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Q&A: “How Long Should I Wait to Have Sex?”

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Dear Dr. Sherman,

I never know how long to wait before getting physical on a date. What should I do?


Confused Woman


Dear Confused Woman,

Defining what sex means to you will bring you clarity.  If you are someone who separates sex and love, then you are free to get physical without emotional expectation. Many women are choosing to do this more and more often these days. This only works though if you can enjoy sex without knowing what will happen in the relationship.

If, however, you’re someone who gets emotionally attached when things get physical, you need to carefully answer the following questions. Does sex mean to you…

  • That your partner should call you the next day?
  • That you and your partner stay friends?
  • That you are exclusive?
  • That you love each other?
  • That you think you’ll get married?

Once you are clear about your answer to what sex means to you, then it’s time to assess your relationship in order to determine if there is a match in how the other person regards it.  If you expect to be exclusive, discuss it before you sleep together. If you want to know whether your partner has really strong feelings for you, then ask. You can also look at their behavior to see if it has been matching their words.

And, when you sleep with someone and it means something different to them, don’t be mad. Your partner is a different person and may have a different agenda for sex, and about your relationship. Remember, they haven’t lied to you because you never brought it up! It’s up to you to make your values and needs clear to yourself and then to your partner. Then you can stand by them, and if you do sleep together you know what you are getting into. I’ve seen many women accuse a guy of being a jerk because he wanted to date someone else after they’d slept together. She is blaming him for his choices, but she never brought up the issue, and maybe even was already envisioning them married and buying a house together.

You’re both adults and are both responsible to have conversations, and to share your truth, if it’s important for you to be on the same page.

Dr. Paulette Kouffman Sherman is a psychologist and the author of “Dating from the Inside Out” and “When Mars Women Date.” She has a private practice in Manhattan and does dating coaching by phone. Learn more at Dr.PauletteSherman.com and WhenMarsWomenDate.com.
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One Comment »

  • David says:

    I say three months.

    Sex is like PostIt Note glue — it is powerful magic, a wonderful adhesive — but not infinite. It sticks tight the first time, then a little less, then a little less… “If you are someone who separates sex and love” then I think you’ve lost something really important. I regained so much when I put them firmly back together.

    I want a long-term relationship, where we each matter a lot to each other. I want to wait long enough to see if we will matter. I don’t want to ruin the stickiness of the adhesive on something less. I want to find out if we do matter to each other while our heads are still clear. I want make-up sex to really work as make-up sex.

    I didn’t understand how important this was til I was — well, older. Now I understand it all the way through. And it’s working well for me.

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