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
The decision on how long to wait before having sex is deeply personal for everyone. Depending on what type of relationship you plan on having with your partner may impact when you decide to have sex. There's no right or wrong decision to make whether you want a casual sexual relationship or to build a partnership with this person. Reflecting on your own wants and needs may help you decide if you're ready:
- How well do you know each other?
- How comfortable are you with each other? Feeling safe with each other is important if you want to talk about desires and practicing safe sex.
- Why do you want to have sex with this person? Answering this question will help ensure you're on the same page as your partner.
- Are you both ready? Research shows that is better to delay sex a bit with someone you want to have a meaningful relationship with. This ensures you have time to get to know each other and build trust before becoming intimate with each other.
- What type of relationship do you plan on having with this person? Do they feel comfortable with this decision as well?
The Double Standard
Although there has been major progress when it comes to 21st century dating, women and men are still portrayed and perceived differently through many media lenses when it comes to sexuality. While casual sexual relationships are more accepted, especially by younger generations, there are still challenges that many individuals face if they want to date around and don't want to go after the media's portrayal of what traditional relationships look like. Some examples include:
- Those in same-sex relationships unfortunately still face discrimination when it comes to sexuality. Even same-sex couples who have opted for a more traditional route of marriage still face backlash from some. This painful reality highlights that we as a society have a long way to go in terms of acceptance and kindness.
- Those who identify as trans face discrimination when it comes to dating and have been portrayed as overly sexual in the media despite this blanket statement absolutely not applying to every single individual.
- Women are typically exposed to very confusing and contradicting messages about being desirable, but not being easy. Women have also experienced a long history of being punished, shunned, or humiliated for wanting to explore their sexuality.
- Men, too, have had a history of being taught that to be a man means being highly sexual and that sexual experiences are conquests void of deep emotional connections. Even if a man opts to get married, still today you can hear jokes or jabs about not having any fun post-marriage and the good old ball and chain reference equating marriage to one partner as something that is not a desirable choice.
What's important to remember is that no matter what type of relationship someone is interested in pursuing, sexuality is deeply personal and will vary greatly from person to person. Despite the media's portrayal of what sexuality is, defining your own sexuality and talking openly with your partner about your needs prior to having sex is the best way to ensure that you and your partner work well together. It's also important to acknowledge that these heavily gendered stereotypes do not apply to everyone, and that you may experience some guilt or mixed emotions if you opt to do relationships a little differently than what is expected and that's totally okay.
Having Sex Too Early
Having sex too early is a personal realization that will vary from individual to individual. For some having sex early on in the relationship may seem too soon, but for others it may feel perfectly right.
Partner Might Sleep With Others
Some individuals may interpret having sex early on in the relationship differently. For some, they may think their partner may be sleeping with others, although their partner may have that same thought. The best way to find out if your partner is sleeping with others is to discuss this with them. Be sure to be honest about your relationship and sexual needs and see if your partner's align with what you are looking for.
Added Pressure on the Relationship
Having sex releases oxytocin in the brain. This release can create feelings of closeness and is a natural and uncontrollable chemical reaction to sex. These feelings can create pressure for some who may want to take the relationship to the next level more quickly. If you change your mind about what type of relationship you'd like to have with your partner, let them know. Hopefully both of your relationship needs align, and if not it may be best to seek out another partner who wants the same type of relationship as you do.
Playing the Field vs Looking for a Relationship
Some feel that having sex right away means that the relationship is not serious, and it's okay to sleep with others. While everyone will have their own opinion and interpretation, the best way to know what your partner is thinking is to be upfront and honest with them about what you are hoping to get out of the relationship. Encourage your partner to do the same to ensure you both want the same things.
If You Have Sex Too Early
Having sex early on in the relationship may alter your feelings for your partner and their feelings for you. This is not necessarily a negative. Be honest with your partner about what you want out of the relationship.
- If you want to have a casual sexual relationship, that's okay.
- If you'd like to date with the intention of having a serious relationship, that's okay too.
- If you want to have an open relationship, or date around, go for it.
- If you've had sex, but want to hold off, that is completely your choice and there is no reason to feel guilty about changing your mind. Sex is an intimate act that requires consent from all participating parties, so even if you've said you're comfortable having sex, you have every right to change your mind at any point in time- including during sex.
As long as you and your partner agree on your relationship arrangement, engaging in safe, consensual sex can be a wonderful experience.
Different Expectations Afterwards
Relationship expectations will vary based on several factors including your upbringing, personal beliefs, values, and experiences. Ideally, it's safer to discuss relationship expectations prior to having sex so there's no confusion. But, if you've had sex and are wondering where the relationship stands, you'll need to have a discussion with your partner. Often times, people are taught to just go with the flow and let one partner take the lead when it comes to determining the type of relationship. This often leads to one partner feeling out of loop and lacking control. Be sure to speak your mind and share what you want out of the relationship. Your voice and opinion matter and your partner won't know what you want unless you share.
The Guy Doesn't Feel "Up to It"
Like women, at times some men will experience sexual dysfunction issues. While erectile dysfunction can appear for many reasons, both psychological and physical, the best way to process this issue is with kindness and understanding. You may want to consider seeing a couple's counselor or sex therapist if it persists and is not due to a medical condition.
Preventing Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD)
If you do make the decision to embark on a sexual relationship, make sure you are practicing safe sex. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can negatively impact your life, cause uncomfortable symptoms, and lead to larger medical issues. While some STIs are treatable, HIV and others are unfortunately is not.
While using a condom is effective for warding off many STIs, although there is still a chance to contract some, especially if the condom was not put on properly. Discussing sexual health, getting tested on a regular basis, and ensuring that your partner has been recently tested can help keep you safe.
Pregnancy can also occur with unprotected sex. 85 percent of opposite-sex couples who have unprotected sex over the course of a year can experience an unwanted pregnancy. Dealing with an unwanted pregnancy can be challenging for both partners, especially if it is early on in the relationship. Speak with your doctor about finding the best birth control and STI preventing for you.
Making That Judgment Call
Everyone has to make their own decisions when it comes to dating and sex. Be sure you feel comfortable with your partner prior to sleeping together and always prioritize your mental and physical well-being. Relationships can come with a slew of issues, including sexual problems, but being upfront with your partner about your wants ensures that your relationship suits your needs.