Where’s the Line Between Lust & Love: Sexual Connection

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Sexual chemistry is a hot topic. When the sex is on fire, the relationship exploration may take a back seat to the enflamed passion. I’ve been there. I’ve also wasted 6 months on a relationship that was 90% sex and 10% dysfunctional relationship. Let’s explore.

When I Am Sexually Attracted To You

The lust component of a relationship, especially in the early phases of dating, often drives the physical connection much faster than the emotional or spiritual connection. What I mean is this: if you’re so hot for each other that you can’t think of much else, that’s just it, you’re not thinking (or seeing) much else of the potential partnership. During the high-sex times of the burgeoning relationship, you might want to hold off on declaring yourself IN on the long-term potential, until you’ve had a chance to cool down a bit. From the rose-colored glasses of hot sex, you cannot really see much else.

A few of the things I’m currently more interested in are:

  1. How emotionally available is this person?
  2. How available are they with their time and energy?
  3. How do they handle disappointments and conflict? (Can they fight fair?)
  4. Are they showing commitment and attention to what’s important between you? (Is the relationship a priority in their lives?)

I want a woman who is emotionally available, mature, and ready for a relationship. In some cases, what’s happened in my past, is getting too far down the sexual chemistry and hot sex before I’ve had a chance to understand the long-term compatibility and potential of this partner.

How Can You Test for True Availability?

Availability comes in a lot of variety. But there are several show stoppers that we should be looking out for, and even “testing” for, with our own observations and conversations. Let’s break these down into their most basic components.

Available – Time

Single (and solo) parents have a lot on their plate. Depending on the age of their kids, their schedules are going to be more complex to work out. If both of you are single parents, the complexity more than doubles. In early-stage dating, is it hard to set a time and keep that time with your potential partner? Is their schedule always chaotic? Do they rush to every event, “sorry I’m late” as their mantra? This might be an immediate show stopper. I have been in a relationship that became unmanageable due to the chaos of this woman’s life. Sure, her shitstorm of schedules and priorities was chaos before I joined the team, but it never settled down. If anything, my inclusion made the entire system even more unsustainable.

Available – Emotionally

Has this partner done their “work?” The deep work? Why did their last relationship end? Have they had successful relationships? Can they describe what was working about the good partnerships? Do they have a reasonable answer for what went wrong? Self-awareness is the key. If we are over 30 and back in a dating situation, we need to have most of our batshit crazy worked out. If we’re still using passive-aggressive statements to get what we want without saying it, well, there might still be some deep work to do on their side. BEFORE, they are ready to be in a relationship.

Available – Owning Their Disappointments

As you grow into a relationship there are going to be disappointments. Things do not always go to plan. A reset of weekend plans due to a sick child. A date rescheduling due to co-parenting conflicts. How does this person deal with the disappointments? Are they quick to blame you for the miss? Are they super flexible and easy? Does disappointment call into question the viability of the relationship for either one of you? How a couple handles disappointments overall, is a huge indicator of relationship health.

Available – Clear Asks for What They Need

We can only get what we need if we’re clear about asking for it. Is your partner good at asking for what they want? Can they negotiate easily to get their needs and your needs met? The negotiation should feel more like a dance than a war. My needs vs. your needs should never be a dividing line. Let’s talk about our needs. Or the needs of the relationship. And can we distinguish between the two?

Available – Sexually

How a person shows up sexually is a very important part of relationship-building as well. There can be simple imbalances in desire. There can be physical parts to the sexual experience that need to be addressed. And what about differences in our sexual history? Are there things about your partner’s past that you don’t want to hear about? Or that you do want to hear about? I have dated several women who also had significant relationships with other women. I was never quite sure how that affected our relationship, but it always gave me an uneasy feeling when they would bring up their former female lovers. My issue? Sure. Their issue, as well? Perhaps.

Sex is a deep and rewarding part of a relationship. The bonding and connection that are generated during a good liaison, cannot be underestimated. But, the same bonding can cause you to bond to someone who is unhealthy, but great in the sack.

Break Down Go Ahead and Give It To Me

Break down honey take me through the night. (Ah, Tom Petty got this one right.) When a hot sexual relationship breaks down there can be a lot of collateral exposure as the breakup bomb goes off. The same heat you had in bed can quickly become the heat of rage or destruction. The line between love and hate is also a thing to be concerned about. As hot as you burn, that’s the same heat that will arise with the falling out as well. Be aware. Heat is heat.

As we move into and out of relationships it is important to pay attention to the relationship out of the bedroom more closely than you might think. When the sex is great, the red flags may flutter by with celebration. But the red flags might be real issues, warning signs for what’s just up ahead, after the sexual burn fizzles out.

Here is my hope. I build a strong relationship based on shared goals, blended priorities, and lifestyles, and we continue to act lovingly and kindly towards one another. Sex follows along, but the focus is on how we partner. And when things get off, we have to be ruthless to question the disconnects and work on a swift resolution. Finally, if the red flags become more pronounced that we are quick to end the experiment. A relationship that is floundering on the basis of poor relationship skills but great sex can be a hard habit to break.

Give it everything you have. Be fearless in asking for what you need and what you want. Know the difference between the two requests. Listen for your partner’s requests and meet them, if you can. And when you fail, fail fast and fail out completely. There is no reason to linger on, trying to remain friends, when the partnership is truly fractured and over. I don’t need to collect friends or friends with benefits. Not when I’m seeking my long-term partner. I need to get over the misses and get back to the fun part of exploring this crazy world of love and life with a new partner.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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Dating 2.0

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