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Is The Ability To Control Your Romance And Sex Drive A Good Thing?

Couple with high sex drive.

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Is The Ability To Control Your Romance And Sex Drive A Good Thing?

Both our sex drive and romance drive are natural but they can be a major distraction in our lives so should we try to minimize them?

Sex and romance are thrilling, exhilarating and biologically adaptive. They’re also distracting, melodramatic and, beyond procreation, largely pointless.

Love is far from pointless, but romance and love are different. Romance romanticizes melodramatically, as in love songs, which might be more accurately called romance songs:“You are perfect. I’ll adore you for all eternity. If you left me, I’d die.” — that sort of exaggerated zeal, often tied to sex. “I’ll adore you forever because you’re so hot.”Romance is generally a short-lived high, often leading to disappointment and confusion when we finally see through the exaggerations.

Love isn’t exaggerated zeal; it’s actual care, attention and effort. We invest our love in a diverse array of accounts, devoting it to partners but also to friends, family, animals, teammates, ventures, ideas, causes and pursuits like sport, art or music.

Obsession with sex and romance takes time away from our other loves. Or if we don’t really have other loves, it may be because we’re too distracted by our love of sex and romance, as though they’re the only loves that really matter.

Some say we can’t change our drive for sex and romance. They’re biologically “hardwired.” That’s certainly true during our seasons of hormonal zeal. But sometimes when the hormones subside, we stay zealous by force of habit or some other drive that has little to do with sex and romance—a desire for status, for example.

Eventually many of us fall toward what I’ll call sexual and romantic minimalism. These minimalisms are not self-imposed celibacy for moral or spiritual reasons. They’re a practical lifestyle choice.

We mostly associate these minimalisms with people who aren’t lucky in sex and romance. They can’t get the sex and romance they want, and so they sadly settle for a life without it.

More broadly we could say minimalism becomes a viable, compelling lifestyle option for several reasons, limited appealing prospects being just one. Reduced libido or impulse to mate would also be reasons, as is having other higher priorities.

What is sexual minimalism? It’s minimizing, not eliminating. It’s masturbating when you want, no stigma, just indulging in a basic instinct, male or female and then getting back to other things.

What is romantic minimalism? It’s having friends, even cute ones but staying friends, not friends with benefits, maybe flirting, but not crossing into the realm where the norms of romance kick in, the obligation to sustain the exaggerations, praise and pedestalling.

Friendship often makes for roomier conversations. Less agenda; more freedom to explore and be honest with each other. Many people report that they have deeper, freer conversations with friends than with their romantic and sexual partners anyway.

Do sexual and romantic minimalists fool around sometimes? Optionally. If they want to stay minimalist, they weigh how much they want it against the risk of it becoming a distraction or a romance.

A lot of married couples become sexual and even romantic minimalists. They love each other but through familiarity have become minimally romantic. They have their freedom from the distractions within the comfort zone of partnership.

Older partnered minimalists sometimes pity and tease older single people for still being on their distracting sexual and romantic quests. By middle age, it can be distracting to still be looking for action or a partner. Certainly not for all. For some it’s the first chance to look for those long lost treats after years of childrearing or a romanceless marriage.

Still, as the rush of hormones subsides and one becomes more comfortable with solitude, some singles either drift into minimalism much as the couples do, or they choose minimalism, deciding consciously to kick the habit. And sometimes both, drifting into minimalism and then embracing it.

Above all, sexual and romantic minimalism can be a result of prioritizing our loves, discovering that other loves are more important to us, at least in our current season and shifting our care, attention and effort toward them instead.

[Jeremy Sherman]

Vital stats: Berkeley, 57, partnered, three children (M34, M28, F24), married once for 17 years.

Educationally: Ph.D. in evolutionary theory, masters in public policy

Vocationally: MBA professor of strategic foresight, business consultant and communications trainer, academic researcher.

Historically: I’ve taught over 250k college-student/hours in psychology, sociology, rhetoric, philosophy, advertising, economics, history, English, cultural studies, marketing and strategy. I founded a non-profit environmental lobbying organization in DC, worked as a business consultant and public affairs director for large companies, ran a foundation, designed and implemented water projects in Guatemala. For seven years I lived on the world’s largest hippie commune, and was an elected elder there at 24.

Authority: None.

I never refer to myself as an expert in anything, but rather a specialist in those questions that interest me (see below). I write with no authority. I read lots but cite rarely in my articles which should be read as opinion pieces, not declaration of scientifically proven fact. I will not pull rank on readers: My ideas are only worth considering only if they’re based on good reasoning. I change my ideas over time. Caveat emptor. They say “don’t believe everything you think. I’ll go one further: I don’t believe everything I write, in that for every argument I make, I aim to be able to express convincingly the counterargument. I try to live by the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

Self-expressively: I’ve written over 600 articles for Psychology Today, coined over 400 psychology neologisms. I write songs and limericks. I play bass and sing in jazz, Latin, funk, and Nigerian groups three nights a week.

Intellectually, yet intimately, my middle-age spread spans several life-sized questions.

* Most cosmically, how did mattering emerge from matter?, life from non-life? mind from chemistry? economics from physics? information from energy, questions I address as a member of a 16 year research project with UC Berkeley scientist Terrence Deacon.

* More practically, though not unrelated, how do and how should we shop among interpretations, deciding what’s significant and how to respond to what life deals us?

* Also practically and related, what is a butthead other than someone we butt heads with? since in a free society we should define morals negatively–not what you should, but what you shouldn’t do. We say “don’t be a butthead,” but define buttheads subjectively as people we butt heads with. I seek a more objective distinction between what’s morally in and out of bounds.

* How do and should we balance the ambigamist’s tensions and what is the underlying structure of such tensions? For this I use the Serenity Prayer as a template, and think about levels of analysis (going meta).

I’ve written five books, only one published but the rest out soon one way or another.

Negotiate with yourself and win: Doubt management for people who can hear themselves think.

Purpose: A natural history

Doubt: A user’s guide; a natural history

Mind readers dictionary: Terms for reading between the lines with greater comprehension.

Executive UFO: A field guide to unidentified flying objectives in the workplace.

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