What do we want to do when we are very attracted to someone and enjoy their company? We want to connect. We want to feel them, hold them, be held by them. We want to be seen, felt, and understood.
Therefore, in a well-intentioned but misguided effort to connect with someone on a deeper level, we think that the natural thing to do is become physically intimate. "I really like this person, they really like me, so the natural next step must be to get physical, right?" Wrong. This is an incredibly faulty (yet very common) line of thinking.
Sometimes we don’t even think about it at all; we get caught up in our feelings and...whoops! It just happens. We become so overwhelmed by the desire to connect that, well before the timing is appropriate, we “accidentally” get physical.
A caveat before I explain why this is something you should avoid: If you are dating casually or just for fun, it is not for me to tell you when you should or shouldn’t sleep with someone. I wouldn’t personally recommend it, but this is a personal decision that you have to make based on your own value set.
Now, if you are looking for something serious, read on.
For those of you who are ready for a long-term commitment or marriage, I can tell you unequivocally that getting to know someone on a purely emotional, non-physical level is one of the best things you can do for yourself and for the relationship.
As a Coach who focuses heavily on dating & relationships, I have seen so many wonderful would-be relationships get ruined by two people rushing into physical intimacy. We may not see the error of our ways in the moment, but the end result is almost always a premature death to an otherwise promising relationship. When we move too quickly in the bedroom with someone, we can expect one of the following things to occur:
(1) One person quickly loses interest in the other. Although we want to connect, sex without an emotional connection is actually a very disconnected experience. And a disconnected experience is not likely to keep a person around for very long. It is fun once or twice, but it gets pretty old pretty fast.
Because you didn’t spend enough time with the person before getting physical with him/her, you couldn’t establish a real emotional connection. Because you didn’t establish a real emotional connection, there is nothing holding the relationship together. Therefore, while one person is catching feelings, the other person is catching an Uber outta there. Self-explanatory problem.
(2) One person quickly loses respect for the other. Why? Because when you become physical with someone before a real connection and commitment have been established, you are sending them the message that they can have you at little to no cost. And what do we respect more: a toy at the 99 cents store or a diamond from Tiffany’s?
How soon we choose to sleep with someone has a lot to do with our level of self-respect, and it has even more to do with how much the other person respects us. We can only expect to be respected if we truly respect ourselves; and we do not truly respect ourselves if we are recklessly giving ourselves away to someone we barely know.
(By the way, I apply this rule equally across all people regardless of gender or sexual preference).
(3) Physical intimacy, rather than real intimacy, becomes the focus of the relationship. When you get physical too quickly, this person you were once genuinely interested in getting to know quickly devolves into your friend-with-benefits, whether you intended it or not. That is not a relationship, and likely not what you came for.
Presumably, you were looking for more than just a casual hookup when you met this person. But now, instead of getting to know each other’s mind and heart, you’re relegated to getting to know each other’s bodies. How sad. You begin to mistake lust for love, and pretty soon a great would-be relationship becomes a flimsy situationship that eventually just peters out.
Hopefully one if not all of these reasons has convinced you that if you are truly serious about dating, then emotional intimacy should always precede physical intimacy. There are no two ways about it: getting physical will not magically catapult you into a lasting, value-based relationship.
Yes, I know you have that one friend who slept with her man on the first date and they ended up getting married and having beautiful children. Mazal Tov to them. Assume this will not be you. These cases are a tiny minority, so do yourself a favor and don’t take the risk. If you knew that the odds of winning the Powerball Lottery were 1 in 292.2 million, you probably wouldn’t assume that you’ll be the lucky winner.
So, now that you understand the importance of waiting, the question is: Exactly how long should you wait?
Simple answer: until there is a spelled-out commitment. That can be an exclusively-dating commitment or an official-relationship commitment. But it needs to be clearly defined, and it also needs to be backed up by time. A real commitment can come after one month (on the shortest end), two months, three months... it depends on how often you’re seeing each other and how deep your conversations are. One thing is for sure: commitment takes time to build. It doesn’t happen after one dinner, two coffee dates, or a week of texting… so don’t even try to fool yourself.
Speaking of fooling yourself: If you decide to take my advice and really wait, it doesn’t mean you wait to have sex but still do everything else under the sun. It means you wait for all of it; any form of getting naked. Whether it’s first base, second, third, home run -- it’s all the same. From the perspective of what’s best for the growth of the relationship, waiting means waiting.
The next time you become interested in someone whom you see as relationship material, I encourage you to wait. I promise, this method will not let you down. Remind yourself of what you are really looking for and show the other person that you respect yourself.
If there is one thing I have learned from my own dating life and the experiences of my clients, it is that we will always regret disrespecting ourselves and ruining a potentially great opportunity by moving too quickly; but we will never regret living our values and prioritizing long-term fulfillment over instant gratification.