We Weren’t Having Sex, But I Was Still Getting Screwed

For months after Julie and I broke up, we chose to remain friends.

Yes, it was a mutual decision.

No, really.

Stop rolling your eyes. This is not another rant about being stuck in the Friend Zone.

We still cared about each other, and we still enjoyed each other’s company. We just realized that, romantically, we weren’t all that compatible. We were like peanut butter and bacon: You love ‘em both. Just not together.

We continued to hang out fairly regularly, though. In fact, we joked that we were kind of/sort of still going on dates. Except that they didn’t end in anything physical….


Okay, yes. They were exactly like many dates I’ve been on.

I was fine with that. We both knew that muddling the boundaries we’d established wouldn’t be a good idea. So, we continued our platonic dates, going out to dinner, chatting about what was going on at home and at work, slipping into deeper conversations about our lives… our hopes… our fears….

That’s when I had an epiphany.

I was totally getting screwed in this arrangement.

In recent years, scientists have discovered that the hormone oxytocin is responsible for feelings of attachment in women. Most notably, oxytocin is released when a woman orgasms. This explains why women have a more difficult time having casual sex. When they orgasm, their brains release oxytocin, which reinforces their emotional attachment to the man they’re with.

So, it’s not that women don’t want to have casual sex, or that they don’t like casual sex. It’s just that women often have a difficult time keeping it casual.

It’s those oxytocin-laced arrows

In contrast, not as much is known about male attachment. Recent studies have implicated the hormone vasopressin as the hairier, burlier, ball-bearing counterpart to oxytocin’s feminine mystique. Studies on both animals and humans have demonstrated that vasopressin does indeed stimulate feelings of attachment in males. Furthermore, this attachment can be initiated in the absence of sexual activity. Still, scientists don’t know when exactly vasopressin is released.

Based on my own personal experiences, I’m venturing a guess:

It’s not during sexual intimacy, but during emotional intimacy.

Men are generally not as communicative as women (which, admittedly, is about as deep a revelation as saying, “men generally have more dangly parts than women”).


While some argue that this is a socially conditioned behavior (that men close themselves off emotionally because, as boys, they are taught to not show vulnerability), the end result is still the same: Men have emotions. Men just aren’t as expressive with them. And, in fact, when the male brain is stressed, it becomes even less expressive.

Add to this the likelihood that men have fewer same-sex friends they can converse with in the same way, bolster with the finding that men suffer more from breakups than women, and I’d argue that confiding in one’s partner requires a much greater emotional investment for a man than for a woman, and that this added investment translates to attachment.

Basically, it’s harder for men to be verbally intimate. They also have fewer people to be verbally intimate with. Thus, when they do learn to be verbally intimate with their significant others, they are much more likely to develop an emotional attachment to them.

Without a doubt, the women I’ve been close to over the years have gotten me to open up. To this day, Julie still knows more personal details about me than just about anyone else. And when I finally get comfortable enough with someone that I’m willing to share my innermost feelings… well, I don’t particularly want to replace her. I mean, it took a long time to get myself there. Why would I want to start over with someone new?

Uh oh. Doesn’t that sound a little bit like attachment?

Months after our breakup, we were still meeting up regularly. And I often found myself talking to her about personal matters: how my family was doing, my secret goals and dreams, what was stressing me out about life, and so on. Julie, of course, always listened.

As it turns out, that was the problem.

All this time we were spending together—platonic as it may have been—was only increasing my attachment to her. Every night that we had one of our long talks, I caught myself reminiscing about our time together…. Second-guessing our decision to break up…. Wondering what it would be like if we were back together….

Breaking out the Julie and Dennis dolls….

Even worse, I could tell that her attachment to me was fading. From the way she looked at me and the way she spoke to me, I could sense her mushy feelings just withering away. That made sense. After all, the intimate conversations simply weren’t as big an emotional investment for her as they were for me. Plus, we weren’t having sex, so there wasn’t any orgasm oxytocin to mess her up.

But, man, was there a raging cocktail party of hormones swirling up inside my head. I could practically feel the vasopressin (or, admittedly, whatever other factors might be responsible for these feelings of attachment) permeating my brain cells.

So, I got the ole’ emotional screwing. By biology.

“Bend over”

And what it took for me to finally break that attachment was to stop engaging her in these conversations.

We continued to see each other. We still chatted. We still laughed. But, I forced myself not to reveal too much about my personal feelings. It wasn’t easy. I constantly found myself wanting to tell her… stuff. Stuff that I was used to telling her.

But, I held back. I found other friends to talk to, whether online or in real life. I found blogging. I met others who were getting over similar breakups.

And, I finally got over her.

So, maybe that’s how it really works:

Women get over their exes by not having sex with them. Because sex involves those creepy love hormones for women.

And men get over their exes by not talking intimately with them. Because talking involves those creepy love hormones for men.

Remember that old joke about how many men it takes to screw in a light bulb? Good.

Remember that old saying about skinning cats? Good.

Well, I’m creating my own personal mash-up of the two:

There’s more than one way to screw a man.

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By day, I'm a marriage and family therapist. By night, I am a relationships and comedy writer, which can be redundant or an oxymoron, depending on your perspective. I'm the creator of Social Savvy Sage, a coaching service that focuses on developing social skills. I am also the creator of Musings, the blog you're reading right now. You can find me on Twitter. (I am not the creator of Twitter.)


  • Sir Hong, I just discovered your blog today and I can’t stop reading all of your posts! This exact same thing happened to me, I couldn’t stop talking to my ex about personal things, and I began to second guess myself on breaking up too. She ended up hating me for it and refused to talk to me, which hurt at first because I had no one to talk to – I was used to telling HER about all of my problems. But it turned out that her refusing to talk to me was the best thing that could have happened because I was finally able to get over her by not talking to her. Anyways great post, you are full of insight.

  • Hey, thanks for the nice words! And thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • First time commenter here. -waves- Found your blog through a link from a friend on Facebook.

    But I’m gonna disagree a teeny tiny bit here with your article. Maybe this was just my experience with a first time serious boyfriend and all, but for us, and my vow to stay pure until marriage, it was talking to my ex constantly after our break up that made me miss him more, and him distance himself further. Maybe it was because we were High School kids, lost in the muddle of hormone-raging skin bags, but to this day I get a greater attachment emotionally to a man by having intimate conversations than engaging in physical contact.

    • Hello! Thanks for your comment. 🙂

      Obviously, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to love. That’s one thing we stress here at Musings. That’s why we focus on personal stories, instead of how-to articles and whatnot. I don’t expect what happened with me to be the case for everyone out there.

      At the same time, since this is your first love that you’re talking about, I think that right there explains why he was so difficult to get over. The first love is always the hardest to move on from, ya know?

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