When you confuse sex with love

by singlemomseeking on September 30, 2008

Thank you to Heather at Desperately Seeking Sanity for inspiring me to write this post.

Yes, I know, you can never really be a virgin AGAIN.

In the past, when a good-looking man reached out and touched me, I was a goner. I’ve always loved that charge I got from sleeping with a man. I still do. But here’s the truth: I’ve slept with men in order to avoid my loneliness. Instead of holding myself, and really embracing my intense solitude, I’ve found men to hold me. I wasn’t looking for love. I was looking for an instant fix.

And after it was all said and done, I felt even lonelier.

I remember the first advice book I picked up about how to balance sex and parenting. Sex & the Single Parent: A Guide for Parents Who Find Themselves Back in the Dating Game advised:

“You can be a lover and a mother. But you can’t do it torn apart inside by guilt or uncertainty.”

So, that’s what my problem was.

“You can only date if deep inside you can trust yourself to make the right decisions most of the time,” the book went on. “The trick is going in a measured fashion.”

I didn’t know there would be any tricks involved. And I’ve never been very good at measuring.

Love has been the challenging part for me. If you’ve read my book, then you know that I’ve had sprees of booty calls with bad boys. Sure, it was fun. But at the end of the day — or night — it wasn’t healthy.

I haven’t had sex for months now. And you know what? It feels right. I’m more present with myself than ever. No, I’m not going to go out and buy myself a purity ring. But my intention is to be virtuous with myself.

For how much longer? I’m not sure. Setting up rules has never worked for me. I simply break them.

Here’s how single mom Kim spelled it out recently in her blog (thanks!):

“A good, decent, loving man will come along and when it happens I will be ready, but right now I just need to be and really immerse myself fully into being a mom and taking care of my inner spiritual self.”

For me, this isn’t about listening to God. It’s about listening to myself.

It’s about one of my favorite quotes from author Anne Lamott who wrote in Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year:

“Sometimes I’m so hungry for a partner, a lover. One thing I know for sure, though, is that when you are hungry, it is an act of wisdom each time you turn down a spoonful if you know that the food is poisoned.”

No, sex in itself is not poison. But having sex to escape my loneliness is.

