What’s in a label? 15 differences between a lover and a girlfriend

Do relationship labels make you confused? Are you looking for the difference between a lover and a girlfriend?

Don’t worry you’re not alone. People get confused when they get into that “define the relationship” stage with the person they’re seeing or dating.

While these terms seem similar, some traits and characteristics set a girlfriend apart from a lover.

Let’s go over these differences so you can figure out your next steps.

15 undeniable differences between a lover and a girlfriend

Your confusion stems from wanting to find the answer to the question, “what do we call us?”

People use these two terms interchangeably. So it’s important to know these gaps before you start having unrealistic expectations of any relationship. 

Here are key differences that make for two very different aspects of being with someone.

1) A girlfriend makes sacrifices

The willingness to make sacrifices shows a deep level of care and commitment for another.

Sometimes, these sacrifices help maintain the relationship. It helps build intimacy, and trust in all our relationships. It makes the relationship go the distance and thrive.

These sacrifices don’t always have to be huge sweeping gestures. It can be doing or letting go of things for the sake of each other such as:

  • Spending your “me time” to have quality time with your partner
  • Willingness to set aside your desires
  • The need to be right about everything
  • Managing the constant urge to seek perfection
  • Willingness to help each other out financially

Sometimes, it’s as simple as picking up groceries as your partner is too tired.

2) A girlfriend is more dependable

You can depend on your girlfriend more than your lover.

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When you’re feeling down, count on your girlfriend to cheer you up. When you get sick, you’ll know that your girlfriend will be there to care for you. They see it as a commitment and responsibility.

While some lovers can also be dependable like a girlfriend, they aren’t always ready and willing to be there for you. 

A lover fulfills your need for passion and intimacy but isn’t the person whom you want to rely on for your other needs and life goals. 

She’s a lover, not a partner whom you can spend your life with. 

If you’re currently a lover or “friend with benefits” with this girl, it can be difficult to voice out if you desire something more.

3) A girlfriend puts effort into the relationship

A girlfriend pays attention to your needs. She’s present in the relationship and does her best to make it work and keep it alive. 

Giving time and effort to a relationship keeps it healthy. This effort can be seen even in these very little details, such as:

  • Being there to cheer you up when you had a bad day
  • Turning off her phone to give you her full attention
  • Bringing your favorite lunch to work
  • Making you feel loved, needed, and special
  • Complimenting your looks, your smartness, etc.

Even if it’s a long-distance one, you and your girlfriend will keep the flame growing through video calls, messages, and regular visits.

While a lover might easily replace you when a situation arises, a girlfriend holds on to the love that you have.

4) A girlfriend is fully committed to the relationship

Commitment is vital in a relationship.

The term girlfriend (or boyfriend) is synonymous with having a committed relationship.

A girlfriend is someone with whom you share romantic emotions. You have an intimate relationship with this person that involves love and feelings of attraction.

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The relationship is filled with love and there’s a romantic, emotional, mental, and spiritual connection.

You know a girlfriend is committed to you when she shows these signs:

  • She makes you part of her life
  • She’s comfortable with you
  • She makes an effort to know you more
  • She listens intently
  • She prioritizes

Lovers don’t expect much from the relationship other than having a good time, especially in bed.

Commitment isn’t part of a lover’s vocabulary. This person stirs clear from the topics of commitment or exclusivity like the plague. 

The relationship is filled with lust and is simply physically driven. 

5) A girlfriend can be a lifetime partner

A relationship with a girlfriend is more intimate and filled with romantic emotions. It involves both attraction and love.

This person is aligned with your goals in life. 

As your lover’s future doesn’t include you, she also won’t stick around for much longer.

Lovers who are intimately and immensely drawn to each other physically will eventually get bored with the arrangement. Although it’s casual and fun, a lover relationship is nevertheless fleeting.

While the passion is hot and heavy, it never seems to develop into anything else. So watch out if you’re falling for your lover

Your interactions and time together end the moment after you’ve finished up in bed. If this person calls you her lover, believe her. She’s likely isn’t thinking of you as a long-term partner.

6) A lover relationship is free from drama

A relationship with a lover is not so serious. But it fulfills the desires of your heart and the fantasies of your mind. 

