Don't Mistake A Great Sex Partner For A Great Life Partner

Just because the sex is good, that doesn't automatically mean he's the one.


When I turned 45 this past summer, I wrote an article about what I would've told my 25-year-old self. While I did touch on a few relationship points, I think, in hindsight, that the reason why I left this one out, is because it really does deserve a write-up of its own. The reason why I say that is because, when I look back on some of the greatest sex that also turned out to be some of the most profound faux pas that I've ever experienced in my entire life, it was because of the title of this piece right here.

If there is one thing that I admire about people who wait until marriage before doin'-the-do, it's the fact that they made a formal long-term commitment before givin' it up; on their wedding night, they don't have to wonder if the feelings are real or if the person they just had sex with will be there the next morning…or even 20 years later (God willing). When it comes to all of the intensity and closeness that transpires, there's no need to try and figure out what part is physical and what part is emotional—what part they need to question and what part they can fully trust in. It doesn't matter. The love is there, the connection is solidified—great sex and a great life partner (again, God willing) are able to go hand-in-hand.

But what if you see sex differently from those who choose to wait until their "I dos"? Is there some sort of automatic way to keep from confusing good sex with a great relationship? I'm not sure if there is a ton of scientific data on that, but girrrrl—what I can share with you is a few things that life certainly taught me on this particular topic.

Ponder What Draws You to Him Outside of His Performance


My first sex partner was my first love. We were both young and didn't have a clue what we were doing. Plus, due to his immaturity, it took him a while to "sign on" to certain activities (kindly refer to "What?! Only 35 Percent Of Men Go Down? Say It Ain't So" to get what I'm talking about). I think that's why my second sex partner was able to get—and get away with—so much. Y'all, when I say that man was f-i-n-e. All tall, chocolate and freaky too. Although in some ways, we were homies, if you were to ask me what his greatest personality or character traits were, I'd have to sit on that. He was witty, I'll give him that; still, it's not like I was mentally or emotionally altered for the best by his influence or anything.

That doesn't mean that I didn't think that I was at the time. Shoot, any man you lust who is more than willing to do stuff to you that your first love wouldn't (until years later) is someone who tends to give you all of the feels; feels that make you think there is something real. But trust me, if you can't really think of too many redeeming qualities other than how he puts it down, that is your first red flag that there might not be much there other than orgasmic aftershocks masking themselves as genuine emotional attachment.

Remember Intimacy and Attraction Aren’t Synonymous


If you take out a moment to at least skim the article "The Signs Of A Truly Intimate Relationship", you'll notice that sex isn't mentioned once. Affection is, but you can be affectionate with someone without any type of sexual activity transpiring. The reason why this is worth noting is because some people make the grave mistake of thinking that just because someone gives their stomach butterflies that it's automatically the beginning stages of intimacy. Nope. Just about every time that I see Kofi Siriboe in a pastel hue or Thomas Q. Jones in just about anything, my heart skips a beat. But I don't know them from Adam and they don't know me either.

Being attracted to someone simply means that they have some sort of quality that entices or allures. Intimacy? For real intimacy to happen, not only does it take time to cultivate, it has to go way beyond the physical. If the guy you're Jonesing for isn't someone you can share some of your deepest secrets with, if he doesn't nurture and cherish you and/or if you aren't able to say that you two have a strong friendship and spiritual bond—and get this, he is able to say that he sees you the same way—sure, the attraction may be strong…but that also might be all that is drawing the two of you together too.

Don’t Go into Sex with Lots of Assumptions


KevOnStage has a relatively new segment called "Dear Kev" that is comedy. He sits in one of his church suits, puts on a pair of glasses (even though he doesn't need them), reads questions and gives some of the worst TMI advice around. Oh, but as they say, a clock is right twice a day. In one of his latest offerings, Kev said, "When you see things through rose-colored glasses, red flags simply look like flags." Whew. Somebody sign up for that man's Patreon on that!

I can't tell you how many women have told me how upset they are because a guy they were having sex with "led them on" by making them think that they wanted a future with them. When I ask them what the man did to cause them to think that way, very rarely do they bring up him saying "I love you", him showing her off to his family and friends or him even really taking her out or talking about the future. Usually what I get is a blank stare followed by, "I mean, we've been having sex for months now." Then it's my turn to give them a blank stare.

When I once asked a male friend how so many men can have sex with women who they care absolutely nothing about, he simply said, "Do you think it's emotional for me to go and jack off in the shower? Jack off in a shower, jack off in a girl. One simply feels better but honestly, isn't always worth the headache."

That might've been hard to read, but that doesn't make it any less true. For better or for worse, a lot of men can clearly tell the difference between someone who they thoroughly enjoy having sex with vs. someone who they want to have a relationship with. Sometimes those two things are one in the same; sometimes they aren't. But what you don't need to do is be out here thinking that just because he "loves" the sex that it's a foreshadowing of him eventually falling in love with you. This brings me to my next point.

Know the Difference Between “Good to You” and “Good for You”


There's a guy who I once had a crush on who said something to me that took me a minute to really understand.

When he told me that he dug me in a lot of ways, but he didn't want to "take it there", his reason was, "I want to be good for you not to you". Translation—"If we have sex, it would probably be off the chain, but if I can't promise you more than that, it could end up hurting you in the long run. To me, that's just not worth it."

