If having sex meant you were married


I attended a lovely Jewish wedding last weekend. The bride was resplendent and the groom handsome as they stood under the  chupah in front of the rabbi (the bride’s father) and the cantor (her god-father). Outside at sunset, the family and friends stood encircling the couple on the grass. The cantor’s sweet singing, including a song he wrote for the bride, soared in the crisp evening air. Candle luminaria lit the lawn on which we all stood, and a lone guitarist strummed entrance and exit music.

I’d arrived early, and my friend (the bride’s mother), showed me and another couple the quaint sleeping rooms in the inn where the ceremony and celebration were held. In showing me the bridal suite, she mentioned that in traditional or Biblical Jewish tradition, when a couple has sex they are then considered married.


I spewed out, “Crap! How many men would I be married to then? And can I get alimony?”

But my smart-aleckness aside, it made think how we would approach dating sex differently if doing the act meant we were then married.

Sex – even in midlife – has a broad spectrum of acceptability. One study in the UK showed half the over-40 dating women said they’d be willing to have sex on the first date. Others, like Steve Harvey, say no sex for 3 months. Some people won’t have sex until engagement or marriage. I’m not here to tell you what you should do.

But imagine how you might shift your feelings about when to have sex if doing it meant you were married to the man. That would certainly put the kibosh on booty calls and casual sex.

Thinking of sex with this gravity makes me realize there are very few men with whom I would have been intimate. It puts a whole new spin on the significance of sex.

How would you have led your life differently if having sex meant you were then married? How would it affect how you date now?


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22 responses to “If having sex meant you were married”

  1. Mark Avatar

    I actually had an experience that relates to this. I dated a woman and on the second date she told me that the next man she had sex with she was going to marry. I felt like congratulating her on coming up with a new and 100% effective form of birth control!

    And we never did have sex. 🙂

  2. Mitsy Avatar

    For me, sex cannot be just casual. I don’t sleep with a guy if I don’t believe he’s in it for the long haul. I have not, thankfully, slept with a lot of men but regret sleeping with one way too soon and he didn’t stick around later anyway. You live and learn.

    I was talking with someone about this very subject just recently. I view sex (for the most part) as part of dating. However, I don’t do it freely nor do I think it’s something so casual that it’s a given if you are dating. It depends on how long you’ve been seeing each other, the interest level of both parties, etc. However, I would not condone someone marrying in order to have sex “legally” and without guilt. There’s far too much at stake with marriage if you got married only to squelch any feelings of immorality in the process. My own Mom doesn’t even believe that someone needs to be married to have sex. She said if you don’t sleep with them beforehand, you might wind up with someone who turns out to have a some kinky tastes that you’ll never be into. It’s actually common sense if you think of it in that way. However, I think there’s a line between sleeping with whoever and only sleeping with someone you are in a committed relationship with.

    Mark’s date strikes me as a way to simply say..look, I’m not sleeping with you no matter how long we date or how much we care about each other UNTIL there’s a ring on my finger. I can’t imagine a guy wanting to go out again with someone who made such a statement. Even if that was the way she felt, it was unwise to spout out such a confession. Can you say tacky????

  3. Mark Avatar

    The sex issue is problematic. I, too, want there to be genuine feelings involved, and I hate the idea of hurting someone, so sex isn’t a one-night stand kind of thing.

    That said, if a relationship doesn’t move forward into sex at some point, something’s wrong. You need to get to that to see if you’re compatible in the aspect, as Mitsy said, and I think you also need to see how the relationship is after you are having sex. Sex often does change things, so I want to see how things go after we are intimate on a regular basis.

  4. Karen Avatar

    Why is this a helpful question for any of us to even consider?

    Is the DG implying that we are wrecking our dating lives by having sex willy-nilly with whomever? If so, I submit that that attitude is not only outdated but also extremely unhelpful.

    Personally, as a single 40-something divorced woman, my view is that I need and like having sex and I don’t want to have to marry a man to get it. It’s one of the huge advantages of dating past 40, IMO—I’m so over that old virgin-whore patriarchial control of women’s sexuality thing.