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It’s a superficial relationship. It does not need much effort. 

There are no commitments that exist compared to a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship.

With a lover, there aren’t any restrictions. Because the effort is superficial or doesn’t need any effort at all, it’s free from any kind of complexities. 

You know that anything or everything you do won’t strengthen or weaken what you have.

You see each other often and have fun together. But it lacks momentum. The relationship isn’t growing and is going nowhere. 

7) A lover has complete honesty 

That is when we’re talking about the sex life. 

Count on your lover’s honesty to know and fulfill your innermost desires and fantasies. 

With this person, you can have your most intimate moments and secrets. You can have slept with each other and have sex without inhibitions. 

A lover is honest as she would only stick around when they want to hang out or sleep with you. And you know it.

Your days are filled with romance with no strings attached. You both enjoy the novelty as it brings a different level of excitement.

The relationship is usually longer than a one-night stand. Though some could last for a few weeks or months.

But then casual lover sex is nothing compared to romantic love sex with your girlfriend or partner. 

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Why?

Because a girlfriend relationship has a special level of comfort, trust, and security – and everything that makes sex glorious.

8) A lover relationship is filled with sex thrills 

The feeling of attraction is so huge but there are no romantic commitments involved. It’s a fling relationship in a mature sense. 

It’s something that involves a sexual or nearly sexual relationship. While it has the benefits of a relationship, it’s free from necessary expectations of commitment. 

A lover is someone with whom you can share a thrilling night together and enjoy the experience of a fleeting relationship. This brief relationship gives you satisfaction with the fun and enjoyment it brings when it comes to sex.

And you have a lover when you wake up with a smile on your face knowing that you have another day to enjoy with this person.

But this lover relationship is filled with societal pressure as it can come across as taboo or sexual in some situations.

9) A lover’s attraction and the connection is intense

We’re talking about physical attraction here. 

Physical attraction is part of a relationship and physical touch can bring you closer to someone. But lovers are only interested in physically connecting with you, nothing more.

Your lover likes the physical attraction and the sexual connection you’re having. But then, you find it hard to connect on a mental, emotional, or spiritual level. 

10) The difference in meeting families and friends

When it’s a lover, you never officially introduce the person to your family or friends.

A lover will isolate you from her family and friends.  Making your lover part of your personal life will give your relationship an official status.

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With a girlfriend, you’re willing to introduce her to your family and friends. It’s because you’re seriously seeing her as a potential future partner. This person is also into you and would show you off to her circle and the world as well. 

11) The difference in making out time for each other 

No matter how busy you are, you will always find time to communicate with the person you love and care for.

A girlfriend prioritizes spending time and connecting with you. She prioritizes you like the way she prioritizes her family. 

Prioritizing the relationship that you have and the needs of each other lead to a deeper, more fulfilling connection.

When it comes to a lover, you’ll never come before her work, friends, and family.  

12) When talking about a future together

Do you see yourself in each other’s future?

A girlfriend can talk about all these things: their plans, marriage, meeting families, having kids in the future, etc. This person sees a future with you.

A lover avoids, prevents, or feels with any talks or plans that have to do with your future together. 

If your gut instinct is telling you that your lover is here just for a good time, trust your intuition.

But then, like all matters of the heart, there’s a possibility that lovers can turn into a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. Though, it’s a one-in-a-million kind of thing.

Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, Ph.D. shares that people who engage in casual sex in hopes of starting a more serious connection are taking the concept of “slow love.”

13) Difference in communication

A lover and a girlfriend differ largely in how they communicate.

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With a lover, communication is too limited – and mostly, it’s all about casual and unimportant topics. Talks with your lover lack depth. This person doesn’t take a sincere interest in how things are going in your life. 

A girlfriend can talk about every smallest detail and huge ones with you. You can openly discuss each other’s dreams, goals, or game plans.

While a girlfriend will want to get to know you on a multitude of levels. You take conversations further and to another level. 

Your relationship exposes the depth of your being which further leads to personal discovery.

14) When it comes to expectations

Expectations vary with a lover and a girlfriend.

There’s mutuality and exclusivity with dating a girlfriend. 

