When we date, many of us find ourselves doing bizarre things to win over the love of our Significant Other. Fairy tales and rom-coms show the ridiculous extremes that women will go just to experience “love.”
My husband and I sometimes reminisce about the things I used to do for him that I would in no way desire to do now. I did them only because I honestly thought they would make him desire me more as a potential wife. I would pretend to like movies that I hated, eat foods that I really didn’t like, and wear makeup. I was on a mission to win him over and be the girl of his dreams so he would fully love me. That meant doing bizarre things to receive his love in return.
I’m a sex therapist, so I see this play out with many clients in a more serious way. I work with women who get caught in a very similar cycle, but the behaviors I described are with sex. Sex, for some, becomes a transaction for love.
Their unspoken hope is that if they can be sexy, act in a certain porn-like way, and provide great, satisfying sex, then maybe, maybe, that person will show them love in return. Unfortunately, the second part rarely happens. These women are left with a something we call false intimacy. Sometimes this cycle occurs with the same guy over and over again, and sometimes it’s a series of random hook-ups searching for love. But there’s a problem.
Even if you could blow a guy’s mind and be everything he’s ever dreamed from something he saw in porn one time (which you can’t), here’s why it doesn’t work.
It doesn’t work at the moment because, by nature, it’s temporary (and most of what porn portrays isn’t real). It often just feeds into the “conquer women, sex is for me, I wonder what someone else looks like/can do” messages that subtly invade cultural perceptions of sex.
It doesn’t bond him to you like you hope. It creates a shallow foundation that’s bound to crumble—even with a good guy who’s trying his best not to be that guy.
Not to mention, acting this way definitely doesn’t work long-term, because we get older. Our bodies don’t look or function the same way forever. If we’ve invested our worth in our ability to charm and seduce, we’re already on borrowed time with a rough wake up ahead.
But the real problem is: exchanging sex in hopes of love completely distorts our identity.
You are so much more than legs, boobs, and sex tricks. You are worth far more than being your biggest crush’s fantasy.
Every time we fall into prioritizing our ability to seduce or win a guy, our psyche, our heart, and our head get messed up. We waste time, emotions, money, and more on something that never, ever satisfies.
We’ve bought into a lie. It’s time to call it out.
Quit settling for something that doesn’t work. Quit cheapening your value for a temporary high that’s bound to disappoint. Quit perpetuating the lie that women should be seen as primarily valued by their attractiveness or skills in bed.
It only brings pain. You were made for more.
So how do we stop engaging in false intimacy? We have to figure out who we are as women. You are too amazing not to live out your truest self. Let others experience the awesomeness that God designed for you on this earth. You have a purpose in this world. You were made to live boldly and shine brightly.
Tapping into your truest self doesn’t happen overnight, but the work is so worth it. Here are some go-tos to get you started.
- Remember who you are. Who you were made to be has probably gotten buried, tainted, or lost under the lies of what you think you’re supposed to be. We often live under false identities—something we’ve picked up in media or from another relationship. We accept names for ourselves like “the pretty one” (or “the not-pretty one”), “the boring one,” “the sexy one,” “the bad-in-bed one.” We subconsciously strive to either keep or prove wrong those names (AKA identities). Hours—days, even—are wasted trying new makeup tricks, rethinking our wardrobe, looking for tips that might give us a sexier edge, or scouring dating sites and bars hoping to find someone who makes us feel better.
When in reality, you have an identity that is so much better. Maybe you’re the powerful one, the compassionate one, the brilliant one, the kind one, the strong one, the justice fighter, or the truth bringer. Let me tell you—those are far more attractive and worth pursuing. Guys (at least, any guy worth having) may temporarily give in and indulge a hookup, but it’s temporary because they really want the whole person. The one who knows herself, the one who’s free. I follow Jesus, and I’ve found that anyone who finds their identity from him first (by listening to who he says they are) finds incredible breakthrough, confidence, and freedom.
Get honest. How well is what you’re doing working for you, anyway? If you find yourself doing the same thing over and over again with the same painful results (AKA insanity), maybe it’s time to try something else. Start with setting boundaries. Identify where and how you use sex as a transaction for love. Is there a certain person(s) you keep chasing? Does it usually start at the bar? Online chats? At work? How do you want to present yourself? Identify your cycle and where your false intimacy starts. Then begin to do something different and healthier.
Get in a healthy community. This might be a 12-step group, a group with other women who are learning to find their true identity through Jesus, or people who have similar interests as you. Whatever it might be, get with other people who will challenge you in a healthy way and help you grow together. Being in community is one of the number one ways to reduce isolation and to increase true intimacy. Find someone you trust in that community and start opening up to them about your experiences. One aspect of real intimacy is allowing ourselves to be known by other people. As scary as it sounds at first, we often find we’re not alone, and something better is possible.
Recognize what messages you tell yourself. At the core of false intimacy is typically a shame narrative that we are responding to. “People only like me if I am sexual.” “No one will love me as I am.” What message(s) are you telling yourself? Protect yourself from people who reinforce that shame message. Replace those messages with who God says you are.
Try therapy. This stuff can be complex and overwhelming. Having someone else sit with you and untangle it all can feel a lot more grounding.
We all have shortcomings. We’re all trying to navigate this thing called life together. Surround yourself with people who want to help you succeed. You are worthy of love without providing sex. And great sex actually comes from finding true freedom anyway, so what have you got to lose?
Process, journal or discuss the themes of this article - here's a few questions to get the ball rolling...
What struck you most from this article, and why? Journal about it on your own, or if you’re processing this with friends, share out loud in as much detail as possible.
What are the negative messages you hear about yourself? Write it down as honestly as you can. Imagine what you would say if a friend told you that’s what she believed about herself. Consider the implications of how that’s impacted you. Then, tear it up and throw it away.
Even if you’ve never tried hearing from God before, try an experiment to find your true identity like Emma describes. Grab something to write/type with, and just ask: What does God say about who you are? What is your worth? What does He say about your character? Who did He make you to be? Pause after each question and write down whatever you hear—no filtering, questioning, or editing. If you’re processing alone, forward this article to a friend, and ask to get together to talk about it. If you’re with friends, share what you hear and let them affirm it so it can more deeply sink in.
What would help you break the cycle? Is there a habit you need to cut out (like the pursuit of becoming prettier or a place you need to stop going?) Or is there something healthier to add into your life (like reading verses like this and actually trying to believe them instead?) Choose something, tell someone, and commit to it. A fresh start is possible, and you are worth it.
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