“How do I know when what I’m feeling is love, lust, or infatuation?” New Era, Aug. 2006, 30–31
Often what we call being “in love” is actually infatuation. It’s that exciting feeling you have when you discover that you really, really like another person. That feeling usually includes an element of physical attraction. There’s nothing wrong with being infatuated with someone. It’s a normal and important part of getting to know what you like about other people. But sometimes it isn’t much more than a quickly passing excitement.
Love, on the other hand, is a much deeper and richer emotion. It develops over time as you get to know and value the character of another person, as you enjoy the relationship you share, and as you become committed to acting in the best interests of that person. It includes caring, friendship, and respect, in addition to physical attraction.
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered this description of love: “True love elevates, protects, respects, and enriches another. It motivates you to make sacrifices for the [person] you love” (“Making the Right Choices,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 38).
Lust, on the other hand, is pretty much the exact opposite. Instead of elevating, it lowers. Instead of protecting, it endangers. Instead of enriching, it impoverishes. When you are feeling lust, you are thinking about the other person mainly as a means to satisfy your own physical desires. As Elder Scott taught: “Satan would promote counterfeit love, which is really lust. That is driven by hunger to satisfy personal appetite” (Ensign, Nov. 1994, 38).
Although infatuation can lead to love, lust actually keeps love from growing. According to Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Lust prevents the development of true love” (“Cleanse Us from All Unrighteousness,” New Era, Feb. 1987, 7). True love motivates us to place the comfort and convenience of the other person before our own, while lust does just the opposite.
To keep your relationships on the right track, try to focus on the other person as a whole person. Do things together that will help you get to know each other’s personalities, interests, and character traits. Think how you would want someone to treat your younger sister or brother, and try to treat the other person accordingly. Then love can grow out of a foundation of friendship and respect.