Unconditional Love versus Sexual Desire

By John Rocheleau
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Freedom ... painting by John Rocheleau

Are sex and friendship compatible? Will having sex with a friend destroy your unconditional love?

Relationship issues, sexual desire, and how to love unconditionally, comprise the majority of emails that I receive. Most people, it seems, have difficulty loving unconditionally within a sexual relationship, or coming to terms with their sexual feelings for a friend.

Here is an extract from a recent letter from Brad in New Hampshire, and my response:

“Dear John,

Since I was a teenager (I am 24 now) I have noticed that every time I really “fell in love” with a person, it was not sexual attraction; I felt pride and happiness for that person, and her achievements – often entirely ignoring her physical characteristics. I felt most of the things you described as unconditional and true love.

Instead when I just “dated” someone, I needed assurance that she was “mine”, felt jealous if she spoke to other men, and worried about loosing her. Or that if I lost her “she’s not the right one”.

Since about one year I’ve tried to love unconditionally (my approach arose from Christian narrative, altruism and similar values), but simultaneously pursued the idea of actually being together, being “partnered” with the person I love unconditionally.

Unfortunately, I never experienced such a relationship, mainly because every time I loved someone unconditionally, our friendship became so strong that social norms commanded us to “stay in the friend-zone”, as they make a strict distinction between friendship and love (Something I do not really agree with, but almost everyone does).

Do you think that in order to love unconditionally AND have a relationship of the kind I am talking about, it is still important to NOT ignore sexuality (i.e. follow the social norms on sexual relations in order to become a couple and not “just friends”)? And do you have any general thoughts about the “friend-zone” problem, and how it relates to unconditional love?”

Dear Brad,

You are drawing too many lines in the sand. I think you believe that unconditional love is exclusive to non-sexual relationships. You say that you feel this from society, but I feel it coming from within you.

Your sexual feelings engage powerful and primitive parts of your brain. While you are feeling these raw drives coursing through your mind and body, you are also perhaps trying to be cool, or spiritual, or correct in some way. And that is natural. As a man though, your primal sexual nature just wants total immersion with the body and spirit of a woman; the merging of flesh on flesh, the indescribable fullness, and the climax–that infinite moment of white light and absolute dissolve.

But because you have that disconnect between your higher aspirations and your sexual drive, you lose your spiritual sense when you engage in sex. That causes you to feel at odds with yourself; selfishly satisfied and guilty as a result.

On the surface, your sexuality doesn’t care about your desire to be spiritual or unconditional. it craves only simple satisfaction, and it naturally wants to possess it. Women are no different by the way. It may be a surprise to some men, but women engage the same primal forces. Their sexual drives also conflict with their perceived-to-be-higher self conceptions. So how do you cope with the inner conflict?

You can begin by considering that there is no conflict at all. Sex is a powerful and blinding drive, but it is not just a primitive drive to selfish and possessive satisfaction. Your sexual impulse can grow with you into a beautiful–and unconditional–physical, emotional, energetic, and spiritual union. All of the differences, the power struggles, and the guilt, are dissolved.

Our sexual nature mirrors the union that is expressed in the higher spiritual aspects of life. It is our base experience of nirvana; the complete meltdown of boundaries and separations. And we can transform our sexual nature’s irresistible power into that higher expression, but we must begin by joyously accepting our basic drives.

This sexual alchemy takes time and energy to accomplish, but it is entirely doable. On one end of the scale, sex is a physical and emotional union with your partner, and at the higher end it is creative union with your inner and outer universe. So lighten up on yourself and accept your sexual desires as good and natural. Work with it. See where you can take it.

Unconditional love is all about erasing the lines in the sand; the separation between you and I, your judgments and your fears. Sexual relations can move you in the same direction.

Not only is it OK to sexually desire a woman whom you also feel unconditional love for, but the two drives are in perfect alignment. It is all a matter of choice and character. It seems that you have the character. You just need to make the choice–without attaching to the outcome–and work through your feelings, fears, and insecurities.

