And while the act of sex is certainly lovely it’s not love… at least not necessarily and seldom at the beginning of a relationship.
So why do sensible men and women continue to mistake one for the other?
My friend Lorna* is a friendly, attractive 27-year-old who manages a fashion store. She has a good network of friends and family and an active social life. She is sexually confident and sends this message loud and clear.
But rather than attracting positive, healthy relationships, she seems to be a magnet for every sleazebag under the sun –married men, guys with pregnant girlfriends, you name it.
Lorna thinks that having no-strings sex with these guys empowers her, making her desirable, liberated and sophisticated. The reality is these encounters always end in rejection which subtly erodes her already fragile self-esteem.
She breezily brushes the rejection off saying, with false bravado, “I wasn’t interested in him anyway,” then sets out looking for another mate to make her feel desirable and ‘loved’ again.
Why do men and women who seem to have it all seek out physical unions with unsuitable partners who objectify them, disrespect them and break their hearts, when all they want is to be loved?
When we meet someone who we have chemistry with, it’s easy to think that the dizzy sensations running through our bodies are the first stirrings of love. And sometimes it’s easy to let those delicious feelings whisk us into the bedroom.
“Sometimes you hook up and have sex with someone because you feel the chemistry is there,” says Alison. “But the chemistry isn’t enough to make something more out of a one-nighter.”
Fear of Intimacy
Jay is looking for a girlfriend but admits he is easily swayed by the initial feelings of attraction he feels towards women he meets. He finds sex easier to initiate than the intimacies of getting to know someone.
“If I met a girl at a party or something, and I was attracted to her, I would try to get her to have sex with me. Being physical was easier than trying to get to know them. But once it was over, I felt alone again,” says Jay.
Women — and to a lesser extent, men — will use sex as a means of appealing to someone they think they can’t attract or hold any other way. Having sex with someone so that they’ll like you or stay with you is an emotionally destructive pattern that only leads to heartbreak. Loneliness and desperation cause otherwise rational human beings to act in self-destructive ways as they strive to create emotional bonds and connections with others.
“My friend Natasha always has sex on the first date then talks about the guy as if he’s her boyfriend. These guys never call her. I guess they got what they wanted. She seems upset but she hooks up with the next guy who comes along, has sex with him straight away and then it starts all over again,” says Annie.
How to Turn Things Around
Setting boundaries is one of the most useful strategies you can employ to avoid having casual sex when you’re really looking for something more. Some points to consider:
Don’t Have Sex on the First Date
Or the second. Popular wisdom states that anyone who won’t wait for you isn’t worth it. If you’re a first-date sex repeat offender, these are wise words indeed.
Don’t have sex in the first month
Sounds drastic, I know, but if you really like someone and want to get to know them, you must do so with your clothes on. Then your partner knows what you’re really looking for.
Don’t entertain the unavailable
Married or otherwise unavailable men and women are off limits. Sure they might have sex with you, and it might even be good. But sex, even really good sex, is not love.
Don’t put up with crap
A boyfriend or girlfriend with no commitment, support, conversation, affection or, let’s face it, respect for you, has got to go. Without these things your relationship is well, just sex.
A Bigger Issue
Those battling clinically diagnosed sexual addiction are often at risk of mistaking sex for love. Life for the bona fide sex addict is an endless pursuit for new sexual connections, more intense thrills or a more dangerous liaison. Yet on the inside, they are emotionally vulnerable, fearful of being alone, of being rejected and of being unloved.
Perversely, at the first hint they are entering into a stable and secure relationship, the sex addict is gripped by intense feelings of dissatisfaction, fear and boredom and the destructive quest for new sexual conquests begins again.
If you feel that your sexual life is out of control and affecting you in negative ways, it’s time to seek professional help. But if you’re one of the many men and women who simply misread intimacy as affection, and mistake sex for love, you need to stop what you’re doing. Look at the patterns at work in your relationships and make a concerted effort to stop looking for love in all the wrong places.
Because you’re worth it.
* Names have been changed for privacy reasons