Who the hell did I fall in love with?

It doesn’t seem to take too long before relationships become intense. The sexual power can be blinding and everything the person says or does is of interest to us. This usually means that people find themselves in a relationship before they know much about the person they are “in love” with.

Personality is complex and highly dependent on situations that draw out traits: A generous loving person can become a petty condescending ass during divorce mediation, a highly functional person can fall apart when facing a health crisis, a relatively isolated person can come to your aid when in trouble. The fact is we can’t really know someone – indeed we can barely know ourselves – until we have seen him or her in many different situations. Plus, in a fresh relationship, none of the person’s irritating little habits and quirks have had enough time to grate on our nerves. To know someone well takes time, but most of us are in committed relationships within weeks of a first encounter (sometimes even within days), well before we have had a chance to see these traits emerge.

There isn’t much we can do about this. We can’t exactly wait years before we decide how we feel. Our feelings will be there whether we want them to be or not. That’s human nature. We have little choice but to get on the road of a new relationship and see where it leads. Trying too hard to read into the future will do nothing but sour the relationship. People who are too cautious will overreact to every little question that arises. This only creates tension and feeds doubt.

I think the best attitude to adopt is one of cautious optimism. All relationships represent a potential. Good first encounters can become good short-term relationships. Good short-term ones have the potential to become solid medium-term ones, and so on until death do us part – potentially! By being optimistic we give a relationship the best chance of working. And a little caution (i.e., seeing things as potential as opposed to a sure thing) will help temper any possible disappointment.

With Valentine’s Day tomorrow, I decided to write about the interplay between sexual and/or emotional attraction in my Métro column this week. Whether sex comes first and love later, or love comes before sex, the two always work best when they meet at the same point on the road.

Love and lust
(Source: L’amour et le désir. Journal Métro; February 11, 2014) Voir plus bas pour la version Française.

First comes love then comes sex…or is it the other way around?

There are two important aspects to a relationship – an emotional one and a physical one. When they mesh well together the results can be magical. Love is strengthened when the physical relationship is good, and sex is always better with someone you love. Unfortunately we often find ourselves in a relationship with someone before we can evaluate both aspects.

Sex first, love later
Traditionally we like to believe we fall in love first and then consummate the relationship with a sexual bond. This may have been mostly true sixty years ago but it isn’t so much the case today with our more permissive sexual norms. Most modern relationships quickly move into the physical phase. And with it of course come plenty of fireworks. The mere touch of someone’s hand will send electricity coursing through your veins. There is very little to compare to the power and chemistry of a new romance. Even people in their 70’s will say, “I feel like a teenager again!”

Fireworks may be beautiful but they are also blinding. Many people end up falling in love with someone without really knowing whom they fell in love with! It takes months or years to really get to know someone well and to discover their personalities once novelty fades and inhibitions drop. In a new relationship people laugh at our jokes and want to hear our stories but how will they react once they’ve heard them all? Every new situation reveals a previously unseen aspect of a person’s personality. Things like trustworthiness, generosity and loyalty all require time to properly assess.

Love first, sex later
Of course there are still plenty of people who fall in love first and then start having sex. This is especially common when we meet someone through work or school and have had time to get to know him or her well. When love is there, the sex that follows can be very intense. In a small percentage of cases though, we may discover that despite a strong emotional bond the sexual connection just isn’t there. A sexual incompatibility can sometimes cripple a relationship that started out strong.

Love and lust
Such is the nature of falling in love and falling in lust. Emotional and physical attachments dance together in relationships but one of them usually develops before we can get a sense of the other. When they step awkwardly on each other’s toes the relationship can fizzle. When they work well together the dance can be a thing of beauty.

Whether you’ve found that dance partner or are still looking for him or her, I wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day.


Voici la version Française:

L’amour et le désir

Il y a d’abord l’amour, puis la sexualité suit… ou est-ce le contraire?

Une relation comporte deux aspects importants : l’un, émotif, et l’autre, physique. Lorsqu’ils se marient bien, le résultat peut être magique. L’amour se trouve renforcé par une relation physique harmonieuse, et les rapports sexuels sont toujours meilleurs avec quelqu’un qu’on aime. Malheureusement, nous nous trouvons souvent au cœur d’une relation avant d’avoir pu en évaluer les deux aspects.

La sexualité d’abord, l’amour ensuite
Nous aimons croire que nous commençons par tomber amoureux, puis que nous scellons cette relation par un rapport sexuel. Cela pouvait être vrai il y a 60 ans, mais ce n’est plus tellement le cas aujourd’hui, étant donné la permissivité accrue sur le plan sexuel. De nos jours, la plupart des relations passent rapidement à l’étape physique qui s’accompagne, évidemment, de feux d’artifice. Le simple contact de la main de l’autre fait circuler de l’électricité dans nos veines. Peu de choses se comparent à la puissance et à la chimie d’une nouvelle histoire d’amour. Même les septuagénaires diront : « Je me sens comme un(e) adolescent(e). »

Les feux d’artifice sont magnifiques, mais ils aveuglent aussi. Bien des gens tombent amoureux de quelqu’un sans le connaître vraiment. Il faut des mois, voire des années, pour bien connaître quelqu’un et découvrir sa personnalité, une fois que l’attrait de la nouveauté s’est dissipé et que les inhibitions tombent. Dans une nouvelle relation, notre partenaire rit de nos blagues et veut entendre nos anecdotes, mais comment réagira-t-il, une fois qu’il les aura toutes entendues? Toute nouvelle situation révèle un aspect jusque-là inconnu de sa personnalité. Il faut du temps pour bien évaluer des traits comme la fiabilité, la générosité et la fidélité.

L’amour d’abord, la sexualité ensuite
Bien sûr, encore aujourd’hui, beaucoup de gens tombent amoureux avant d’avoir des relations sexuelles. C’est particulièrement vrai lorsque nous rencontrons quelqu’un dans le cadre de notre travail ou de nos études et que nous avons eu du temps pour bien le connaître. Lorsque l’amour est présent, les relations sexuelles qui suivent peuvent être très intenses. Mais, dans une petite proportion des cas, on peut découvrir qu’en dépit d’un solide lien affectif, le lien sexuel ne s’établit pas. L’incompatibilité sexuelle peut parfois miner une relation qui avait démarré sur des bases solides.

L’amour et la passion
Telle est la nature des relations amoureuses et des relations passionnelles. Dans une relation, les liens affectifs et physiques entament une valse ensemble, mais l’un d’eux se développe parfois avant que nous ayons pu goûter à l’autre. Lorsqu’ils se marchent sur les pieds, la relation peut s’éteindre. Lorsqu’ils évoluent en cadence, la danse peut être d’une grande beauté.

Que vous ayez trouvé ce partenaire ou que vous soyez encore à sa recherche, je vous souhaite à tous, une bonne Saint-Valentin!  

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Posted in Relationships.

Posted on 13 Feb 2014

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One comment to Who the hell did I fall in love with?

    On Mar 16th 2016 at 18:55

    Can we fall in love without sex?