Authors note:  This post is Part One of several in a series.  You can read the Introduction here.

Take Two—The heart speaks

There is considerable research on living together before marriage (cohabiting) and it doesn’t get great reviews as a means to creating successful long-term love. The drawbacks for sex outside of commitment, and living together before marriage, are very similar. Problems are created any time a couple slides into a relationship rather than consciously choosing it. Among them, one of the couple is nearly always more invested than the other. That other then is constantly needing love’s reassurance.

I’ve seen women lose their power in a relationship by moving in and having sex with a man who is not at the same level of commitment. While he tries to decide if she is ‘the one’ and her life is on hold waiting for him to figure it out. She may feel torn if her biological clock is ticking.  The one who is the least committed/loves the least, has the emotional power in the relationship. I’ve coached a number of women who want more than anything to be cherished by their guy but instead end up feeling little more than tolerated. He has little motivation to step it up and figure out what he wants if they are already in a sexual relationship.  Men can have their own version of this of course, but by and large it is women who are left waiting in the unknown zone.

Sexual Release of Oxytocin, the Bonding Hormone

Women are affected by this more than men. A sexual relationship may cause a woman to feel domestic, wanting financial security, exclusivity, and significant time together, which can put a lot of pressure on the man who just wants someone to hang out with and have sex with as is convenient.  Two opposing relationship views and needs. These things are eliminated when there is mutual commitment to the relationship.

I recently counseled a man who was confused by the women he was dating. He had been very honest with each of them, letting them know he was seeing several other women and that he was sexually active with all of them. Every woman told him that they were fine with that. That was until sex came into the picture. Then they got clingy, jealous, possessive and hurt. He was completely perplexed.

Heart Wins Over Head Every Time

After sex centered the relationship, the conversation shifted from being merely intellectual to a heart/soul/biology conversation and it wasn’t ok any more. In other words it was ok with the head but it wasn’t ok with the heart. All the body parts have to agree when it comes to sex. Another need to balance sexual values.

Sex is Different For Women

I’m told that modern, sexually enlightened women (mostly young women) are ok with casual sex and don’t care about marriage or commitment. That may be, I’m not them, but what I know is that it takes more than a one night stand to create the space for the deepest, most gratifying sexual experience – for men and women alike – which I believe is what we are all ultimately after. Sex is different for women. I just don’t buy it when I hear women say they can walk away from a sexual encounter with the same detachment as men can. If a woman thinks she can do this I believe she is in some way out of touch with her own soul. She may not be consciously aware of the impact of that sexual encounter, but it will impact her nonetheless.

Sex is designed to bond the two.

I believe that a portion of our energetic blueprint is left behind with every person with whom we have a sexual experience. If the ultimate goal is a future long-term partnership, it makes sense that we would want to keep all of our parts home in order to bring them fully into a future relationship, not part ourselves out among many.

And since we’re talking about the heart it is worth noting that if your relationship ends, whether you end it or the other person does, that chemical bond makes the breakup oh so much harder.  Even if you discover that other person is a complete jerk, or even dangerous, the chemical bond makes it that much harder to say goodbye.  Hormones/chemicals are powerful.  Many people will return again and again to a relationship they know isn’t good for them until they finally get the momentum to make the break.

Having sex also makes it harder to make good relationship choices

“Sure he yells at me, but the sex is good.”  “I know she wants my money more than me, but heck, if that gets me sex…”  Neither of those are useful approaches to life-partnering. It’s called settling. But the chemical bond makes it easier to stay in an unsuitable relationship rather than cut ties and start over. Better to stay at a less intimate level with your dates until you are sure, yes, doubly sure, that the person you are choosing to have sex with is going to be around for a while, i.e. that you have both agreed to mutual commitment – in both words and actions.

Next post:  View Three.  Delaying gratification.  An important relationship skill.