How many of these bad sex and love habits have you been guilty of?

Are YOU a sex and relationship sinner? Tracey Cox reveals how to clean up your act if you flirt for an ego boost or pretend to want something more when it’s just casual sex

  • Tracey Cox describes four habits which are less acceptable then they ever were
  • One is flirting with someone you have no interest in for an ego boost
  • Another is ignoring that one of your closest friends is in love with you 

Yes, dating and having relationships during a pandemic does mean inventing a whole new set of rules.

But these four age-old love and sex bad habits are even less acceptable today than they ever were.

We’re all a bit delicate right now: all is NOT fair in love and war!

Here’s why you need to clean up your act if you’re guilty of any of the following – and how to do it.

Tracey Cox says four age-old love and sex bad habits are even less acceptable today than they ever were 

Flirting with someone you have no interest in for an ego boost

‘He’s the human equivalent of a nice, hot cup of tea and piece of toast when you’ve got a raging hangover. My comfort blanket who I engage with when I need a boost.

‘The rest of the time I pretty much ignore him. Though he seems fine with that.’

This is how one 24-year-old describes her ‘okay looking but you’d never go there’ ‘friend’ she flirts with – when it suits her.

Most of us, if we’re honest, can (shamefacedly) own up to having been guilty of this one.

Who doesn’t enjoy being admired? Having someone you know will be on your side, no matter what the issue is, who flatters you, makes you feel gorgeous, clever, funny, perfect?

This scenario can be relatively harmless and even mutually beneficial if both of you know the rules of the game: that you’re never going to do anything other than ‘breadcrumb’ in return for their compliments. 

They get occasional attention from someone they fancy the pants off in return.

When it’s not fine is when the person you’re flirting with thinks there’s a real chance you’ll get together every time you toy with them.

Break the habit: Make it clear light-hearted flirting is all that’s on offer by talking about any relationships you’re having rather than pretend you’re single. 

(Lots do, to maintain the illusion that they’re potentially available.) Spell it out. Say, ‘You’re so sweet. I’m lucky to have a friend like you,’ so they are aware that’s all they are.

Ignoring that one of your closest friends is in love with you

‘She’s one of my best friends and I love her dearly but not in the way she loves me,’ confesses one 38-year-old man.

‘It’s no secret she is in love with me – many mutual friends have told me she confessed to them – but we’ve never actually talked about it.

‘I don’t want to embarrass her or lose her as a friend and just hope she will eventually get the message that we’ll never be more than that.’

The people I’m talking about are both friends of mine.

Tracey explains how to clean up your act if you’re guilty of bad habits

I know one thing for sure: she is not going to get the message until he tells her outright. Even when he moved in with a girlfriend for four years, she didn’t move on.

This scenario is cruel.

It’s emotional torture to be constantly around someone you love deeply but doesn’t love you back and continues to leave you with hope.

It’s particularly heartless in this instance because the woman wants children and by putting her life on hold for a relationship that is never going to happen, she might miss that chance.

I have told her, as kindly as possible, that there is no chance but she won’t give up hope until the words come out of his mouth.

Break the habit: The first step, is to make sure any mutual friends are aware you have absolutely no intentions, ever, of taking the relationship forward. 

Some friends might secretly be hoping you will end up together and actively encouraging it.

If your friends are willing, ask them to make sure your friend knows you don’t feel the same way and won’t change your mind. 

If this falls on deaf ears (as was the case with my friend), you have no choice but to confront it.

It’s the decent thing to do.

Say, ‘Why aren’t you dating anyone at the moment? Why don’t we join you on a few dating apps?’. 

If they refuse, ask why. Even if they don’t confess, you can say something like, ‘You’re one of my closest friends. 

‘I’d love to see you loved up with someone and really happy. Don’t you want that?’.

If they do get up the courage to confess their true feelings, say, ‘I’m so sorry you feel that way. 

‘I love you but not in a romantic way. I hope we can still be friends though because I love having you in my life.’

‘Glamboozling’: cancelling dates at the last moment

‘This happened so often to me, I have stopped using dating apps completely. Even in the middle of a pandemic!’ one 36-year-old woman told me.

‘I’d wash my hair, do my makeup, get all dressed up, be excited about the date…then get a text about half an hour before we’re due to meet from the guy asking to reschedule or cancel.

‘It’s demoralising and rude. Unfortunately, it’s also really common. It’s happened to all my single friends.’

One dating site (Plenty of Fish) found 58 per cent of singles had experienced what’s now nicknamed ‘Glamboozling’: having a date cancelled after you’ve already glammed yourself up.

Glamboozling refers to the practice of cancelling dates at the very last minute when your match is already glammed up and ready to go (stock image)

It’s clearly ill-mannered, so why do people do it?

Sometimes it’s general flakiness – you genuinely forgot or double booked. More often, it’s because you hedged your bets and booked two dates for the same night – a first and second choice – because you weren’t sure if the first would happen. 

A third, even more underhanded scenario, is making dates you have no intention of going on, because it gives you an ego boost to know someone attractive would agree to see you.

Break the habit: Get a diary or set reminders on your phone if you’re forgetful. (Though, really? You’re really going to forget a date with someone you want to go on a date with? And if you’re ho-hum about going, why are you arranging it?)

If you’re glamboozling for even less admirable reasons, just stop it. It really is a***hole behaviour.

Using someone for casual sex but pretending there’s a future

‘Had he told me it was just sex, I actually would have been fine with it,’ a 42-year-old woman told me. 

‘But he didn’t do that. Instead he promised the world and delivered nothing. He said he was falling in love with me but his actions didn’t match his words.

‘I was constantly confused. We were in a relationship or weren’t we? We had sex every weekend but we didn’t do anything together other than that. But every time I asked him, he swore it was serious for him.

‘One day he texted to say it had only ever been about the sex and he’d met someone else.

‘Why not just be honest? It’s not like you have to lie to get women to sleep with you these days?’

It’s not just men who are guilty of pretending a relationship is serious when it’s not. Women do it too.

No-strings sex might be commonplace in 2020 but there are still plenty of people who feel uncomfortable admitting that’s all they want.

If the sex is great but nothing else is living up to expectations, it seems, well, impolite to say ‘Listen, I love sleeping with you but nothing else is thrilling me, quite frankly.’

So, you play a little game. Stay around for longer than you really want to once the sex is over, because it feels impolite to get up and go. Pretend you’re interested in the argument they had with their boss, because it seems the right thing to do.

Until they invite you to meet their parents and you realise they don’t just think it’s more than sex, they’re hoping for marriage and kids.

Break the habit: Get the conversation over and done with, the minute you realise the relationship will only ever be physical for you. Simply say, ‘Hey, I’m not interested in a relationship right now, but I do love having sex with you. Are you happy with that?’.

If they are, you can relax and enjoy yourself guilt-free. If not, no-one’s getting hurt.

Visit for Tracey’s new product ranges and for more information about love and sex. Her book, Great Sex Starts at 50, is out now.

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