My Decision To Take A Lover

This article is part of the TNGG Sex Week series on Gen Y and sex. Read more from the series here.

When you can’t even find time between classes, the internship that pads your resume and the waitressing gig that pads your wallet to take a 20-minute power-nap, how can you be expected to keep up with a normal, 24-7, all-inclusive and ever-stressful romantic relationship?

We’ve moved on from the idea that a significant other is a must to be a complete and functioning adult. After our parents’ divorces and one failed, bullshit relationship after another, Gen Y kids know better.  Through inhabiting the world we do, we know that our careers are more important to our livelihoods now than romance is. None of us is looking to get married or find a life partner until we’re settled, career-wise.

But where does that leave us? Friends with benefits agreements? Open relationships? We know better than that too. The only logical thing left to do, since we’re all human and we all crave that most basic of human cravings (no, not food or water), is to take a lover.

A lover is not a boyfriend. A lover is not a friend with benefits. A lover is a person you meet who you maybe go out with once or twice, but, let’s face it, you don’t have time to devote yourself to. A lover is more than a booty call, and although they do serve a similar purpose, a lover is more than just sex.

The best kinds of lovers are the ones who have respect for each other, genuinely like each other, but don’t feel pressured to be together all the time or introduce each other to parents or friends. The best kinds of lovers are the ones you only see every week or so. Or maybe less than that – when you have time to chill out with someone after writing papers, having drinks with your friends, and showing your bosses that you really are the most brilliant intern they’ve ever seen.

A lover is a necessary 21st century accessory, like a MacBook or iPhone, but a lover also serves a much more important function, one that’s even more important than Facebook mobile: relaxation.

We live in such a high-stress, fast-paced world now that it really is impossible to juggle everything happily without being on serious mood-enhancing drugs or ADHD pills. A lover is that one person in your life that isn’t stressful. A lover is stress-relief. There’s nothing more relaxing than a good screw followed by a glass of wine, a movie in bed with someone you can laugh with, and a slow walk home with a smile on your face and Coldplay pumping through your headphones.

The trick, though, is how to alter the romantic relationship values system we were brought up with: either you’re a monogamist or you’re a whore. You’re dating to find someone to date or you’re dating to get laid. But these aren’t the only two choices available now. Some people simply aren’t able to commit themselves in a way that is positive to another person while they’re still trying to work out their own lives – and such lives we have now. How can we expect ourselves to be happy in such a limited sphere of acceptable relationship rules?

Taking a lover is not the same as sleeping or dating around – sex with one person is complicated enough, there’s no need to add drama to an already hectic lifestyle. But it does necessitate a certain amount of maturity. The only way to be comfortable in a sexual relationship is to be comfortable with every aspect of that relationship, and if it isn’t right, it isn’t right.

We are such scattered individuals, with so many broad and far-reaching interests, activities, hobbies and ideas that make up our daily lives that for Gen Y, its close to absurd to assume that we will find one person to be all the interpersonal relationship we need. Thus, with friends to confide in, classmates and colleagues to talk to and debate with and roommates (because who can afford to live alone in 2010) to hang out with on weeknights, all we need to add to our Rolodex of people we have relationships with is a lover to support us sexually and intimately – whenever we feel like it.

Photo Credit: mikebaird

Author: Alex Pearlman – blog – I’m a 23-year-old journalism and philosophy student, I love the John Adams miniseries, Aaron Sorkin, and reading Time magazine in bed with a glass of red wine. I work for and I’m the Editor in Chief of The Suffolk Journal, Suffolk University’s student newspaper. My interests range from libertarianism to beer bongs to the New York Times crossword puzzle. Hopefully, this box will one day read: Alex Pearlman, Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent.

Alex Pearlman I love the John Adams miniseries, the Disney version of Peter Pan, and 'A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.' My heroes include Aaron Sorkin, Audrey Hepburn, Gloria Steinem, Woody Allen and Allen Ginsberg. I don't like the two-party system, I do like crossword puzzles. I like red wine, I don't like fascists. I like big ideas, I don't like apathy. I like Wikileaks, I don't like censorship. I believe journalism needs a full-blown revolution to survive. Also, I'm the Editor in Chief of The Next Great Generation. Twitter: @lexikon1

View all posts by Alex Pearlman

17 Responses to “My Decision To Take A Lover”

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  2. jrmoreau

    Wow, nice job Alex. Good to see you linked up with some great peeps in Boston to get this featured. Hope all's well with you.

  3. Carlee Mallard

    Nicely written and communicated Alex. It seems like the ideal and perfect scenario, but I wonder how feasible it is in real life. It really only works if the lover is, as you say, stress-free, but I think it would be stressful enough trying to find another person on the same page as you. It sounds stressful enough just trying to think about how to make a non-stressful relationship work.

