Dear Millennials: Sex Won’t Make You Fall in Love

young couple marriage

The first time my husband ever called me was the exact same night I ended my engagement. It was two months before my wedding. I hadn’t seen Seth or spoken to him in two years. He had no clue I had been engaged. Our very first phone conversation consisted of me sobbing, and him saying he was sorry. He asked if I wanted to hang out the next night, and I wanted to do anything that would allow me to escape the reality that I had paid for a wedding venue I would never use.

The next night he drove an hour and a half to see me. We let our feet dangle off the edge of the pier. My eyes were puffy, my heart was broken, and yet I felt a strange sense of peace in the presence of this tan boy with blue eyes. After hours of sitting there, I realized I was laughing. My face actually ached, but somehow laughing felt good. We sat together till 2 a.m., and before we parted he leaned in to kiss me. I backed away. I had too many emotions to process them all, but I knew I didn’t want to be kissed. We didn’t even hold hands. On my first date with my husband, I didn’t give him one hint of sexual attention, and yet somehow I had given him something more intense, and valuable; intimacy. When I talked he listened, and as he stared into my eyes I felt like I was truly being seen.

There is something intensely vulnerable about letting someone see you, the real you. Not the Instagram you with flawless filters, or the Twitter you that’s the perfect blend of wit and charm. There I was naked in front of him on this beach even though I was fully clothed. He saw me; a broken girl looking for answers on the edge of a pier, and somehow in his eyes at 2 a.m. I found them.

Sex is totally awesome, and also totally necessary, but sex outside of intimacy, won’t do a dang thing for you. First things first, SEX IS NOT INTIMACY. I say that in caps because I am actually yelling it.

Last week we talked about why sex is so important, unless you didn’t join me last week, in which case I’m super offended (link here). This week I want to talk about something I think a lot of us may not realize, sex won’t make you fall in love.

This is something my female students get wrong all the time. They actually think that because they are sleeping with someone, they are in an intimate relationship with them. In Alice Frylings book, The 7 Lies about Sex, she puts it this way, “But the truth is that physical union, genital sex, is an expression of intimacy, not a means to intimacy. True intimacy springs from verbal, emotional, spiritual, and physical communion. True intimacy is not primarily a sexual encounter. Intimacy, in fact, has almost nothing to do with our sex organs. A prostitute may expose her body, but her relationships are hardly intimate.”

“Your naked body should only belong to those who fall in love with your naked soul.” ― Charlie Chaplin

One of the best things I ever learned in the field of communications is this; intimacy is not sex, it is self-disclosure. And yet girls all over the world, are taking off the pants, in hopes that this will make him stay. We think if we just sleep with him long enough, sultrily enough, or passionately enough, than he will never be able to leave. It simply isn’t true. If you want to make someone fall for you, sex has to come AFTER intimacy, and intimacy is something millennials seem to really struggle with. I have a ton of data to back this up, that I don’t really want to unpack in this particular blog. Please trust me on this though.

We all fear rejection, but millennials seem to have mastered the art of running from it completely. Gone are the days where someone thinks someone is cute, and so they call their landline, and ask them out. That took guts. Today, all one must do is send a friend request, hit the like button, or download an app. The problem is that while these things may keep us safe from instant rejection, they also hinder us from one of the greatest elements of the human experience; connection.

A colleague came to me with a fantastic article last week about the science of falling in love. Because academics need to understand everything, it is not enough to just say someone “feels” a certain way when someone else is around. They have to put a logical order to everything, even love. So 20 years ago Dr. Arthur Aron decided to do a science experiment in his laboratory. He wanted to see if there was a magic formula to making people fall in love. He brought in two strangers had them discuss answers to 36 questions (link here if you want to try it with your partner), and at the end, they were told to stare into each other’s eyes for 4 minutes, without speaking. The results were that, the two strangers, in time, did fall in love, and invited the entire science department to their wedding.

Dr. Aron’s theory is essentially that love is an action, not a feeling, and that by engaging in intimacy with your partner, love happens. Love thrives in an arena where trust and intimacy can occur. So while of course we can’t force ourselves to love certain people, there are things we can do to try and foster those emotions, and intimacy is the key.

“One of the best things I ever learned in the field of communications is this; intimacy is not sex, it is self-disclosure. And yet girls all over the world, are taking off the pants, in hopes that this will make him stay. We think if we just sleep with him long enough, sultrily enough, or passionately enough, than he will never be able to leave. It simply isn’t true.”

In communications we teach that love is a blended emotion. What that means is that there are eight primary emotions, and all the other emotions are blended. Basically in order to create certain feelings, you have to experience two different emotions at the exact same time, and out of those two present emotions, love is born. Love is a blended emotion comprising of trust and joy. Hear me now, this is going to change your life. Every time someone tells me how much they love their partner, they just keep cheating on them, or beating them, or hurting them, I tell them that words have power, so we have to use them correctly.

This is where I will blow your mind. Rather than say how much you “love” your partner who is doing these terrible things to you, I need you to remember that love is a blended emotion comprising of trust and joy. It is not possible for you to love someone who you do not trust. Let me say that again, not sure if you heard me, love can only happen, when you simultaneously experience the emotions of trust and joy. Blend those together, and only then do you have love. You cannot have one without the other, no matter how many times you keep telling yourself that that is exactly what you feel.

Love is ALWAYS a safe place. So rather than excuse their sins by saying you love them be more specific, say, “I have so much joy with them, they just cheat on me?” “I have so much joy with them, they just hit me?” “I have so much joy with them, they just hurt me.” See what I did there?

I love words, but the reason I love them is because when we use them correctly, our relationships come into focus. Once we stop using love to excuse bad behavior, since we cannot be experiencing love without trust, and we just use the word joy, we realize how foolish we sound, and hopefully are able to reevaluate the relationship.

On my first date with my husband, I wouldn’t even let him kiss me, and yet the intensity of our night together far exceeded anything I had ever experienced.

Dear millennials, sex won’t make you fall in love, but apparently according to science, letting someone see you naked, even while being fully clothed, could actually do the trick.

Editor’s note: This article was first published at The Spilled Milk Club.

Heather Thompson Day is a lecturer for Southwestern Michigan College, Purdue Tech University, and Ferris State University. She is the author of five Christian books and writer for The Spilled Milk Club. Facebook her, or check her out on Instagram.

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Written by Heather Day

Dr. Heather Thompson Day is an Associate Professor of Communication at Andrews University. She is the author of six Christian books, including "Confessions of a Christian," and writer for

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