Dear Harlan,

Having gotten out of one relationship and into another, I sometimes find myself reflecting on what happened in the first relationship as to what made me leave, perhaps as a future checklist so I don’t make stupid mistakes another time. One of my realizations ended up being that my first relationship was, from my side, very lustful. I pushed the sex on too early in the relationship with a silly idea that falling out of love was impossible. It was only later that I realized I created a fake idea of love to make right what we did. A concern I have now is making sure I don’t fall down the same path again. I don’t believe my current relationship is as lust-based as the last one, but how do I know the lust I hold is at a safe amount, and how will I know if, when I do feel that I must be in love, that it really is love that I feel and not something that I’m creating to protect what I imagine I have?

Lusting Love

Dear Lusting Love,

Love won’t protect you. LIKE will. See, people don’t need to like each other to love having sex together. That’s where lust confuses it all. If you waited to have sex, it would be easier to figure out if you like someone enough to be stay together. Since you already started having sex, you need figure out if you like this person and if this person likes you enough to fall in love. That takes time. It takes being together with your clothes on. It takes going through life changes. It takes seeing if you lust after each other and believe in each other. It takes seeing if you both want each the other to be your personal bests without feeling threatened. Lust is good, but lasting love takes liking someone and loving all parts of them while fully clothed. Give it time. You’ll figure it out.

Dear Harlan,

After a recent breakup, I have been on a few dates (mostly during the past three months), but have never gotten a second date. The most unpleasant one recently was something where the first date seemed to go well, but when I tried to contact her afterward she told me that she had a boyfriend, and she was only interested in being friends. Now this was only about a 36-hour gap between when the date ended and she dropped that bomb on my head. What do you suggest to help limit the odds of that happening in the future?


Dear Shell-Shocked,

What you’ve described is called dating. Most first dates don’t turn into second dates. If you’re dating a lot of people, this isn’t a big problem. If you’re not dating a lot of people (like you just described), it seems much worse. The more you date, the better your odds of having a second date. But the more you date, expect that more dates will NOT turn into second dates. Keep putting yourself in places where you can meet more people. If you get tired of dating, take a break. All you need is one date to turn into two, three, four or five dates, and then, the rest of your life.

Harlan is author of “Getting Naked: Five Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life (While Fully Clothed and Totally Sober).” Write Harlan at [email protected] or visit online: Send paper to Help Me, Harlan!, 3501 N. Southport Ave., Suite 226, Chicago, IL 60657.

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