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Can Love and Sex be Separate?

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By Stas Bekman.

Published: July 10 2006

Can Love and Sex be Separate?

Over at sexuality forum (http://forums.about.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?nav=messages&tsn=1&tid=2574&webtag=ab-sexuality) someone asked:

Can you be in love with one person, and still have sex with another, and still love that other person fully?

The following answer seems to be the wisest, since it let's you answer your own question:

I think that there is no single answer. It depends on what your personal definition of "love" is, and what the personal definitions of "love" are to those involved. For one person, it may be a "Yes" answer, while another may say "True love is total devotion to one person."

That is you have to figure your own definition of love first, then ask the same question your partner and give them time to figure their definition and finally discuss a definition that applies to both of you as a couple.

Whatever the outcome is, it'd be wise to revisit this question every so often to verify that both sides still feel the same way about it.

Some suggested that while sex is possible without love, love is not possible without a healthy sexual relationship:

There has been much discussion of the dichotomy between love and sex. I agree that the two are wildly different things and hold that while love requires a healthy, happy sexual relationship, sex does not require love. I feel that love is too emotional and too intense to be sharable. In this it is very different from sex, which is sharable among several partners and limited only by opportunity and mutual attraction.

Whereas others said that sex is not a requirement for love.


If you decided to give that idea a try, you need to be aware of certain risks. The two main concerns raised in that thread were STDs and Just-Sex-turning-into-Love.

STDs (Sexually Transmitted Deceases). This one is very risky nowadays. People hardly ever ask new sex partners whether they carry an STD. Therefore there is a big risk of infecting your loved one. It's possible that you'll have to ask your sex partner to go to a clinic and do a checkup, however there is a chicken and an egg problem here - chances are very low that you will be able to find a sexual partner that will be willing to discuss this issue, before you have even tried to have sex...

The other less riskier to your health concern is having "This is just Sex" turning into "Love". Many claim that sex with others is just a game, however there is a big risk of developing a much stronger relationship beyond sexual one. And while having a strong feeling of love to your partner is often said to be un-shakeable, when things go wrong (and they do every so often), it's too easy to decide to pursue your happiness with your sex partner rather than trying to resolve the momentary problem with your partner.

Why Seeking the Extra?

Some people answer a question with another question:

Why do you seek outside lovers? Do they offer some type of sexual satisfaction your wife can't provide? Is it just the variety of women that you want to experience?

and the answer was:

I think most men who seek sex outside of their marriages do so for the variety. While some might go in for the needed satisfaction arising from partners' lack of interest, low libido or refusal to try or continue with a given practice, I'm not so sure that this is the reason for most extramaritals.

Women also seek similar pleasures and while there were no comments on that side of the story, it's quite certain that these motives apply to women as well.

Is it Possible to Love More than One Person?

Certain people think that it's impossible to love more than one person:

Whether you can love more than one person depends on the definition of love. To some, love is a unique thing which is only shared by one very special person. It is inextricably related to the things you have shared together and is not something that can sprout elsewhere with another, easily. My personal feeling is that loving two or more people simultaneously wouldn't be possible. I do not refer to love such as that for a family member as opposed to an amour.

Personally I think it's possible to love more than one person. This is because you can't quantify and measure feelings. It's just that there are people whom you love more and there are those whom you love less.

Opinions of Those with an Official Lover

Several readers who have have shared their story have both a life partner and a sex partner, here are some of their stories:

