Reader VioletPlanet asks: why is sex often mistaken for love?
There are a few aspects involved with the answer to this question. The first is that love is commonly mistaken for many things; this has much to do with our early childhood experiences as well as media influence. For example, the strictness that certain adults enforce upon themselves, and others, may very well be traced back to the expectations of their parents.
We don’t need impressive credentials to observe the way that culture and child-rearing shapes people. During the youngest moments of our lives, we’re like baby birds reaching out for nourishment. A baby bird doesn’t question whether or not it will be fed the right food—it simply expects it. Much the same, as toddlers and young children, we don’t question what love is, we just expect it to receive it. In some cases, the emotional nourishment that children believe they are receiving isn’t nourishment at all. This often results in confusion as to what love is.
Without a clear example of a healthy relationship, we may be left to piece together a picture of love based on impressions from television shows, movies, songs and music videos. We can gain an awareness of the behaviors in an adult relationship without understanding the reasoning, or amount of sense, behind them. Based on such a vague understanding, we’d think that love is some kind of strong feeling that makes us “unable to live” without someone, or that we’d “think about them all the time,” as so many popular songs would suggest. Chances are that the first feeling that comes along and resembles these notions is what we’re going to call love. It doesn’t have to involve sex, but if it does, we might easily confuse sex with love.
A more scientific explanation revolves around a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin is sometimes released during sex by both men and women. When oxytocin is released, it magnifies feelings of attachment and the desire for closeness; it’s conducive to cuddling. Oxytocin is also released by mothers during childbirth, perhaps creating the powerful bond between mother and child. Understandably, the effects of oxytocin might create a deep emotional connection between two people who aren't actually well suited for each other in a relationship. Beware the oxytocin!
I hope you found this explanation helpful, and I thank you for the question!
Until next time,