  5. Samantha Avatar

    Karen, I read a post you left in response to something I said in another blog post. You were assuming I was implying something. Not a crime at all, and I dont think DG is implying anything. She is, I believe, asking a thought provoking question. Don’t you think she just puts it out there to see what people think themselves. And why am I typing this post. No one is asking my opinion about this. ok bye. sorry.

  6. Anna Avatar

    “How would you have led your life differently if having sex meant you were then married? How would it affect how you date now?” Great question to put out there DG. I guess I would have been married a lot of times !!! When I was younger I was guilty of having sex way too quickly, being older I now realise it was due to lack of self esteem and self confidence. I am wiser these days with more self esteem and the intimacy of sex I keep for serious relationships or at least those with the potential to become good relationships. I think its unfair on men who get branded as carnal creatures who jump into the sack at the drop of a hat, because that is not my experience at all. I believe we all need sex but meaningful intimacy, both men and women. But marriage associated with it?? No, I think that idea will remain and needs to remain an old and out dated tradition.

  7. Mark Avatar

    “I think its unfair on men who get branded as carnal creatures who jump into the sack at the drop of a hat, because that is not my experience at all.”

    Yeah, I think there are plenty of us men who exercise a bit of caution. And in my relationships that do become intimate, it’s always been mutual. I never pressured anyone. In fact, I’d say the women made it clear that they were very interested in it. It’s not like I even tried — sort of just happens. A kiss leads to a second kiss and if the woman is interested, she lets you know.

    I think the difficult part of sex is just what it means in terms of defining the relationship? The man and woman need to have an understanding. Maybe it’s casual, and that’s ok as long as both know that is what it is. Maybe it means the relationship is now exclusive, and again, that’s ok but both parties need to understand that.

    It’s difficult to have that conversation before sex, however.

    I am curious. How soon is too soon for you women?

  8. Mitsy Avatar

    How soon is too soon for sex? Or too soon to have the talk about sex? If there is even a remote possibility that the woman can get pregnant, it really needs to be talked about BEFORE you go further. To assume a woman is on birth control is assuming a lot. I don’t buy the in the moment of passion stuff so much–not when you’re in your 40’s & 50’s. It needs to be talked about but at what point, I cannot give a magic number. It depends on the people involved, the level of interest, commitment, etc.

    Interesting topic. I just had my 2nd date with a guy last night. I think I knew that this would be the make or break evening as to whether I wanted to go out w/him again. While he’s easy enough to talk to, I have absolutely ZERO attraction towards the guy. I could not even muster giving him a hug &/or peck on the cheek thanking him for dinner. Some people tell me to go out just as friends, but quite honestly, I don’t need friends that bad and I’m not into leading someone on even if that’s been done to me many times in the past. I have zero spark for the guy, so I won’t be able to go out w/him again. Sad…because I have not had any dates until this guy for almost a year now. 🙁

  9. Mark Avatar

    That’s too bad about the spark. It seems like we do need it. I guess for us guys we don’t even bother asking out a woman we don’t feel any attraction towards. That’s why with online dating I always want to meet for coffee before I spend two weeks emailing back and forth and wasting time.

    About pregnancy, I’d assume that a woman would stop a man if she might get pregnant and he didn’t have a condom. Like you said, this moment of passion stuff doesn’t apply at our age. Any man who would be upset by this isn’t a very nice guy. Anyway, if you get that close to sex you’re still having fun.

  10. Anna Avatar

    How soon is too soon?
    Yes I agree its all about the Spark (or lack of). I think all these supposed “Rules” get us all messed up. Third date sex etc or wait 90 days. How can any of us know? In some cases it might be longer, in others it might be quicker. As long as the communication is there beforehand and we are all grown up adults then its an individual thing. And here I presume we are all over 30 at least.
    Mitsy – I feel your pain!! I have dated a lot in the last few months and have not found myself remotely attracted to any of the guys. They are all nice guys but for me……no spark, no chemistry. Now I am beginning to think its me being too picky or my mistaken perception of still being in my thirties. Or it could be that its online dating and I am going on a date way too quickly thinking some spark might be there.

