Can you fall in love with someone you’ve just slept with?
This week, our resident sexpert Olivia Petter examines whether it’s actually a thing
Friday 21 October By Olivia Petter Illustration by Darren Shaddick
Occasionally when I write these columns, I like to do a straw poll to see how many people are asking the same questions as my readers. The answer is usually a lot. And this question is no different. I asked my Instagram followers if they had fallen for someone not long after sleeping with them. The majority had: 67%, to be exact.
So, the short answer here is: yes, it is possible. But I suspect you already knew that, which is why I don’t think that’s what you’re actually asking. My theory is that most of the people who send me questions aren’t really looking for answers; they’re looking for reassurance.
When it comes to sex, far too many of us have been silenced into submission. We are afraid to speak up about what we want and who we want it with. The result is that we attach a lot of shame to these things. None more so than when we’re falling in love with someone.
Growing up, I was taught that women are more likely to feel close to someone they’ve just had sex with because we release oxytocin, also known as ‘the love hormone’. That fact might be scientifically true – but the gender stereotypes it fed were not.
At school, I remember the boys would joke about how ‘needy’ girls became after they slept with them – and how I made a note in my head to never be one of them. This mindset stayed with me as I entered my twenties, determined to feign indifference with each of the men I hooked up with. Spoiler: it didn’t work.
Anyone who has read my book will know that striving towards insouciance never quite worked out for me. I am not a cool girl – and neither are you. My point is that if you have found yourself falling for someone you’ve just slept with, don’t worry. This doesn’t make you ‘needy’, regardless of your gender. Nor does it make you unusual. It just makes you human.
Last night, I got chatting to a brilliant writer in her mid-forties who has been married for seven years. After several minutes of questioning (I have a habit of asking married people to tell me their love stories), she told me that her and her husband decided to get hitched after just six months of dating. Six months! ‘We were very much in the honeymoon phase,’ she explained. ‘So, it was a huge risk – but it paid off.’
We have very warped ideas about when is the ‘right’ time to fall in love with someone. The truth is that there just isn’t one. I’ll admit, I find the whole ‘love at first sight’ spiel a little saccharine. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible, particularly when you involve sex.
Seeing and touching someone’s naked body in all its unfiltered glory, sharing a bed with them, and being physically and psychologically intimate… it’s the ultimate act of vulnerability. And the effect that has can be very powerful indeed.
My advice is to be patient. If it’s early days with this person, see how your feelings change the more you spend time with them. If they grow stronger, consider letting them know to see if you’re both on the same page. If you’re not, you’ll find out soon enough.
Whatever you do, though, don’t project your feelings onto them because you’re embarrassed to tell them how you feel. In other words, if you think you’re falling in love with someone you’ve slept with twice, don’t tell them that they’re ‘definitely going to fall in love’ with you. There might not be a third time. At least, there wasn’t for me.
The quick-fire round
Why does society frown so much upon older women dating (significantly) younger men?
Because society fears powerful women and women tend to get more powerful as they get older. Couple that with some good old-fashioned misogyny and it’s not hard to see why every famous woman who dates a younger man is torn apart online. Don’t let that stop you from doing it, though. Social taboos will only go away if we normalise them.
How can you add a bit more excitement into a marriage of 10 years?
Sex toys. Settle down for an evening in with your partner – and possibly a bottle of wine. Have a browse online and see whatever takes your fancy. It’s an easy, quick, and relatively straightforward way to spice things up.
If you want to get in touch, please email me at email@example.com. All submissions will remain anonymous.
Olivia Petter is the relationships writer at The Independent and author of Millennial Love, which is out now in paperback with 4th Estate