Any long-standing Nexus reader may well be familiar with Sex in the Tron, a little column I started in favour of creating some kind of amateur, malleable guidebook towards sex and dating in the age of young adulthood. I’ve reached a time now where, begrudgingly, writing a thesis takes precedence over all else, and have arrived at my final column. I will happily, gracefully pass the baton on to anyone eager enough to continue the crusade. Since this entire column is already a parody, let me rip off a famous female writer one last time and summarise, à la Dolly Alderton, everything I know about love. At least, what I know so far.
We all worry over the same insecurities. Whether you’re stressed about mechanical malfunctioning, an underwhelming penis, boobs that are too small, a weird vagina, fear over your sexual interests, anxiety about sex in general, body image concerns, a tendency to finish too quickly or not finish at all, I need to emphasize that virtually all of your peers share those same fears and imperfections. You are loved and wanted regardless.
Loneliness is innate and a certain person or certain relationship will not solve everything. We tend to think that once we have a relationship, all our woes will be replaced with fulfilment, and life will automatically be fixed. That logic fails to consider that it is completely within the normal human nature to feel alone at times in that vast mind we possess (and that’s okay), just as it is within the human experience to feel like we’re seeking, lacking, or missing “something” that will fulfil us, and yet that “something” always remains just out of reach.
People do shitty things. It’s not personal. Others do shitty things, we do shitty things. For starters, this is entirely a reflection of the person doing the maltreating, and not a reflection of your value as a person. Secondly, this is subjective to our own experience. You may be extremely hurt by someone this year, without even paying a thought to how you completely broke the heart of someone last year. We all think everything has to do with ourselves, but really, everyone’s facing their own struggles. You can retain your self-respect and walk away from a shitty situation without questioning your worth.
Heartbreak is downright essential for strength and ‘character development’. There is no arguing with the fact that heartbreak sucks. The healing process can be even more painful. It is, nonetheless, important. That healing requires isolation. Repressed, broken people still trying to date are only plastering over the pain, and in the long-term would do much better for the sake of themselves and for others to properly grieve and regroup, solo.
Sex is not the most important thing. A relationship cannot be built purely on enjoyable sex. It’s a tool for pleasure and an important facet of connection with another person, but it is not the sole basis for love. Love can exist without sex. But sex can also exist without love.
Btw, don’t glorify people who are arseholes. The person you like because they’re the hottest rugby player may not be the one that treats their partner the nicest. Notice the type of people you choose and the behaviour you tolerate. Respect your own boundaries, standards, and realise that it’s pointless to beg for the attention of people who simply don’t want to give it.
Self-awareness is downright necessary. If we can’t evaluate our own behaviour and be accountable for our own mistakes, how can we expect a partner to do the same? Without reflection, we can easily keep making bad decisions, or continue to let our fears of rejection or judgement hold back our true feelings. We have to be willing to accept and work continually on our own faults if we can ever hope to grow.
Do not sell your individual freedom nor expect someone to sell theirs. When we love someone, it’s easy to give too much of ourselves away. We minimise time spent with friends, on our hobbies, or valuable time alone. We mesh with them, eager to please, and become watered-down versions of our partners and a ghost of our former selves. Really, there is no need to rush. Slow down. Give them time and space, just as you deserve your own.
The only person you can truly control is yourself. We can only meet someone where they are, rather than holding on to something in the hope of who they might be, or how we could possibly mould them into that person. That is just twisting someone to reflect an image of your own desires. Just as you want the freedom to express yourself as you are, they too need that privilege. We aren’t in a relationship to be anybody’s parent, trainer, or teacher. And the only way we can help others understand our boundaries and expectations in a relationship is through communication. Do not expect others to read your mind.
Be open to learning. You were not born knowing how to behave, communicate and react perfectly, so be willing to work on it. As for intimacy? There’s a difference between sex and good sex. The key to making it good is evident enthusiasm, asking questions, learning what you like in your own body, being willing to explore, put in mutual effort, and learn from one another.
A good relationship has to be built, and rebuilt – constantly. Love isn’t like what we see in movies, TV shows, books, or even porn. What is important is finding a person with good, shared values, who treats you with respect; we’re seeking a great foundation for building on, not expecting to stumble on some magical, perfectly built castle. No one was ‘made for you’ in a perfect package with every feature you ever fantasised about. Even if you stick to thinking you’ve found your ‘soulmate’, every relationship comes in swings and roundabouts. Just like you may experience dry spells or monsoons in your single life, there are super great times and extremely tough times in a relationship. Regular maintenance keeps the building strong.
Is love a feeling or a choice? A choice. Feelings change, spike, trough, and fade. If you stick with the belief that it’s this ‘spark’ and this powerful chemical rush of lust is equal to love, your relationships cannot last. No euphoric high lasts forever. It’s a conscious, often difficult, choice to commit to somebody. So love is a lifelong choice, not merely a feeling.
Last, but not least: The most important relationship is, and always will be, the one you have with loving yourself. You are your own home. Treat yourself nicely. Work on this relationship the most often, and keep it regularly fed with love and compassion. You will be there for you through everything that comes in life. Before all else, treat yourself with love.