The differences between love, sex and friendship

I had such a great time when I met the Great Scot for a drink, just as friends.

The night had everything

  • tons of sexual chemistry
  • so much fun, laughter and joking
  • sharing music, TV and film recommendations, feeling like we had loads in common
  • intimate, deep, personal chat about difficult experiences we’d each had
  • intellectual chat about things like gender differences in brains, alternative ways of setting up a democracy

The way the night had everything made me think he has everything.

I had stopped dating him because he was self-absorbed, he wasn’t there for me when I needed him and he was being so bloody depressing.

However, he was none of those things that night. He seemed absolutely riveted by even the most boring things I said, and I was touched he had remembered minor things I said months ago. It was the opposite of self-absorbed – I felt like he was absorbed by me.  And this wasn’t new – he was like this at the start. And he was so fun, even when we were talking about depression.

Now he had been downgraded to a friend, he had been elevated to Forbidden Fruit Status. I knew lots of reasons he wouldn’t be a great boyfriend (at least until he sorted himself out), but now we weren’t dating, those things had stopped being relevant, so I was looking at him with rose-tinted glasses.

Over the next few days, I just could not stop thinking about him. I was buzzing, remembering funny things we’d said, and how great the sex was, back when we were dating.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the way he rubbed his knee against mine, under the table, and the way I felt in the lift, when we smiled at each other, and the way he sat with his arm over my side of the table.

I texted him the next day, saying I was completely obsessed with one of the songs he put on my Spotify (a rap about the Scottish Independence Referendum, called “Marriage Counselling’. It’s an absolute masterpiece).

He didn’t reply until the following evening, saying “Hey Dater Analysis, sorry I had a bad day yesterday. Just wanted to say I had a nice night and I’m glad we can stay friends.”

Since then, it feels like he’s really pulled away. He has only texted me when I’ve texted first, and he has turned down everything I’ve invited him to, without suggesting alternatives.

  • I said I was going for a walk in the countryside, and invited him to come with me, as he misses the countryside since he came to London. He said no as he was too anxious and hadn’t slept
  • I asked if he wanted to help me decorate my new flat or at least meet up afterwards, but he said he was too tired and hungover (to be fair, that was a last minute thing).

He did reply quite quickly with something funny or thoughtful each time I texted, but it really seemed he would never have texted if I hadn’t initiated it.

For some reason, I also looked at his OkCupid profile. I think I just wanted to see his face.

When we were dating, he stopped logging into OkCupid really early on. I think even when I was waiting on our second date, I looked and saw he hadn’t logged in for a few days, then he never seemed to log back in. He told me he doesn’t date several people at once, and I assumed he got too busy with work as well.

But this time, I saw he had updated his profile, added some new photos, and was even online there and then. I felt a bit sad, and annoyed, as he really doesn’t seem capable of a relationship at the moment. However, he’s perfectly entitled to do that.

After the last text I sent him, where he turned down another suggestion that we meet up, I felt embarrassed. Initially, I didn’t mind putting myself out there and making more effort, because it was me who said we should just be friends. However, there’s only so much you can do without making a massive tit of yourself.

After the last time, I said “OK cool, but please let me know when you want to hang out again. I miss seeing you.”

Then I deleted his number from my phone, so I wouldn’t be tempted to make a tit of myself further.

It might be that he’s not in touch because he has better things to do, or isn’t that interested in talking to me, but my gut instinct is that it’s the opposite.

I think he could be backing off because he enjoyed that night just as much as I did.

I think, whereas it made me feel hopeful and made me think maybe it could work after all! I can imagine him feeling down because we had such a good time.

After he rescheduled our 7th date for the 4th time, I had said “I need to think about this” as I was pissed off. He said “OK, but I’d be really upset if work came in between me and something good yet again” or something like that. I can imagine him thinking this was yet another thing he had failed at or that work had got in the way of.

He gave me the impression he didn’t mind at all when I said we should just be friends. His reaction just seemed keen and really sorry.

But maybe he minded more than he let on. I added him on Facebook after we agreed to be friends. When we met up, he was trying to send me a link to something, and Facebook came up.

“Oh yeah! You haven’t accepted my friend request!” I said.

“Sorry – I think I felt like being childish.” Then he accepted it there and then.

When we were dating, it never seemed like the problem was him not liking me enough. It seemed like it was his depression and anxiety taking over.

It could be that his feelings for me have gone, so he can’t be bothered to keep in touch, but that night, he still touched me unnecessarily and told me even more personal things than previous nights. It could be that he can’t be bothered to meet up if sex is off the table, but when we were dating, he was the one who seemed keen to meet up, even if he didn’t want sex.

As it hurts less, I’m choosing to believe he has backed off because he does like me.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with the Chilean, on our third and final date. I can’t remember why this came up, but we talked about friendships between men and women.

He had a theory that men find it easier to separate sex from love, but harder to separate friendship from love.

Obviously, it goes without saying that these are generalisations – observations about general trends rather than hard and fast rules. If it’s true, there will be thousands of men and women it doesn’t apply to. And I think these do fit with me, but I can also think of relationships I’ve had that don’t fit.

However, overall, we discussed how men seem to find it easier than women do, to separate sex and love. Lots of women are fine with this too, and I’m sure lots of men find it difficult, but as an overall pattern, men seem to find it easier to have sex without developing feelings for the person.

I’m terrible – every time I’ve tried to be really cool and laid back and French, and have no-strings sex with someone, the minute I’ve had an orgasm with someone else in the room, I start falling in love with them.

And it seems like in a couple, if you’re not getting on for a while, the man might be able to put that on hold and still fancy some sex, whereas the woman may not want sex until the argument is resolved.

