PLEASE HELP: I Can’t Stop Sleeping with My Ex
There was something about the way he said “definitely” -- his word of choice to confirm drinks, oysters, anything aside from actual dinner plans, which were always off limits. In truth, when I say “said,” I mean texted, because phone calls, just like meals, were similarly avoided.
Over the last six months, he had only ever called me four times. First, to agree that we both needed to leave each other alone before we started hating each other. Second, to tell me about playing strip poker at some interactive play (after we had failed to leave each other alone and resumed contact for the second time). Lastly, the two missed calls from him following my sudden, vodka-drenched departure from his apartment in the middle of the night last week.
Aside from this, all communication has been in the form of texting, because texting is safer, because it is meaningless, because the other party can throw their hands up in the air, absolving themselves of any emotional responsibility and say, “Words! Words! Just meaningless words on a tiny screen!” Still, I feel in love with “definitely.”
To use the word “love” in the same paragraph outlining four singular phone calls over the course of six months should serve as indication enough that something was/is/has always been amiss in this on-again/off-again nothing of a relationship. And while I will certainly not to admit to being “in love” with this person, I can say that I did, almost immediately, come to love many things about him --- a superficial admiration of smooth cheeks, the way his fingers worked as he rolled his own cigarettes, the nervous way he’d push back his hair.
Somewhere between real love and stupid lust there lives something akin to fascination, where you break down the minutiae of a person into beautiful, meaningful chunks that no one else ever bothered to care about. You take ownership of a person this way, silently taking stock of everything so that you know them well enough when they finally agree to be yours.
And in the hopes that he would one day become equally as fond of me, I kept sleeping with him. Girls always think they can change boys -- get them to dress better, quit drinking, work harder -- even if the only change seems as simple as circumventing inescapably bad timing. In all of these ways, women can be delusional, ignoring red flags, making molehills out of mountains. Instead of running in the opposite direction, we crawl into their beds, thinking maybe, just maybe, they’ll come around.
Believe me, I’ve tried to run. On two different occasions, I’ve cut the cord, only to quickly fall back in with a guy I barely have the license to call an “ex,” unless that is in ambiguous, non-committal reference to an “ex-thing.”
I had dinner with a friend last week going through some trainwreck of a breakup.
“You can’t make people love you,” he told me. The phrase should have an addendum to serve as a helpful reminder: “You can’t make people love you -- even if you continue to fuck them in the hopes that they will one day love you.”
Sex in emotionally convoluted relationships only leads to further confusion, giving the other person what they want (cheap physical connection) and you an unhelpful, scientifically proven chemical attachment caused by oxytocin. When you’re trying to pull yourself out of a non-functioning, lopsided relationship, there is no greater enemy to your psychological well-being than oxytocin, which, when released during orgasm, creates an emotional bond that may or may not match the reality at hand. In a nutshell, if you keep sleeping with a guy who doesn’t like you, you’re going to flood your body with a ton of this stuff, which will misguidedly convince you that this is the person you want -- the Be All End All, It, The One.
And, well, if that feeling isn’t reciprocated, you’re going to keep ramming your head up against a brick wall -- just like those mechanical pets in the shopping mall, trapped in a metal cage, banging against its perimeter with no hope for escape.
In continuing to sleep with my ex, I am doing myself zero favors.
But cutting off the sex in a relationship going nowhere is goddamn difficult. First, I've got that warped mentality that I can change him to contend with. Second, by this point, I'm like a junkie for that oxytocin, which is like some beautiful love crack when dispensed between two people that actually care about each other.
But my body’s natural, biological instinct doesn’t really care about whether or not the person I'm banging likes me; my body just wants to go forth and populate the planet with every jerk it can possibly find. So while I’m sitting here dreaming about going to Mexico with this guy who has never even thought about so much as taking me to brunch the next morning, my ovaries are screaming “MAKE MORE BABIES!” and my brain is providing the juice to make it happen, every cell in my body conspiring against my heart.
My only weapon against all of this is a strong resolve, which, believe me, I don’t really have. I have, on countless occasions, looked myself in the mirror before leaving the house to meet him for drinks and made a pact with my reflection: You are coming home tonight. You are sleeping in your own bed. It’s a promise that is remembered until the precise moment my second drink is finished, and I begin to stare woozily at his mouth, the white streaks of his teeth, that smooth skin -- every detail of his I’ve attempted to keep for myself -- and the pact dissolves.
Next thing I know, I’m in a cab, in a bed, and waking up the next morning, my head full of chemicals, promising myself that this time is the last time. Definitely.
Have you ever been stuck in this self-sabotaging sex cycle before? How did you get out of it? Help!