  11. Mitsy Avatar

    I really wanted to like this guy more. He works at the store where I moonlight. I saw him briefly last night but he didn’t make a point to come around & talk to me like he had been doing. I was actually relieved because I did not want him to ask me out (Gawd, how few times I’ve ever had to say that in my life). Anyway, there was another co-worker & her husband who put him up to asking me out. I had asked this co-worker about him but did not ask her to set anything up. I now wish I hadn’t said anything though. If I had taken a bit closer look at the guy, I could have seen how unappealing he was physically. Nevertheless, I don’t want to judge someone on looks alone because I think of that as being shallow. I thought the guy’s personality seemed decent & we could have some good conversation which we did. However, after not feeling too excited after the first date, maybe I should have trusted my gut. I agreed to the 2nd date only to make sure I was not imagining my repulsion for the guy. Hey, maybe the attraction could grow. I should have gone with my first instinct. After dinner out, he came back to my house and we sat on the couch & talked for a while. At one point, I became aware that I was sitting as far away from him as possible. I did not do this consciously but remembered another very bad blind date where I sat as far away from the guy as I could (we were with another couple). When you don’t want to even sit next to them, that is a huge red flag. :0 Oh well, maybe the next one will be better. It might take months or years for another date to happen. Few guys to go out with where I live but I’m not willing to settle for someone who physically is repulsive to me…no matter how good the conversation is.

  12. Anna Avatar

    Mitsy, you are right. You just cannot drum up an attraction if it literally is not there. And no you are not shallow. As human beings we are all attracted by looks or the persona of the person, I have been attracted to men in the past who were not considered particularly good looking so its the persona that we must be attracted to.

  13. Karen Avatar

    Mitsy, I totally agree with you! And it’s not “shallow” to want the whole package in a man–including some spark of physical attractiveness. Without it, you are just not going to last as a romantic couple.

    I also struggled when I first started dating again after divorce with whether I was asking for too much that a date be attractive to me. Interestingly, this is apparently something that only women really worry about. It seems that all men (even the ugly ones!) feel they deserve a “hot” woman (though of course, they define “hot” in many diverse ways).

    I’ve tried to “like” men who I found very nice but unattractive, but it just doesn’t work for a romance. Some of these guys have become good friends (still are), but the physical part never improved for me so I broke off our romantic relationships. I just couldn’t get past my distaste/lack of enthusiasm for these guys in a physical sense, and the physical part is important to me. Not that they have to look like some muscly guy on the cover of a romance novel—I’m attracted to all kinds of men who have pretty average looks, and many men who other women think are hot leave me cold. There’s just that indefinable “something” about some men that I really like. And mostly I can tell right away if he’s got it or not.

    Anyway, I’ve decided that I’m not going to date men anymore who don’t have that spark of physical attractiveness for me. I think it’s just as important as everything else such as “he treats me well” and “no red flags”.

  14. Jessica Avatar

    Sex shouldn’t be taken lightly regardless of whether you’d be married or not. I think the label would just make people aware of how important it is and how much it affects people and their emotions. I would definitely have been more careful and maybe would have thought things through.

  15. Mitsy Avatar

    I don’t want to hijack this thread, but the no-chemistry guy called me this morning to see if I wanted to go w/him to walk his dog in the park this weekend. I told him I was working Sat. and wasn’t sure what I was doing on Sun. I had been ill but now am pretty much over it other than being tired. I told him this when he asked how I was feeling. He seems to want to connect my inability to say “yes” to my not feeling well but it’s past that. I didn’t feel too well on date #2 but if I had any real interest in him, I would agree to see him again. I’m hoping he does not ask me again, however, I thought he figured it out before now. I had turned down his last invite this past weekend and he asked if I was going to church (which I was but that wasn’t the main reason I didn’t want to go with him). I was surprised when he called again this morning. If he presses me, I will simply tell him I’m not over my last relationship and not ready to get involved with someone which sounds better than saying he turns my stomach when I think about getting close to him. :0

  16. Mark Avatar

    Mitsy, why not be direct? Tell him you like him and appreciate him but you aren’t interested in dating. Tell him there’s no chemistry, your temperaments don’t match, etc. Don’t leave him hanging.