It is also important to remember that there is no possession when it comes to relationships. Everyone you meet is simply a different aspect of yourself, and naturally you want the best for them, because in a real sense they are you, and you are them. We are all one. So merge with the one you love. Don’t compete with them or try to possess them.

Make good choices, and remain in integrity. It will then all come together Brad.

Over to you Now!

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22 comments ↓

#1 Catrien Ross on 04.09.10 at 11:10 pm

John, thank you for writing about a topic that is so thought-provoking that people not only want to draw lines in the sand, they want to hide their heads in the sand, too!

So much of our inner nature has become alien to us – we are disconnected from ourselves in so many ways. A major cause is our disconnection from the natural world around us – we no longer hear or sense our own rhythms and urges, or accept them as part of the web of life.

I want to think about what you wrote here, and your response to Brad. Meantime I thank you especially for, “unconditional love is all about erasing the lines in the sand.” This is such a profound insight that can lead us to resolution of perceived opposites and the integration of all aspects of ourselves.

Thank you, too, for visiting and commenting on my blog today. I am still smiling here in the mountains in Japan – Catrien Ross.

Read more from Catrien Ross here… Catrien Ross on Finding 9 Powerful Meanings in Your Smile When You Don’t Feel Like SmilingMy Profile

#2 John Rocheleau on 04.10.10 at 3:39 pm

Hi Catrien,

Yes, it is a big subject, and yet one that many people avoid as your say. Everyone has their own take on it according to their experiences and sometimes strongly influenced by upbringing. My own experience surrounding sex and higher spiritual aspirations are influenced by Taoist sexual alchemy; a wonderful training to experience. Though it is very involved in the training aspect, it is simple, powerful, and beautiful in practice. Our sexual energies extend far beyond the physical and emotional sexual act, which is of course why it is natural to include our sexual energies and nature in our spiritual development. A person can even be celibate and still very sexually active in the higher sense of sexual energy and expression. It is a rich subject indeed.

By the way, the internal smile I was mentioning on your blog, is a simple but very strong Taoist internal Chi Gung practice. It is much more involved than what I implied, but still very simple. There is just so much waiting just beneath the surface that can change lives in profound ways.

:-)
John

#3 Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills on 04.11.10 at 4:58 pm

Hi John, I have also noticed a many individuals and couples looking for guidance on relationship issues. To a large degree I think that this is actually an extension of a related but different problem.

Most people are out of touch with their true or authentic self. This means that they are confused about their own passions, values, purpose, and the meaning of there own life. Taking two people in this situation and putting them together as a couple is more likely to add to the confusion rather than bring clarity.

That’s not to say that we can’t discover some clarity together as a couple, but knowing who we are as individuals first puts the challenge of meshing as a couple on more solid ground.

Another point that some might not agree with is this: In a very close relationship there are always some reasonable expectations. That’s just how it works. Since expectations make a relationship “conditional,” my question for anyone with an opinion is this: Can unconditional love and reasonable expectations really coexist?

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#4 John Rocheleau on 04.11.10 at 5:49 pm

Hi Jonathan,

I absolutely agree with your feeling that self understanding must be prioritized. Self understanding must lead the way for understanding a relationship, and love, and sex. Of course, we don’t wait until we are self-actualized before we fall in love, and so we learn about ourselves on-the-road; often from the mirroring our partner provides for us. It is a rich classroom is it not?

I love the question you pose. You said: “Can unconditional love and reasonable expectations really coexist?” My own thoughts on that are that the word “reasonable” expectations imply that the expectations are understood by both parties, they are transparent, and they are not destructive. If that is the case, then there is no conflict, there is just understanding, and owning your own power, and giving.

