Is There a Right Time to Have Sex?
As philosopher Alan Watts once said, Westerners have "sex on the mind." A sort of cultural obsession with sex has left many of us in limbo between wanting it and wondering about the best approach.
When is the right time to start having sex with a new partner?
How many dates does it take before sex is OK?
Everyone has a different opinion. For some people, a simple dinner date is enough to jump into bed. For other people, it takes a whole lot longer. You may fall somewhere in between. You might wonder if you're moving too fast or if you're behind the times.
If you're struggling to decide when you should make a move, you aren't alone.
Watch old "Sex and the City" reruns and you've likely heard Charlotte York gush about her "three date rule." The thinking is that three dates are enough to decide if your potential partner is worthy enough. But is that long enough? It depends.
When you sleep with someone is a personal choice. But if you're hoping for a committed relationship, then the experts do have a bit more to say on the subject.
Spoiler alert: You may want to cool your jets a bit if you're looking for something long term.
What the therapists say
What's comfortable for one person might make another person feel completely out of their element. What's right or wrong about sex results from a combination of personal preferences, cultural norms and relationship chemistry. Unfortunately, sex and relationships can't be broken down into a scientific formula.
According to Rose Hartzell, Ph.D., Ed.S., a sex therapist in San Diego, a good indicator of whether or not you should have sex is how comfortable you are with the relationship as a whole. If you feel trusted and respected by that person, it might be the right time to go ahead. If you feel like you're going to be hurt if you sleep together, then it might be better to wait.
Is there a better way to think about the best time to have sex with someone new? It depends on what you're looking for in a partner. If you want a relationship with someone, it helps to take the time to get to know them and to see enough "dating green flags" first.
In an interview with Business Insider, Toni Coleman, L.C.S.W., C.M.C., a psychotherapist in Virginia, said she believes the ideal time to have sex is about three months into a relationship. The reasoning is that three months serves as a goalpost for higher levels of trust and openness in a relationship. The couple is more likely to be on the same page when they decide to move forward.
By the three-month point, people have generally decided whether they like the person or not, and they know how to communicate with each other before all the good sex emotions get in the way. It may be harder to judge if someone likes you, how you feel about them and if they are using you for sex if you dive right in.
What science says
For many people, the general advice of "do what feels right" can seem a little reductive and simplistic.
According to research, though, there might be a time when we can say confidently that conditions for sex are as ideal as they are going to be. A few studies have been done on sexual relationships and relationship outcomes, allowing us to better understand if there is an ideal time to have sex. This is assuming the goal is to have a satisfying emotional connection with someone, not just to get laid.
An Illinois State University study looked at whether an emotional connection, professing love for someone, made a positive impact on a blossoming relationship. What the researchers found was that couples fared better when they waited until there was a clear understanding and commitment from the other person.
Taking a relationship in stages, building from kissing to hand-holding to sex, could help a relationship last. Understanding and trust are essential to beginning a sexual relationship with a new partner.
The bottom line
Honesty is key: with yourself, with your partner and with the status and needs of the relationship. If something feels like it might be too soon, listen to your gut. It probably is. Checking in with your feelings and assessing your own motivations, and those of your partner, is important for any relationship.
If you could use a little professional advice, try Giddy Telehealth. The simple online portal connects you to hundreds of healthcare providers. With options for same-day appointments and video calls, it's easy to find someone who can help.