I am a thirtysomething who went through a bad breakup about two years ago and ended up gaining about 20 pounds as a result. I have tried and keep trying, but it has been so hard to take the weight off. Because of it, I have been really self-conscious about dating. I don't feel like myself, or the best version of myself, and I really don't try too much anymore because I don't feel like guys would be attracted to me at the moment. That said, I find myself compromising what I want — a nice guy; a serious, committed relationship — for any sort of affection I can get, because it does get lonely being single for that long. I hooked up with this total "bad boy" recently, and although I feel I am too old to waste my time with this sort of thing, I find myself contemplating carrying on a "just sex" relationship with him. I feel like it makes me a slut, but at the same time I just don't want to be alone all the time, and I can't picture another long Vermont winter by myself. Help!
Lost in Loneliness
Dear Lost in Loneliness,
I really, really don't like the word "slut." It's a nasty pejorative word that is often completely demeaning to women who choose to wear short skirts, or have more than one sexual partner, or have sex on the first date. So let's rephrase your question. Is it healthy to have a sex-based relationship? There, doesn't that feel better?
Our culture often views sex as taboo rather than what it actually is: a natural physical expression. But the answer to your question lies in what you expect to gain from this relationship. What are your intentions?
If you can confidently say that you are in this to feel physically gratified, empowered and pleasured, then I say go for it until it isn't fun anymore. But if you're having sex to escape loneliness or pain, it's time to back off. Relationships based on sex need to only be about sex; if you expect more, you're setting yourself up for disappointment.
You've had a tough two years. Weight gain can really mess with your confidence, especially when it feels impossible to get in control of that weight. But there are ways to get through this without beating yourself up. It's time to make working out fun. Do you love to dance? Try Zumba. Prefer to be outside? Don't let winter deter you; buy a pair of snowshoes or skis. These are activities you can do with others; exercising in a group setting can really lift your spirits and offer a sense of camaraderie.
Hopefully, it'll also remind you that you are not alone. While I am totally supportive of a "just sex" relationship, it sounds like you need to rebuild yourself before you can enjoy any type of romantic relationship. You said yourself that you are compromising what you really want. You deserve better, and you need to learn that again.
Spend time with family and friends; enjoy the endorphin rush from good exercise; rediscover what makes you happy. Take the time to feel like yourself again, on your own terms — not based on the affections of some guy you don't even really like. Only then will sex just for the sake of sex be the healthy and empowering experience it can and should be.