If You Had To Choose: Sex or Love?

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When it comes to motherhood and a career, there’s already a debate as to whether we can have it all. But what I want to know is, can we have it all when it comes to relationships?

I used to think so, because when you’re young you’re taught that anything less is settling. However, after years of dating in the real world, I’ve realized men who have it all don’t exist, except for on shows like The Bachelor, and we all know how well those relationships work out. Subsequently, I find myself wondering, am I asking too much from my partner?

According to psychologist Esther Perel, yes. In her Ted Talk: The Secret to Desire in a Long-Term Relationship Perel explains how the evolution of our concept of marriage has led to unrealistic demands. These days people want their partner to be their lover, best friend, confidant, and a whole laundry list of things that an entire village used to provide -- and these days, we live twice as long. More interestingly, Perel argues that:

“The very ingredients that nurture love, mutuality, reciprocity, protection, worry, responsibility for the other, are sometimes the very ingredients that stifle desire.”

Let's Talk About Love/Sex

Image: netto_dark via Flickr

Watching Perel, I couldn’t help but think of my ex-lover Jean Mi, a French psychologist who I started dating after my ex and I broke up. Imagine Bradley Cooper’s French doppleganger. Yeah, that was a no brainer.

Despite not being able to speak the same language, Jean Mi and I talked about everything, including my breakup with my ex. I remember asking him, “How is it possible to love someone so much and not have it work out?” Wise man that he is, he told me,

“Love is a like fire. Some are explosions, intense but unsustainable, and so they quickly burn out. Then there are loves, that because they shine a little less, have enough energy to last a lifetime. Anyone can find a firecracker. It’s about finding a love that lasts.”

Le swoon, no? Turns out he and I were the type that ignites quickly and fizzles even quicker. So it was really le fail.

All’s well: We remained pen pals; I eventually got over my ex, and met my current boyfriend. This month marks our two-year anniversary. It’s the longest relationship I’ve ever had without any breaks. More importantly, it’s the longest I’ve ever lived with a significant other.

Before my boyfriend and I moved in together a year and a half ago, my friends warned me, “Be prepared to say goodbye to your sex life.” I laughed, of course, and smugly rolled my eyes, pitying them and their situations. He and I would be different. Spoken like a true person who’s about to eat their words with some sriracha; that way, you feel the burn twice.

A year later, I can happily say, in my sriracha-stained shirt, that my friends were right. Our relationship has changed. I love my boyfriend more than ever, but we definitely don’t have sex twice a day anymore -- or even every day, for that matter. Funny thing is, I really don’t mind.

In my mind, our relationship is still passionate. For me, part of the excitement is seeing how our relationship matures over time.

While I don’t believe Perel is saying that love and passionate sex can’t co-exist, I do recognize that at times, the stability love provides can conflict with the desire newness brings.

Honestly if given the choice between an unstable yet super-sexed relationship or a healthy relationship with some sex, I’d pick less sex in a heartbeat. My teenage self would have called this settling; however, I now know better.

Recent Posts by Ali Berlinski

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