How having sex changes the dating dynamic

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When you hit it off with someone new, it is incredibly tempting to move at a fast pace. It’s natural to want more and more time together, while needing to consciously remind yourself to slow down your roll a bit!

The question of when to become sexually involved becomes important to answer as sexual behavior has a huge effect on your dynamic and growing relationship. While there is no perfect answer for every single person/new couple, leading with sex early on in dating is associated with greater risk of your relationship never taking off. Often the emotional connection fizzles and stops growing if sex occurs too early, and becomes your primary focus because good sex (and good sex alone) is not the means to a long-lasting and loving relationship.

If you want more than a sexual relationship, you must be willing to invest time and energy into getting to know each other outside of the bedroom. It serves you well to spend time outside of the bedroom to establish a solid foundation with common interests, goals, and values. Plus, utilizing early dating experiences to connect in emotional and intellectual ways builds strong relationship roots that can continue to grow over time.

If you skip these steps and focus purely on sexual compatibility and fun, you may end up becoming overly involved with someone who is not a good match for anything but sex. If sex is the major use of your time together, you are likely to miss opportunities to discover if you are compatible as more than sexual partners. This is why it is common for couples to break up within a few months of dating, once they realize they have nothing in common but mutual physical attraction or sexual compatibility.

Having sex too early and leading with sex (for example, on a first date) presents many risks, including a variety of things going terribly wrong or ending quickly or suddenly. When you don’t know your date well and you haven’t spent significant time together, you are more likely to misread cues and struggle to fully understand the person, and vice versa. This reality can easily create miscommunication and misunderstanding. You may also have different intentions despite being physically attracted to each other, which can create a host of problems if you find yourself getting attached and wanting a serious relationship, but your date views your relationship as casual or a short-term fling.

Sex can make you feel closer and more attached than you actually are, tainting how you feel about your date on a chemical and emotional level. Sex plus infatuation can be a wild and addictive high that can’t be sustained without the proper foundation to support it. Enjoying sex or having passionate physical intimacy with a specific person does not mean the same thing as falling in love with a person, however, your brain and body may confuse these feelings. Sex is known to cloud judgment that is essential to making healthy decisions.

It may be easier, emotionally safer, and more flattering to jump right into bed, but know that doing the work to really get to know each other and develop a strong bond takes time, energy, commitment, and patience. Taking the time to get to know each other and then adding in a sexual dimension will ensure you are building more than a sexual relationship with each other (and are not purely into each other’s bodies). Quality time together will also provide the substance, trust, respect, attachment, and mature decision making that relationships call for.

During this personal decision, it’s important to talk about your intentions, understand your boundaries around sex, and get clear on what you want instead of approaching things mindlessly or hiding (yourself or your feelings) behind sex. Give yourself time to see how you feel about the person while staying present and connecting in the moment. Make sure you understand each other’s motives, feelings, and views on sex and monogamy through open and honest communication. Define your relationship together and be aware of how sex fits in to prevent hurt and confusion. Finally, trust your gut, don’t use sex to trick each other into feeling something that isn’t there, and know that if you want your relationship to go the distance, leading with sex isn’t the healthiest path.