Love and sex can most definitely be separated, tho not easily. It is my opinion that love between a man and woman ( such as in marriage or a l-t relationship) cannot really be unless it is part and parcel of a good sexual partnership. That said, there is the question of sex with others while not loving them
I love my wife beyond the power of words to describe yet I see nothing wrong in sexual dalliances with other women. They are sex partners . Period. None could ever challenge my wife. Certainly none could ever replace her. We enjoy a fantastic sexual relationship and have throughout our 35 yrs of marriage. That , however, is beside the point. Sex is not a twinned component of love. In marriage ,it is vitally important as an indicator of it, as a means of reinforcing the pleasure of being with someone, as a method of demonstrating closeness and so much more. Outside that, sex is a means of enjoyment. It is not - nor should it be - a deathless commitment.
When we married, we agreed that sexual fidelity was unimportant. That did not mean that we devalued our marriage. I cannot imagine life without her. I like to believe that she feels likewise. We have so much because we have each other, but that does not exclude sex with others. What we have is OUR bond. It is not breakable and it is of a power beyond us both. Mere sex with someone else cannot replace that or substitute for it, even for a while.

I married my wife 11 years ago and still kept another physical relationship for most of that time - with my wife's consent.
Under normal circumstances, I tend to become emotionally attached to the people I sleep with. My long term "other" routinely reminded me - sometimes bluntly early on - it was just for sex and companionship after work, and persistently kept her distance emotionally, so we never fell in love. We were just very good friends that had sex, cooked each other meals, slept over, but didn't go shopping or take vacation together. We talked about each others family and asked for advice like friends would do. She and my wife met on two different occasions - my wife wasn't comfortable with that, but they exchanged XMAS presents ovr the years. She dated other men intermittently and took vacation with her girl friends that usually involved hooking up with other men. We had great sex, but kissing during sex wasn't much more than being polite. We didn't kiss outside of sex. We bought a second separate bed, so that when I did sleep over at her place, it was in the same room, but a different bed.

And one person has contributed a very interesting view:

Love and sex! Can they be separate?

Yes, and I see you mean this in the context of a long term relationship with the 'benefits' of satellites.

Can you be in love with one person, and still have sex with another, and still love that other person fully?

Yes you can.

I think some caveats/cautions are called for...

I think it helps if the 'satellites' are not also going to be long term relationships, because love can be a fickle thing when a crisis strikes in the primary relationship. A death, disability, severe illness, or major stress (jobs, fighting, whatever) -- these things can push a person to spend more time with the satellite and it can mean the end of the primary relationship. If children are involved, there's so much more, so it goes without saying.

Love can be strong and deep for the primary relationship but sometimes there is no comfort there during a crisis. Confusion and hurt can be disastrous.

Many of us are programmed to be nurturing. As much fun and as casual as a role playing or casual relationship "with benefits" can be, it is possible for emotions to grow, or to grow confused. Especially when there are problems at home.

From another perspective... Longing. Using the term "fetish" loosely here, meaning almost anything sexual that the long term main partner really doesn't 'get' or get into. When there is not the level of rapture, maybe one senses simple tolerance (merely going through the motions) for some aspect of sex -- a great feeling of void can develop. When a man or woman has previously had the experience of a very responsive, uninhibited partner who relishes the same things s/he does, or if one who has longed for it, becomes driven to experience it and samples the goods and is overwhelm with this fulfilment -- Then the home port may never seem to be as 'complete' as it seemed to be.

On the other hand, sometimes sampling the forbidden fruit gives strength, and one is able to carry that magic back to the primary relationship and make it as strong as a fortress.

We are all different, as are our our circumstances.

There really is so much to consider.

I've had friends who have been so very pleased with their poly relationships, but over time, the relationships have failed because the partners ended up having different interpretations of their responsibilities to the primary relationship.

All relationships can be fragile when expectations, desires and reality do not mesh.

So I think that sometimes it is complicated to separate sex and love because of the above dynamics of relationships. People assume it can be done - and it can, but we don't always figure in that the unexpected can happen when we also have a LT relationship to consider. :(

I think people have been asking the same question forever and I think the answers will be a little different for everyone. It's a good thing to be careful and determine which rules are going to be kept, and which ones can bend a little.

You can read the original thread here (http://forums.about.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?nav=messages&tsn=1&tid=2574&webtag=ab-sexuality).

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