Welcome to Relationship Rehab, news.com.au’s weekly column solving all your romantic problems, no holds barred. This week, our resident sexologist Isiah McKimmie explains why some men find it easier to express themselves during sex.
Question: I’ve been dating a guy for six months and I definitely like him – I just don’t think I love him quite yet, which is fine. The problem is when we have sex he always says he loves me. The first time he did it I let it pass by because I figured he was just in the moment, but now he does it every time we have sex. He has never said it to me otherwise and I truly don’t think he loves me yet. Why does he think it’s appropriate to say it in the bedroom but not in everyday life? And how do I tell him to stop?
Answer: It’s totally understandable that you don’t think you love this guy yet. Six months is still a relatively new relationship – sometimes it take time for feelings to develop.
I can understand however that his declarations during sex would be making you uncomfortable. Saying ‘I love you’ is a big step in a relationship.
When you hear it, you want to know that it’s true. When someone says something that isn’t true – however small – it can erode trust in a relationship. He probably doesn’t realise, but these slips may potentially damage trust and connection between you in the long term.
In regard to why he thinks it’s okay to say ‘I love you’ in the bedroom, but doesn’t say it in everyday life, I suspect there are a couple of things going on. My guess is that he somewhat ‘loses himself’ in the moment and isn’t really thinking about what he’s saying.
Our culture doesn’t really encourage men to be expressive with their feelings. Sex is the socially sanctioned arena in which men are given permission to show affection, and be emotional and expressive.
Due to the release of hormones and endorphins it causes, sex can trigger feelings of euphoria and ‘love’. The release of oxytocin, in particular, causes us to feel more bonded with someone. These feelings can be overwhelming. If we don’t know how to deal with them well, they can sometimes be expressed in interesting ways.
How to approach him
These factors combined may be leading to his clumsy and misguided expression of feelings. It sounds likely that he has some feelings for you, which he can’t articulate in the moment. Or, he may feel he has to say something after sex, but isn’t quite sure what.
Talking to him about this is something you will need to do gently. There’s a high likelihood he’ll feel embarrassed about this.
While I normally suggest having important conversations about sex outside the bedroom, in this case it might be best to say something in the moment (or right after sex), rather than making a big deal of it later.
Try gently bringing his attention to it and asking what it means to him.
You could say something like:
I don’t know if you realise, but you often say ‘I love you’ when we’re having sex. I’m wondering what that means to you.
His response can be an opening for you to share more about why it feels uncomfortable for you.
It’s easier for someone to hear what we’d like them to do rather than how we dislike what they’re already doing. In asking him to stop, try to frame it in a way that lets him know what you’d like instead. Framing feedback as a positive is less likely to trigger defensiveness.
I’d like to hear that from you when you really mean it.
I hope this conversation leads to more understanding for both of you.
Isiah McKimmie is a Couples Therapist, Sexologist, Sex Therapist and Lecturer. To book a session with her, visit her website or follow her on Instagram for more advice on relationships, sex and intimacy. If you have a question for Isiah, email firstname.lastname@example.org