If for instance, I have an expectation of taking a solo trip to the coast because I feel the need for some solitude, my partner will understand that expectation and find joy in participating in that trip–by supporting the idea of it being solo. My Wife takes solo trips to Europe by the way. I feel good about her doing that because I know how much she enjoys it. We each expect to have our space and because we can love unconditionally, we enjoy giving that to each other. So my answer is an unequivocal yes–unconditional love and reasonable expectations can not only exist together, but they are a natural pair. In my own opinion, the expectations are not felt as “conditions,” but simply as desires, truths, or realities, which are then embraced by the other.

Anyone else? Everyone has their own take on this I’ll bet. Thanks for the great question Jonathan.

John

#5 Brad on 04.12.10 at 7:53 am

Hi John! Thanks for your reply. I think you proved a very good point I can generally agree with.
My question, however, was more related to a specific kind of problem. I’m not sure if you understood what I meant by friendzone, but let my express more simply:

How would you advise someone to behave if he/she loves one person unconditionally, but his/her desire is directed at someone else (or several others), OR if the desire is not reciprocated by the unconditionally loved person?

Example:
Brad loves Martina, but she loves him only as a friend because she desires other men more than Brad. Meanwhile, other women are also more sexually available to Brad, thereby also diverting his desire towards them.

What would Brad do in a context of unconditional love for Martina?

#6 Jenn on 04.12.10 at 11:11 am

John, kudos to you for tackling this topic so well! I really enjoyed learning from you sharing this knowledge so beautifully!
I think often we are taught a certain way for so long that every thought really has to go through reconditioning especially in the area of spirituality and sexuality. So much unraveling for the pure light to come through! Somehow there are these severed threads or missing landscapes and yet I love how you shared: “Unconditional love is all about erasing the lines in the sand”, and also “So lighten up on yourself and accept your sexual desires as good and natural. ”
… conflict with their perceived-to-be-higher self conceptions. I love recognizing again and again the truth that God is IN US. it is purity in the flesh, ..and embracing that union rather than seeing separation from the light. or feeling that we are living two parts. We are to live completely immersed in this One Love. [It is beautiful, but goes against so much of what we have been shown or taught. It is amazing how much of our journey is a struggling free of it all, to come back to a simple and natural definition. ]
You summed it all up so well in not only giving us permission as a gracious elder which is wonderful for those of us hard on our self.. and in coming from a place of spirit wisdom which is so prevalent here, I want to say thank you. I love this most of all: “We are all one. So merge with the one you love. ”
blessings to you John! ~hugs, Jenn

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#7 John Rocheleau on 04.12.10 at 12:10 pm

Hi Brad,

When I read your original letter, I feel that your main issues surround conflicts regarding sex and unconditional love, and the pressures you perceive from society. I addressed those concerns because that was the binding thread in your letter. I feel that when you address those issues, you will find the answers to the questions in your comment above. That said, let’s look at your newly worded questions.

Referencing your example, if you unconditionally love and are sexually attracted to Martina, but Martina is not sexually attracted to you in return, then there is absolutely no issue. If your love is truly unconditional, her lack of sexual feelings for you changes nothing because you placed no conditions upon your love. It simply means you won’t be having sex with Martina.

In the second part of your example, you and Martina are great friends. You love her unconditionally and you are sexually attracted to her, but you now know that she does not feel the same (which you now accept with ease because your love is unconditional). And you say there are other women who are sexually available to you who draw your sexual desire away from Martina toward them. Well, again there is no conflict here Brad. You and Martina will continue to have a great friendship and you both will enjoy sexual relationships with other people. There is nothing wrong with that. The picture is complete.

Love and sex are wonderful partners, but unconditionally loving a person–that just happens to be the gender of your sexual preference–does not require physical sex to complete it. The sex act is many things to many people. When viewed from the perspective of unconditional love, it might be considered a sacred physical and spiritual coalescence of two people. It could be “this two,” or “that two.” The point is: the lack of sexual activity in a loving relationship has nothing to do with the abundance and quality of love that is expressed and enjoyed.