If you can offer any advice about how NOT to confuse sex with love, let’s hear it.

~~~

This post is part of a roundtable series on virginity as started by Honey and Lance. Feel free to chime in yourself and leave a comment over at honeyandlance.com. For further reading, take the plunge:

Photo by Chalky Lives.

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather @ Desperately Seeking Sanity October 1, 2008 at 5:12 am

For me, I had to give it all up, dating, sex, etc for awhile to come to terms with myself, to learn to love myself and rely on myself and not someone else. I based everything I felt about myself on what a man felt about me and when the man was gone, well?

It wasn’t pretty.

So I went on a man strike, as I liked to call it, and over time, I discovered things about me, evaluated where I went wrong and where I was right.

Eventually, the man strike ended and I started dating again, but I told myself that I would not have sex until I was married, for the reasons that I stated in the post.

But I let my guard down and one night I found myself in bed with a man. I knew that I shouldn’t be with him, I knew that I shouldn’t have gone over there that night, but I did. Because I was feeling not wanted, not pretty, not desireable, whatever…

And when all was said and done, while I think that we would’ve continued dating, I couldn’t even go out with him anymore, because I had let myself down. (And honestly? It wasn’t even WORTH breaking the promise that I had made to myself, if you know what I mean.)

I didn’t post about that as I have youth group members reading my blog but knowing how I felt, knowing that I went for a quick fix it reminds me of why I decided to wait.

I am worth waiting for. I’m worth knowing if a man is into me, Heather Jacobson, and all my good points and bad, or just to get laid.

Will I actually wait until marriage? I would like to think that I will. But the reality of it is, if some man proposes to me, after waiting for me, I can’t make any promises.

I think what it’s all about for me is knowing that someone loves me for me and is willing to commit their life to me.

I know the right one is out there, I’m just having a little trouble finding him. But when I do?

It’s going to be all worth it.

Great post. I love to read posts where people have dug deep down and discovered things about themselves and then put it out there for others. It gives a sense of hope, and knowledge that we’re normal.

As for figuring out how to separate love and sex? I don’t know how to do that either, which is why I chose to wait. Hopefully, I won’t have to figure out how to separate them. :D

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Jenn October 1, 2008 at 5:19 am

I went over TWO YEARS before HRH and after the man that left me alone with Little A.

And you know what? It was worth every single second.

Absolutely no regrets…not much I can say that about.

Jenn’s last blog post…It Ain’t Easy Being Mrs. Robinson

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Buterflymom October 1, 2008 at 5:25 am

Thank you for writing this post. I have found myself in this situation, on a break from men and dating. And while looking inward and sitting with my lonliness, I have found myself back in school and a teenager on my hands. now i am physically too busy (and tired) to date and give anything to anyone else. I still feel the lonliness but I want this time with my daughter. I’ve wondered at times if I was the only one going through this, with friends telling me to get out there again, and wondering if i ever will. But for now, it doesn’t feel like the right time.

Kim

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Legal Editor Mom October 1, 2008 at 5:57 am

I was never quick to fall into bed with men, so for me this is not an issue. Sex to me has always been special, and therefore, reserved for that special someone. I’ve always felt this way, especially after seeing girls in high school who slept with guys prematurely, only to have them not call anymore or lose interest. (Plus, because I was a virgin until a bit later, I got the boy of my dreams. He respected me more and therefore pursued me more, because he’d already “been through” the other cute, popular girls!)

From high school up until I was married, I always got to know the guy well and made sure there was a connection and strong potential for a long-lasting relationship before I had sex with him. That way all of the other pleasurable feelings were there first, and I could clearly differentiate between love and lust. Sex can be great, but it’s even better if it’s with the right person where other important attributes besides the physical are present.

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laurakim October 1, 2008 at 6:08 am

The universe is OUT TO GET ME!!!! When I read this it was like you actually had climbed into my head! I have just finished with my blog entry for tomorrow about THIS!!!!

The universe is really trying to tell me something!

I dont have any answers – I did all of this – up until TODAY! So I really have not figured it all out further than that!

laurakim’s last blog post…Crossing the Colour Line in South Africa

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Lance October 1, 2008 at 7:20 am

Terrific post! This has made me think of a really significant difference between men and women, or at least a difference IMO. I want to throw this out there for discussion…

In the past, I equated love and sex also, just like everyone else. I figured if I was having sex, and good sex at that, it meant I was in love, and she must be also. This has caused me to endure several mediocre-to-lousy LTR’s and hang on longer than we were meant to.

In the last couple of years I’ve discovered that sex and love are not necessarily inclusive of each other. I know now that sex and love can be totally separate things, and in fact, I sometimes don’t even have to like my partner to have great sex. Whoa!

