When you were little, did you learn that sex is something adults do when they’re in love?
It’s a common response kids get when they ask an adult about sex. As you probably know by now, it’s not entirely true. You don’t have to be in love to have sex and you don’t have to have sex just because you’re in love. But the partial truth is only part of the problem. This response also doesn’t teach you anything about sex or love. It’s really more of a fear-based reaction that shuts down the conversation. Unfortunately, that’s damaging.
When you’re a kid, you ask about sex because you’re ready to learn the truth. You want to know how this stuff works. But what happens when fear takes the wheel and steers the conversation? The adult’s fear turns into the kid’s shame; often without anyone noticing a thing.
As a result, your curiosity goes into hiding…sometimes for a long time. Now you feel weird talking about sex too. The truth is, shame does more harm than good. Left unchecked, it can turn into a monster that ruins your self-esteem, your relationships and your life. If you want to feel confident, have healthy relationships and be a good lover, that shame needs to go away. The easiest way to do that is to understand the truth.
Here are five facts about love that will help you get started:
1. Love is a noun and a verb.
Love is a feeling and a decision. It’s an emotion that you put into action. The emotional part is kind of a mystery…you either vibe with someone or you don’t. But just because you vibe with someone doesn’t always mean you're “in love”.
What most of us call “falling in love” is really just science. It’s an intoxicating mix of lust, attraction and attachment that can make you feel like you’re losing control.
Love isn’t an accident; it’s intentional. Recognizing love for what it is keeps you in your power:
You don’t need to be “in love” to feel love.
You don’t need to be “in love” to be a good lover.
A good lover is loving…no matter what.
Loving is a life-long practice. It’s what helps you get good at relationships…sexual, platonic, casual, committed, friend, family, etc. Love is a wonderful feeling, but loving is what life’s all about.
2. Love is a feeling of respect. Loving is acting respectful.
Loving is a balance of respect for yourself and others. Boundaries and consent are the key. Feelings of love don’t undo the need for boundaries and the words “I love you” don’t cancel out the need for consent.
Every type of relationship requires permission to a certain degree, but it’s especially important when you start getting physical. Sexual relationships are an extra vulnerable place to be. Respect isn’t about getting what you want, it’s about honoring what everybody needs.
It’s putting in the effort to give and receive with an open mind and an open heart. The goal of respect is to leave everyone and everything better than you found them.
3. Love is caring. Loving is being careful.
Being careful is like putting respect into action. When you’re fighting for control, loving is impossible. Abuse and neglect aren’t loving and good lovers don't abuse their power. Everything you say and do matters; to yourself and everyone else. Being careful with your words and your actions show how much you care. It helps prevent little hurts from adding up to big consequences.
4. Love is the truth. Loving is being truthful.
Deception, manipulation and lies are irresponsible and not loving. You may get what you want that way, but there will always be something lacking. A healthy, loving relationship with yourself or anyone else requires the truth. But being honest is more than just saying “yes” to what you want and “no” to what you don’t. Recognizing the truth and being truthful can be tricky.
Sometimes the truth is obvious and sometimes it’s not. There are times when the truth needs to be softened and times when it needs to be blunt. Honesty is an art. The more you practice, the easier it becomes.
5. Love is an open heart. Loving takes courage.
The universal symbol for love is a heart and that’s no accident. Loving takes courage and courage comes from your heart. It's an act of bravery to give and receive love.
Courage is the finding the will to do what’s right…even if you’re confused, scared or no one’s looking. We’re all warriors of love and it’s important to fight the right battle. Power struggles and battles for control won’t get you anywhere worth going.
No matter what kind of relationship you’re in, loving is how you win. Keep it up even if you lose. And if you have a kid in your life, be courageous and tell them the truth: sex is an intimate activity people do together. They don’t have to be in love but trust, honesty, respect and care are essential.