While with a lover, this exclusively dating each other doesn’t exist. Because there’s nothing involved, one can go around dating other people as well. When things are casual, you never set expectations from a person. 

Just keep this in mind:

What you’re feeling right now – that intense emotion towards the person you’re seeing or dating – isn’t going to stay that way forever. For eventually, it’s going to change.

In time, a lover will suck the life out of you. Because you see, the only thing that stays intense – and grows – is unconditional love. 

With a girlfriend, you expect more – from understanding to a brighter future. Count on your girlfriend to be there for you when you need her and even when you don’t.

15) Relationship status

A lover in a relationship is someone you’re seeing, dating, or having an affair with. 

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There’s no commitment as you’re not in an official relationship. It’s more of a casual, short-term relationship. 

If you’re in an official relationship with this girl, you call her your girlfriend. 

It means that you’re sharing a commitment with this person. As this is an important step in where the relationship is going, couples put their effort into keeping it long-term. 

Couples in a committed relationship also call their partner their “significant other.” 

Knowing the difference matters

Recognizing the difference between a lover versus a girlfriend is vital to matters of the heart. 

This helps you realize what relationship is most in line with what you desire to have right now and in the future.

For instance, if you’re hoping for a long-term relationship with the person you’re dating, you have to take notice of the signs where it’s going. See if it’s falling more on the physical side or if it’s moving on to a different level.

A lover and a girlfriend both have their benefits, but their benefits are different. Both a lover and girlfriend relationship are also meaningful, but there’s also a huge gap in between.

By knowing these differences,  you won’t get your heart broken when your lover relationship doesn’t develop into a serious relationship

Remember that relationships take time to build, develop, and mature.  

What to do next? 

There’s nothing wrong with having a lover or being one. It’s totally fine if you’re on the same page.

Clinical sexologist and psychotherapist Robert Weiss, Ph.D., MSW. shares, 

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“If the casual sexual activity doesn’t violate your moral code, your sense of integrity, or the commitments you have made to yourself and/or others, then it’s probably not going to be a problem for you in terms of your psychological well being.”

If you choose to remain in a relationship with your lover, keep this in mind.

  • Set the casual rules early. Keep it within limits to avoid unnecessary consequences.
  • Do it for a reason. That is if you’re not ready for a serious relationship.
  • Practice safe sex. Although flings are temporary, their effect can linger for a long time. Put the brakes on if you can.
  • Be mindful of your actions. Too much compatibility can create a bond where emotions can spill over.
  • Be careful when feelings develop. Keep your boundaries clear, unless you’re willing to bring it to the next level
  • Know when to leave. When it becomes stressful and you’re not enjoying each other’s company,  it’s time to move on.

It’s only when you’re ready to commit can you and your lover take the step to be officially together. And oftentimes, one lover is enough to help get your heads straight. 

But if your lover is already married and you’re engaging in a secret affair,  it’s time to consider leaving this situation. 

Don’t take more risks. 

You have a decision to make

I understand that you enjoy spending time with your lover. Somehow, you’re even considering taking the relationship to a next level. 

I also understand the intensity of your confusion and the very spot that you’re in now.  And the very fact that you want to know the difference between a lover and a girlfriend means that you haven’t decided.  

While your feelings make you confused, you’ve got to do something.

When it comes to your heart and your future, you know you can’t live like this. You’re going to decide sooner or later. You can enjoy things while they last or move on to seek someone else. Either way, it becomes your choice.

Just remember that what you’ll do after will affect the rest of your life. 

And make sure to take time to see if the girl you’re attracted to wants you to take the relationship to another level.

Love the real thing

Nothing is better than holding on to what’s true – for it’s more beautiful when you do that.

You can’t sit around for years waiting or hoping that your lover will turn out to be your life partner. While you can’t force someone to have a serious relationship with you, you can take care of yourself.

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The important thing here is:

Focus on loving yourself.

Continue to meet other people. Don’t stop dating other girls just because you have a lover. Consider your needs, desires, and your happiness. 

Yes, you deserve more than this.

You’ll meet someone who’s not just a lover in bed, but a girlfriend and partner whom you’ll spend yours forever with.

Trust it will happen.

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