I loved jumping straight into bed with men when I was younger, and I still think it’s exciting and fun and the absolute best in theory. But in practice, it was never good for me. I became attached to people I didn’t love and then had trouble breaking up with them, even though I hadn’t given myself the time and space to decide whether or not I really liked them beforehand. Or I took one-night stands too seriously, and the aftertaste of shame was hard to wash away when I didn’t know the person and didn’t have contact with them after the fact. Over and over again, I used sex to get love and used love to get sex and I acted on every impulse. I didn’t know who I was dealing with and I didn’t know myself, either, because I was ignoring my true needs.

When I slept with men quickly, I willfully neglected my very emotional, sensitive core. I preferred to pretend that I was chill, to myself and others. I kept telling myself: I can do this for physical reasons and if it doesn’t last, no big deal, I enjoyed myself.

But the aftermath was never clean. I often wanted more than I really should’ve wanted, considering that I barely knew the person. And I often felt that having sex with strangers put undue pressure on them, and painted me as a potential guilty burden in their lives straight out of the gate. I kept placing myself on unsteady ground, in other words. I expected myself to be tough, to handle it, to act cool. But I couldn’t handle it, and I wasn’t tough or cool.

I was unfair to myself. I needed more but I kept hanging myself out to dry instead, exposing myself to people and situations that could hurt me or make me feel even lonelier than I did before. Even if I began a relationship with one of the men I slept with, it would start out on the wrong foot, because I had already showed them that I was completely available to them, even after the most minimal effort. I consistently presented myself as a person who didn’t really need to be wooed or romanced or seduced or cared for.

And I refused to woo or romance or seduce or care for myself. I treated myself like someone who didn’t need much, had low expectations, could give and give without taking, could go with the flow and stay chill indefinitely.

I pretended to be a chill girl, but then wondered why I always ended up dating men who believed that losing your chill or showing your emotions was the biggest crime on the planet. I taught people to disrespect my feelings the way I disrespected them, and then I wondered how I ended up with such avoidant men, who always seemed to view strong emotions as creepy and weak and embarrassing.

But there are also some practical reasons for not sleeping with someone immediately. In my experience, mature, secure people who have a genuine interest in you past one night tend to delay sleeping with you, because they don’t want to turn against you by introducing guilt into the picture prematurely. They don’t want to be clouded by obligation to the point where they can’t remember how charming and smart and fun you were. They don’t want to make things awkward and heavy before they even know you.

Now theoretically none of what I’ve just described SHOULD be the case. In an ideal world, we’d all go around fucking like rabbits whenever we felt like it and so what? Hell, what is marriage even for? Why not fuck anyone, if they can bring you pleasure and unlock parts of you that are unfamiliar and passionate and real? I’m all for a world full of fucking rabbits everywhere, personally.

BUT. The outside world, as boring and mundane and weirdly moral and rigid and broken as it is, can’t be ignored. Reality can’t be ignored. And when you present yourself as a person who doesn’t get attached after sleeping with someone randomly, and then you discover that you DO get attached? That’s reality asking you to wake up and look at who you are with clear eyes, and adjust accordingly.

I’m the last person on the planet who would shame you for sleeping with that guy. I actually think that experience was a beautiful gift to you, a clarification of why you wanted to break up with your ex and what you crave moving forward. You know now that your body is capable of more pleasure and passion than you expected. FUCK YEAH! Even if that guy woke up and said, “YOU KNOW WHAT? YOU’RE BORING AND GROSS AND THAT’S WHY I NEVER WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN.” (lol excavated some ancient shame to come up with that one!), it would STILL be a gift to you.

Because you want good sex in your life. You want pleasure and trust and openness. YESSSSSSS, yes yes yes a million trillion times yes! Take this perfect gift and treasure it, just scrape that dude’s face off it first. He’s irrelevant. His reasons for wanting or not wanting more are not important. All that matters is that you experimented and you learned something essential about your body.

You also learned something essential about your emotions: You are sensitive and you care about love. You want to feel close to someone and trust that they will want to see you again. You might even want to get to know someone very well before you sleep with them.

Or maybe not! The only way to know is by keeping your heart wide open and continuing to learn. But this is a good start! Because you learned so much!

Never let pain and loss keep you from feeling all of the divine gifts offered by love. When you long for someone, when you wish things could be different, when you mourn what you could’ve had together or even what you actually had together, remember to celebrate everything you found there, everything you gained and felt and learned about yourself.

