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At What Point in the Relationship Should We Have Sex?

couple kissing

You met him recently and the two of you immediately clicked. He has a great personality and there’s definitely chemistry. You’ve been out on a couple dates with him, and things are going great. You’re starting to think that this could lead to a long-term relationship. You may also be beginning to wonder if and when you should have sex.

Those sparks that fly at the beginning of a relationship can be exciting, but you need to decide what boundaries you’re going to have before you’re in the heat of the moment.

Most people assume that sex is a given in a dating relationship. But it’s certainly not unreasonable to want to wait. In fact, 40% of college students polled recently by New York Magazine reported being virgins. Some speculate that more students are choosing to wait until marriage, as this is the more unique option in the midst of our hook-up culture.

No one will deny that waiting can be very difficult, especially when you have a strong physical connection, but research shows that it could lead to a stronger, more committed relationship.

Research on Sex, Waiting, and Relationship Quality

One study compared couples who’d had sex for the first time at different points, including less than one month of dating, between 1 and 6 months of dating, and after more than 6 months of dating or until marriage. It found that the couples who had waited longer to have sex reported higher relationship quality when considering factors such as satisfaction, commitment to the relationship, emotional support, and communication. For all of these dimensions of relationship quality, women who waited to have sex for more than 6 months or until marriage reported significantly higher relationship quality than women who had sex within the first month of the relationship.

Another study of about 300 college students found that having an emotional connection, specifically saying “I love you,” before having sex was associated with positive results for the relationship for men and women, both immediately and over time.

That same study found that when expression of love comes after sex, the experience is more often perceived as a negative turning point for couples. In fact, it was shown to cause regret, uncertainty, and discomfort, as well as prompting apologies in some couples.

While marriage may be far from both of your minds right now, the UVA Marriage Project found some interesting results when looking into how romantic relationships prior to marriage can affect an individual’s marriage later on. They found that, especially for women, having fewer sexual partners before marriage was related to higher marital quality. They also found that couples who wait to have sex later in their relationship report higher levels of marital quality.

Will Having Sex With Him Make Us Closer?

Have you stopped to think through the reasons you want to have sex with him? Is it because of his physical attractiveness? Is he pressuring you? Is it because you want a commitment from him? Is it because you’re desiring emotional intimacy or even love?

Women are more likely than men to equate sex with commitment. It can be easy to think that having sex will bring you closer emotionally, taking the relationship to a new level. But this might not always be the case.

According to author and psychologist Dr. Jill Weber, research shows that having sex before emotional intimacy is present in the relationship does not lead to a more committed relationship. She cautions women against this attempt to achieve emotional intimacy through sex, which she calls “sextimacy.”

Sex actually creates what can be a false sense of intimacy. One reason that’s true is because having sex affects your brain. Our brains release various chemicals during sex that are meant to bond us together. One of the major ones is called oxytocin, which is widely believed to be a large contributor to interpersonal attachment.

So because sex creates this illusion of closeness, you may suddenly desire a commitment from him, even if you’d had some uncertainties about him previously. These feelings can cloud your judgment and may cause you to ignore red flags about him or the relationship. In the long term, this may even cause you stay with him for much longer than you would have otherwise, entering phases of the relationship such as living together, or even marriage.

“You will spend your time hoping and working to get someone to change or ‘step up to the plate’ when you could be putting your energy into growing as a person and finding someone who likes the person you have become,” Weber says.

Waiting to have sex will allow you to build feelings for him based on getting to know his personality and values and how his actions toward you show his commitment. You’ll be more likely to get to know he really is. And if it turns out that you don’t like who that is, you’ll be able to end it without the complication of feelings that can be deceptive.

Giving your relationship time to develop gradually definitely has its benefits. Once you’ve determined your boundaries and timeline, it’s important for you to be able to communicate them to the guy you’re dating. You should never feel pressured to do anything you’re uncomfortable with, and hopefully communicating your boundaries to him ahead of time will help prevent that. If you’re not ready to have sex and he is pressuring you, this may be a sign that you should call things off. If he’s a guy that you want to be in a long-term relationship with, he should respect your boundaries and decisions.

Valley Women’s Clinic is Here For You

Another advantage of waiting is that while you’re getting to know this guy and if he’s right for you, you won’t have the added pressure of worrying about an unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. But if at any point, you find yourself in need of our services, know that we are here for you. All of our services are free and confidential.

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