    Believe me, from my male perspective, I’d rather simply be told that it’s not happening, that you are not interested in dating. There isn’t a huge investment of feeling if you’ve only had a date or two. I click with some women and I don’t click with others. I don’t take it personally.

  17. Mitsy Avatar

    I know how hurt I’ve been by men in the past and I don’t think it would be wise or appropriate to tell this guy there is no chemistry. I think that’s a bit too in your face for my comfort level. Maybe some women could do it, but I cannot. He’s really not left hanging. I’ve declined twice now and that should tell him something. Perhaps he’s not as bright a bulb as I thought. In any event, I’m hoping he’s gotten the hint, but if he hasn’t, I will simply say I’m not ready to date anyone right now. He doesn’t have to know that if a guy knocked my socks off, I might change my mind though.

  18. Karen Avatar

    Mitsy, I also think you should be direct. But as polite as possible, you know? Because if you don’t make it clear, he’d be right to complain later that you were “leading him on”. And that’s mean. Hasn’t that ever happened to you?

    Instead of saying ‘there’s no chemistry’ which is a little harsh, I’d just say “I think of you as a friend” which sounds vaguely positive but is also a VERY CLEAR social code about what is definitely not going to happen between you.

    I had a similar situation which was even worse—this really nice guy that I wasn’t “chemically” into asked me out, & I said OK because I thought we had so much else in common and I hoped the chemistry would change. Of course, we got to know each other over the next few months and I realized he was really an awesome person, but the lack of chemistry thing never improved for me. Arg, a mess. I finally told him that I didn’t love him except as a friend but I tried to couch it in a way that saved his ego (blaming myself, etc). He was awesome enough to take it OK & we still hang out a lot *as friends*, that’s it. But I don’t want to do that ever again–made me feel like a total jerk. From now on I know it’s got to start with chemistry or I should just back off.

  19. Mark Avatar

    “From now on I know it’s got to start with chemistry or I should just back off.”

    I think most of us have to learn that. It’s ok to try a date or two with no chemistry, but if there’s no spark there’s little reason to continue.

  20. Mitsy Avatar

    I appreciate the “advice” but I would totally not be comfortable telling this guy I think of him as a “friend”. I’m not wanting more friends and don’t want to spend anymore time w/him. Not because he’s not a nice guy, but because there is no point. I think this is a moot point now as I did not see hide nor hair of him last night. So, he’s gotten the hint. I think turning down dates is a clear sign that I’m not interested. If pressed further, I’d have to be a bit more direct but I would not ever just flat out tell a guy “hey, I have no chemistry or spark for ya..sorry”. That’s not my style and I think that comes off as being rude – even if it is direct. Sure, I’ve had guys lead me on, but I think I’ve made it clear that that isn’t what I’m into when I’ve only gone on two dates with the guy and that’s it. That’s not leading someone on if you say no, thank you after that. If I continued to go out after several months, then sure, that would be leading him on, but that’s NOT what I’m doing. He’s not been left hanging…it’s clear that I’m not interested and I think finally he’s gotten it. I hope we both find someone more suited for us at a later time.

  21. Mark Avatar

    I guess the reverse of this is what men sometimes do that I hear women complain about — not call. If you go out with a man a couple of times and like him and want to see him again, how do you feel if he just disappears without a trace? No email. No phone call. Would you prefer that he disappear and leaves you hanging or would you appreciate a thanks but no thanks email or call?

  22. Mitsy Avatar

    Most generally, the chemistry is known fairly early on. My experience has been that if it didn’t happen in the first date or two, it just didn’t work. Sure, it hurts if you don’t hear from them again, but if you go out for several months? Or a number of times in a few weeks? THEN, I think you need to fess up a bit more–then again, I think if it was a lack of chemistry, most generally, you know this much sooner than that. If there was a deal breaker in those several months, then I think telling someone you aren’t comfortable say…with someone who isn’t over their ex, has legal problems, is in between jobs, or whatever else legitimate reason you might have, then I think it’s kind of cut and dried. You have a legitimate reason for ending things. But the chemistry thing is something that must be dealt with early on. But, I totally agree about the calling thing. If either party says they will call, then I think they need to do so. I return calls to people regardless so that is just common courtesy in my book. I also don’t tell someone that I will call and then don’t.