Dating Fallacy #4: Confusing Hormones for Real Feelings
I remember the feeling when I first saw Haley. My body was charged, electric, and surged with energy. It felt like experiencing coffee for the first time. Someone about her made me feel alive in her presence. It felt like being on some super-drug, and I was instantly addicted.
What I was experiencing was a high rush of hormones. And although the feelings these hormones inspired were exciting, they also, when left unchecked, caused me to confuse real intimacy with physical connection.
There was another particular instance when I was dating Taylor. We immediately established a sexual relationship, becoming physically close very soon. Our hormones were syncing up to the speed and frequency in which we had sex, but on the other side, we weren’t really connecting when it came to getting to know each other as people. We found ourselves more invested in nurturing our physical bond. And I realized after a couple of months, there was still so much I didn’t know about her expectations, needs, wants beyond the physical ones. But we felt very much connected.
I was confusing sexual connection with real connection.
There’s nothing wrong with physical connection, but when it is the only thing that holds a relationship at the expense of other forms of meaning connection, then it can confuse a person’s feelings.
Hormones get amped up with sex. And for some of us, “we genuinely want love and we hope the sexual connection will help us find it, and . . . we feel the intense urgency that is created by chemicals flowing through our little brains, our groins, and everything in between” (Carter and Sokol 127)
Carter and Sokol state, “Sex alone does not stop people from being strangers — sometimes it insures they will remain strangers” (150). They’re right. I have had past relationships where I was having consistent, good sex with my partners, but I was not connected to them. Taylor comes to mind. I confused real intimacy with sex when I dated her. I was physically connected to her, but emotionally, we were strangers. I didn’t know how she felt about so many things, especially our relationship. We mostly just watched t.v., drank until I would get sick, and have sex. And we really didn’t connect.
So why did I have such an attachment to her. I developed a physical connection to her. I missed her body when we broke up. I remember telling her over the phone, a week after we had split that it felt like separation anxiety. And then even up to the summer, at least 8 months later, I was still missing her physical connection. But it was not intimacy. I only knew her to a certain degree.
Sex should be the celebration of a meaningful connection, not a means of establishing one.
Carter and Sokol advise people to ask themselves the following questions if they think they are confusing sexual connection to emotional intimacy.
Do you sometimes allow sexual connection to become confused with emotional intimacy?
Are sex and physical affection your first solution to relationship struggles?
Do either you or your partner ever seem to use sex as a way of avoiding emotional intimacy?
Strangely enough, I answered “no” to all three questions, but that didn’t mean I avoided this trap altogether. For myself, the key has been being mindful of why I want to have sex with a person. One question always comes to mind, am I having sex with this person because it will bring us closer, or does having sex at this moment feel like a celebration of a meaningful connection we have established?
With this mindfulness, I have been able to make better decisions in terms of when to accept sex from a partner, and it has helped me not feel so confused from all the hormones swirling around in my body.
Finally, I am not trying to argue against feeling that wonderful flow of hormones. On the contrary, I love the feelings those hormones inspire. I am only advocating that a little bit of temperance be taken before rushing in too fast.
Carter, Steven, and Sokol, Julia. Getting to Commitment: Overcoming the 8 Greatest Obstacles to Lasting Connection (And Finding the Courage to Love). M. Evans, 1998.