How Long Should I Wait to Have Sex?
Hi, Emily,I’ve been listening to your podcast for two years and can’t get enough! Your advice for others has always been spot-on, so now I’ve got a question of my own. I’ve recently started to get serious about dating, and I think I’m finally ready to be in a relationship. I’ve met a couple great guys so far, but there’s one issue I keep getting hung up on: sex. I love sex and am very open, but I think that’s the problem. In the past, I’ve gotten into bed with guys pretty quickly, and it’s never turned into anything real. How long do you recommend dating someone before you start having sex?—Dee
First and foremost, there is nothing wrong with having a strong sexual appetite. I love that you love sex! Sex is one of the greatest pleasures we get to enjoy in our lives, and it’s a critical component of any healthy relationship.
Rest assured that I’ve received countless questions about navigating sex and relationships, and I have answered many of these questions. Some include why you might not be having orgasms, how to love oral (both giving and receiving), and how to openly discuss any sex or relationship challenge with your partner.
As for your question, the truth is that there just aren’t any firm rules about when to first have sex with someone you’re dating. Many women wonder if there’s a magic formula, a specific number of dates, or a length of time they should wait before hopping into bed—but it just doesn’t exist.
Because there are no one-size-fits-all ”rules” in the world of love and sex, if you’re looking for a relationship (not a hookup), it’s important to figure out what feels right for you. I wouldn’t necessarily conclude that having sex “too soon” prevents the formation of a healthy relationship. There are just as many stories of people sleeping together on their first date and winding up in a relationship as there are stories of people who waited weeks to have sex and also wound up in successful partnership. What matters most is that you hold off having sex until you feel you’re ready.
It’s important to remember that sex and sexual chemistry play a huge role in a serious relationship, ultimately bringing you closer to your partner. So, it’s important to know how sex affects your brain. After you get close physically, the brain releases powerful hormones, including oxytocin and dopamine, also known as the “cuddle hormones.” These hormones, while extremely pleasurable, can often trick you into confusing physical attraction with emotional attraction.
This only becomes a problem when you become attached to someone you don’t know very well who, in reality, is someone you’d rather not get to know in the first place. It’s easy to convince ourselves that we really want to spend time with someone who doesn’t meet our standards or have similar interests and values due to the strong emotional attachment often grows from physical intimacy. This attachment can blind us from seeing the person for who they truly are, and, as a result, we can’t see the red flags waving all around them.
In fact, you might end up in a full-blown relationship with someone you don’t even like! When you’re obsessed with the hot sex or his hot body, it’s difficult to be objective about his character.
So figure out your own boundaries before you start dating, both emotional and physical. These boundaries can include only having sex with a guy who always uses protection, not having sex for the first time with someone you’re dating if you’ve had too much to drink, and refusing to engage in sex acts that aren’t comfortable for you. Or, you may want to wait to have sex until you are in a monogamous relationship with someone, and this is totally OK.
When someone’s desires conflict with your boundaries, listen to your gut and stick to those boundaries. Don’t give in to any pressure.
Because you feel you had sex too soon in the past, you may want to experiment and hold off having sex until you get to know someone you’re dating. By doing this, you can decide if you really are a good match for a long-term relationship. It’s also critical that you know whether he’s on the same page as you in terms of whether or not he wants a relationship. You’ll also want to figure out whether you even like spending time with him. Do you guys have fun together? Are your conversations interesting?
Bottom line: the sex police don’t exist. You have every right to have sex as soon as you want—or to hold off as long as you want. By the way, you’d be surprised how exciting it is to truly get to know someone over time. In fact, sometimes this anticipation can be almost as exhilarating and gratifying as the sex itself.
Emily Morse is a sexologist, host of the Sex With Emily podcast, and cofounder of the intimate care line Emily & Tony. She has a doctorate in human sexuality and is the author of Hot Sex: Over 200 Things You Can Try Tonight and a weekly cohost of the nationally syndicated radio show Loveline With Dr. Drew Pinsky.
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