Arbitrary sexual time line

  • Three dates.
  • One month.
  • Ten dates.
  • Three months.

I’ve heard all these as people’s criteria for when to first get intimate with a new love.

A pal recently shared that he has been taken aback by some women’s arbitrary time line for intimacy. He once dated a woman who, on their 4-month anniversary, announced it was time for them to have sex — that night! They did. He said it felt mechanical because they hadn’t built the emotional connection that he sought to make it fulfilling.

Do you have such a time line? Or do you just have certain parameters, like “never on a first date,” or “whenever it feels right”?

I don’t have suggestions for when you “should” get naked with your sweetie for the first time. I’ve learned I need to feel a significant emotional connection, not just a physical one. And I need to trust that he won’t just disappear afterwards — not that there needs to be a spoken commitment. A pledge of exclusivity is important, although I’ve had that with a past beau and he still cheated on me.

The important thing is for you to know what you need to proceed to this step in the relationship. An arbitrary time line isn’t usually enough. You could date someone for months and still not have the emotional connection you feel you need. However, I would be skeptical if you say you have a significant enough emotional connection after just a week or so. That’s usually the brain’s chemicals tricking you into thinking you have more than is likely after such a short time. So even if you feel that you are soul mates by the end of week two, an arbitrary wait period of, say a month, then would be wise. A lot can happen in those ensuing two weeks.

Some experts suggest 3 months is long enough for a man to show his true self and for you to see him without his best wooing self put forward. My experience corroborates this. Usually by 90 days, the chinks in his armor begin to show and you can see if you can live with those or not. So before you’ve gotten physically entwined, you have a better sense of the man. Because once you share horizontal happiness, the relationship usually shifts dramatically. As the aforementioned pal expressed, “The flood gates of expectations open and a man can drown in what rushes forth unabated.”

Yes, we women generally do have expectations once whoopee has been made. That is if we didn’t perceive the encounter as just a fling. So we need to see that the man is someone we’re interested in being with and he’s shown he’s interested in being with us.

So examine your own criteria. Ask yourself why you have determined that you would be ready to have sex at a certain point. You may stick to those boundaries, or you may decide they are really just arbitrary. If the latter, make a list of what you need to feel comfortable before becoming intimate.
To explore more things to consider before having sex with someone you’re dating, get your copy of From Fear to Frolic: Get Naked Without Getting Embarrassed.


13 responses to “Arbitrary sexual time line”

  1. Mark Avatar

    “Ask yourself why you have determined that you would be ready to have sex at a certain time or point. You may stick to those boundaries, or you may decide they are really just arbitrary. If the latter, make a list of what you need to feel comfortable before becoming intimate.”

    If you need to consult a list before having sex with a new person in midlife, I think you are over-analyzing it.

    You have sex because you want to have sex with the other person. If you are having sex for any other reason than desire, you are being mercenary.

    If you want to have sex and are worried about it being too soon, I’m not sure what to say. What is too soon? If you have sex after three dates and the relationship doesn’t work out, would have waiting until you had ten dates have made a difference?

    And if you have sex after three dates and things don’t work out, what have you lost? Would it have been better to not have had sex and have the relationship end? I guess if you think that sex is something reserved only for someone you think of as a potential long-term mate, then maybe you do feel fooled and ashamed, but that seems to me an old-fashioned and limiting approach to sex.

    I think at the heart of this the basic dynamic of male/female relationships: Women are the gatekeepers. They say yes or no to sex. They have the power to open the door to the bedroom or keep it closed. And power is never given away freely. If you have it, you want to make sure you get something equal in exchange once you relinquish it.

  2. Dating Goddess Avatar


    I think you’re right that this is a fundamental difference between men and women, no matter what our age. What you consider “old fashioned” for many of us, is just a way of protecting our hearts. For many of us — even us midlifers — sex is a meaningful act, if we don’t look at it as just a fling. The difference, generally, between men’s and women’s attitude about sex is that many women see it as an act of sharing that is reserved for only someone you care deeply about.

