Why delay sex in the dating game? And how long?
Steve Harvey\’s Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man—and the movie it spawned, Think Like a Man—have gone viral, prompting much discussion around water coolers, Starbucks gatherings, and date dinners across the country. Harvey\’s main point? Wait 90 days before sleeping with your new significant other and earn the respect you deserve.
On a quick read, this prescription, like many popular self-help concepts, has some wisdom to it. Waiting 90 is a heck of a lot healthier way to start a relationship than jumping into bed on the first date, which can be disappointing, painful, uncomfortable—you get the picture. But before you go out and implement the 90 Day Rule as-is and without thought, let\’s dig a little deeper into it with some suggestions for the initial dating period.
- Build a foundation. Like the foundation you developed as a child—or built for yourself later in life through friends, life experience, and therapy—new relationships need strong foundations. That\’s what dating is: building a base for a possible future together. Sure, you can also date for fun, friendship—or out of loneliness or boredom—nothing wrong with that. But that\’s the thing about waiting. It works for all scenarios.
- Workshop it. What do you learn during the waiting period? While the learning never ends in a relationship, this is the time to get a reliable read on the things that matter. Is he solid in character or a big act to get you under the covers? Does she touch your soul in the right places, or are your commonalities superficial, leaving you, in a year or two, with some deep yearning for a kind of intimacy or connection that just isn\’t there? Take whatever time you need to learn if your match is made in heaven or you\’re taking a short road to perdition. Evaluate your new relationship, based on how you get along moment-to-moment, how much fun it is, how enlivening and growth-promoting it is, how you work through disagreements, how you handle negative emotions—and on whether or not the right physical chemistry is there. You can tell a lot about that before you ever get to bed!
- Avoid the expectations game. Often jumping into bed happens because it\’s expected, especially by men, but often by women also. News flash! If you have ever felt secretly uncomfortable hopping into bed on the first, second, or third date, you are not the only one. And again, I\’m talking about both men and women. We all need a sense of comfort and familiarity, a sense the other person knows and cares enough to accept—heaven forbid!—an imperfect body, some first-inning nerves, a lack of experience or confidence. Putting the cart behind the horse where it belongs—the sex after the trust and caring—creates a comfort level that can make sex freer, more open, more sensual, more fun, and more pleasurable. What\’s not to like there?
- Re-prime your hormones. We live in a world where everything starts earlier and earlier—school, socialization, sports, and, unfortunately, sex—as parents and society set unrealistic expectations for child development. Kids are having sexual experiences at incredibly young ages. By the time some people get to the serious dating age—the time when you are looking to settle down—many people are jaded, having had too many sexual experiences, often meaningless and unsatisfying. Use the initial dating period to rebuild your appreciation for sex and link it solidly to true intimacy and commitment to a person. If you do that successfully, you could be in for the best sex you\’ve ever had.
- Plan activities that stretch the relationship. Don\’t just go out to dinner and the movies every week. Take him out hiking or jogging, see how he reacts to physical stress. Take her home to the parents, see how she fits in with your peculiar family (aren\’t they all?). As Harvey suggests, play games—indoor or outdoor—and find out what happens when the competitive gene kicks in. Introduce him to your important friends and vice versa. Not liking any of his or her friends? (Hint: BIG red flag!)
- Tailor the wait to the people. The waiting period doesn\’t need to be the same for all individuals—or for that matter, for both people in a relationship. The right time for physical intimacy is when you are both intimate in spirit—not when the calendar turns over to a certain day. That means when the willingness to commit and care is clear, when no red flags are waving, when it feels truly right and good to do it. So what\’s a good guideline? 90 days? 60 days? I say 90 days can be unrealistic in today\’s world. I\’m not saying everything should move real fast, just that a lot happens these days in two months and you can find out a lot. But let this be a minimum, keeping in mind that mutual comfort and commitment are the keys.
Harvey\’s book makes a lot of sense, and gets our society moving in the right direction. I have to commend him for that. But speaking as a specialist in relationship counseling in Orange County, you have to think through the purpose of a waiting period carefully. The suggestions and guidelines here give you some of the tools you\’ll need to make a great decision. After all, this will be your life together. Shouldn\’t you begin it with your goals? Your strategy? Your plan? Your time?
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional.Â If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: http://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.