Oh, how those two little words—"to" and "for"—can totally alter a relationship. When a man is only looking for great sex, he may only care about being good to you. But if he's serious about guarding your heart, protecting a friendship and/or building something substantial, he's going to do things that are good for you. If that means queuing Janet Jackson's "Let's Wait Awhile" (have y'all seen her video boo Taimak lately? He's still fine) or even avoiding sex altogether—please remember your worth and value to know that sometimes there is true protection in that kind of rejection. If sex can't be good to you and for you, it's OK—recommended even—to take a hard pass. Or receive one.

Keep in Mind That Oxytocin Is One HELL of a Drug


As often as I have the opportunity to do it, I share a video of a woman who provides some of the straight-up insight on the physical consequences of sex that aren't discussed very often. For instance, did you know that if you have (unprotected) sex with two different guys within a few days, you will probably catch a cold because your body is made to only handle one set of sperm; therefore, it will abandon your immune system to get the other sperm out? Amazing.

The moral is this—Just because a lot of us may take a casual approach to sex, that doesn't mean that our body does. There are natural hormones like oxytocin that causes us to bond with our partner, no matter where our head may be at concerning him. That's why folks can have a one-night stand and end up damn near stalking the person the following week. They think it's an emotional connection when it could just be the oxytocin that's surging through their system. After all, they don't call it the "love hormone" for nothin'.

That said, one of my favorite quotes on hell is by an old English philosopher named Thomas Hobbes. He once said that, "Hell is truth seen too late." I can't tell you how many times an oxytocin high has caused me to not want to look at the real truth about a relationship (or situationship) that I was in. That denial caused me to send myself through some pretty hellish moments and experiences.

It takes more than sexual compatibility to make something last. If you choose to not believe that, one way or another, hell is exactly what you are headed for. If not today, someday. If not with the current guy, another one.

Avoid Deep Conversations in the Bedroom


I'm gonna be straight-up on this one. Unless you are a 16-year-old girl, I'm hoping you already know that it's a bit delusional and manipulative to wait until during sex to have first-time heartfelt and profound conversations. Just think about it—what exactly do you expect a guy to say to you when he's inside of you and you whisper, "Do you love me?" in his ear? If he doesn't and he decides to be honest with you about that, how do you expect the rest of that particular experience to go? (Hence the article "How Much Can You Trust 'I Love You' During Sex?")

I'm not saying that the bedroom is an off-limits space for verbal affirmations or emotional conversations. What I am saying is if there is something that you genuinely want to know, you should probably do it before or after sex—and not right before or right after either.

Remember in the movie A Thin Line Before Love and Hate when Darnell (played by Martin Lawrence) talked about getting some head that was so good that he said, "I love you" right in the midst of ejaculating? What he meant was I love it not her (clearly because he "passed her off" to one of his homies for a discount on a shirt). Knowing the difference is a total game-changer. It's a potential lifesaver too.

Pay Attention to How He Treats You When You Aren’t Hooking Up


Back when I wrote the article "5 Things That Are OK To Require On A First Date", some people found "require" to be too harsh of a word. When you think that time is something that you can never get back, I don't. Yes, men are grown. Yes, none of us can make them be chivalrous or honest when it comes to the answers to our questions that they give. But, at the same time, for every action, there is most certainly a reaction. If a guy doesn't meet our requirements, we are fully within our rights to not see him again.

Same thing goes for what we require before any nookie goes down. If you really want to know if you run the risk of mistaking a great sex partner for a great life partner, reflect on how he treats you whenever you're not naked or when he's not trying to get you naked. Does he take you out on dates (ones that are outside of both of you guy's homes)? Is he affectionate with you even without the need for sex? Does he call you during business rather than booty call hours?

If a guy is trying to cultivate an actual relationship, he's going to act like there is more to what the two of you have than the physical. He will initiate and be intentional about spending non-bedroom-related quality time as well. If you can't honestly say that this is what's transpiring…right. Whether you want to admit to yourself what's up or not, I've got a feeling that you know. Now what?

Check Your Own True Motives and Intentions


Sex is temporary. The experience, the feelings—all of it. That's why I am a firm believer that sex doesn't "make love"; sex celebrates love. In order for it to do that, love needs time to plant itself and grow. Moving on to my last point, if you're someone who desires nothing more than a good time, you're grown. Do you. But if you are truly feelin' someone and you're thinking that sex is going to be the "make love move" to get him to want the same things that you do—that's quite the gamble. Please rethink that strategy. It's not fair to either one of you if you're going to use sex to try and create a mental, emotional and spiritual bond. Sex shouldn't be a tool to get a man to want to be with you. It should be an experience to enjoy once you already know that he does.

I've been there when I say that a lot of us confuse a great sex partner for a great life partner because we weren't clear about our own true motives and intentions from the jump. If you want a relationship, work on building that before bringing sex into it. Because once he puts it on you, it's going to be harder to tell what's "the sex" and what's "the relationship". And sometimes, trying to figure out the difference is like trying to pull two pieces of paper that are joined by glue apart. There will be remnants and bewilderment that could take weeks, if not months, to work through. And believe you me, no matter how good the sex might be, the fall out (even if it's only internal) simply isn't worth it.

Can you have great sex and a great life partner. 100 percent. Should you use sex to try and make a great relationship happen? Absolutely not. If something lasting is what you want, let both of your emotions connect you before oxytocin does. You'll be able to trust your judgment a lot better that way. So will he.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

Why We Love Men Who Are Absolutely No Good For Us

What GROWN Women Consider Great Sex To Be

Is It Really Possible To Be In Love With Two People At The Same Time?

Sexual Compatibility Is As Important As Spiritual Compatibility

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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