Common Issues with Dating and Sex

Kirsten Schuder
Couple in bed

Dating and sex seem to go hand in hand. At some point, sex becomes an issue in any new dating relationship; it's really just a question of when. Should you or shouldn't you? Everyone seems to have an opinion, from doctors and psychologists, to parents and clergy, to friends and passersby. But the only two people in the world who know when the time is right are the two people who are dating, and even then the decision is still a tricky one.

Deciding How Long to Wait

Sex can either enhance a relationship or make it fizzle before it even has a chance to begin, but one thing is for certain, once sex occurs in a relationship, there isn't an undo button you can press.

This is one of the biggest issues with dating and sex, with parents, psychologists, clergy and everyone else having an opinion. However, the decision on how long to wait before having sex is deeply personal for every woman. Asking questions like the following will open up the channels of communication and help you decide if you're ready:

  • How well do you know each other?
  • How comfortable are you with each other? Being comfortable with each other is important if you want to talk about sex, practicing safe sex, STDs and other issues.
  • Why do you want sex? Laura Berman suggests to ask yourself this question, and ask your partner as well. Are you looking for a relationship or a casual 'friends with benefits' relationship, or a one night stand? Answering this question for yourself will help ensure you're on the same page as your partner.
  • Are you both ready? Research shows that is better to have sex later than sooner in a relationship. This will help ensure that both of you are on the same page emotionally.

Healthy communication is the best way to prevent problems in the relationship from occurring. If you are having trouble communicating with your partner about sex, this is a sign that the relationship will be troubled in many other areas as well.

The Double Standard

You'd have to live under a rock not to know that when it comes to sex, there has traditionally been a double standard:

  • Men are expected to make a play for sex at every opportunity. It's just the way they're wired, right? And guys who get a lot of action are "players" and "studs," aren't they?
  • Women who act on those same sexual impulses don't get the old "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" treatment. They usually get labeled as "loose" or worse, and often those labels are applied by the very guys who get lucky with them.

At least these are the images the media would like us to believe, and unfortunately, many people still do. Before you jump into a sexual relationship, you need to consider how these preconceptions will affect you and your relationship. Talking to your date about sex before things get too hot may go a long way toward ensuring your first encounter ends on a positive note.

Having Sex Too Early

Because of the double standard, having sex too early is an issue women have to examine when they are dating and are out to establish a relationship. A revealing interview with three men on Match.com highlights the problem of having sex too early in the relationship. Some of the issues of being intimate too early in the relationship are:

She Might Sleep with Others

Some men might not get any impression of a woman from the amount of time she waits, while some men think a woman sleeping too early in the relationship is a "deal breaker". Even the youngest of the interviewees, age 35, stated that how early a woman has sex in the relationship affects his impression on whether or not the woman is relationship worthy or not. If a woman gives in too easily, this puts the question in their mind if she is like that with everyone.

This also implies that men place different values upon sex. While they are open to a fly-by-night sexual experience, they also feel that the special woman they want a relationship with to feel that sex is special with him too.

Added Pressure on the Relationship

One interviewee stated he felt that if sex does happen too early, it adds pressure on the relationship in the way of expectations, such as, does the woman expect for every date to be a sleepover? If so, will she start keeping things over my house for the morning? Will she expect me to be exclusive right away?

Playing the Field vs Looking for a Relationship

One interviewee stated that if a man is pushing to have sex right away, he's not really out to have a serious relationship and is playing the field.

If You Have Sex Too Early

Having sex early in the relationship alters the way a couple relates in the relationship, and once you've done it, it cannot be undone. However, most guys will still be open for a relationship, even if they are applying the double standard. Some suggestions to follow are:

  • If you act out of character and sleep early in the relationship, you can tell him that this is not something you normally do.
  • If you do have sex early in the relationship, don't decrease or stop the sex to make up for it.
  • With certain guys, if you act a bit aloof afterwards, it will make him chase you more.

It is obvious that each man has a set of ideas and attitudes. Some are straightforward and do not spend a lot of time making judgments. Some are very influenced by other factors such as insecurity or social norms. Even if you do ring that bell early on, learning the attitudes and beliefs of your love interest will help you navigate the waters regardless of the situation.

Different Expectations Afterwards

According to the Australian Institute of Professional Counselors, men and women often have different expectations about relationships. Sometimes, relationship issues can occur after sex is initiated in the relationship. If you don't rush into things, you will usually get signs about the guy's attitudes, beliefs, and relationship values before sex, which will give you the information you need to make an informed decision on whether or not to go further in the relationship.

Asking yourself and each other questions before you have sex, waiting an amount of time that will help you feel comfortable, and establishing foundations for a healthy relationship will help ensure that you both have the same expectations for the relationship.

The Guy Doesn't Feel "Up to It"

More common with older men, men might not be up to the task. While erectile dysfunction is talked about more openly, it doesn't mean that it makes it less awkward for a guy who experiences this type of episode. Men go through their own issues with their bodies and health. He could have cardiovascular disease, which will impede his ability to have erections. Sometimes, the causes are psychological.

If this occurs, treat him with kindness. It has nothing to do with how attracted he is to you.

Preventing Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD)

If you do make the decision to embark on a sexual relationship, use common sense and protect yourself. Sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) are disgusting to think about, to say the least, with unpleasant symptoms for the infected person. While some STD's are treatable, others are permanent.

Herpes and genital warts are two conditions you may be able to live with, but HIV is another story. To date, the virus is incurable even though modern medicine seems to have found a "cocktail" of drugs that prolongs an infected person's life. While infection from HIV is not as common, 40,000 people are still infected with HIV every year.

Using a condom is effective for warding off most STD's. Really getting to know your partner and making a joint appointment for health exams can relieve your worries about other health issues that can't always be seen by the naked eye.

Preventing Pregnancy

Pregnancy can also occur with unprotected sex. Only 15% of women who have unprotected sex over the course of a year don't get pregnant. While having a baby can be a beautiful time during a couple's lives, If the pregnancy comes prematurely, it can put stress on a relationship before it has time to grow.

The best method for preventing both pregnancy and STDs are to use a condom with another form of birth control, such as the pill or a diaphragm.

Making That Judgment Call

Everyone has to make their own decisions about dating and sex. Make sure you know everything you feel you need to know, and take your partner's feelings into consideration as well. You have to protect your emotions as well as your body. Some people use sex as a means to gain some control over their partner and the relationship. Beware of this kind of problematic behavior. It's most likely the relationship will not be healthy.

Common Issues with Dating and Sex