The Chilean said he thought it was because of the logistics of sex – the fact it happens externally for men and internally for women. It seems natural it would feel more intimate and could be harder to detach for women.

There could also be an evolutionary benefit to men and women having different responses to sex – maybe the caveman who could hop off one women and onto the next got to pass on more genes, whereas the cavewoman who got attached, might’ve got help from the caveman with hunting and gathering while she was pregnant or stuck in the cave breastfeeding or whatever.

Also, both genders release oxytocin, a hormone related to social bonding, when they have orgasms, but there are some gender differences in the effects of the hormone.

And even if there are no biological differences at all, everything from advertising to music, from the Beatles to Dr Dre, and stories – from fairytales to classic novels to rom-coms to gross-out films to porn – society gives men and women different ideas about how they should feel about sex and love, how many people they should have slept with, and what they should be looking for.

All of this I had already thought about, but the Chilean had a really interesting idea about men having similar trouble with separating love from friendship, when they have female friends.

We talked about how women find it quite easy to have male friends and never to confuse that with a romantic relationship, but he thought that guys find it harder not to fall in love with their close female friends.

I think this makes perfect sense. I have read research about gender differences, saying that society tells women to be motivated by establishing and maintaining relationships with a wide range of people, whereas it tells men to be motivated by autonomy and independence.

Although there will obviously be huge variation in this, it seems like men and women have quite different relationships with their friends of the same sex.

Many times, I’ve been both sympathetic and frustrated with male friends, at their inability to say how much they love each other.

In my final year at university, I lived in a house of three girls and six guys. We all went out for dinner for one of the boy’s birthdays. It was an emotional time, as it was right before we would all be leaving and going out separate ways, because we’d finished our degrees.

Unfortunately, I was already quite drunk when I turned up for this dinner, at quite a nice restaurant. I’d been at a barbecue that afternoon.

When the birthday boy was in the toilet, a card was passed to me to sign, which all the other housemates had already written in. I was looking at what everyone else had written, and saw his best male friend had written some kind of gay joke like “I hope you let me bum you later” or something sophisticated and witty like that.

I launched into a tirade about how pathetic it was that he couldn’t just write “hope you have a lovely birthday mate, I’m so glad we’re friends”.

I said “it’s like if I wrote ‘ME AND MICHELLE ARE LESBIANS!! WE LICK EACH OTHER OUT!!”

Unfortunately, I got a bit carried away and my voice got quite loud, and the whole restaurant fell silent.

I still think that though – one of my favourite things about being female is the relationships I have with my female friends. I love that I can say “I’m so glad we’re friends, you’re great, I love you” without having to use the medium of homophobic jokes.

I’ve been to loads of weddings where the groom said in his speech that he has just married his best friend, and I think he really meant it, whereas the bride probably thought sure, but the bridesmaids are also my best friends. 

I’ve had boyfriends who have told me very personal things that they have never told another living soul. When I’ve reciprocated, my equivalent are things I’ve only told my very closest 25 female friends.

I am moving house at the moment and I found a letter that my first proper boyfriend wrote me, saying “this is the closest I’ve ever been to anyone.” I know I loved him the same amount, at the time he wrote that, but it wasn’t the closest I’d ever been to anyone.

I know there are male friends who do talk to each other in depth about their emotions, and I know there are male friends I’ve had who I did kind of love, but overall, I think the Chilean has a point.

I think one of the reasons the suicide rate is higher for men than women, is that society tells men they shouldn’t talk about their emotions and intimate details of their lives in the way that women do.

On average, men who are married have better mental health than single men, but there’s no difference for married and single women. Men and women with sisters have better mental health than those without sisters, but there’s no difference for people with and without brothers. I think it’s all because having a women that they’re close to means a lot to men.

I also remember reading about how women are more likely to arrange to meet up for the sole purpose of seeing each other, and tasks like reading the menu and ordering food are seen as an obstacle to get out of the way, whereas men are more likely to meet up to do something specific, like play five-a-side football or watch a game, and even if they meet in the pub, they’re more likely to play pool or darts, with social interaction seen as a byproduct.

So, I think this means when single men have female friends, and they form a close, intimate relationship, it can mean different things to each of them. The woman might have this same kind of intimate friendship with several other people in her life, whereas it might feel more intimate to the man, who maybe can’t talk to anyone else about certain things.

Maybe, in a weird way, sharing your emotions, when society suggests you shouldn’t, feels as intimate and vulnerable it does to have a penis shoved inside you.

So, maybe if the Great Scot is already feeling vulnerable, because things are difficult in his life at the moment, having a close, intimate relationship with someone he used to fancy feels too difficult.

Either that, or I just dug out a lot of Psychology, Biology and Sociology to make myself feel better about the fact he hasn’t texted me back.

12 thoughts on “The differences between love, sex and friendship

  1. Clever ending Dater. I think you’re probably right but you may never know. I totally agree with your comments on men and cultural messages about intimacy in general. I read a lot on this subject and I also worry a lot, being the mother of sons. I hope you hear from the Scot soon and that he does accept that having a friend like you would be a treasure too good to lose.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You write the most insightful, interesting posts of anybody I follow. I’m sat here, trying to get my head around it all, kind of wide-eyed that this post poured out of your brain. I wish I could write like this 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Love love this. I think it is so true. Men just do think differently than we do and some have such a hard time being friends with a woman that they find attractive, even if they know it isn’t right.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Pingback: The differences between love, sex and friendship — Dater Analysis – SHOWERS OF BLESSINGS COVENANT HOUSE

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