Profound Relationship vs Intense Sex
Which would you choose: a loving and profound lifelong relationship? Or a series of short but intense romantic bonds?
Your answer may depend on which you value more, happiness or meaning, says University of Haifa philosophy professor, Aaron Ben-Zeév.
Oddly, we seem to be happiest when our lives are easy. But a sense of meaning comes from contending with obstacles and learning from them.
It is often said that if you want to be happy, live in the present. Happiness is short-term, present-oriented and satisfies needs and desires, says Florida State psychologist, Roy Baumeister.
On the other side, he adds, meaning comes from developing our potential and flourishing. It comes as we assemble our past, present and future into a coherent story that expresses and reflects who we are. It is neither temporary nor superficial, and involves contributing to others.
Professor Ben-Zeév adds:
Superficial or hedonic activities — casual sex, gossiping, and watching television — may be enjoyable, even though they do not contribute much to our long-term flourishing and can even be harmful in excess.
As I read the professor’s words in Psychology Today, I wondered: must we choose?
I’m sure that many women enjoy casual sex, and that’s fine if it works for them. But maybe I’m just weird because neither casual sex nor a series of short-term relationships — nor gossiping or watching TV, for that matter — sounds especially happy or particularly fun to me. For one thing, I have a hard time getting into sex unless I feel deeply connected. And I can’t do that with a casual or short-term situation.
Or, I may not be so alone. In researching their book, “Premarital Sex in America,” sociology professors, Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Ueker, found that women often have such a visceral aversion to casual sex that many turn to alcohol to tolerate it. (So why bother hooking up in the first place? I’ll discuss that later.)
But among college students they also found greater satisfaction, and more sex, in longer-term relationships.
Even among the long-married, sex often gets better with age.
Professor Ben-Zeév points out that,
Various studies indicate that profound love that endures for a lifetime does exist — and to a greater degree than many of us believe… The reduction in intensity is not inevitable and for many relationships, it has little impact.
Based on my own experience and conversations with others, intensity can actually increase with a feeling of intimate and committed connectedness. And that may explain so much of the data we find attaching both happiness and meaning to long-term relationships.
But hey, different strokes for different folks. I also know plenty of people who say they need novelty to keep intensity and excitement up. For some, it may depend on where you are in the lifecycle.
If you’d like to add your two cents on the topic, let us know what you think.