    If everyone were on the same page here it could work, but it seems like everyone is looking for something different and it's just as hard to find a lover as it is to make a real relationship work out. Imagine proposing to someone who wants a relationship that you don't have the time and you'd really only like to sleep together and hang out once or twice a week… Whatever the outcome, people *usually* get hurt at some point.

  4. Bruce Lee

    “you’re a monogamist or you’re a whore.” – Quotable shit there Pearldawg.
    I'm a whore..

  5. Eric


    As much as I want to sympathize with the pragmatic cynicism of my Gen Y brethren — especially those who toss in the parental divorce reference to explain a jaded attitude toward love — I think this is yet another example of Gen Y exceptionalism run amok.

    As if we're the first generation to lead stressful lives. The first generation ever to find romance somewhat less than elating at every moment of the day. The first generation with such complex emotional needs that they can't be fulfilled by one person.

    The key line in this whole piece is the last one — “whenever we feel like it.” You want intimacy when you want it, and space when you don't. You want emotional comfort from a person… but no expectation of having to return that emotional support if it's not professionally or personally convenient at that moment.

    This is not some kind of humanistic paradigm shift you've recognized; it's selfishness. You are asking for permission to have an on-demand relationship, and that is a very straightforward form of selfishness.

    If you can find someone to fulfill that role, then go for it. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there looking for the exact same kind of relationship you are. But it's not going to work for long.

    Because one night, you're “lover” is going to need you at the moment you're out having drinks with friends, or you're going to need your “lover” at the moment he or she is showing off those intern skills during a late night at the office. At that moment, your relationship will suddenly not be convenient or relaxing. And then you will have to decide: is this person someone I care about, or is this someone I'm using?

    As much as you might wish otherwise, the word “lover” won't be enough to paper over that choice.

  6. alexpearlman


    I hear you. Your concern is valid. And first, I'd like to point out that these articles/mini essays have word limits. I would have liked to address the points you bring up, but I simply didn't the extra space. So I'll do it here:

    You're right that I want intimacy when I want it and space when I don't. However, you're wrong to assume that those things wouldn't be reciprocated to my partner – allowing for both parties to have the ability to either accept or reject a desperate call for emotional support when it's needed.

    It is selfish, in a way – but it allows both parties to be selfish. This is the beauty of the arrangement. So that yes, there are times when I want support that I'm not going to get it, and vice versa. That's what you sign up for. Hence, that little piece at the bottom about this not being for everyone; it does take a certain amount of emotional maturity to accept being turned down when you're asking for something you want in this kind of relationship.

    You are operating under the assumption that “one night” one person will be unavailable to the other and the whole thing will fall apart. You've misunderstood my premise: it's ok if that happens and to expect that it won't happen, and regularly, is simply naive. If I need emotional support, I have friends, parents, roommates, and a cat. I think I can take it.

    To address another point: If your parents had a nice divorce, are happily remarried and have left you full of optimism at the idea of settling down, good for you, you're in the minority and I'm happy that you're happy.

    I am not jaded about love, I have had a number of wonderful and loving relationships and I know that I will continue to have those when I'm less consumed with school, work and living. However, I am cynical about the idea of forever-and-ever-vows-and-stuff marriage. Marriage, not love. There is a difference.

    Sigh… some people just don't see that…

  7. jt8086

    any chance you're looking for a lover currently? i want to forward this to all the girls i know

  8. Daniel

    So I'm supposed to believe that a short term- specific life style prerequisite which requires some near contractually specific “emotional give and take” is supposed to be stress free? All because there is stress in preconceived and apparently not worth the effort archetypal “forever relationships”?

    When being in short term , open, ill-defined relationships is supposed to be less stressful than trusting and understanding someone else I'll think about it. But to basically shit list something like “long term relationships” because other people tack on their special words like marriage just sounds like an excuse to avoid any type of responsibility outside of your academic or financial security.

    This is a common theme with people our age, and it's nothing new. “Loop holes” for life , especially social aspects, aren't black and white and the gray area being implied less stressful is really nonsensical. Basically put, you can admit things like school and work require time and effort for some type of great success in, but relationships are supposed to be cake walks and require no effort other than the maturity of being rejected because other people can be selfish too?

    “Mutual maturity” that's purpose to allow another person to avoid the aspects of the very reason you're involved with them in the first place makes no sense. You're putting selfishness on a pedestal, and one of the last things I consider mature is selfishness. In the same point- you're shunning certain labels then just accepting others because you want to define them. “marriage is this” while “lovers are this”, both of which have assumed outcomes that are generalized.

