Sex and Love are Not the Same Thing

Photo by Maru Lombardo on Unsplash

I’ve been a horn-ball for as long as I can remember and thankfully, I’ve always had a little voice telling me, “love and sex are not the same thing.”

I think I always knew that, but it was easy for me to conflate the two.

In my mid to late twenties, I damn near forgot all about that warning. I’d spent my teenage years learning what I really wanted in a relationship and going in search for that. Unfortunately, I’d get side-swiped by all the “sex-positivity”. In reality, it was sexual irresponsibility, and I fell for it.

If I described what I wanted some would call it a friends with benefits situation. If you remove the negative connotation, yes, that’s pretty much ideal for me — to get along with someone, to share values and interests, and to have a sexual pillar in the relationship dynamic.

Sometimes I’ll meet someone who I find attractive but I’m largely indifferent towards them, until I get to know them. There will be some common ground and if we get to talking about that, then okay. I usually don’t try to make it happen. But once the emotions reach a particular level, then I’ll say something.

Other times, I’m just not into the person. But again, once some common ground is found, over time something may blossom.

Very rarely (if ever) do I approach someone with sex in the forefront of my mind. I personally don’t do this because my focus is on building relationships. That’s just me.

But here’s where the problem sets in. Once my feelings emerge, lust takes over. What was once a communion of two people (love) becomes a foray into how to get the girl naked (lust). The scale gets completely tipped into sexual desire.

Love involved me seeing qualities that I valued in someone else and wanting to bounce these values back and forth like a good tennis rally. It was about bonding and actually liking and vibing the soul within the body sitting across from you. Love was not immediate. It was not at first sight. Maybe the reason you spoke to this other person was because of attraction or sexual desire, but that was not the focus. It was just encouragement.

Lust was the carnal instinct to have sex. It was lust at first sight. Something about the body, the face, and the estrogen levels combined to make my subconscious deem this person as an acceptable sexual partner — not life partner, not friend, not confidante and not business partner. The parts of my brain responsible for cooking up a narrative about this sexual partner are too numerous to list.

Because love and lust can arrive at the same time and often do, things can get super confusing. As a teen, I was driven largely by lust but I was a genius compared to mid-20s me because I could differentiate who was good to sleep with versus who was good to be with. The mid-20s me muddied the waters. I was trying to focus on love but then I’d flip to lust, but called it love.

When that little voice finally came back and reminded me, “love and sex are not the same thing,” I was stunned. Was that why things had gotten so confusing and why it seemed I’d lost sight of my initial goal? Evidently.

Once I thought about different girls and placed them & certain events involving them into the love or lust basket, things began to make a lot more sense. Come to think of it, I have too many friends who don’t know the difference between love and sex. This explained all the boundary-crossing, the betrayal and the cheapening of relationships I’ve been subjected to in recent years.

Sex, inherently, has nothing to do with love, but we like to think they’re the same because it makes the sex and the love more fulfilling. But there will come a point where the façade will fade and you’ll be left with one of two statements: “I want something more,” or “It was just a fuck.”

Love, inherently, has nothing to do with sex. This should be obvious but it sadly isn’t. Think about it. You love your parents, your pet and (hopefully) yourself, but you cannot sleep with any of those things. There is in fact a physiological reaction when you love someone or when you give love, but it is not the same feeling as sexual attraction. When two people are in a relationship and they have sex, there’s a loving as well as a physical desire for each other. Maybe I should speak for myself, but I don’t think one side dies. It just subsides for a while.

Therefore, love may take on a sexual component in a companionship. Or, a sexual relationship may change into a companionship, with the sexual component in tow.

If you can sort out your feelings for the next person you’re attracted to, you’ll be in awesome standing because you won’t fall into the trap I and tons of others fell into.

Just remember: if you find yourself mostly checking out their body, it’s lust. If in getting to know someone, feelings emerge, that’s connection which can lead to love. If it’s about edifying your own desires, it’s lust. If it’s about another’s well-being, it’s love.

Don’t try to get with people you predominantly wanted to sleep with, and do not be quick to bed people you’re building something with.