stronger. How do we know if what we are experiencing is liking, loving, or just plain lust?

In the 1970s, Social psychologists began to seriously study love. Zick Rubin distinguished between liking and loving someone and created “liking” and “loving” scales (see below). According to Rubin, we have admiration for people we like, we appreciate their company and points of view, and want to do things together with them. Love, on the other hand, is much deeper, and Rubin talks about the levels of romantic love. In one study, Rubin found that couples in love (versus “in like”) tended to gaze into each other’s eyes more. Love includes a desire for physical contact and intimacy, but also caring about the other’s needs as if they were your own.

Social psychologist Elaine Hatfield distinguished between two types of love, passionate love and companionate love. Passionate love starts with intense emotions and sexual attraction. Companionate love is based more mutual respect, caring and affection, and trust. According to Hatfield, passionate love, in longer-term relationships, can develop into companionate love.

Lust, or intense sexual attraction, seems to be a component of Hatfield’s passionate love. Lust is all about the sexual chemistry with little concern for the other person’s attitudes, opinions, or concerns.

Based on Rubin’s Liking and Loving Scales, here are some sample items to see if you are “in like,” “in love,” or “in lust.” (Ratings on a 5 point scale from “not at all true” to “very much true”)

Liking Scale

I have great confidence in ____________’s judgment

________________ is one of the most likable people I know.

I think that ___________ and I are quite similar.

I think that __________ is unusually well-adjusted.

Loving Scale

I would do almost anything for ___________.

If I could never be with ___________, I would feel miserable.

I feel responsible for ______________’s well-being.

When I am with _____________, I spend a good deal of time just looking at him/her.

Lust Scale

I can’t stop thinking about having sex with __________________.

The best thing about ________________ and my relationship is that we let our bodies do all the talking.

__________________’s attitudes and opinions don’t really matter in our relationship.

The best part of my relationship with ______________________ is the sexual chemistry.


Hatfield, E., & Rapson, R. L. (1993). Love, sex, and intimacy: Their psychology, biology, and history. New York: HarperCollins.

Rubin, Z. (1970). Measurement of romantic love. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 16, 265-273.

Follow me on Twitter:!/ronriggio