We can be sexually attracted without need or desire to act. Instead, we can just enjoy our feelings of attraction. Smile to ourselves when we feel these things, and appreciate the gift of beauty, energy, and sexuality. There are countless ways of enjoying sexual attraction that do not involve sexual action. When our love of people is unconditional, we will never feel we are refraining from or abstaining from our desires, or even needing to deal with our feelings. Those conflicts simply do not exist within a person who loves unconditionally.

Perhaps the best course of action is to explore your self-understanding, find your essence, and learn to love yourself unconditionally before you define your unconditional love for others. This relates to Jonathan’s comment.

Something to consider,
John

#8 John Rocheleau on 04.12.10 at 12:36 pm

Hello Jenn,

Thanks for your comments. I don’t know that I tackled the subject well; I just responded to some specific input. It is a huge topic. One that volumes could be written on. Sex and love are two of the most misunderstood concepts to humans. I don’t have all the answers, but I do enjoy posing the questions and answering through whatever understanding I feel within me.

I love what you said here:

“God is IN US. it is purity in the flesh, ..and embracing that union rather than seeing separation from the light. or feeling that we are living two parts. We are to live completely immersed in this One Love. [It is beautiful, but goes against so much of what we have been shown or taught. It is amazing how much of our journey is a struggling free of it all, to come back to a simple and natural definition. ]”

This describes unconditional love well, and points the way to a higher expression of sex.

Very beautiful. Thank you.

John

#9 Brad on 04.12.10 at 4:26 pm

Wow, what a specific and elaborate reply! Thank you. Please let me know whether my questions are too much and going off topic. I do also find my own answers in myself, but I appreciate hearing the opinion of others as well…

By social pressure I mean common trend of putting desire above love or friendship when making decisions regarding a long term partnership.

I somehow feel that desire is often the reason why existing partnerships end. Why do people cheat or break up? I also think that people become “not more than friends” because an initially existing sexual spark is not developed strong enough, for example because one of the two is not attractive as the other.

My point: I think desire is good, but the mechanisms leading to it (e.g. attraction) happen randomly and somewhat “un-fairly”, as opposed to unconditional love, which is a personal choice.

#10 John Rocheleau on 04.12.10 at 7:41 pm

Hi Brad,

Like many of us, myself included at times, you are over-thinking things. These questions won’t arise if you can go within and find the understanding that leads to unconditional feelings.

Sometimes the mind poses constant new twists on issues to be “figured out,” in an attempt to stop you from being still long enough to gain inner awareness and understanding. I like to call that understanding, “silent knowledge,” because it comes from the creative processes that occur before thought and words. That may sound a bit vague, but it is my most honest answer at this point. There are many ways to gain that stillness and understanding. Maybe try meditation training, or a mind-body discipline. It might open a whole new chapter in your life. You have nothing to lose and possibly everything to gain.

Best,
John

#11 Phil - Less Ordinary Living on 04.13.10 at 10:31 am

John –

You have taken on a huge topic with your typical sensitivity and common sense. I think you are on the right track that sexuality and unconditional love are mutually compatible. When we meet our ideal partner we love them unconditionally. Making love is the ultimate act of personal vulnerability and intimacy. To do this with someone we love is a gesture of our unconditional love and a consummation of that. Nature shows us that some species are designed for monogamous partnerships and humans seem to be that way. Finding the one we love is a natural process and sex can be part of the whole package without guilt or fear, if we love truly. Great stuff!

Phil

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#12 John Rocheleau on 04.13.10 at 11:02 am

Hey Phil,

I feel that when we can love unconditionally, the criteria for an “ideal partner” is broadened. When we realize our commonality and common bonds as humans, we “get” that the concept of “ideal partner” is not as important as the concept of “ideal relationship” with that partner. The idea being, to grow within ourselves to the point where we can fully accept and unconditionally love the partner we are with. Because in a way, everyone is a mirror.

In the end it all comes back to self-acceptance and self-understanding.

