Coupled With D&S

Real, nonjudgmental advice about dating, sex, love, and life from a thirty-something couple that has seen it all over thirteen years.

Trust us. We live in Brooklyn. (Joking. Kind of.)

I Try to Act Cold and Detached: Developing Feelings for a Hookup

The Question

A woman in her early twenties from the New York suburbs wrote in the heat of the moment that, “I was about to text this guy that I have been having casual sex with for the last three months, several times a week, and tell him I need to stop. We met online. He is 10 years older than I am, and I think I may be developing feelings for him, although I try and act cold and detached. I have a lot of other specifics, but I don’t want to bombard you. It was just super weird that I came across you just now.” We don’t answer that quickly, but maybe we can give her some insight that will go beyond instant messages.

Sally Says

I’m concerned about why you’re acting cold and detached, especially with someone you’ve seen regularly for a few months now. Several times a week is a lot for a casual relationship. Many married folks don’t “see” each other that often.

Let’s talk about the sex and emotion more. Does he act cold and detached? Do you feel like that’s how you should act when you’re having casual sex? Because you shouldn’t. Anytime you’re intimately involved with someone, unless it’s a one night stand, you still have a responsibility to each other to be kind, caring, and communicative. That applies even to casual sex. For example, hopefully you treat each other with physical and verbal respect; hopefully you both try to please each other; hopefully you can talk about things like birth control, relationship status, and STD status. If you can have sex with someone, you should be able to talk to them, or something’s not right. If this man thinks otherwise, you deserve better, and if you think otherwise, you need to adjust your expectations about sex. This is about your safety and emotional well-being. If he’s 33, he should know better, and you should look for a man—even a hookup—who meets basic expectations about intimacy.

It’s natural that, if you’re a good physical match, seeing someone so frequently would lead you to develop some kind of feelings for him, whether shallow or deep. I would encourage you to talk to him about it and explore the relationship possibilities. If you’re planning to break up with him anyway, you certainly have nothing to lose.

David Says

I’m really on board with Sally here. We’re not ones to say that you should be in love with every person you sleep with, but cold, detached sex on a regular basis seems pretty unappetizing … and should be for both parties. Now, if you were someone who was really into cold, detached sex, we might approach this differently, but you’re obviously holding back a lot, and it’s causing you distress.

Sex is an intimate act. It’s a passionate act. Whether it’s casual or part of a committed relationship, sex should at least be hot. Both parties should unafraid of take pleasure and expressing it in the moment. Neither party should be holding back. I can see cold sex causing one partner to quickly lose interest in the other. Hiding your feelings is also dishonest. Purposefully cold sex is therefore self-undermining. If you’re developing feelings for him and covering that up with coldness, he may come to think of you as someone cold and unworthy of going deeper with. He may be turned off if you express feelings, but learning that now probably won’t hurt much worse than faking detachment.

So yes, you have to stop, one way or the other. If you can’t handle a degree of openness and honesty in sex and relationships, you might have to back off of those until you’re ready for that.

The Consensus

Giacometti painted and sculpted cold detachment.

Giacometti painted and sculpted cold detachment.

We both think you should try for something more with this guy if the other option is shutting down the relationship. You can tell him you hadn’t intended to develop feelings and know he didn’t either but it happened anyway. Say that you’ve been holding back in the bedroom and in your conversations but that there could be a lot of reward for him in both departments if he’s interested. At the very least, it would be practice in rejection, and the fear of being vulnerable this way is what prevents many people from ever getting what they want. But rejection gets easier the more it happens. More importantly, however, start things off better with future partners,

You need to learn to be more open and/or to expect more openness from relationships with guys, even in casual relationships. That entails risk, but certain maxims hold true here: 1) You don’t get what you don’t ask for. 2) There are no great rewards without great risks. 3) Rejection makes you stronger.

Part of this comes with age. As long as you take risks when you’re younger, you’ll learn how to be a better communicator and how to find the type of person you’re looking for in the bedroom and beyond. If you don’t speak up and have high expectations—or at least a baseline of decency in your expectations—you won’t evolve beyond cold sex, hidden feelings, and frustration. And that would be too bad. You’re young, sexy, and unattached. At the very least, find a way to go wild in bed!