The way that I realized this separation was by having lots of sex, that is, dating many women over a 2-3 year stretch. This has enabled me to identify and compartmentalize my various emotions during the dating process, and it’s kept me out of trouble, so to speak, and now I can easily identify when I’m compatible with a partner (or not) and the various relationships types I can have with different women. Some women I can ONLY have sex with and nothing else, some we’d make a good LTR match, some are friends only.

So my advice for men has always been: date a lot and have lots of sex. The more experience you get, the more emotionally intelligent you become. Which is the complete opposite of what all the ladies are saying on this post! It seems like the females achieve that emotional self-realization through internal methods.

As you can see, there’s a MAJOR conflict there.

Lance’s last blog post…Say Yes! To Friends With Benefits

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Christy October 1, 2008 at 7:57 am

It has now been months since my last boyfriend. I crave the togetherness of a partner, but in the same respect I am so buzy being a working gal and full time mother, I don’t have the time to look for a relationship.

I love what Kim said in her blog ! If I happen to meet some guy that is wonderful, whether it be at the grocery or out at a restaurant or bar this weekend (going out with gal pals ! YEAH !!) it happens and I will let him in… but for now, there is nothing missing from my full life simply because I dont have a boyfriend or husband….

Christy’s last blog post…Great bonuses in addition to making extra money !

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Amy October 1, 2008 at 8:30 am

Good for you Rachel. A break – not matter how long or how short – is good I think.

As for advice on sex and love. I can’t even come close to helping. My mom raised me to believe the best thing in the world would be to meet Mr. Wonderful and give myself to him and only him. I maintained my virginity and did just that when I married at 23. Unfortunately Mr Wonderful didn’t pan out. In fact, he used/abused me for 10 years with the big finale this spring after which he promptly left me for someone else. Now what? I had a plan to survive the divorce and the life after – but no plan B for sex.

It’s not that I am down on virginity – but perhaps my mother’s mistake was not teaching me that sex could be about myself and for my own gratification. And if two adults have a mutual itch and want to scratch it – then what is the harm.

But my brain is saturated with that love&sex are on in the same crap.

Amy’s last blog post…Journal 107: September 2008 "Lastday"

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T October 1, 2008 at 8:53 am

I’ve had a break for a year now. Yes, I’ve had my soldier via phone, email and letters but we’ve both been “sexually deprived for your freedom”…(well unless you count a girl or two, and even that helped me to separate love and sex better than I had in the past)… ANYWAY! I feel love for him but the sex is non-existent (for a few more weeks!).

I too have learned quite a bit about myself through this “break”. It does get frustrating but during this time, I’ve enjoyed learning about myself both spiritually and sexually. I don’t know if I would’ve had that chance if he was physically with me. I feel like I know him better than I did as well. Ours is a unique situation, yes, but it has also been a blessing in my life. Who knows what will happen next but I don’t regret any of it!

T’s last blog post…Virginity: A Girl and a Mom’s perspective

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singlemomseeking October 1, 2008 at 9:10 am

Heather:

“A man strike.”

That’s an interesting way to put it.

Please, please stop beating yourself up for letting your guard down. Believe me, I understand.

We’re human. We cross lines. We make mistakes.

I think that’s the danger of making promises — or rules — because when we break them, we come down so hard on ourselves.

But beating yourself up isn’t doing any good. Please forgive yourself.

Yes, you are worth it. And more.

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dadshouse October 1, 2008 at 10:04 am

Taking the time to get to know yourself, and strive for self awareness, is HUGE in my book. Great relationships start with loving yourself. Sounds like you are doing exactly the right work in your life right now for you! Great post.

There are tons more virgin posts listed at Honey and Lance, btw. Check them all out!

dadshouse’s last blog post…Virginity is Overrated

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PT-LawMom October 1, 2008 at 10:53 am

Ditto Laurakim. I have DOUBLED my “number” since my divorce in July. You wrote my post. ;) I have several FWBs – two webcam ones and an IRL one I finally got together with recently. Then I’m seeing a guy who I really like but I’m not comfortable enough with myself to admit that we’re not in the same place and just back away so as not to hurt him. And he’s met my kid and my kid loves him. Life sucks hard right now. :(

PT-LawMom’s last blog post…Blog Refocus

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wandamd October 1, 2008 at 11:41 am

I took a 3 year hiatus from all things “social” as a single parent up until a year ago. I had one partner and many many 1st dates since. That year was sprinkled with periods of “taking time off” from dating. The last time off produced and interesting result–a boyfriend. Now I am struggling with the fear of being head over heels in love with someone (other than my daughter)…its the first time since having my daughter that I’ve connected emotionally with a man. I am trying to push past the comforting notion of calling it all off because I am so used to it being her and me. If it doesn’t work out, I am not sure how I will handle heartbreak in front of my little girl. Does anyone else out there worry about this? There is a little pressure in realizing that she is watching my every mood and knows when I am high and low. Will her future decisions on men be based upon how I handle myself now?