    While some men have a similar attitude, my experience is that many men see it as just a physical act, without an emotional attachment. It’s not quite as cavalier a other dating acts, like going out to dinner, but for some it is close.

    So while you may see it as “what the heck does one lose if you have sex and the relationship doesn’t work out” for most of the women I know — at least the ones who don’t jump into bed with everyone they date — it significantly compounds the heartbreak. So we try to protect our heart by delaying the act until we have some feeling that sex is not the only thing the man is after. Is it a sure bet? Of course not.

  3. Susan Avatar

    I think DG is spot-on. Sex changes things for a woman and creates intense feelings of bonding. Not only is there a risk of the feelings not being reciprocated, there is a good possibility of bonding with a person who is so not suited for you. The oxytocin-induced afterglow makes to too easy to discount fundamental problems that become readily apparent months later when the rose-colored glasses have faded and reality sets in.

  4. Mark Avatar

    I’ve only had three relationships since my marriage broke up that ended up in bed and all three (one is current) ended up being serious relationships. Oddly enough, sex came on the third date with each of them. And I didn’t really initiate it. The women mostly did. I was in no hurry but maybe these women thought I expected it after three dates. I have no idea.

    I hadn’t thought of the bonding thing. I don’t think we men really feel any extra bonding because of having sex. For you, it’s an afterglow. For us, it’s time to sleep or maybe see what you have in the fridge we can snack on.

  5. Dating Goddess Avatar

    Hi Mark:

    I think we’ve hit on a fundamental problem between the sexes. Men think we have “an afterglow” after sex; women describe it more as Susan describes it: “intense feelings of bonding.” These are far apart on the emotional continuum. I think it is just very hard for the other gender to understand how sex affects each of us. It is so hard to appreciate the other’s perspective when it is so far afield from one’s own experience.

  6. Karen Avatar

    I’m a woman and I agree with Mark. One of the reasons I date at all thse days is that I like sex. I am not looking to get married again, at least not for a good long while and/or my kids are grown & moved out.

    As a survivor of 2 bad marriages (the first of which occurred primarily because, as kids of Christian fundamentalist churches, we felt guilty having sex without being married), I know very well that waiting until you are really in love with a person, or even married to them, is no guarantee ungainst heartbreak. So I don’t buy that old argument. Nor do I believe that I’m a “slut” or unwomanly if I like sex, so I don’t feel like I “have” to delay or avoid it on that account.

    I don’t have an actual “rule” for when to have sex for the first time with a guy…usually we have an exclusivity talk first and of course I have to feel like I know him pretty well. But if we go out for months and he doesn’t make a move, or if he says “let’s wait until we’re married”, I will end the relationship. Besides not meeting my needs, I would worry that such a situation means the guy has some worrying sexual issues like he’s gay or he has a low libido or some sexual hang-up. He might even be a trans-man…which is fine but he shouldn’t be hiding it from me if he’s dating me (I wouldn’t be into that).

  7. Susan Avatar

    Wow, I almost caved last night on a 2nd date. This guy was just a fabulous kisser and said all the right things. But having sex with him will change the entire relationship and I’m not sure if I want that and I’m not certain about him either as a long term guy. The 3rd date is going to be Sunday brunch to make it more difficult to make out in broad daylight, LOL.

    Waiting for sex doesn’t mean either party has a low libido. It is more a case of thinking with the appropriate organ!

  8. Mike Lowrey Avatar

    Cool topic. I’ve been talking to friends about this so much recently.
    I am slightly younger but I have had a lil experience on this topic.

    In terms of myself. I hate the 3 month rule. It is dumb and doesn’t work. Speaking as a guy it is easy as hell to hang in there for 3 months get the goodies and leave. Been there done that. Women are emotional beings and want to feel that connection, I get that. So what if the connection is there after 3 weeks? By holding part of the relationship back you are actually damaging the relationship in most cases.