I know that’s a very common and mundane sentiment, but I want you to meditate on it at a deeper level so that you fully understand, inside your cells, how emancipating it can be to step back from ownership of another person and from the extremely limited and narrow idea that if a connection is severed then someone is rejecting someone else, someone is incapable of deep connection, someone doesn’t care enough, someone has made a fool of themselves.

Even the most absurd and embarrassing corners of your passion and longing are valuable. Even the most shameful moments of full surrender have something beautiful inside them, an ability to let the world touch you and form you into a new shape. Even when you feel weak in the wake of big passion or big love, you’re tapping into something elemental and lovely inside you: your emotional core, your wild spirit, the part of you that’s capable of caring deeply about something outside of your skin, the piece of you that loves being in sync with another person. Even when you miss an ex who will never be yours again, you’re tapping into that era of your life where you dared to show yourself and share yourself without reservation, and you’re also tapping into the absolute luxury of knowing another person intimately.

The more you recognize that experience as a luxury, as something precious that should be cherished and enjoyed EVEN after the fact, EVEN when things end badly, EVEN when you want that person back, the more you’ll understand the full scope and range of the love that lives inside your body, that belongs to you, and that will continue to exist and make you strong and generous long after any particular love of yours departs.

If you want to be a person who worships love and passion like it’s a form of art, in other words, I want to encourage you to shake off all of our culture’s insistence on simple stories about getting and keeping forever and failing to keep forever and ever. This sounds like a battle cry to become nonmonogamous or polyamorous, lol, but that’s not my aim. My aim is to offer you a full-hearted, open-minded appreciation for everything that comes next, including the big mistakes, the heartbreaks, and even the occasional unavoidable shame and regrets.

My aim, more than anything else, is to give you some space to honor and respect and adore your emotional core, and to honor and respect the emotional core of the people you encounter, friends and lovers alike. And when you treat love like a win or lose scenario, as a matter of owning or begging or chasing, as a matter of perfect togetherness or miserable loneliness, you turn your back on the REALITY of the vibrance of everything you already own, all of the passion that surges inside you, all of the natural victories inherent to simply waking up, fully alive, and greeting this day and its unknowns will clear eyes and a deep patience for what comes next, a deep acceptance of who you are, a deep gratitude of everything you’ve felt and everything you’ll feel in the future.

When you protect yourself from situations that you know will hurt you, you’re showing yourself that you know how precious you are. When you open your heart to people who you don’t know yet, but you stop yourself from surrendering your body to them without knowing more about who they are, you live in that luxurious place where intimacy is possible but emotional safety is possible, too. And when you dare to present your true beliefs, your strong opinions, your deep satisfactions, your repeating desires to another person, you’re daring to believe that the more a true, caring soul sees you clearly, the more that soul will love you.

That said, anytime you show up and show yourself, you’re also opening yourself up to heartbreak. There is no absolute protection from uncertainty and disappointment. There is no way to sidestep all pain. But avoiding pain tends to cause people a lot more pain than simply feeling the pain that’s there. It’s similar to shame: If you never notice it, you’ll never know how it influences your decisions or informs your notions about yourself. Shame can teach you what your fears are. Pain can teach you what you love the most. The more you welcome those sensations, the less they’ll rule your choices and block you from your passions and your joy.

The paradox of being a whole, flexible, open person in the world is that you have to not only tolerate and endure the pain and grit and disappointments and frustrations of the real world, but you have to allow some space to feel those threatening and upsetting sensations at times. So feel whatever shame does exist here, and ask yourself if some broken, core belief about yourself lies just beyond that shame. Feel whatever sadness lingers here, and look for your core desires just behind that sadness. Commit to becoming a person who can dare to feel EVERYTHING.

Nothing makes you stronger than accepting and celebrating the emotions that live inside you. Nothing makes you more resilient than making a commitment not to steer all of your decisions based on pain and loss. Nothing makes you more loving than gently nudging yourself to forgive people who’ve let you down, to acknowledge the value of people who may have departed in suboptimal ways, but who shared the luxury of true intimacy with you. Nothing draws love into your life more powerfully than becoming a person who can respect and treasure the wide range of lost, broken people around you in spite of the inherent challenges there, who can let people go and forgive them and still face each new day with courage and optimism, knowing that intimacy with others is just one piece of a magnificent, full life.

You’re made of love and magic. It belongs to you. That’s not optimistic bullshit, that’s the truth. You can roll your eyes and snicker and hide from the truth for as long as you want, but the truth will just keep coming back to you. You’re made of love and magic. Show the world what you’re made of. Nothing will bring you more joy.

And please don’t be thrown off by the mistakes you’ll inevitably make. Love is your native language. Trust that.