    Also, as much as I idealistically want to think that there are relationships that are completely stress free, that's really irrational. Not only that, but sacrificing some of the strongest aspect of said long-term relationships for a bit less stress and bit more independence in a relationship is still being limited, just in another way. Obviously less stress > more meaningful relationship is the idea, but to me that just sounds like the boundaries of a dating or romantically involved couple. Which is nothing new.

    But neither is trying to put yourself first with everything you do unless it strikes your fancy to give a little.

  9. cinzie

    Unfortunately this is not just a situation for the Gen Y, some of us that are older parents of younger children, we secured that great career, got married, had our kids later in life and now have decided that taking a lover is the only way to destress and save our sanity without going down the divorce path. Mainly because the partners we settled for when it became time to have those kids because the clock was ticking…werent the right people for us. We both knew it, but for whatever reason, being the great professionals that we are convinced ourselves that the merger would be great for everyone. Now 11 years later, we are both taking a lover to get back what we had before we settled. Not a whore, but ready to have an orgasm again!

  10. Gena

    This is a refreshing piece. I, from the very last year of the baby boomers, say bravo. I have read the replies and as for selfish? Selfish is not being honest and true to yourself. Taking a lover is not a scenario for everyone. I am a romantic and lover at heart but have been faced with life circumstances that I have had to think creatively. I can either wait until my son has left home, expose him to another marriage and possible divorce, not to mention the rotating door of dating to meet, “The One.” Or I can take a lover and enjoy being an adult when he is with his father. Happy Mother. Happy Child. Good for you for taking this topic on. Now could someone tell me not how to get too attached?

  11. Passerby

    Fantastic piece.

    You succinctly penned what’s been floating around my head for the past few years.
    I’ve been struggling to find someone that fits this, but most of the likely candidates are still holding onto out-dated relationship values. I just don’t have the time, or the energy for something that requires daily attention (at this stage of my life).

    Once a week for relaxation/intimacy/fun is right on the money.

  12. missg

    what an enlightened article! i wish i could find a nice, youngish type man who thought along these lines. it’s not that i’m cold, but i am a 31 year old mature student, doing the who shuffle and juggle of crappy part time jobs vs creative fulfillment in my ‘downtime’ and i just don’t have the time or energy to really commit to a loving, full on relationship. i would like however, to be a loving lover. the problem is, the last gguy i dated seemed to want the same thing, but he just couldn’t handle the concept that I DID. he wanted me to be all hurt and tortured when he wasn’t around, but at the same time, he wanted his freedom. i get the feeling that men think women are odd if they don’t want marriage, babies and commitment. it’s hard to find a man who is sophisticated to be a strong woman’s lover. sigh…

  13. M A

    I am a 58 year old woman…..came from that prim and proper time when it was pounded into my head, “no sex before marriage, don’t be a whore!” Well, now the last child is leaving the nest for college in June and I have been divorced from their father for 13 years. Had gotten married again but the guy got sick and I lost him to mental illness, after he had ruined my life emotionally, financially and every other way.

    I have spent two of the last 3 years in a very deep depression. This last year I tried dating, I don’t go to bars, I don’t want a drunken fling, and on various dating websites. There I met a stalker, men passing thru and not staying in my city long, and most recently a kind, generous widower that wanted to make out like a teenager from the moment he met me (gross). He made great money, had great assets, took me out and tried to practically rape me on every date! (he was never lucky, wanted too much too soon!) My son did a search on him and the day after that I was SO excited to find his long lost dead wife for him! I told him that he had been lying and he wasn’t even apologetic! (no, I never gave him the “goods”)

    SO, I did a lot of thinking, dating is way too hard, getting all dressed up, having the best thoughts, etc., and this guy just fell into my life! He is 15 years younger than me, working night and day trying to start a business, and the attraction nearly knocked us into Outer Space! He was so honest from the beginning, he is in the middle of his business taking off, has to work at a second business to fund the first and really doesn’t have time to date. He wants a lover! He texted me for days, we are so attracted to each other, but I have a life that doesn’t have room for the work and the trouble of yet another relationship that may not work. So…I held my breath, went to see him at his shop, and..hey girls, this is what I need! He is so giving, he wants to pleasure ME, not the other way around! (Pinch Me!) When I want to be pleasured, he is there waiting! I don’t even have to do anything if I don’t want! And he just beams after!

    I know this won’t last forever but he found ME, he is attracted to me, and I am in heaven! If I want to look for somebody to grow old with, I will, but right now I am being kissed, loved and the BIGGEST thing, being held by those big strong arms! I am goin’ to the gym starting tomorrow and toning this old body into a toned marvel that can be twisted into any type of pretzel that my guy wants….and he doesn’t even care!


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