    I think the 3 month rule WILL weed out guys who really aren’t interested and alienate guys who may be genuinely interested. So it is a tough call. I still think common sense is the best decision maker on this subject. If a guy only calls you at 11pm, may be an issue. But if the guy is spending time with you and things feel wight, wh cares if you’ve only known him 3 weeks. In life chances must be taken. you cross the street and may not make it across. Use that little voice in the back of your head, and hope for the best.

    The one thing I will make sure any woman I date know is that I’m not in it for the sex. I am a rare guy. Everyone is not like me. I turn down sex A LOT. If I don’t feel the connection I won’t do it. I can go out any day of the week and have random sex with a person if I wanted to. It’s just that easy. There’s more than enough women out there. But If I’m taking my time with you it is for a reason.

    Most guys I know are undecided about a woman unless she’s really hot or something and won’t make a judgment until after sex. Sad but it’s how a lot of us think.

    Any time a guys tell another guy about an amazing woman they have been dating what’s the first question out of the other guys mouth…Ok but how’s the sex? Lol.

  9. Mark Avatar

    I think most of us, men and women both, know that sex is important and people who are sexually incompatible will have issues. It’s not that the sex has to set off fireworks, but it has to be enjoyable some of the time — we all have good sex and bad sex with a given partner.

    It’s just one of many questions that needs to be answered. It may not be an absolute deal breaker. but it’s up there. I know I’d have a difficult time being with a woman who had limited interest in sex. I’m aging, and there’s a time in my future when sex will be rare or impossible, so I want to enjoy these healthy years while I can.

  10. christina Avatar

    I dont think that I have to set time for having first sex..that makes me feel like machine. To have sex you should be emotionally and physically ready for it. and I must have full confidence in him yes this is the man whom I want to in my life, But if I need only sex then I can go in NSA dating…

  11. Dan 2 Avatar
    Dan 2

    Ladies its as simple as COMMUNICATION….if you want just pure animalistic, orgasmic sex, with no feelings or any real connection other than physical, its called “F*** Buddies” It works, it really does. No BS, you dont have to intro him to your friends or family, he doesnt have to go with you to the Birthday BBQs or the Company Christmas Dinner. You call him at 2am after the dinner. He comes over at 230am. You both get undressed and copulate like wild animals on the bed and the floor and the shower. You fall asleep together and he leaves in the morning.

    If you want something REAL again, COMMUNICATION and I for one dont believe in any “3 month rule” Bullcrap, but as long as a woman is intimate with me, and doesnt pull the “Lets just be friends” $hit that I despise I’ll wait for sex a reasonable amount of time. 3-6 months as long as she is REALLY into me, I can live with that.

  12. Ohio single gal Avatar
    Ohio single gal

    I don’t get why people really make such a big deal of sex in that I think it’s just a recreation activity for both parties. I guess the relationship part is more important to me and I don’t put a time line on when I get in the sack with a guy. That’s almost like saying I should wait 3 dates to kiss a guy. If it feels right than its right. If I dont feel it than I dont. I mean sex can be physical or it can be emotional, but for me I don’t let it affect whether I like a guy or not personally to date.

  13. Richard Avatar

    I learned in college that having sex too early can cause problems in the relationship. I don’t have a bright line where “ok, we hit the 4 month mark, time for sex”. I do think it is a good idea to wait 3 months before you let sex happen. In the meantime, a lot of physical intimacy short of sex (holding hands, cuddling, kissing, etc.), is a lot of fun. Once you have sex, you don’t appreciate those little things as much.

    When the clock starts is also a question. You could be casually dating for 6 months with no sex. Seriously dating for 1 month can be a test of will power. If we hit the 3 month mark in a serious relationship, and we are not wanting to have sex, then I would start to question the relationship. Are we just friends with little physical attraction? I wouldn’t have sex just to achieve a milestone.