Things I’d Tell a Younger Me About Sex & Romance
I’m 35 years old and I work in the creative industry. What I mean to say is that on any given day, I am usually the oldest person in the room; I share office space and work very closely with people 15 years my junior and it definitely makes me feel my age to hear how much is different for them compared to my experience coming up. It’s simple for us to think that twentysomethings have it so much easier when it comes to hooking up and coupling – what with dating apps, DM sliding and content streaming & chilling – but some things will never, ever change.
In the conversations I’ve had with my younger peers – and overheard them having with each other, the same anxieties – and misconceptions – exist, just like I am sure they have since forever. And while I’ll never pull one of my colleagues aside and be some kind of sage (tbh I’d never have listened to me back then; why would these kids listen to me now?), I’m writing this here so that maybe you reading this can figure out a little bit about what I’ve learned so far.
1. The One that Got Away: Let ‘em Stay Away.
One of the things you’ll come to realize after a few runs around the block are the tropes that we’ve come to believe are real. What rom com screenwriters have used as story devices have been internalized as natural aspects of love and romance. There’s a reason why the One that Got Away went away. The amount of pining you’re wasting on them could be better used to focus on the people who are currently in your life. One thing you absolutely shouldn’t do is compare any current or future partners to them. Relationships are unique, and that’s kinda the beauty in them.
2. Sexual Chemistry Isn’t Everything.
You’re going to meet someone someday who you will have the best sex of your life with. To keep on having sex with this person, you might look past some character flaws or troubling behavior you wouldn’t otherwise put up with in others. Great sex can make us do crazy things, including extending a relationship way past its sell-by date. This is especially true for women who release the oxytocin hormone during orgasm. There’s a reason why it’s called the “love hormone” because it attributes to attachment, which is why there’s a pretty good argument against the friends with benefits theory. Think beyond the bedroom and consider whether you enjoy all the time in between with this person; you might just save yourself a few months (or even years) of what would be a shitty relationship because you placed too much stock in sexual compatibility.
3. ‘Mixed Signals’ Don’t Exist.
Confused by your date’s behavior? Not sure if they like you or not? Are they emotionally ambiguous? Don’t take this as an unspoken cue to try harder or push them to the point where they have to declare their feelings – you are going to have to pay attention to their behaviors, but in no case should you project your feelings onto them. “Mixed signals” could very well be a projection of insecurity, and if you notice some behaviors not aligning, it’s time to talk through it. If someone’s playing games, drop em stat. It’s okay to require someone to be 100% in or completely out, unless of course you’ve negotiated your wants otherwise.
4. It’s Okay To Focus.
Not everything in life is mutually inclusive. If your partner is creating ultimatums between them and something else going on in your life, granted it’s healthy and something that adds value to your future, it’s time to reconsider. That whole “relationships are all about timing” thing is actually true. The right partner will support your passions, maybe even share some with you, and certainly be in a similar “life stage” as you. You can’t give all of your effort to every facet of your life. Dating is like a job interview wherein you have to prove your time management and prioritization skills. Distraction is a bitch, and something that could take years off your love life by pursuing every possibility that comes along. Ask yourself what it is your really want out of sex or relationships and pursue just that.
5. Challenge Yourself.
Often as a younger man I spent my time simply looking for a person who would have sex with me instead of looking for someone I wanted to have sex with. Meaning I’d meet someone and then everything that followed would be a means to an end: getting laid.
It took a lot of mental puzzling before realizing that some of my best sex – and best relationships – were with people I’d connected with without an end game (sex) in mind. You know; getting to know someone. Forming a bond and even disagreeing with or being challenged by them, but above all listening to them. What I am trying to say here is that sex will happen. If it’s with someone worthwhile, then much more fulfilling sex will happen. Understanding someone’s best pleasure sometimes comes from understanding more than just their physical body.
Colin Hanna is a Volonté contributor and freelance writer who lives in Shanghai, China with his wife. He’s written extensively about sex and human sexuality for LELO since 2010.