Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Debby Herbenick Ph.D., M.P.H.

The Pleasures of Sex

Why It Pays To Be Foolish in Love (and Sex)

Heartbreak shouldn't stop you from a second chance at love.

Posted Mar 15, 2010

Some years ago, my heart broke very badly after a relationship that, even as it was beginning, I knew probably could not last. I could say that I wish that it was the only time that my heart had ever broken, but I'd be lying. It's not that I enjoy heartbreak. The tissues I sobbed into and the Tylenol PM that I took in order to fall asleep those first couple of nights would tell you a story of just how much I don't like to experience hurt.

But here's the thing: this heartbreak and willingness to try again is central to a point that I want to make: namely, that I think it pays to be foolish in love and in sex.

Awhile after my heart broke that time, I met someone else. Or rather, I started seeing someone who I had known for a while as a friend but had newly considered as someone with whom I wanted to explore a relationship.

We lived in different cities with no intentions to move, there were a few years between us and we simply did not know how it would work. And there was certainly a part of me that didn't want to get my heart broken yet again even though I had sworn - after my last breakup - that I wouldn't let that heartbreak stand in the way of my falling in love again.

But there I stood, not knowing what to do. And then I heard - and I kid you not - the wise words of Billy Joel ringing through my iPod's earphones while I was running. The song was The Longest Time and the line was the following: "I don't care what consequence it brings, I have been a fool for lesser things."

And that was that: I knew I had to give it a go. (And yes, I realize that I am attributing my courage to the Piano Man.)

The guy and I talked on the phone later that afternoon and I told him about the song and how I had previously pursued relationships that went awry or had chased after dreams in life that were ultimately odd, quirky or simply less important to me than finding someone with whom to share my life.

If I could fall flat on my face and go to ridiculous, sometimes humorous or embarrassing lengths, for so many things in life, couldn't I risk a little more and gamble on love? Even though I have not always been one to gamble, I did that time.

There's something wonderful, I think, about taking chances on love and sex. We're sometimes fools for our friends, foolish for our children (to make them laugh) or pets (to tire them out) and we're often foolish for money or our jobs.

Why not give it all, as they say, for a chance at love? Why not wear cartoon underwear and do a Superman dive onto the bed at night? At the very least it would wake your partner up from your usual bedtime routine.

Why not shake your bootie in your drawers, parading through the family room and attempting your best split or cartwheel, space allowing? If it helps you and your partner to laugh, or if you do it alone and it helps you to feel young again, then it's a score for love, for self-esteem, for confidence and probably pretty good for your butt muscles too.

Going out on a limb can be roller-coaster scary because none of us want to be rejected or to have our heart broken. But so what if that happens? I, for one, would rather fall flat on my face as I serenade my partner (off-key and all) in a bikini and a short little pool skirt than sit on the edge of the pool, dipping my toes in silence.

Debby Herbenick, PhD, MPH is a Research Scientist at Indiana University, a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, and the author of Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction. Her personal blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter @mysexprofessor

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