Best,
John

#13 Robin Easton on 04.14.10 at 9:19 am

Dear John,

Oh I wish I had days to delve into this one. WOW!! It’s loaded and wonderful and juicy, and I have no idea how you were able to lay this out so clearly. I am just blown away!! :) There are so many things I could respond to here. This could have almost been a whole series or even a book! I would not have been able to condense it down into one post the way you have. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. I read the post as well as the comments and I just LOVE your response to J.Wells question.

YES!!! I totally agree that unconditional love and reasonable expectations go hand in hand and are not separate. My husband and I are VERY comfortable with acknowledging, allowing and LIVING the unique needs/expectations that we each have. And we do so BECAUSE we genuinely want each other to be happy…AND we fully KNOW without doubt that we do not “own” the other person. In fact, we have found that in allowing room for each others unique needs that it only deepens our bond into an astounding knowing and intimacy between us. And by intimacy I mean our understanding of who we each REALLY are and need to be, as well as our understanding of humanity, as well as our understanding of the often totally unrealistic expectations that are place on “relationship” as a state of being (often place there by our cultures, etc.)

I also loved what you said about how we usually fall in love long before we know who we are. (Ain’t that the truth) LOL! :) :) And that relationship is/can be a VERY fertile ground for growth. If we can see it as such then we begin to grow intensely.

You were very brave to tackle this topic. I admire that. I wouldn’t even know where to start. Thank you SO much. Hugs, Robin

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#14 John Rocheleau on 04.14.10 at 6:04 pm

Hi Robin,

You said “relationship is/can be a VERY fertile ground for growth” and of course I agree :-), so much so that I think this one truth can not only save relationships from disaster, but it is the key for building unconditional love.

Sometimes, people are genuinely not suited to one another and so they split. But I am convinced that, more often, relationships end because we do not want to grow through the issues that arise. We would rather avoid them. Instead, all we manage to do is repeat them.

The issues we have with our partner usually call for a change in ourselves, and rather than accepting the challenge, we move on only to confront the same issues in a different form with a new partner. But if we accept the challenge to change and grow–with the partner we have committed to–we gain a sweet understanding that dissolves all the conflicts and separations.

Thanks for your always inspirational thoughts Robin,

John :-)

#15 Amit Sodha - The Power Of Choice on 04.27.10 at 4:57 am

Hi John,

Firstly, great answer and I couldn’t agree with you more. I also agree that the whole relationship thing is an undertone that sets the fuller tone of our lives. Speaking from a man perspective I know only too well that not handling those conflicts in me led to a huge division in the way I think. It’s still there to a certain degree and it’s just a practice, like anything else, of letting that all go and becoming whole again to experience both parts to the fullest. I wrote an article a while back called ‘spirituality and dirty jokes, are they mutually exclusive?’ my message is the same, of course not. It’s the limitations of the mind that have led us to create those boundaries.

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#16 Prashant | Buy eBooks on 06.08.10 at 1:31 am

I think I agree with your response. “Unconditional” love implies no pre-conditions. You love the other person. Period. It does not, or at least should not, have anything to do with your sexual desire for the other person. You act if it is consensual. You don’t, if it is not. Your love is still the same – no strings attached. Good writing. Thanks for posting this.
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#17 John Rocheleau on 06.08.10 at 12:01 pm

Hello Prashant,

Yes, like you say, “no strings attached.” Strings tie our emotions, intentions and actions, to our own selfish desires. And selfishness can never be love. Only true union, where divisions do not exist, can foster love, and we call that state of being–unconditional.

Thank you for your on-target thoughts,
John

#18 Worship CD on 06.21.10 at 1:49 am

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#19 scheers on 02.17.12 at 1:39 am

“We can be sexually attracted without need or desire to act. Instead, we can just enjoy our feelings of attraction. Smile to ourselves when we feel these things, and appreciate the gift of beauty, energy, and sexuality. There are countless ways of enjoying sexual attraction that do not involve sexual action.”