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Jenn October 1, 2008 at 11:43 am

I had to come back and add a post-script.

After I resumed sex again, I was always thinking that if HRH and I didn’t make it, I was going to become a total hooker.

Like, what was I thinking, giving up sex?

So, not sure where that leaves you-or me on the topic, either.

Jenn’s last blog post…Wordless Wednesday (Houston, We Have A Problem)

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singlemomseeking October 1, 2008 at 12:14 pm

Jenn: Thanks for the post-script! Yes, you’re clearly on topic.

I went through my own “why-should-I-give-up-sex?” phase, which is detailed in my book.

I hear you. As humans, we are always changing and growing, yes?

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singlemomseeking October 1, 2008 at 12:22 pm

Wanda MD: Great questions. Every single parent I know frets and stays up all night… as they think about how their romantic relationship might affect their children.

Here’s the way I think about this one: You deserve to be loved, and your child deserves to see you relating respectfully and kindly with other adults.

Yes, our children are watching our every move. They learn to relate to others from us.

No, this doesn’t mean bringing a parade of dates through the door.

But I’ve talked to so many adult children of single moms who said it was so hard to watch their moms “hole up” for a decade, sad and alone.

If you courageously take the leap of love — and your kid sees you in a mature, responsible, kind relationship — I think it’s a gift.

When you feel anxious, try to call a girlfriend or family member. The mother-daughter bond is especially sensitive. I know!

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wandamd October 1, 2008 at 12:46 pm

Thank You! Just hearing that others fret about the same things I do eases some pressure. PS On a positive note I decided to ask him if he wanted to meet my daughter…and his suprising answer was “He’d been wanting to meet her and see me as a Mommy” He knows how important she is to me but also how protective I am. He said he wanted to wait until I aproached it…but was very happy I asked.

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singlemomseeking October 1, 2008 at 1:05 pm

Wow, Wanda, he sounds like such a respectful guy!

PT Mom: You can work your way out of this one, with honesty, love, and a lot of communication. Acknowledge your kid’s feelings. I read your blog, so I know that you’re a pro at getting support. You go!

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Vinnie Sorce October 1, 2008 at 1:35 pm

Who in the wolrd has time to go out and date let alone find a sex partner, lol. Been well over a year here… Plus the only god I look like is Buddah.

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avigail74 October 1, 2008 at 3:03 pm

Ok–this in interesting. I, too, took a year–well, 14 months off from sex to “purify” my body after divorce. I couldn’t believe how quickly that year went.

Then, I went on to have several sexual relationships–which totally satisfied me.

And, then I decided to not to settle and to wait for as long as it takes for the right man to come along.

I met him—and our relationship was beautiful—total partnership–utterly respectful of one another—admired one another, fabulous sex—and then he realized that he really didn’t want the responsibility of raising another child (we’re 20 years apart).

BEcause of this amazing relationship I got to experience, instead of leaving me down in the dumps–it actually inspired me–I now know it’s possible to have an amazing relationship with excellent sex.

So, again, I’ll wait until the next right man comes along–until then, I won’t punish myself if I do decide to have sex (but I have since learned to be able to separate love from sex). I even tell the lovers that it’s just for fun (friends with benefits?).

And, still, I’ll wait for the healthy, loving and desirable relationship to come along.

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judy October 1, 2008 at 7:09 pm

Lance, I am trying to thing of something to reply to you without Rachel editing me out so let’s see if I can do it….grow up,get a life, remind me to keep my daughter away from you and your sons and the trough full of “which head do you think with” one liners..

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singlemomseeking October 2, 2008 at 7:49 am

Judy: I think you’re right on. I don’t edit/delete comments unless there’s obvious bashing or name calling.

Lance is young, recently out of college… he’s not a single parent. I think he keeps coming back here because we’re grown ups, because he’s learning something.

I’m still trying to get him to stop calling women “girls.”

Well, it’s the first time I’ve heard him say “ladies.” It’s a start.

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Kelly October 2, 2008 at 7:51 am

Let’s just say I’ve had my blog for over 4 years, and I have not had an opportunity to write about any sexual encounters. I do miss it sometimes, but there is so much less drama in my life and I have more time to devote to my daughter and myself.

I have to admit, this wasn’t me just deciding to swear off men. There just hasn’t been any mutual attraction lately. I’ve had dates here and there, but meh. Sex is overrated!

Kelly’s last blog post…Stooopid Project

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Lance October 2, 2008 at 8:10 am

@SMS: I’m actually 28, post-graduate school, thank you very much. And I usually call them chicks, not ladies, which is an even more un-PC term.

@Judy: I thought my comment was perfectly thoughtful and well reasoned. It’s not unusual advice to suggest to a man (or woman) who was a low emotional IQ to get out, date a bunch, and get some experience. That’s why we have the phrase “get back in the saddle” and other cliches.

