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Why Do Some People Have Sex Without Love and Vice Versa?

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Why Do Some People Have Sex Without Love and Vice Versa?

Sex without love for some people is taboo and for others it’s perfectly acceptable – why?

Sex and love are distinct for many people

Sex and love, although the words are often used interchangeably, are not the same thing.

Like macaroni without cheese or beans without franks some people can’t imagine having one without the other and wouldn’t want to. In our 21st century culture, an intimate relationship that contains good sex is the stated ideal. Yet more than 10% of committed couples are having sex with each other only rarely, if at all, and yet consider themselves to be in a happy relationship.

Sex is something one can have by oneself or with another person. When with a partner it can include sexual intercourse or not. Simply put, it is bodily pleasure usually with the aim of orgasm.

love, on the other hand, is much harder to achieve than simply rubbing body parts. It involves letting yourself be known—your hopes, desires, fears and foibles and knowing and accepting another person inside and out. The late Dr. Stan Dale defined love as “into-me-see.”

When satisfying sex and the closeness of love are combined it can be enormously satisfying. That is what is often conceptualized as True Love. However, in the same way a steak or lobster dinner holds no appeal to a vegetarian, such an intense relationship is unappealing and often unobtainable to a certain percentage of women and men. Because one does not want or have such a combination of love and gratifying sex, it does not mean that s/he has to do without both. Achieving one is often an accomplishment.

Sexually, there are a great range of relationships possible between a lifelong monogamous commitment and an anonymous 2 minute coupling in the bushes.  Some people enjoy the excitement and variety of casual sex, or the friendly dependability of an ongoing no strings sexual relationship, or an intense but brief romantic affair. Whether or not they also have an intimate relationship or more than one elsewhere is immaterial to them.

Many couples live together for years in intimate and chaste compatibility. They are happy or they want to honor their vows; they think seeking an outside partner would feel wrong or simply be just too much trouble. Many do not want to end their relationship for other reasons such as habit or fear of the unknown. There are many explanations people give themselves for staying in a sexless relationship, happily or not. Whatever they say to explain it, there they are and remain.

I often hear clients in my counseling office tell me that sex without a commitment would be totally unsatisfactory to them or that if they didn’t have a satisfactory sex life within a committed relationship they would leave.  That might be true for the individual speaking at that time, but it is also extremely likely that circumstances might change a mind when a person is in the situation and the concept is more than theoretical. I see many more of those—people feeling stuck in a sexless relationship or people, in or out of a relationship, longing for love.

So if you are in a situation wherein you are not getting what you want, in terms of sexual satisfaction or intimate connection, there may be other possibilities open to you. When it comes to how an individual or a couple get their emotional and sexual needs met, there are far more than fifty shades of gray.

[Isadora Alman]

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Isadora Alman, M.F.T., is a California licensed marriage and relationship therapist, a Board-certified sexologist, author and lecturer. Her syndicated sex and relationship column "Ask Isadora" ran in alternative weekly papers worldwide for 25+ years. Web surfers can find her columns on her online free interactive Sexuality Forum www.askisadora.com (link is external). She is the author of two collections of Q & A's from columns: Let's Talk Sex and Ask Isadora, as well as Sex Information, May I Help You?, a peek behind the scenes of a sex help phone line which still flourishes in San Francisco today. Doing It: Real People Having Really Good Sex is a collection of helpful hints and titillating tidbits culled from column readers and Forum web site users. Her novel Bluebirds of Impossible Paradises: A Sexual Odyssey of the 70's is out in paperback on Amazon.com. She has also contributed chapters to several books including Herotica (Down There Press), Dick For A Day (Villard NY), The Moment Of Truth (Seal Press) and Single Woman Of A Certain Age (Inner Ocean Publishing, Inc.) Isadora has been a talk show host and frequent TV and radio talk show guest, and a lecturer and workshop leader on a variety of communications topics. She conducts her private psychotherapy practice in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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