Ask the Loveologist: How Soon is Too Soon?
I just started dating a new man and although I know that there aren’t really any hard and fast rules about how long you should wait to have sex, I don’t know if you can tell me any kind of signs to look for that tells me that it’s too soon or for that matter too long to wait? What kinds of precautions should you take before you open up your relationship to physical intimacy?
This is an interesting question to receive in the midst of the hook-up culture that seems to dominate male-female relationships of late. Although social norms have all but erased the protocols that lead to physical intimacy, there certainly are signs of readiness in relationships that are worth considering, especially if you are interested in building a lasting relationship.
I often describe a relationship as a container for all the experiences that happen between you and your partner, so you want to make sure that the container is strong enough to hold the mystery, passion and sometimes pain that accompanies physical intimacy. Making love for the first time, even when both partners are steeped in biological drive is not always the makings of pure pleasure. Sometimes different sexual needs and styles have to be worked out, even at the beginning which is easier when you have spent time building the container of the relationship.
One of the single most important signs that a relationship is ready to move to the next level of intimacy is that both partners have a feeling of comfort and openness in discussing sexual issues. If you can’t talk about it or ask questions, then there is a good chance that the weight of any issues that come up, might be enough to break the fragile beginnings of the relationship.
Getting to know someone well enough to feel safe with them is prerequisite for really great sex. Safety means you can be vulnerable which makes all the difference in a first time naked connection. Growing intimacy outside of the bedroom creates the fertile ground that turns physical intimacy into the powerful force of cohesion in long term relationships. Sex by itself will not create the connection that many people expect. In fact, without the necessary container to hold it, sex can and does harm both the people and the relationships that inspired it.
It is hard to imagine how you could wait too long to share the most intimate of acts, although I have heard of a woman who was married for several years that had not yet consummated her marriage. (I would say that is too long) Early phases of relationships have so much electricity and biological energy that they benefit from waiting because just like holding out for an orgasm, cultivating attraction and sexual energy in your relationship enhances communication and the fun of getting to know each other. Learning about your partner’s sexual health history whether through testing or discussion is a necessary evil, but is insanity not to pursue.