What I’m saying is that the numbers strategy works, it’s mainstream advice in dating (just check MSN dating), and it’s at odds with what the women on this post are indicating, ie they achieve emotional/sexual self-realization by retreating into introspection.

How do we reconcile those two things?

Lance’s last blog post…Was Losing My Virginity Worth it?

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dadshouse October 2, 2008 at 10:34 am

Whoa! Why the judgment against Lance? Any of you “grown ups” who have ever had a one night stand, friend with benefits, or booty call partner probably compartmentalized your emotions away from the act. That Lance can admit to doing that shows he is aware of his behavior.

Telling him to grow up? That he’s coming here to learn from grown ups? I’m sorry, I’m still shaking my head. I think you all could learn from each other. There are plenty of “grown up” single parents who don’t have a clue about dating and relating, or who make mistakes with sexual partners.

How about the ones who don’t practice safe sex? Oh, right. That was a different “grown up” conversation.

And btw – I see a lot of women use the term “girls” all them time, as do some men. It drives me nuts! Grown ups are not girls.

dadshouse’s last blog post…Virginity? It’s So Overrated

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singlemomseeking October 2, 2008 at 10:45 am

Dad’s House: You know that I’m always open to dialogue. I think Lance likes landing at single parent blogs because the discussion can get controversial.

Lance’s comment really resonated with me — and seemed very honest — until I got here:

“My advice for men has always been: date a lot and have lots of sex. The more experience you get, the more emotionally intelligent you become.”

Maybe I misunderstood, but it sounds like Lance is telling the male readers who visit my blog to get out there and screw as many women as you can.

He acknowledges that it’s okay for men do this without any “emotional self-realization” because, well, men are different from women.

I didn’t tell Lance to “grow up.”

I suggested that trying to screw every woman you meet might NOT be the best way to to get along in this world–

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Lance October 2, 2008 at 12:03 pm

@SMS: I didn’t suggest anyone screw anyone over, and in fact I never added a negative connotation to the sex part of the equation.

I did suggest that one of the best ways to get your inner game dialed in is by dating extensively. I’ve written extensively about how nothing beats experience when it comes to learning about your own likes and dislikes and, importantly, about how attraction works.

Two of the foci of dating should be to increase your social skills and emotional IQ, and not merely to get laid, which anyone can do… however sex is gonna happen while you’re dating so just be safe.

Lance’s last blog post…Was Losing My Virginity Worth it?

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wandamd October 2, 2008 at 12:59 pm

Up until the last post I found Lance’s opinions well just that, opinions!

I do think there is a little bit of him that likes to stir the pot with his choice of nouns, but that’s fine, I’m sure we’ve been called worse. What made me wrinkle up my nose as if I’d smelled something stinky was the comment that there are “foci” in dating.

Further that his “foci” didn’t include recognizing chemistry from lust, deciding if this was a friend/lover/boyfriend and most important focusing on being open enough to fall in love. From what i’ve experienced and read single mom’s assess men they meet as to whethr or not its going to be a FRB or has potential for something serious.

We don’t really have time to date in order “sharpen” our social skills and I would attest that since becoming a mother my emotional IQ is off the chart.

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dadshouse October 2, 2008 at 1:06 pm

I personally don’t have a problem with what Lance wrote. I don’t fully agree with him, but I respect his view. I’ve dated way too many women who compartmentalized sex in a different place than love. It’s not a gender or age thing. Some people do that. I’ve done it on occasion. Who are we to judge? That doesn’t mean he’s not grown up.

As any reader of my blog knows, I’m a huge believer in looking within. (See: Hot, Sexy, Confident, and Great Books for Relationship and Divorce Advice). But I also “get” what Lance wrote. I disagree with his line about sleeping around leading directly to emotional intelligence – I think it also takes introspection. But the thing is, just by articulating his behaviors, he is showing self awareness. That’s a huge step beyond engaging in wanton sexual encounters without any awareness. Some people desperately want to be wanted, and will sleep with someone, anyone just to get that feeling. That’s not healthy, in my book.

We’re all in different emotional and psychological places. We’re all evolving. That doesn’t make anyone more grown up than anyone else.

And just being a parent doesn’t necessarily mean our emotional intelligence is higher than anyone else’s. Maybe we feel compassion for our children more deeply and readily than non-parents typically feel compassion, but us being parents does not make us more emotionally intelligent when it comes to relating with other adults.

dadshouse’s last blog post…Virginity? It’s So Overrated

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mommypie October 2, 2008 at 10:41 pm

I totally get this. I LIVE it. This month it’ll be TWO YEARS for me. (I heard that gasp, Rachel.) I think my longest dry spell before this was MAYBE a few months.

But, honestly, it’s PERFECT. It’s what I need right now. I fully recognize I’m emotionally unavailable, so it just makes sense. And I’m so happy right now without all the complications sex brings. Because I also recognize I’m not up for THAT.

mommypie’s last blog post…Rockin’ the Bubbe Vote

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