Could you please expand on the countless ways . . . I’m in a relationship that I am working hard to keep in the “friendzone” b/c I am married (happily) . . . but I found that practicing unconditional love did bring up some desires for my friend that I am choosing not to act on (and btw it’s a mutual attraction). . . we both agree to keep it in the “friendzone” . . . So aside from having lunch, hugging and light peck on the lips upon hello and goodbye, cooking together, sharing problems, gifting each other small gifts, lending an ear . . . is there anything else? It just feels like we would be fanning the fire if we partake in “countless ways of enjoying sexual attraction that do not involve sexual action.” We both have a meditative practice -I know I have turned more to that -and I believe he has also. We want to protect/salvage the friendship. But I am at a loss at the moment on how to proceed. Any advice?

#20 John Rocheleau on 02.17.12 at 12:03 pm

Hi Scheers,

What are those countless ways to enjoy sexual attraction without becoming physically/sexually involved? They are different for everyone. For me it is mostly internal. I allow myself to feel the attraction and enjoy it for the gift that it is.

I think that it is important that we are clear on what we want though. It is one thing to feel that delicious sexuality, but quite another to actively want to have sex with this person, all the while trying not to give in to the desire.

We need to be clear about what we value and really want. If you really value your happy marriage, and want to stay married to your husband, you need to actually make that decision consciously and deliberately. We cross those “friendzone” boundaries only when we are not firmly grounded in, and consciously committed to the sexual relationship zone we occupy. Right now you might be thinking, “I am committed to my marriage, yet still I feel the urge to be with this other guy.” I get that. I know how it feels to be attracted to that special “other” person that you have so much affinity with. And I know how it feels to cross the lines from that “friendzone” into what you might imagine will be the “wonderzone.”

But what you will discover when you cross those lines is: you have now entered the “conflicted zone,” where everything becomes unstable. You are now faced with either leaving your marriage, or living with deception in your heart. And the real kicker here is: you’ll likely discover that you already had the most honest and genuine relationship with this “other” man — when he was your friend.

So my advice to you is:

  • Make a decision: Do you value your marriage? Do you want to remain with your Husband?
  • If you do, then you must consciously draw a line in your mind that you will not cross, because you do not want to live with deception or leave your husband.
  • Count your blessings and be grateful for this other relationship. Your friendship with each other is far more precious than I think you are seeing right now. Prioritize that special bond of friendship, because that is where your spirits will find a lifetime of nourishment and support. The sexual energy between you is the simply the beauty of your own inner sexual natures, as they relate and interact with life.

Sexual energy is creative energy. We can choose what we create with it. Artists create paintings that inspire, musicians create songs that change the world, men and women in business create companies that alter the the shape of society, mystics and meditators introduce mankind to the untapped and vast unknown. And all of this is powered by sexual energy because sexual energy is about giving birth; creating something of value. And the highest expression of sexuality, is the creation of your highest self.

I hope that gives you some stimulus to see your situation in a more complete light.

:-)
John

#21 Scheers on 02.28.12 at 3:12 am

Dear John,
Thank you for the inspirational and supportive words. I wholeheartedly agree with the “wonderzone” being one full of conflict!! I define this zone for me as purely mental– I wonder how it might be? –I wonder if it work? –I wonder what would happen to me, my friend, my husband? -I wonder what would happen if I open Pandora’s box??? Then, I realized the possible consequences you mentioned: deception, separation from spouse, but there is a third -not easy as well, and that is considering an open marriage. After thinking about all this for close to three months, I knew I could not live with any of those options. It literally froze me and I couldn’t step right or left. Thus, prompting my note. I will be having a conversation with my friend very soon and will share what I have learned here. I will be drawing that line and I think that is what my friend is waiting for me to do. It sounds so simple to just be grateful for the energy between us… I feel more living in the present moment, mindfulness will be required of me -good practice, right!! Coincides with my new year resolution to make mindfulness a greater part of my life. Funny how that works :-)

#22 John Rocheleau on 02.28.12 at 9:42 am

Hello Scheers,

Your new clarity will act like the morning sun in your life :-)

Best wishes to you,
John

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